ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS v PENRITH PANTHERS
Thursday August 20, 7.45pm
St George Illawarra Dragons host Penrith Panthers on to kick off the round on Thursday night in a match hardly befitting of its marquee timeslot.
The Dragons are clinging onto their finals spot for dear life as they hold onto eighth spot while the Panthers find themselves in a fight to avoid the wooden spoon.
A win is a must for the hosts in their hopes of playing finals football with a loss will allow Manly to overtake them in the final play-off position with just two rounds remaining.
Paul McGregor‘s men will need to not only bounce back from a heavy defeat to Brisbane last week but also overcome a six-match losing streak to the Panthers that stretches back to 2011.
A touch-up form the competition pacesetters is hardly the form you want to bring into a season-defining match for the Dragons but they will welcome back Benji Marshall who was sorely missed in the 26-point rout at the hands of the Broncos.
Marshall’s welcome return to the number six jersey ends Jack de Belin‘s brief career as a playmaker as the big man is pushed back to the bench.
Penrith’s season may be as good as over the mountain men are coming off a convincing 14-point win over New Zealand last weekend that ended a horrid five-game losing streak.
It’s remarkable to think a side that has lost eight of their last 10 matches with a losing record for the season sit in a finals spot this late into the year.
The Dragons have held perilously onto a spot in the top-eight for much of the season despite an alarming and drastic loss of form. A loss this week will finally see them relinquish their hold in the eight.
Despite their winless run against the Panthers, St George Illawarra are comfortable favourites at home at Wollongong at $1.42. The Dragons home record in the south coast reads much like their record against Penrith winning only two of their last four.
Betfair punters aren’t overly excited about Penrith making it two wins on the bounce and find themselves a way back in betting at $3.2. Their recent record over the Dragons isn’t reflected at all in the odds which comes as a bit of a surprise.
Whichever way you look at this game points are not at all to be expected.
The Dragons have the third best defence in the league but have managed to score the second-least amount of point for the season, ahead of only the Panthers who have the seventh best defence.
Two teams with solid defences that aren’t overly keen on scoring hardly screams blockbuster fixture but it does bring the unders in this market right into play.
Recent games between these two are hardly scoring bonanzas either with three of the past five games struggling to reach 24 points.
With all that in mind under 28.5 points at $3.75 looks a solid option.
Given both sides appear to have the preference to not score, a winning margin of under 12 points looks the best play.
The Dragons have been decisively small all season with their 26-0 win over the Warriors two weeks ago only their second win of the season of a margin over 20 points.
Given Penrith’s surprisingly solid defensive record in 2015 a Dragons win under 12.5 points at $3.15 is the way to go in this market.