Last week we saw some fantastic action which begun on ANZAC Day, but the “normal” two Friday night games returns to our screen this week. Round 8 does have a lot of expectation to live up to though, as Round 7 was jam packed with tough contests, big hits and some fantastic rugby league. There were also some dull games, however watching a dull game of rugby league beats a day at work any time it is compared together.
Brisbane Broncos v South Sydney Rabbitohs
The Rabbitohs have a 7-day back up to contend with here and will need every chance to recover from a bruising encounter against the Sea Eagles. It was certainly a highlight of last week’s action and it really cemented them as genuine contenders for the 2013 title. The job for them now is maintaining the high standard they have set for themselves and continue that on for the remainder of the season. It has been a long time coming for their fans and the result was pleasing to say the least. It was a performance that was uncharacteristic of past Rabbitohs teams. They had a high completion rate (78.3%) and limited the Sea Eagles to just 12 points when their season average coming into this game was 23.2 per game. More importantly, they were able to get out to a lead (20-nil) and defend it until the end of the game. The same cannot be said for the Broncos though who were pushed a little more than they would’ve liked against the Tigers. They shot out to a 14-nil lead, yet only won the game 20-10 after it was sealed with a Justin Hodges try in the 75th minute. They weren’t facing full-strength Tigers side either and as the game went on, they were further weakened by injuries. There is still the question mark that hovers above their head in attack and it was frustrating to see how they would execute their 6th tackle options. You got the sense that they were relying more on individual play to score them points rather than team cohesion. These are further challenges that coach Anthony Griffin has to deal with if they are to push their case for a spot in the Finals. There is a reason why this game is going to be shown live on Channel 9 into both states and you should make it your business to watch it. Even if you don’t support either side, maybe this preview could entice you to outlay some money on the game and you could be able to profit from it.
As he has done for majority of the season, coach Anthony Griffin has named an unchanged lineup for this match. The only difference is the disappearance of the 18th man, Nick Slyney. This has demonstrated that Griffin is prepared to back his halves in their pursuit for success. Unfortunately, they are struggling to put together a complete performance and the faith he is showing in his players may be his undoing. As mentioned above, they started extremely well but were unable to go on with the task. A lot of this fell down because of their lack of creativity and inability to mount pressure on their opponents at the end of their attacking sets. They have a strong forward pack and talented outside backs and the halves should be the link between the two. When this doesn’t happen, their talent becomes isolated on the field and their momentum is affected. Perhaps Griffin’s persistence and confidence may pay off, but for now, it is not serving them too well and they need to kick start this combination.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
There is no need for coach Michael Maguire to change his side after their great performance last week and there is no change to the 17 that took the field. In case you missed it, Jeff Lima was a late withdrawal from the side and his replacement was Jason Clark. Lima has been moved back to 18th man and Clark is named on the bench. The Rabbitohs have also named a 19th man this week and that will be Justin Hunt. He is likely to miss out but will also cover from a late injury to Beau Champion. It is interesting to note that Michael Crocker has disappeared from this side altogether and the word coming out of the Rabbitohs camp is that he is having trouble training because of his knees and he may find it difficult to break back into the top side. He will no doubt prove to be a great asset around the club though as he has played in two grand final winning teams and will be a useful mentor to the younger players in the squad. Adam Reynolds will be the beneficiary of this and it is important to keep his play moving in the right direction. He is proving himself each week and surprising a lot of people with his leadership of this side. He is second only to Cooper Cronk in try assits and has one of the best kicking games in the competition. He takes a lot of pressure off Inglis and their other players and allows them to do their job. Another strong performance could get him that little closer to a NSW SOO jersey.
Overall = Broncos 21 Draw 1 Rabbitohs 5
Last 5 games = Broncos 4 Rabbitohs 1
At Suncorp Stadium = Broncos 9 Rabbitohs 2
Stats that matter
- This game is promising to be a high quality contest as they are ranked 1st and 2nd in the league for completion rate. The Broncos (76.7%) have dropped since the first 5 Rounds of the competition whereas the Rabbitohs (76.2%) are a side on the rise (73.6% in Rounds 1 – 5, 81.5% in Rounds 6 & 7).
- The Rabbitohs forward pack is proving difficult to handle and they are ranked 5th overall for metres gained per carry (9.03m). The Broncos have a capable pack of forwards but are not reaching the same heights at this stage (8.47m and 14th overall).
- The Rabbitohs are having no difficulty scoring points and average 22.4 points per match (4th overall). They have attacking threats all over the field and have a pair of halves who are also threatening with their kicks. The same cannot be said for the Broncos who are a fair way behind their opponents with 18 points per match (9th overall).
TAB Sportsbet = Broncos $2.40 Rabbitohs $1.60
Centrebet = Broncos $2.40 Rabbitohs $1.60
Sportsbet = Broncos $2.40 Rabbitohs $1.60
Betfair= Broncos $2.46 Rabbitohs $1.63
You would expect the Rabbitohs to follow up on their dominating performance against the Sea Eagles and easily handle the Broncos here. It may not be as straight forward as that though and the Bunnies may just have to work even harder for the victory here. The Broncos always lift to another level when they are playing at home and this game should be no different for them. At the end of the day though, the Broncos are yet to click into gear and the Rabbitohs are producing exciting, effective and powerful football each week. They will be working hard to ensure that they continue to play for 80 minutes and limit the amount of mistakes that are within their play. For the Broncos to win, they need to improve the ends to their attacking sets and that looks as though it could take a little longer than most people thought. As for a margin, this game should be closer than most think and the most likely outcome would be a 1-12 margin.
Rabbitohs -3.5 @ $1.80
An impact last week = Rabbitohs 1-12 @ $2.85 – The Rabbitohs had a tough game last week against the Sea Eagles and you need to be wary of the impact that will have on their performance this week. They may not be at their peak and could play down to the Broncos level. This option also ensures a good, close game.
Te’o to show the Bronc’s what they’re missing = Ben Te’o to score a try @ $3.50 – This is an exotic bet but having not crossed for a try this season, this could be the best opportunity he has against his old side. He has taken his play to the next level this season and he will be set for a big game to prove his worth.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs v Wests Tigers
Due to the fortunes of both sides so far this season, this game has not drawn the same amount of interest as the “other” Friday Night Football game. Nonetheless, it is still a competition game, points are on the line and both sides are desperate to get their season moving in the right direction. For the Bulldogs, they will want to build on the impetus they developed in their win against the Sharks. It was a long time coming for them and as they were not winning matches, the statistics were showing that they were not far away. Of course, they do not get the 2-points and coach Des Hasler wanted to see a greater level of effort on the field. It certainly wasn’t a polished performance by any means and the Sharks were responsible for “bombing” several scoring opportunities. Had they’ve been successful; it could have been a different outcome to the match. They still have several factors to fix and this will come as their squad slowly returns to full strength. The story is completely different for the Tigers as they will be extremely lucky if they were to have their full squad back by seasons end. The injuries were compounded further when they lost Tim Moltzen, Blake Ayshford and Chris Lawerence within 80 minutes. For the Tigers, this next 8 weeks or so are going to be very difficult and the backbone of the club is going to be tested. It may be a good chance for them to “blood” some youngsters within their junior program but at the end of the day, this is the NRL and it is a big step up for them. Then again, they will have a few plans in place to overcome this and this game is going to be a good measure of where they are. A few more poor performances and they can say goodbye to their chance at the Finals. This game will be a delayed telecast and you probably won’t want to sit through the entire contest. Either way, you are still able to win some money and should have a better idea of who to pick after this preview.
The big news for Bulldogs fans this week is the return of James Graham from a lengthy suspension. The image of him biting Billy Slater on the ear is still fresh in a lot of fans memories and he has served his time. He is a very talented player and was a key to the success of the Bulldogs last season. Most people are willing to forgive him for that “brain explosion” and hopefully he can now focus on boosting the stocks of the Canterbury-Bankstown forwards. Graham’s inclusion to the side means that Tim Browne is relegated to 18th man and David Klemmer misses out on selection altogether. Hasler has also rewarded the recent form of Frank Pritchard and promoted him to the starting side. He turned in a very dominating display for the Kiwis in the ANZAC Test and was able to carry on with that against the Sharks. He is another leader of this pack and is vital that he gets the rest of the players going. Josh Jackson finds himself making way for Pritchard, but he is certainly not being dropped for his performance. Hasler will look to use him in a new role and offer greater defensive strength coming off the bench. Hasler has also persisted with Trent Hodkinson at halfback and he looks to be playing with more confidence, the longer he plays in the top grade. Hopefully for the Dogs, the time he is spending on the field is building a combination with 5/8 Josh Reynolds.
The Tigers are at “6s & 7s” this week as they try to deal with a horrific injury toll. It was certainly disappointing to see the injuries that were suffered and you never like having players sit on the sideline for an extended period of time due to no fault of their own. So this week coach Mick Potter is going to have to dig deeper into his already depleted squad to look to form a suitable first grade side. Centres Blake Ayshford and Chris Lawrence are out of this game both through leg injuries. Joel Reddy moves from the wing to the centres and will now partner Bodene Thompson who moves from the back row. He has limited experience there an may be a target for speedy outside backs, but he is strong in defence and Potter will be hoping that he can tighten up the edge for them. In some good news for the Tigers, Marika Koroibete returns from injury and will take Reddy’s place on the wing. This young Fijian-flyer is certainly talented and will look to build upon his early season form, while still ultimately learning the game. Jacob Miller is returns to the side this week at 7 and will replace Tim Moltzen who has ruptured his ACL and is gone for the remainder of the season. Miller was given the first chance at the halfback role but was unable to make it his own. His was dropped back to NSW Cup and hopefully he returns to this side with renewed confidence. For the forwards, Matt Bell was a late withdrawal from last weeks match and he is out of this game altogether. Shaun Spence is promoted from the bench to play lock, as is Liam Fulton, who will take the vacant second row spot left by Thompson. The new faces on the bench are Suaso Sue and Tim Simona, while Ava Seumanufagai is named as 18th man. Potter may spring a late surprise or two but you would think this is unlikely with the squads depth already being tested.
Overall = Bulldogs 15 Tigers 9
Last 5 games = Bulldogs 4 Tigers 1
At ANZ Stadium = Bulldogs 7 Tigers 5
Stats that matter
- The Tigers are really lacking strength within their forwards and it is evident with the metres per carry. They are ranked 16th in the league and only average 8.39m each time they handle the ball. However the Bulldogs are not much better and can relate to the Tigers in missing key players. They are ranked 15th overall and only average 8.43m.
- The Bulldogs are improving their defence each week and are now only averaging 21.9 missed tackle per match (=4th). This should only improve the Bulldogs as they return to full strength, but the same cannot be said for the Tigers. They are ranked 15th and their loose defence misses an average 28.9 tackles per game.
- The last thing you want to do in close games is give the opposition extra attacking opportunities at the line. The Tigers have the worse discipline out of any side in the competition and concede an average of 8.7 penalties per match. The Bulldogs have Hasler keeping them under a tight rein and they are far better and ranked in 5th spot with just 5.6 per match.
TAB Sportsbet = Bulldogs $1.15 Tigers $5.75
Centrebet = Bulldogs $1.17 Tigers $5.25
Sportsbet = Bulldogs $1.16 Tigers $5.50
Betfair= Bulldogs $1.18 Tigers $6.20
It is no surprise to see the Tigers so long in the markets but it’s a reflection on their injury woes and the quality of players they have brought into the side. When you think about it though, the Tigers are going to thrive on the “underdog” tag and will not worry with the fact that everyone is writing them off. All of the pressure is on the Bulldogs and whether or not they are able to continue on their momentum from their win over the Sharks. It was far from a polished performance by the standards they set for themselves last season. However, they are also boosted by the return of James Graham and the form of several other players is improving. It is very hard to go past them here, but it is difficult deciding on the winning margin. Considering how loose the Tigers are in defence, the Bulldogs should be able to easily handle the Tigers here by a 13+ margin.
Bulldogs -13.5 @ $1.80
The Bulldogs to bounce back to form = Bulldogs 19+ @ $2.30 – As stated above, the Tigers a too loose in defence to hold the Bulldogs to a smaller margin. Given the 13+ margin is only paying $1.70, this option seems more appealing to those punters looking for some value to add to their bet.
1st Try as FTS = Josh Morris FTS @ $8 – Believe it or not, Josh Morris is yet to cross the line this season for a try. It reflects on the attacking weakness of the Bulldogs this season but if you think that he would be a chance to get a try, it would be in this game against a weakened opposition. He could even cross for multiple tries so also consider his as LTS ($8).
Melbourne Storm v Canberra Raiders
Saturday night football takes a trip down to Melbourne this week and will kick off at 5:30pm as the Storm host the Raiders. The Storm have had an extended break between their ANZAC Day game and this one (9 days); and it would’ve been welcomed by many of their representative stars. It could also be welcomed by their entire squad as they have been “on the go” since their RLWCC match in the UK. The stats are showing that they are struggling to be the same clinical side that we have come to know. They are committing simple errors and not being made to pay for their mistakes. This will worry coach Craig Bellamy but when you haven’t had a loss, it will also not be a cause for concern just yet. However it will be when it comes to the business end of the season and they are looking to build a strong case towards the finals. So far this season though, one or more of their “Big 3” are able to get them out of a tough situation. Last week it was a combination of plays from Slater and Cronk that edged out the Warriors and a few weeks earlier against the Broncos both players stood up and were supported greatly by Cameron Smith. For the Raiders, they will have to limit their involvement in the game and play the game at their pace. No one knows the complete winning formula to overcome the Storm but removing the “Big 3” from the attacking movements will no doubt assist them. I am not suggesting any foul play, but maybe targeting them in defence could fatigue them to a level where they are unable to contribute to their usual standard in attack. If they put in the same performance they did last week against the Cowboys, the Raiders are in for a world of pain here. They were loose in defence (29 missed tackles) and had very poor ball security (16 errors). Giving a quality side like the Storm that much possession will never favor the opposition. It’s like beating a drum each week but the Raiders key is playing consistent football. You cannot harp on any more than that because their talent is being wasted with performances like the one we saw last week. Let’s kick off this Saturday night in a great way by looking at this game in detail and trying to win some cash.
There are only a few changes this week to the Storm and it is similar to the side that took the field against the Warriors. Justin O’Neill was a late inclusion as he recovered from injury in time and Junior Sa’u made way for him. O’Neill brings speed to the edge as well as a stronger defensive ability to read opposition attacking movements. It will allow the forwards to work hard knowing they have a capable player on the outside of them to assist when needed. The only other change occurs on the bench and Slade Griffin is promoted (like last week) from 18th man to get a start and Kenneath Bromwich is the new face in that role. These players that he joins are crucial to the success of the Storm. For some years now, we have seen a winning formula built around forwards who just focus on their job of hitting the ball up and being tight in defence. The starting side sets a very high standard and these fellas take the field aiming to emulate that. It can be difficult at times and maybe we will see sides start to target the Storm when their interchange players first come onto the field.
The Raiders are another club that are struggling with injuries to their squad but nowhere near the problems that the Tigers and Titans are having. The big news for the Raiders is the omission of halfback Sam Williams and the inclusion of Terry Campese at 5/8. Campese made a long awaited return from injury in Round 6 and his last two matches have seen him come off the bench. In that time, McCrone was pushed to play hooker but in this case, coach David Furner believes their best chance at winning is when McCrone remains in the halves along with Campese. There are some big wraps for Williams and this may just be the decision that forces him out of this club. Teams like the Dragons, Tigers and Bulldogs would certainly like to have him on their side. Sandor Earl returns to the wing this week after being a late omission to cover for the return of Blake Ferguson. Ferguson is named this week in the centres and he will partner Jack Wighton, as Jarrod Croker has suffered an injury. Their forwards remain the same and the only other changes occur on the bench. Youngster Anthony Milford returns to fill the utility role and he will relish another chance to prove himself in the top grade. Joe Picker also returns and replaces Joel Thompson, while Jarrad Kennedy and Shaun Berrigan are named 18th and 19th man respectively.
Overall = Storm 23 Raiders 8
Last 5 games = Storm 3 Raiders 2
At AMMI Stadium = Storm 1 Raiders 2
Stats that matter
- The Raiders are making things very difficult for themselves this season and their errors are their downfall. They are ranked 15th overall and average a staggering 13.7 errors per match. Surprisingly the Storm are not much better as they are ranked in 12th spot with 12.1 per match.
- The Raiders will have their work cut out for them this week as the Storm are ranked 1st in the league for average attacking points. They average around 26.7 points per match and the Raiders will find it difficult to match as they only average 15.4 points (11th overall).
- The Storm had a terrible completion rate last week against the Warriors (58.9%) and were not punished for their errors. Of course their classy players are able to get them out of these tough situations but they cannot keep relying on them to do that.
TAB Sportsbet = Storm $1.12 Raiders $6.50
Centrebet = Storm $1.15 Raiders $5.75
Sportsbet = Storm $1.14 Raiders $6.00
Betfair= Storm $1.15 Raiders $6.80
The result of this game heavily favors the Storms due to their standing on the table. However the Raiders are so inconsistent, you can actually see them coming out in this game and springing a surprise on them. It has happened in recent years and the Raiders have won 2 of the last 3 contests and have a 66% strike rate at AAMI stadium. I am not suggesting that they are going to cause a boil over because the extra days off that the Storm have had will no doubt ready them for this game. If fatigue was a problem, then it should be now. The Raiders will be more competitive than they were last week and their strong forward pack will look to take the battle to the Storm early. This game is sure to be a tight contest where the Storm should inevitably get the win, but by a smaller margin than most think.
Raiders +18.5 @ $1.80
Smaller margin than most think = Storm 1-12 @ $3.40 – As stated above, the Storm should be pushed in this contest. They were last week against the Warriors and they have been able to capture one more win than them this season. If they can just limit their mistakes, it could become very interesting.
Storming home for victory = Raiders/Storm (HT/FT Double) @ $7.50 – Going very wide with an exotic bet this week and I am banking on the fact that the Raiders will burst out of the blocks and the Storm will come home to get the win. Plenty of value here and the Storm will have to work hard in the second half to ensure this occurs. Maybe also consider Draw/Strom ($21) as scores could very well be locked at HT.
Parramatta Eels v North Queensland Cowboys
For the second time this season, the Eels will look to redeem themselves after a disappointing performance on MNF and it will be the second game this Saturday night. If you were an Eels fan, you would be looking through the calendar to find each of the MNF fixtures and cringing. It has not been kind to them so far but they have also not given themselves the best opportunity at winning games through their lack of application. Against the Panthers, the longer the game went on, the worse their play got. Several players were below par in their performance and team cohesion was a distant thought. It was extremely frustrating for fans but as stated in the season preview, their problems were never going to be solved overnight. In defence of coach Ricky Stuart, this is a side that he inherited from last season and he has not yet had the chance to work with the players that he wants to recruit to this club. Either way, you think that he would still be able to motivate his players enough to turn out a decent performance each week. In Round 6, he hid his side’s capitulation in the second half were hidden behind the “woeful refereeing decisions”; unfortunately, Stuart was not able to do the same here. When you look at the Eels statistics during the game, you can understand why they played so poorly. They didn’t respect possession when they had it (60% completion rate), let their mistakes get the better of them (13 errors) and were again ill disciplined (9 total penalties). For Stuart, it was frustrating to see the simple errors that were made and many were also poor defensive reads. They now sit in 15th spot on the ladder and are dangerously close to returning to the same side that we saw last season. The Cowboys will want to avoid the “bounce-back” from the Eels, which we know what they are capable of and playing at home will make it easier for them. You can forgive the Cowboys though for being distracted this week following the death of 20-year old Alex Elisala on Monday. In tragic circumstances, his life support was switched off following an admission into the Mackay Based Hospital at 5am on Sunday morning. Taken too soon, we are reminded of the fragility of life and our thoughts and prayers are with the Elisala’s family, his friends and the entire North Queensland Cowboys organisation. They will take a lot of inspiration from this youngsters life and his 4-year stint at the club shows just how close he was to breaking into the top grade, especially after receiving his first representative jersey for Samoa in the middle of April. For their play on the field, the Cowboys will want to build upon a strong performance against the Raiders last Saturday. It was a solid performance but they were unable to completely put the Raiders to the sword and close out the game. It wasn’t as if the Raiders were threatening the Cowboys, however to build momentum, the Cowboys needed a polished performance. It seems that their representative stars are now coming into their own and are pushing their case for selection in SOO in a few weeks time. The Cowboys are going to be the greatest beneficiary of this and with the talent they possess, you would expect nothing less of a high standard. This game is going to be another emotional match and for the Eels players, the memory of the “Johnny Mannah Cup” will be fresh in their minds. Hopefully the game is a fitting honor to another life that has been taken too early.
It is no surprise to see Ricky Stuart wield the axe and he has sent a message to his squad that their effortless performances will no longer be tolerated. Jacob Loko (injury), Tim Mannah (injury), Ben Smith (dropped) and Ben Roberts (dropped) are all out of this game. Api Pewhairangi comes into the side to replace Loko in the centres and he has a chance to cement his spot in the NRL as Loko is out for an extended period of time due to a knee injury. Fuifui Moimoi returns from a one game suspension to replace Mannah and slots straight back into the starting side. Joseph Paulo is promoted to the starting side and will replace Smith at lock. Peni Terepo is onto the bench to cover for Paulo’s promotion and Kaysa Pritchard is also onto the bench to cover for Roberts. Pritchard, Terepo and Pewhairangi will all make their NRL debuts in this match. It is obvious that Stuart is going to reward the youngsters within the Eels junior program and perhaps tap into the talent that they posses. It is no secret that a fresh face to the NRL will want to make his mark on the competition but one thing they cannot bring is experience. Lucky for them and their development, there will be minimal pressure on their shoulders and hopefully we will see a strong performance from all three of them. Despite this, the Eels still need their stars to lift and start contributing to the side on a consistent basis. Otherwise, many people will begin to question their worth to this club and organisation. Remember folks, Stuart does not have the side that he wants just yet, so be patient and you may have to endure a few more tough outings before the tide will start to turn.
North Queensland Cowboys
Following a strong performance against the Raiders, Cowboys coach Neil Henry has only made two changes to the side. Winger Antonio Winterstein is out for an indefinite period of time with a groin injury and Kalifa Faifai Loa replaces him. Of course, this was one of the late changes against the Raiders so the transition should be made easy. The other change is the “relegation” of Jason Taumalolo to 19th man and the inclusion of Joel Riethmuller in jersey 17. He was a late inclusion into the side last week to cover for the withdrawal of Dallas Johnson, but he is named this week and should take his place in the starting side. Ashton Sims is again named as 18th man, however will probably miss out on selection in this game. Last week saw the return of Matt Bowen to the side and there is no doubt that this is a benefit to the Cowboys attacking ability. He relieves a lot of pressure off JT and can be a second or third option in their sets. It is interesting to note that Robert Lui is due back from injury next week so this may be the last opportunity for halfback Matthew Morgan to prove his case for a regular starting spot. Expect him to have a big game to make the decision that Neil Henry has to make, very difficult.
Overall = Eels 16 Draw 1 Cowboys 11
Last 5 games = Eels 3 Cowboys 2
At Parramatta Stadium = Eels 11 Cowboys 4
Stats that matter
- The Eels are having a real problem with their discipline and average 7.6 penalties per match (15th overall). Coach Ricky Stuart did raise the issue a few weeks ago but his players are doing themselves no favors.
- The Cowboys are always a threat with the ball in hand and average 5.4 line breaks per match (3rd overall). The problem for them is hanging onto the ball long enough to allow this to happen. Their completion rate is terrible (69.1% – 12th overall) and their errors (12.6 – 14th overall) are hampering their attacking potential.
- It was well documented that the Eels were woeful against the Panthers but the stats suggest why. Their completion rate was just 60% and they committed 13 total errors.
TAB Sportsbet = Eels $3.00 Cowboys $1.40
Centrebet = Eels $3.00 Cowboys $1.41
Sportsbet = Eels $2.95 Cowboys $1.42
Betfair= Eels $3.35 Cowboys $1.39
Common sense suggests the Cowboys, but a lot of people will be quick to remind people of how well the Eels bounced back following the heavy loss over the Roosters. Don’t buy into that theory for a second! When they faced the Sharks, they were riding a wave of emotion as they were playing for the “Johnny Mannah Cup” and played extremely well, serving his memory honorably. This is a different game altogether though and the Cowboys have a lot of momentum to carry into this game, as well as emotion of their own. The Eels are broken at the moment and need a more than just a tough week at training to get through this match. Expect a better showing from the Eels, but it will not be enough to get a win in this game.
Cowboys -7.5 @ $1.90
A specific margin = Cowboys 13-18 @ $5 – Rather than choosing 1-12 ($2.90) or 13+ ($2.60), I have gone with the more specific margin for the Cowboys to get their victory. As stated above, the Eels will be tighter in defence but ultimately, the Cowboys should be able to break them down all over the field and win by a decent margin.
Centre on success = Brent Tate ($13) and/or Kane Linnett ($11) FTS – Both players are capable of finding their way to the try line should prove very difficult for the young and inexperienced Eels centres to handle. If I had to go with one selection, I would favor Tate, as he is likely to line up against the debutant Pewhairangi.
New Zealand Warriors v Gold Coast Titans
Sunday footy is back to its “super” format but the 6:30pm game is again off the agenda. This is because action will kick off early in NZ as the Warriors look to grab their second win of the season against a struggling Titans side. Things were looking very good for the Titans at the start of the season and their performances had everyone taking notice of their capabilities. The last thing that they needed was a host of injuries and unfortunately for them, this is exactly what has happened. They have little depth to their roster and but will still maintain a core group of players that has the ability to lift the new members of their squad. They now need to rely on their stars to lift and will need to forge new combinations in a hurry, otherwise once their squad returns to full strength, their season could be severely hampered and their chances gone. For the Warriors, the only way is up for them as they are placed 16th on the table with just the one victory. It appeared as though they were closing in on their second victory of the season against the Storm on ANZAC Day but they were out-classed in the long run. The Storm have a knack of getting themselves out of close situations and the Warriors could take a lesson or two away from it. However it was an improved performance from a side that was short on points and unable to produce a strong defensive structure. Matthew Elliot was always going to have a strong emphasis on structure within this side and it is just taking a little longer than he thought to implement. They need to get a move on though and will relish the extra time they are given to prepare for this match. This game looks difficult to pick so let’s take a closer look at it to see if the result is a little clearer than first thought.
New Zealand Warriors
The Warriors were boosted at the beginning of this week with the news that their captain Simon Mannering and Manu Vatuvei will return from injury. Mannering will slot straight back into the back row and Ben Henry is shifted the centres. It is a very interesting move by Elliot that Konrad Hurrell has been dropped back to play NSW Cup this week. There could be a number of reasons but his current form isn’t up to scratch and he could use the stint in the lower grade to get him back to the level that we have come to know from him. Glen Fisiiahi vacates the team the team for Vatuvei and will join Hurrell in NSW Cup. He will play fullback there though and will prove his durability and push for selection in positions other than the wing. Ngani Laumape is also out of this gam, but not the team as he is named as 18th man. Jerome Ropati will come into the team to play in the centres. Those are the only changes and while it may look a little different to last week, Elliot has just shuffled his players around on the bench and they will wear different numbers.
Gold Coast Titans
With the Titans under the pump at the moment with injuries, which will affect their performance this week. In the backline, Luke O’Dwyer is out through injury and his place is taken by the starting centre this season, Brad Takairangi. Takairangi was coming into his own early in the season and he can hopefully pick up from where he left off before he was injured. In the forwards, there are two changes that also include a reshuffle to accommodate Harrison’s injury. Nate Myles moves from prop to lock and Luke Bailey has been promoted to the front row, from the bench. Matt Srama is out of this game with a finger injury and Beau Fallon will also move into the starting side, along with Bailey. Fallon has been playing well when he has taken the field and will be up for extra minutes in this contest. If you haven’t had a chance to have a look at the injury Srama suffered, it is sure to be online as he posted a photo of it soon after it happened. It is not for those who are weak in the stomach though. As two players have been promoted into the starting side, Sam Irwin and Mark Ioane are the new faces on the interchange. They will have a big job to do when they come onto the field as the quality Titans forwards set a very high standard from the opening whistle. Steve Michaels remains as the 18th man and will probably miss out on selection.
Overall = Warriors 6 Titans 6
Last 5 games = Warriors 4 Titans 1
At Mt Smart Stadium = Warriors 3 Titans 2
Stats that matter
- The Warriors are struggling to gain any momentum with their attacking movements are their completion rate is ranked 14th overall in the competition with 67.9%. The Titans are a little better and give their halves a better opportunity with a 72% rate (8th overall).
- This game probably will not be a high quality contest as both sides are ranked equal 10th in the competition in errors. They average an alarming 11.6 errors per match and both must reduce this number to be competitive.
- The Titans have a very strong forward pack and need their star players to lift in this department. As a team, they average 9.12m per carry (3rd overall) whereas the Warriors need their forwards to reach their potential. They only average 8.53m per carry (13th overall) and could consistently use the extra metres at the end of their attacking sets.
TAB Sportsbet = Warriors $1.48 Titans $2.70
Centrebet = Warriors $1.48 Titans $2.70
Sportsbet = Warriors $1.52 Titans $2.60
Betfair = Warriors $1.52Titans $2.80
The Warriors are the favourite in a game for the first time this season. It certainly something which has not been earned through their improving performance, rather it’s a reflection on the injury toll at the Titans. Had both sides been at full strength, you would probably see the market favour the Titans. The Warriors are always going to be tough competition at home and they should be able to capture a victory here. They need to focus on limiting their errors and completing their sets though, before they will have a chance at finishing this game with the two competition points. Majority of their play is still very loose and they will not worry opposition teams until this is fixed. However don’t assume that the Titans are out of this contest. They still have a very strong pack of forwards and will require a greater effort from the “big names” within their side. This will be a close contest and the Titans will push the Warriors until the end.
Gold Coast +10.5 @ $1.48 (Super Line)
Sorry folks, but I cannot bet with confidence in this game and there are no other options that interest me. Save your money and load up on the other two NRL fixtures.
Newcastle Knights v Cronulla Sharks
This game will follow on immediately after the conclusion of the Warriors v Titans match and kick off at 2pm at Hunter Stadium. The Knights are quickly raising awareness of their ability as a competitive football team and are proving that they may just give this competition a shake at the end of the season. Wayne Bennett is at the helm and is casting a very strict eye of his squad and they are playing “Bennett-style” football that emphasises limiting attacking errors and being very tough in defence. They are not at the peak of their powers just yet and do have some kinks to iron out before they will reach that level. No doubt Bennett will not want this side to peak to early in the competition and will save their best performances for later on in the season. As for the Sharks, you can barely mention them without hearing the phrase “ASADA Investigation” quickly following. It has plagued their season and left their name tarnished. There is certainly no solution appearing on the horizon for them and things are going to get a lot uglier before they get better. This was highlighted at the beginning of the week when players were about to be interviewed. Wade Graham was the first cab off the rank and gave little away, leading investigators to suspend further player interviews. So, the saga continues and while it does, the Sharks on field performance is suffering immensely. Expectations were high of them heading into this season and they are struggling to perform each week with this very dark cloud hanging over their head. They were not far away against the Bulldogs but it was their errors at crucial points in the game that cost them. This is probably because their attention is not 100% focused on football. The talent and experience within their roster will have to stand up now and lead their side forward.
The Knights have named an unchanged lineup from the team that put the Titans to the sword. It was always going to be difficult for them to get the win once they suffered 3 injuries, but it was made more difficult by the Knights play. They carried the ball forward strongly (9.64m per run) and had the Titans consistently on the back foot. This is credit to this strong pack of forwards who, despite now having several big names like other clubs, are still very effective. This can also be reflected by their attitude to defence and perhaps why they are performing well there also. NRL coaches continually say that defence is built around attitude and Bennett does have his side executing their plays with the right mentality. The forwards are also responsible for the decrease in pressure that is heaped upon Tyrone Roberts and Jarrod Mullen in the halves. Last week though, we saw Bennett spring a late surprise and named Kurt Gidley to start at halfback, rather than hooker and Roberts came off the bench. When questioned why, Bennett stated that he thought playing hooker for Gidley for the entire 80minutes was wasting a lot of his energy. This stint at halfback eased him into the game and allowed Roberts to come into his own once he took the field. He also said that it might become a regular thing, but you will have to pay attention to the twitter feed for the official team lists.
Just like the Knights, the Sharks have named an unchanged lineup. Last week we saw the return of Todd Carney to the halves and he clicked into gear very quickly and was very impressive. He was certainly the spark that the Sharks were missing and the guidance he also provides suits their structure. As a team though, the Sharks are still not performing well. At times, their execution was one of the reasons why they failed to beat the Bulldogs. You could see the frustration plastered across the face of coach Shane Flanagan in the post-match press conference and he will not tolerate it for much longer. Players may have to start performing to a suitable standard or find themselves in a lower grade.
Overall = Knights 24 Draw 1 Sharks 15
Last 5 games = Knights 5 Sharks 0
At Hunter Stadium = Knights 13 Draw 1 Sharks 4
Stats that matter
- The Sharks have a serious problem with ball security and their completion rate is making it very difficult for them to win matches. They are ranked 16th overall and average 64.3%. The Knights are a lot better and give themselves the best opportunity with the ball. They are ranked 3rd overall and average 74%.
- Both sides have a solid defensive structure that they rely upon. Obviously the Knights are executing this a little better than the Sharks but they are still tough to break down. The Sharks miss an average of 21.9 tackles a match (=4th) and concede an average of 16.4 points (6th). The Knights are a little better with just 18.1 missed tackles (2nd) and allow their opposition an average of 12.6 points (3rd).
- Errors are killing the Sharks and they are commit more than any other team in the competition with an average of 14.4 per match. The Knights are much better at 10.1 (5th), but would certainly like to reduce that in coming weeks.
TAB Sportsbet = Knights $1.30 Sharks $3.50
Centrebet = Knights $1.36 Sharks $3.25
Sportsbet = Knights $1.38 Sharks $3.15
Betfair = Knights $1.37 Sharks $3.60
The Knights have a better chance at winning this game due to the stability within their organisation and the limited distractions. The Sharks are all over the place at the moment and although it is no fault of their own, you cannot tip them with much confidence. Things are going to be difficult until they learn to cope with the off-field issues and let their on-field performance do the talking. They need to be able to finish off their attacking movements and pressure the Knights when it matters most. It is very hard to go past the Knights in this fixture, but the Sharks will definitely put up a fight. As the competition moves towards the SOO period, certain players on the Sharks roster will be pushing very hard for selection. This will no doubt have a positive effect on the Sharks team performance and have them closer to winning games in the same fashion as 2012. Be careful punters, a Knights victory should be the likely outcome but the Sharks are getting close to one themselves. This will be a very close game and could only be decided in the final 10 minutes of the match.
Sharks +8.5 @ $1.95
Close game, small margin = Knights 1-12 @ $3 – Given how I think this game will play out, this is the most likely outcome to take on. Be wary though, if the Sharks are not switched on, the Knights will run away with this and the margin will get out to 13+ ($2.25).
Uate Da Man = Akuila Uate FTS @ $6 – Uate has a good strike in his NRL career and he is slowly getting back to the form that allowed him to capture a NSW Blues jersey. He will be a handful for the smaller Nathan Stapleton to handle.
Sydney Roosters v Penrith Panthers
The “main game” this Sunday will kick off at 3pm as per usual at Allianz Stadium and features two teams that are coming off strong performances in Round 7. The Roosters have had a long time to recover (10 days) from their ANZAC Day game against the Dragons where they turned out an impressive display. They were strong and dominated the Dragons in various areas of the game and made victory for them very difficult. It was even more impressive that they were able to claw back into the contest after conceding the first try. However, Roosters fans should not get too excited just yet. This is a work in progress and it was only a few weeks ago that they gave up a decent lead against an inconsistent Raiders team. It must be positive though that each of their games seems to be improvement and their losses are faults of their own, rather than being outplayed by the opposition. They have a formula that can breed success and the young, but very big and strong forward pack, will look to take the battle up to their opposition. It is a shorter turn around for the Panthers but they will want to continue on the energy that was created with their comprehensive display over the Eels. It was their second win for the season and a much needed one to release the growing pressure on the squad and organisation. A lot of people have been critical of the Panthers and how they went about setting up this season. They culled a few “local juniors” from their club and recruited players that had no associated with this club previously. Coach Ivan Cleary has had a big input to this and he will definitely be pleased with the performance on MNF. They must not get too far ahead of themselves just yet as it was only the Eels but they should take some confidence away from it. Whether or not it gives them enough to overcome the Roosters remains to be seen. They also have a mounting injury toll to contend with but will not be short on effort. There are several story lines running through this game including Mitchel Pearce and SOO, Michael Jennings being a former Panther and James Maloney competing for the 5/8 role for NSW. It is going to be very interesting to watch how they all play out by the full time whistle.
It has been a while between games for the Roosters and there is no surprise that coach Trent Robinson has named an unchanged lineup. They were impressive against the Dragons and showed their premiership credentials. It was a cohesive display that had the Dragons scrambling to cover all of their attacking threats. Mitchell Pearce was solid and supported the case that SOO coach Laurie Dailey has made for him. Of course, a lot more of the focus will be upon James Maloney and what he is offering to the Roosters. The move there has proved very wise and he is adding another dimension to their attack. Maloney can attribute majority of his success to the effectiveness of his forwards. Youngsters like Boyd Cordiner and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves are leading their pack forward with a lot more than effort. They are strong, tough and unrelenting and this is sure to build a strong dynamic within their side, but they need to ensure that they are performing on a consistent basis.
Having played in MNF, the Panthers have had little time to assess the fitness of their squad. They have named an unchanged lineup but it is clear that the Panthers will not take the field in that manner. For starters, prop Sam McKendry is definitely out of this game with a broken neck. Yes, a broken neck! He played last week with it and the Kiwi forward proved his toughness to the rest of the competition. It is undoubtedly a brave act, but also one that defies belief. It is a relief that he is alright and will not have to put up with an extended stay on the sidelines. Last week, the Panthers had a few inexperienced players taking the field and they proved their worth. Travis Robinson was dynamic, as was man of the match, Matt Moylan. They have a solid platform to build upon and the Panthers will want to maintain that as they move into this game.
Overall = Roosters 48 Draw 1 Panthers 30
Last 5 games = Roosters 2 Panthers 3
At Allianz Stadium = Roosters 9 Panthers 7
Stats that matter
- The Roosters are great at limiting the errors within their play and are ranked 2nd with an average of 9.6 per game. The Panthers are not as effective but are still not the worst and are ranked 8th with 10.9 per game.
- Expect this game to feature its fair share of line breaks. The Roosters are ranked 1st in the league with an average of 6.3 per match, while the Panthers are ranked 2nd with 5.7
- Average points may bring the Panthers down, they average 22.9 in defence (12th overall) while the Roosters are far superior with just 10.9 points conceded per match.
TAB Sportsbet = Roosters $1.09 Panthers $8
Centrebet = Roosters $1.14 Panthers $6
Sportsbet = Roosters $1.12 Panthers $6.50
Betfair = Roosters $1.13 Panthers $7.80
The outcome of this game seems pretty straight forward. The Roosters should be able to work their way to a victory, but the Panthers will also put up a fight. It will not be easy for them but their superiority should shine through in the end. If the Panthers were to consider a victory, they need to pressure the Roosters when they are carrying the ball off the line and make them pay for their mistakes. At times this season, the Roosters have had fragile ball security and it has made things difficult for them. The Raiders capitalised on the opportunity the Roosters gave them and the result was disappointing. Robinson will want to ensure that they do not travel down the same path in this game and they are switched on from the opening whistle, right up until the end. The Panthers have the ability to score some points with their attack, but the Roosters should dominate this contest enough, to stretch it out to a 13+ margin.
It is very rarely that I do not suggest a price to take in a certain match, but this game does “buck” the trend. It is not a promising outlook for punters and I recommend that you save your money here. If you need to invest some money, take the Roosters 13+ ($1.50) or ex-Panthers Michael Jenning FTS ($7).
St George-Illawarra Dragons v Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
Round 8 concludes this weekend with an intriguing contest between the Dragons and Sea Eagles. It seems like an eternity since we last saw these sides take the field in Round 7 and they would have enjoyed the extra time off in the lead up to this game. Going in this, the Sea Eagles would’ve had 10 days to prepare while the Dragons have had 11. Both sides would have needed it though as they look to bounce back to winning form. The Dragons were disappointing against the Roosters and were comprehensively beaten in all areas of the game. This was also after they started the game on the right foot with the first try. That was in the 4th minute and it took another 68 for them to cross again. The Dragons coach Steve Price was lost for words in the press conference but did give some credit to the Roosters for their effort. The Dragons will hopefully be on their game this week and they need to build some momentum with their forwards. It will be a good battle between the two packs and the Sea Eagles are always up for a physical contest. Their game in Round 7 was undoubtedly one of the best games of the season. It was tough, hard football that brought the best out in both sides. The Sea Eagles were unlucky at points, but the better side did win. If they are looking for excuses, the 11 penalties may explain why the Rabbitohs had extra attacking opportunities at their line. I say it almost every week, but Monday Night Footy generally throws up a good game. This one is sure to be competitive and tight throughout. Let’s see if we can enjoy it even more by grabbing a winner.
St George-Illawarra Dragons
The Dragons have chosen to go with the same side that was named against the Roosters, including Michael Weyman as 18th man and Will Matthews as 19th man. Weyman was hoping to get the nod to play the Roosters but he was unable to prove his fitness in time. No doubt that if he is fit this week, Price will not hesitate to call upon him. For the rest of the squad, faith is definitely being shown by Price but a few more performances like that one may just change things. They were flat in attack and didn’t worry the Roosters defensive line too much. This was evident when they were attacking 20m out from the Roosters line where they lacked direction and had poor 6th tackle options. They were very similar to the side we saw in the first three weeks of the competition and it is now their job to get themselves back on track. It will be difficult for them, but need they need to keep majority of the play within the forwards, who are strong when they are coming off their own line.
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
The Sea Eagles coach Geoff Toovey is still yet to finalise his lineup since naming it on Tuesday. They have several issues to contend with this week and two of their players are out due to suspension. Steve Matai was given a weeks rest following his swinging arm tackle on George Burgess. A few people have expressed their opinion on this issue and suggest that he was a little unlucky to receive the penalty that he did because his arm hit the ball first, and then made a contact with Burgess’ head. Either way, it was dangerous contact with the head and he has a terrible record as well. Tom Symonds is the player that moves to the centres to cover for him and they will perhaps miss his play in the forwards. Glenn Stewart is officially named this week and will take Symonds place at lock. He was a late inclusion against the Rabbitohs and it appears as though it will take him a few games to get his full fitness back. Richie Fa’aoso has also felt the wrath of the NRL Judicary and has an 8-week holiday following his 2 dangerous tackles on Greg Inglis. Peta Hiku is the new face on the bench and he will also join Jesse Sene-Lefao who is in to cover for Jason King (shoulder injury). The bench is extended and Esi Tonga and George Rose are named as 18th and 19th man respectively. Toovey is known for springing a few surprises so make sure you pay attention to the Twitter feed for the final 17.
Overall = Dragons 14 Sea Eagles 6
Last 5 games = Dragons 4 Sea Eagles 1
At WIN Jubilee Oval = Dragons 5 Sea Eagles 0
Stats that matter
- The Dragons fragility in defence was evident last week. They miss an average of 25.7 tackles per game and are ranked 12th in the league. This is probably why they average 22.3 points conceded (11th) and need to tighten up the middle of the field.
- The Sea Eagles are tough to break down and only average 21.3 missed tackles per game (3rd). They rely upon a strong defensive structure and the Dragon will find in difficult to score points. The Sea Eagles only concede an average of 10.6 (1st) per match and will be looking to improve on the 20 they allowed the Rabbitohs to score.
- Errors (11.3 – 9th) and completion rate (70.8% – 11th) are two areas that the Sea Eagles will want to improve. They can give away possession too easily and need to ensure they limit their oppositions attacking opportunities. It’s a better story for the Dragons; they are ranked equal 6th in errors (10.4) and 6th in completion rate (73%).
TAB Sportsbet = Dragons $2.75 Sea Eagles $1.47
Centrebet = Dragons $2.60 Sea Eagles $1.52
Sportsbet = Dragons $2.60 Sea Eagles $1.52
Betfair = Dragons $2.70 Sea Eagles $1.53
This is a tricky game to pick to end the round. Common sense says the Sea Eagles but the tough game they had last week and their horrible record at the ground, gives the Dragons a chance. It will be a victory that they really will have to dig deep for and the Dragons will push them right until the end. This will be a close contest and the Sea Eagles have a better set of halves and a stronger outside backs to give them the edge here.
Sea Eagles 1-12 @ $2.80
Be specific, reap the reward = Sea Eagles 7-12 @ $5.25 – The 1-12 option is what I recommend but if you want more value, this may just be the option that you should consider. They may just cover the line, but only just.
Symonds sign = Tom Symonds FTS @ $15 – He has been popping up around the field at different points and bagging a few tries. With a move the centres he will be less effective as a forward (obviously) but have a chance at scoring on the edge and finish off the Sea Eagles ball movement.
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 bu