View UniBet’s preview of Round 21 of the 2016 NRL home and away season below.
Roosters v Brisbane |Thursday, July 28, 7.50pm (AEDT), Allianz Stadium
Channel 9 would have been expecting to promote this game as a Thursday night blockbuster but it’s become a bit of a dud.
Trent Robinson has dismissed suggestions the Chooks will be filling a “spoiler” role over the remaining six rounds.
He’s instead channelling his player’s mindsets towards setting the right tone for 2017 rather than becoming distracted by their opponent’s ladder position.
Brisbane look a shadow of the side that went so close to glory 12 months ago and have now suffered consecutive drubbings on home turf.
With tough games against top four aspirants the Storm and Bulldogs on the run-in they can ill-afford another loss here, with respected judge Peter Sterling already prepared to write off the club as a premiership hope.
Their task this week has been made more difficult with key forwards Matt Gillett, Sam Thaiday and Josh McGuire all unavailable due to injury/suspension.
The five-day turnaround is a concern for the hosts.
Last time they met: Semi Finals 2015 – Brisbane 31-12 Roosters
Unibet Odds: Roosters $1.91 Brisbane $1.91
Line tip: Brisbane -1.5
Bulldogs v St.George-Illawarra | Friday, July 29, 7.50pm (AEDT), ANZ Stadium
The Dogs copped a reality check in Townsville but couldn’t have cherry-picked a better opponent to get back to winning ways with the Dragons limping their way through to the end of a campaign completely devoid of any inspiration for their frustrated fans.
Des Hasler’s conservative mindset has seen the Dogs caught in possession on the fifth tackle more than any other club this season as they prefer a tactical game rather than the lure of repeat sets.
Although it’s unlikely they’ll need to score too many tries to overwhelm arguably the least threatening attacking side in the competition.
The Dragons had more than enough ball to see off the Tigers but are woefully short on creativity within the opposition red-zone.
Jarryd Hayne has been linked with the club but it would take a massive offer and probably some other name signings to even tempt him to head to Wollongong.
The Dogs have had much the better of this fixture in recent seasons.
Last time they met: Rd 14 – Dragons 16-34 Bulldogs
Unibet Odds: Bulldogs $1.13 St George/Illawarra $6.10
Line tip: Bulldogs -16.5
NZ Warriors v Penrith | Saturday, July 30, 3pm 9AEDT), Mt Smart Stadium
The Warriors almost pulled a rabbit out of the hat but succumbed to their third golden point loss in four games to slide out of the eight.
Indeed, this game appears set to be a real “four pointer” with Penrith immediately above the Warriors on the ladder following their eye-catching win in Brisbane.
Andrew McFadden has shifted things around in his backline with Tuimoala Lolohea set to wear the no.1 jersey having impressed in that role earlier in the year.
Fresh off celebrating his 150th NRL match with a victory, Trent Merrin extended his deal at the foot of the mountains and with James Tamou set to join the club and the likes of James Fisher-Harris and Reagan Campbell-Gillard continuing to develop, the Panthers will have some real power in their forward pack.
They’ve named an unchanged line-up and know what it takes to win in New Zealand this year.
Last time they met: Rd 10 – Penrith 30-18 NZ Warriors (Christchurch)
Unibet Odds: NZ Warriors $1.75 Penrith $2.10
Line tip: Penrith +2.5
Parramatta v Wests Tigers | Saturday, July 30, 5.30pm (AEDT), ANZ Stadium
Parramatta’s fate was confirmed with the Eels now left to play for pride following a hard-fought loss on the Gold Coast.
Brad Arthur had no troubles continuing to motivate what’s left of his squad since the cap scandal broke so there’s unlikely to be a drop off in intensity, although they are clearly hampered by an absence of key personnel.
The Tigers ended a difficult week on a high note with Jason Taylor’s decision to drop Robbie Farahultimately vindicated by their win over the Dragons, although it could be argued that result was as much down to individual brilliance as any significant restructure in style.
Farah took his grievances to the press and while the coach has refused to shut the door, there’s every chance he’s played his last game for the club.
Expecting this to be a more open contest than the forgettable Easter Monday clash earlier in the year.
Last time they met: Rd 4 – Wests Tigers 0-8 Parramatta
Unibet Odds: Parramatta $3.00 Wests Tigers $1.40
Line: Parramatta +8.5
North Queensland v Melbourne | Saturday, July 30, 7.30pm (AEDT), 1300Smiles Stadium
Will he or won’t he? That’s the question on everyone’s lips ahead of this potential classic with Johnathan Thurston still rated some chance of lining up for the hosts despite not being named in the official squads.
The Cowboys proved they could still cut it without their ace with Michael Morgan’s polished second-half display ample evidence the premiers aren’t a “one-man team”.
Melbourne are aiming to become the first visiting side to win in Townsville this season but they’ve handled everything in their stride so far and look well up for the challenge.
Craig Bellamy’s side can also take plenty of confidence out of their single-point win up in Brisbane back in mid-May.
Despite the attacking capabilities on show, these two teams are extremely resilient and great front-runners so it will be vital to get away to a fast start.
Suggest looking at the final team announcements before placing a bet.
Last time they met: Rd 10 – Melbourne 15-14 North Queensland
Unibet Odds: North Queensland $2.15 Melbourne $1.72
Line tip: Melbourne -2.5
South Sydney v Canberra | Sunday, July 31, 2pm (AEDT), ANZ Stadium
Souths appear set for a major overhaul with Tom Burgess the latest player linked with a move away from Redfern.
Monday night’s gut-wrenching loss to Manly, which was marred by a controversial bunker decision that was at odds with similar rulings in that vein, made it seven straight losses and was witnessed by their lowest home crowd of the season in a clear sign that fans have had enough.
Canberra coach Ricky Stuart was gushing in his praise of his skipper Jarrod Croker, who capped a superb game with the winning try in extra-time.
The Raiders have surged into the top four for the first time in over a decade and look capable of doing something in September, although consistency and concentration remain buzzwords for them.
On a dry track they could really run up a big score here.
Last time they met: Rd 8 2015 – Souths 22-30 Canberra
Unibet Odds: Souths $2.95 Canberra $1.41
Line tip: Canberra -7.5
Manly v Newcastle | Sunday, July 31, 4pm (AEDT), Brookvale Oval
Manly continued their late surge towards an unlikely finals berth after seeing off Souths, the Eagles forced to fend off a second-half resurgence to nail down the result.
Trent Barrett’s side still have a perception of being a bit light-on for size up front so it’s no surprise to hear them linked with a bid for Parramatta’s Manu Ma’u.
In a season of unwanted ‘achievements’, the Knights are staring down the barrel of a club-record equalling 13th consecutive defeat after a late fadeout against the Sharks saw the scoreboard get right away from them.
Nathan Ross continues to be a bright spot in an otherwise forgettable season in the Hunter and bagged the club’s only points with a memorable try.
With Manly not noted for being a free-scoring team, a similar scoreline to their round 8 encounter may eventuate.
Last time they met: Rd 8 – Newcastle 10-26 Manly
Unibet Odds: Manly $1.10 Newcastle $7.50
Line tip: Newcastle +19.5 (best bet)
Gold Coast v Cronulla | Monday, August 1, 7pm (AEDT), Cbus Stadium
The Titans continue to surprise and will now look to claim a big scalp in the form of the league leaders.
Ashley Taylor continues to impress in the halves and may prove to be the “one that got away’ for Wayne Bennett.
If Cronulla needed any additional motivation to break their premiership drought they may have received it during the week with Michael Ennis announcing that this will be his final season, the pesky hooker described by Bennett as one of the best players he has coached.
Expecting the Titans to really serve it up to the visitors but they may have a bit too much class in the long run.
Last time they met: Rd 6 – Cronulla 25-20 Gold Coast
Unibet Odds: Gold Coast $2.85 Cronulla $1.44
Line tip: Gold Coast +6.5