There are some big lines heading into Round 4 and the minus is the way to play them. Here are The Wolf’s tips for Round 4 of the NRL season.
Penrith -14.5/South Sydney -16.5/Melbourne -18.5 ($6.86)
Panthers to Pounce On Hapless Eagles
Manly are a complete and utter shambles. There is no team that they want to face less than Penrith.
The Panthers have conceded 10 points all season. Those 10 came from the defending premiers. The two cupcakes they faced in North Queensland and Canterbury failed to trouble the scorer. Manly certainly sit that echelon of mediocrity.
The Sea Eagles have been utterly horrific this year. They have lost all three games. They haven’t covered a start. They have conceded at least 26 in all three and 38-plus in two. The team has been hit hard by injuries and no team is less prepared for injury than Manly, who have the most bizarre roster-building strategy imaginable.
Penrith have been operating at the other end of the spectrum. They are unbeaten and now have a big scalp after exacting some form of revenge on last year’s Grand Final loss. Their defence has set the standard.
Dylan Edwards will be out for Penrith but star half Nathan Cleary returns so the Panthers remain in good stead. Manly are scrambling to field a competitive team with Tom Trbojevic still on the sidelines.
Penrith have dominated Manly in recent years, winning 11 of the last 14 meetings. Since 2008, the Panthers have covered 15 of 22.
When a top quality team plays a poor team this year the top quality team has covered six of seven this year. The games have not been close. Manly are going to struggle to post a point in this one while the Panthers have the attacking chops to run up any score they desire.
Same Game Multi: Penrith -18.5/Viliame Kikau Try/Brian To’o Try
Bunnies To Make It A Good Friday
Canterbury have gone backwards under Trent Barrett with an embarrassing 24-0 loss to Brisbane in a battle for the wooden spoon confirming there will be no leap forward in 2021 for the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs have typically lifted for this clash with rivals South Sydney but the talent deficit is too great for Canterbury to overcome.
Canterbury have failed to score a single point in their last two games, including against defensive basket-case Brisbane.
Souths will be cock-a-hoop after a devastating win over bitter enemies the Sydney Roosters. It was a sublime win that showcased the truly explosive attack South Sydney have. The left edge in particular is firing on all cylinders with Cody Walker and Latrell Mitchell playing crisp, fast Rugby League.
Really good teams have been thumping really bad teams this year and that should continue in this one. The Bulldogs are 17-11 against the number against Souths since 2008 and the Bulldogs are 26-13 against the spread getting 6.5 or more in NSW. Souths though hold their form covering 18 of 29 off a double digit win. They have also covered 12 of their last 16 as a favourite at ANZ.
This won’t be close.
Same Game Multi: South Sydney Win/Cody Walker Try/Latrell Mitchell Try
Prayers for Brisbane
If those in Brisbane think another lockdown is bad news, a Broncos clash with the Storm is not going to offer any cheer.
This scenario could not be worse for the Broncos. The game is opening up the gap between the best teams and the worst. The Storm are at home. Melbourne have lost back-to-back games. And it is Melbourne.
There has been no more lopsided rivalry than that of the Storm and Broncos. Melbourne have won 30 of the last 35 meetings, including the last eight on end. Melbourne have won by 14 or more in six of those eight with 30-plus wins coming on four occasions. Since 2008 the Storm have covered 20 of 26 against the Broncos with an average winning margin of just over 16 points.
Melbourne will be deathly aware a statement win is needed following disappointing losses to Parramatta and Penrith. They get a chance to do just that at home against Brisbane.
The Storm have covered 12 of 19 off scoring 12 or fewer points and 10 of 16 when playing at night off a loss. They have covered 16 of 26 as a double digit favourite. The Broncos have been awful on the road, covering just 5 of 18 away from Suncorp and just 6 of 17 away from Suncorp off a win.
The Storm could win this by 50. And the minus machine rolls on.
Same Game Multi: Melbourne Win/Justin Olam Try/Josh Addo-Carr Try/Kenny Bromwich Try
Super Sharks To Shine
Cronulla may have been well beaten in the end by Parramatta but they lost no admirers in what was a gritty showing. The Sharks spent the entire second half without a single bench player, having lost them all to injury.
That kind of toughness puts them in good stead against a team that has, to quote veteran Cowboy Josh McGuire, has a “soft underbelly”.
The Cowboys have been awful in three games under Todd Payten, the team not responding to the aggressive new coach at all. It is hard to see them turning it around against a hard-nosed veteran team like Cronulla.
This is a good spot for Cronulla. The Sharks have covered 14 of 20 off conceding 28 points. North Queensland have covered just two of eight interstate games and just one of six getting a start more than a converted try.
The Sharks have won five on the trot against the Cowboys and have covered nine of their last 11. Cronulla have plenty of personnel woes but will still roll out a far stronger team on a fast Sunshine Coast deck than their opponents.
Same Game Multi: Cronulla Win/Over 42.5 Points/Blayke Brailey Try
Titans Not Frightened On Home Deck
Gold Coast host the game of the round when a wounded Canberra come to town.
The money has rolled in early for the Titans and they certainly look the value getting a start and at odds-against.
Gold Coast had a big boom put on them coming into the season and they appear to be living up to it with dominant wins over Queensland rivals Brisbane and North Queensland, the latter the biggest win in club history. The Titans are playing with aggression ruthlessness and discipline unseen at the club until this year.
Canberra will no doubt be heading back to the finals but they have looked a little shaky. They were level at halftime with the Tigers, the fell in against the Sharks and they lost a thriller to the Warriors. The latter saw them hit hard by injury with Joseph Tapine looking likely to spend some time on the sidelines while Ryan James and Sebastian Kris picked up head injuries.
The Titans have become very good at home, covering six of their last seven at CBus Stadium. They have covered nine of 14 on home turf when an underdog of less than a try.
Canberra travel well but the Titans are building some serious momentum and deserve respect getting a start on home turf.
Same Game Multi: Jamal Fogarty Try/Jack Wighton Try
No team can throw away a game they should win more than Newcastle. They did it against the Tigers. They loom as likely to do it against the Dragons.
Newcastle’s performance against the Wests Tigers was utterly horrific. Handling error after handling error spoiled any chance of a win against a team they should beaten on home turf.
The numbers don’t bode well for the Knights. Newcastle have covered just five of 14 off conceding 16 or more points. They have covered just two of their last seven when favoured by more than a converted try.
St George Illawarra have been hit hard by injury and suspension. Ben Hunt has a broken leg. Jack Bird has been suspended. The Saints are playing with a renewed zest though and look to be in a very winnable position.
The Saints have covered 14 of 21 getting more than a converted try and cover at a clip of 57% when an underdog of any number. St George Illawarra have won 13 of 16 against Newcastle at McDonald Jones Stadium and are excellent value in this one.
Same Game Multi: Matt Dufty Try/Mitch Barnett Try
Warriors Up and About After Famous Win
When it comes to famous Warriors victories, their win against the Raiders last Saturday will rank right up there. It had everything: a big comeback, winning on the road, personal heroism, a last-ditch try-saver for the ages.
There has been so much to like about the Warriors this year. They are putting in, particularly through the middle, with Addin Fonua-Blake in line for buy of the year.
The Roosters looked to be Top 4 bound until a horror show last Friday when they not only went down to Souths but lost stars Luke Keary and Lachlan Lam to knee injuries.
There is some strong statistical support for the Warriors here. They have covered 10 of 11 as an underdog and eight of nine off conceding 20-plus. They have covered seven of 11 off scoring 30-plus.
The Warriors are well worth sticking with in this one.
Same Game Multi: New Zealand 1-12/Adam Pompey Try
Eels To Sizzle
Parramatta have dominated the Wests Tigers in recent outings and look primed to add more pain to the Tigers.
The Eels have won five on the trot against the Tigers as well as nine of the last 11. In those five straight wins, the Tigers’ limp defence has conceded at least 24 in each. That is unlikely to change with the Tigers having the third worst defence this year, conceding at least 20 in all three.
Parramatta play a style that will castrate the Tigers. The Eels are relentless, playing direct and with patience, wearing down their opponents. They have fast line speed and pride themselves on a smothering defence. The Tigers just don’t have the cattle or wherewithal to get over Parramatta.
When a Top 6 team from last year has played a Bottom 6 team, the average margin of victory is 24. The Tigers are a poor 3-8 against the line getting a start of more than eight points.
The Eels and by plenty.
Same Game Multi: Maika Sivo Try/Shaun Lane Try/Reed Mahoney Try