Welcome to The Profits NRL Round 4 2017 Preview. Round 4 kicks off on Thursday night from Sydney with the Rabbitohs hosting the Roosters and The Profits NRL expert Scooby previews all the matches and shares his best bets
South Sydney Rabbitohs (5th) v Sydney Roosters (2nd)
The Rabbitohs made it consecutive victories after they overcame a 2-point deficit at HT in favor of the Knights. It wasn’t smooth sailing for the visitors by any means, with majority of the points conceded when George Burgess was off the field for 10-minutes following foul play. If this ill discipline continues, there is no doubt that the overall performance of their team will be affected. Nevertheless, they looked their best when their halves were leading the way and the combination that they are building together appears to be a strong one, while Alex Johnston is filling in well at fullback. The Roosters will be wary of what potential their opponents possess and will be ready to combat it after starting the season 3-0. The Roosters showed plenty of patience and poise to overcome the Panthers in difficult conditions last Saturday; and you can be sure that they will want to keep their winning streak going against their old rival. The maturity in which they played with was impressive; they ensured that they always remained in the contest and scored some impressive tries. There were some negatives, most notably that their attack was halted by a strong defence and they were unable to make the most of an superior possession count, as well as completing at 70% and making 14 errors. Regardless, they managed to win the match and the confidence is growing within this team that they are on the verge of something impressive.
Rabbitohs = Cody Walker shifts back to fullback, with Alex Johnston moving to the wing for Braidon Burns (suspended) and John Sutton to 5/8. Siosifa Talakai is named in the centres for Hymel Hunt (suspended). Tom Burgess will start at prop for his brother, George (suspended), while Angus Crichton is named at lock to cover for Sutton’s move and Anthony Cherrington comes onto the bench.
Roosters = Unchanged.
Overall = Rabbitohs 11 Roosters 22
Last 5 Matches = Rabbitohs 3 Roosters 2
At ANZ Stadium = Rabbitohs 53% Roosters 45%
Form = Rabbitohs 2 wins – Roosters 3 wins
Momentum is definitely with the Roosters given their superior start to the season, with plenty of pressure on the Rabbitohs to combat their rival’s strengths. Combine this with the amount of players missing for the Rabbitohs and it is no surprise to see the Roosters as strong favorites. Given the upsets so far this year, it isn’t crazy to think that the Rabbitohs can win, but they will need to disrupt a lot of the Roosters momentum over 80 minutes to have a chance. That being said, the Rooters are far from perfect and they can benefit from improving ball security and end to attacking sets. While ever they have the ball, they will be difficult to stop and so far this season, regardless of their result, the Rabbitohs have shown that they switch off defensively for a periods of time. This area has progressively improved, but the Roosters will undoubtedly look to exploit it as much as possible. The pressure that their forwards are able to generate in the middle is a strong build block for the result of the team and on the back of the Rabbitohs worst completion rate last week (63%), they can not afford to provide the Roosters with more possession. The news that Jake Friend will spend this game on the sidelines brings the Rabbitohs into the contest slightly, with the expectation that both Farah and Cook will start for the Rabbitohs, in order to create added force in the middle. All things considered, despite the average margin of victory in the past 5 matches sitting at 17.4 points, the line on offer is the best way to go with the Roosters to get home by less than what is being offered.
Rabbitohs +8.5 @ $1.80
Between the lines = Roosters 1-12 @ $2.80 – Considering the line on offer is a favored option, the margin of victory to the Roosters should also be considered. More value for a punter to invest in, especially considering the elevated fatigue levels from the Roosters following their match last week.
Remember me? = Luke Keary to score a try @ $3 – Keary will have added momentum up against his former club. He is taking the ball to the line with purpose and opening plenty of holes for runners and himself. With two tries already this year because of this, expect him to again go close.
Penrith Panthers (11th) v Newcastle Knights (12th)
The Panthers still only have the one win to their name, yet can be impressed with their efforts in their loss to the Roosters. They only missed 25 tackles, the least thus far in 2017, while also overcoming an inferior possession statistic. It demonstrates how much this team has improved within 3 weeks and a sign that they will be better the longer the season goes ahead. The combinations within their team are also looking smoother, with their young halves pairing running the attack from end to end. Their forwards were also strong, although will need to dominate matches more to set up their halves. The Knights also come into this game without a win in Round 3, with their effort perhaps less pleasing than the Panthers. Their passion and fight was evident, although a late try suggested the match was a lot closer than it appeared. The fact that they were able to fight back from a 12-nil deficit early on was impressive and they now need to avoid getting in such scenarios in future matches. Injuries didn’t aid their cause either, with the club fined during the week for breaching the “duty of care” rules relating to concussion. They could also work on their completion rate, which somewhat affected the outcome as they completed just 65% of attacking sets, while also committing 15 errors. The visitors will have their work cut out for them here and pressure will be on from a Panthers team desperate to find another victory.
Panthers = Bryce Cartwright (injury) returns in the second row for James Fisher-Harris (injured).
Knights = Unchanged.
Overall = Panthers 10 Draw 1 Knights 18
Last 5 Matches = Panthers 4 Knights 1
At Pepper Stadium = Panthers 54% Knights 64%
Form = Panthers 1 win – Knights 1 loss
The Panthers are the shortest priced favorite of the entire round, although many may be overlooking the difficult of a short turnaround after such a draining performance. This is bound to limit their effectiveness, yet with their attacking power and improving effort, an 80-minute performance may not be needed. The attitude of the Knights will be key to how this contest plays out; if they can emulate this from the opening 3 Rounds, they will cause headaches for their opponents. That being said, this is arguably the highest quality opponent they have faced out of their 4 matches and it will pose a different set of questions entirely. The Panthers improvement from each week is nothing short of impressive and they look set to cause the Knights plenty of headaches. Both their errors and completion rate have improved, while the Knights will struggle to match their opponent’s power over the contest. Expect the Panthers to relish the attacking freedom on offer, increasing the confidence of their young halves to experiment with numerous attacking options. Of course, I would tentatively invest on the Panthers at this stage; they are a team that still needs to prove that they have matured and while all signs point towards a blowout score line, it will still come down to their execution on the day. Nevertheless, that appears the only selection worthy of a small investment.
Panthers -16.5 @ $2
Roaring to Victory = Panthers 19+ @ $2.20 – The Panthers look set to post a big tally in this match; they have plenty of attacking power and showed just what they were capable of against the Tigers and with their defence improving, the Knights will be pushed to the limits.
Brisbane Broncos (9th) v Canberra Raiders (8th)
The Broncos headed down to Melbourne last Thursday and left without any competition points despite playing strongly over the 80 minutes. There were several areas that they struggled in, most notably having a 66% completion rate, committing 13 errors and having just 45% of possession; this lead to the Broncos making almost 50 more tackles in the Storm. The pressure they absorbed in defence was relentless but pleasing in terms of their development moving forward. The effort of their halves was better, with attacking kicks at the end of sets going dangerously close to adding more points. They will need the same defensive structure to work for them here, as the Raiders travel north having dismantled the Tigers by 40-points. In their best attacking display of the season, the Raiders turned around a poor showing in Round 2 to grab their first win of the season. It is no surprise that their improved performance also coincided with better execution in off-loading the ball and creating second-phase play. The opening 20 minutes were worrying though, with the Raiders conceding the first try and allowing simple mistakes to ruin attacking pressure. Once they managed to deal with this, the Tigers never stood a chance as they played with superior speed at the line and defended strongly. The way in which the Raiders finished the game will be needed for 80 minutes against the Broncos; a team that also has the solitary win but looking dangerous in each match. If the Raiders are to be considered a contender, a win on the road here will go a long way to supporting their cause.
Broncos = Benji Marshall drops out of the team, with Tevita Pangai Junior coming onto the bench.
Raiders = Unchanged.
Overall = Broncos 17 Draw 1 Raiders 12
Last 5 Matches = Broncos 3 Raiders 2
At Suncorp Stadium = Broncos 61% Raiders 20%
Form = Broncos 2 losses – Raiders 1 win
The odds suggest that the Broncos are strong favorites for this match and a lot of this can be attributed to the Raiders short turnaround from Sunday. Sure, it wasn’t a testing match, although they burnt plenty of petrol early on in the contest establishing a strong platform for the rest of the match. It has been a while since the Raiders tasted victory over the Broncos also, the last time was Round 13 in 2013; while Suncorp Stadium isn’t a happy hunting ground either, having just one 2 matches there in 10 attempts. When comparing the two sides though, both have just the solitary win to their names and have gone down in Gold Point matches against the Cowboys. The Raiders have been good at times, but the loss to the Sharks unearthed some holes in their team. A dominating win over the hapless Tigers isn’t exactly a clear guide either. The Broncos have shown in all of their matches thus far their determination. The defensive effort they produced against the Storm last week was something to admire; with more of the same expected here, the larger Raiders pack may struggle with the intensity. Even with questions lingering about the Broncos, the Raiders do not appear to be at their level just yet; they may very well reach this by the end of the season and go beyond their opponents, but for now, they will have to see the standard that is being set and aim for that.
Broncos 1-12 $2.90
Breaking Free = Broncos -3.5 @ $1.90 – There is the sense that after 3 very tough games, the Broncos attack may be about to cut loose on their opponents here. It must be said that their average margin of victory in their past 5 matches sits at 13.8 points. It should be close, but if you want a little more comfort, then consider this option.
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles (13th) v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs (10th)
The Sea Eagles did what only a handful of teams could do last year, head up to Townsville and upset the Cowboys. It was a strong sign of the overall potential that this team possesses, as well as a great way to grab their first victory of the year. It put behind them two horror weeks where they were plagued by poor execution and lapses in defence. There is a sense that the Cowboys were underdone after two previous weeks of Golden Point matches, but the Sea Eagles also had a lesser share of possession and were able to create attacking opportunities everywhere for a change. The Bulldogs also head into this game on the back of their first win of the season, as they travelled to New Zealand for a “home” game against the Warriors. Things were looking troubling for the Bulldogs before a ball had been kicked, with several important first graders ruled out with injury. That mattered little for them though, as they overcame a Warriors lead twice in the match to deliver a win. It was the way they closed out the match though, which was most important in setting up victory; they managed to score 2 tries and a penalty goal in the last 15 minutes to seal victory. Keeping the Warriors to just two tries over 80 minutes was also an improvement, especially considering that their opponents had a greater share of possession, nevertheless only missing 14 tackles was impressive statistic to say the least. Both teams will be egger to ensure their form is maintained, while a strong rivalry between the two clubs will ensure things are heated from the beginning.
Sea Eagles = Martin Taupau (suspension) returns to the starting team pushing Nate Mayles back to the bench. Addin Fonua-Blake (suspension) will join him there, pushing both Shaun Lane and Bill Bainbridge out of the team.
Bulldogs = Unchanged.
Overall = Sea Eagles 11 Bulldogs 19
Last 5 Matches = Sea Eagles 0 Bulldogs 5
At Lottoland = Sea Eagles 63% Bulldogs 60%
Form = Sea Eagles 1 win – Bulldogs 1 win
When comparing the two sides, the Bulldogs appear to have the edge if recent history is anything to go by; the Sea Eagles have only won 2 of the past 10 meetings between these two sides. Looking at the quality of opponent that each team has faced thus far, the Bulldogs have been tested far more than the Sea Eagles. The Bulldogs will struggle to match their opponents if they played anything like they did last week, as they had all the makings of a strong team. One performance doesn’t completely change the outlook for this team though and the same goes for both teams. Comparing their strengths, the Bulldogs are still unbalanced in the outside backs, something that having rookies last week went a long way to fixing. Hopefully they can play to the same level and target the Sea Eagles on the edges. The inclusions for the Sea Eagles strengthen their pack to combat the Bulldogs in the middle of the field, with the Bulldogs certain to bring pressure here. The extra day to prepare for this match following a road trip may just give the Bulldogs the slight edge in this contest, with the bench appearing to offer more support during the game compared with the Sea Eagles. This game could be close though, with the Bulldogs winning by more than 12 points just once in the past 9 victories, while the average margin sits at 7.3 points. Don’t be surprised if they are forced to produce something special in the dying stages of the match to grab a victory.
Bulldogs 1-12 @ $3
Parramatta Eels (4th) v Cronulla Sharks (7th)
The Eels headed up to the Gold Coast last Friday and left empty handed following a 12-point upset by the Titans. It appeared that the loss of Corey Norman wasn’t going to affect their play early on, but once their opponents found a way into the contest, pressure quickly turned around. They shot out to a 12-nil lead after 15 minutes, yet headed in at HT locked up. Scoring just one penalty goal in the second half highlighted their attacking flaws without their regular number 7, as pressure grew on others within the team. This was always going to be an issue for them and while it worked early on, they lacked the same level of concentration towards the end of matches that had featured in their opening two encounters. This level of maturity in their play can be found and will be needed as they move forward. The Sharks were also upset in Round 3, going down to local rivals, the Dragons, by 6-points. The game was almost decided at HT, as the Dragons jumped out to a 14-nil lead at the interval and basically shut down from that point onwards. This meant that regardless of what the Sharks threw at them, they were unable to crack them until the 50th minute when Luke Lewis crossed out wide. If they are looking for excuses in their performance, it was the fact that they committed 12 errors at crucial times when pressure was building. Furthermore, ill discipline towards the end of the game cost them dearly, two things that must be readdressed before this encounter.
Eels = Corey Norman (injury) is named to return at halfback, with Jeff Robson dropping out of the team. Frank Pritchard is named to start for Tepai Moeroa (suspended) in the second row, with David Gower and Siosaia Vave filling the vacant bench spots.
Sharks = Sosaia Feki comes onto the wing for Edrick Lee on the wing, who moves back to the reserves with James Segeyaro, who could be a late inclusion.
Overall = Eels 15 Sharks 14
Last 5 Matches = Eels 2 Sharks 3
At ANZ Stadium = Eels 42% Sharks 35%
Form = Eels 1 loss – Sharks 1 loss
This is the first time the Sharks have ventured back to ANZ since their triumphant GF win last year over the Storm. Surprisingly, their record at this ground isn’t great, yet they’ve won when it has mattered. The Eels also have a poor record at ANZ Stadium, with one team surely overcoming this during 80 minutes of play. The Sunday afternoon timeslot reduces the recovery time for the Sharks, although the potential inclusion of Segeyaro offers a new dimension to their attack. Brailey has done a great job at hooker, except he is not an 80-minute player at this stage of his career; he should spend considerable amount of time on the field for Segeyaro to offer impact when he comes on. The Eels hopes rest on their defence and limiting the options the Sharks have. They were completely disrupted by the Dragons last week, with the Eels performance limited without Norman. Even with him returning, the Sharks have an edge given that he is expected to be below 100% fitness; the Eels also lack a strong defensive second rower with Moeroa out of this game. The Sharks like to attack on their left edge and plenty of traffic is expected to head Pritchard’s way. The odds have these two sides neck and neck, and the eventual margin of victory is expected to be the same. Both teams pride themselves on the defensive challenge within a match and this game will be no different. Do not be surprised if this game is a dour contest as they attempt to push one another to the limit. Eventually though, the Sharks appear to have slightly more things working in their favor and will square the overall ledger between the two sides.
Sharks 1-12 @ $3
Dusting off the cobwebs = Valentine Holmes FTS and/or LTS @ $9 – It wasn’t the best return for him last week and with other players fancied to cross first from both teams, Holmes has been somewhat overlooked. Averaging 2.5 tackle breaks per game last year makes him a threat in any position and you can be sure that he will be around just about every attacking movement for his team.
Gold Coast Titans (14th) v North Queensland Cowboys (6th)
The Titans managed to grab their first win of the season last week, a 12-point upset of the Eels at home. Thankfully for them, they now have the rewards of spending more time at home preparing for this game. Despite lacking key personnel in all areas of the field, the Titans turned in a spirited effort to prove their doubters wrong. It also showed the capabilities of a team that had headlines of Hayne plaguing their progress. Regardless of how you look at it, that win was a step in the right direction for them, although they will have a difficult task against the Cowboys, who were last start losers in their match. After two grueling matches that went to Golden Point, the Cowboys managed nothing more than leading 8-2 early on and then finishing scoreless from the 28th minute onwards. Fatigue may have well been an issues, but so too was the lack of power up front. They were missing Matt Scott and Jason Taumalolo and this meant that the usual penetration they rely upon wasn’t there, flowing on to impact the play of the halves moving forward. Hopefully they are able to address this issue prior to this week, yet a loss will do little to alleviate any fatigue that they were feeling following that match.
Titans = Dale Copley has been named to make his club debut in the centres, allowing Chris McQueen to move back to the forward pack, pushing Joe Greenwood back to the bench. Daniel Vidot is named to replace William Zillman (injured) on the wing.
Cowboys = Gideon Gela-Mosby (NRL Debut) is named to start in the centres for Justin O’Neill (injured).
Overall = Titans 8 Cowboys 9
Last 5 Matches = Titans 1 Cowboys 4
At Cbus Super Stadium = Titans 50% Cowboys 29%
Form = Titans 1 win – Cowboys 1 loss
The Cowboys have an alarmingly poor record at this ground, winning just 2 matches there in 7 attempts at 29%. The tide has turned recently though, with the Cowboys having a strong record over the Titans in their latest matches, yet the last Titans win was recorded at this ground. Within that, the Cowboys average winning margin is at 19.5 points with the least being by 12-points back in 2013. If they are able to overcome the flaws of last week, then the Cowboys are going to pile plenty of pressure on the Titans and have a similar victory. The Titans will not be without fight though; they demonstrated last week how they can play patient football and bring themselves back into a contest. Nevertheless, the Cowboys will offer a more difficult challenge than the Eels did last week minus their key playmaker. The market doesn’t heavily favor the Cowboys, as there is plenty of doubt on their performance without Scott and Taumololo; losing O’Neill has only further compounded their issues. This reservation has made many unnecessarily nervous when they shouldn’t be; their loss last week was the result of fatigue from the opening 3 weeks and a class team like them should bring themselves back up for this game. This being considered, the Cowboys at the line appears to be the most tempting investment in a tricky game; they could very well come out and blow the Titans off the park but with their opponents renewed confidence, it could be a lot closer than most think. Until the picture becomes clearer in a few weeks time, take them to cover the line.
Cowboys -3.5 @ $1.90
Wests Tigers (16th) v Melbourne Storm (1st)
The Tigers headed down to Canberra last week and left with a 40-points loss, which then lead to their coach being sacked on Monday. That effort meant that they have been beaten by 74-8 in the past two weeks, something that is surprising given their opening round performance. There was obviously trouble though and with their stars not yet resigning, something had to be done. Their execution was lackluster and the despite Taylor falling on his sword, the playing group now needs to stand up and take responsibility for their efforts. It will be an almighty task overcoming the Storm, one of two undefeated teams that still remain. They produced impressive fight and determination to overcome the Broncos, even if it was in bizarre circumstances; they managed to put themselves in a winning position. The return of Billy Slater on stabilised their team, with his inclusion timely given Cameron Munster will be ruled out. They are undoubtedly one of the favorites for the competition and it will be a challenge to consistently maintain this standard. One thing is for sure, the Storm have a very capable team that is built around a strong culture; this club will always be up for a challenge and a rejuvenated team that has experienced a change of coach early on in the week will be out to prove a point. Players within the Tigers roster now looking to secure a future for themselves beyond 2017 will only enhance the difficulty of this match.
Tigers = Elijah Taylor (injury) is named at lock, pushing Tim Grant to the bench and Kyle Lovett out of the team altogether. Matt Ballin (injury) also comes onto the bench in place of Jack Littlejohn.
Storm = Billy Slater is named to start at fullback, with Ryley Jacks starting at 5/8 for Cameron Munster (injured), with the reshuffle allowing Vincent Leuluai to join the bench. Young Tonumaipea is named on the wing for Suliasi Vunivalu (injured).
Overall = Tigers 10 Storm 18
Last 5 Matches = Tigers 2 Storm 3
At Leichhardt Oval = Tigers 59% Storm 36%
Form = Tigers 2 losses – Storm 3 wins
Many people think that a change in coach automatically changes the team to perform better, funnily enough, that isn’t the case. More often than not, it takes two-three games for the team to gel together under a new regime. For the Tigers to cause an upset here, they would a complete overhaul of their form. While Taylor has been sacked, he wasn’t completely responsible for their poor form. The players needed to take greater responsibility for their play and the Storm will expose every weakness they can find. The Tigers players are expected to lift their performance, but baised on their performance so far, it will be behind one of the leading teams in the competition. You cannot overlook the Storms poor record at this ground though, with their last match here a thrilling 1-point win to the Storm. They will relish the extra time to prepare for this game though and you can expect that the Storm will be ready to fire. As for the margin, many are suggesting that the rejuvenation of the Tigers and the Storms poor record here will make this a close contest. Don’t be so sure; the Storm are a class team and should have what it takes to put show the Tigers the class that they are lacking. Nevertheless, play it safe early on in the season and take them to cover the line.
Storm -6.5 @ $1.90
St George-Illawarra Dragons (3rd) v New Zealand Warriors (15th)
The Dragons came out last week against the Sharks and put a flat performance against the Eels in Round 2 behind them, getting home by 6-points in a grinding match. They set up the victory in the first half, leading 14-nil at HT after their attack generated some positive play. From that point onwards, their defence structure improved, as did their completion rate. What is a negative is that it took a poor effort the previous week to turn this team around and they will now be searching for consistency. Ironically enough, as they search for consistency, they face arguably the most inconsistent team in the competition, the Warriors. It was yet another poor showing from them after a strong first half, yet they were unable to close out the match. Instead, the Warriors allowed the Bulldogs to score 14-points in the final 15 minutes to lose the match. The exclusion of RTS wasn’t ideal, although they still had plenty of attacking power left on the field. Another injury to Vatuvei reduced their backline stocks during the match, but it was still no excuse for their effort. Perhaps the inclusion of Foran will add maturity to this team that they have craved for so long. Nevertheless, the Warriors have proven in the past how frustrating they can be over 80 minutes and will face a tough task against a Dragons team that is rejuvenated following their impressive display under pressure last week.
Dragons = Unchanged.
Warriors = Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (injury) returns at fullback, pushing Tuimoala Lolohea to the wing to cover for Manu Vatuvei; although Ken Maumalo is expected to shift to the left wing. Kieran Foran has been named named among the reserves and could be a late inclusion.
Overall = Dragons 19 Warriors 5
Last 5 Matches = Dragons 4 Warriors 1
At UOW Jubilee Oval = Dragons 64% Warriors 33%
Form = Dragons 1 win – Warriors 2 losses
All of a sudden, the Dragons are back in the positive light. It is no surprise to see the Warriors struggle in the same sense. Consistency is something they must get right to succeed and with Foran coming into the team, their hopes improve. Like many other teams, one win doesn’t change the Dragons prospects and they will still find this game difficult to win. Nevertheless, the Warriors are notoriously poor travelers and their record at this ground is just as poor; this is an area the Dragons should look to capitalize on and make their opponents as uncomfortable as possible. This game will be a great battle of the packs, as the Warriors size is often overstated, while the Dragons have matched up to two bigger packs thus far when they have won. On the back of the momentum created in this area, the game will be won in the halves and the Warriors slightly have the edge with Foran coming back into the team. Do not worry about the combination that he has to create with Johnson, they already spend plenty of time together for NZ and have enjoyed success here. You can never under estimate the experience that one player brings to a team and how that inspires those around him. With Foran calling the shots, a more controlled Warriors outfit is expected. The game should still be close though and for that reason, invest around nothing other than a close contest. Before investing too much, the average margin of victory in this timeslot on a Sunday is 10.6-points, with just 2 of the past 5 meeting being by less than 12 points (the least was 9 in Round 26, 2013).
Either Team Under 6.5 Points @ $2.65