The race to finals is as hot as ever, with teams looking to assert their authority and book a spot on the bus to September.
Read through our tips, previews and analysis of every Round 23 match.
game of the week: Panthers vs. Storm
4th August 8:00pm
While the Cowboys, Broncos, Souths and Sharks may all be competing in epic top-eight battles between themselves this weekend, we’ve landed on this Friday night clash of the titans as the Round 23 Game of the Week.
Sitting 1st and 4th on the ladder after both ran out comfortable winners last week, the Panthers will go into the match as short-priced favourites as they look to build on their current five-game winning streak.
A win over the Storm was essential to the Panthers’ winning run, defeating Craig Bellamy’s side 16-34 at Marvel Stadium in Round 18. Izack Tago drove home a double on the night as the back-to-back premiers came from 14-0 nil down without their star #7 Nathan Cleary.
Nelson Asofa-Solomona’s inclusion will further boost an in-form Storm side that dismantled Parramatta by 30 points on Friday night. Harry Grant and Jahrome Hughes were the main destroyers for Melbourne, and they’ll need every bit of that same energy if they are to have any chance of upsetting the home side.
A win here will go a long way to securing another minor premiership for the Panthers while cementing a top-four spot and striking fear into their opponents ahead of finals is the aim for the Storm.
TIP: Same Game Multi
Leg 1: Penrith to winLeg 2: Over 39.5 total pointsLeg 3: W. Warbrick score anytime Leg 4: S. Crichton score anytimeTotal: $11
bet now: PEnrith vs. Melbourne
Roosters vs. Sea Eagles
3rd August 7:50pm
After another substantial loss – this time at the hands of the Broncos – the Roosters’ chances of keeping their six-year finals run alive continue to diminish each week. The numbers indicate they must win four of their last five to have hope. We’re not even convinced they can take down the Sea Eagles this week, especially with Ben Trbojevic back in the side.
TIP: Sea Eagles (+3.5) @ $1.99
Bet Now: Sydney vs. Manly
Titans vs. Warriors
4th August 6:00pm
The Titans kept their finals hopes well and truly alive with a tough 22-13 victory over the Cowboys last weekend, coming home with 12 unanswered points in the second half. The Warriors will bring an equally tough challenge following their bye round as they attempt to cement their spot in the top four. Warriors in the close one.
TIP: Warriors 1-12 @ $2.95
Bet Now: Gold Coast vs. NZ Warriors
Cowboys vs. Broncos
5th August 3:00PM
Very few teams have as much pressure on their shoulders this week as the Cowboys. Despite their sensational recent form, a surprise nine-point loss to the Titans has sent them into eighth spot on the ladder and within striking distance of the chasing pack. The Broncos, who demolished the Roosters 32-10 for a seventh win from their past eight, will welcome Jesse Arthars and Brendan Piakura back into their starting side. A flip of the coin and a must-watch.
TIP: H. Farnworth anytime try scorer @ $2.35
Bet Now: North Queensland vs. Brisbane
Dolphins vs. Knights
5th August 5:30PM
There’s no denying it; the Knights are coming. And they’re coming for the newbies. Led by their star captain and fullback, Kalyn Ponga, Newcastle notched their fourth consecutive win over the weekend, defeating the fifth-placed Raiders 6-28 and closing within one point of the top eight. With their eyes set firmly on the Dolphins, expect Ponga, Young, Gagai, Frizell and co. to bring the heat.
TIP: Knights to win @ $1.33
Bet Now: Dolphins vs. Newcastle
Rabbitohs vs. Sharks
5th August 7:35pm
While the return of Latrell Mitchell coincided with victory and a return to the top eight for the Rabbitohs, they certainly won’t be resting on their laurels. Despite their $1.23 favouritism and the return of prop Thomas Burgess and second-rower Michael Chee Kam, the Bunnies will be up against a Sharks outfit hungry to snap a three-game losing streak in Wade Graham’s 250th game. However, after conceding 102 points in their last three, it’s hard to see the Sharks doing that.
TIP: Rabbitohs 13+ @ $2.02
Bet Now: Souths vs. Cronulla
Eels vs. Dragons
6th August 2:00pm
Back-to-back losses on the road have significantly impacted the Eels’ finals chances, and they’ll be keen to bounce back into form upon their return to home soil. Sitting 11th on the ladder, Parramatta will welcome Dylan Brown back from a seven-game suspension while trying to negate the influence of Dragon’s fullback Tyrell Sloan, who has punched home a try in each of his last four matches. The Eels should, but it might be closer than the market suggests.
TIP: Eels 1-12 @ $3.30
Bet Now: Parramatta vs. St George
Raiders vs. Wests
6th August 4:05pm
There’s nothing like a gimmie against the bottom-ranked side to make the team feel better about being belted 28-6 by the Knights. Alas, that’s what the Raiders face as they host the Tigers in a must-win at home. Nick Cotric will return to a wing as Ricky Stuart’s men look to make it seven straight wins against Wests.
TIP: Raiders (-10.5) @ $1.82
Bet Now: Canberra vs. Wests
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