State of Origin will be over for another year come Wednesday night as the best players in the NRL focus on getting their club sides into the finals.
It’s a congested leaderboard at the top of the table but there is a six-point gap between eighth and ninth. That means there will be some desperate teams over the closing weeks.
We have expert tips and form for all eight NRL games for Round 18, 2018.
6:00pm Penrith Panthers vs. Cronulla Sharks @ Panthers Stadium
The Panthers have slipped down to fourth on the ladder but not many expected them to beat the Warriors last week and they did it in style.
Playing without Origin stars James Maloney, Nathan Cleary and Tyrone Peachy, the young and inexperienced Panthers side ran all over the Warriors, winning 36-4 in a one-sided affair.
It will be tougher this week and the Origin players will be tired, especially with the Sharks coming off a bye. That’s reflected in the market with the Panthers only holding slight favouritism and this should be a close game.
Sharks are also coming off a win against the Warriors and they could be the fresher team this Friday night.
Betting tip: Sharks to win @ $2.15 (BET NOW)
Sharks by 8
7:55pm Newcastle Knights vs. Parramatta Eels @ McDonald Jones Stadium
Both teams come into this struggling to find their best form but their respective Round 16 games couldn’t have been any more different.
The Eels, which have been terrible this season, managed to push the Dragons to within two points at WIN Stadium and the Knights were disappointing 36-16 losers to the Bulldogs.
The season started brightly for the Knights but the shine has worn off and a playoff spot looks off the radar now.
Eels are looking to avoid the wooden spoon and given the natural talent they have in the squad, that was hard to imagine at the start of the season. A win here would go a long way to saving face for the Eels.
Betting tip: Eels to win @ $1.81 (BET NOW)
Eels by 10
3:00pm Canterbury Bulldogs vs. South Sydney Rabbitohs @ ANZ Stadium
We are not sure how the Bulldogs lost to the Raiders last week but it cost them any chance of making the playoffs.
They led 28-20 with only three minutes to go before giving up consecutive tries. The 32-28 loss will hurt the Bulldogs for weeks to come and it’s not about to get any easier against the Rabbitohs, which currently lead the competition.
Having a better than expected season, the Rabbitohs look to take control of the minor premiership race with a victory on Saturday and bookmakers are predicting an easy win for the Sydney side.
It would take a mammoth effort from the Bulldogs to stop the impressive run of the league’s best team.
Betting tip: Rabbitohs –10.5 @ $1.90 (BET NOW)
Rabbitohs by 16
5:30pm Manly Sea Eagles vs. Melbourne Storm @ Lottoland
We don’t think the Storm are getting enough credit in the market this week and that could be a good thing for punters.
Bookmakers have the 2017 champion side as only the $1.47 favourites and we priced them at $1.30. Coming off a scintillating win over the Dragons where they scored 52 points, the Storm will be in try-scoring mode again this week against some weak defence of the Sea Eagles.
The Sea Eagles have leaked points all season and it’s going to be harder for them with Daly Cherry-Evans likely to be fatigued after playing State of Origin.
This is an ideal situation for the Storm to pick up an away win and keep in touch with the Rabbitohs.
Betting tip: Storm –6.5 @ $1.90 (BET NOW)
Storm by 14
7:35pm Canberra Raiders vs. North Queensland Cowboys @ GIO Stadium
Desperation did wonders for the Raiders last week after pulling off an improbable win against the Bulldogs.
Despite playing poorly throughout the game, the Raiders scored three late tries to steal the game away from the Bulldogs and keep their slim chances of making the playoffs alive.
Another win against the Cowboys will be needed this week and we think they now have the confidence to go on with the job, especially if Blake Austin is given free rein to do what he wants.
He’s an enigmatic player which turned the game on its head on Saturday night and he’s a key aspect to the Raiders beating the Cowboys, who haven’t been themselves this season.
Betting tip: Raiders to win @ $1.52 (BET NOW)
Raiders by 6
2:00pm Brisbane Broncos vs. New Zealand Warriors @ Suncorp Stadium
This is always a great game against two sides that love playing expansive football. The Broncos are coming off a dominant performance over the Titans and the Warriors are needing a bounce-back effort.
The Warriors were poor against the Panthers, but that’s the Warriors to a tee. They underperform against the sides they should beat and typically win when they shouldn’t. Much like this week, where they’re the current $2.20 underdogs against a team they have had plenty of success against.
Picking a winner between two sides that have shown little consistency this year will be tough and there’s plenty on the line with both teams looking to secure their top eight spot.
Betting tip: Warriors to win @ $2.20 (BET NOW)
Warriors by 6
4:10pm St George Dragons vs. Wests Tigers @ Jubilee Oval
It wasn’t that long ago when the Tigers were sitting pretty at the top of the ladder but how times have changed since.
They now sit in 10th spot and are all but out of the running for the playoffs, which would be a sad way to finish what could have been a great season for the underperforming side.
Facing the Dragons is going to be a tough ask for their defence this week and despite the Dragons losing to the Storm last week, their attacking prowess was on show.
Scoring 30 points in defeat is a rare occurrence and they won’t be disheartened by the loss considering they had their Origin players missing.
Expect a big performance from the Dragons this week.
Betting tip: Dragons 13+ @ $2.30 (BET NOW)
Dragons by 18
6:30pm Gold Coast Titans vs. Sydney Roosters @ Cbus Super Stadium
The Titans couldn’t have played much worse against the Broncos last Sunday and we can’t see improvement coming from the Queensland franchise.
They showed little on both attack and defence, with their playmakers looking particularly poor. That kind of effort won’t go very far against the Roosters this week, who will be in a mood to score tries.
The Roosters sit in fifth on the ladder and will be pressing for a top four spot, especially if the teams ahead of them have already notched wins. They play an attacking brand of football and that will likely give the horrible Titans defence plenty to worry about.
Betting tip: Roosters –8.5 @ $1.90 (BET NOW)
Roosters by 16