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2017 NRL Round 23 preview and expert tips

Posted on 09/08 by Joe Gann

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South Sydney Rabbitohs v Canterbury Bulldogs betting
Team Odds
South Sydney Rabbitohs $1.60 Bet Now
Canterbury Bulldogs $2.40 Bet Now
The Rabbitohs go into this game in a far better frame of mind than they have been accustomed to of late, due to a shock win over the Dragons at the weekend; victory was snatched at the death, with two tries in the final five minutes sealing a magnificent comeback win at the SCG.

The game saw Alex Johnston maintain his excellent form, notching his competition-leading seventeenth try of the season as the Bunnies put a huge dent in the Dragons’ finals hopes. The 26-24 triumph has lifted them to eleventh on the ladder, above the melee of struggling teams surrounding them, and will provide a tonic going into a game against a Bulldogs side who are desperately short on confidence.

The hapless Bulldogs received yet another setback in an increasingly wretched season as they were conquered by the Eels in atrocious conditions last time out. They still lack a cutting edge despite Des Hasler throwing caution to the wind by dropping Michael Lichaa and bringing Chase Stanley into the halves. The under-fire coach attempted to shake things up in a bid to improve an impotent attack that has yielded a paltry 264 points so far – the worst in the competition by some distance.

The changes were to no avail though, and the rudderless attack was summed up by the sight of prop David Klemmer putting in a chip kick just before half time. The lethargy running through the side was typified by an insipid defensive effort that led to Daniel Alvaro carrying both Canterbury props twenty yards before planting the ball down for as soft a try as you are likely to see with the lack of intensity on display doing nothing to alleviate the pressure on Hasler.

Selection: Rabbitohs to win

Parramatta Eels v Newcastle Knights betting
Team Odds
Parramatta Eels $1.15 Bet Now
Newcastle Knights $5.75 Bet Now
The Eels are at the top of their game at the minute as they look to break into the top four and claim a spot that will guarantee a second bite at the cherry come finals time.

They were utterly dominant territorially in the first half against the Bulldogs; the one-way traffic leading to an unassailable 16-0 half time lead. Bevan French helped himself to his sixth try in his last six games before leaving the field with a hamstring injury - the Eels will be hoping his exit was just a precautionary measure. Mitchell Moses displayed his quality once more with a first-rate offering; his blossoming partnership with Corey Norman could be pivotal to the Eels’ fortunes over the course of the next few weeks.

They are currently on a red-hot streak of six wins on the bounce including stand out victories over Melbourne and Brisbane, last tasting defeat on 10th June against the Cowboys. They seem to have absorbed the blow of Clint Gutherson’s injury extremely well and are looking like they have all-round strength in depth to be major contenders this year. With the Knights, Titans and Rabbitohs to play in their last four matches, they have an outstanding chance of gatecrashing the top four. They have saved their best run of form for the crucial period; timing their finals run to perfection.

The Knights completed back-to-back victories for the first time since 2015 with their terrific win over the Warriors on Saturday, raising the possibility of avoiding yet another wooden spoon. They now have quadruple the number of wins from last year, proof of their progression under Nathan Brown this term.

The jubilation was overshadowed by a sickening injury to Nathan Ross, who was left with a fractured back following an accidental collision with the knee of Blake Ayshford. Although the full-back will miss the rest of the campaign, the result of medical assessments concluded that the injury will not require surgery.

Selection: Eels to win

Brisbane Broncos v Cronulla Sharks betting
Team Odds
Brisbane Broncos $1.45 Bet Now
Cronulla Sharks $2.85 Bet Now
The Broncos were superb in their dismantling of neighbours the Titans on Saturday evening, sending out a clear message to the rest of the competition in the process.

The 54-0 demolition job was achieved on the back of an attacking masterclass derived from the blistering speed from the first receiver. With the likes of Anthony Milford, Ben Hunt, Kodi Nikorima, James Roberts and Corey Oates within their ranks, the potential of this side to inflict severe damage upon their opponents was there for all to see.

As a consequence of the unfortunate injury to Andrew McCullough, Ben Hunt stepped in at number nine and offered something different to the Broncos in the role; his three tries would suggest he has practically guaranteed his place again this week. With finals just around the corner, the emphatic manner of the win was just what coach Wayne Bennett would have wished for, bolstering their top-four claims at the same time.

The Sharks are clinging on to fourth place by their fingertips amid a late-season charge from Parramatta. Saturday’s chastening loss to the Raiders on home soil has been on the cards for a while; the Sharks performances this year has been erratic, to say the least, and they have a battle on their hands to retain their place at the top table. They find themselves sandwiched between two in-form teams, the Broncos and Eels, although they do boast a far superior points differential to Brad Arthur’s side.

A shoulder injury to Jack Bird saw the young gun leave the field and he will continue to be monitored in preparation for this massive encounter. A victory here would be an emphatic statement and provide a timely reminder to the rest of the competition that the Sharks should not be written off just yet.

Selection: Broncos to win

St George Illawarra Dragons v Gold Coast Titans betting
Team Odds
St George Illawarra Dragons $1.44 Bet Now
Gold Coast Titans $2.80 Bet Now
The clash at UOW Jubilee Oval this week will see two shell-shocked sides pitted against each other as they plot a victory that will offer redemption for an egregious Round 22 for both clubs.

The Dragons’ form has completely abandoned them at the worst possible phase of the season, with the weekend’s results conspiring to relegate the Red V from the top eight. The loss to the Rabbitohs combined with another Penrith victory may have caused irrevocable damage to their season.

After spending the vast majority of the campaign in the upper echelons of the ladder, it looks increasingly likely that they will finish the year on the outside looking in - a situation that would have seemed unthinkable just a few rounds ago.

Titans coach Neil Henry has come under fire following his side’s 54-0 drubbing at the hands of the Broncos at the weekend, amid murmurs of discontent between the manager and players. One sensational rumour currently doing the rounds is that Henry never wanted Jarryd Hayne at the club due to his hefty salary but was pressured into the signing by the board. It is back-to-back humiliations for the club now with the Brisbane horror show following on from the home reversal to the Tigers in Round 21.

The latest setback has prompted public apologies from the club and players, and it comes at the worst possible time with the future ownership of the club up in the air; prospective buyer Darryl Kelly is said to be re-evaluating his position in the wake of Saturday’s on-field debacle.

Selection: Dragons to win

Melbourne Storm v Sydney Roosters betting
Team Odds
Melbourne Storm $1.35 Bet Now
Sydney Roosters $3.20 Bet Now
AAMI Park will host the showdown to decide the Minor Premiership on Saturday night, and the home side could not be in better shape heading into the climax of the season.

Although the last round has probably assured Storm of the Minor Premiership for a second consecutive season, the Roosters are still in contention despite a disappointing loss to the Sea Eagles last week.

Melbourne’s excellent win up in Townsville over a courageous Cowboys side, combined with the Roosters defeat has given Craig Bellamy’s side a four-point cushion with four games to go, and there has been no indication so far that they are likely to concede that kind of advantage. With a considerable points differential of 178, the title looks virtually assured for the team who have been comfortably the competition’s best this year.

Selection: Storm to win

Penrith Panthers v Nth Queensland Cowboys betting
Team Odds
Penrith Panthers $1.35 Bet Now
Nth Queensland Cowboy $3.20 Bet Now
It is five wins in a row for a revitalised Penrith who have finally shown signs of the team they were anticipated to be at the beginning of the year.

Their belated push for a finals place has been given hope by an ailing Dragons, and this week they surpassed the rapidly sinking Red V to creep into the eight. Leading by just two points with ten minutes remaining on Sunday, they managed to outlast an improving Tigers to claim another vital win.

Although their recent form has been excellent, the run home takes on a far more intimidating complexion with the Mountain Men facing rivals: the Cowboys, Sea Eagles and Dragons. In amongst those fixtures, Round 24 throws up a potentially epic clash with the Raiders, one which will decide the fate of both clubs for this year.

Although the Cowboys showed great spirit in defeat to the Storm on Friday, the two harmful losses in a row for Paul Green’s men has seen their top four pursuit stall. Their courageous performance was even more impressive after Gavin Cooper and Antonio Winterstein both retired from the game within the first 10 minutes and will remain doubtful for this week.

The mounting casualty list and a tough run-in that includes games against the Panthers, Sharks and Broncos could take its toll on the injury depleted squad.

Selection: Panthers to win

New Zealand Warriors v Canberra Raiders betting
Team Odds
New Zealand Warriors $3.00 Bet Now
Canberra Raiders $1.39 Bet Now
A furious Stephen Kearney accused his players of lacking effort in a withering assessment of his side’s 26-10 loss to bottom-placed Newcastle Knights. It is a reaction that will surely have lasting after effects until the end of the season and beyond for the pitiful franchise.

It is five defeats in a row for the New Zealanders, and their sole win on Australian soil remains the Round 14 triumph on the Gold Coast. Up against a highly motivated Raiders outfit who cannot afford a slip-up again this week, it’s hard to see where the Warriors go from here.

The Raiders kept their faint hopes alive with a marvellous win at the home of the Premiers in Round 22, and Ricky Stuart’s side looks more like the focused and tightly-knit unit that went on that superb late run last year. A dominant pack feeding one of the deadliest backlines in the competition finally clicked into gear to produce their most convincing victory of the campaign.

The win in the Shire begs the question: where has this level of performance been for the majority of 2017? It has been an immensely frustrating year; the Green Machine have endured a mystifying lack of form that has left them in their current predicament – four points behind Penrith who occupy the last finals place with only four games remaining.

All they can do from here on in is win each game and hope that their rivals slip up, although it looks like they may have left it too late to make the cut.

Selection: Raiders to win

Wests Tigers v Manly Sea Eagles betting
Team Odds
Wests Tigers $2.75 Bet Now
Manly Sea Eagles $1.45 Bet Now
The 28-14 loss to the Panthers didn’t tell the whole story of a match in which the Tigers were in the hunt until the final stages on Sunday. Wests belied their lowly status as they gave finals hopefuls Penrith a difficult afternoon but left empty handed.

The revival under Nathan Cleary continues, but the former Panthers coach conceded that there is room for improvement in various facets of their game and pinpointed the kicking game of his halves as a specific weakness. They have a formidable fixture list to navigate between now and the season’s conclusion, but the Tigers are more than capable of causing an upset against any of their upcoming opponents

Sunday’s vital win over the Roosters may have kickstarted the Sea Eagles’ form as they approach the finishing line of this campaign. Having shipped ninety-two points within a dreadful fortnight of action, addressing the slide a Lottoland at the weekend was essential. With three accommodating fixtures looming, starting with this match against the Tigers, the Silvertails should have no problem cementing their place in the top six and possibly beyond.

They currently enjoy a four-point buffer between themselves and the Dragons in ninth but should have no reason to be casting anxious glances over their shoulder from here on in.

Selection: Sea Eagles to win

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