Sports writer, JASON OLIVER, previews this weekend’s Rugby League action with his NRL tips for all Round 11 matches. He likes the top three teams to go big this week.

Parramatta Eels v Penrith Panthers @ Bankwest Stadium
Thursday 23rd May, 7:50pm

Clinton Gutherson1Dylan Edwards
Maika Sivo2Josh Mansour
Josh Hoffman3Dean Whare
Blake Ferguson4Waqa Blake
George Jennings5Brian To’o
Will Smith6Jarome Luai
Mitchell Moses7Nathan Cleary
Junior Paulo8James Tamou
Reed Mahoney9Sione Katoa
Tim Mannah10Reagan Campbell-Gillard
Shaun Lane11Viliame Kikau
Marata Niukore12Frank Winterstein
Manu Ma’u13James Fisher-Harris
Peni Terepo14Liam Martin
Daniel Alvaro15Tyrell Fuimaono
Brad Takairangi16Tim Grant
David Gower17Moses Leota

Played 113, Eels 64, Panthers 47

Last Meeting: Round 1, 2019: Eels 20 def. Panthers 12

Final Thoughts: The odds ($1.48/$2.67) suggest one team is a good chance of running away with this one. However, it’s a bit of a lottery. Will a return to Bankwest Stadium be enough to put the out of form Eels back on track? Will yet another loss and the prospects of the wooden spoon see the Panthers finally click into gear and trouble a few sides?

Playing alongside Nathan Cleary in the halves for the suspended James Maloney, Jarome Luai might be the spark the Panthers need. The livewire five-eighth has shown to have an ability to break a game open. If he can instil some confidence into this side, we may finally see a change in form. If he doesn’t, then the Eels should have too many points in them. While inconsistent throughout 2019, they’ve scored 51 and 32 points in their two games at Bankwest.

Tip: Handicap – Panthers +5.5 @ $1.93

Manly Warringah Sea Eagles v Gold Coast Titans @ Lottoland
Friday 24th May, 6:00pm

Sea EaglesTitans
Brendan Elliot1Alexander Brimson
Jorge Taufua2Anthony Don
Dylan Walker3Jesse Arthars
Brad Parker4Brian Kelly
Reuben Garrick5Dale Copley
Cade Cust6Tyrone Roberts
Kane Elgey7Ashley Taylor
Addin Fonua-Blake8Jarrod Wallace
Apisai Koroisau9Mitch Rein
Martin Taupau10Moeaki Fotuaika
Joel Thompson11Kevin Proctor
Curtis Sironen12Bryce Cartwright
Jake Trbojevic13Jai Arrow
Manase Fainu14Tyrone Peachey
Jack Gosiewski15Shannon Boyd
Corey Waddell16Keegan Hipgrave
Morgan Boyle17Jai Whitbread

Played 20, Sea Eagles 10, Titans 8

Last Meeting: Round 23, 2018: Titans 42 def. Sea Eagles 34

Final Thoughts: This remarkable Sea Eagles season continues with the Mighty Manly bagging another impressive win last week. They’ve always had a good record over the Sharks, but to go into Pointsbet Stadium without Daly Cherry-Evans and Tom Trbojevic and win comfortably is no small feat. They’re doing it with their defence to concede just 17 points per game – the fifth-fewest in the NRL.

It’s a horror matchup for the Titans who are languishing at the bottom of the ladder scoring only 16.6 points per game. They’ve not looked so bad to start their last two games. However, once Garth Brennan puts Tyrone Peachey into the backrow, things turn for the worst. Until he learns from his mistakes and pushes him closer to the sideline, the Titans will continue to struggle. Curtis Sironen ($3.80) and Dylan Walker ($2.40) are strong try-scoring option running against the Gold Coast’s turnstile left edge.

Tip: Highest Scoring Half – Second @ $1.91

Newcastle Knights v Sydney Roosters @ McDonald Jones Stadium
Friday 24th May, 7:55pm

Kalyn Ponga1James Tedesco
Edrick Lee2Daniel Tupou
Hymel Hunt3Latrell Mitchell
Jesse Ramien4Joseph Manu
Shaun Kenny-Dowall5Matt Ikuvalu
Connor Watson6Luke Keary
Mitchell Pearce7Cooper Cronk
David Klemmer8Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
Danny Levi9Victor Radley
Daniel Saifiti10Siosiua Taukeiaho
Lachlan Fitzgibbon11Boyd Cordner
Mitch Barnett12Angus Crichton
Tim Glasby13Isaac Liu
Kurt Mann14Nat Butcher
Herman Ese’ese15Zane Tetevano
James Gavet16Sitili Tupouniua
Sione Mata’utia17Mitchell Aubusson

Played 55, Knights 19, Roosters 32

Last Meeting: Round 14, 2018: Roosters 18 def. Knights 16

Final Thoughts: It’s a somewhat unexpected blockbuster after Newcastle’s start to the 2019 NRL season. They looked more like a wooden spoon team a month ago. Coming into this one on a four-game winning streak, the Knights are all of a sudden relevant in the Top 8. This is their biggest test, though. Up against a smarting Roosters following their loss to the Broncos in Round 10, the Knights will need to step it up a gear if they’re to compete. Their defence has been strong in recent weeks, but the Roosters are the best attacking team in the competition.

It felt as though the Roosters had been going through the motions during their eight-game winning streak. Will the loss refocus them this week? Superior in every part of the ground, this feels like it could be a Roosters ambush. Newcastle’s only hope is to win the forwards battle. Not many teams have had much luck in that department this season.

Tip: Handicap – Roosters -6.5 @ $1.90

Canberra Raiders v North Queensland Cowboys @ GIO Stadium
Saturday 25th May, 3:00pm

Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad1Jordan Kahu
Bailey Simonsson2Kyle Feldt
Jarrod Croker3Justin O’Neill
Nick Cotric4Tom Opacic
Michael Oldfield5Gideon Mosby-Gela
Jack Wighton6John Asiata
Sam Williams7Michael Morgan
Josh Papalii8Matthew Scott
Josh Hodgson9Jake Granville
Dunamis Lui10Jordan McLean
Hudson Young11Gavin Cooper
Elliott Whitehead12Coen Hess
Ryan Sutton13Jason Taumalolo
Siliva Havili14Kurt Baptiste
Joseph Tapine15Mitchell Dunn
Iosia Soliola16Scott Bolton
Corey Horsburgh17Francis Molo

Played 43, Raiders 24, Cowboys 18

Last Meeting: Round 4, 2019: Raiders 30 def. Cowboys 12

Final Thoughts: This is an important game for the Raiders. Injuries gave them the benefit of the doubt in their back-to-back losses against the Roosters and Rabbitohs, but the “brave” performances will mean next to nothing if they don’t beat the Cowboys on Saturday. It makes for an interesting matchup. The Raiders have become a mobile and elite defensive team this season. Meanwhile, the Cowboys still try to achieve everything in the middle.

The contrasting style puts an emphasis on the arm-wrestle early. If the Cowboys can build momentum and find their way up the field regularly, they’ll ask enough questions to wear down a Raiders side that does still have poor 10-15 minute periods in them. However, if the Raiders hold firm, the Cowboys don’t have enough attacking talent to be a threat. Trusting the Raiders to get the job done at home, they get the nod head-to-head ($1.44). But this improving Cowboys side can keep close.

Tip: Handicap – Cowboys +6.5 @ $1.90

New Zealand Warriors v Brisbane Broncos @ Mt Smart Stadium
Saturday 25th May, 5:30pm

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck1Darius Boyd
David Fusitu’a2Corey Oates
Peta Hiku3Kotoni Staggs
Patrick Herbert4Gehamat Shibasaki
Ken Maumalo5Jamayne Isaako
Kodi Nikorima6Anthony Milford
Blake Green7Tom Dearden
Bunty Afoa8Matthew Lodge
Issac Luke9Jake Turpin
Leeson Ah Mau10Payne Haas
Isaiah Papali’i11Alex Glenn
Tohu Harris12Matt Gillett
Lachlan Burr13Tevita Pangai Junior
Jazz Tevaga14James Segeyaro
Adam Blair15David Fifita
Ligi Sao16Thomas Flegler
Karl Lawton17Joe Ofahengaue

Played 44, Warriors 18, Broncos 24

Last Meeting: Round 18, 2018: Warriors 26 def. Broncos 6

Final Thoughts: Both teams struggled throughout the opening two months of the season but ride two-game winning streaks into this one. The Broncos have the far superior form guide. They beat the defending premiers last week while the Warriors hung 30 points on the 16th-placed Panthers. History is on the Warriors’ side though. They’ve won three of the last four between these two clubs and six of the last eight at Mt Smart Stadium. Playing their best footy of the season and with Kodi Nikorima playing with a massive chip on his shoulder, the Warriors look good to be the team that wins their third in a row.

The Warriors rarely struggle for points. Despite only winning four games, they still average over 20 points per game. Meanwhile, Brisbane’s goal line defence has been far and away the worst in the NRL over the opening ten rounds. Expecting the Warriors to find points at home, lean towards them in a close one.

Tip: Head-to-head – Warriors to win @ $1.85

South Sydney Rabbitohs v Wests Tigers @ ANZ Stadium
Saturday 25th May, 7:35pm

Corey Allan1Moses Mbye
Mawene Hiroti2Robert Jennings
Ethan Lowe3Paul Momirovski
Dane Gagai4Esan Marsters
Campbell Graham5Corey Thompson
Cody Walker6Benji Marshall
Adam Reynolds7Luke Brooks
George Burgess8Ben Matulino
Damien Cook9Robbie Farah
Thomas Burgess10Alex Twal
John Sutton11Ryan Matterson
Sam Burgess12Chris McQueen
Cameron Murray13Matthew Eisenhuth
Tevita Tatola14Jacob Liddle
Mark Nicholls15Thomas Mikaele
Dean Britt16Josh Aloiai
Liam Knight17Michael Chee-Kam

Played 34, Rabbitohs 17, Tigers 15

Last Meeting: Round 25, 2018: Rabbitohs 51 def. Tigers 10

Final Thoughts: With so many players expected to be lost to State of Origin in the coming weeks, the Rabbitohs are trying to pile up as many wins as possible. They’ve got nine already and look good to add another one this week. While the Tigers have shown glimpses, their inconsistencies – especially in defence – have cost them. Their L/W/L/W/L record over the last six weeks sums Wests up perfectly. The pattern suggests they’re due a win, but South Sydney’s form guide says otherwise. The Rabbits hung 30+ on the Broncos and Cowboys before beating an in-form Raiders in Canberra last week. Their forward pack is up there with the best in the NRL, Damien Cook has taken his game to another level, and Cody Walker might be the best player in the competition right now.

The Tigers are good, but they’re the quintessential middling team. They’ll beat those at the bottom, but fall to the top teams. The Rabbitohs are the top of the lot right now.

Tip: Handicap – Rabbitohs -8.5 @ $1.90

Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs v Melbourne Storm @ Belmore Sports Ground
Sunday 26th May, 2:00pm

Nick Meaney1Jahrome Hughes
Christian Crichton2Suliasi Vunivalu
Marcelo Montoya3Will Chambers
Will Hopoate4Marion Seve
Reimis Smith5Josh Addo-Carr
Kieran Foran6Cameron Munster
Jack Cogger7Brodie Croft
Aiden Tolman8Jesse Bromwich
Jeremy Marshall-King9Cameron Smith
Dylan Napa10Nelson Asofa-Solomona
Josh Jackson11Felise Kaufusi
Corey Harawira-Naera12Kenneath Bromwich
Chris Smith13Dale Finucane
Rhyse Martin14Brandon Smith
Ofahiki Ogden15Joe Stimson
Danny Fualalo16Tui Kamikamica
Sauaso Sue17Ryan Papenhuyzen

Played 41, Bulldogs 21, Storm 19

Last Meeting: Round 4, 2019: Storm 18 def. Bulldogs 16

Final Thoughts: The Bulldogs will have hope heading into this one. They were a Rhyse Martin conversion away from sending the game to golden point the last time these two met. This time, the Dogs host the Storm at Belmore. Hope might be all they have, though. Melbourne have displayed their premiership pedigree in the last two weeks. They thrashed the Eels by 54 points in Round 9 before completing the comeback win over the Tigers in Round 10.

Canterbury’s strength – if you can really call it that – is their middle. It’s the area of the ground they’re at least competitive. However, going up against Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Jesse Bromwich, Dale Finucane, and the nuggety Brandon Smith off the bench, the Bulldogs face an uphill battle. The mountain through the centre-third is too big for the Bulldogs.

Tip: Handicap – Storm -8.5 @ $1.93

St George Illawarra Dragons v Cronulla Sharks @ WIN Stadium
Sunday 26th May, 4:10pm

Zac Lomax1Josh Dugan
Jordan Pereira2Sosaia Feki
Euan Aitken3Bronson Xerri
Timoteo Lafai4Josh Morris
Jonus Pearson5Aaron Gray
Jai Field6Kyle Flanagan
Ben Hunt7Chad Townsend
James Graham8Andrew Fifita
Cameron McInnes9Jayden Brailey
Paul Vaughan10Matt Prior
Tyson Frizell11Briton Nikora
Tariq Sims12Kurt Capewell
Blake Lawrie13Paul Gallen
Luciano Leilua14Blayke Brailey
Jacob Host15Jayson Bukuya
Reece Robson16Jack Williams
Korbin Sims17Braden Hamlin-Uele

Played 44, Dragons 22, Sharks 19

Last Meeting: Round 6, 2018: Dragons 40 def. Sharks 20

Final Thoughts: Mary McGregor has wielded the axe and swung through Matt Dufty and Mikaela Ravalawa with the Dragons fielding yet another new-look backline. It’s unlikely to improve their leaky middle defence, though. Meanwhile, the Sharks are a chance at getting Matt Moylan back this week. He will add plenty to the Sharks attack that has been inconsistent while he and Shaun Johnson sit on the sidelines. Even through the middle and both out of form on the edges, neither side boasts any great strength over the other.

As the $1.90 head-to-head odds suggest, this game could go either way. Winners of thee of the last four between these two and six of their last seven in Wollongong overall, the Dragons deserve a slight lean.

Tip: Head-to-Head – Dragons @ $1.90