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Round 13 Preview

The NRL premiership rolls into a truncated Round 13 as teams scramble to fill their State of Origin gaps. 

NRL Tips – Dolphins V St George Illawarra Dragons

19:50 (AEST), Thu 25th May@ Kayo Stadium, Redcliffe

History: Played 1: Dragons 1, Dolphins 0

Last meeting: Round 5, 2023: Dragons 38 d Dolphins 12 at WIN Stadium

Team News: The Dolphins lose Queensland Origin duo Tom Gilbert and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, and the suspended Felise Kaufusi. But Mark Nicholls’ return is timely, while Kodi Nikorima switches to fullback, Anthony Milford lines up at five-eighth, Ray Stone and Herman Ese’ese are promoted to the starting pack, and Mason Teague and Valynce Te Whare come onto the bench. The Dragons get Jack Bird back in time to replace injured second-rower Jaydn Su’a, while Jayden Sullivan gets a chance in the No.7 with Ben Hunt on rep duty. Blake Lawrie is a big out for the Saints, bringing Michael Molo into the front-row. Moses Mbye reclaims a bench spot.

What We Like: Last week broke a six-game streak of Dolphins games producing 50-plus points, while the Dragons’ last two – and seven of 11 in 2023 – went 46-plus. Over 43.5 points is a clear play in this one. Valynce Te Whare is $2.60 to come off the bench with a try after getting a double on debut, while Mikaele Ravalawa ($2.07) looks good value after grabbing a double when the teams met in April.

Final Thoughts: It’s hard to look past the disruptive changes inflicted on both sides by Origin, suspension and injury. The Dolphins showed a bit of heart to hold the Storm to 24-16 after their inability to stop giving away penalties or cough up the ball piggybacked their opponents to a 20-point lead last Saturday. The Dragons snapped a six-match losing streak in the wake of Anthony Griffin’s belated axing, blowing a 14-0 lead before pipping the Roosters with an incredible try on the bell. But they have to find a way to maintain that feeling for more than a week. Whoever can best compensate for the Origin players plucked out of their spine – Dolphins fullback Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and Dragons halfback Ben Hunt – will go a long way towards winning this one. The Saints can take some confidence from their Wollongong walloping of the Dolphins in Round 5, while it’s the type of game where the underdog is always going to look better value.

Best Bet: Handicap – Dragons +5.5 @ $1.90

NRL Tips – Parramatta Eels V North Queensland Cowboys

20:00 (AEST), Fri 26th May@ CommBank Stadium, Sydney

History: Played 45: Eels 23, Cowboys 21, draws 1

Last meeting: Preliminary final, 2022: Eels 24 d Cowboys 20 at Queensland Country Bank Stadium

Team News: Parramatta only have won Origin rep – prop Junior Paulo – but they have lost Ryan Matterson and Andrew Davey to injury. Mid-season arrival Joe Ofahengaue goes straight into the front-row, Matt Doorey returns in the second-row and Luca Moretti is named to debut off the pine. Queensland quartet Murray Taulagi, Reuben Cotter, Tom Dearden and Valentine Holmes are unavailable, so first-games Zac Laybutt and Robert Derby come into the three-quarter line, Ben Hampton slots in at five-eighth, and Griffin Neame and Jamayne Taunoa-Brown return from injury on the bench with Jake Granville starting at lock.

What We Like: After the Eels’ offence exploded against Souths and the Cowboys delivered one of the worst defensive displays of all time against the Tigers, a nudge at Parramatta to score more than 29.5 is tempting. Kyle Feldt boasts 11 tries in 11 career games against the Eels and is a juicy $2.25 to dot down. Opposing winger Maika Sivo is an eye-wateringly short $1.35 to score after bagging five tries in just three games against the Eels, though $2.65 for a Sivo double could be worth a shout – he has two or more tries in five of his last 10 games.

Final Thoughts: Where to for the Cowboys? A 66-18 humiliation at the hands of the lowly Tigers has left their campaign in tatters, while they have to go back to Sydney less than a week later without four of their best players. The Eels got their season right back on the rails with a superb 36-16 sin over flying Souths in easily their best performance of a spluttering 2023 season to date. The home side’s depleted pack is a concern against what is still an very strong Cowboys engine-room on paper, but the Eels’ blue-chip spine caught fire last week and the visitors are ripe for the picking with plenty of changes and inexperience in their side.

Best Bet: Handicap – Eels -14.5 @ $1.90

NRL Tips – New Zealand Warriors V Brisbane Broncos

17:30 (AEST), Sat 27th May@ McLean Park, Napier

History: Played 46: Broncos 25, Warriors 20, draws 1

History: Round 4, 2022: Warriors 20 d Warriors 6 at Moreton Daily Stadium

Team News: The Warriors have lost Wayde Egan and Dylan Walker to injury; Bayley Sironen and rookie Demitric Sifakula are their replacements on the bench. Luke Metcalf makes a long-awaited club debut, replacing Ronald Volkman at five-eighth. Brisbane lose Reece Walsh, Selwyn Cobbo, Payne Haas, Thomas Flegler and Patrick Carrigan to Origin. Tristan Sailor comes in at fullback for his first game as a Bronco, Deine Mariner gets a wing start, Keenan Palaisa and Corey Jensen will start in the front-row with Kobe Hetherington at lock, while Brendan Piakura and Xavier Willison join the bench.

What We Like: Only three of the Warriors’ games this season (and none of the last three) produced more than 38 points; against an under-strength Broncos side expect this to go under the total points line (43.5). Addin Fonua-Blake is $4.10 to score a try despite crossing in four of the Warriors’ last five games, while Herbie Farnworth ($2.85) is the best value in this market among the Broncos as he marks up on relative NRL novice Rocco Berry.

Final Thoughts: The Warriors enjoyed a much-needed bye last weekend after finishing a gruelling stretch of four matches in 17 days with a clinical 24-12 win over the Bulldogs in Sydney, with Shaun Johnson weaving his web and Addin Fonua-Blake dominating up front. The Broncos have lost three of their last four to heavyweight opposition in a knock to their sky-high confidence, while ex-Warrior Walsh is a huge loss. But the key looks to be the absence of the Broncos’ starting middle trio. Despite having (yet another) couple of key men ruled out, the consistent Warriors should come away with the two points if they produce anything like they’ve put on the park in pretty every game in 2023.

Best Bet: Head to Head/Total Points Double – Warriors & Under 43.5 @ $2.80

NRL Tips – South Sydney Rabbitohs V Canberra Raiders

19:30 (AEST), Sat 27th May@ Accor Stadium, Sydney

History: Played 59: Raiders 35, Rabbitohs 24

Last meeting: Round 11, 2022: Raiders 32 d Rabbitohs 12 at Apex Oval

Team News: Blake Taaffe replaces NSW gun Latrell Mitchell at fullback, Liam Knight and Jacob Host replace Origin pair Cameron Murray and Jai Arrow in the back-row, and Jed Cartwright, Shaquai Mitchell and Tallis Duncan join Souths’ interchange. Campbell Graham has been named despite pulling out of the NSW squad with a sternum complaint. The Raiders have a new second-row pairing of Corey Horsburgh and Corey Harawira-Naera with Hudson Young debuting for the Blues and Elliott Whitehead suspended, while Joe Tapine goes to lock and Pasami Paulo starts at prop. Zac Woolford returns at hooker at the expense of Danny Levi and Nick Cotric grabs a bench spot in his return from injury.

What We Like: These teams conceded a combined 78 points last week, which would point to the over 42.5 option providing solid value. A Raiders/Rabbitohs ($8.00) or Rabbitohs/Raiders ($9.00) result in the Half-time/Full-time stakes are smokies with so many line-up disruptions. Alex Johnston has five tries in as many games starting on the wing against the Raiders and is $1.72 to score on Saturday. Jack Wighton is $2.55 to get a try against his 2024 teammates.

Final Thoughts: Souths and Canberra are both licking their wounds after long winning streak came to a grinding halt via jarring 20-plus losses at home. The Rabbitohs were the form team in the NRL before crashing 36-16 – a particularly baffling defensive effort after holding every opponent to 20 or less in the first 11 rounds. The Raiders hadn’t been overly convincing in chalking up five straight, but they had been gritty and that quality went out the window in a 42-14 defeat to the Sea Eagles. Both sides have reasonable cover for their big-name absentees, while the Walker v Wighton battle will be pivotal. Lean towards Souths at home.

Best Bet: Result – Rabbitohs @ $1.78

NRL Tips – Newcastle Knights V Manly Sea Eagles

16:05 (AEST), Sun 28th May@ McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle

History: Played 58: Sea Eagles 35, Knights 22, draws 1

Last meeting: Round 5, 2023: 32-all draw at Glen Willow Oval

Team News: Kalyn Ponga switches to fullback and Tyson Gamble reclaims the No.6 jersey following Lachie Miller’s axing, while Jack Johns comes into the Knights’ second-row for Blues veteran Tyson Frizell. In the Manly side, Kaeo Weeks starts at fullback for Tom Trbojevic, Cooper Johns fills in at halfback for Daly Cherry-Evans, Toafoa Sipley and Samuela Fainu comes into the starting pack for injured brothers Jake and Ben Trbojevic, and Christian Tuipolotu joins the bench.

What We Like: Though the line-ups are vastly different, the teams’ 32-all draw in Mudgee earlier this season points to an over 43.5 tilt in the total match points market. The Knights have conceded 16-plus points in their last seven games, so the Sea Eagles look good to clear 15.5 points – even if they are big outsiders to get the result. Kalyn Ponga has scored 42 tries in 91 NRL starts at fullback and crossed in the past two rounds from five-eighth; he’s solid value even as a cautious $2.00 Anytime Tryscorer. Dom Young scored four tries in Mudgee and is $3.40 to go over for two or more on Sunday.

Final Thoughts: The Sea Eagles pulled themselves out a worrying hole with a sizzling 42-14 win in Canberra, but the main architects of that much-needed result and the backbone of their forward pack are missing this week. The Knights have lost four of their last five, following up a high-scoring win over the Titans with a flat 26-6 defeat to the Sharks, but they should get a short-term boost from Ponga’s move to fullback. A 10.5-point line seems a little hefty, but the Knights have been a handful in every match at McDonald Jones Stadium this season and should finish on top on another try-fest.

Best Bet: Line & Total Points Double – Knights -6.5 & Over 41.5 @ $2.55

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