2013 NRL Round 6 Preview

NRL

Round 6 is a great occasion as NRL hosts the Men of League “Heritage Round”. This pays homage to the foundations of the game and how far it has come since the competition began in 1908. There are plenty of exciting games that feature this weekend and Round 6 is a very important set of fixtures for a various reasons. It is the last chance that players will have to press their case for representative selection in either the “ANZAC Test Match” or the “City v Country” game. In case you haven’t noticed, Round 7 will not begin until ANZAC Day and the competition will have a week of for the representative games.

Sydney Roosters v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs

Time: Friday 7.35pm
What better way to kick off the last Round before a week off, than a grudge match between two sides that have a number of reasons to “hate” one another. Ever since there was a rumor around about SBW signing with the Roosters for season 2013, people were thinking, “I cannot wait to see him play against the Bulldogs”. Even if you were not a fan of either side, it was the sheer thought of the contest that it would throw up that was going to excite you; and you’re definitely going to tune in to this game to see how it plays out. It was a highly publicised exit from the Bulldogs and it was the last time that fans saw him in the NRL. Moving forward to 2013, plenty of people were questioning the impact that he would have and what we have learnt in the first 5 rounds of the NRL, is that he is a tremendous talent that is getting better each week. It is a shame that the Bulldogs form is not where everyone expected them to be at this stage of the season because there would have been a lot more hype around this match. As it stands, the Bulldogs are in a fair bit of trouble early on in the season. They have arguably had the hardest start to the NRL season and it isn’t going to get any easier here. The Roosters were progressing very well until there allowed the Raiders to gain a lot of momentum and score 24 points in the second half to win the match. They got a few things wrong at crucial stages and almost took a step backwards from the side that we have come to know this season. Both sides want to turn their performances around from last week and the Bulldogs will be desperate to get their season moving in the right direction. As much as both sides distance themselves from the return of SBW, it will also become a factor but hopefully not draw attention away from the game.

Sydney Roosters

The Roosters have named an unchanged lineup heading into this week, although there were a few changes to the sides that were named to play the Raiders and the side that took the field. For starters, Michael Oldfield was called into the side to replace Daniel Tupou on the wing, and he turned in a very impressive performance scoring one try. He is named as 19th man this week and Tupou will probably get the start ahead of him if he is fit. Aidan Guerra was also left out of the side for Luke O’Donnell, who returned after serving a suspension for disciplinary reasons. Again, he is the 18th man and coach Trent Robinson will wait right up until kick off to make his decision. Perhaps named O’Donnell would be a bonus for them here as he brings a lot of experience in fiery encounters and will not be afraid to take a forward step. Daniel Mortimer may be the player to miss out. Robinson has been playing Jake Friend for around 60 minutes per match and Mortimer has been given the other 20min, but there is a remarkable difference in the Roosters play depending on which hooker is on the field. Mortimer is no doubt a talented player, but Friend offers the Roosters more in attack and defence and they seem to lose this when he is off the field. He may also be the man that you want to have in a tough, physical contest.

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs

The Bulldogs have continued with the same formula that they have for most of this season and have named an unchanged lineup. Hasler is always very loyal to his players but something has to change over at Canterbury. Last week, they were disappointing at best, as the Sea Eagles made them pay for their mistakes and loose defence. When they had the ball, they were ineffective when it counted. Poor ends to sets with their kicking game and a lack of direction made it extremely difficult for them to gain any momentum. No doubt they’ve had a tough start to the season and something needs to change quickly, but when this will happen is anyone’s guess. For now, they need to focus on gaining a better performance out of those players that are the bigger dollars. Last week I mentioned Tony Wiliams and this week is no different. NSW Coach Laurie Daily made it very clear that Williams was going to find it very difficult to get into the Blues team on his current form. For a start, he needs to be more damaging with the ball, get deep and run onto the ball.  With the quality that Des Hasler brings to the side, you can never count the Bulldogs out. They are a distant thought when compared to their form of 2012. Sure they have had a lot of injuries to contend with, but if they are unable to gain any momentum within their attack, it could be a very long season for them.

Recent History

Overall = Roosters 78 Draw 5 Bulldogs 77

Last 5 games = Roosters 2 Bulldogs 3

At Allianz Stadium = Roosters 10 Bulldogs 10

Stats that matter

  • Both sides have very good completion rate in attack. The Bulldogs are at 74% while the Roosters are at 73.9%. This ensures a high quality contest.
  • The Bulldogs struggle to break the line and average only 3.8 line breaks per match whereas the Roosters are ranked as the best in the league. This could be due to the extra offloads they produce and average 6.8 line breaks per game.
  • Discipline could cost the Roosters as they average 6.8 penalties conceded a match. All too often you see tries scored on the back of penalties and the Bulldogs will not want to give the ball up in good position to the Roosters. Luckily they only average 5.4 per game.

Odds

TAB Sportsbet = Roosters $1.67 Bulldogs $2.25
Centrebet = Roosters $1.66 Bulldogs $2.25
Sportsbet = Roosters $1.70 Bulldogs $2.20
Betfair = Roosters $1.72 Bulldogs $2.34

Verdict

There is going to be a lot of emotion in this match. The Bulldogs want revenge for what SBW “did to them” but common sense has to prevail at some point. If the Bulldogs were the same side that they were last year, I would have no hesitation backing them but the Roosters are showing a higher level of improvement. The statistics also weigh in their favor. Get behind them here to win this game. The Bulldogs have a lot of issues at this stage and their halves are really struggling. They also have a few more players return to the side and when they get back, they may be boosted. But for now, the Roosters should get a win here.

Suggested Bet
Roosters @ $1.72

Emotional game, close finish = Roosters 1-12 @ $3 – The Roosters are probably going to prevail based on the tough defence they have and the margin will not be as large because of the emotion behind this game.

Be specific & reap the rewards = Roosters 1-6 @ $5.75 – Go one step further on the 1-12 margin and you will get a lot more value. It is a little risky though and for what it is worth, 7-12 points is @ $6.

Brisbane Broncos v North Queensland Cowboys

Time: Friday 7.35pm
As it is “Heritage Round”, Queensland fans have their own grudge match kicking off Round 6 this week. It features two sides that are coming off a win in Round 5, yet they’re still struggling to find consistency in both attack and defence. Plenty of people believe that both sides have the potential to work their way into the Top 8 at the end of the season; it is just a matter of finding that winning formula. The Broncos certainly have a lot further to go to reach that level compared to the Cowboys, however the Cowboys are underachieving more than the Broncos. Brisbane’s troubles lie within their halves and how they are finishing off their attacking sets. When their forwards carry the ball off their own line, they are able to make good metres and it makes them a difficult side to defend. Yet when it comes to finishing those sets and forcing pressure on the opposition, they are not able to do that with any effect. They were victorious over a tough Titans side but their case was aided with the injury to both of the Titans halves. For the Cowboys, they needed to do exactly what they did against the Panthers, but it needed to last for 80 minutes. They got off to a flying start and were ahead 22-nil after 18 minutes. They then scored the rest of their points inside the first 5 minutes of the second half and subsequently switched off. Yes, the Panthers did toughen up their defence in certain parts of the field; nonetheless you would have thought that the Cowboys would’ve been able to go on with the job. These two sides always produce a great clash and whether you are watching it live or on replay, it will be one that you will want to view as it will entertaining to say the least.

Brisbane Broncos

The most recent Broncos performance has really boosted the moral within the side. Not only that, they will welcome captain Sam Thaiday back into the side following his 1-game suspension for touching a referee. Nick Slyney is officially named in the 17, and Scott Anderson drops out all together. It was one of the more impressive displays we have seen from the Broncos in a long time and it seems as though their performance against the Storm has gone a long way to rectifying the problems that we have seen from them this season. They still have a long way to travel though. They possess a talented forward pack and have speed to burn on the edges. Interestingly, they are ranked number 1 in the league for completion rate at 76.3%, but the problem seems to lie within how effective they are at using the ball. They are ranked 14th overall for metres gained per carry at 8.48m. Couple these two stats together and you discover why they only average 18.8 points in attack. Their halves are coming off a very efficient performance, but it must not stop here. Prince and Wallace need to take greater ownership of the Broncos attack and use the platform that some of the forwards set with their effective runs.

North Queensland Cowboys

The Cowboys are back in the winner’s circle but consistency needs to become a regular part of their play if they are to stay there. There are a few changes to the side that played last week and the most notable is Tariq Sims in back into the starting side and Gavin Cooper relegated back to the bench. This is a well-timed move by coach Neil Henry as Sims will be pushing hard for a place in one of the representative teams and his work rate around the field is slowly improving. Ray Thompson also returns from injury and he replaces Rory Kostjasyn on the bench, filling the utility role. He will also replace him on the field at some point as Kostjasyn is named to start the match at hooker in place of Scott Moore. Moore has been dropped back to play for the Northern Pride in a move that will hopefully improve his performance when he returns back to the NRL. There is an extended bench and the extra players that are likely to miss out are Ashton Sims, Clint Greenshields and Joel Riethmuller. These players are named to cover for a few late injuries and the Cowboys have a few concerns around certain players. It is interesting to note that Michael Morgan remains as the named halfback and there is no sign of Robert Lui. Lui was a late inclusion for Morgan against the Panthers and there is no news around that suggests he is injured. Make sure that you pay attention to my twitter feed for any late changes.

Recent History

Overall = Broncos 24 Draw 2 Cowboys 8

Last 5 games = Broncos 1 Cowboys 4

At Suncorp Stadium = Broncos 4 Cowboys 4

Stats that matter

  • The Broncos are ranked number 1 for completions with an overall rate of 76.3% whereas the Cowboys are ranked 14th at 66.4%.
  • Both sides are very close in the metres they gain per carry. The Broncos average 8.4m while the Cowboys are at 8.8m. It may not seem like much, but those extra metres each carry could mean the difference between attacking for a try and chasing a kick down field.
  • The Cowboys are ranked 3rd overall for average line breaks per game with 6 while the Broncos are ranked 10th with 4.3. If the Cowboys continually bust the Broncos line, it could cause fatigue to kick in a lot earlier.

Odds
TAB Sportsbet = Broncos $1.85 Cowboys $2.00
Centrebet = Broncos $1.91 Cowboys $1.91
Sportsbet = Broncos $1.85 Cowboys $1.98
Betfair = Broncos $1.90 Cowboys $2.04

Verdict

The confusion when picking Friday Night football games continues. Both sides are very evenly matched and this clash is definitely going to go down to the wire. What may prevail to gain a side a victory, is their class. The Cowboys have Thurston to call upon when needed and he is always going to “click into gear” when at Suncorp Stadium. The Broncos do not have this capability within their halves but you can say that they make up for it with the players within their forward pack. Adding further to the confusion, both sides are yet to play consistent football. The Cowboys need to play better football and lift their completion rates, but after a strong performance against the Panthers, they may be heading in the right direction. They’re a very dangerous team when they have the football and it is extremely difficult to score without it in your possession. The Cowboys also average a lesser amount of missed tackles and the Broncos aren’t exactly dangerous with their line breaks. I am going to stick with the Cowboys in a very, very close contest.

Suggested Bet
Cowboys @ $2

Just to get home: Cowboys 1-12 @ $3.25 – It is all written above. Contests between these two sides have a history of being close. In the last 10 contests, 7/10 has been by a 1-12 margin.

Success in the 2nd half = Draw/Cowboys (HT/FT Double) @ $17 – Contests are always close between these two sides and I am tipping that it will go down to the wire also. This could mean that the two sides are equal at HT and you are a winner at FT.

Newcastle Knights v Penrith Panthers

Time: Saturday 5.30pm
Super Saturday is back in the “traditional” form that we have come to know in recent years, featuring 3 games of rugby league. It all begins in Newcastle this weekend and both sides are coming off a loss. The Knights were favorites against the Dragons but come out on the wrong end of the scoreboard. It wasn’t through lack of effort though; coach Wayne Bennett was actually pleased with his side’s performance. This can be a positive or a cover for a negative, but in the case of the Knights, you know that they’re close and can never count them out. Penrith on the other hand, need to stick to the plan that was created long before this season begun. Many people were tipping a long season from Penrith but the first few games surprised a lot of people. They were a team that was committed, enthusiastic and effort was evident throughout their play. Against the Cowboys, that went out of the window in the first half and the game was over very quickly. Maybe the Panthers will take some confidence away from their second half performance whereby they only allowed 6-points in the second half. In the Panthers situation, if they were running last in the competition and being hammered each week, there would certainly be a toxic environment. Cleary is trying to get his team focused on the job at hand each week and they are far from that at this stage. Hopefully they can remain here and the Panthers players can continue to lift their efforts each week and eventually the wins will come. At the end of the day, this was always touted as a rebuilding year for them. They will have their work cut out for them this week having to play the Knights, but the Knights have a few chinks in their armor as well. This game will probably not be the greatest of games, but it still offers a chance for punters to grab a few extra dollars over the weekend.

Newcastle Knights

Just when you thought that the Knights were moving in the right direction, the Saints brought them back down to earth. It was by no means a disappointing performance as the Dragons were on fire in the first half and made it extremely difficult for the Knights in all areas of the game. When interviewed after the game, Wayne Bennett was very upbeat about his sides performance and was of the assumption that they played well but the Dragons deserved the two points more than they did. Perhaps the Knights are playing better than their stand on the table suggests. Their defence is definitely playing well and they are ranked number 1 in the league for the least amount of missed tackles per games at 17.6. For this game, they have a few changes but they are name to take the field as they played last week. Anthony Quinn was a late withdrawal in the centres but they had a suitable replacement to call upon in Timana Tahu. Kurt Gidley started well at hooker and the experience that Danny Buderus offers when he takes the field in invaluable. Unfortunately, Buderus was a late withdrawal against the Dragons with a sore back and perhaps is finding it more difficult to get back into the NRL than he thought. There is something holding the Knights back is their movement of the football. They are only gaining 8.58m per carry of the football and that has them placed down at 12th. This needs to improve because their defence is putting them in winning positions during matches.

Penrith Panthers

The Panthers game was over last week inside the first 25 minutes but to make matters worse, they were unable to score a single point in the game. Ivan Cleary was lost for words in the press conference and you cannot blame him. The side that we saw a few weeks ago seems like a distant memory as the effort faded the longer the contest went on. That was definitely not what Cleary would’ve been looking for. If they had of been beaten 30-nil but still had effort in their play, he wouldn’t be so disappointed. Interestingly, he has named an unchanged lineup for this weeks game. It is another tough road trip for them and they need to get things moving in their attack. Blake Austin remains at halfback but another performance like last week would certainly put him in danger of being dropped back for Luke Walsh. He is your more “traditional” halfback and Austin is better suited to 5/8. No doubt every single one of the Panthers players will be determined to turn that performance around.

Recent History

Overall = Knights 20 Draw 3 Panthers 13

Last 5 games = Knights 3 Panthers 2

At Hunter Stadium = Knights 9 Panthers 8

Stats that matter

  • The Knights have better ball control than the Panthers, their completion rate is ranked 5th overall at 73.4% whereas the Panthers are 12th at 69.1%.
  • There is a big difference in the defence of both sides. It is no surprise to see that the Panthers aver the most missed tackles per game at 31.8% and the Knights are ranked number 1 at only 17.6%.
  • Discipline is a problem for the Panthers and they are ranked 15th for penalties conceded. This give the ball up at crucial stages and your opposition has extra chances to score points. They concede 7.8 per game and the Knights are ranked 7th overall with 5.6.

Odds
TAB Sportsbet = Knights $1.16 Panthers $5.50
Centrebet = Knights $1.18 Panthers $5.00
Sportsbet = Knights $1.20 Panthers $4.75
Betfair = Knights $1.20 Panthers $5.60

Verdict

There isn’t too much you can write here, the Knights should prevail in this game. They have a better defence compared to the Panthers and also have more attacking options to throw at the Panthers. The Panthers will put in a much better performance than they did last week, but it will still be an uphill battle for them. This makes selecting a margin very difficult. But with the Panthers conceding 28 points per match and the Knights allowing 15.2, 13+ sounds like the best option.

Suggested Bet
Knights 13+ @ $1.72

A little more value = Knights -14.5 @ $1.90 – It is a decent sized line, but if you’re willing to take on the Knights at 13+, why wouldn’t you go the extra 1.5 points to get a little more value out of your bet?

Make it McKinnon = Alex McKinnon FTS @ $13 – For a few weeks now, I have written about the weakness of the Panthers right hand side defence and this week will be no different. Based on this, pick on of the left hand side backs for the Knights. I’ve gone McKinnon because he is marking up against Wes Naiqama. For what it’s worth, James McManus is $8.

South Sydney Rabbitohs v Melbourne Storm

Time: Saturday 7.30pm
Make no mistake about it, regardless of all the other storylines running through the NRL this week, this is the game of the round! Super Saturday is back and it features a clash between the remaining two undefeated sides of the competition. The Rabbitohs are hosting the Melbourne Storm and at the end of this game, one of them will sit atop of the NRL table and in the best possible position heading into the representative break. It is also a great mental edge to have over a side if they were to meet again come the Finals Series. The Storm have been a benchmark for the rest of the competition for a number of seasons now and it is teams like the Rabbitohs that try to emulate them and reach the high standards that they set. Interestingly, Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire is former assistant coach at the Storm and he does take a lot away from his time at the club. It does appear as though teams are starting to figure the Storm out and they’re forcing them to continually lift to another level in order to get a victory. That is evident in their last two victories where they just scraped home against the Broncos and the scoreboard wasn’t a true reflection on just how tight their match against the Tigers was. But just when you think they are coming back to the pack, the “Big 3” lift them to another level, which is sometimes just enough to get the win. The Rabbitohs are a little different. Two times this season against lesser opponents, they’ve made it very tough on themselves and have just scraped home. I am referring to the Panthers and Warriors games. Yet when they face tougher opposition like the Roosters, Bulldogs and Sharks, they are able to grind out a tough performance. There are still a few questions surrounding their performance but a win here would go a long way to putting those to rest. It is a big shame that this game is going to be played on a Saturday night where only those fans that go to the game or have Pay-TV will be able to view it. No doubt if the NRL had another chance, it would be played on a Sunday afternoon or even a Friday Night. This game could very well be a preview of the 2013 Grand Final but for the time being, we will have to just wait and see what happens in this game.

South Sydney Rabbitohs

The push for consistency within the Rabbitohs lineup continues. They have again named an unchanged team but there could be a few late changes. David Tyrrell appeared to be concussed in the game against the Warriors last week but he continued to play on. Whether or not he sits out this week is another thing. Captain Michael Crocker was left out of the side last week as coach Michael Maguire didn’t think he was doing his job for the team. He may be the player that comes back into the side and he will certainly offer a lot of experience against one of his former clubs. Nathan Merritt is in a rich vein of form at the moment and it seems as though he is finding his way to the try line with ease. Expect a big game from him in this game as he is pushing very hard for SOO selection, the first step for him is the City v Country fixture. Souths did concede 22-points last week and a few people were suggesting that they had one eye on the game this week. Observing the Rabbitohs and the way they operate, I cannot buy into that because they actually had to come from behind to get the win over the Warriors in the end. They will definitely have their work cut out for them here but relish the chance that it offers. It will be their biggest test this season and their forwards hold a key to their success. They are ranked 1st in the NRL for metres per carry at 9.26m but the Storm will be up for the challenge and the best defence at the end of the day will prevail.

Melbourne Storm

The Storm have had little time between playing on MNF and naming their side on the Tuesday. They have made one obvious change to their backline with Matt Duffie a late withdrawal on Monday. Sisa Waqa replaced him and he turned out a very impressive performance. Duffie may be in for an extended stay on the sidelines as he was injured when playing for the reserve side. There are three players named on the extended bench with Slade Griffin being the usual 18th man each week. Last week we saw Kenneath Bromwich called into the side as a late inclusion and he may get a start again here. Brett Finch is also named, as there is a cloud around the fitness of both Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk. Both players are essential to the Storms performance in this match and their chances of winning would take a major blow. If Slater was ruled out, Finch would probably come into the halves and 5/8 Gareth Widdop would more to fullback. If Cronk were out, he would simply slot straight into the starting side at halfback.

Recent History

Overall = Rabbitohs 3 Storm 17

Last 5 games = Rabbitohs 1 Storm 4

At ANZ Stadium = Rabbitohs 0 Storm 2

Stats that matter

  • The Rabbitohs average 9.26m per carry and are ranked number 1. The Storm are close behind them and it supports the fact that this game will be a great clash. They rank in 2nd position with 9.20m per carry.
  • This clash is so close; both sides almost have an identical number of missed tackles per match. The Storm average 24.25 and the Rabbitohs 24.6.
  • Both sides will want to have the referees onside and being a home game for the Rabbitohs, they may get a few decisions in their favor. They need to get their penalties conceded down from 6.5 and have it something similar to the Rabbitohs at 5.4 per match.

Odds
TAB Sportsbet = Rabbitohs $1.75 Storm $2.10
Centrebet = Rabbitohs $1.75 Storm $2.12
Sportsbet = Rabbitohs $1.80 Storm $2.05
Betfair = Rabbitohs $1.83 Storm $2.14

Verdict

There are two schools of thought on this game. Firstly, assessing both teams at full strength. Melbourne has always oozed class around their play but it seems as though teams are catching up to them. They are always going to be tough to beat but the Rabbitohs are getting closer and closer to them. The Rabbitohs will be up for this game but there are still certain areas of their play that are questionable. If there is a side that is able to breakdown their opponents and find a weakness, it’s the Storm. But there are a few rumors around that Cronk and Slater are in doubt and this is reflected in the betting. If either of those two players are out, I would back the Rabbits to get the victory. If not, then the Storm seem like they’re the stronger of the two sides…for now. Whichever way this game goes, it will be a close contest so the 1-12 margin is more favored option.

Suggested Bet
Full Strength – Storm @ $2.14

Slater or Cronk out – Rabbitohs @ $1.83

Hedge your bets = Either Team to win Under 6.5 points @ $2.80 (Tri Bet) – This is the only other bet that I am going to recommend because it is going to be very difficult to make a decision until the final sides are released. If this is going to be a close contest, then this bet may be the best option, as it doesn’t favor a selecting a winner.

Canberra Raiders v New Zealand Warriors

The “second” Saturday night game this week features the Canberra Raiders hosting the New Zealand Warriors. Since the inclusion of MNF and the Sunday twilight game, the “second” 7:30pm game has disappeared. The Raiders have consecutive home games for the first time this season and it will be welcomed by them. Last week they were able to turn around a very poor showing in the first half to come back and get over the top of the Roosters late. It was a close contest and the Roosters were their own worst enemy. They had a few chances to put the Raiders away but failed to utilise their opportunities. Some credit does have to go to the Raiders though, because they kept coming at the Roosters in the contest and that probably got them the win in the end. It was a similar story for the Warriors, except they weren’t as lucky in gaining the points. They went down by two points to the Rabbitohs and it would’ve been a major boost to their confidence if they could’ve gained a win of them. As it turned out, their errors got the better of them and they were made to play for their mistakes; and the better team won. For this game, they need to ensure they are not giving away possession in crucial parts of the field. This game is probably going to be overshadowed somewhat by the Rabbitohs v Storm clash, and isn’t going to be the highest quality contest. But it is important to those involved and it provides another opportunity to steal some cash from some bookmakers.

Canberra Raiders

The Raiders have a few injuries this season to contend with but will be buoyed by the return of Terry Campese from a series of injuries. He has been named as 18th man for this game but the word coming out of Canberra is that he will take Anthony Milford’s spot in the side. It is interesting to know what impact Campese can bring to this side as he has had a long time away from the game. Hooker Glen Butteriss is out of this game through injury and utility Matt McIlwrick takes his spot. It has been suggested that when Campese does take the field he will play 5/8 and Josh McCrone will move into hooker and McIlwrick will get a rest. Joel Thompson was unable to make it back from injury in time and Joel Edwards took his spot. Edwards is now named to start in the second row and partner Josh Papalli. Joe Picker is the man that is named to replace him on the bench and will relish another chance at the top grade. The Raiders will need play for the entire 80 minutes this week. Their first half against the Roosters was terrible and they looked a long way from winning that game. No doubt coach Dave Furner gave them an almighty spray at HT, but they cannot continue this way if they are to make it to the business end of the season.

New Zealand Warriors

Warriors coach Matthew Elliot said that he was pleased with his side’s performance last week, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are still without the two competition points. The coaching style of Elliot is beginning to surface and the structure that he is bringing to the team is definitely needed. Otherwise, the loose football that they are familiar with would begin to wear thin. There are a few changes this week for the Warriors and this is not surprising as Elliot is still searching for a consistent and winning combination. Dane Nielsen is out of this game and Ngani Laumape shifts from the wing into the centres to cover for him, but more importantly Manu Vatuvei is the new replacement. “The Beast” will be welcomed back with open arms but his replacement in the last few games, Laumape, has done his job each week. He is probably better suited to the centres and he and Konrad Hurrell will pose several problems to the opposition sides with their ball running and strong defence. The other changes are on the bench and there is only 5 players named on it. Ben Henry is moved back to 18th man and could be the possible exclusion from this squad. Ben Matulino is welcomed back into the side and is going to be eased back into the game with reduced minutes off the bench. Maybe this will be a role that he is better suited to as he can offer short burst of energy when Elliot wants to call upon him.

Recent History

Overall = Raiders 16 Warriors 12

Last 5 games = Raiders 3 Warriors 2

At Canberra Stadium = Raiders 9 Warriors 1

Stats that matter

  • Both sides have terrible completion rates. The Raiders are ranked 15th overall with 65.7% and the Warriors are 13th with 67.8%.
  • The error rates of both sides suggest that this game will not be a high quality game. The Raiders average 13.6 per game while the Warriors are a little better at 11.8 errors per game.
  • The Raiders are working towards improving their defence. Last week they only missed 17 tackles. This is a remarkable difference considering they missed 76 in their first two games.

Odds

TAB Sportsbet = Raiders $1.50 Warriors $2.65
Centrebet = Raiders $1.52 Warriors $2.60
Sportsbet = Raiders $1.48 Warriors $2.70
Betfair = Raiders $1.51 Warriors $2.80

Verdict

These two sides are very evenly matched and this is certainly not a good thing. Their play so far this season has them both ranked down very low in the statistics, as well as the wrong end of the competition table. Things have not worked out like that would’ve wanted but here is another chance for them to turn around their fortunes. Going on what we have seen in the first 5 rounds, the Raiders look more likely to get a win. It is a very tricky game though, so tread lightly. The same applies to selecting a margin. The statistics suggest that whoever get the win here, the margin will probably blow out to 13+.

Suggested Bet
Raiders -5.5 @ $1.90

Stats suggest blow out = Raiders 13+ @ $2.80 – It is stated above and if you want a little more value in your bet, then this is the option I am recommending for you. Get on this one and hopefully a lot of points are scored, due to the poor defensive efforts in both sides so far this season.

Offer to a flyer = Raiders Try (first scoring play) @ $1.85 – It is well documented that the Warriors struggle to score points in the first half. So far this season, they have always conceded the try first. Therefore this option seems like a logical choice.

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles v Cronulla Sharks

Time: Sunday 2.00pm
As it is “Heritage Round” in the NRL this weekend, where better to kick off Sunday football action than a suburban football ground. People are always raving about how good it is to head on down to a teams traditional home ground and watch from the “hill”. It sure is a great education in the “days of old” for the young kids and it is fantastic to see so many families out at games. For this game, Manly fans will be egger to see their side’s good form continue. So far, it has only one blemish on their record and that was a defeat to the Titans. A game they were always in contention for, but were unable to finish off when it matters. We have seen some very dominating play this season by the Sea Eagles and if they were to keep this up, it could be another successful year for them. Their strengths revolve around their young halves and they are playing the part perfectly. Of course, this all comes off the back of powerful play by their forwards that can reduce the amount of pressure they are placed under. For the Sharks, it seems as thought the ASADA investigation is beginning to take its toll. Coach Shane Flanagan spoke in the press conference last week about how they were only able to train for around one session a week because of it. If this is the case, then something has to be done and the NRL need to step in. Otherwise this could get very ugly and fast. With a lot on their minds, they need to let their play on the field do the talking. Unfortunately for them though, it has not been up to their usual standard and they were beaten by the Eels last start, a side that was beaten 50-nil the previous weeks. They are their own worst enemy though and they are making things very hard for themselves. I am referring to the fact that they are ranked number 1 in the league for errors per match at 14.2. This is probably why their completion rate is also the worst and is lowly placed at 65%. Yes, things are tough for the Sharks and their fans at the moment, but the club needs to galvanise together and use the recent issues as motivation towards success. With two very strong packs, this game promises to be a great contest and a great way to start the afternoon’s action.

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles

The Sea Eagles are a very strong side and they are seemingly getting better and better with each performance. Playing the Bulldogs last week, you would’ve thought that it was going to be a brutal and bruising contest. Yet they did not let it get to that stage and they had the game taken care of well before the final whistle. Their side has kept a core group of players for a number of years now and it is certainly paying dividends for them now. They need no time to get their combinations working together and they are posing a problem for the opposition in every area of the game. There is no surprise to see no changes made to the team this week and the consistency within their lineup continue. There was minimal noise made about their recruiting during the off-season but it seems as though the players they have called upon are doing a sublime job at the moment and showing their former clubs what they are missing out on. I am referring to Tom Symonds, Justin Horo and Brenton Lawerence. All players belong in the forwards and they are a big reason why they are ranked 3rd overall in metres per carry with 9.12m. They rely heavily on their forwards to set up the game for their halves and backs, so this needs to continue for success.

Cronulla Sharks

At this point of the season, Flanagan needs to show a lot of faith in his players. They are under the pump and it is surely going to breakdown them sooner or later. To make matters worse, they are still without playmaker Todd Carney and their direction around the field seems to be effected. Chad Townsend stepped into that role last week and didn’t look entirely comfortable, but that outing will surely lift him for this game. Jonathan Wright is out of this game and his replacement in the centres is speedster Stuart Mills. That is the only change to the starting 13, yet Flanagan has mixed up the extended bench. Chris Heighington is out and Sam Tagataese comes into the 17 with Mark Taufua the new 18th man. Isaac De Gois remains on the bench and he will come on at some stage to relieve John Morris at hooker but this also seems to be a problem for the Sharks. They need both of these players firing from the moment they step onto the field; otherwise having a back up present is a waste of an interchange player. Finally, one issue needs to be addressed and that is the play of Luke Lewis. It is amazing to hear people question his contribution to this side and suggest he is underachieving. Perhaps the Sharks are not using him in the ideal manner, but that will come with time. When he is out on the field he is leading the team very well and is a great support to Paul Gallen. Take a look at past games; he is working very hard in attack and defence.

Recent History

Overall = Sea Eagles 55 Draw 2 Sharks 22

Last 5 games = Sea Eagles 4 Sharks 1

At Brookvale Oval = Sea Eagles 29 Draw 1 Sharks 5

Stats that matter

  • The Sharks woes are reflected by their ball security. They are ranked number 1 for errors (14.2 per game) and number 16 for completion rate (65%).
  • The Sea Eagles are not much better though and teams are not making them pay for their mistakes. They are ranked 11th for completion rate (69.4%) and equal 10th for errors (11.4 per game).
  • Maybe the Sharks defence can help them out. They average only 22 missed tackles per game but the Sea Eagles are again better at only 19.8 and second overall.

Odds

TAB Sportsbet = Sea Eagles $1.18 Sharks $5
Centrebet = Sea Eagles $1.20 Sharks $4.70
Sportsbet = Sea Eagles $1.20 Sharks $4.75
Betfair = Sea Eagles $1.21 Sharks $5.50

Verdict

On the whole, things over at Cronulla are very tough. They seem like a side that is not short on effort; rather the mental fatigue is beginning to get the better of them. Their success in this game depends on whether they rise above all of it. It does seem like the process is going to continue and the Sharks players will find this contest difficult again. In saying that, they should push the Sea Eagles right to the end. It is going to be a marked improvement from them, especially considering they’re on a two game losing streak. The most recent loss to Parramatta should be a catalyst within itself. 1-12 for the Sea Eagles and a very tough and physical contest is about to follow.

Suggested Bet
Sharks +11.5 @ $2.10

Certainly not a blow out = Sea Eagles 1-12 @ $3.10 – If you’re taking the top bet, you may just want to consider this bet as well. More value on offer but it does not cover the shock of a Sharks win.

That’s all for this game folks, not much more on offer.

Wests Tigers v St George-Illawarra Dragons

Time: Sunday 3.00pm
The Men of League “Heritage Round” will culminate with the 3pm “Match of the Day” at one of the traditional homes of rugby league, the SCG. Seeing rugby league played there definitely brings back a lot of memories for those that were lucky enough to see the game played there. The two lucky teams that get to benefit from this fixture will be the Tigers and the Dragons. Of course, neither side is a foundation club, rather a merger of two very famous clubs as they venture into a new era of the game. Even if you are not a fan of either side, it certainly is a treat to head out to the SCG for some Sunday afternoon football. Both sides will be out to put on a performance as well because it can mean so much more in advertising dollars than just the two points. With the performances of the two sides this season, they might actually take the two points. The Tigers are struggling each week to put together a solid 80-minute performance and they are getting themselves into a tough predicament. The last thing that you want to do in this competition is to chase points. Too often, we see a division between the top and bottom half of the competition. Their task does not get any easier here. The Dragons are nowhere near the level of trouble that the Tigers are experiencing and it is amazing what a few wins can do to a club. After Round 3, everyone was suggesting that coach Steve Price would struggle to see out the season. Two wins later against the Knights and the Sharks have seen those remarks disperse. You can also see that they are a changed side in their performance with players lifting their work rate in the game and taking more responsibility for their performance. The Dragons have their forwards to thank for this and they are leading the way with venom. No doubt a few of them will be named to play in the representative side that are named later on Sunday night. For now, all the players will be focusing on the 80-minutes that lay in front of them and honoring the players and fans that have made this game so great over all of the years.

Wests Tigers

This week, the Tigers have problems on and off the field. Having played in MNF, there is no surprise to see the Tigers name an unchanged lineup, especially considering the late changes that were made to the team. Liam Fulton didn’t even take the field and isn’t expected to here either. His replacement in that game was Sitaleki Akauola and he will probably get the nod here, with Eddy Pettybourne moving into the starting side. That issue seems minimal when you consider the problems surrounding the injury to playmaker Benji Marshall. He is reportedly out until Round 9 with “Turf Toe”, which is the common name given to an injury where the player tears the ligament underneath the big toe. He is named for this game, but it is highly unlikely that he will run out. For coach Mick Potter, he may be at a loss as to how to cover the situation. The most logical at this stage would be to move Braith Anasta to 5/8 and recall sacked halfback Jacob Miller to the side. Another option would be to move Anasta to 5/8 and Tim Moltzen to halfback and James Tedesco to fullback. Given that plan, he would then have to find an outside back to play on the wing. There was some good news to come the Tigers way this week as second rower Adam Blair was cleared of dangerous play by the match review committee and is free to play in this game. With a very puzzling scenario ahead, make sure that you pay attention to my twitter feed for breaking team news.

St George-Illawarra Dragons

The Dragons suffered a major blow last week as fullback Gerard Beale went down with a serious knee injury. It was a sickening blow to see and due to the severity of the injury, he is probably gone for the remainder of the season. Jason Nightingale has been called upon to move from the wing and back to the fullback position, while Daniel Vidot is the new face on the edge. That is the only change to the starting 13, and after a pleasing performance, it is no surprise why. Coach Steve Price has played around with his bench a little and recalled Jack de Belin and Michael Henderson, with Damien Cook named as 18th man. Jack de Belin was a late inclusion to the side last week and will again relish his chance at the top grade. It was also interesting to see that utility Josh Drinkwater was a surprise selection on the bench. His minutes were limited and his best football is in the halves so no doubt Price’s motivation behind that was to give Mitch Rein a rest at hooker and move Nathan Fein into the position. Drinkwater is a certain talent that may become a player of the future, but he needs to be in a stable environment form the beginning, not being thrown into the deep end halfway through a match. It should be a big night for a few players in this side that will definitely be hearing their name read out for representative honor. Based on his current play, lock Trent Merrin would be one of the first players picked in the City v Country game, but he may just force his way into the Australia side as well. Expect another big game from him and he will be well supported as always, by Dan Hunt.

Recent History

Overall = Tigers 12 Dragons 13

Last 5 games = Tigers 3 Dragons 2

At The SCG = Never played at the ground

Stats that matter

  • The Tigers are struggling to get the ball down the field as they are ranked 16th for metres per carry with 8.47m. The Dragons are ranked 6th and they can thank some of their forwards for averaging 8.93m per carry.
  • The Tigers are also struggling in defence as they are ranked 15th for missed tackles at 30.5 per match. The Dragons defence is a little better and will not leak points like the Tigers do. They are ranked 9th with 25 missed tackles per game.
  • The Dragons will not want to give the Tigers any favors. They are very good with their discipline and realise its value more than the Tigers. They are ranked equal 3rd and conceded 5.2 penalties per match. The Tigers have the worst discipline of any side and give away 8.25 penalties per game.

Odds

TAB Sportsbet = Tigers $2.65 Dragons $1.50
Centrebet = Tigers $2.50 Dragons $1.55
Sportsbet = Tigers $2.60 Dragons $1.52
Betfair = Tigers $2.64 Dragons $1.58

Verdict

There is plenty of decent value around the Dragons here. The Tigers are in a whole world of trouble with injuries and their state of play. They are ranked very low in almost every statistic and they need to turn their play around. This will be harder considering playmaker Benji Marshall is out of this game and will probably not return until Round 9. The Dragons are a side that everyone doubted but they have found their feet and are playing some very good football. It will not be easy for them and the Tigers are going to be a difficult side for anyone to beat, but with the Dragons continually bending back the Tigers line with their forwards, they should get into a winning position and eventually wear the Tigers down. The 1-12 margin also looks a better option and the Dragons do not exactly score a lot of points and the Tigers unpredictability may allow them to stick with them right up until the end.

Suggested Bet
Dragons @ $1.58

Pushed to the end = Dragons 1-12 @ $3.10 – Of course the 13+ margin is favored by the bookies but despite their defensive fragilities, they are going to be an improved side from previous weeks. They may push the Dragons right until the end.

Wingers delight = Brett Morris FTS @ $9 or Daniel Vidot FTS @ $11 – The Tigers have problems on the edge of the field and either of these players could pop up on the end of a backline movement. Depending on who is marking them also depends which was I would go. If Morris is against Utai, then I will select him but will lean towards Vidot if Joel Reddy marks Morris and Tedesco faces Vidot. Tedesco is a talented fullback but he is caught out of position on the wing and needs to be moved back to his favored position.

Gold Coast Titans v Parramatta Eels

With no MNF this week due to representative team selections, the 6:30pm game will close out Round 6. It is a shame that it has to end this way, but MNF is a luxury that fans have become used to and really enjoy watching and that’s the way it is. Throughout the season, this fixture has always been a good contest that people have looked forward to; and this game will be no different. This week the Gold Coast Titans look to bounce back from a loss to the Broncos against the Eels. Last week the Eels rode a whole heap of emotions and were able to bounce back from a 50-point drubbing to beat the Cronulla Sharks. It was a good performance considering they were playing for the inaugural John Mannah Cup and they should be proud as a club, of the tribute they gave him prior to the kickoff. It was a performance that saw a lot of heart and a change in attitude compared to the week before. Ricky Stuart was always going to bring that to this roster, which is why it was so disappointing to see the way they played the previous week. Just as the Eels were on the ropes last week, the Titans are there this week and they need to turn around their form from the week before. They were favorites against the Broncos and were surprised, but also hampered by a few injuries they suffered. To make matters worse, they are without one of their new recruits this week, Dave Taylor, who has been dropped for disciplinary reasons. The injuries they suffered in their last game did impact upon their performance as both halves were injured. There is definitely not an attitude issue at the Titans and they have several players that will be pushing for representative selection later on in the evening. Hopefully this game produces the tough contest that we all want to see, to conclude the round. Better yet, it will make a good weekend even better if we can jag a winner or two.

Gold Coast Titans

With little depth at their club, the Titans are only going to make changes if they are needed. The two biggest disruptions to their side this week is at hooker and 5/8. Aidan Sezer is out of this clash with an injury and his replacement is Beau Henry. He is still an unknown quantity at this level but from what we saw of him at the Dragons and the Knights is a lot of potential. Beau Fallon is the new face at hooker and while he is new to the starting team, he is not new to the Titans set up. He has been playing off the bench this season and was adding impact when he took the field. He is a quality player and one that can certainly do the job for his side. As he comes off the interchange, Anthony Don is his replacement and he will probably take the field to replace Fallon at some stage. Brad Takairangi is out of this game and Steve Michaels is his replacement. This has been the case for a number of weeks now but coach John Cartwright has persisted in naming the injured centre and then making a late change. Luke O’Dwyer is back into the team this week and Ben Ridge misses out of this team altogether. Finally, Dave Taylor has been dropping from this contest for disciplinary reasons. He has played an important role off the bench all season for the Titans and his impact will definitely be missed. Full credit to the Titans for taking this stance though and they have a suitable replacement in Mark Minichiello to call into the side.

Parramatta Eels

The Eels have made just the one change this week and that occurs in the backline. Centre Jacob Loko is out of this match and Cheyse Blair is recalled after a stint in the NSW Cup. Last week, the Eels found a winning formula. They were riding a high of emotion and they prevailed on the scoreboard. The struggle for them this week is to emulate that performance. Not only that, if they want to be a contender this season, they will have to play like that in every match. They had only 15 missed tackles for the match after they had averaged 28 in their opening 4 games. The only other performance that gets close to this was against the Warriors in Round 1 where they had 16 missed tackles and they were victorious on that occasion as well. Defence was always going to be a strong focus of a Ricky Stuart coached side and eventually it will pay dividends, it is just a matter of Parramatta fans being patient.

Recent History

Overall = Titans 5 Eels 3

Last 5 games = Titans 2 Eels 3

At Skilled Park = Titans 3 Eels 1

Stats that matter

  • The Titans have a very strong defence and it is helping them get over the line in close games. They only allow 13.6 points and are able to score an average of 20.4.
  • Parramatta are their own worst enemy at times. They are ranked 13th overall for errors and average 12.6 per match. They tightened their strings a little last week an reduced that to just 8, but they cannot give the ball over to their opponent that often.
  • The Eels need to pose more of a threat to their opponents and break the line of defence. So far this season they only average 3.6 line breaks per game and are ranked in 13th. The Titans are ahead of that in 6th spot and average 5.2 per match.

Odds

TAB Sportsbet = Titans $1.70 Eels $2.20
Centrebet = Titans $1.72 Eels $2.15
Sportsbet = Titans $1.70 Eels $2.20
Betfair = Titans $1.80 Eels $2.20

Verdict

The inconsistency of Parramatta makes this game very difficult to select. On one hand, you saw last week what they are capable of, but on the other hand, the Roosters showed just how terrible they can be. The Titans have what is takes to get a win as well, it is just a matter of how much they will miss their regular 5/8 and hooker. With the quality forwards they have at their disposal, the impact should be minimal but the NRL is a very strange game at times. I cannot select the Eels until they string together a few consistent performances. The Titans to get a win in this match, and probably by a 1-12 margin given the fact that the Eels have “improved” their defence and the Titans are not attack with their regular gusto.

Suggested Bet
Titan -3.5 @ $1.95

Logical margin = Titans 1-12 @ $3 – There is a reason why this margin is the shortest, it is the logical choice for punters. The Eels are yet to assert themselves in this competition and the Titans will not run away with the game.

Flash Gordon = Kevin Gordon LTS @ $8 – He is a flyer out on the edge for the Titans and can certainly finish a backline movement. He has only scored 3 tries this season and two of those have been the last try in a match. Hopefully he can sniff out another late try here.

Good luck!
Scooby

Author

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Scooby

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

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