Note: () denotes the home team’s bookmaker handicap.
Round 21 has seen a number of injuries to key playmakers and stars of the game. This week we’ll focus on what this means for each team and how the betting markets have reacted to each.
Matt Moylan (hamstring) has been ruled out for the Panthers, bringing the line for the Panthers in from -10 to -6.5 points. While Moylan is a talented player, to say he is worth 3.5 points looks like an overreaction by the market. The Panthers still have Nathan Cleary, their key playmaker and goal kicker. Just two weeks ago Cleary put on what was possibly the individual performance of the year, scoring three tries and assisting in two more; all in a game without Matt Moylan.
James Graham looks set to return for the bulldogs, causing the Bulldogs to firm further into +6 points. Given the apparent over-reaction by the market and the fact that the Bulldogs are just woeful, we like Penrith here.
Tip: Panthers -6.0 @ 1.92 –Ladbrokes
For the Sharks, a broken hand will see James Maloney side-lined for 2-3 weeks. Despite Maloney being their dominant playmaker as well as a top goal kicker, the line for this game barely moved from -4.5 to -4 points. The price doesn’t appear to have moved enough for this game. The Sharks lost 30-10 against the Titans two weeks ago, in a game without James Maloney.
The Warriors aren’t without their own injury troubles, losing NZ halfback Shaun Johnson two weeks ago. Despite this, the Warriors put up a solid effort against the Cowboys over the weekend and while missing SJ’s flair they will possibly be a more composed team without him. We are going to hold onto our money here as there are likely better bets in the round.
The Eels started favourites for this game in early betting. Add a returning Darius Boyd to the Broncos side with Parramatta struggling against the Tigers, and minus the talented Clint Gutherson (ACL) and you have find yourself an 8-point swing. In a matter of days, Parra went from being -1.5 favourites to +6.5 underdogs!
While possibly a slight overaction by the betting markets, the Eels are well equipped to cover Gutherson positionally; with French going back to fullback and Hoffman returning to the squad on the wing. We will be keeping an eye on this market and, if the line drifts any further we'll be backing the Eels.
The Dragons look to have found their long-term fullback answers in the form of rookie Matthew Duffie who scored a try and assisted in two more on debut last week. Duffie's emergence will force Coach McGregor to shift Josh Dugan into the centres, and with Nene McDonald and Tim Lafai firing - the Dragons suddenly look like they have a talented backline.
These two teams met only five weeks ago and the Knights lead the Dragons 26-10 at half time. The Dragons had a glut of possession and a late resurgence to win the game. Given this prior scare we don’t think the Dragons will be starting slowly this week.
Tip: Dragons -10.5 @ 1.92 – Ladbrokes
For these two teams, the season is all but over and they will be battling it out for nothing but a little pride. Souths will have Sam Burgess back, while the Raiders are without Josh Papalii, Jordan Rapana and Iosia Soliola.
Canberra have been one of the most disappointing teams this season, showing plenty of ability to score points but little respect for ball control or ability to close a game out.
If Canberra are on they will role, though if it’s a close game I'd back the Rabbitohs to win at home.
The Roosters continue to miss their Captain and hooker Jake Friend as well as fullback Michael Gordan. The Cowboys have no injuries to note aside from their early season losses of Thurston and Scott.
The Cowboys have been finding ways to win, though are yet to beat any top-six teams without Thurston. This should be a quality clash between two potential top four sides.
Melbourne are without Billy Slater and there are strong doubts around Cameron Smith. Smith was named in the squad despite reports over the weekend that a pec injury may see him out for 3-4 weeks. The Storm are well equipped to cover Billy Slater, having played all last season and early this season without him. Though missing Smiths’ leadership would be a much bigger blow. The line currently stands at -3.5, having been -6.5 points before Smith and Slater's injuries. It will come in further if Smith is ruled out.
Manly put in a dismal performance last week, though will get Api Korisau, Blake Green, Brenton Lawrence, Lewis Brown and Mathew Wright all back this week and will be looking to greatly improve their defence.
Tip: under 39.5 points @ $1.91 - Ladbrokes
We gave the Tigers out as a best bet at +9.5 against the Eels last week and they didn’t disappoint, losing by only 1 point. This week, they come up against a lower quality team and still find themselves 10-point underdogs. Once again, we are feeling like this is too many points!
Look, we agree that the Tigers are bad, just not quite as bad as everyone thinks. Under Jason Taylor the Tigers averaged a points difference of -17.6 points per game; while under Ivan Cleary their average points difference has been just -6.3 points per game. We are going to take them with the 10-point start.
Tip: Tigers +10 @ 1.91 – William Hill
Penrith -6.0 @ 1.92 – Ladbrokes
Dragons -10.5 @ 1.92 – Ladbrokes
Storm vs Manly - under 39.5 points @ $1.91 - Ladbrokes
Tigers +10 @ 1.91 – William Hill