Welcome to The Profits Round 5 2017 NRL kicks off on Thursday night from Sydney at ANZ Stadium and The Profits NRL expert Scooby previews all the matches and shares his best bets.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs (13th) v Brisbane Broncos (8th)
The Bulldogs are aiming to put the short turnaround into good use here, as they hope to put behind them a very poor showing last Saturday against the Sea Eagles. In a dramatic low point of their season, the Bulldogs were eclipsed 32-nil and looked clueless in attack. Normally their defence holds strong but in this instance, they look tired and lazy; with their opponents scoring soft tries through the middle. It has brought about more questions around the future of Des Hasler at the club and how long he can last in the current setting. Needless to say, they have performed adequately in their two matches against the competition leader. The Broncos have no such worries following their 1-point win over the Raiders at home; as this time they were able to plan and execute their FG play to create victory. It was a toiling match for them, with their defence again a feature of their play. Their opponents came with a distinct plan to disrupt their game, yet with a superior hold of possession (55%) and a reduction of errors, the Broncos were able to control the outcome. Another feature of their play was their offloads, a total of 10 meant that the second phase play created havoc for the Raiders in defence. The Broncos pack are establishing themselves as one of the toughest in the competition and they were up for the physical challenge of last week, while also having speed at when carrying the ball. There are still areas of improvement needed for this team and they will need to be on their game against a team that is desperate to bounce back following a weak performance.
Bulldogs = Matt Frawley is named to replace Moses Mbye (suspension) at halfback.
Broncos = Unchanged.
Overall = Bulldogs 15 Draw 1 Broncos 20
Last 5 matches = Bulldogs 2 Broncos 3
At ANZ Stadium = Bulldogs 58% Broncos 52%
Form = Bulldogs 1 loss – Broncos 1 win
Not much is going right for the Bulldogs and just as they were preparing to bounce back, they have lost their halfback. Many will suggest that this could be a positive given how disjointed their attack appear, although it will also create increased pressure on other ball players. The Broncos have had a tough start to the season and they are ready for yet another battle; nevertheless, they cannot become guilty of taking their opponents lightly given their poor recent form. One thing that the Bulldogs can do is rise (or fall) to the level of their opponent, a factor that could disrupt the Broncos early on. If this does happen, the Broncos will need to rely more of their defensive structure and make the most of attacking possession. They have done a great job of this in the opening rounds of the competition and will undoubtedly be stronger in confidence following their performance last week. Without much doubt, this game is there for the Broncos to lose, as they have plenty of class across the field to not only trouble their opponents, but also pressure them for 80 minutes during a contest. To see the Broncos completely blow the Bulldogs away would be surprising though; as poor as they were last week, the Broncos do not have a history of playing them in Sydney and winning by a large margin, the largest most recently under these circumstances has been 6-points. Even the +8.5 to the Bulldogs has firmed in most markets since opening; with that in mind, take the visitors to win by less than 2 converted tries.
Broncos 1-12 @ $2.80
Sydney Roosters (1st) v Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles (6th)
The Roosters are sitting pretty at the top of the competition this week, following a pleasing 20-6 win over their bitter rivals, the Rabbitohs. The victory was created in the first half, as two tries and a PG meant that they went into the break ahead 14-nil. The difference between the two sides was much more than the score suggested though, with the Roosters somewhat unlucky not to score on several other occasions. It was a different performance in the second half, with the Roosters absorbing plenty of pressure on their line in defence, as well as possession heavily weighted towards their opponents. Despite this, they limited them to just one try, demonstrating their improving structure. The Sea Eagles will also be pleased with their defensive effort, keeping the Bulldogs to nil over 80 minutes. Many have suggested that it was their opponents poor attitude and effort that lead to this, although credit has to go to the Sea Eagles for their back-to-back effort following a slow start to the season. They completed at 81% and missed just 12 tackles, while at the same time having a massive 18 offloads which created second-phase play. It has silenced critics of the team, nevertheless this week is their biggest test. There is a case for their previous two opponents being down on effort and they can come out here and make a statement with their performance. Even a loss would send a message that this team has created positive combinations, something that was evident with their exciting attacking play last week.
Roosters = Jake Friend (injury) returns at hooker, pushing Paul Carter back to the reserves. Blake Ferguson is there too and is an outside chance of playing.
Sea Eagles = Unchanged.
Overall = Roosters 12 Sea Eagles 16
Last 5 matches = Roosters 2 Sea Eagles 3
At Allianz Stadium = Roosters 63% Sea Eagles 55%
Form = Roosters 4 wins – Sea Eagles 2 wins
Momentum is a big thing in rugby league and currently, the Sea Eagles have more than most. Sure, the Roosters are only one of two undefeated teams in the competition and have plenty of upside, yet the Sea Eagles are sending a message to the rest of the competition and have a great chance to do the same here. There isn’t too much that the Roosters have that the Sea Eagles don’t, especially considering that Friend is returning from injury and Ferguson is only an outside chance of playing. The Roosters do have an edge in the pack and will look to play the game here as much as possible. They have been great in their opening games, although they are yet to play for the entire 80 minutes. Once they learn to do this, they will undoubtedly be one of the most difficult teams in the competition to stop. That may occur sooner rather than later and the Sea Eagles have a tough task ahead of them. As for the history between the two sides,
Sea Eagles +7.5 @ $1.90
North Queensland Cowboys (4th) v South Sydney Rabbitohs (10th)
The Cowboys head home this week after a somewhat unconvincing victory over the Titans 32-26; a try in the dying stages narrowed the margin but the Cowboys had ample opportunities to shut the Titans out of the contest. It was perhaps more disappointing that their defence was weak at times, lacking personnel due to injuries didn’t aid their cause either. Nevertheless, the win was needed following a loss the previous week and improvement is expected as players return to their team. The Rabbitohs will be out to bounce back from their poor showing to the Roosters, a match that highlighted how far they are away from the benchmark teams in the competition. Players missing through injury and suspension were a problem for them too, although so too were the 14 errors they committed. This continual change of possession meant that they were unable to build pressure on their opponents and their squad was guilty of not matching the effort of all players within the team. As frustrating as it was, it appears as though it can be fixed, with Michael Maguire having the tough task of finding the balance of his team. There is no doubt that Farah is provides a level of experience that the Rabbitohs need, yet having Cook on the field appears to enhance their performance. Coming up against a strong pack of forwards, the Rabbitohs will have their work cut out for them attempting to fix these issues before they take the field here. Let’s hope that the weather is kind to them following Cyclone Debbie passing through the area.
Cowboys = Lachlan Coote (injury) returns at fullback, forcing Kalyn Ponga back to the reserves. Jason Taumololo (suspension) is named to return at lock, shifting Ethan Lowe to the second row and Coen Hess back to the bench for Sam Hoare.
Rabbitohs = Braidon Burns (suspension) returns, pushing Sitiveni Moceidreke to the reserves.
Overall = Cowboys 15 Draw 1 Rabbitohs 12
Last 5 matches = Cowboys 4 Rabbitohs 1
At 1300Smiles Stadium = Cowboys 83% Rabbitohs 25%
Form = Cowboys 1 win – Rabbitohs 1 loss
The Rabbitohs appeared lost at numerous points last week and are still scrambling to find the best balance of their team. They must aim to use Cody Walker as much as possible, given how well he has contributed to both losing and winning teams. The finish to their match last week will offer promise, although the challenge of facing the Cowboys at home poses a whole new contest altogether. The Cowboys just did enough in there win, but will be boosted by the return of key players, most notably, Taumololo in the middle. Watch out for him to make a big statement since his enforced layoff. He was playing a damaging brand prior to this and will undoubtedly only get better. It must be highlighted though, the Cowboys are appearing to be tired at stages during games, it reduced the margin of victory last week and they will again be pushed if they cannot start this game strongly. The Rabbitohs have consistency issues over 80 minutes themselves, so look for early pressure to be piled on. It is hard to foresee anything other than a Cowboys win and this is mainly due to their attacking power and poor defence experience by the Rabbitohs so far this season. Of the past 5 wins by the Cowboys, just 2 have been by 12-points or less, with the average margin sitting at 15.6 points. The Rabbitohs record at this ground is poor and this trend is set to continue, with a comfortable victory towards the home team also a popular pick in most betting markets. Once they cover the line, there is no stopping the Cowboys if they play for the entire 80 minutes. Be cautious, the Cowboys are yet to win a game this season by 6 or more points and may find it tough if the Rabbitohs are “rejuvenated”.
Cowboys -10.5 @ $2
First things, first! = Cowboys 13+ @ $2.20 – The Rabbitohs effort will undoubtedly improve on last week, but that can only last for so long. Once the Cowboys gather momentum, the pressure they create is destined to crack their opponents over 80 minutes.
Cronulla Sharks (7th) v Newcastle Knights (15th)
The Sharks returned as winners in Round 4, dismantling the Eels from start to finish with an impressive display. Their level of execution was improved on their previous match, which was a disappointing loss to the Dragons. There was a notably improvement in the contribution of their forwards in the middle of the field. This allowed them to carry the ball forward with more penetration than their opponents. Despite winning, the Sharks will still be disappointed that their completion rate was only 68% and that they made 15 total errors. If such statistics become a habit, the decline in their performance will be dramatic. The Knights experienced a horror 80 minutes last week, with their attitude and effort meeting the high-flying Panthers team that was full of confidence. Regardless of what they attempted, nothing appeared to work for the Knights and they went the entire match without scoring a point. Considering they only had 38% possession, it was an achievement that the score finished up the way it did. Perhaps later on in the season, the fight might have left them and the margin of victory much larger. It appears as though this will be a theme for the Knights throughout and they face another tough test here against the Sharks on the road. They need to regroup as quickly as possible, perhaps addressing the 39 missed tackles and 13 errors as a starting point to improving their performance.
Sharks = Unchanged.
Knights = Brendan Elliot (injury) returns at fullback, pushing Peter Mata’utia to the centres and his brother, Sione, back to the forwards. Luke Yates drops back to the bench.
Overall = Sharks 14 Knights 20
Last 5 matches = Sharks 4 Knights 1
At Southern Cross Group Stadium = Sharks 55% Knights 50%
Form = Sharks 1 win – Knights 2 losses
There appears to be only one suitable outcome in the game this week and that is the home side improving on last week’s effort and beating the Knights. The visitors looked outclassed last week against the Panthers and will again struggle to match the Sharks. The intensity in which they play at is hard for most to obtain, let alone a team that has greater fight and belief than talent. It will again be a tough ask for the Knights to compete over 80 minutes, yet they will offer some promise if they can gather the possession statistic to work in their favor. Chances of this occurring, as well as an upset, are slim; nevertheless, they appear to be a stronger side with the changes heading into this game. All things considered, the Sharks have a superior team that will punish the Knights if they make mistakes. This could be a good opportunity for them to work on attacking combinations and give Valentine Holes a chance to increase his confidence at the back. Early markets suggest that this game will be all one way traffic but make no mistake, the Sharks will have to work hard to achieve this outcome. Once they gather momentum, there is minimal chance that they will release attacking pressure on their opponents. Surely, it will not be as bad as their 62-nil thrashing by the Sharks last year…
Sharks 19+ @ $2
Canberra Raiders (11th) v Parramatta Eels (9th)
The Raiders still have the solitary win from their opening 4 matches, with an impressive win over the Tigers the only reason they have 2 competition points. That being said, they have been defeated by the Cowboys in Golden Point and most recently, were overcome by 1-point by the Broncos with 5 minutes remaining on the clock. Their form has improved over time, with just one performance so far being forgetful. Their execution against the Broncos demonstrated their maturity, yet there are some areas that can be improved on, including errors (15) and completion rate (68%). Furthermore, they need the right balance between power forwards and speedy outside back, with the halves providing this link. This week it will be interesting viewing as they host the Eels; a team that is aiming to bounce back from a poor showing last week against the Sharks. They were ambushed, outplayed and outclassed in the contest, with many wondering where their early season form had gone. The inclusion of Corey Norman back into the team didn’t have the desired affect and their attack failed to build pressure and gather momentum. A total of 16 errors hampered their play, yet missing just 26 tackles given the circumstances was an achievement within itself. They have several players to return to this team in coming weeks and there is the immediate focus of halting their opponent’s momentum, with some players in their team well known as former Eels. This should be a strong contest up front as both aim to gain to the upper hand over one another.
Raiders = Iosia Soliola is named to start in the second row to cover for Elliott Whitehead (suspended), allowing Dave Taylor to join the bench.
Eels = Tepai Moeroa (suspension) returns to the back row, pushing Frank Pritchard back to the bench and David Gower out of the 17 altogether.
Overall = Raiders 16 Eels 12
Last 5 matches = Raiders 3 Eels 2
At GIO Stadium = Raiders 49% Eels 17%
Form = Raiders 1 loss – Eels 2 losses
The Raiders have plenty of positives given their efforts last week over the Broncos, while the Eels are struggling to gather support after a poor showing. Truth be told, it is still early on in the season and the form of teams is certainly mixed. One thing is for sure, the strength of the Raiders squad outweighs that of the Eels and their opponents will need to do everything possible to disrupt the attacking momentum that they create. The form of the Eels has dipped in recent weeks and while they are capable of improving it for this match, they will need a greater competition from all players to see a change. The Raiders head into this game as strong favorites and rightly so after their recent efforts; nevertheless, people may be thrown by the fact that the Eels sit high on the ladder and have more wins to their name compared with their opponents. That is a sign to the difficulty of the draw rather than lack of execution and the Raiders are deserving of heading into this game as the preferred team. Their pack of forwards will be difficult to stop and they have added power coming off the bench. If Josh Hodgeson were to withdraw, momentum would swing back towards the Eels, although the Raiders should be able to rise above it for the victory. It is interesting to note that of their past 5 victory over the Eels in Canberra, the average margin sits at 11.2-points; while they’ve only won 1 game in their past 10 visits and it’s been over 10 years since they have won here. All these factors, along with the stronger squad, point towards a Raiders victory. The new-found love for a home game means that in the past 10 wins here, the Raiders have average a margin of 16.5 points with 4 games being decided by 12-points or less. Expect that trend, as well as the Eels poor record here, to continue.
Raiders -7.5 @ $.190
Winning and winning well! = Raiders 13+ @ $2.50 – As stated above, the Raiders have a new-found respect for their home ground and despite losing a here already this year, they will be out to reward their loyal fans. If the Eels execution is as poor as last week, there is no doubt that this total (and more) can be reached over 80 minutes.
Bounce back = Jordan Rapana FTS and/or LTS @ $7 – Rapana had a shocking match last week, making a total of 5 errors. His talent was overshadowed and while it would dent anyone’s confidence, Rapana is the type of player that is likely to bounce back quickly. He has already scored 4 tries this season and will be out to put a bad game last week behind him.
Melbourne Storm (2nd) v Penrith Panthers (5th)
The Storm made it 4 from 4 with yet another impressive display, this time coming against the besieged Tigers on the road. After going down 14-nil after 20 minutes, the Storm fought their way back to win by 22-14. This demonstrated how mature they are as a team as their poise never let the scoreboard worry them. They managed to control the early pressure created by the Tigers, something that was always expected given the week they had experienced. With just a 43% share of possession, they scored some very soft, long range tries to break their opponents spirit. Worse still for their competitors, they appear to be getting better. The Panthers have a tough task ahead of them by overcoming their opponents on the road, yet a short turnaround may work against the Storm. The young Panthers team will be full of confidence following their dominating effort over the Knights, whereby they kept their opponents scoreless over 80 minutes to win 40-nil. The ease at which they scored points demonstrated just how dangerous they could be and while this can also be their downfall, it is bound to cause plenty of headaches for their opponents. Their discipline when controlling the ball is also improving, although much more will be needed from them if they are to head down to Melbourne and win this match.
Storm = Jordan McLean (injury) returns to the front row, pushing Christian Welch back to the bench and Vicent Leuluai out of the 17.
Panthers = Unchanged.
Overall = Storm 24 Panthers 7
Last 5 matches = Storm 5 Panthers 0
At AAMI Park = Storm 74% Panthers 0%
Form = Storm 4 wins – Panthers 1 win
The Panthers record in Melbourne and against them, is one of the worst, they beat the Storm was back in Round 9, 2013. On top of that, they have never won at this ground in two attempts and only have won 2 total games since the Storm came into the competition. It is a very difficult ground to win at, with majority of that having to do with the execution and ability of the Storm. Their speed at the line is one of the best in the competition and their defence has conceded the least amount of points by any team so far this year. They were great last week in fighting back against the Tigers but there were a few cracks that appeared. A lesser team may have lost that match after being behind or a better team would’ve been able to shut their opponents out of the game during the second half. Either way, that effort would’ve taken more out of them than they would’ve liked; this gives the Panthers a great chance to overcome their horrible record here. The form over the Knights is hardly measurable; rather it is their execution in their performance, which has lead to their victories that has been most pleasing. Nevertheless, it gives them a great chance of causing an upset here. The Storm will lose a game eventually and looking ahead at their upcoming fixtures, this game is the first of four tricky contests. Rather than taking the Panthers straight out, stick with the line as this game looks as though it will be an extremely tight affair.
Panthers +4.5 @ $1.85
Hedge your best = Either Team Under 6.5 points @ $2.60 – This game is expected to be very tight as two evenly matched teams face off. The defence of the Storm will be difficult to crack, although the Panthers proved previously against the Roosters that they can produce some impressive tries when needed; scoring points should not be an issue for them.
New Zealand Warriors (14th) v Gold Coast Titans (12th)
The Warriors season took yet another step in the wrong direction last week, as they suffered a 26-12 loss to the Dragons. Their issues were compounded even before they took to the field as Kieran Foran was ruled out with a hamstring injury suffered during the warm-up. They still have the solitary win to their name, which was an underwhelming 4-point victory over the Knights in Round 1. Since then, they have failed to show improvement with plenty of unnecessary pressure being placed on Shaun Johnson, who is not the one to blame. Heading into this game as favorites, if they Warriors are not careful, the Titans will come out here and produce an upset. They sit 2 positions ahead of the Warriors with the same amount of wins, yet their season has been filled with a lot more promise. Their 4-point loss to the Cowboys last week was a sign of the fight that this team has, moving past the injuries suffered by the team and the struggles to fill the vacant positions. They are finding a way to compete in matches and while this can only be maintained for so long without winning, it is the right attitude to have if they are to give themselves a chance of winning here. The lack of training due to inclement weather will affect them somewhat, but given all that they have moved past in the last year or so, the Titans should be ready for this challenge.
Warriors = Kieran Foran (injury) has been named to feature at 5/8, pushing Tuimoala Lolohea out of the team. Bunty Afoa is dropped and replaced on the bench by Nathaniel Roache.
Titans = Leivaha Pulu is named to start at lock for Agnatius Paasi (injury), with Chris Grevsmuhl named to come off the bench for his club debut.
Overall = Warriors 13 Titans 7
Last 5 matches = Warriors 4 Titans 1
At Mt Smart Stadium = Warriors 58% Titans 33%
Form = Warriors 2 losses – Titans 1 loss
The Warriors are desperate for a win to come and break their losing streak and this game gives them yet another achievable opportunity. The Titans are obviously struggling with a lot of injuries and have a terrible record over in New Zealand to also contend with, as well as knowing that the Warriors have won 11 of the past 12 meetings. Aside from that, the Titans are aware of how to score points, they average 24-points per game, the equal third highest so far this season. The Warriors also have an ability to concede soft points, conceding and average of 24.5 points per game, while the Titans have also been poor allowing an average of 28 points. This points towards a very high scoring contest and it is worth investing on this market. As for the overall result, the Warriors are worth a couple of more chances; they’re building towards something, even if their usual spark has been dulled somewhat. If Foran plays, the task of winning becomes more difficult for the visitors but if he is ruled out, line up to invest on the Titans to cause an upset. Judging the teams on how they are named, the result of this match should be a lot closer than the odds are suggesting and this brings the line into play. Be cautious though, it is still too early in the season to grasp where the Warriors are at and they could easily turn their form around and beat the Titans.
Over 42.5 points @ $2
Keeping it close = Titans +6.5 @ $1.90 – This game should be close given the amount of points that both teams concede. Seeing the Warriors prevail by more than a converted try would be surprising, considering they could only beat the Knights by 4-points and are yet to play a game for the entire 80 minutes.
Wests Tigers (16th) v St George-Illawarra Dragons (3rd)
At the start of the season, no one would’ve expected these two sides to sit where they do on the ladder; in fact, many would’ve suggested that the roles would’ve been reversed. After a poor start to the season, the Tigers are languishing at the bottom of the ladder. At HT of their Round 4 match, many believed they had turned a corner since the sacking of Jason Taylor, this wasn’t to be though and for the 3-consecutive week, the Tigers failed to score any points in the second half. Allowing a try on the stroke of HT really dented their confidence and they will need to refocus for this difficult clash. There were no such issues for the Dragons, as they managed to nullify the Warriors attacking weapons early on by scoring points. They were leading 20-2 after 24 minutes and showed no signs of slowing down. The improvement in their attack can again be attributed to their direction in attack, which has straightened in recent weeks to portray a more direct style. Furthermore, their defence has also improved, missing just 16 tackles in that match. While a struggling Warriors team that lost a key playmaker in the warm-up is hardly a great read of performance, the Dragons have demonstrated on numerous occasions this year they are up for a fight. Hopefully this type of performance can be more consistent and not that of the loss in which they suffered two weeks ago at the hands of the Eels.
Tigers = Jamal Idris has been named to start in the centres, with Michael Chee Kam moving back to the bench, along with Sauaso Sue. Jack Littlejohn is named at halfback to replaced Luke Brooks (injured)
Dragons = Unchanged.
Overall = Tigers 15 Dragons 17
Last 5 matches = Tigers 2 Dragons 3
At ANZ Stadium = Tigers 44% Dragons 47%
Form = Tigers 2 losses – Dragons 1 win
Many believe that teams, which undergo a coaching change, improve automatically, however it is generally the two or three weeks after this point in which the largest improvement is seen. If the Tigers can manage to play for more than 40 minutes in a match, they will be a dangerous team. The injury to Brooks lifts the responsibility on Moses’ shoulders and with a contract on the line; he should be out to prove a point. It was Moses who led the Tigers to victory in their last outing against the Dragons and it was done in impressive fashion. The Dragons are proving to be a difficult team to overcome though, with just the one loss to their name when the Eels ambushed them. The forwards of the Dragons will determine the outcome; they played well last week, whereas the Tigers were very poor around the ruck. If history between these two sides is anything to go by, whoever is successful is likely to win by a comfortably margin as just 1 of the past 6 results have been by less than 13-points. As for this contest, the time is looming for the Tigers to take responsibility for their performance and they need to perform here. They are certainly capable based upon the first half last week, while the Dragons win was perhaps a sign to their opponent’s weakness rather than their own strength. In yet another dangerous game, invest wisely on this game as well and expect the young Tigers to finally stand up and take responsibility for their effort.
Tigers @ $2.45