2013 NRL Round 5 Preview

NRL

Normality’s return this weekend as Thursday Night Football leaves us for season 2013 and other than ANZAC Day, Friday Nights will kick off each round of the NRL. TNF was a great concept and no doubt we will see an increased amount in coming seasons. So the rugby league world shifts its attention to Friday and we have two games to contend with. Unfortunately for fans, it means that we can only watch one game live and unless you’re very strict with your score checking, you will know the result of the second game while watching it. Majority of the games will also spread across two states to ensure that the broadcaster has the highest rating game in both areas.

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs v Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles

Time: Friday 7.35pm
The game in NSW this Friday features two sides that have continued their high standard from last year and are always referred to as the benchmark. Better still, since Des Hasler moved from the northern beaches to Belmore, fans of both sides have always looked forward to this clash. To suggest that these two clubs dislike each other is a gross understatement. Focusing on their 2013 form, the Sea Eagles look to have the edge over their opponents. While it is stated above that the Bulldogs are a benchmark, they have only won one game this season and that was against Parramatta. They have had a very tough start to the season and it isn’t getting any easier. It is a positive for them though that they still have a few players to return from injury and they have certainly played nowhere near their best just yet. Hasler knows the value of a side building throughout the season and he will be quietly happy with his side’s progress thus far. Compared to them, the Sea Eagles look like they are early favorites to take the title. Some would suggest that they’re even unlucky to not be undefeated, but they play a brand of football that is very difficult for opposition sides to cope with. It is brutal and physical; and allows their young halves to set the match up for them. It certainly is a winning formula and they’re showing how to get things done on the field. In saying that, they were poor at times against the Tigers and they weren’t made to pay for their mistakes. The stage is set for a very physical encounter and one that the Bulldog will not want to lose as it will take their winning percentage to just 20%! But Manly are set to make things difficult for them and this game will be a great way to start the weekend.

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs

After a fairly disappointing effort against the Rabbitohs (by their standards), the Bulldogs will want to bounce back here. There haven’t been too many changes either as Des Hasler strives for greater consistency within his side. Krisnan Inu is obviously out of this game and will be out of the game for an extended period of time after he was charged with a dangerous throw for his tackle on Greg Inglis. Looking at the tackle, it certainly was bad and it was not aided by the fact that he had two goes at attempting to lift him up and over the horizontal. He can consider himself very luck that Inglis wasn’t seriously injured. Tim Lafai comes into the side for Inu and based on what we have seen from him when he has played at the top grade, he should be able to hold his own. There may be a few question marks around his defense but Manly are sure to try this out early. The other change for the Bulldogs occurs on the bench as David Klemmer is moved to 18th and last week’s 18th man, Mitch Brown, goes onto the interchange. Klemmer is a big prospect for the Bulldogs and this move may be a good idea at this stage of his career to ensure that his growing body does not become overwhelmed with the demands of the NRL. Klemmer has been good in the time he has spent on the field and he is only going to get better. Brown has a little more experience than Klemmer and is perhaps a little stronger in defense at this stage of his career. Ben Barba made a return last week after his highly publicized spell on the sidelines. It was an average performance by his standards but he did show some flashes of his old self. It appeared that he struggled to get the pace of the game but it shouldn’t take too long for his “match fitness” to return. It is interesting to note that captain Michael Ennis has been named after being concussed last week. He will be assessed right up until kick off and if he was a late withdrawal, Joel Romello (who isn’t even named), will probably take on the hooking role.

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles

Like the Bulldogs, Manly have had an ample amount of time to prepare for this game. It would be a welcome turn around for some of the players who are suffering a few niggling injuries. It will also give them a greater amount of time to prepare for this game. Coach Geoff Toovey has only sprung a few changes on his side and following a 26-0 win, you can see why. In recent weeks, he has named Tom Symonds to start the game on the bench, only for him to be a late inclusion into the starting side. Last week, Symonds had one of his best games and it seems that the last minute switch from the Roosters was a god-send to his career. Symonds is named to start this game at lock while Jamie Buhrer moves back to the interchange. Richie Fa’aoso returns from suspension and he is straight back onto the bench, with Jesse Sene-Lefao finding himself playing for the reserves. Last week, Jason King made a successful return from injury and was a late inclusion into the team. He is named to come of the bench also and David Gower is the player making way. The Sea Eagles are building their season very nicely at this stage but the a few weeks ago the Titans showed the way to beat them. It was a very physical encounter that pressured the Sea Eagles forwards and their halves. No doubt the Bulldogs will target that again but the Sea Eagles will be ready for a tough contest this time around.

Recent History

Overall = Bulldogs 50 Drawn 5 Sea Eagles 61

Last 5 games = Bulldogs 2 Sea Eagles 3

At ANZ Stadium = Bulldogs 4 Sea Eagles 5

Stats that matter!

  • Against the Tigers, the Sea Eagles had a completion rate of just 60% and had 15 errors, the first 6 of those coming in their first 6 sets of the game.
  • The Sea Eagles have the best defense in the competition and allow only 7.5 points but for the Bulldogs it is 19.75 points.
  • The Bulldogs are yet to win a game against a Top 8 side and the Sea Eagles have only played one Top 8 side, the Titans, for a loss.

Odds

TAB Sportsbet = Bulldogs $1.95 Sea Eagles $1.88
Centrebet = Bulldogs $1.95 Sea Eagles $1.87
Sportsbet = Bulldogs $1.92 Sea Eagles $1.90
Betfair= Bulldogs $2.04 Sea Eagles $1.93

Verdict

Like plenty of other games this weekend, you could go either way. Judging by the prices above, the bookies also think it is the same. The Bulldogs price is probably decreased by the fact that there would be not be another coach in the league who would have the knowledge of how to beat the Sea Eagles, like Hasler does. Before betting in this game, consider this; the Sea Eagles have only played one Top 8 side for one loss, while of the 4 Bulldogs opponents, 3 of them have been against quality opposition and the other was against their rivals the Eels. They have been a side that has been up for some time now and they know what is required of them in tough games. They need to follow the same gameplan that the Titans executed against the Sea Eagles a few weeks ago. Tough, in-your-face defense is needed and you need to win the battle in the middle of the field. I don’t think the odds on offer for the Bulldogs are fair but I am tipping them regardless. Though I am sure that this game will be low scoring and by a 1-12 margin.

Suggested Bet
Bulldogs @ $2.04

Good luck!
Scooby

Gold Coast Titans v Brisbane Broncos

Time: Friday 7.35pm
The “other” game this Friday night is up in Queensland and features a very interesting contest (on a number of levels) between the Titans and the Broncos. For starters, the Broncos have long been the pride of Queensland but their mantle seems to be under threat as of last season. They’re really struggling since the departure of Wayne Bennett and Darren Lockyer; and the answer doesn’t appear as it just around the corner either. They did turn in a much-improved performance last Friday against Melbourne but they were still unable to come up with 2-competition points. If this is to continue, they may be on track to miss the Top 8 altogether. But you can never discount the Broncos and their performance against the Storm is testament to that. If the Titans are not prepared, they could be looking down the barrel of a loss. Although, going by the form of the Titans this season, they will be anything but unprepared for this game. For a number of years, they have promised so much with their roster and finally they are delivering. Everyone thought that after they lost Scott Prince they were going to really struggle in attack. I was also one of those people but it seems when you compare the form of these two sides, the Prince/Broncos have really struggled where the Titans haven’t. They have a young combination in Kelly and Seizer but they’re playing behind a very strong pack of forwards at this stage. Once the pressure is put on their forwards, we may just see what they are made of. For the moment, that is happening and their strong defense is making it tough for opposition sides to attack them with any momentum. A good ol’fashion derby match is what this game is and it fits in nicely with the other “blockbuster” game on this Friday night.

Gold Coast Titans

The Titans are another one of the sides within the NRL that are not only surprising punters, but getting better and better with each performance. They will want to take it to the Broncos in this game as since their inception, they have always been playing in their shadow. Such has been the good play by the Titans, coach John Cartwright has not felt the need to make any drastic changes to his lineup. There were a few late changes in their win against the Panthers on Sunday but they were forced upon them through injury. Ashley Harrison and Brad Takairangi were the late withdrawals and Luke O’Dwyer and Steve Michaels were their replacements. Both players move back to an extended bench in this game but may be a last minute call up again. It was no surprise to see Harrison withdraw following his concussion again the Sea Eagles and it is a step in the right direction following the recent studies on the effect of concussion on the brain. Hopefully he is recovered both physically and mentally. The Titans are playing to their strength each week and at the moment; teams are struggling to break them down defensively. With their attack still developing each week, they will want to limit their opponents scoring so pressure is not heaped upon their young halves.

Brisbane Broncos

The Broncos have been in the news this week, not for their narrow loss to the Storm, but for their approach (and withdrawal) to Canberra discard Josh Dugan. It seems like they may have just dodged a bullet after his recent outbursts on Twitter. Focusing on this derby, Scott Prince will be itching to show his old club just what they are missing out on. He has not been at his best this season but a return to his previous home may just see him lift to another level. Coach Anthony Griffin has made no changes to the starting 13, but he has added 3 new faces on the extended bench along with last week’s 18th man, Nick Slyney. David Hala, Jordan Kahu and Jarrod Wallace are the three new faces and one of them may just be to cover for the suspension of captain Sam Thaiday. Thaiday was suspended following the “grabbing” incident on the referee. It wasn’t much of an issue, but the rules state that a player must not make contact with the referee at all. The real issue that the Broncos may have is the fact that Luke Bailey committed a similar act in the game against the Panthers. Hala is into the side to cover for the knee injury suffered by David Stagg in the loss to the Storm. The Broncos will be hoping to build on their most recent performance, as they were able to fight back from a 14-point deficit at HT, to really push the Storm to find their best in the closing moment of the game. It was their attack that was firing at different stages but it was again their defense that was letting them down. It seems as thought their defensive structure is still not coming together as they would have liked, but it is still only Round 5 and perhaps they are working towards something that we do not know about.

Recent History

Overall = Titans 4 Broncos 9

Last 5 games = Titans 1 Broncos 4

At Skilled Park = Titans 3 Broncos 3

Stats that matter!

  • Despite conceding 32 points against Melbourne, it was the best defensive effort of the season for them and it was the least amount of tackles they have missed in one game.
  • The Broncos completion rate for the season sits at 74% while the Titans is at 71%
  • The Titans have the second be defense in the competition and concede only 9 points per match, while the Broncos allow their opposition to score 17.

Odds
TAB Sportsbet
= Titans $1.50 Broncos $2.65
Centrebet = Titans $1.57 Broncos $2.45
Sportsbet = Titans $1.57 Broncos $2.45
Betfair= Titans $1.57 Broncos $2.74

Verdict

The “local” derby up in Queensland is proving to be a very difficult contest to pick between. So far this season, we have seen three “traditional” rivalries and the home side has lost all of them. Does that have any substance here? You bet it does! Sides generally lift to face a tougher opponent and a side worth their weight, will always lift to another level beyond that when facing a rival. You can make a case for both side winning this game but the statistics heavily favor the Titans. While the Broncos are improving each week, they are still yet to cement themselves as genuine contenders. This is a game that the Titans should win if they consider themselves a chance of making the finals this season. It will be a tough, low scoring contest though as both sides halves will be pressured and the battle will be in the forwards. Rain is also predicted and that could make scoring even more difficult. Titans to get the win, a low scoring contest and a 1-12 margin.

Suggested Bet
Titans @ $1.57

Tight contest = Titans 1-12 @ $3.10 – The 13+ margin is shorter with the bookies so get in early for this one before the price is slashed due to the rain. Both sides defense’s are also improving and their halves will be pressure.

Cannot make up your mind = Either Team Under 6.5 points (Tri Bet) @ $2.90 – If you’re still uncertain of the result, then back this option. It supports the idea that it will be a close contest and can be good value for a multi bet.

Parramatta Eels v Cronulla Sharks

Time: Saturday 5.30pm
If there is one thing Parramatta fans want more than anything this week, it is for this game to kick off. When it does, it will put to rest the nightmare that was MNF. In case you missed it, the Roosters hammered them 50-nil and it sent alarm bells ringing at Eels headquarters. At first glance, you would’ve thought that the Eels would’ve wanted to put in a strong performance in this match to demonstrate their potential to the rest of the competition. What is alarming for them is that they appear to be on a decline since dominating the Warriors in the opening round of the competition. Luckily, they have a short turn around and can put their most recent performance to rest. It will certainly be a tough task for them as they’re facing a Sharks side that will be looking to bounce back after a “shock” loss in the local derby against the Dragons. When you consider the potential that the Sharks have shown thus far, it certainly was a disappointing performance. Their cause wasn’t aided either after they lost 5/8 Todd Carney early on in the contest and back rower Wade Graham had to move in to fill the vacant 5/8 spot. They looked flat in attack and their usual “flow” was affected. It is interesting to hear that coach Shane Flanagan was happy with Graham’s performance but conceded that he is no longer a 5/8, like he was when he first came to the club. They were ambush by the Dragons and their usual defensive stranglehold was not present. The Dragons played a very physical game that caught the Sharks off-guard a little and their errors continually allowed the Dragons to have the upper hand in the contest. With both sides are looking to redeem their Round 4 performances, this game is going to be very interesting viewing. It is also a great way to start a Saturday night that features two live games of NRL.

Parramatta Eels

There are 50 answers that the Eels have to find heading into this week and it would be very surprising to see them find all 50 in this match. As teams were named on Tuesday and the Eels featured in MNF, it is no surprise to see minimal changes made to this side. No doubt there will be a few late changes made to the side and all you can do is pay attention to the final teams that will be released on my Twitter account (HYPERLINK!!!). Returning to that performance, the Eels were shades of their 2012-self. They were failing to make first up tackles, riddled with errors in attack and unable to gain any momentum through their attack. This can all be pointed back to a lack of effort and application from their team and it is alarming to say the least that this has already surfaced in Round 4. There is perhaps bigger underlying problems within this squad, but they have a chance to put that all to rest here. It will not be easy for them though, they have to break down a Sharks defense that has only conceded 13.25 points per match.

Cronulla Sharks

The big news for the Sharks heading into this week is the injury to Todd Carney. He was carried off the field early on against the Dragons and it seemed to really affect their attack in that game. This week, they have named Chad Townsend to fill this role. Townsend played a minor role in the Sharks halves in recent season but it has been his form in the NSW Cup that has earned him a return. He is turning out MOM performances and bringing in a man in form may make the transition away from Carney a little easier. He will not want to get too comfortable though, it is said that Carney will probably only be out for around 2-3 weeks at the most. Even more encouraging is the fact that the injury sustained was not the Achilles injury that he suffered at the end of last season but a foot injury. Other changes within the squad see’s Nathan Stapleton return to the wing and Jonathan Wright shifted into the centres at the expense of Matthew Wright. Stuart Mills has also been added to an extended bench along with Sam Tagataese so there could be a question mark or two around one of the other outside backs. John Morris remains as the starting hooker and coach Shane Flanagan is showing faith in Morris and rewarding him for his strong performances. It is enough to continue to keep regular hooker, Isaac De Gois on the bench but it is useful to have two hookers that maintain a high intensity throughout the match, to call upon.

Recent History

Overall = Eels 36 Sharks 40

Last 5 games = Eels 2 Sharks 3

At Parramatta Stadium = Eels 9 Sharks 12

Stats that matter

  • The Sharks have the 4th best defense in the league thus far and only average 13.25 points per match.
  • Following their 50-nil thrashing, the Eels now average 27.75 ppm , but it was still high before that at 20.3 ppm.
  • The two times the Sharks have scored first in a match this season, they have gone onto win that match.

Odds

TAB Sportsbet = Eels $2.65 Sharks $1.50
Centrebet = Eels $2.55 Sharks $1.53
Sportsbet = Eels $2.55 Sharks $1.53
Betfair= Eels $2.56 Sharks $1.56

Verdict

You would have to be stupid to tip the Eels the week after they were trounced 50-nil! But it doesn’t seem like a bad plan to follow. They would have had little time to recover and were definitely flogged at training during the week. They are certainly not going to let the same thing happen two weeks in a row. So what am I getting at? I believe that the Sharks will still win this game, but it will not be by a 13+ margin. Although the Eels concede a lot of points, this will be one week where they are trying extremely hard not to. Not only that, the Sharks attack will not be its usual self, following the injury to Todd Carney. Expect to see a different Parramatta side, but they will struggle to get the points in this one.

Suggested Bet

Sharks @ $1.56

Successful Sharkies = Sharks 1-12 @ $3 – Its stated above, the Sharks attack won’t be at its best and the Eels defense will be stronger than ever. There is also some rain predicted and wet weather football may make it even more difficult for this one to get out to a 13+ margin.

First try for success = Sharks Try (First Scoring Play) @ $1.90 – Look at the “Stats that matter!”, when the Sharks score first, they go onto win the match. They’re expected to win and this means that they will have to start the scoring off in this game.

North Queensland Cowboys v Penrith Panthers

Time: Saturday 6.30pm
The second match on Saturday takes place up in the far north of Queensland as the Cowboys look to get their season back on track against a Panthers side that is certainly an improved outfit from last year. The alarm bells are starting to ring up in Townsville as the Cowboys went over to New Zealand last week and were beaten 20-18, handing the Warriors their first win of the season. The scoreline is a little flattering as well as they only scored a late try to close the gap to 2-points. To put their season into perspective, they have only beaten an understrength Bulldogs side at the beginning of the season and maybe the quality they possess within their side isn’t what it seems to be. Or maybe there are even bigger problems at the Cowboys that are yet to surface. It seems every season that a problem in Townsville surfaces and 2013 is no different, but for the sake of their fans and title hopes, they need to find a solution ASAP. If they lose to this Panthers side, then they should hit the panic button as soon as the final whistle blows. As it stands, this Penrith side has nothing to lose. No one was expecting much of them and although they’ve only won one game thus far, they are proven a tough side to beat. They still have a fair way to go, but things are moving in the right direction. Coach Ivan Cleary has a wealth of talent to work with and he is doing a very good job of motivating this side each week. It seems that the Panthers are just playing what is in front of them each week and pushing sides to find that “little bit extra” to get the 2-points. At some stage though, people will begin to question just how well the Panthers are progressing given their 2013 standing. Stay strong Panthers fans! This is a very tricky game and the spotlight will surround the Cowboys performance.

North Queensland Cowboys

The Cowboys would have had very little time to assess their injuries and player fatigue following their MNF trip to NZ. That is why we do not see any changes named from the final side that was named in that game. Anthony Mitchell was withdrawn from that game and Rory Kostjasyn came onto the interchange. Ashley Graham was also out of that game and KalifaFaifai Loa was his replacement. The Warriors sure did make it difficult for him and he does not offer the same stability that Graham does, but they will hope that he can in this game. Michael Morgan is finding his position under a little pressure at the moment and it isn’t made any easier with Robert Lui playing extremely well in the Queensland Cup. It is a little harsh to heap the blame his way as there are plenty of other issues which need addressing before that. The forwards are playing well but only in parts. They are guilty of switching off in crucial parts and not playing for the entire 80 minutes. Matt Bowen is also yet to reach the same level that we all know he is capable of. When these things eventually click for the Cowboys, they are going to reach their potential. For the moment, that mark seems a fair distance away from them.

Penrith Panthers

Panthers coach Ivan Cleary has made a very big call this week in dropping halfback Luke Walsh from the side and recalling Blake Austin up to the side. Austin is a very talented player but Walsh can consider himself very unlucky to be left out of the side. He was doing his job on the field but obviously not up to the standard that Cleary has set for his squad. Austin also put in a very good performance for the Windsor Wolves last week in one of the televised NSW Cups games. Having seen him play, he is definitely more of a 5/8 but only time will tell with his new role. The other change to the side see’s Tim Grant move out the starting side and back to the bench, swapping with Nigel Plum who is being rewarded for strong defensive play. The Panthers can take some confidence away from their defensive performance against Titans; it was only a late try that pushed the margin out to 18 points.

Recent History

Overall = Cowboys 12 Panthers 17

Last 5 games = Cowboys 3 Panthers 2

At 1300Smile Stadium = Cowboys 6 Panthers 9

Stats that matter

  • The Panthers (-18) have a better points difference than the Cowboys (-40) but the Cowboys have concede less points per game (25.4) than the Panthers (27.5).
  • The Panthers (70%) have a better completion rate than the Cowboys (66.4%).
  • The Cowboys average less missed tackles per match at 23.5, while the Panthers average a whopping 33 per game.

Odds
TAB Sportsbet
= Cowboys $1.23 Panthers $4.25
Centrebet = Cowboys $1.22 Panthers $4.40
Sportsbet = Cowboys $1.23 Panthers $4.30
Betfair= Cowboys $1.27 Panthers $4.40

Verdict

There is a reason why the Cowboys are so short in this game, and it is mainly reflective of the Penrith side rather than their great play. It is no secret, the Cowboys have been struggling since they announced JT had signed on with them. That is not the reason, but for those thinking back to when it was, it was between Round 1 and 2. The Cowboys will also struggle following their trip back to from NZ and the Panthers will have had extra time to recover. Be careful when selecting this game, but the fact that the Cowboys are returning home should give them the edge in this one. As for the margin, it is tough to settle on one as this game is very unpredictable. The Cowboys have struggled to score points all season and the Panther are a side that is not going to lie down easily, so back 1-12.

Suggested Bet

Cowboys/Cowboys (HT/FT) @ $1.48

Score a winner = Cowboys Try (First scoring play) @ $1.70 – They need to start this game well and the Cowboys will want to do that with a try. Given the high amount of tries that the Panthers let in, this outcome is highly likely.

Linnett to the line = Kane Linnett FTS @ $11 – Yes I do recommend this player a fair bit, but I do like the attacking ability of the left side of the field for the Cowboys. This week, he will face Wes Naiqama and his defensive ability is always being questioned. Still yet to prove himself and the Cowboys may target this one early.

New Zealand Warriors v South Sydney Rabbitohs

Super Sunday returns to the fold this week as 3 games return to cure that Sunday afternoon itch. This week, proceedings will kick off over in New Zealand as the undefeated Rabbitohs look to continue on their great early season form against the Warriors. The Warriors will be full of confidence after they were able to score 20-unanswered points to overcome the Cowboys last week. This game will also be the first time that they have played two games “back-to-back” at home this season. It does seem like a minor issue, but the distance that these guys chalk up must become overwhelming at some point. More importantly, they broke their “scoreless first half” drought when they crossed the line in the 39th minute. That win also marked the end of an 11-game losing streak that stretched back into 2012. To put things into perspective though, they still have a long way to go before they change the fans opinion of them, but it certainly was a good point to start. They will have their work cut out for them this week as they face a Rabbitohs side that is yet to taste defeat. Last week, the Rabbitohs surprised a lot of people with their gritty victory over the Bulldogs. After conceding 32 points the week before, the Rabbitohs were able to limit the Bulldogs to just 12, while also playing some very tough football. Their forwards were dynamic and damaging in defence; and their outside backs were able to get on the end of some exciting backline moves to add points to the scoreboard. At the moment, things are moving along very nicely for the Rabbitohs, but teams are starting to figure them out. Amazingly, their halves are not being pressured as much as they need to be if their opponents want to put themselves in a winning position. A lot of this comes down to winning the battle over the strong Rabbitohs pack and not many teams will be able to do that. Coach Michael Maguire has also issued his squad several notices about their performance and doing their job on the field. He has had no hesitation in recent weeks in dropping players who “were not doing what was required of them in this team”. It certainly creates a very competitive environment and one that should eventually breed success.

New Zealand Warriors

As mentioned above, the Warriors are on a high and will be hoping that things can only get better. There is only one change to the team that took the field last week and that includes Feleti Mateo. He moves from the bench into the starting side, to partner Simon Mannering. As a result, Ben Henry moves back to the bench and will definitely offer impact when he takes the field. Coach Matthew Elliot has also made a few changes on the bench, which includes the naming of star winger Manu Vatuvei. Glen Fisiiahi and SebastneIkahihifo also join him; Elijah Taylor replaces Ikahihifo on the bench. The Warriors received some good news heading into the game against the Cowboys, with hooker Nathan Friend returning form injury. He offers greater stability to the Warriors around the ruck and will certainly get them moving in the right direction in attack and greater strength in defence. At the end of the day though, it will take a contribution of the entire forwards to get them moving in the right direction.

South Sydney Rabbitohs

Coach Michael Maguire is continually putting his entire squad on notice and this week’s selection proves that no one is safe. The captain, Michael Crocker has been relegated to 18th man. Dave Tyrrell, who will play in the front row, takes his spot in the starting side. Sam Burgess moves from the front row and back to lock. Many of the “good judges” in and around the NRL, believe that he was wasted at prop, mainly because playing in the middle of the field. He’s effort was certainly first class, but as he is such a damaging ball runner and he can cause greater worry for players on the edge of the defensive line. Jeff Lima also finds himself back on the bench and Roy Asotasi moves into the starting side at prop. It was revealed a few weeks ago that Asotasi was one of those players who was “not doing his job”, but has obviously worked hard and has been rewarded. Again, Justin Hunt and Jason Clarke are extra’s and will probably miss out, but you think that they will have to get some game time sooner or later.

Recent History

Overall = Warriors 18 Rabbitohs 7

Last 5 games =Warriors 4 Rabbitohs 1

At Mt Smart Stadium = Warriors 9 Rabbitohs 4

Stats that matter

  • The Warriors have only scored a total of 6 points in the first half all season.
  • Despite conceding 32 points against the Panthers, in the other three games, the Rabbitohs have let in a maximum of 12 points.
  • The Warriors average 12 errors a match while the Rabbitohs average a high 9.8.
  • The Rabbitohs are stronger in carrying the ball and they average 9.3m per carry while the Warriors are a little less at 8.5m.

Odds
TAB Sportsbet
= Warriors Rabbitohs
Centrebet = Warriors $3.30 Rabbitohs $1.35
Sportsbet = Warriors $3.30 Rabbitohs $1.35
Betfair= Warriors $3.60 Rabbitohs $1.37

Verdict

The Rabbitohs are flying high at the moment in the NRL but sooner or later they’re going to suffer a loss. If you look at the history between these two sides, the Warriors are certainly a “bogey-team” for the Rabbits. Yet with the new culture in full swing at Redfern, that history should be a thing of the past. This current crop of players seems to be getting better each week; and is finding out that they are capable of taking their play to another level when they’re pushed. Also, the Warriors have not had the best start to the season and a recent win over the Cowboys is not going to be enough to sway my opinion in their favor. The Rabbitohs should be too strong in this contest, and show the Warriors what it takes to be a contender this season. As for a margin, the potential point scoring capabilities of the Rabbitohs suggest that this game is going to get out to 13+ margin for them.

Suggested Bet
Rabbitohs -8.5 @ $1.90

Points galore = Rabbitohs 13+ @ $2.30 – The Rabbitohs are capable of scoring a lot more points than the Warriors are and the amount of errors they commit a game will give the Rabbitohs extra ball, which means greater opportunities to score points.

Starting with fire = Rabbitohs Try (FSP) @ $1.70 – The Warriors have only scored 1 try in the first half this season, which suggests that the Rabbitohs will be the first side to get across the paint here.

St George-Illawarra Dragons v Newcastle Knights

The “main game” this Sunday features two teams that have a lot riding on this clash. It may seem calm on the surface, but below it, the legs are moving like a panicking duck! Two seasons ago, the Dragons said goodbye to Wayne Bennett and the premiership success he had given them. They were now venturing into “unchartered” territory and no one knew what to expect from them. Steve Price took over and the problems had not yet surfaced, as they had retained a core group of players that had got the job done for them in the past. But now things have changed! Ben Hornby and Dean Young have retired and their inexperienced coach, Steve Price was beginning to feel the pinch. By no means is it completely his fault, some of the blame does have to fall on the players and the pressure was beginning to mount. That was all before the Dragons faced their rivals in the Sharks. Once the fulltime whistle went, the Dragons fans collectively sighed in relief as their first win of this season had been registered. Not only that, they had beaten a rival in a “tough contest”. Nonetheless, like the Knights, they still have a long way to go before they are considered genuine contenders. Having only dropped one game this season, you would be wrong for thinking the Knights have had a bad season. Yet it is the unpredictability of their play that has fans so worried about which Newcastle team will turn out each weekend. With all the experience that coach Bennett brings to this side, you think this sort of play would be beyond them. As time goes on, people change and so do coaches, perhaps Bennett has a new “formula” to breed success at the Knights. The recent run of home games to start the season is sure to help them and they are going to face a few tough weeks when playing away from home. This game has a lot of storylines running through it. This current crop of Dragons players is a side that will be egger to take down their former coach, while the new “team”, in the Knights, will want to prove a point. The Knights also have a few former Dragons players that chose to leave them to be coached by Bennett. There is a reason why this match is the main game, so make sure you can watch it.

St George-Illawarra Dragons

There is no change to the starting 13 that took the field against the Sharks and the side that was originally named wasn’t the same either. It was a mixture of good and bad news as well as Chase Stanley was a late inclusion into the centres but they had to omit Michael Weyman. Unfortunately, they have lost him until Round 8 with a knee injury. His place in the side this week is taken by Jack Stockwell and Leeson Ah Mau replaces him on the bench. There are two new faces this week on the extended bench who are unlikely to get a start. They are Jack de Belin and Michael Henderson. They are to cover for a late injury and can even give coach Steve Price the luxury of surprising the Knights with different looking side or a player they weren’t expecting. Jamie Soward was a much better player last week and it he needs to continually play at that level for the Dragons to get the most out of him. Special mention has to go to Jason Nightingale for his try scoring efforts last week. At the end of the day, it was his performance that got them over the line and he is getting back to the form that saw him selected for NZ. If you haven’t seen them yet, you can view them here. Lastly, they could not have gotten the job done last week without the play of their forwards, namely Trent Merrin and Dan Hunt. These guys have been great all season carrying the ball forward and looking for an offload to create some second phase play.

Newcastle Knights

Going into the Raiders game, the Knights were boosted by a few late inclusions, most notably was Kurt Gidley. Gidley is one of the best players in the competition, yet due to his durability, he is unable to cement his position in the side. Common sense has prevailed, and Bennett has placed him in the starting hooker position. As a results, veteran Danny Buderus has been moved back to the bench. Gidley can be utilized in a number of roles and having this option must be a luxury for Bennett. Willie Mason also finds his way back into the starting side and David Fa’alogo is relegated to the bench. Unfortunately, Korbin Sims departs and he will have to wait a little longer to make the same mark that his brothers have, on the NRL.

Recent History

Overall = Dragons 17 Knights 9

Last 5 games = Dragons 4 Knights 1

At WIN Jubilee Oval = Dragons 2 Knights 3

Stats that matter

  • The Knights only manage 18.5 missed tackles per match, while the Dragons average 25.5.
  • The Dragons average more metres per run at 9.1, whilst the Knights are around 8.5m per carry.
  • The Knights were hammered 32-0 in Round 2, but despite that, they still average 15 opposition points per game, whereas the Dragons sit at 23.5.

Odds
TAB Sportsbet = Dragons $2.30 Knights $1.63
Centrebet = Dragons $2.25 Knights $1.67
Sportsbet = Dragons $2.18 Knights $1.70
Betfair = Dragons $2.40 Knights $1.70

Verdict

The unpredictability of the Knights really does make this game difficult to select. You cannot tip them with confidence at this stage and if the Dragons play like they did last game, it could be very difficult for the Knights to get the win. This game has so many story lines and be sure that the Dragons will want to get a win over the old coach. It is interesting to note that when these two sides met last year, the Dragons won both games. This contest is set to be a tough one, and proving even tougher to tip. But I am going to tip the Knights because the statistics suggest that the Knights will concede fewer points than them. Plus, the attacking ability of the Knights is better and that the force the Dragons line into making mistakes and create line breaks. Given the nature of this game, a 1-12 margin seems like the logical selection.

Suggested Bet
Knights @ $1.70

Close game, close margin = Knights 1-12 @ $3.10 – It is stated above, this game will be close and the 1-12 margin seems like the best choice. Even though the Knights are capable of scoring more points than the Dragons, they will find it a little more difficult here than they did against the Raiders.

A game of two halves = Draw/Knights (HT/FT Double) @ $15 – With a fair bit of emotion riding on this game, it could be an arm wrestle early on. The Knights should prevail in the long run but the Dragons will make it difficult for them to get there. There is plenty of value on offer for this bet!

Canberra Raiders v Sydney Roosters

The final game on Super Sunday will kick off down in the nations capital. The Rooster are a side that is looking better each week. They are in a very difficult position as well, as people are expecting so much from them based on the players that they have recruited. It is fair enough though, they were very vocal about their recruitment powers during the offseason and it seems like it is paying dividends. Yet, nothing is won is April and they need to continue to develop consistency within their play. In recent years, the Raiders never valued consistency, or so it appeared by their play. Alarmingly, they are yet to turn a corner with either. Last week they travelled to Newcastle with confidence on the back of a victory over the Dragons, but the outcome was not what they wanted. They always promise so much, yet deliver so little. Until this changes, fans will be reluctant to tip them. They do have one positive though; their home ground is always a tough place for an opposition side to win at. The Raiders will be hoping this continues and they can break down rock-solid Roosters defence that has not conceded a point in their past two fixtures.

Canberra Raiders

The Raiders have a host of injury worries heading into this game and that was following a very physical contest with the Knights. Blake Ferguson is out of this game with a fractured cheekbone and he is not expected to return until Round 11. Jack Wighton, who sifts in from the wing, takes his spot in the centres and the new face on the edge is flyer Edrick Lee. There are a few other players under injury clouds and the final make up of the team may not be clear until an hour before kick off. The best thing to do would be to pay attention to my Titter feed. There is one shining light for the Raiders and that is Joel Thompson returning form injury and he is slotted straight back into the starting side in the second row. Joel Edwards makes way and moves back to the bench and Joe Picker is dropped from the team altogether. The last change is Shaun Berrigan out of the team and Matt McIlwrick fills the utility role. The Raiders need to take it to the Roosters early on in this contest and they have the attacking ability, they just need to ensure that they play error-free football and can finish off when it matters most.

Sydney Roosters

Backing up from MNF, the Roosters have had little time to assess their injuries before naming this team. A few things have changed though and they are involved with the forwards. Frank-Paul Nuuausala suffered a knee injury in the win over the Eels and has been ruled out for an indefinite amount of time. Boyd Cordner moves from the second row to lock and the new face to partner SBW is Mitchell Aubusson. Aubusson is promoted from the bench and the replacing him there is Isaac Liu. It is interesting to note that Luke O’Donnell returns as 18th man for this game. It was only last week that O’Donnell was dropped from the side altogether due to disciplinary reasons and it seems like he has learnt his lesson and coach Trent Robinson wants him back in the side sooner rather than later. As we are leading closer to SOO, a lot of questions are being asked about the halves that will be selected to pull on the blue jersey. Mitchell Pearce is the incumbent number 7, yet there is a lot of pressure on him at the moment from Adam Reynolds. He is getting better with each performance and having James Maloney at 5/8 is really helping his development. Watch this space because these two halves are also the key to the Roosters success.

Recent History

Overall = Raiders 24 Roosters 29

Last 5 games = Raiders 2 Roosters 3

At Canberra Stadium = Raiders 10 Roosters 6

Stats that matter

  • The Roosters have not conceded a point in their last two games.
  • The Raiders only average 2.75 line breaks per game while the Roosters average 7.25.
  • The Roosters will have a better defence, they average 20.3 missed tackles per match while the Raiders are far worse at 29 per game.

Odds
TAB Sportsbet = Raiders $2.85 Roosters $1.45
Centrebet = Raiders $2.75 Roosters $1.47
Sportsbet = Raiders $2.85 Roosters $1.45
Betfair = Raiders $2.88 Roosters $1.50

Verdict

This is another tricky game to select. The Roosters seem the logical choice based on their form so far this season. While the Raiders haven’t exactly set the world on fire, they are returning home where they always lift to another level. The Roosters are also backing up from MNF, which could cause fatigue to kick in towards the end of this contest. But if you were going to take the Raiders, you would be selecting them on trust and that is a situation you never want to get into either. The Roosters should get the job done here and based on the statistics above; it should be a 13+ margin. The Roosters have a superior defensive structure, while the Raiders wont trouble the strong Roosters line as they only average 2.75 line breaks a game.

Suggested Bet
Roosters -5.5 @ $1.75

Plus the points = Roosters 13+ @ $2.60 – All the information is written above in the “Verdict”. They will be too strong for the Raiders and the stats suggest that they will be able to put a fair few points past them, while not being troubled too much by the flat Raiders attack.

Tri your luck = Roosters Over 6.5 points @ $1.90 – When compared to the line, it is a little puzzling how you can get more value on this bet when the difference is only 1 point. The only issue here is that you’re relying on the Roosters winning by more than a converted try.

Melbourne Storm v Wests Tigers

Formalities resume as MNF returns to one game. The Storm are the hosts and it will be a Tigers team that is searching for answers, which will have to face them. At the moment, they have numerous questions that they need answered. No doubt they will remain that way as they have to beat an undefeated side and a side that is firing! Last week, the Storm were pushed a little more than they would’ve liked, but it was their class that got them through in the end. The Broncos were gallant and at one point, looked as though they might just get the 2-points. That was not to be and the Storm remain undefeated. If this clash were a few years ago, many people would be looking forward to it as the Tigers were flying high. In 2013, they’re not travelling as well and the alarm bells are ringing. Last week, they were hammered 26-nil by the Sea Eagles and many people were suggesting that based on that performance, the Tigers would finish at the wrong end of the table. Although with the quality players they have, you can never count them out. This game may not have a lot of hype around it and seem like a forgone conclusion, but rugby league is a very strange game at times. Maybe you can just sit down and enjoy this game for what it is and maybe try to jag a winner from it.

Melbourne Storm

There is only one change this week to the Melbourne side and it is not a major one as it occurs on the bench. Siosaia Vave is moved from 18th man and into the starting side at the expense of Slade Griffin. Griffin is the new 18th man and he is also joined by Junior Moors, who is named as 19th man. No doubt, they will be the two players that are left out of this game. It is mentioned above that the Storms class got them through the Broncos game. Well it is easy to know where that comes from, the “Big 3” are always front and centre. But as I mentioned last week, they still need the rest of their team doing their job around them. This is happening at the moment and it makes them very difficult to handle. They know what has to be done and it is some special when you see them in full flight.

Wests Tigers

The Tigers shocked everyone this week as they named Braith Anasta at halfback. I cannot remember the last time he played there and even though they needed a shake up after their failed to score a point, I don’t think he is the answer for them. Miller has been dropped back to the NSW Cup and will be given a chance down there to develop and improve his play. Anasta does bring experience into the side, so maybe that is the angle that the Tigers are aiming for. If anything, they need a player that directs the team around the field and allows Marshall and Farrah to finish the rest off. Many people also believe that Tim Moltzen should be moved into the 7 jersey and they should play James Tedesco at fullback. No doubt that will probably be their next move but for now, the “Anasta experiment” seems like they’re clutching at straws. Covering for Anasta in the second row is Bodene Thompson. James Tedesco is also named this week, after being a late inclusion last week for Matt Utai. Tedesco is a very talented player but he is looking a little out of position on the wing. Those are the only changes, as the bench remains the same, with no extra players named outside the 17.

Recent History

Overall = Storm 14 Tigers 8

Last 5 games = Storm 3 Tigers 2

At AAMI Stadium = Storm 0 Tigers 1

Stats that matter

  • The Tigers defense concedes an average of 26 points per match and the class is evident as the Storm only allow 16.
  • This is probably because the Storm only miss 24.2 tackles per game whereas the Tigers miss 30.5.
  • The Storm carry the ball very well and have an average 9.2m per carry while the Tigers are definitely lower at 8.4m.

Odds
TAB Sportsbet = Storm $1.14 Tigers $6.00
Centrebet = Storm $1.17 Tigers $5.25
Sportsbet = Storm $1.14 Tigers $6.00
Betfair = Storm $1.18 Tigers $6.00

Verdict

You have to be all over the Storm in this game. The Tigers have several problems to contend with and the way the Storm are playing at the moment, a loss looks to be a distant thought. There isn’t too much else you can write about this game. They out point the Tigers in every area of the field, it will just be deciding on a margin that could be difficult. The Tigers will be out to improve their defensive play after last week, but they also need to score points. They were scoreless last week and it will be tough for them to break down the Storm here also. Based upon that, the 13+ option looks like the suitable choice.

Suggested Bet
Storm 13+ @ $1.75

Go for a little more = Storm -14.5 points @ $1.90 – They will only have to score 2 more points than their 13+ margin to get this bet over the line. If you are confident that the Storm can get there, then select this option and grab a little more value.

Never fear, Duff-man is here = Matt Duffie FTS @ $8 – The Storm love to kick to their wingers and Duffie certainly can jump high for the ball. If they get into a good attacking position, the Storm will look for him to be on the end of one of their kicks or finish off a backline movement. The price offered is also value when you consider the players he is up against.

Good luck!
Scooby

Author

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Scooby

Hey guys, i'm Scooby! I have followed Rugby League since I was young enough to watch it and growing up in Sydney, it was inevitable. I will always make it my business to watch all 8 NRL fixtures per week and follow it with more than just passion. During my playing career, I have played at several representative levels, with and against current players. I began writing previews on NRL games early on in 2012 and really found a passion within this. I enjoy listening to various people and their opinions on the game, and then forming my own. Coupled together with another passion, gambling, I soon learnt that there was a market out there for more than the rugby league diehards. Hopefully I can pass on my knowledge of the game to help you win some cash.

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