Round 16 of the NRL rolls ahead this week and with two teams having a bye, we are still without a full round of fixtures. With each passing week, time is running out for teams out of the Top 8 to make a spirit charge towards the Finals. With the end of the season approaching, there is still one more Origin game to take place and until that occurs, it will feel like an eternity before the end of the season will be upon us. Either way, the rugby league action has been exciting and it appears as though the product is always gaining momentum. This round is promising more of the same and there is only one way to find out what is in store for this match.
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles v Sydney Roosters
Friday night returns to two fixtures this week, with the feature match being a Grand Final rematch between the Sea Eagles and Roosters at Brookvale Oval. This is the second time the two sides will face off since the Roosters were victorious on the first Sunday in October in 2013. In Round 4, it was the Sea Eagles that avenged for their GF defeat by an 8-nil score line. As this contest approaches, the two teams have not hidden their dislike for one another. The Sea Eagles players were quite vocal in their opinion of the Roosters and the hurt that their GF loss placed upon them. They were dominant last week against the Sharks in attack, although more pleasing for them would be keeping their opponent to zero. Even with a few key players missing from their lineup, they have an imposing presence on the field that appears as though it will be tough to break down. The Roosters are also fortunate to have the same asset, with some even suggesting that they are a stronger team at full-strength. They have enjoyed a week out of the spotlight, with a bye in Round 15 and a further chance for their players to rest their weary bodies. Previous to that, they were victorious against the Knights and will want to build on that momentum, while at the same time reaffirming their place in the Top 4. It will be a tough ask against the competition leaders on the home ground, as this match promises to be an exciting, yet brutal game of rugby league.
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
The Sea Eagles have retained the same 17 following their dominating performance against the Sharks. In that game, they were without Anthony Watmough, who was missing through suspension. This forced Jamie Buhrer into the second row, Dunamis Lui into lock and James Hasson onto the bench. That has again been retained, ensuring that the Sea Eagles are strong up front and have suitable replacements coming off the bench. Their backline is at it’s best and Toovey will be happy with the performance of his halves. They are crucial to the success of the Sea Eagles, with injuries preventing them from developing too much this season. Now, the added game time will only build them greater confidence and point scoring opportunities.
The last time the Roosters took the field; they were without their Origin stars. This time out, only Michael Jennings is absent through injury. Mitchell Aubusson is retained in the centres for Jennings, while Daniel Tupou returns on the wing at the expense of Nene Macdonald. Aidan Guerra also returns, partnering SBW in the second row and moving Dylan Napa back to the interchange. Willis Meehand and Kane Evans drop off the bench, while the Roosters welcome back Australian player Boyd Cordner from injury. He will start in jersey 16 and his time will be limited, as he regains vital match fitness from an injury that forced him out of the NSW Origin team. Heath L’Estrange is named as 18th man since they released Daniel Mortimer to the Titans and may be included if Robinson feels the need to add a replacement for Jake Friend.
Overall = Sea Eagles 80 Draw 2 Roosters 43
Last 5 games = Sea Eagles 1 Roosters 4
At Brookvale Oval = Sea Eagles 34 Roosters 12
TAB Sportsbet = Sea Eagles $1.85 Roosters $2.00
Centrebet = Sea Eagles $1.80 Roosters $2.05
Sportsbet = Sea Eagles $1.80 Roosters $2.05
Betfair = Sea Eagles $1.92 Roosters $2.06
The Sea Eagles are the slight favorites in this match and understandably so, as they are playing on their home turf. In many ways though, people are overlooking the true potential of the regaining Premiers. They will have added incentive after the Sea Eagles were victorious in their last meeting back in Round 4. The Sea Eagles will carry a high level of confidence into this match, but it has to be said that the Sharks were well below their best last week. At this point, anyone would play well against them and the Roosters will be ready to tackle their opponent’s head on after a week off. It is hard to go past them, considering they have a stronger pack of forwards and the Sea Eagles are not operating at 100%. Key players are missing from their lineup and DCE is still not at his past after struggling to make the deadline for Origin. This is going to be a tight contest, but the Roosters should prevail in a brutal contest between two of the best teams that the competition has to offer.
Roosters @ $2.06
Margin it up = Roosters 1-12 @ $3 – Considering the Roosters should win this match, then you can go for a little more value by selecting a margin. It would be very surprising to see the score line blow out to 13+ and with the resolute Manly defense, the 1-12 option appears to be the way to go.
Brisbane Broncos v Cronulla Sharks
The second match on Friday night is one for the Queensland viewers, with the Broncos hosting the Sharks at Suncorp Stadium. It has felt like an age since the Broncos featured in Friday night action, let alone at their home ground. Normality has returned for this team and they will head into this match attempting to bounce back from a frustrating loss to the Warriors in New Zealand. It was a promising performance at times, but the crucial execution was missing when it mattered most. That is taking some of the credit away from the Warriors, who probably deserve it on the back of their efforts. As it stands, the Broncos are sit in 6th on the ladder but are only ahead of 3 other teams on points difference. Their preparation will be different this week though, as they face an opponent who hasn’t scored a single point in their past 3 matches. With their backs against the wall The Sharks head into this match with that in the back of their mind, along with the fact that they sit in 16th spot on the ladder and have the worse points difference (-161) in the league. Comments made by Paul Gallen at the end of their match last week will not make this week any easier, as he suggested the problems for the Sharks begin with the clubs decision to appoint Peter Sharp as interim coach. Whether or not Gallen was taken out of context matters little, the Sharks have little hope of turning things around in their 2014 campaign. They have another tough match here and will have to pull out everything from their bag of tricks to upset the Broncos on their home turf.
The Broncos had a few late inclusions last week, with the Origin players not originally named to play against the Warriors. Justin Hodges was one player that didn’t take the field, but he is back here in the centres, moving Dale Copley to the wing and Lachlan Maranta out of the team. Sam Thaiday is named to start at lock, while Corey Oates comes into the starting side to cover for Matt Gillett, who has suffered a shoulder injury and will be out for an indefinite period of time. The vacant spot on the bench is filled by Jarrod Wallace, with Francis Molo left out of the team altogether. The Broncos were unable to put the Warriors away, despite several opportunities that they were given. Even with his standing on the Dally M leaderboard, if the Broncos want to go a step further, Ben Hunt will have to lead this team to victory when it matters most. It is tough to put the burden on just one player and if he is to do this, he will need the support of the players around him.
There are again a host of changes for the Sharks, no surprise considering they have failed to score a point in their last 3 matches. Blake Ayshford and Nathan Gardner has been dropped back to NSW Cup, as Michael Gordon shifts back to fullback, Jacob Gagan is named on the wing and Jonathan Wright is back in the centres. Jeff Robson returns at halfback, forcing Fa’amanu Brown back to the interchange, alongside Siosaia Vave who makes way for Sam Tagataese at prop. Chris Heighington is named as 18th man, but he is likely to miss out on selection. The Sharks are desperate for answers to their woes and many would suggest that their season is over. Perhaps it is time for them to focus on next year and “blood” a few youngsters that will serve them well in the future.
Overall = Broncos 30 Sharks 18
Last 5 games = Broncos 3 Sharks 2
At Suncorp Stadium = Broncos 11 Sharks 3
TAB Sportsbet = Broncos $1.23 Sharks $4.75
Centrebet = Broncos $1.20 Sharks $4.75
Sportsbet = Broncos $1.23 Sharks $4.70
Betfair = Broncos $1.23 Sharks $4.80
Considering the Sharks have failed to score a single point in their past 3 matches, beating a team within the Top 8 appears to be beyond their realm of capabilities. A simple as it sounds; they have shown that they are not up to it this season. Their season is basically over and are playing for pride over anything else. That is not to suggest that they will be hopeless for the rest of 2014, they will continue to grab a victory or two. I am tipping a better effort from them here in this match and one that keeps this game tight early. That leads us to the margin and how the match will play out. The line that is offered for them is almost too good to refuse. Don’t be drawn in though, when the Broncos score points, they pile them on in bunches with increasing confidence. In their 8 wins this season, they have won 5 of them by 13 or more points. At the same time, the Sharks have lost 7 of their 11 losses by the same total. The larger margin is the way to go, while avoiding the juicy line that is offered in favor of the team sitting last on the competition ladder.
Broncos 13+ @ $1.90
Cop this one = Dale Copley FTS and/or LTS @ $8 – Copley has been in impressive form this season and with Brent Tate out of Origin 3, he is pushing hard to be included in the Maroons team. Expect another bold showing from the winger that will be desperate to prove a working combination with Justin Hodges.
Wests Tigers v Canberra Raiders
There are only two matches on Super Saturday, with the first taking place out at Cambelltown as the Tigers host the Raiders. This match has an underlying interest in it, as the two clubs face one another for the first time since the James Tedesco “signing battle”. The highly publicised situation was one that the Raiders were again left high and dry, with the star fullback back flipping almost as quickly as he signed. That situation is set to add extra spice to this match, along with the fact that the Raiders will want to bounce back from a disappointing loss last week to the Bulldogs on their home turf. Travelling away from Canberra only increases the difficultly of this match, as queries continue to circle about everything from their coaches ability to the selection around their halves. The Tigers can relate to this, as their 2013 was plagued with similar situations. They have turned it around this season though, as they sit 9th on the ladder, only separated from 6th by a -33 points difference. Winning will be at the forefront of their thinking, but so too will be turning around that difference. The last thing they will need at the end of the year is missing out on the Finals because of it. They will be buoyed by the confidence that their Origin players bring back from their Game 2 victory. Mick Potter will demand more from his team though and it will take a complete performance to overcome a Raiders team that can sometimes shock. They have been disappointing this season though and with their season on the line, they may just surprise their opponents if there are not ready for this match.
The Tigers welcome back Origin duo Robbie Farah and Aaron Woods to their team, after both turning out strong performances in the Blues victory. Martin Taupau is moved back to the bench, while replacement hooker Joel Luani, drops out of the team altogether. Dene Halatau is also out of this match, suffering an injury in the Tigers last match that was his first back from another setback. Aside from that, it is business as usual for the Tigers, aiming to build upon the solid combinations that they have formed so far this season. News also surfaced this week around the decision on Liam Fulton and his season. It could be worse though, with several concussions now suggesting that he may be forced into an early retirement to benefit his long-term health.
Anthony Milford is back into the fold for the Raiders this week and is named to start the match at fullback. Surprisingly, he started the Raiders last match from the bench and Reece Robinson took the reins at fullback. The reason behind this remains puzzling, as it had little impact to the overall result. This forces Robinson out of the team and Matt Allwood onto the wing, along with Brenko Lee, who replaces Sami Sauiluma. Aside from that, this is the same Raiders team that has failed to produce consistency in 2014. Terry Campese has been named to play, but there are several questions around his contribution to the Raiders. He is appearing to be playing on tired legs at the moment, even to the point where it appeared as though he suffered an injury last week. He is limiting their attacking movements and the Raiders need to play with an element of speed to forced their opponents on to the back foot and allow extra space for attacking movements.
Overall = Tigers 16 Raiders 10
Last 5 games = Tigers 4 Raiders 1
At Campbelltown Stadium = Tigers 6 Raiders 2
TAB Sportsbet = Tigers $1.25 Raiders $4.10
Centrebet = Tigers $1.23 Raiders $4.30
Sportsbet = Tigers $1.26 Raiders $4.00
Betfair = Tigers $1.27 Raiders $4.00
The Raiders have only won 2 of their past 10 matches in a trend that appears set to continue. The Tigers have proven several times this season that they are going to be a tough team for any side to move past. They have several attacking options that will prove difficult for the Raiders to handle. On top of that, the Raiders attack is struggling to find a spark that will constantly pressure their opponent’s. Their defensive structure also has several question marks, meaning that it will take an 80-minute lapse in concentration for the Raiders to prevail in this contest. A week off may bring the Raiders into the contest, meaning that the line is also worth some consideration. Not only that, the Tigers have only won 2 matches by a 13+ margin this season. They have no trouble scoring points, but sometimes their defense le’s them down at certain points. The Tigers should win by a comfortable margin that only stretches as far as two converted tries.
Tigers 1-12 @ $3.20
North Queensland Cowboys v South Sydney Rabbitohs
The second match on a “reduced” Super Saturday heads up to Townsville, with the inconsistent Cowboys facing the rejuvenated Rabbitohs. If the Cowboys could only play like they do at home on the road, they would have vastly differing levels of success. Unfortunately, that has not been the case since their inception into the competition and it continues to plague their chances. Last week, it was a loss to the Knights that had them heading home with their tails between their legs. They were coming home strong but in some sense, the score line flattered them. Losing Ray Thompson early in the contest didn’t help and again, the pressure upon the shoulders of JT grew. While the Cowboys were toiling away, the Rabbitohs were enjoying a week away from football with a bye. It was their first of the season and it couldn’t have come at a better time, with several members of their squad struggling with niggling injuries. The 2-points they gained from that week has them moved into the Top 4 in 3rd spot. This situation appeared to be a world away after their beginning to the season but some consistent performances built around strong forward play have allowed for their victory column to grow. Now, it is down to their squad to cement this position, but the Cowboys will be no easy-beats on their home turf. Couple that together with their desire to turn around a losing performance and they might just have what it takes to upset one of the resurging teams in the competition.
North Queensland Cowboys
Ray Thompson was injured in MNF and while the full extent is not known, he is out of this match. Robert Lui comes into the team at 5/8, pushing JT to halfback for the first time in a longtime. Matthew Wright is named in the centres and will fill the void left by Brent Tate, as Curtis Rona comes onto the wing. In the forwards, Scott Bolton replaces Matt Scott, after being unable to take his place in the Cowboys team after Origin. He is expected to be out for an extended period of time and this is the chance for Bolton to press his starting claims at prop. He was moved from lock, with Tariq Sims now named there and Jason Taumalolo to start in the second row. On the bench, Anthony Mitchell is the utility in jersey 14, while John Asiata is called into the team to cover the spot left by Taumalolo. The Cowboys are back where they excel most of all and it is up to them to make the most of this opportunity.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
After missing their Origin stars in their last match, the Rabbitohs welcome them back here after a week off in Round 15. Greg Inglis is named at fullback, pushing Nathan Merritt to the wing. Alex Johnson will play on the other edge, after recovering from injury and pushing Joel Reddy out of the team. Kyle Turner has moved from the second row and will start at centre, proving his versatility as a player. This allows a spot for Chris McQueen to start the match, alongside Ben Te’o in the second row. Sam Burgess pushes back to lock, forcing Ben Lowe back to the bench. Luke Keary was expected to make a long awaited return in this match, after two promising performances in the NSW Cup. Stay tuned for his inclusion, there is only so long that Maguire will keep him out of this team.
Overall = Cowboys 10 Draw 1 Rabbitohs 13
Last 5 games = Cowboys 1 Rabbitohs 4
At 1300Smile Stadium = Cowboys 6 Rabbitohs 6
TAB Sportsbet = Cowboys $2.65 Rabbitohs $1.50
Centrebet = Cowboys $2.65 Rabbitohs $1.50
Sportsbet = Cowboys $2.65 Rabbitohs $1.50
Betfair = Cowboys $2.72 Rabbitohs $1.50
The Rabbitohs are deserving favorites in this match, considering their form in recent weeks. A week off will only enhance their chances, as a road trip to Townsville can often cause some distress for teams aiming to back up from a prior match. Despite playing at home, the Cowboys are contending with a short turn around from Monday night. The Cowboys have a point to prove though, as they need to bounce back from a loss in that match. They are capable enough to grab victory against the Rabbitohs, but they will need to be on their game for the full 80-minutes. Their opponents will be wary of this and without Thompson, they pressure on JT grows in attack. If he is kept quiet, the Rabbitohs will run riot in this match, as their forwards will dominate the contest. It will be a closer than expected match though, as the Cowboys do not give up a home victory easily, regardless of the opponent.
Rabbitohs 1-12 @ $2.90
Off to a flyer = Cowboys Try (first scoring play) @ $2.25 – In their past 5 matches at home, the Cowboys have scored the first try in 4 games. Of course, they have gone onto win all of these matches but this may be one exotic bet that you invest in and can give you a collect early on in this match.
New Zealand Warriors v Penrith Panthers
Sunday football action will begin over in Auckland, as the Warriors host the high-flying Panthers. The Warriors held strong last week, defeating a gallant Broncos team in a hotly contested match. It was unfashionable at times, but they got the job done when it mattered most. The pressure that they were able to build upon their opponents limited their attacking threats and gave the Warriors great field position. A victory such as that one reminded fans just what they are capable of producing on their day. Their opponent’s in this match, the Panthers, could perhaps be a model for the Warriors to use, in order to build towards consistent performances. Former Warriors coach, Ivan Cleary, has done a fantastic job of shaping this team into their current form. He will be the first to pass the credit onto the players, but sitting in 2nd spot on the competition ladder is pleasing enough. They will have to ensure that their current run of form continues on further with a win on a tough road trip. A week off last week will have the Panthers refreshed and ready to fire again, but at the same time it could hamper their start to the match. Look for the Warriors to capitalise on this early and shut the Panthers out of the match. Whether or not they are capable of this remains to be seen, but an exciting game of rugby league lies ahead in this game.
New Zealand Warriors
The Warriors carry a high level of confidence from their win last week against the Broncos; there is little need for them to change their lineup. The only change that has been forced upon them this week is the suspension of Ngani Laumape, who is replaced in the centres by Dane Nielsen. Their attack came strongly through their halves, who were well supported by their forwards. Each week, Sam Tomkins is looking stronger in the NRL and is quickly gaining momentum. They need Tomkins and Shaun Johnson firing for 80 minutes to reap the complete benefit of their talent.
All eyes were on the Panthers this week and whether or not they would rush Jamal Idris back into their team. He was another player that has been on show in NSW Cup in recent weeks, but there is no need to include him when the team is playing so well. The only change for the Panthers this week is the return of Adam Docker at lock, moving Elijah Taylor back to the second row and Tyrone Peachey back to the bench. Bryce Cartwright has made way there, but he is retained as 18th man in case there is a late withdrawal. Kevin Naiqama was a late inclusion in their last match on the wing for youngster Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and this change is retained here. Things are travelling well for the Panthers at the moment and they need to continue to produce dominating performance that reaffirms their standing in the Top 4.
Overall = Warriors 14 Draw 1 Panthers 17
Last 5 games = Warriors 2 Panthers 3
At Mt Smart Stadium = Warriors 7 Panthers 8
TAB Sportsbet = Warriors $1.65 Panthers $2.30
Centrebet = Warriors $1.62 Panthers $2.35
Sportsbet = Warriors $1.62 Panthers $2.35
Betfair = Warriors $1.65 Panthers $2.50
This match is arguably one of the hardest to pick of the weekend. On one hand, the Panthers are sitting 2nd on the competition ladder for a reason. They have played strongly for majority of the season, proving that they have the ability to wear down their opponents over 80-minutes of rugby league. Then again, the Warriors are playing at home, where they are always tough to beat. On top of this, they are playing with a high level of confidence that is proving difficult for any team to stop. Given that, it is difficult to go against the Warriors, as they are playing stubbornly in attack and defense. The most difficult factor is selection the margin as they have shown several times this year that they can produce a narrow victory in the same sense that they can pile on a stack of points. Given this, keep it simple and stick with just the Warriors to win this match and cover the small line that is offered.
Warriors -3.5 @ $1.90
Parramatta Eels v Newcastle Knights
The 3pm “match of the day” takes places in Sydney this week, as the Parramatta Eels host the Newcastle Knights at Pirtek Stadium. After comprehensively being beaten by the Storm, the Eels players will be hoping to turn around their efforts from the previous Sunday at AAMI Park. It is never an easy road trip to make, but the Eels players clearly didn’t arrive for the contest against the rejuvenated Storm outfit. Simple errors coming off their own line gave their opponents a chance to capitalise and they did. Having worked so hard to get to 8th on the ladder, slightly ahead of the Tigers on points difference. With the troubles experienced in previous seasons, this position appeared beyond them but now they are there, they will not want to lose it. The Knights would give anything to be in the Eels position, with a win last Monday against the Cowboys doing little to improve their standing on the competition ladder. They still sit in 15th, with a horror point’s difference of -103. Still, they will be encouraged by that effort, especially considering the changes that Wayne Bennett made to the make up of his team. The reshuffle has added another dimension to their attack, with Kurt Gidley controlling the pace of the game well at number 7. This gives rise to Jarrod Mullen and his attacking ability; nevertheless, the Eels will target both players with their attack. IF the Knights win, they would keep afloat their very slim title hopes, while the Eels will reaffirm their standing on the ladder. With so much at stake, a high intensity game of rugby league is going to make for great viewing to end the day.
The Eels were dismantled last week but Brad Arthur has resisted the temptation to make any drastic changes. Ryan Morgan has been retained in the starting side at centre as a cover for the injured Will Hopoate. Issac De Gois’ contribution to the team at hooker has been valuable since his mid-season switch from the Sharks and has been a suitable acquisition. On the bench, Lee Mossop is out of this match with a shoulder injury and is expected to spend a few more weeks on the sidelines. The new faces there are Mitch Allwood and Darcy Lussick, both of which will add plenty of fire to the match when they take the field. Kelepi Tanginoa has been added as 18th man but will miss this match if all players are fit. You can expect Chris Sandow to remain quiet towards the referees this week, considering he was sin-binned for mouthing off last week and placing increased pressure on his team.
The Knights had several changes last week that impacted upon the make up of their starting team. Kurt Gidley will play in the halves, while Adam Clydsdale will start at hooker and Tyrone Roberts will take the field from the bench. David Fa’alogo returns from suspension, pushing Korbin Sims back to the bench alongside the returning Kade Snowden. Joseph Tapine is named as 18th man but is expected to miss out on selection in this match. Despite winning last week, the Knights are still to answer several questions around their performances. Gidley will stabilise the team at halfback, but he also has to take pressure off Jarrod Mullen and allow him to play his natural game wider from the ruck.
Overall = Eels 19 Draw 1 Knights 27
Last 5 games = Eels 0 Knights 5
At Pirtek Stadium = Eels 13 Draw 1 Knights 6
TAB Sportsbet = Eels $1.47 Knights $2.75
Centrebet = Eels $1.50 Knights $2.65
Sportsbet = Eels $1.50 Knights $2.65
Betfair = Eels $1.54 Knights $2.80
If you were to take a quick look at the odds and guess, you would be surprised to see the a winning team in Round 15 set as outsider and the team that were beaten by 20+ points, installed as favorites. Nevertheless, that is the way the two sides line up here, saying more about the teams successes so far this season. The Knights played well in MNF, but still have a lot of work to do before they revive their 2014 hopes. It must not be overlooked that they allowed the Cowboys to score 28-points, with defensive lapses costing them dearly. The Eels effort shouldn’t be forgotten either, as they were sticking with the Storm despite several errors they made. They too were able to score points and will have to tighten up their defense on the edges. As for this contest, the new combination for the Knights will bring them into this contest with force and make them difficult to overcome. In saying that, the Eels have proven at several points this season that they are capable of overcoming an opponent if they take the right attitude into a match. It is time for the Eels to overcome their run of losses against the Knights and they should prevail in a close match.
Eels 1-12 @ $3
St George-Illawarra Dragons v Melbourne Storm
Back in Round 6, the Dragons and Storm fixture cause quite a stir and grabbed headlines well beyond the fulltime siren. A lot of that had to do with the controversial circumstances that the Storm won under. That now seems like an age ago but the Dragons were robbed of a victory and a much needed, 2-competition points. Now the Dragons have their chance for revenge in an exciting MNF matchup. It will be cold and windy down in Wollongong, factors that the Dragons will hope will play into their hands. Both teams are heading into this match with confidence, after victories in Round 15. The Dragons had more at risk, as they were able to overcome a road trip to beat the Titans. They appear to have turned a corner with their performances, displaying increased conviction and execution over 80 minutes. They still have a lot of work to do if they want to compete with the leading teams in the competition, but it is good to see they they’re on the right track. As for the Storm, they were impressive in many ways in their victory over the Eels. Despite still missing key players, they are proving that they are not completely out of contention just yet. The representative season will make things difficult for them, but it is something that coach Craig Bellamy will aim to use to their advantage. At this stage, they are not hurting their chances of featuring in the Finals with performances like that one. If they can turn out another effort like that one, the Dragons are going to have a tough time of holding and limiting their scoring options.
St George-Illawarra Dragons
Unfortunately for the Dragons and the Blues, Trent Merrin was injured in last weeks win against the Titans. He is expected to recover in time for Origin 3, but for now, the Dragons have named Jack de Belin to replace him at lock. He is promoted from the bench, while Dan Hunt comes into the team in jersey 14. Jack Stockwell is called into the team as 18th man, but could be likely to miss out on featuring. The Dragons have looked impressive in recent weeks and things are beginning to work nicely for them. They are not getting too far ahead of themselves but the inclusion of Marshall has added another dimension to their attack. Then again, one poor performance can undo all that hard work and the Dragons will face a tough test of how far they have come with a match against the Storm.
Backing up from Origin, Craig Bellamy chose to start Ryan Hoffman off the bench and reduce the burden on his body. Tohu Harris shifts back to the bench and will have to wait before being called onto the field. Kurt Mann is named in the centres, following the omission of Will Chambers and will continue to grow a exciting profile. Their halves looked promising at times last week, with Ben Roberts and Ben Hampton working well together. Hampton will survive when Cronk returns and while unwelcomed, it is serving as a good learning curve at this stage of his career. Cameron Smith’s leadership is taking pressure off him and he was at his best against the Eels, continually getting out of dummy half and setting up the match for his forwards.
Overall = Dragons 7 Draw 1 Storm 20
Last 5 games = Dragons 1 Storm 4
At WIN Stadium = Dragons 3 Draw 1 Storm 3
TAB Sportsbet = Dragons $2.65 Storm $1.50
Centrebet = Dragons $2.65 Storm $1.50
Sportsbet = Dragons $2.65 Storm $1.50
Betfair = Dragons $2.66 Storm $1.50
The Dragons are slowly improving, but they will have to take another giant leap to beat the Storm. In saying that, they will draw confidence away from their previous meeting in Round 6. The belief is there that they can beat this team and in that instance, the Storm were arguably stronger than now, in terms of players availability. This match is going to be a close contest, but the Storm should be able to overcome the Dragons. They have a stronger pack of forwards that are complimented by outside backs that know how to find the try line. This is a different test for the home side, as the Storm will constantly build pressure on their opponents. The line is juicy though, as the Dragons will lift to another level on their home soil. Bet around a close game with the travelling team prevailing at the fulltime whistle.
Dragons +4.5 @ $2
Fair margin = Storm 1-12 @ $2.90 – If you are looking for more value out of your bet, then consider picking the margin. The game is meant to be tight and with the increasing confidence of the Dragons, it may take something special for the Storm to overcome them.
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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