NRL Betting Preview: Weakened Brisbane Broncos can stay within 8.5 points of New Zealand Warriors

New Zealand and Brisbane are squaring up Saturday with the 14th placed Warriors looking to upset the formbook against second in the table Broncos.

Recommended bet: Brisbane Broncos +8.5 Handicap @ 10/11 (1.91) with bet365

New Zealand Warriors and Brisbane Broncos meet at the Mount Smart Stadium on Saturday, with the 14th placed Warriors looking to upset the formbook against second in the table Broncos.

With Melbourne Storm not in action this weekend, the Broncos will know that victory here will take them level on points at the top of the NRL Premiership.

However, their hopes of securing that win are seriously hampered by call-ups for six of their star players – Darius Boyd, Corey Oates, Anthony Milford, Matt Gillett, Josh McGuire and Sam Thaiday – for State of Origin duty.

In addition, Andrew McCullough is ruled out with concussion, while James Roberts (ankle) is also a doubt.  On the plus side, Ben Hunt is expected to make his return after a hamstring injury.

For their part, the only Origin representative missing for the Warriors is Jacob Lillyman.  They could also be boosted by the return of Simon Mannering from a hamstring injury.

Warriors have lost four of their last five matches, which included blowing a 22-point half-time lead at Penrith Panthers.  Self-belief certainly isn’t going to be high in the Warriors camp at present.

The Broncos recent form has been vastly superior, with them coming into this game on the back of six successive victories, scoring at least 24 points in each of them, including a 36-0 drubbing of Wests Tigers last time out.

The Warriors won 36-18 when the two teams met at Mount Smart Stadium almost exactly a year ago, but the Broncos won each of the three games between the two teams prior to that.

Given the absentees for the Broncos, it’s tempting to back a Warriors win by 1 – 12 points at 21/10 (3.10) with bet365.  The Warriors really have a great opportunity to take two points here, but it’s difficult to have any great faith in them given their current form and the fact that they’ve struggled for points of late.

On that basis, a safer punt might be to back the Broncos +8.5 points on the Handicap No Draw market with the same bookmaker at 10/11 (1.91).