We look to close out round 18 of the NRL with a big triple-header of matches. The Warriors will host the Panthers, the resurgent Broncos take on Wests Tigers and the Bulldogs will take on the high-flying Rabbitohs up on the Gold Coast. With the latest Covid outbreak in Sydney it has wreaked havoc to the scheduling and many of these games have been moved North to keep the season alive.
Suncorp Stadium, Sunday 1.50pm (AEST)
The Warriors now sit two games outside the top eight following a tough loss to the Sharks last week, and it doesn’t get any easier here. They come up against the second-placed Panthers who are fresh off the bye following a gritty 1-point win against the Eels. The Panthers Origin contingent have all been named to play while Matt Burton will partner Tyrone May in the halves yet again. The Panthers sit equal with Melbourne on points and this looks a massive chance for them to put pressure on the league leaders.
The Warriors were expected to be a good winning chance last week against the Sharks but their handling errors and poor defence proved costly. Coach Nathen Brown has named a relatively unchanged lineup from last week and this is a must-win game as they look to keep in touch with the top eight. A loss here would see it very hard for them to be playing finals footy this year.
Think the Panthers will be too well-drilled and clinical for an inconsistent Warriors and it looks a tough task for the home side. With Penrith coming into this off the back of the bye they’ll be recharged and ready to finish the season with a strong push towards the minor premiership.
Suncorp Stadium, Sunday 4.05pm (AEST)
Now this match could go either way with both teams struggling for form all season. I will say recently that the Broncos have looked a much improved and hungrier team, playing with passion and belief in recent weeks. That saw them defeat the Sharks two weeks ago and have now had a week break with the bye to reset and look to continue their improved showings. The Tigers have been too bad to be true this year and sit just one win above the side they face here today.
The Tigers have conceded a mammoth 144 points across their last three games and their defence has been an absolute shambles. They also have had the week off and you’d think they will have been focusing on improving on their defensive struggles and will look to bounce back to some sort of form. Moses Mbye has been dropped and Adam Douehi moves to five eighth as Michael Maquire searches for a change in fortunes.
The three origin players for the Broncos are all expected to lineup and they will be bolstered by the support of a home crowd. With the improving form they have shown im expecting them to be too strong for the Tigers.
Cbus Super Stadium, Sunday 6.15pm (AEST)
This looks one of the more certain results of the round with the Rabbitohs in flying form and the Bulldogs obviously still stuck down the bottom of the ladder. The bunnies continue to roll on towards the finals and have been scoring points for fun in recent weeks. They managed to overcome a slow start last week against the Cowboys where they scored 44 unanswered points.
The Dogs will be as upbeat as they have been following a loss, coming into this after a much improved performance against the Roosters. This looks like a tougher test however, as the Rabbitohs go in search of their sixth straight victory. Another win here will be a big step towards a top four finish and they will be boosted with all origin stars named to play.
Skipper Josh Jackson returns for the visiting side and they will need all the help they can get here this evening. The last time these two sides met it was a 38-0 thrashing in favour of the Rabbitohs and I am expecting a similar sort of result. The form of Cody Walker has been incredible with the bunnies five eighth turning in some competition-leading performances as he leads his side towards the finals.
I can’t see the Dogs being able to withstand the constant attacking threat across the park for the Rabbitohs and this could turn into a cricket score. No real value available in the H2H markets so will be playing the points double as some extra meat on the bone.
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