View UniBet’s preview of Round 18 of the 2016 NRL home and away season below.
Parramatta v Roosters | Friday, July 8, 7.50pm (AEDT), Pirtek Stadium
Parramatta got off to a flyer in the shire but couldn’t stave off the Sharks’ comeback and were left to rue a couple of contentious decisions.
With Semi Radradra’s future still up in the air, the Eels may have found a worthy replacement on the flank in 20 year-old Bevan French, who grabbed a hat-trick in the loss and showed a similar aptitude for finding the tryline as his uncle, Nathan Blacklock from Tingha.
The Roosters also started well last week but were guilty of not taking their chances with both Daniel Tupouand Jake Friend fumbling the pill in sight of the whitewash.
Not for the first time, Trent Robinson was filthy on the bunker for allowing a Josh Jackson try that might otherwise have been ruled held-up.
Neither side is heavily affected by Origin but struggling to weigh up the mental approach of both clubs and question who will want it more.
At least Semi should get a better reception from his own fans but with plenty of weather around there may not be that many of them there.
Last time they met: Rd 23, 2015 – Roosters 28-18 Parramatta
Unibet Odds: Parramatta $1.70 Roosters $2.20
Line tip: Roosters +2.5
Bulldogs v Wests Tigers | Saturday, July 9, 7.30pm (AEDT), ANZ Stadium
The Dogs claimed a hard-fought two points with a scrappy win last week to make it three straight wins for the first time this season.
With the likes of Dave Klemmer and Josh Jackson now entrenched at representative level, the club appears strong in the back-row for years to come which may explain their decision not to offer Tony ‘T-Rex” Williams a new deal.
James Tedesco virtually demanded inclusion in the Origin side but his absence deprives the Tigers of their main strike weapon.
Stand-in Jordan Rankin is also a doubtful starter after rolling an ankle at training mid-week.
Inclusion in the leadership group gives some indication of how highly rated Sauaso Sue is within the Tigers’ clubhouse and the Samoan international looks set to be at Concord for a while after inking a new deal through to 2018.
Don’t think this will be as one-sided as their earlier meeting but the Dogs are building momentum.
Last time they met: Rd 10, – Wests Tigers 4-36 Bulldogs
Unibet Odds: Bulldogs $1.21 Wests Tigers $4.50
Line tip: Wests Tigers +12.5
Penrith v Cronulla | Sunday, July 10, 4pm (AEDT), Pepper Stadium
With next week’s derby against Parramatta to be followed by trips to Brisbane and Auckland, the Panthers desperately need the two points here to stay in touch with the eight but they have struck Cronulla at the right time.
Having slated the selfishness of key members of the Origin team, Panthers supremo Gus Gould further inflamed the powerbrokers in the NSWRL by withdrawing Bryce Cartwright from the train-on squad for Game 3 although his powers didn’t extend to a ban for Matt Moylan, who has been drafted into the team to replace Adam Reynolds.
Top-of-the-table status has led to the Sharks providing the biggest Origin contingent in their history which leaves them facing an uphill battle to keep their long streak alive.
Shane Flanagan will look for senior players like Luke Lewis and Mick Ennis to lead the way while they still have plenty of potency out wide through Ben Barba and Valentine Holmes.
Winning is contagious but they are due to check out mentally at some point.
Last time they met: Rd 8, – Cronulla 20-18 Penrith
Unibet Odds: Penrith $1.55 Cronulla $2.50
Line tip: Penrith -4.5
Canberra v North Queensland | Monday, July 11, 7pm (AEDT), GIO Stadium
Ricky Stuart was a relieved man after his side overcame an early 22-0 deficit to overwhelm likely wooden-spooners Newcastle in extra-time, courtesy of a bizarre try from Jordan Rapana.
The Raiders are a side who feed off momentum and can score a flurry of points in rapid succession but they will need to improve their defence to be a threat come September.
Rory Kostjasyn captains a Cowboys team deprived of key players and will form an unlikely halves pairing with Ray Thompson.
The contest also provides for an unexpected homecoming debut for back-up rake Josh Chudleigh, who would have learned plenty under the tutelage of champion Raiders number nine Simon Woolford at Queanbeyan before seeking greater opportunities in Townsville.
The Cowboys have owned this fixture in recent seasons but hard to make a case for them winning in light of all of their absentees.
Last time they met: Rd 2, 2015 – North Qld 32-24 Canberra
Unibet Odds: Canberra $1.23 North Qld $4.25
Line tip: Canberra -11.5