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Pressure’s on if you’re trailing in your tipping competition

It’s getting to the business end of the season in the NRL and AFL. August usually produces exciting contests in both codes as teams battle for spots in the top four and top eight. Tipping competitions are also reaching a climax, so the pressure is on if you’re trailing the leader. It’s unlikely the leader will take too many risks, so rest assured they will more than likely stick with the favourites. Picking winners in the AFL isn’t proving so difficult but, as has been the case all year, the NRL is proving an absolute lottery. Most games last weekend were an even-money bet and congratulations if you ended up with a score higher than five. Once again,  we  hope we can point you in the right direction.

 NRL (Round 23)

2-RABBITOHS v 4-SEA EAGLES: Quite simply, it’s a super match-up. Both teams recorded impressive victories on the road last weekend with the Rabbitohs saluting on the Gold Coast and the Sea Eagles prevailing in Townsville. The Rabbitohs have won six straight and have won their past three games in Gosford. The Sea Eagles enjoy it on the Central Coast as well having averaged 33 points in their nine appearances. Luke returns to the Rabbitohs line up and there’s every chance Asotasi could be named, while the Sea Eagles look set to welcome back Matai and King. The fact that Inglis is missing from the Rabbitohs line-up might just swing it in favour of the Sea Eagles on this occasion. Tip: SEA EAGLES.

3-STORM v 9-TITANS: The Titans had been in great form before jeopardising their finals hopes with a disappointing home loss to the Rabbitohs, who were by no means at full strength. After losing five straight, the Storm bounced back emphatically to devastate the visiting Panthers. The Storm have been comprehensive in their past three wins over the Titans, but the Titans welcome back Bird and they have posted a number of impressive wins on the road in 2012. The battle between rival halves Cronk and Prince will have an important bearing in the final result. Tip: STORM.

16-EELS v 14-ROOSTERS: Both teams are in contention to secure the wooden spoon, so it’s bound to be a willing contest. The Eels led the Tigers 22-6 last Monday night before succumbing to a 51-26 loss. The Roosters never looked like losing last weekend when they put the Dragons to the sword 26-10. To have any chance, the Eels must show commitment in defence. The Eels have beaten top eight teams the Sea Eagles, Storm and Sharks at home this season, but the Roosters have won their past three games at Parramatta. Tip: ROOSTERS.

8-TIGERS v 12-DRAGONS: Unlike the Tigers, the Dragons have battled to score tries on a regular basis all season. The Dragons look set to welcome back Soward, but it was clear against the Roosters that they missed the experience and guile of Cooper and Scott. The Tigers were at their lethal best against the Eels and the return of Ellis can only help. The Tigers have won four of their five matches against the Dragons at Allianz Stadium – all four wins achieved by eight points or less. The Dragons have won five of their past seven games against the Tigers, but they are 1-9 on the road in 2012. A loss will make life tough for the Tigers in their quest to make the top eight. The Dragons won’t play finals if they lose. Tip: TIGERS.

6-COWBOYS v 13-WARRIORS: Despite succumbing to the Bulldogs and the Sea Eagles in their past two games, the Cowboys remain a genuine premiership threat and will take some stopping this weekend. It’s impossible to consider the Warriors after a stunning 45-4 capitulation at home against the Sharks. Winning in Queensland is never easy for the Warriors and throughout 2012 they have struggled on the road. The Warriors haven’t won in Townsville in 10 years and, although they welcome back Luck and Hurrell, they have lost Maloney and Matulino. The Warriors got the Cowboys in Auckland earlier this season, but that was during Origin. Thurston and Bowen should guide the Cowboys to a comfortable win. Tip: COWBOYS.

15-PANTHERS v 11-RAIDERS: The Panthers were humbled in Melbourne last weekend, so naturally they should bounce back on home soil. The Panthers must be treated with respect, but you get the impression that the end of the season can’t come quick enough. However, the Panthers are a genuine chance of picking up the wooden spoon, so they won’t lie down. Hands up if you can predict when the Raiders are going to win and when they’re going to lose? The Raiders are a tipster’s nightmare but, amazingly, they still remain in the finals race and if they can continue from where they left off against the Broncos they should win. The Panthers have won five of the past seven games against the Raiders, while the Raiders have won three of their past four road games. Tip: RAIDERS.

1-BULLDOGS v 7-BRONCOS: You can never sell the Broncos short, but losing to the Raiders proved once and for all that they are suffering in the post-Origin period without Lockyer. Injuries have been a problem for the Broncos in recent weeks and losing Hoffman for disciplinary reasons doesn’t help. Hodges returns to the Brisbane line-up, but against a red-hot Bulldogs a Broncos win would be surprise. The Bulldogs have won 10 straight and are worthy premiership favourites. Not only have the Bulldogs scored 23 tries from kicks in 2012, but Barba has scored 30 tries from 34 games at ANZ Stadium. The Broncos must hit back soon or they could miss the finals, but they haven’t rolled the Bulldogs in Sydney in five years and form suggests that that record isn’t about to end. Tip: BULLDOGS.

10-KNIGHTS v 5-SHARKS: After three big wins, against the Sea Eagles, Warriors and Raiders, it appeared as though the Knights were making a big push for the finals until they fell to the visiting Bulldogs last weekend. It was all over after the Bulldogs jumped to an early 24-0 lead. After drawing with the Roosters, the Sharks were falling apart at the seams following defeats at the hands of the Dragons, Panthers and Raiders before striking back in spectacular fashion in Auckland last weekend. Significantly, Gallen returned for the Sharks against the Warriors. The Knights have won their past four and seven of the past nine games against the Sharks. It has been six years since the Sharks last won in Newcastle, but this is the kind of game they need to win if they expect to play finals football. The Knights can just about kiss a top eight berth goodbye should they fall. Should be a tremendous match. Tip: SHARKS.

 AFL (Round 20)

5-EAGLES v 6-CATS: The Eagles appear to be on the wane having lost three of their past four games, while the Cats have suddenly struck form after eclipsing the Bombers, Crows and Hawks. The Eagles welcome back Glass and Embley, while the Cats have lost Kelly and Josh Hunt. The Eagles have won 19 of their past 22 games in Perth, while the Cats have won eight of the past 10 games between both clubs. The Eagles were made to look second rate against the Dockers, while the Cats pulled off a miraculous win over the Hawks – the premiership favourites – after blowing a 51 point lead. The Eagles can win, but it’s hard to see them bouncing back so quickly after lowering their colours to the Dockers in such remarkable style. The Hawks are in better form compared to the Eagles, so the Cats are more than just a decent chance. Tip: CATS.

10-SAINTS v 15-DEMONS: The Saints were valiant in an eight-point loss to the Magpies and take on the Demons as a very warm favourite. In other words, it would border on the staggering should the Demons upset the Saints. The Saints still need some luck to make the finals, but a big win over the Demons will help. The Demons ended a five-match losing streak when they cleaned up the visiting Suns last weekend, but the Saints should prove far too classy. The Saints have won the past seven matches against the Demons and when both teams clashed in Round 5 the Saints kept the Demons scoreless in the last term enroute to an 18 point victory. Tip: SAINTS.

2-CROWS v 9-DOCKERS: The Crows have had a great season and proved too good for the Dockers when they posted a 29-point win in Perth in Round 10. Since then, the Dockers have improved immensely having finished on top in six of their past eight games. The Dockers are in fact eyeing their sixth straight win, but winning in Adelaide will prove no easy task as the Crows have lost just one game on home soil in 2012 – that was against the Magpies. A big win over the Eagles will give the Dockers confidence, but the loss of backman McPharlin is a major blow, especially as Tippett is tipped to return and partner Walker in attack for the Crows. To have any chance, the visitors must nullify Crows’ ball-magnet Thompson, while the home side must stop Pavlich, who has been kicking one goal after another for the Dockers in recent weeks. The Bombers gave the Crows a fright last weekend, so there’s no way they will take the Dockers lightly. Tip: CROWS.

18-SUNS v 17-GIANTS: The loser of this match will more than likely finish up with the wooden spoon, so both teams should be primed to produce a big effort. The Giants stunned the Suns in Canberra in Round 7, so the Suns will be out for revenge as they strive to register their first ever home win at Metricon Stadium. While the Suns were made to look second rate by the Demons in Melbourne last weekend, the Giants registered their first-ever win at their Homebush base when they shocked the Power. Both teams have their injury concerns with the Suns losing key players Rischitelli and Hunt, while the Giants have lost experienced duo Ward and Brogan. Ablett should get the Suns over the line. Tip: SUNS.

1-SWANS v 3-MAGPIES: A huge crowd at ANZ Stadium is tipped for the match of the round. It was in 2005 when last the Swans defeated the Magpies in Sydney, but they have won nine straight and, with the minor premiership in reach, there’s every chance they could end their run of outs. Disregard the Magpies at your peril because they boast a wonderful record on the road, especially when they’re not expected to win. The Magpies were by no means at their best when they edged the Saints last weekend, and the fact they have now lost Swan for such an important match gives the Swans a sniff. The Magpies have won their last 10 games against the Swans, who have lost Bolton to injury this weekend, but it’s hard to fault any aspect of the Bloods game and the Magpies will have to bring their A grade game to the table. Should be a classic encounter. Tip: SWANS.

11-BLUES v 13-LIONS: The Blues smashed the Lions by 91 points at the Gabba back in Round 2, but since then form has deserted the Blues and the Lions have displayed signs of improvement, albeit slight. Any fleeting hope of making the finals will end for the Blues should the Lions get the cash but, considering the Lions have only tasted victory on the road against the Demons and Bulldogs, it’s hard to see the Blues letting this match slip through their fingers. Lions captain Brown supposedly read the riot act to his teammates during the week, but when you haven’t got the cattle you’re not going to beat those teams who sit higher on the ladder. Although Judd is missing, the Blues are fielding a side capable of accounting for the visiting Lions. Additionally, the Blues’ loss to the Swans last weekend had more merit that the Lions’ loss to the Tigers. Tip: BLUES.

4-HAWKS v 14-POWER: After an eight-match winning streak, the Hawks succumbed to a dramatic two-point loss to the resurgent Cats last weekend. It was a minor hiccup for the Hawks as they were far from disgraced, although they grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory after fighting back from a 51-point deficit to hit the front late in the final quarter. You’ve got to feel sorry for the Power because the Hawks will bounce back and they could strike back in ruthless fashion. The Hawks boast the best percentage in the AFL and should finish in the top four, but unless the Crows stumble in the last four rounds they will not host a qualifying final. It’s been a big week for the Power and, although clubs have a habit of winning games the week after they replace a coach, it will be nothing short of a miracle if Gary Hocking can orchestrate a win over the Hawks, The Hawks sank the Kangaroos by 115 points when last they visited Launceston, so unless the Power can recover following their shock loss to the Giants it could be one-way traffic from start to finish. Tip: HAWKS.

12-TIGERS v 15-BULLDOGS: This match mirrors the Blues-Lions clash. The Tigers remain a remote chance of cracking the top eight, while the Bulldogs are among the “also rans” and are facing up to their eighth straight defeat. After three agonising defeats, the Tigers finally returned to the winner’s circle when they rolled the Lions by eight-goals in Brisbane. After a 74-point loss to the Saints, the Bulldogs offered nothing when they fell to the Kangaroos by 54 points last weekend. The Bulldogs have had their dramas this week, so the big question is whether or not they can rally and provide the Tigers with a contest. Tip: TIGERS.

8-BOMBERS v 7-KANGAROOS: A truly magnificent match to cap off the weekend. The Bombers got the Kangaroos by two points in Round 1 when Hale missed a shot at goal after the final siren that would have assured the Kangaroos of victory. With the Dockers breathing down their necks, a win is obviously crucial for both teams and there’s every chance the game could be decided late in the final quarter once again. So, how do we split the teams? The Bombers have had their injury problems and as a consequence they have lost four of their past five games. In contrast, the Kangaroos have been superb following that humiliating loss against the Hawks in Launceston. They have won seven of their past eight games – a two-point defeat at the hands of the Eagles in Hobart their only blemish. The Bombers, who pushed the Crows in Adelaide last weekend, have the likes of Hille, Monfries, Crameri and Fletcher back on deck which is a massive shot in the arm. The return of Fletcher is timely because someone has to thwart Kangaroos spearhead Petrie, who has been unstoppable in front of goal. Both teams have a genuine chance but, significantly, the Kangaroos have won eight of the past 11 matches between the clubs. Tip: KANGAROOS.





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