There is a massive weekend ahead for the NRL, which spans over Easter. As people enjoy some time away from work, they are spoilt with choice of what game they want to watch. As games spread evenly across the weekend, fans have will have the chance to watch each individually. There also promises to be some quality football played so why wouldn’t you be excited?
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles v Wests Tigers
Time: Thursday 8.05pm
It all kicks off with Thursday night football as the Sea Eagles host the Tigers at Bluetounge Stadium. TNF has been a great success and it is the last time this season that we get to view it. But after measuring its success with fans, it could become a more permanent fixture in coming seasons. The Sea Eagles will be looking to avenge the loss they had to the Titans on Saturday night. People were very impressed with their two opening season games and it was hard not to be. But it all came crashing down once the Titans reached the same physical level that the Sea Eagles like to play at. They showed that whilst they are a very tough side, they are beatable with a very strong defensive effort. The Tigers will have to tighten things up on the field before they can compete with the Sea Eagles. After looking at their opening season games, the Tigers have had a soft start to the season when compared against other sides. While they have taken two wins from three games, they’re still yet to be really tested. When they were in Round 1, they were comprehensively beaten but that performance can be forgiven a little as they were dealing with the loss of a young teammate the previous week. You can also only play what is in front of you and the Tigers are doing that. This game will test how much potential they have for the 2013 and it gives them a chance to demonstrate their talent. It is also the opening game to a great round of football that is coupled with a few days off. What else could a person ask for?
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
The Sea Eagles were set to name an unchanged lineup from last week but that was until Richie Fa’aoso hit Titans lock Ashley Harrison with a late shoulder charge. It is confusing though is just where the NRL stands on this issue as other players have committed the same foul but have gone unpunished. Fa’aoso was charged with dangerous contact but you cannot help but think that the sight of Harrison being carried off the field on a stretcher and in a neck brace has impacted on the judiciary’s decision. Make no mistake, it was “low-act” but it was the accidental head clash that did a lot of the damage. 2 weeks seems sufficient, not a grade 4 and that is exactly why Manly has gone onto fight this one. Again, the Sea Eagles are promoting consistency within their side and their halves are going to have to motivate the rest of the squad in this match. They are at their best when they are getting aggressive around the ruck and moving up the middle of the field. They will be ready to bounce back and Geoff Toovey will have his side ready to make amends for a last start loss.
The Tigers have named only one change to the side that beat the Eels at Leichhardt Oval. Fijian flyer Marika Koroibete suffered an injury in that game and while nothing has been officially released just yet, he may be out for a few weeks yet. This has caused Tiger coach Mick Potter to recall dropped winger Matt Utai and it may be an area of the field that the Sea Eagles target because it was his defensive frailties that caused him to be dropped in the first place. Back to their last performance, while it was a win, it surely wasn’t impressive. Many sides would have put Parramatta to the sword and being up by such a large margin in the first half, many thought the Tigers would pile more points onto the Eels, especially with the weight of possession in their favor. It wasn’t to be though and the Tigers probably just did enough and what they had to do in the second half to get the win. This game will be a real test to see where they are at, particularly how well their combinations are coming along. Marshal has always being a leader of the side along with Robbie Farrah, but Jacob Miller is still trying to find his feet for them. If he is pressured, he will find it difficult to play the supporting role to the two leaders of the side that is needed.
Last 5 games = Sea Eagles 2 Tigers 3
TAB Sportsbet = Sea Eagles $1.47 Tigers $2.75
Centrebet = Sea Eagles $1.45 Tigers $2.75
Sportsbet = Sea Eagles $1.45 Tigers $2.75
Betfair = Sea Eagles $1.45 Tigers $2.96
The Sea Eagles look the favorites in this game and that is the way that I am going to go. The Tigers still have a lot of questions to answer of them and it does not appear that they will be solved prior to this game. The Sea Eagles last start loss will also give them the motivation to go on and win this one. It cannot be a good sign that they have moved this game away from Brookvale Oval but the Sea Eagles still should be able to cope. It is a short turn around for them as well so fatigue may kick in at some point during this game so I am going to suggest taking a 1-12 margin as opposed to a 13+ one.
Sea Eagles @ $1.47
Fatigue to kick in = Sea Eagles 1-12 @ $3 – Its above in the “Verdict”, the fatigue may become a factor for the Sea Eagles and the Tigers may be tougher than most think. Take the smaller margin and try to cash in on the value on offer.
Defensive Target = Jorge Taufua FTS @ $9.50 – Matt Utai may just be a target in the defensive line, the player opposite him is Taufua. He is still decent value as well and can get to the line to finish a nice backline move.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs v South Sydney Rabbitohs
Time: Friday 4pm
The NRL has chosen to use the Good Friday holiday to their advantage and try and boost attendance to games. Majority of families will spend this religious holiday together and showing two NRL games gives many the option of an outing together. The first of the two games is played at 4pm on Friday afternoon and is going to coincide with Sydney’s Royal Easter Show. This game was first moved to this timeslot last season and it seems to be a reasonable success. There is sure to be a big crowd heading to this game as it is a replay of one of 2012’s Grand Final Qualifiers. Both sides will be desperate to put in a great performance and enjoy the rest of the Easter break watching their competitors go at it. So far this season, the Bulldogs have demonstrated that they will again be a force in this competition. They are missing a few quality players and will be boosted once they return. For the meantime, they are setting a very nice platform to build upon later in the season. Down in Melbourne last Thursday, the Bulldogs almost became the first team this season to defeat the Storm, only to fall just short in the end. Perhaps they can pick themselves up and become the first side to knock off the Rabbitohs this year. It will not be easy though as they have had some decent displays in the opening three rounds. But if you were to put money on anyone making the Grand Final based on their opening performances, you would be inclined to steer clear of them. Last week, the Panthers fought back from an 18-point HT deficit to trail by 2 points with 5 minutes to go. The final score line was 44-32 and flattered the Rabbitohs a little. Defence like that is never going to win you a competition and coach Michael Maguire will demand an improved effort from his side. Attack was never going to be an issue for the Rabbitohs but it seems like defence is. They will need to be on their toes against the Bulldogs otherwise things could get ugly. The strength for them will be trying to force a real battle between the packs, something that the Rabbitohs may win, but only just. This is sure to be a great contest and ensures the Easter break is going to start on the right foot.
The big news around the Bulldogs this week is the return of Ben Barba to their lineup. It seems as though he has made a quick recovery from the problems that were reported prior to Round 1. When the statement was made, it seemed as though the Bulldogs were taking a very hard line on the issue and were prepared for the situation to run its course. I am not suggesting that he isn’t recovered, but it does seem as though he has been rushed back in to the side a little quickly. This is only because it was interesting to see CEO Todd Greenberg not comment on the issue at all. As Barba has come back into the lineup, Dury Low vacates the fullback position, and the team altogether. The other positive news that has been overlooked somewhat, is the return of Frank Pritchard from injury. He will come off the bench and has forced Tim Browne to 18th man. Pritchard’s return is positive in more ways than one as it forces other forwards within the side to lift their performance, most notably, Tony Williams. He needs to learn to receive the ball at speed and make it tough for the defensive line to stop him. Expect the Bulldogs forwards to be ready to face a very strong Rabbitohs pack.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
The Rabbitohs have a very short turn around to contend with here and fatigue may get the better of them. Sunday’s game was played in very hot conditions and it the Rabbitohs look stretched at different points during the match. The one change to this side for this week isn’t really a big one as the team named in this clash was the team that ran out against the Panthers, just not the one that was originally listed. Roy Asotasi was dropped for that match and he has returned, but only as 18th man. This suggests that he may miss out and coach Michael Maguire made it very clear as to why he left the side. He stated that Asotasi “wasn’t doing his job and he is aware of what he needs to do to get back into the team”. Maybe a short stint in the reserves will help. Michael Crocker is also back into the starting lineup and Ben Lowe moves back to the bench. Crocker is obviously “doing his job” and now he can lead the side out onto the park instead of captaining them from the bench. The Rabbitohs have a few problems at the moment to fix up and they may just be building nicely into the season, although it looks as though they are struggling with their deficiency. A lot of this is with their outside backs and their defensive structure there. They were hampered even further this week when they received news that Matt King, who was returning from a broken arm, re-broke the same arm and is out for around 4 months. It will be a real forward battle for them this week and they really need to rely on their forwards to win the battle up front.
Last 5 games = Bulldogs 4 Rabbitohs 1
TAB Sportsbet = Bulldogs $2.00 Rabbitohs $1.85
Centrebet = Bulldogs $2.05 Rabbitohs $1.80
Sportsbet = Bulldogs $1.98 Rabbitohs $1.85
Betfair = Bulldogs $2.10 Rabbitohs $1.86
This is a very tough contest to pick and you can make a case for both sides winning it. So that’s exactly what I will do. The Bulldogs are boosted by the return of Barba, as well as Pritchard into their lineup. They are limited by their halfback and he may be the different between them winning and losing this match. For the Rabbitohs, they have one of the best forward packs in the competition and a good interchange to call upon. The downside for them is that they have a very short turn around and their previous game was played in extremely hot conditions. Not only that, they have trouble with their centres in defence. Even more confused now? Looking at the bigger picture, the Dogs can ill afford to drop another game at this stage of the season. They have only one won game where as the Rabbitohs are undefeated. The fatigue will be a major factor as well and it will take something special for them to get the win here. The Bulldogs faced the Storm off a short back up and they were just beaten by them. This time, the Bulldogs should prevail in a very, very close contest.
Bulldogs @ $2.10
Close, tough game = Bulldogs 1-12 @ $3.50 – The information is mentioned above in the verdict and this bet offers plenty of value for punters who are looking to get more out of their money.
Slipperier than ever = Josh Morris FTS @ $9 – Morris will be lining up against former teammate Bryson Goodwin and he will be looking to trouble him for the opening whistle. The Rabbitohs are also weak on the edges but strong in the middle so it may force the Bulldogs to go up the middle of the field.
Brisbane Broncos v Melbourne Storm
Time: Friday 7:05pm
The second Friday night game kicks off later in the night in Brisbane where a struggling Broncos sides will battle against an undefeated Melbourne Storm team. This is uncharted territory for the Broncos since they were incepted into the competition. Being a “one-team” town in a strong rugby league state has always benefited them in a positive manner. It continues to do so in terms of timeslots they play in but for the first time in a long time, their crowds are declining and fans are getting restless with their poor playing performances. Last week they were “shut out” by the Roosters and never looked like troubling the scorer. A lot of credit does have to go to the Roosters for the way that they defended but the combination of Scott Prince and Peter Wallace in the halves isn’t working as well as they had hoped. It was highlighted in the season preview (HYPERLINK!) that this would be a pressing issue and it certainly is not going to helped by the announcement this week of Corey Norman signing with the Parramatta Eels for the next 3 seasons. It seemed that Norman was always going to play 5/8 but he found himself shifted to fullback upon Prince’s arrival. He was never going to be a long-term solution whereas Norman was. But they must move on from this. They need to focus on what strengths they do have and play towards them. For now, it is their forwards but even they are weakened to a degree with Sam Thaiday having to play in the front row. It will get no easier for them this week as they face a Storm side that just got home over the Bulldogs. They sprung out to a very good lead with 12 minutes remaining (22-6) but fatigue from the week before and a short turn-around eventually took its toll and they slowed down. Not only that, there was a mountain of possession in the Bulldogs favour (55% v 45%) and two late tries had them worried. They will relish the extra recovery time between their games as they made 129 more tackles than the Bulldogs. As stated last week, they need to build up a nice lead heading into the SOO period and this game should be no different. It will also see a few Queensland SOO Stars head home so support for them could also be high and they should not be affected by the crowd or the ground. All things considered, the Storm are going to be very hard to stop.
The Broncos have a lot of problems within the team at the moment and they do not look like being resolved any time soon. Coach Anthony Griffin hasn’t made any drastic changes either so this is obviously the side that he thinks, has the best opportunity to get them back on track. They have named Justin Hodges for this clash after he withdrew from the Roosters game with a hamstring injury. That means that the only changes occur on the bench. No surprise to see Mitchell Dodds dropped from the bench and Dunamis Lui replacing him. According to captain Sam Thaiday in the press conference, it was Dodds’ poor work at marker and defensive read that “cost them the game”. This is a big statement to make for the captain, but it is probably why we will not see him play this game. It was a positive that the Broncos restricted the Roosters to only 8 points. But this is no use if their attack is not forcing the opposition into mistakes and they are scoring points. The Prince-Wallace combination continues but another poor performance could see this duo broken up.
Consistency is vital for the Storm, especially when they are trying to start the season off on the right foot. So there is no surprise in them naming the same squad as last week, except for the 18th man. This week Siosaia Vave has the job of warming up with the team and being a late cover for an injury. He replaces Maurice Blair and will be desperate to get out there, but also understand his role. The Storm played well against the Bulldogs and it was fatigue that crept up on them in the closing moments of that game, along with some fancy play from the opposition. They will again be very tough to beat and with a longer turn around to what they are use to in recent weeks, their “Big 3” should be too strong. While they’re performing well, some credit has to go to the forwards because they are setting a strong platform through quick ruck play. This is coming off the back of confident running when coming off their own line.
Last 5 games = Broncos 1 Storm 4
TAB Sportsbet = Broncos $3.25 Storm $1.35
Centrebet = Broncos $3.15 Storm $1.38
Sportsbet = Broncos $3.25 Storm $1.36
Betfair = Broncos $3.55 Storm $1.38
With all the troubles that the Broncos are having this season, how could you back them? It is a simple formula and I am going to stick to it. The Storm will be too strong in this game but it will again be an improved effort from the Broncos. Anthony Griffin stated in his Round 3 press conference that the effort is there and it is increasing every week. This points to a better defensive performance, just not the complete one that is required to get the win here. These two sides always put in a very exciting contest and a 1-12 margin seems suitable.
Storm 1-12 @ $2.90
Winning formula = Storm 7-12 @ $5 – This option requires you to make a call on a specific margin for the Storm and with the line set at 8.5 in favor of the Broncos, the bookies themselves may just agree that this is the best bet.
Tri to bet safe = Storm Over 6.5 points (Tri Bet) @$1.75 – This is for those people who aren’t completely sure of just how much the Storm will be able to win by but think that it will be by more than a converted try.
Cronulla Sharks v St George-Illawarra Dragons
Time: Saturday 7.30pm
There is only one game this Saturday night and this is kicking off at 7:30pm down in the shire as two rivals do battle. It is big positive for the Sharks that this is the sole game on Saturday night as it ensures that all attention is on them, this time for a positive reason. They are still struggling from the “mud” that has stuck to them following the ASADA investigation. But last week they received some very positive news as coach Shane Flanaghan was reinstated to his position following his standing down prior to their Round 1 clash. Since then, they have won 2 of their 3 games and displayed impressive performances. Currently, they have the second best defense in the competition only conceding 28 points (9.3 points per match), 2 points more than the Gold Coast Titans. This can be attributed to the stronger players they recruited to contribute to their forwards. Their ruck is dominant and each week they are distanced from the ASADA inquiry, the stronger they look. They are definitely going to be a handful for a Dragons side that is struggling to find any positives within their play. They are last on the table (along with the Warriors) and the pressure is on coach Steve Price to retain his job. For a side that had prided themselves of defense, they have the second worse in the competition and concede a whopping 27.3 points per match. To make matters worse they have only averaged 11 points in attack. There is a suggestion around that they are leading the race to sign Raiders discard Josh Dugan, but at this stage they will need a miracle to get them out of the position they are currently in. There is no doubting that they will be boosted by facing their southern Sydney rivals at home but the Sharks may just enjoy some good times against a side that has always been considered as superior to them. This will be a tough encounter and rugby league fans will be glued to the only game of the day.
The Sharks roster is looking stronger and stronger each week; and they’re only going to be boosted by the reinstatement of coach Shane Flanagan. This week there are a few changes, but the core group of players remains. This is important for them, especially as they attempt to build combinations within their attack play. Ricky Leutele has suffered an ankle injury and is out for an indefinite amount of time. They have called Ben Pomeroy back into the side after recovering from an injury that was suffered heading into this campaign. Hooker Issac De Gois returns to the side, but John Morris remains as the starting hooker. De Gois has also recovered from an injury and it may be Flanagan’s plan to ease him back into the side. Morris has proved himself so far when stepping in for De Gois and playing a full 80 minutes. He could be even more dangerous if he is on the field with a limited amount of fatigue. The player that makes way for De Gois is Jon Green and Sam Tagataese remains as 18th man. This Sharks side is very tough in defense and they proved last week against the Warriors that when they play the right structure, they can also be dangerous in attack.
St George-Illawarra Dragons
The Dragons are persisting with this side for the time being and it may just be the ultimate downfall of coach Steve Price. The Dragons have openly said that they are chasing a coach for 2014 and it must not sit very well with Price. There is one change to the starting side and Chase Stanley has been left out and replaced by Daniel Vidot. Stanely is named at 19th man and he may be under and injury cloud. If he doesn’t turn out for the reserve side prior to this clash, he may play but he may also be hampered by injury. Vidot is a suitable replacement and he will definitely bring a level of aggression, as well as size to the edge of the field. Price has played around with the bench a little, Leeson Ah Mau has been shifted to 18th man and swaps with Jack Stockwell who comes onto the interchange. The Dragons are two performances (at the maximum) away from hitting the panic button and their fans are already growing restless. They will be desperate to avoid a loss here but the pressure is firmly on the shoulders of their halves.
Last 5 games = Sharks 2 Dragons 3
TAB Sportsbet = Sharks $1.33 Dragons $3.40
Centrebet = Sharks $1.38 Dragons $3.10
Sportsbet = Sharks $1.35 Dragons $3.30
Betfair= Sharks $1.34 Dragons $3.30
It is very hard to like the Dragons here. Their attack is flat (when it does exist) and their defense is breaking down on the edges. The Sharks have a better defensive structure and an attack that can strike when needed. Because these teams are bitter rivals, we are going to see a very physical contest. The only positive for the Dragons is their forwards and they may be forced to keep the game there. This will not worry the Sharks though, they will be prepared for a battle and will be willing to roll up their sleeves and take the contest to the Dragons. The improved record from the Dragons may keep this game to a 1-12 margin, but due to their flatness in attack, a 13+ margin looks like the suitable option.
Sharks @ $1.38
No attack and strong defense = Sharks 13+ @ $2.40 – It adds more value to the Sharks to win this game. The basis of this bet is that the Dragons have no attack and the Sharks have a strong defense. They also proved last week what they can do when they get some decent ball in their possession.
Carney get there? = Toddy Carney FTS @ $15 – This does seem like a long shot, but since the start of the season Carney has passed the ball rather than take the line on himself. Expect them to get in good attacking position and Carney can be ready to strike.
Penrith Panthers v Gold Coast Titans
Time: Sunday 3pm
It’s not as super as it usually is, but Sunday afternoon footy features two games as opposed to the normal 3. For the fourth week in a row, Sunday footy will also feature the Penrith Panthers and their fans are enjoying the exposure they are getting. They are also putting on a better display than was expected of them, despite only having one win from three games. The last start performance against the Rabbitohs demonstrated how they can score points in bunches as well. You only have to look at the 34-16 deficit to know that they were gallant in chasing the Rabbitohs right until the end. It certainly is a rebuilding year for them but so far, so good. They need to ensure that this consistent form continues because if it does, they could find themselves on the right side of the scoreboard. They also need to hope that all of their squad remains fit because depth isn’t too good just yet. The Titans had similar expectations placed on them this season as there were a few question marks around their roster. There was little depth in their forwards and they had a rookie halves pairing that were looking to boost the attacking potency of them. So far it couldn’t have gone much better as they are two wins from three and the last start victory over a very tough Manly side will only enhance their confidence. Like the Panthers, they also have to rely on keeping everyone fit and firing. For the time being, everything seems to be moving very well for them. They have a very tough defense that is brutal in and around the ruck, as well as dangerous outside backs with speed to burn. My opinion has not changed on them completely, but they are performing better than was first thought. Watching this game sounds like a good way to spend your Sunday afternoon.
In a “rebuilding” season, coach Ivan Cleary is striving for consistency within his side. He gets the chance to build that by naming a similar squad each week. He isn’t one to make too many changes each week and we see that again here. Brad Tighe returns to the side in the centres at the expense of Geoff Daniela. Tighe brings a stronger defensive ability into the side and a better attacking option. The other change to the starting side is Cameron Ciraldo coming into the starting side at lock and Nathan Smith returns to the interchange. He is named at 18th man and miss out on the game altogether. The 19th man is Matt Robinson and he is likely to miss out as well, he was 18th man last week. Tom Humble turned in a very solid performance last week in his first game attempting to replace Lachlan Coote. Coote is gone for the season so Humble needs to get familiar with his role at his new club as soon as possible. Their forwards are working very well together and they are given a spark when James Segeyaro comes onto the field. It will be a very big test for them this week as they face a strong Titans pack. But they will take some confidence away from their 12-point loss to the Rabbitohs, a side that possesses a very strong pack of forwards.
Gold Coast Titans
The Titans have named an unchanged lineup for this week and added Steve Michaels on an extended bench. Ashley Harrison is named to start at lock, but after being stretchered off the field in a neck brace and concussed, that may be unlikely. The 18th man, Luke O’Dwyer, may very well get a start this week. A strong performance against Manly has given this side a real lift and they only have one loss from their two games. Their halves are working nicely into their roles and it seems getting rid of Scott Prince seems to be the best thing that they’ve done in a long time. There are still a few question marks about their attack but they should use a game like this one against a “weaker” defense to work on it. This will still be difficult for them and the longer the competition goes, the more they will be tested. Intensity is important for them, and they’re able to maintain a very strong one with the players they have coming off the bench. With names like Dave Taylor and Ryan James, it is hard not to.
Last 5 games = Panthers 3 Titans 2
TAB Sportsbet = Panthers $2.30 Titans $1.65
Centrebet = Panthers $2.20 Titans $1.70
Sportsbet = Panthers $2.15 Titans $1.70
Betfair = Panthers $2.34 Titans $1.71
Both sides are doing far better than everyone expected. When you compare both sides though, the Titans have more potential and are reaching that with some very strong defense. It must be pleasing for coach John Cartwright to see them perform this way. The Panthers will put up a fight though, just like they did last week against the Rabbitohs. They’re a side that will always keep coming and they’re able to score plenty of points. They may just be tested a little here and the Titans should prove too strong. As for a margin, daytime football always produces a high scoring contest so I am going to go with a 13+ one.
Titans @ $1.71
Tri some value = Titans Over 6.5 points (Tri bet) @ $2.30 – The Titans are already decent enough value to win this game, but this bet adds a little more value. Their defense is good enough to limit the Panthers scoring and their attack can hopefully develop to win by more than a converted try.
Taka him on = Brad Takarangi FTS @ $15 – In recent weeks I have pointed to this players defensive ability, that still is questionable but he is improving. Someone who can struggle is Wes Naiqama and he will be lining up against him here. Plenty of value on offer for a centre.
Newcastle Knights v Canberra Raiders
Time: Sunday 6.30pm
The 6:30pm Sunday night game is a new concept this year that seems to be working in the favor of the NRL. It means that fans are able to view this game live and not miss out on a Saturday night or Sunday afternoon fixture. It does have to be said that this game is only played on Pay-TV but those who do not have access to it should look at it as a good opportunity to get down to the local pub or club to have a nice meal and watch this game. This week, we see two rejuvenated sides face off as they both attempt to get their season back on track. The Raiders were appalling in their first two outings but were given a blessing when they took on the Dragons at home. They were able to continue a 13-year hoodoo that the Dragons have down in the nation’s capital and gain their first win of the season. They are not completely out of trouble just yet, but it was a good place to start for them. It meant that they were able to move past the Josh Dugan issue and focus on developing a potentially dominant side. Age is on their side as well and it is important that coach David Furner harnesses this and steers them in the right direction. The last thing they want is their ego getting in the way and by no means was the win a complete performance. The Knights are just as inconsistent as the Raiders but they at least have one more win than the Raiders. After a very positive display in Round 1, they were kept scoreless in Round 2 by the Sea Eagles (like the Raiders were in Round 2). But then they came out on MNF against a quality Cowboys side and gave them a lesson in mistake free footy. It was stated last week, Newcastle coach Wayne Bennett isn’t even sure what Newcastle side will turn up each week. So far, you can say that playing at their home ground is a distinct advantage. That is where this game will be played and both sides are full of confidence. Maybe after a weekend of jagging a few winners, we can grab a few more and make this long weekend even better.
The Knights are coming off a very promising performance against the Cowboys but they are suffering from a very bad injury toll at the moment. They lost Kurt Gidley prior to kick off and it seemed to hamper their chances. But Tyrone Roberts stepped up to play halfback and did an amicable job. Danny Buderus also came back into the starting lineup and it added some stability to Bennett’s side around the ruck. Matt Hilder was the player that made way at hooker. Timana Tahu has been moved back to the bench and has been replaced in the start lineup by Alex McKinnon. This is a strange move but it could be aimed at strengthening the defense on the edges. As for what impact and where Tahu will play, that remains to be seen. Beau Scott has also suffered a groin injury and is out for an indefinite amount of time. Robbie Rochow, who comes off the interchange, takes his spot in the starting side. The new faces on the bench are Adam Cuthbertson and Korbin Sims. Sims comes from a good pedigree of players and yes; he is the youngest brother of Tariq and Ashton. The biggest problem for the Knights at the moment, is trying to continue the momentum they’ve built up and not turn a performance like they did against Manly.
The Raiders had Blake Ferguson return for last weeks game against the Raiders after being given a final warning by his club. Edrick Lee made way for him in that clash and Jack Wighton moves to the wing. That is exactly how their starting side will line up this week. Their bench also contains a change, Joe Picker is moved into the 17 and Matt McIlwrick moves to 18th man. The Raiders will be riding a wave of confidence and the Dragons game came at the right time for them. Reece Robinson was the catalyst for this performance and Josh Dugan seems a distant thought. It is a young Raiders side and their win over the Dragons must be put into perspective. It was their first home game of the season and it was against a struggling Dragons team. This game is against side that has premiership credentials and it is away from home. It will be a good measure of just how much they are progressing away from their woeful early season form.
Last 5 games = Knights 3 Raiders 2
TAB Sportsbet = Knights $1.43 Raiders $2.90
Centrebet = Knights $1.45 Raiders $2.80
Sportsbet = Knights $1.42 Raiders $2.95
Betfair = Knights $1.44 Raiders $3.25
This game is a very tricky one. How could you like either team on their form this season? With the other quality games on this weekend, I recommend that you stay away from this game and save your money. For the sake of finding a winner though, there is an option listed below in the “Suggested Bet”. This is recommended because both sides have the potential to score a lot of points on their day so why not take it? In terms of picking a winner, I am only going to select the Knights because they’re playing at home. If the game were down in Canberra, I would be selecting the Raiders. Be very careful punters!
Over 42.5 points @ $1.90
New Zealand Warriors v North Queensland Cowboys
Time: Monday 6pm
There are two games this Monday night and one of them treats our fans across the ditch to a rare glimpse into some live Monday footy. Hopefully a good crowd will get along there to support a Warriors team that is really struggling at the moment to get their first win. If you combine together their last 8 games of last season and their first 3 games in 2013, they have lost a combined total of 11 games in a row. Being an outside observer, it looks as though the effort isn’t even there and new coach Matthew Elliot may be in his job for only a short amount of time. However their opponents in this match, the Cowboys, haven’t exactly set the world alight with their play. They’ve only won 1 game out of 3 and last start, the Knights gave them a lesson in mental preparation. It was clear in that loss, they weren’t exactly sure how the game one was going to play out and the Knights players capitalized. This is by no means an easy trip either. They have a short turn around to contend with and the history within this clash isn’t on their side. In the last 10 meetings between these two sides, the home side has won 9 total games. Surely you couldn’t back the Warriors in this game, but then again their first win has to come sooner or later. If it were to occur here, alarm bells would be ringing for the boys from the North of Queensland, as they possess a roster that is far too talented to be playing like this each week. Stranger things have happened and you can never underestimate rugby league. When you’re sitting back on Monday afternoon, recovering from very big Easter weekend, this will be the game to help see you into a shorter working week. But don’t forget, there is still another game to follow. Gotta love this scheduling!
New Zealand Warriors
The Warriors are still searching for that elusive first win and the players appear to be as bemused as the fans are at this stage. In terms of team news, Ngani Laumape, who was a late inclusion against the Sharks, has been given a start again here. He is a youngster that is built in the same mold as Konrad Hurrell but it could be dangerous putting two very inexperienced players on the same side of the field as one another. Bill Tupou was dropped back to 18th man but he is more than likely to play in the starting side instead of Glen Fisiiahi. In some very sad news, Fisiiahi’s sister lost her battle with cancer and there is no indication on when he will return. For the time being, our thoughts go out to him and his family. Ben Henry takes his place in the second row and he is named as a replacement for Steve Rapira. Rapira suffered an injury early on against the Sharks and there is no news on when he will return. No other changes but there could be a late one to mention so make sure that you pay attention to my twitter feed.
North Queensland Cowboys
Having played in MNF, it is no surprise to see the Cowboys name an unchanged lineup for this clash. It is uncertain, whether or not this is the final side that takes the field. You would’ve thought that the inclusion of Michael Morgan back into the side at halfback would have a positive effect on their attack. The Newcastle defense was good and it forced the Cowboys into simple mistakes. They made 10 errors and only completed 67% of their sets. It is a simple equation, less time with the ball leads to limited opportunities to score points. Their forwards were not dominant either as they had only 149 carries for 1062m in total, compared to the Knights 174 for 1542m. To top it off, they also missed 30 total tackles. So where are they going to get the spark from here? Coach Neil Henry will have to motivate his side in some way and maybe over turning history could be a starting point. As mentioned above, the pressure would mount on this squad with another loss. A win away from home would put that to rest, for the time being anyway.
Overall = Warriors 16 Cowboys 15
Last 5 games = Warriors 3 Cowboys 2
At Mt Smart Stadium = Warriors 12 Cowboys 5
TAB Sportsbet = Warriors $3.00 Cowboys $1.40
Centrebet = Warriors $2.95 Cowboys $1.42
Sportsbet = Warriors $2.95 Cowboys $1.42
Betfair = Warriors $3.00 Cowboys $1.47
History says that the Warriors are going to win this match because they’re playing at home, but how could you have them? For starters, in three games this season, they have failed to score a single point in the first half. That’s 120 minutes without scoring! Its not as though their attack has been setting the world alight either. They average only 9.3 points per match in attack while conceding 28 points per match. Alarming stats, but they do not always tell the story. Despite it being a full 7-day turn around, the Cowboys are going to struggling with the travel across to NZ for this game. When all things are considered, they will only have 2, maybe 3 days, to prepare. That’s after travelling back to Townsville on Tuesday and the long flight from Townsville to Auckland that has to go via Brisbane. You have to take the Cowboys but an upset wouldn’t surprise. This game is going to be a high scoring contest and lets look at backing that, as well as another exotic option, rather than picking an outright winner.
Total Over 42.5 points @ $1.90
Off to a good start = Cowboys Try (first scoring play) @ $1.80 – Considering the Warriors have failed to score a point in the first half this season, why wouldn’t you take this bet? The Cowboys also scored first last week against the Knights.
Sydney Roosters v Parramatta Eels
Time: Monday 7pm
The “main event” in Monday Night Football will kick off in Sydney as the Roosters host the Parramatta Eels. The clash marks the return of Ricky Stuart to the club that he coached to the NRL Premiership in 2002. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then as Stuart went on to Cronulla, and things seemed to have been fixed up since then. Whether or not Roosters fans will welcome him back is another thing altogether. So far this season, the Roosters have been playing some decent footy and it is evident that they’re getting better with each performance. It was stated in the Season Preview that the Roosters were going to be a much-improved side than 2012 and if last week is anything to go by, they’re on track. Against the Broncos, the Roosters displayed very strong defense and were great in keeping the Broncos scoreless when they had 54% of possession. The Roosters also made 122 more tackles than the Broncos and overall completed 58% of all tackles in the match. To put that effort into perspective, the Broncos are not exactly the most potent attacking side, but the Roosters will take confidence away from that win. It certainly must be worrying for the Eels that they will face a side with more momentum than them. In their last performance against the Tigers, the Eels were disappointing to say the least. The match was basically over inside the first half as the Tigers lead 18-nil at HT. The Eels did show some fight in the second half but a better side than the Tigers would’ve put 40 past the Eels with that performance. Interestingly, they only had 19 missed tackles in the match. Watching the game, they weren’t actually getting in a position to make the tackles and were getting beaten on the edges. Plus there was the soft try to Benji Marshall following a penalty where he went untouched for 60m to score under the posts. This is something that Stuart will no doubt be addressing this week and an improved performance is expected. Whether or not they’re able to match it with the Roosters is another thing altogether. The final game of the round is sure to be a good one and instead of thinking about work on Tuesday, switch off and watch (or listen) to this game.
There are no changes within the Roosters starting side and it seems like their star recruits James Maloney, Michael Jennings and SBW are getting better each week. There has been a tough stance taken by coach Trent Robinson though in regards to the other new recruit Luke O’Donnell. He has been dropped for this game due to a series of disciplinary reasons that involve turning up late for training. There was also an allegation of a conflict at a nightclub but you should not buy into that at this stage. Coming in for O’Donnell is Aidan Guerra who has not seen the field since the opening game against the Rabbitohs. He was fairly solid in that performance but with the quality that the Roosters have within their forwards, it was hard to find a spot for him. The only other change is with the 18th man. Dylan Napa is out and Kane Evans is the new player to fill that role. Evans is a very talented youngster who plays front row and has graduated from the NYC last season. This is probably just an exercise in gaining him experience rather than actually gaining a start.
If there is one positive to draw upon, it is definitely the resigning of fullback and new captain Jarryd Hayne for a further 2 years. Coming of a disappointing performance, several players have vacated their side for better players returning from injury and Ricky Stuart has made a number of changes. The biggest boost they will receive is Luke Kelly returning to play 5/8 and Ben Roberts moves back to the bench. Kelly was good in the opening round win against the Warriors, but then again the entire Eels side looked like world-beaters. He will offer stability and support Sandow, which will allow him to play his usual role within the team. Ken Sio returns to the wing and Cheyse Blair is dropped back to the reserves after a few disappointing performances. Vai Toutai replaced Sio last start and he keeps his place within the side. Both second rowers, Ken Edwards (dropped) and Matthew Ryan (injured) are out of this game and replaced by co-captain Reni Maitua and Ben Smith. Smith shifts from lock for this game and Maitua is returning from an injury he sustained against the Bulldogs. Joseph Paulo moves from the bench and back to lock. Having played 5/8 for parts of this year as well as last year, lock does look like a position that suits him over anything else. This way, he is a dangerous ball carrier that can get the offload to create second phase play. The other positions in the side remain the same. Apart from Willie Tonga missing form the centres, this is probably the strongest side that the Eels can name and it will be interesting to see how they perform.
Overall = Rooster 58 Draw 5 Eels 60
Last 5 games = Roosters 3 Eels 2
At Allianz Stadium = Roosters 7 Draw 2 Eels 9
TAB Sportsbet = Roosters $1.38 Eels $3.10
Centrebet = Roosters $1.45 Eels $2.80
Sportsbet = Roosters $1.40 Eels $3.00
Betfair = Roosters $1.47 Eels $3.05
The Roosters are building and moving forward with each performance. On the other hand, the Eels are still struggling to find their feet and discover successful combinations within their side. The strong defensive effort that the Roosters turned out is also a boost for them and they will pressure the Eels attack, which could lead to mistakes within their play. The Roosters are jumping out in this one and the hardest thing to decide seems to be the margin. 1-12 suggests an improved defensive effort from the Eels but a 13+ margin supports a dominant performance from the Roosters. Their attacking ability is still developing and because of this, I am going to recommend a 1-12 margin.
Roosters @ $1.47
Leading all the way = Roosters/Roosters (HT/FT Double) @ $1.75 – The strong Roosters defense may make it hard for the Eels to gain any momentum within their defense and for this reason alone, the Roosters should be able to lead this game from one half, into the other.
Jet boots = Michael Jennings FTS @ $9 – Jennings is proving very dangerous every time he gets the ball and he is one player that is looking very comfortable at his new club. As SBW attracts more attention, the Roosters halves may choose the unmarked Jennings to allow him to “jet” away for a try.
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.
All of the above are the opinions of the author and are not recommendations or advice. The author may not be taking every bet listed above. Bet at your own risk.
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