NRL Round 2 kicks off on Thursday night with the shortest priced favourites of the round in the Roosters hosting the Bulldogs who are coming off a disappointing loss to the Storm having scored just 6 points for the entire game. We are expecting the Roosters to get the job done on Thursday and for several close games throughout the round.
Sydney Roosters (3rd) v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs (11th)
The Roosters headed up to Gold Coast on Saturday night and started their season off with a very strong win. They piled on plenty of points, leading 28-nil at halftime to make the win a foregone conclusion. Pressure was applied through off-loads that created second phase play to move beyond the Titans defence. More importantly, it was a comfortable showing between first time halves pairing Pearce and Keary. While the quality of their opponent will be questioned, winning form is always good form and they head home here to face the Bulldogs. Things didn’t go to plan for them against the Storm in their season opener, although they will be pleased that they were able to limit the Storms scoring after they jumped ahead 10-nil after 10 minutes. Conditions were not conducive to attacking football and when it came down to it, the same questions around their limited attack were raised. Reynolds and Mbye tried very hard to create but again, many chances were not offered through the middle. The Bulldogs forwards produced an improved effort, yet Lichaa failed to proved the link between this and their halves. This can be expected early on in the season and will be a problem if it becomes a habit. The Roosters will offer yet another difficult challenge for them here and the Bulldogs will be desperate to register their first win of the year.
Roosters = Unchanged.
Bulldogs = Unchanged.
Overall = Roosters 16 Bulldogs 21
Last 5 Matches = Roosters 3 Bulldogs 2
At Allianz Stadium = Roosters 63% Bulldogs 53%
Form = Roosters 1 win – Bulldogs 1 loss
The main feature of this game will be the battle between two massive packs of forwards, with only a couple of player under 100kgs. Each team will aim to establish dominance in this area, creating a platform for their halves to build off. The Roosters appear to have the edge up front, with their hooker, Jake Friend, essential to their success. The Bulldogs have Lichaa leading the way at 9, although he has to improve remarkably for his performance to improve those around him. The real difference should be in the halves, with the Roosters pairing of Pearce and Keary proving last week that they need little time to gel together. The direction of their attack posed numerous questions to a struggling defensive line and their pressure was relentless. You can expect the Bulldogs to be a better team than the Titans; nevertheless, the Roosters appear to have them covered. If the Bulldogs are unable to halt their opponents attacking momentum, especially on the edges, they could struggle to compete for 80 minutes. As for the margin of victory, despite these two sides enjoying a healthy and competitive rivalry, the Roosters average margin of victory in their past 5 wins sits at 19.2 points, with only two being by 10 points or less. You always have to be cautious about the Bulldogs though, yet in this instance, the Roosters look good to cover the line (and then some!).
Roosters -6.5 @ $1.90
Something to crow about = Roosters 13+ @ $2.65 –
Lethal left edge = Latrell Mitchell FTS and/or LTS @ $8 – Mitchell scored a hat-trick last week and given the Bulldogs poor showing on their right edge, the Roosters are bound to attack here. Expect plenty of pressure to come there way and with Mitchell getting the ball early, he will be in a strong try scoring position close to the line.
New Zealand Warriors (8th) v Melbourne Storm (6th)
The Warriors have a short turnaround to contend with following their win over the Knights on Sunday. They were far from convincing in their 4-point win, as they only sealed the win with a 72nd-minute try. The Warriors had several opportunities to pressure the inexperienced Knights out of the match and failed to do so, with 13-errors seriously hampering the momentum they were able to develop. Still, there were plenty of positives and they need to develop consistency more than ever. The Storm head into this game as winners as well, although their effort to overcome the Bulldogs in testing conditions was far more impressive. The score line looked headed for a blowout after the Storm raced to a 10-nil lead in the opening 10minutes of play. It wasn’t to be though and each time the Storm attempted to build pressure, they were unable to finish off an attacking movement. Some credit has to go to the Bulldogs, nevertheless it also demonstrated the Storms ability to fight and find a way to win. It is a tough start to the season for them and back-to-back road trips will test their fatigue levels but one thing is for sure, they have a culture of success that will test the Warriors in this encounter.
Warriors = Isaiah Papali’I comes onto the bench for Erin Clarke. Simon Mannering and Issac Luke are both named despite minor injuries last week.
Storm = Tim Glasby is named at prop to cover for Jesse Bromwich (injured), with Joe Stimson coming in to fill the vacant bench spot.
Overall = Warriors 16 Draw 2 Storm 20
Last 5 Matches = Warriors 2 Storm 3
At Mt Smart Stadium = Warriors 58% Storm 50%
Form = Warriors 1 win – Storm 1 win
The matter in which the Warriors closed out their match on Sunday was a cause for concern; there wasn’t much evidence to suggest that there has been a major improvement in their control or play. Combine this with a short turnaround into a tough opponent, and the Storm look in the box seat to grab a win. Of course, the quality of opponent here should cause the Warriors to lift; yet that is an unknown just yet. The Storm are still away from fielding a full-strength team so it could be interesting to see how the Warriors choose to attacking their potential weaknesses. Nevertheless, the Storm have proven themselves capable in just about any situation and they do not mind the trip over to New Zealand either. Their record there is better than most and could be attributed to the amount of New Zealand born players they have featured over the years. Until the Warriors improve their application and consistency, you will be unable to back them with confidence. Expect the Storm to get over the line in this one, although perhaps steer clear of any margin markets given there is no clear indication of how the Warriors will perform against a better team this early on in the season.
Storm -2.5 @ $2
Brisbane Broncos (5th) v North Queensland Cowboys (7th)
The Broncos have had an extended period of time to recover and prepare for this match following their win over the Sharks last Thursday. In a tight match, the Broncos bounced back from their poor showing in the WCC to turn the tables on the Sharks on the road. It was an improved performance from their entire squad, with Anthony Milford leading the way in the halves. His play ignited their attacking ability, forcing the Sharks to retreat in defence regardless of the pressure they applied. There are still lingering questions around how the Broncos will perform when specific players are targeted and old rivals, the Cowboys, will undoubtedly challenge them here. They head down to Brisbane as winners, overcoming a strong Raiders team in Golden Point. The Saturday night game saw two of the competitions quality teams face off and the class of the Cowboys was evident. Their determination to chase down a live ball for the winning play was the vital difference between the two teams. They will be aware of the level that is required after such a tough match. The Cowboys have become accustomed to teams lifting to face them each week and this game should be no different, with many suggesting that both sides will feature at the business end of the season.
Broncos = Unchanged.
Cowboys = Antonio Winterstein (injury) is named to return on the wing, pushing Javid Bowen out of the team.
Overall = Broncos 27 Draw 1 Cowboys 14
Last 5 Matches = Broncos 2 Cowboys 3
At Suncorp Stadium = Broncos 61% Cowboys 35%
Form = Broncos 1 win – Cowboys 1 win
The Broncos are slight favorites heading into this match and while that is puzzling given the recent form of the two teams, the Cowboys record at this ground does count against them. If they are to win, this would be the major hurdle that they have to overcome, as they appear to have a better team across the park. The Broncos will improve; nevertheless, without the brilliance of Milford last week, they may have lost to a team that was underdone and understrength. The Cowboys weren’t dominant in their win, yet the quality that the Raiders offered was far better than that of the Sharks last week; ironically enough, those two teams face off on Saturday. With the Cowboys able to aim up in defence and provide continual pressure to the Broncos, the home team will be forced to produce something special to overcome them. It’s not as if they are incapable of winning, the Broncos will have to show improvement against a better opponent. As for the margin, the past 5 matches have been decided by an average of 2.6 points, with 3 of those matches being by 1-point and 2 were in Golden Point. The rivalry between these two teams is alive and well and unless either team breaks away from the script and produces something special, this game is headed for yet another close finish.
Either team under 6.5 points @ $2. 65
Close call = Cowboys 1-12 @ $3.10 – The Cowboys are the desired selection and if you want to take them straight out, consider this margin option. The match is expected to be tight given the recent history, possibly going down to the last play of the game.
Newcastle Knights (9th) v Gold Coast Titans (14th)
The Knights surprised most with their improved effort on the road against the Warriors in Round 1. Many were left thinking that the wooden spoon would not be awarded to this squad, although it is a very long season. A key component of their play was determination and fight; forcing the Warriors to produce a match winning try in the final 10 minutes to steal victory. If this attitude is maintained, they will provide a challenge for any team each week. The Titans also head into this week without a win, although their effort was far from convincing. The Roosters blew them away in the first half of play to all but decide the match at 28-nil. They showed some fight in the second half but the gap between the two sides was evident; even a superior possession statistic (53%) could do little to swing things in their favour. A total of 13 errors and 40 missed tackles also hampered their efforts in an uncharacteristic display. Recent developments around Hayne and his application to training suggests that all is not well within the locker room and it will be a tough task for Neil Henry turning it around quickly to be competitive here. Their 50% away record in 2016 ensured that they made the Finals and they will need that on their side here.
Knights = Brendan Elliot is named at fullback for Dylan Phythian (injured).
Titans = Unchanged, with Kevin Proctor named despite not returning for the second half last week.
Overall = Knights 9 Titans 7
Last 5 Matches = Knights 2 Titans 3
At McDonald Jones Stadium = Knights 57% Titans 44%
Form = Knights 1 loss – Titans 1 loss
The Titans have been in the headlines for the wrong reasons this week and regardless of what spin is put on the story, their appears to be trouble within this team. The usual “company line” was trotted out on Thursday but looking past that, this team has a tough task here. The Knights do not have the quality that other teams have and will sense that this is an opportunity to cause an upset. It is hard to compare their form last week but the Knights are improved upon 2016 and are in with a chance in this game. It is not crazy to suggest that they will win either; the Titans halves need greater time to gel together and find a working relationship with Hayne at the back. On the other hand, the Knights play a simple brand of football that can punish teams if they make a mistake. They are vulnerable but their defence missed just 24 tackles compared with the Titans 40. Early on in the season in a contest between two weaker teams, doing the simple things works and this will be enough, along with the home ground advantage, to get them over the line here to cause another upset.
Knights @ $2.55
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles (13th) v South Sydney Rabbitohs (15th)
This game features two teams that are struggling following below par performances in Round 1. The Sea Eagles get a second opportunity to establish some form of home ground advantage, after going down to the Eels 20-12. They struggled for momentum for majority of the match, with poor penalties at crucial times allowing the Eels to build pressure. Furthermore, they had a 69% completion rate, committed 10 errors and missed 39 tackles, a tally that is too high for any team hoping to contend for Finals. Nevertheless, they have the makings of a strong team and will need to bounce back against the Rabbitohs, a team who is dealing with the loss of star play Greg Inglis. It happened early on in their fixture against the Tigers, but the decline from that point onwards appeared to affect the rest of the team. Their defence was poor, missing 42 tackles, resulting in the Tigers tearing them apart in the middle. Without Inglis, the Rabbitohs appeared to have the balance of their side wrong and they will need a reshuffle without him and Reynolds. Pressure is on and one area where improvement is required is their forwards. They lacked momentum in the middle and will need to be up for yet another tough challenge against a pack that can create power if they gather enough momentum.
Sea Eagles = Nate Myles is named to start at prop for Martin Taupau (suspended). Jarrad Kennedy and Shaun Lane join the bench for Addin Fonua-Blake (suspended) and Lloyd Perrett (injured).
Rabbitohs = Alex Johnston shifts to fullback for Greg Inglis (injured), with Braidon Burns being named on the wing. Angus Crichton is named on the bench for Tom Burgess who may miss out altogether.
Overall = Sea Eagles 19 Rabbitohs 13
Last 5 Matches = Sea Eagles 2 Rabbitohs 3
At Lottoland = Sea Eagles 64% Rabbitohs 33%
Form = Sea Eagles 1 loss – Rabbitohs 1 loss
The players missing for the Sea Eagles are going to cause them some headaches as the amount of power they generate up front is now limited. The loss of Inglis for the Rabbitohs is far more damaging to there chances here and beyond, although the team they have named appeared to be capable of covering the loss of one of their stars. There is an outside chance that Adam Reynolds could feature and if he does, the chances of the Rabbitohs dramatically increase. Nevertheless, the record of the visitors at this ground isn’t great and the Sea Eagles will want to regain their home ground advantage after giving it away last week. You have to take the two teams on who is expected to line up here for them and all things considered, the Sea Eagles have a slight edge. They will still need to demonstrate improvement before you can invest on them confidently, especially within improving their completion rate. This lead to them only having 40% possession in last weeks match and increased fatigue due to the amount of defence they were involved it (they made a massive 114 more tackles than the Eels!). The game should be relatively tight throughout, although the extra week is likely to improve the combinations within the Sea Eagles team. With that in mind, they should be capable of covering the line, but stay away from anything else until they demonstrate improvement.
Sea Eagles -3.5 @ $1.90
Canberra Raiders (10th) v Cronulla Sharks (12th)
The Raiders produced an impressive display last week on the road against the Cowboys, forcing them to produce something special in Golden Point to overcome them. Even with a few players missing, the Raiders were strong in their play and sent a warning sign to the rest of the competition that they are ready for a challenge in 2017. They head home here, a place where they rediscovered how difficult it can be for away teams to win. The Sharks will be hoping to emulate their efforts in Week 1 of the Finals last year, where they headed down to Canberra and upset the Raiders. It was a tough opening loss for the Sharks, down on personnel also, they struggled to gain an advantage over the Broncos. While it wasn’t ideal, you get the sense that they will improve from that outing. Their intensity in defence was evident early and fatigue appeared to get the better of them towards the end; even with the Broncos also tiring from a frantic pace, the Sharks were unable to pressure them into conceding points. Expect another bold showing from both teams in arguably the “match of the round” between two sides that are expected to feature again in September.
Raiders = Jack Wighton (injury) returns at fullback, as does Junior Paulo (suspension) at prop. He covers for Clay Priest (suspended), with Scott Soresen named on the bench for Jospeh Tapine (injured).
Sharks = Unchanged.
Overall = Raiders 15 Sharks 20
Last 5 Matches = Raiders 2 Sharks 3
At GIO Stadium = Raiders 47% Sharks 56%
Form = Raiders 1 loss – Sharks 1 loss
The Raiders made a strong statement with their effort and performance against the Cowboys on the road last week. They sense that they are very close to establishing a formidable combination within their team and played last week with an increased level of maturity. The Sharks still need a week or two in order to find their right combination, with Valentine Holmes going to offer a different option if he was to be included. They are still struggling without Ennis, albeit, not as intended as Jayden Brailey was strong in all that he was involved in. You also have to consider the impact that playing at home will have on them; they are reestablishing this ground as a difficult place to win at and despite the Sharks positive recent record here, it will again be tough for them to win. It must be stated though, the Sharks have won their past 4 trips down to Canberra, however this Raiders team is far tougher than anything they would’ve faced previously. In terms of a margin in this game, the average between these two sides in their past 5 meetings sits at 9.4 points; it would be extremely surprising to see anything other than a 1-12 margin, such is the defensive structure of the Sharks and improvement in that of the Raiders.
Raiders 1-12 @ $2.80
Wests Tigers (2nd) v Penrith Panthers (16th)
The Tigers started the season off in terrific fashion, dismantling the Rabbitohs last Friday. It was a display that was warranted from a team that was promising so much with the amount of young talent they have within their team. Their forwards were very strong carrying the ball over the advantage line and their spine performed very well. James Tedesco lead the way consistently for 80 minutes and majority of the Tigers success will rest on his shoulders. It wasn’t a complete performance, but the Tigers are moving in the right direction. Their performance was polar-opposite to the Panthers, who were upset by the Dragons. It was a disappointing display from a team tipped as favorites heading into the season, as they allowed one of the worst attacking teams in 2016 to pile 42 points on them. Conditions were not ideal but a team that appeared to be better placed than the Panthers this early in the season ambushed them. The mental lapse that was experienced could become a greater issue if it is not addressed immediately. The Panthers have all the makings of a great team; it is a matter of ensuring that they function on the same level each week, regardless of their opponent. Bouncing back form a poor display will be a strong challenge for them, as will nullifying the numerous attacking weapons that the Tigers present to them.
Tigers = Unchanged.
Panthers = Dylan Edwards has been named to start on the wing in place of Peta Hiku (injured).
Overall = Tigers 12 Panthers 17
Last 5 Matches = Tigers 2 Panthers 3
At Campbelltown Stadium = Tigers 46% Panthers 50%
Form = Tigers 1 win – Panthers 1 loss
It was a uncharacteristic display from the Panthers last week and it would be surprising to see such an effort repeated again this season. As talented as they are, they still need to mature as a football team and efforts such as last week display their lack of it at this point. As it has come out this week, there were some things outside of the game that were distracting some of their players and now with a full week of preparation after their game, they should be ready to tackle the Tigers. As good as the Tigers performance read on paper, it wasn’t as clear as one may’ve thought if you were watching the game; they still made 11 errors and missed 34 tackles. That needs to be improved if they are to overcome the Panthers here. Obviously, the Panthers also need to improve and are capable of much better, with last week a lapse in effort rather than bigger issues to overcome. The visitors will be slight favorites for the match and that shouldn’t change too much prior to KO. The bounce-back factor for the Panthers is real and it will be interesting to see how the Tigers handle an increased intensity from the one they faced last week. This game will be high scoring and will go down to the wire, with some individual brilliance perhaps deciding the final result.
Over 45.5 Points @ $1.90
Bouncing back as winners = Panthers -1.5 @ $1.90 – If you’re confident that the Panthers can get the job done, you should consider this option. There is no clear indication of how much the final margin will be as it is still too early on in the season, but the Panthers should get home by more than a FG if it comes down to it.
St George-Illawarra Dragons (1st) v Parramatta Eels (4th)
The Dragons produced the biggest upset of the round last week, as they piled 42 points on the Panthers. It was an impressive attacking display from a team that wasn’t expected to reach such heights at any stage during the season, but there were noticeable differences. The halves played a more direct line of attack, rather than drifting across field. This straightened up the Panthers defenders and created holes. Not only that, the pressure kept coming in waves. In turn, this was supported by their defence, which missed just 13 total tackles in horrendous conditions. It will be a difficult task for the Eels to hold them out, but they will be encouraged by their effort last Sunday against the Sea Eagles. The Eels showed an improvement in their forwards to power over their opponents on the back of relentless pressure. This was a figure of their play last season, although they were unable to make it work consistently when they weren’t playing for points. It is a different story now and the play of their halves was also pleasing. The trip down to Wollongong does hold reservations for them, their record at this ground is one they would rather forget. Still, the Eels appear to have the makings of a team that is capable of contending for a spot in the Top 8, just as long as they are keeping this current crop of players fit and on the field.
Dragons = Unchanged.
Eels = Unchanged.
Overall = Dragons 14 Draw 2 Eels 15
Last 5 Matches = Dragons 1 Eels 4
At WIN Stadium = Dragons 63% Eels 17%
Form = Dragons 1 win – Eels 1 win
It’s been a long time since the Dragons fans tasted victory over the Eels and ironically enough, their last win came over them at this ground in Round 10, 2013. That may count little though, with the Eels slight favorites over their opponents in this match, with many left wondering if the Dragons form last week was “out of the blue” or a sign towards what can be expected from them this year. The Eels were also very good and while their win didn’t make the same statement that the Dragons did, it was still an impressive effort form this side. Heading down to Wollongong will test this team, especially on the back of their trip to Manly. Either way, they appear to be moving in the right direction and have what it takes to combat the Dragons over 80 minutes. It will be close though, the Eels still need to prove themselves when under pressure at the end of their attacking sets, but their halves have a good working combination at this stage of the season to make it work.
Eels -1.5 @ $1.90
Hedge your bets = Either team under 6.5 points @ $2.70 – If you’re not sold that the Dragons form was a “once off” for 2017, then invest in a chance that either team can win this game by less than a converted try.