Injuries, refereeing howlers, five-try hauls and four-try debuts – NRL round 9 certainly delivered in the drama stakes.
It also left under-strength Canberra and Manly reeling, while South Sydney and St George Illawarra were the big movers. But a very clearly defined top four – both on the NRL ladder and in terms of premiership potential – has emerged, with Parramatta, Penrith, Melbourne and Sydney Roosters all asserting their authority last weekend.
Teams can never get too comfortable in the NRL, however, and eight crucial clashes are sure to shake up the finals picture once again.
Sportsbet charges off the back fence with tips for each encounter, including fearless NRL round 9 predictions and NRL round 9 teams news.
SYDNEY ROOSTERS V CANBERRA RAIDERS: NRL ROUND 10 PREDICTIONS
THURSDAY 16 JULY – 9:50PM
The 2019 NRL Grand Final replay has been overshadowed by Canberra’s shocking injury toll. Hooker Josh Hodgson and outside-back Bailey Simonsson succumbed to season-ending injuries last week, joining Corey Horsburgh, Sia Soliola, Emre Guler and John Bateman on the Raiders’ long-term absentee list.
Sydney Roosters have had their share of setbacks of late, with Victor Radley and Sam Verrills rubbed out by ACL injuries, along with lay-offs for Isaac Liu and Daniel Tupou. But valuable veterans Brett Morris and Boyd Cordner return this week.
Both clubs boast great depth, but the Roosters have negotiated their injury crisis far more smoothly. Losing just once since the NRL’s restart – in a golden-point classic to the Storm in round 8 – the Roosters weathered early resistance to crush the Cowboys 42–16 last Thursday. Winger Matt Ikuvalu was the five-try hero, retaining a spot ahead of Ryan Hall this week in the process.
Canberra has lost three of its last four, although a refereeing howler didn’t help in a 20–14 defeat to Melbourne on Saturday. In Raiders NRL round 7 teams news, Siliva Havili has been named to fill the breach at hooker, while Jordan Rapana is a very handy replacement to have on the wing.
The Roosters won all three encounters with the Raiders in 2019 by six points or less, including the 14–8 Grand Final epic. The Roosters are on five-match winning streak against the Green Machine in Sydney.
Few NRL round 7 predictions will be in the depleted Raiders’ favour ahead of a tough road trip.
NRL round 10 tips
Head-to-head: Sydney Roosters
Best bet: Margin – Sydney Roosters 13+
MELBOURNE STORM V GOLD COAST TITANS: NRL ROUND 10 PREDICTIONS
FRIDAY 17 JULY – 6:00PM
The 7–2 Melbourne Storm are firming as the likely 2020 minor premiers, winning a golden-point epic against Sydney Roosters and a controversial clash with Canberra in the past fortnight without their five-eighth linchpin Cameron Munster.
The Storm’s famed consistency remains as reliable as ever, with fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen’s brilliance and the unmatched guile of Cameron Smith finishing the job. The NRL round 7 teams announcement revealed the return of Munster and representative back-rower Felise Kaufusi to help offset the loss of Jesse Bromwich to injury.
Gold Coast Titans showed real heart minutes – and rode their refereeing luck – to fight back from 12–0 down after eight to pip the Warriors 16–12 at home last Friday.
It was the Titans’ third win since the restart and a solid result as underdogs given their line-up was scattered with rookies and players out of position. They’ve been boosted by the return of Brian Kelly and Phillip Sami in the centres, with Bryce Cartwright dropped all together. Last week’s matchwinner, newcomer Beau Fermor, has been retrenched to the second row.
The Storm have won eight of their last nine against the Titans. But despite the clubs’ disparate positions in the NRL pecking order, the Titans have proved a relatively tricky opponent. The minor premiers beat the wooden spooners 38–18 (after Gold Coast led 12–0 early) and 24–8 (after the Titans led at half-time) in the space of five weeks during the second half of 2019.
Four of the Titans’ six losses in 2020 were by 20 points or more – a margin the ruthless Storm should breeze past on Friday evening.
NRL round 10 tips
Head-to-head: Melbourne Storm
Best bet: Line – Melbourne Storm -19.5
WESTS TIGERS V BRISBANE BRONCOS: NRL ROUND 10 PREDICTIONS
FRIDAY 17 JULY – 7:55PM
Wests Tigers are at the top of a three-team logjam tied for eighth spot, despite losing back-to-back games to Penrith (19–12) and Souths (18–10).
Michael Maguire’s side was far from disgraced in either defeat, rallying admirably against the Rabbitohs after trailing 18–0. But neither that comeback nor five-eighth Josh Reynolds’ suspension has stopped the hard-nosed coach from dumping halfback Luke Brooks from the starting side.
Benji Marshall and Billy Walters have been named in the halves with Brooks on the bench, while Russell Packer returns at prop, Chris McQueen is a surprise bench replacement for Michael Chee-Kam and Elijah Taylor, and Tommy Talau is back from injury on the wing.
The under-siege Brisbane Broncos arrested a six-match losing streak with a 26–8 win over the last-placed Bulldogs, spearheaded by mercurial forward Tevita Pangai Jr, struggling five-eighth Anthony Milford and rookie fullback Tesi Niu.
Injuries continue to bite, with skipper Alex Glenn ruled out (Ben Te’o comes into the second row) and Kotoni Staggs still not cleared to return, although Joe Ofahengaue’s return from suspension is a boost.
The Tigers have won just six of their 28 matches against the Broncos, who incredibly are unbeaten in 12 regular-season away clashes with the joint venture. But the last four encounters overall were split two wins apiece, with the Tigers getting up 22–16 in round 5 last year via a remarkable solo matchwinner to Chee-Kam.
The Tigers look a sharp bet to end a staggering home hoodoo with a win at Leichhardt Oval – but this promises to be a wild ride.
NRL round 10 tips
Head-to-head: Wests Tigers
Best bet: Margin – Wests Tigers 1 to 12
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS V CANTERBURY BULLDOGS: NRL ROUND 10 PREDICTIONS
SATURDAY 18 JULY – 3:00PM
When Canterbury routed winless St George Illawarra 22–2 in round 4 this season, Dragons coach Paul McGregor’s job was seemingly hanging by a thread.
Fast forward just five weeks and Saints have won three games and recorded honourable losses to each of the 2019 Grand Finalists, while the strife-torn Bulldogs are on a five-match losing streak and coach Dean Pay has quit.
The Bulldogs averaged just eight points in their last three defeats – all by 16-plus margins – to Wests Tigers, Souths and Brisbane. Pay has received widespread sympathy from the rugby league fraternity due to the low quality of his roster and the club’s off-field issues.
Interim coach Steve Georgallis – a role he performed at Penrith in 2011 – has recalled Lachlan Lewis at halfback and moved Nick Meaney to fullback, while the maligned Kerrod Holland replaces suspended centre Reimis Smith.
The Dragons responded to their back-to-back losses to the Roosters and Raiders with their best win of the season, thrashing Manly 34–4 on Sunday. Ben Hunt, shifted again to a starting role at hooker, scooped the three Dally M points, while Paul Vaughan and Cameron McInnes laid the platform for the Saints’ backs to run riot.
Pay’s shock exit could help galvanise the Bulldogs, but their inability to score points renders an upset highly unlikely against a Dragons line-up that is finding its groove.
NRL round 10 tips
Head-to-head: St George Illawarra Dragons
Best bet: Line – St George Illawarra Dragons -9.5
SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS V NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS: NRL ROUND 10 PREDICTIONS
SATURDAY 18 JULY – 5:30PM
South Sydney has clawed its way to sixth on the ladder with four wins from its last five matches, including an 18–10 defeat of Wests Tigers in round 9. The Rabbitohs are still a few notches off the form of the NRL’s frontrunners, but star showings from Adam Reynolds and hat-trick winger Dane Gagai were encouraging.
A win over the fifth-placed Newcastle Knights would represent Souths’ biggest scalp of the season to date.
The Knights have been stuck in a win-loss pattern for six weeks. After a gutsy 14–12 win over Manly in round 8, they went down 10–4 to Parramatta in a dour Sunday afternoon affair. They need to find ways to reinvigorate their attack – and their first priority should be creating more space, opportunities and protection for fullback Kalyn Ponga, who has been copping it from opposition defences.
The likes of David Klemmer and Jacob Saifiti need to step up this weekend for the Knights, with the Rabbitohs’ forwards starting to find some confidence.
Both sides have big outs in NRL round 7 teams news, with Souths fullback Latrell Mitchell suspended and Newcastle’s Origin prop Daniel Saifiti injured. But the Knights are boosted by the interchange return of Connor Watson, Mitch Barnett and Sione Mata’utia.
Newcastle ended a nine-match losing run against Souths (and extended Wayne Bennetts’ losing streak in Knights–Rabbitohs matches to five) with a Watson-inspired 20–12 victory at ANZ Stadium in round 13 last year – despite Ponga’s absence.
A distinct split in NRL round 7 predictions reflects how much of a flip of the coin this contest promises to be, but the Knights are hard to ignore as slight midweek underdogs.
NRL round 10 tips
Head-to-head: Newcastle Knights
Best bet: Tri bet – Either team by 8 or less
MANLY SEA EAGLES V PARRAMATTA EELS: NRL ROUND 10 PREDICTIONS
SATURDAY 18 JULY – 7:35PM
Arch rivals Manly and Parramatta come together again just six weeks after a nerve-shredding encounter between two premiership dark horses. The Eels hung on for a 19–16 win after a Sea Eagles try on the bell was controversially pulled back for a Tom Trbojevic forward pass.
But while the blue-and-golds have rolled on at the top of the NRL ladder, Manly has fallen in a hole since fullback Trbojevic suffered an injury in round 6. The Sea Eagles have gone down heavily to the Sharks (40–22) and Dragons (34–4) either side of a narrow defeat to the Knights (14–12) in the past three weeks.
An injury to Dylan Walker and Addin Fonua-Blake’s much-publicised suspension hasn’t helped Des Hasler’s side, which has spiralled to 10th with a 4–5 record.
The 8–1 Eels are in the premiership race up to their eyeballs, blowing the Cowboys out of the water 42–4 and grinding out an ugly 10–4 win over the Knights in their past two games without Mitchell Moses. The halfback linchpin remains sidelined, with Brad Arthur naming an unchanged 17.
The Eels have won nine of their last 11 against the Sea Eagles but finished on the wrong side of the ledger in their last two visits to Brookvale. There are few signs this week, however, that Parramatta – averaging just 9.7 conceded points per game – won’t prevail in enemy territory this time around.
NRL round 10 tips
Head-to-head: Parramatta Eels
NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS V CRONULLA SHARKS: NRL ROUND 10 PREDICTIONS
SUNDAY 19 JULY – 2:00PM
New Zealand Warriors were on course for their first back-to-back win in 14 months after racing out to a 12–0 lead over Gold Coast Titans just eight minutes into last Friday’s encounter. But a combination of terrible ball control, poor decisions and the rough end of the refereeing stick consigned the nomadic club to an agonising 16–12 loss.
A win would have seen the Warriors grab a share of eighth spot. Instead, they languish in 13th with a 3–6 record.
Meanwhile, Cronulla’s one-week spell inside the top eight – and a three-match winning streak – ended abruptly via a 56–24 loss to Penrith. It was the highest score conceded by the Sharks since 2009 and a real momentum killer.
Both teams have made significant NRL round 7 team changes. Kodi Nikorima and Eliesa Katoa return for the Warriors – replacing Chanel Harris-Tavita and Jack Murchie, respectively – while Ronaldo Mulitalo is back on the wing for the Sharks, and Andrew Fifita has been ruled out.
Cronulla has proved a tough nut for the Warriors to crack in recent years: the Sharks have won 10 of the clubs’ past 13 encounters. Honours were shared in 2019, with a Blake Green field goal getting the Warriors home 19–18 in Wellington in round 18 and the Shaun Johnson–inspired Sharks romping to a 42–16 victory in the Shire five weeks later.
The Warriors are unbeaten in three matches at their adopted Gosford home in 2020. But the strain of the club’s situation and off-field ructions are very close to the surface. Expect Johnson to haunt his old team once again.
NRL round 10 tips
Head-to-head: Cronulla Sharks
Best bet: Line – Cronulla Sharks -6
PENRITH PANTHERS V NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS: NRL ROUND 10 PREDICTIONS
SUNDAY 19 JULY – 4:05PM
Penrith Panthers have progressed from early-season surprise packets to genuine NRL premiership threats, losing just once in the first nine rounds to sit second on the ladder.
The Panthers have won four straight, flexing their attacking muscle with a 56–24 shellacking of Cronulla after hard-fought victories over Melbourne, Souths and Wests Tigers. Charlie Staines has been stood down for breaking COVID-19 protocols following his four-try debut, but that allows Dean Whare to return.
North Queensland Cowboys are on the ropes in 12th spot, winning just one of their last six games. The Cowboys have conceded more points than any team in the competition – leaking 42 in consecutive weeks against the heavyweight Eels and Roosters.
Star recruit Valentine Holmes is out injured – replaced on the wing by Justin O’Neill – while Scott Drinkwater makes way at five-eighth for Mitch Dunn. Daejarn Asi is in line for a debut off the bench after a frantic NRL round 7 ‘Team List Tuesday’ for Paul Green and the Cowboys.
The Panthers have won nine of their last 12 against the Cowboys, including a 24–10 success in Townsville last season. The Cowboys have won four of their last seven at Panthers Stadium, but this scoreline could be anything in the home side’s favour given these teams’ current form lines. The simplest head-to-head NRL round 9 prediction to make.
NRL round 10 tips
Head-to-head: Penrith Panthers
Best bet: Line – Penrith Panthers -15.5