After an unforgettable opening weekend, what does Round 2 of the 2023 NRL premiership have in store for fans and punters? It kicks off with an absolute barnburner between the premiers and a title contender.

NRL Tips – Penrith Panthers V South Sydney Rabbitohs

19:50 (AEDT), Thu 9th Mar @ BlueBet Stadium, Penrith

History: Played 92: Rabbitohs 47, Panthers 44, draws 1

Last meeting: Preliminary final, 2022 – Panthers 32 d Rabbitohs 12 at Accor Stadium

Team News: Penrith’s only change after a disjointed 13-12 upset at the hands of Brisbane sees a concussed Scott Sorensen sit the week out, with Matt Eisenhuth coming onto the bench. Expect Soni Luke to play a bigger role off the bench after making a significant impact at dummy-half. Souths’ impressive 27-18 victory over Cronulla was tempered slightly by injuries to Tevita Tatola and Jai Arrow. Daniel Suluka-Fifita and Jed Cartwright come into the side, while the Rabbitohs will be sweating on Latrell Mitchell’s fitness after early indications were he may miss this blockbuster.

What We Like: Lean towards the under (38.5) with six of last week’s eight games producing 37 points or less and the Panthers conceding just 11.7 points per game since the start of last season. With their offence out of sorts, the premiers will look to drag flighty Souths into an arm-wrestle. Few players look better value in the Anytime Tryscorer stakes than Campbell Graham ($3.90) after his double last week.

Final Thoughts: The Panthers may be in a mini-rut, but their recent losses – to St Helens and Brisbane – were against ultra-committed opponents who played out of their skins…and could still only managed two tries apiece. The hysteria about the Panthers being on the ropes after one round is out of control. But the Rabbitohs will arrive at Penrith full of confidence, with Lachlan Ilias’ growth adding a new dimension to their premiership quest. The Panthers have won four straight against Souths, including a 32-12 prelim blowout last year – but they’ll need to grind this one out till the 80th minute.

Best Bet: Handicap – Rabbitohs +5.5 @ $1.90

NRL Tips – Parramatta Eels V Cronulla Sharks

18:00 (AEDT), Fri 10th Mar @ CommBank Stadium, Sydney

History: Played 90: Eels 48, Sharks 42

Last meeting: Round 2, 2022 – Sharks 18 d Eels 16 at PointsBet Stadium

Team News: J’Maine Hopgood was magnificent on club debut in Parramatta’s golden point loss to Melbourne, alleviating the club’s depleted back-row stocks. Winger Sean Russell returns to the line-up from suspension at the expense of Isaac Lumelume. Nicho Hynes missed Cronulla’s loss to Souths and won’t be risked this week, while the Sharks have also lost veteran back-rower Wade Graham to a four-week ban. Connor Tracey and Royce Hunt join the bench, with Jack Williams also out.

What We Like: If the Sharks cough up as much ball as they did last week, the Eels should have little trouble scoring over 22.5 points ($1.92). Dylan Brown made 14 runs for 113 metres last week, and with 11 tries in 2022 he’s a good shout to score a try at $3.50. Sharks speedster Sione Katoa blazed over for a try in his comeback from injury and is a smoky to top the NRL – he’s an Anytime Tryscorer steal at $2.25.

Final Thoughts: Hynes’ absence is an obvious handbrake for Cronulla, but Braydon Trindall was superb in his stead in Round 1. The Sharks need to cut down their errors and show a bit more patience with the ball. Parramatta won’t look to change too much – Josh Hodgson will only get better as he moulds a combination with Mitch Moses and co. – but the Eels’ pack must get on the front foot after being outmuscled by the Storm. Expect the Eels to find a way in a seesawing battle.

Best Bet: Half-time/Full-time – Eels/Eels @ $1.91

NRL Tips – Brisbane Broncos V North Queensland Cowboys

20:05 (AEDT), Fri 10th Mar @ Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

History: Played 58: Broncos 36, Cowboys 20, draws 2

Last meeting: Round 16, 2022 – Cowboys 40 d Broncos 26 at Queensland Country Bank Stadium

Team News: The Broncos squad that pulled off a heroic 13-12 upset at Penrith has been bolstered by Reece Walsh’s return from injury. Walsh slots in at fullback with Selwyn Cobbo reverting to his usual wing spot and Jesse Arthars dropping to 18th man. The Cowboys are unchanged after almost blowing an 18-point lead against the Raiders before getting home with a 19-18 win.

What We Like: The Broncos and Cowboys both dug deep defensively to hold on for narrow wins last week – expect this one to buck the recent trend of high-scoring derbies and go under the 41.5 total points line. Herbie Farnworth is a generous $2.95 First Tryscorer and $15 Anytime Tryscorer option despite scoring both of Brisbane’s tries last week. Ditto Cowboys Scott Drinkwater ($2.65 and $13) after grabbing a double against the Raiders.

Final Thoughts: This rivalry has delivered a pile of unforgettable contests since the clubs’ iconic 2015 grand final showdown and the scene is set for an absolute beauty on Friday night. The Broncos match up well against the Cowboys across the park, but the visitors have the long-term runs on the board as a unit after a stellar 2022. If the Broncos reproduce last week’s defensive effort, they can justify their perhaps surprising $1.76 favouritism. Destined to go down to the wire.

Best Bet: Tri Bet – Either Team by 8 or Less @ $2.12

NRL Tips – Sydney Roosters V New Zealand Warriors

15:00 (AEDT), Sat 11th Mar @ Allianz Stadium, Sydney

History: Played 44: Warriors 22, Roosters 21, draws 1

Last meeting: Round 6, 2022 – Warriors 22 d Roosters 14 at Sydney Cricket Ground

Team News: The Warriors take the same 17 into this road trip after a stirring 20-12 defeat of Newcastle in Wellington that featured seven outstanding club debuts. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak remains on ice but the enigmatic Ed Kosi was excellent on the wing last Friday. The Roosters get superstar centre Joey Manu back – which sees Drew Hutchison go back to the bench and Corey Allan out of the side – but Matt Lodge was an injury casualty of Sunday’s stunning 28-18 loss to the debuting Dolphins.

What We Like: The Warriors’ renewed defensive resolve suggests the Roosters will fall under 29.5 total points ($1.87), while the Tricolours will need vast improvement without the ball to stop the Warriors from scoring more than 14.5 ($1.94). Watch out for Brandon Smith to catch his countrymen napping with a maiden try for the Chooks at $3.75.

Final Thoughts: The Roosters had their pants pulled down in a big way by the Dolphins, despite looking in control midway through the first half. They lacked energy and desperation – qualities the unfancied Warriors delivered in spades last week. Manu’s return helps but there’s more disruptions to the Roosters’ line-up this week…they could be in trouble here. If Wayde Egan and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad impose themselves of the contest in the same manner as last week, the $4.80 upset is on.

Best Bet: Handicap – Warriors +14.5 @ $1.90

NRL Tips – Dolphins V Canberra Raiders

17:30 (AEDT), Sat 1th Mar @ Kayo Stadium, Redcliffe

History: First meeting

Team News: The Dolphins are the toast of the NRL after a rousing, bruising, brilliant 28-18 boilover against the Roosters in their maiden match. Their only change for Round 2 sees rookie Mason Teague join the bench for the injured Ray Stone. The Raiders’ one-point loss – and a casualty ward that already features Xavier Savage and Josh Papalii – was compounded by Jordan Rapana’s suspension. Albert Hopoate will slot onto the wing to make his 13th NRL appearance.

What We Like: Jamayne Isaako ($2.15) is the Anytime Tryscorer market leader after his brace last Sunday, while Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow ($2.70) got the first try and is excellent value to find his way over again. Edge threats Matt Timoko ($2.85) and Hudson Young ($2.90) are the best Raiders options to dot down, crossing 23 times between them last year. The points flowed in the Dolphins’ debut and they should be able to find more than 17.5 in front of the Redcliffe faithful ($1.81).

Final Thoughts: The Round 2 market is pumping the breaks on Dolphins-mania, installing the newcomers as a $2.55 underdog against a depleted Round 1 loser. Getting in front of their fans again at Redcliffe has to be a big boost as the Dolphins look to parlay last week’s intensity into another upset. The Raiders were brave in fighting back from an 18-point deficit in Townsville but they’ll be in trouble if they start slow again.

Best Bet: Handicap – Dolphins +4.5 @ $1.90

NRL Tips – Melbourne Storm V Canterbury Bulldogs

19:35 (AEDT), Sat 11th Mar @ AAMI Park, Melbourne

History: Played 44: Storm 23, Bulldogs 21

Last meeting: Round 4, 2022 – Storm 44 d Bulldogs 0 at AAMI Park

Team News: Melbourne’s gutsy golden point win at Parramatta, with Harry Grant scoring the extra-time match-winner, came at the cost of Cameron Munster to a finger injury. Utility Tyran Wishart will don the No.6 this week with Aaron Pene coming onto the bench. Cameron Ciraldo has refused to hit the panic button after a first-up 31-6 loss to Manly, naming the same 17.

What We Like: The Bulldogs only managed one try last week and may struggle to get many past one of the NRL’s defensive benchmarks, who will look to graft this one out with a host of first-choice stars unavailable. Consider the under options for the Bulldogs (15.5) and the match total (39.5). In saying that, $2.05 is about as long as you’ll see Josh Addo-Carr in an Anytime Tryscorer market and he represents good value.

Final Thoughts: Canterbury are understandably big outsiders to turn things around in Melbourne, having lost their last eight straight to the Storm and conceding 137 points in the teams’ last three clashes. Munster’s injury – on top of the Storm’s already-packed casualty ward – should stop a blowout scenario but the hosts are the clear bet here.

Best Bet: Handicap – Storm -7.5 @ $1.90

NRL Tips – Wests Tigers V Newcastle Knights

16:05 (AEDT), Sun 12th Mar @ Leichhardt Oval, Sydney

History: Played 34: Tigers 17, Knights 17

Last meeting: Round 21, 2022 – Knights 14 d Tigers 10 at Campbelltown Stadium

Team News: Wests Tigers are reeling from a 22-10 loss to Gold Coast in front of a sold-out Leichhardt Oval, sucking the wind from the sails of pre-season optimism following some big signings and Tim Sheens’ return. In a bizarre move, Api Koroisau started off the bench in a late change; the new skipper has been named to start, as has Joe Ofahengaue with Alex Twal on the bench. Alex Seyfarth replaces an injured Fonua Pole. John Bateman’s club debut has been delayed further. Newcastle, disappointing 20-12 losers to the Warriors, get a boost from Dane Gagai’s return with Enari Tuala dropping out. But Adam Elliott is out and Tyson Frizell will need to pass concussion protocols.

What We Like: Both teams’ games went well under the total points line last week and so should this (42.5) with plenty of desperation and misfiring offence on show. Anytime Tryscorer value comes in the shape of Brent Naden ($3.10) and Isaiah Papali’i ($3.30) for the Tigers, and Lachlan Fitzgibbon ($4.90), who crashed over inside two minutes against the Warriors and averages a try every 3.5 NRL games.

Final Thoughts: Arguably the highest-stakes match of the round, with the loser certain to be put under massive scrutiny and firm as a wooden-spoon favourite after two defeats to two of 2022’s battlers. The Tigers are searching for just their fourth win from their last 12 games at their beloved Leichhardt Oval. The Knights weren’t disgraced against the Warriors and had some bad HIA luck, while halfback Jackson Hastings will be fired up to get one over the Tigers and Kalyn Ponga looked dangerous in his new role. But result-wise this is a flip of the coin if ever there was one.

Best Bet: Handicap – Knights +2.5 @ $1.90

NRL Tips – St George Illawarra Dragons V Gold Coast Titans

18:15 (AEDT), Sun 12th Mar @ Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Sydney

History: Played 27: Dragons 17, Titans 10

Last meeting: Round 23, 2022 – Dragons 46 d Titans 26 at WIN Stadium

Team News: St George Illawarra had the first-round bye. The Dragons will field youngsters Jayden Sullivan and Tyrell Sloane in the spine with marquee man Ben Hunt, while Moses Mybe starts at hooker with Jacob Liddle in the No.14. Jack Bird starts at lock with Jack de Belin injured. Ben Murdoch-Masila plays his first game for the club and Toby Couchman is in line for an NRL debut off the bench. Gold Coast Titans are unchanged from their handy 22-10 win over the Tigers in Sydney. Kieran Foran starred and rejuvenated David Fifita’s game from the outset. The veteran pivot has been named despite leaving the field prematurely with a knee complaint, with Toby Sexton and interchange Jayden Campbell the back-up options.

What We Like: The teams’ last nine encounters have produced an average of 48 points, making the over 40.5 option an enticing one. Phillip Sami ($3.40) is crazy value to score a try after his first-half double last week and AJ Brimson ($2.85) now has 22 tries in the 49 games he’s started at fullback. Matt Feagai ($2.10) led the Dragons’ tryscoring charts in 2022 with 10 in 20 appearances.

Final Thoughts: A bye was the last thing the Dragons needed after controversy-stricken off-season and dreadful trial performances. On paper the Saints look worse than last year with real concerns over their strength and depth in the pack. The Titans already have a confidence-boosting road win in the books and already look vastly improved on 2022, Foran’s availability for this match notwithstanding. If this was Round 1 you’d lean towards the Dragons at home, but the well-balanced Titans have enough momentum to justify backing.

Best Bet: Result – Titans @ $1.95