The halfway point of the 2014 NRL season has passed and there is plenty occurring in the wild world of rugby league. Both NSW and QLD have named their teams and with Game 2 of Origin less than a week away, the NRL will experience a reduced amount of fixtures. With a potential series result on the line, Game 2 will garner majority of the headlines throughout the week. It can often be overlooked, yet the weeks where teams are without their representative stars can often be the most important. As teams are vying for dominance on the competition ladder, a slight split is being created as some teams fall away from Finals contention. Time is running out for all teams down the wrong end of the table to make a gallant run and salvage what they can out of the year. Rugby league is always going to attract plenty of attention; even with 5 games this week, fans will be excited by the contests that are on offer. Once that is over, it is Origin time and everyone knows at this point, anything can happen.
South Sydney Rabbitohs v Wests Tigers
Friday night football will feature just one match this week, with the Rabbitohs hosting the Tigers on the same field that will host Game 2 only 5 days later. With the terrible weather that Sydney has experienced in recent weeks, it is surprising that there will be not only one, but two rugby league features played on this ground in the lead up to a very important match. Regardless, this game still promises to be an exciting game of rugby league. The Rabbitohs will have their work cut out for them, as they head back from Perth after their match with the Warriors. It was a home game that they chose to take interstate and it paid dividends with the end result. It was looking shaky for them early though, as the Warriors scored two very quick tries. They fought hard and were able to pull their opponents back, to eventually overcome them by a convincing 16-point margin. They are yet to have a bye and they have a mounting injury toll that is going to make the next few weeks difficult for them. If they are able to win this match, they will head into their bye in Round 15 with plenty of confidence. The Tigers are already there, as they travelled to Newcastle to beat the Knights by a 3-point margin. That win has them placed in 7th on the competition ladder, equal with the Rabbitohs, but with an inferior points difference. Not only that, they have already had one of their byes and will now need to lift to another level without a few of their representative stars. The Rabbitohs are in the same situation, but the Tigers have shown this season that they are able to rise to an occasion. That is not to suggest that they are a better team than the Rabbitohs, but the expectations were higher for them compared to their opponents. The Tigers have already shocked them once this season and with plenty to play for, the Rabbitohs will want to have their guard up to ensure that the same outcome is avoided at all costs.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
Just when the Rabbitohs begin to build momentum, they are torn apart by injuries and representative selection. Fortunately for them, they retain majority of players in key positions. Nathan Merritt replaces Greg Inglis at fullback, with Alex Johnston back onto the wing after a few weeks recovering from a hamstring injury. Despite being in some doubt, Bryson Goodwin is named in the centres to replace Dylan Walker, who has suffered a broken thumb. He has been one of the most dynamic players in the competition in recent weeks and his stocks are rising very quickly. In the forwards, Sam Burgess is shifted to the second row for Ben Te’o, with Ben Lowe coming into the team at lock. On the bench, Joe Picker comes into the team for Chris McQueen, while Apisai Koroisau is retained to give Issac Luke greater time to ease back to NRL fitness.
The Tigers are also missing players, luckily for them majority is through representative selection. Robbie Farrah and Aaron Woods are both away on NSW selection, with Martin Taupau promoted from the bench and Joel Luani called back into the team. Liam Fulton has been ruled out and is on the brink of missing the rest of the season with concussion related injuries. With what is now known about this type of injury, it perhaps would be a wise idea for Fulton to put his own welfare first. His replacement this week is Curtis Sironen is called into the team, with his place on the bench taking by the returning veteran, Dene Halatau. Suaso Sue and Ava Seumanufagai are named on the bench, with Sitaleki Akauola (18th) and Keith Lulia (19th) featuring, but likely to miss out. It was a welcome return last week for James Tedesco and Tigers fans will be hoping that he can return to his best.
Overall = Rabbitohs 13 Tigers 10
Last 5 games = Rabbitohs 4 Tigers 1
At ANZ Stadium = Rabbitohs 4 Tigers 4
TAB Sportsbet = Rabbitohs $1.33 Tigers $3.40
Centrebet = Rabbitohs $1.38 Tigers $3.15
Sportsbet = Rabbitohs $1.35 Tigers $3.30
Betfair = Rabbitohs $1.40 Tigers $3.30
The Rabbitohs were ambushed last time out against the Tigers, with their opponents very vocal about their desire to dominate the forward pack. This time out, the Rabbitohs will be on guard and will be egger to make amends. They are wounded and missing influential players, but so too are the Tigers. Again, this match is going to be won in the forwards. The Tigers have performed well to date and continue to surprise. Nevertheless, the Rabbitohs are progressing strongly and are cautious about not peaking too early in the competition. The fact that they are baking up from a tough trip to Perth will make things difficult for them. This time out though, the Souths forwards will be on guard and they still have a confident halves pairing to get them over the line. It will be a close-run contest, with the home team prevailing by a 1-12 margin.
Tigers +8.5 @ $1.90
Marginal victory = Rabbitohs 1-12 @ $3 – As stated above, the Rabbitohs may find a few things difficult in this match. Recovery is one and so too will be the fight that the Tigers put up. If you are looking for more value over the line, than this is a selection you should strongly consider.
Put two and two together = Rabbitohs 7-12 @ $5.50 – If you take the suggested bet and combine it with the margin, then you come up with this bet. There is a lot more risk involved, but it will yield a higher return if you are game enough to make the call.
Penrith Panthers v St George-Illawarra Dragons
With only two matches on Saturday, the first will head out to Sportingbet Stadium as the Panthers host the Dragons. This is the first time these two teams face off against one another this year and the attention will be on Jamie Soward and how he responds against his former club. That occurrence should matter little to the Panthers 5/8, as his team sits at the top of the competition ladder heading into this round. Last week, they were dominant against the Titans on their home turf. They are a team that is beginning to flex their muscles, but will now find it difficult to remain at this effort as their opponents lift to another level when facing them. The Dragons will have high hopes, after dismantling their bitter opponents, the Sharks, last week in Wollongong. Despite being important to the progress of their season, it hardly solves the problems that they still have. They remain in 13th spot on the competition ladder with the 4th worse point’s difference (-66). Even with hope on the horizon, the team will still have to stand up without a few of their representative players. Fluidity is going to be crucial, especially with their halves, but now more than ever is the time when their forwards should stand up and take control. The Panthers present a great challenge for them and it will be a real test of whether or not they are about to resurface as challenger in the NRL Finals race.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, they are without David Simmons and Adam Docker, who have both been ruled out with injury. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak is called onto the wing and will look to build upon a strong few weeks since his NRL debut. Tyrone Peachey has also been named to start, whereas last week he was afforded the same promotion, only to be relegated back to the bench to accommodate Docker’s return. Bryce Cartwright is named to start in jersey 17 and will add some impact when he takes the field. As the Panthers performances have improved, the question marks around the potential of their halves have disappeared. They are playing well, but will continue to face the pressures of leading this team around the field.
St George-Illawarra Dragons
The Dragons are without a few of their stars this week, unfortunately limiting the development of new combinations. Charly Runciman is named in the centres to cover for Josh Dugan and will have his work cut out trying to hold the Panthers flyers on the edge. In the forwards, Mitch Rein returns from his suspension to start at hooker, while Dan Hunt is out and Mike Cooper is named at prop. Tyson Frizell is named at lock, to cover for Trent Merrin. On the bench, Shane Pumipi is promoted from 18th man, while Craig Garvey is the new face there. The combination of Marshall and Widdop in the halves worked well last week, even more so with Adam Quinlan chiming into the backline and adding another dimension to their attack. They can be very flat and at this stage, the Dragons will take any opportunity to promote the ball forward.
Overall = Panthers 10 Dragons 16
Last 5 games = Panthers 4 Dragons 1
At Sportingbet Stadium = Panthers 7 Dragons 6
TAB Sportsbet = Panthers $1.18 Dragons $5.00
Centrebet = Panthers $1.20 Dragons $4.70
Sportsbet = Panthers $1.20 Dragons $4.75
Betfair = Panthers $1.20 Dragons $4.80
Everything is working into the competition leaders hands. They are missing only a few players through injury and have none away on representative duty. This will cause minimal disruption to their momentum and ensure that they pick up from where they left off in their last match. The Dragons were solid against the Sharks but it will take a lot more than that to win here. Their confidence will be high, although facing the Panthers defensive pressure is going to test them for 80 minutes. The home side is hard to go past, living up to the favoritism tag in this match. It will be a matter of how much they win by, rather than the Dragons competing for a win. They showed last week that they can pile on points at will and if the Dragons are not focused, they will be handed the same fate. Go for the larger margin, as there is a reason why the Panthers are sitting at the top of the competition ladder and they are going to remind their home fans why.
Panthers -14.5 @ $1.95
Bite off more = Panthers 19+ @ $2.30 – It would be surprising to see the Dragons get close to their opponents here. The Panthers can score points in bunches and will catch their opponents off guard if they’re not careful. On top of that, Jamie Soward will be out to show his former club just what they are missing out on.
Sydney Roosters v Newcastle Knights
The second match on Saturday heads to Allianz Stadium, as the surging Roosters host the struggling Knights. So far, it has been a season to forget for the Novacastrians, with one problem after another plaguing their progress. Sundays match against the Tigers was a crucial in more ways than one, but they were unable to produce a performance that was needed. They are in a lot of trouble as they sit in 15th place on the competition ladder; uncertain of where their next win is going to come from. Their fans are holding out hope of a late season resurgence, but common sense is taking over this thought, with execution throughout 80 minutes letting them down. The Roosters are the complete opposite at this stage of the season, as they continue to grow from strength to strength. They are one team that is looking dangerous and are genuine contenders for back-to-back titles. Representative selection has worked in their favor too, with many of their stars overlooked or left out altogether. That will not faze those players, as their coach Trent Robinson will have their minds firmly fixed on the progress of their season. With the NRL season being a long and arduous campaign, teams can often be caught off guard against weaker opposition. The Roosters will need to avoid that situation here against their home fans and strengthen their position within the Top 8. Newcastle will be aiming to disrupt them; nevertheless it will be surprising to see that happen. Anything is possible, so you’ll just have to tune into this match to see what it produces.
The Roosters are without their left edge, with Michael Jennings and Daniel Tupou hoping to transfer their club form into success again for the Blues. Mitchell Aubusson has been promoted from the bench to start at centre, while rookie Nene Macdonald will play on the wing. Trent Robinson has resisted the temptation to move SKD to the wing, opting to keep together his combination with RTS. In the forwards, Audan Guerra is replaced in the second row by Dylan Napa, with his place on the bench taken by Kane Evans. Last weeks 18th man, Willis Meehan, is named in jersey 17 and will be making his NRL debut when he takes the field. Being a player that can cover many positions, Daniel Mortimer has been named as 18th man. It is surprising to see Jake Friend left out of the Maroons squad. Either way, retaining their spine only enhances the Roosters confidence and chances of success.
The Knights have several changes to contend with this week, all of which will only hamper their attempts to get their season back on track. Jake Mamo is named at fullback to replace Darius Boyd, while Josh Mantellato is called onto the wing. This is to cover for James McManus, who moves to the centres for the injured Joey Leilua. Kade Snowden has been ruled out with suspension after two questionable hits against the Tigers, with David Fa’alogo named as his replacement at prop. Chris Houston is into the second row, to cover for Beau Scott who is away on Origin duty. On the bench, Joseph Tapine and Clint Newton are named to make their first start for the Knights this season. The Knights are desperate for answers and their task this week becomes more difficult with the players that are missing.
Overall = Roosters 24 Draw 2 Knights 18
Last 5 games = Roosters 4 Knights 1
At Allianz Stadium = Roosters 12 Knights 6
TAB Sportsbet = Roosters $1.14 Knights $6.00
Centrebet = Roosters $1.18 Knights $5.10
Sportsbet = Roosters $1.18 Knights $5.15
Betfair = Roosters $1.20 Knights $5.80
This match is probably the easiest of the round to pick. There is no such thing as a sure thing in rugby league, but this match goes extremely close. The Roosters are a team rising to greater heights each week and will relish the chance to return home. On the other hand, the Knights sit just off the bottom of the competition ladder and are desperately searching for answers. They seem to be a long way off as well, as they were unable to win at home last week and are only weakened by the absence of key players. They couldn’t even win at home against the Tigers last week, suggesting that a victory on the road against a team of this caliber would be a monumental effort. If the Knights do not turn up with the right attitude, this could get very ugly for them. The Roosters will only improve their point’s difference by the end of this contest.
Roosters 19+ @ $2.15
Have a mini bet = Anthony Minichiello FTS and/or LTS @ $9 – Despite being at the back-end of his career, the form of Minichiello is getting better each week. He scored the first and last tries in the match last week, while also saluting for the last try 3 weeks ago. This is a run of form that should be followed, especially as the captain aims to extend his stay in the NRL.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs v Parramatta Eels
The sole fixture on Sunday afternoon is a rivalry match between the Bulldogs and the Eels at ANZ Stadium. It is a shame that this match is taking place without either teams representative players, an issue that could impact upon attendance at this match. Bulldogs fans will have no trouble supporting their team though, as they sit in 2nd spot on the ladder. Things didn’t go according to plan last week though, as they were comprehensively beaten by the Sea Eagles. Based on that performance, the Bulldogs may have overachieved so far this season, but no one is suggesting that they are done with just yet. They will want to bounce back here and allow their mighty forward pack to dominate the contest. It was a better effort at Pirtek Stadium for the Eels last Friday, as they scraped home in a dangerous game against the Cowboys. The travelling side was favored to grab victory, but the Eels mounted an early lead that they were able to hold onto, despite a charging Cowboys team. They have a few troubles of their own this week, with their catalyst in attack, Jarryd Hayne, absent due to Origin. Other players must step up and take control of this match, stamping their authority from the opening minutes. The top teams in the competition rely on more than one player and the Eels squad needs to be stronger in defense, as they aim to remain in the Top 8. It is a tough task for them, but one that is not beyond them. Hopefully a large crowd turns out to this stadium that will become a sea of blue only 3 days later.
The pressure grows on the Bulldogs this week, with several changes impacting upon their team this week, forcing several changes. Chase Stanley is out through injury, being replaced by forward Josh Jackson in the centres. Both Josh Reynolds and Trent Hodkinson are back in the NSW team, with the job of leading this team in attack down to Reni Maitua at 5/8 and Damien Cook at half. In the forwards, Sam Kasiano is promoted to the starting team, with Aiden Tolman ruled out with injury. Greg Eastwood is moved to the second row to cover for Jackson, with Dale Finucane promoted from the bench and will start at lock. Pat O’Hanlon and Corey Thompson have been named on the bench, with Lloyd Perrett at 18th man and could be an interesting inclusion. The Bulldogs defense let them down last week and Des Hasler is going to want his team back to their best defensively, in this match.
Ken Sio has big shoes to fill this week, as he is the man charged with the job of replacing Jarryd Hayne at fullback. Hayne has been electric in recent weeks and Sio’s job will change slightly, as he moves from the wing. Vai Toutai is the new face on the edge, while Ryan Morgan is named to replace Will Hopoate, who was recalled to the Origin team since he departed for his Mormon mission. Isaac De Gois was signed this week from the Sharks, as a replacement for the injured Nathan Peats. It is probably a smart move by De Gois, who now has a better chance of playing Finals football. His inclusion has forced Luke Kelly out of the team, while the bench remains the same. The Eels lifted to another level last week against the Cowboys and while they are missing their main attacking weapon this week, other players are going to have to stand and take control of this match.
Overall = Bulldogs 72 Draw 5 Eels 57
Last 5 games = Bulldogs 5 Eels 0
At ANZ Stadium = Bulldogs 12 Eels 8
TAB Sportsbet = Bulldogs $1.47 Eels $2.75
Centrebet = Bulldogs $1.52 Eels $2.60
Sportsbet = Bulldogs $1.50 Eels $2.68
Betfair = Bulldogs $1.57 Eels $2.72
The bookies obviously believe that the absence of the Eels players is far more crucial to their success than the Bulldogs halves. In some ways, that is true, with the Bulldogs renowned for playing majority of their attacking movements through their forwards. Although their contribution to the overall game plan is being overlooked. This match presents two understrength teams relying upon their back up players to get them through. The Bulldogs retain a strong defensive structure and should be able to capture victory. In saying that, they will not have things all their own way. The Eels are in with a chance and the overall outcome of this match will be a lot closer than most people think. Given this, as well as the retaining of a strong attacking structure, a close match is ahead, with the home team prevailing in the end.
Bulldogs 1-12 @ $2.85
All aboard the trailer = Semi Radradra FTS and/or LTS @ $9 – Radradra has been on fire in recent weeks and he is one player that should be followed. Without the Bulldogs regular players on the edges, then the Eels may look to involve him as much as possible in any attacking movement.
Gold Coast Titans v Melbourne Storm
MNF heads to the sunny Gold Coast this week, with the Titans playing host to the Storm. There is little between each side in this match, with only a -7 points difference separating them on the competition ladder. On top of that, both are severely depleted by injury and representative selection. The Origin period is always a tough time for either side, with the quality of players missing influential to their teams overall success. More than pride is on the line, as the two sides aim to get themselves back into the Top 8 on the ladder. The Titans were embarrassed last week at home, systematically broken down by a superior Panthers team. That contest became a forgone conclusion into the second half as the Titans defensive structure failed to hold up against the Panthers attack. The Storm were also handed a large loss, although they appeared to be in their contest a lot longer. It was a tougher task for them against the Roosters in Melbourne, but that was only a sign of things to come. For the first time in a long time, things are not going to plan for Craig Bellamy’s team. They have several injuries to key players and will be hoping that this team of “fill-ins” can arise to the occasion. John Cartwright will be hoping for the same from his squad, although they appear to fortunate to have majority of their squad together. They should win this match, but MNF is famous for throwing up a surprise or two. If they don’t win as expected, further questions will be raised about their potential and overall hopes for their 2014 campaign.
Gold Coast Titans
The Titans are without Nate Myles and Greg Bird this week, with both players called into their respective Origin teams. They could also be without Dave Taylor, who was called into the Maroons team on Wednesday, but could be released back to play for his club team is he is not needed. Veteran Luke Bailey is promoted from the bench to cover for Myles, while Paul Carter is afforded the same fate to replace Bird. The new faces on the bench are James Roberts and Matt Srama. Srama finds himself in this position, with the return of hooker Beau Falloon forcing him here. Caleb Binge (18th) and Mark Ioane (19th) have been named, but are likely to miss out if all players are fit. The Titans were flat last week in attack and something needs to quickly change for them. Albert Kelly cannot do it on his own and is craving support from the Titans players around him.
Cameron Smith, Will Chambers and Ryan Hoffman have all been named for Origin, with Billy Slater also available for selection, but likely to miss out altogether through injury. This wouldn’t disrupt the Storm, as he has not featured for the team since Game 1. Mahe Fonua is named in the centres, while this weeks halves pairing features Ben Hampton and Ben Roberts. Roberts was named last week, but Smith shifted to play halfback alongside Hampton. The Storm will look to them for a spark and the talent of Hampton will need to come to the forefront throughout this contest. Ryan Hinchcliffe shifts to hooker, while Kenny Bromwich is named at lock. On the bench, Joel Romelo and Tim Glasby are named, while Felise Kaufusi (18th), Hymel Hunt (19th), Jordan McLean (20th) and Travis Robinson (21st) have all been included on the extended bench. The Storm are going through a very tough time at the moment and this is just going to be another test as they try to claw their way back into the Top 8.
Overall = Titans 5 Storm 7
Last 5 games = Titans 2 Storm 3
At Cbus Super Stadium = Titans 3 Storm 2
TAB Sportsbet = Titans $1.38 Storm $3.15
Centrebet = Titans $1.40 Storm $3.00
Sportsbet = Titans $1.41 Storm $3.00
Betfair = Titans $1.40 Storm $3.00
Both teams are severely hampered by player availability in this match, especially during a time when they have so much to play for. With the players that are missing, the Titans seemingly are able to hold together majority of their team. Their attack should remain in tact, while their defensive structure will take a few sets to grasp. The Storm are rudderless without Smith in their team and responsibility will fall heavily upon the shoulders of Ben Hampton. This task does appear to be beyond them and the Titans should be able to win this match. In saying that, this game could produce anything and given that, the margin will be a lot closer than most people think. Craig Bellamy is too smart to send out a team that would have no chance of winning. Although with an inferior pack of forwards and a new halves pairing, victory does seem beyond them and should be captured by the home team.
Titans 1-12 @ $2.80
All of the above are the opinions of the author and are not recommendations or advice. The author may not be taking every bet listed above. Bet at your own risk.
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