New Zealand Warriors vs Penrith Panthers Predictions: Champions to grind out win

 | Saturday 18th May 2024, 16:36pm

Saturday 18th May 2024, 16:36pm

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Reigning champions Penrith Panthers face New Zealand Warriors in one of three Magic Round games in the NRL in the early hours of Sunday morning (04:50).

Here's my New Zealand Warriors vs Penrith Panthers predictions.

New Zealand Warriors vs Penrith Panthers Tips

  • Penrith Panthers Total Points - Under 23.5 @ 6/4
  • Brian To'o - Anytime Tryscorer @ SP

Team News

Both teams are without star half-backs. Shaun Johnson is absent for the Warriors, so Te Maire Martin moves into the seven role and will be partnered by Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad.

The Warriors also have Ali Leiataua back in the centres for Rocco Berry and Marcelo Montoya returns on the wing. Jacob Laban is added to the interchange because Freddy Lussick is in concussion protocol.

It is a similar story for the Panthers, who have Nathan Cleary missing with a hamstring issue. Jarome Luai will start at half-back and, with Brad Schneider also absent, Jack Cole is slated for the five-eighth position.

The Panthers have Izack Tago back in the number three jersey and Paul Alamoti becomes the 18th man.

New Zealand Warriors vs Penrith Panthers Odds

The Panthers are 1/5 to record an eighth straight victory over the 18/5 Warriors, with a repeat of 2019's draw, which Penrith eventually won on Golden Point, 22/1.

Penrith Panthers Total Points - Under 23.5 @ 6/4

Penrith should win at the Suncorp, but their success in recent years has been built on pragmatism and their half-back issues increase the likelihood of them looking to control the game rather than cutting loose and risking turning the ball over.

Although they have won their last four, they average just 22.9 points this season. Strangely, that average tally remains the same without Cleary and is unlikely to improve, especially with Luai sure to take time to settle into the reduced seconds and space that come with moving from six to seven.

The Warriors' effort will likely be built on defence, so expect them to stifle the three-time defending NRL champions, making the 9/4 on the Panthers to win by 1-12 points undoubtedly tempting.

Brian To'o - Anytime Tryscorer @ SP

Sunia Turuva may lead the Panthers with nine tries, but no player has made more tackle breaks in this season's NRL than fellow wing Brian To'o.

To'o has burst through 71 tackles and has also made 704 post-contact metres, the fourth-best in the division.

The 25-year-old might be frustrated by his relatively meagre tally of four tries in nine 2024 appearances, but he usually goes well against the Warriors, scoring seven times in his previous five games against Sunday's opponents.

Unfamiliar halves mean getting the ball to him and Turuva could prove troublesome, but, if they get possession, it would not be surprising to see To'o tumble over again.

Find more Rugby League Betting Tips here at Betfred Insights 

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