Two teams at the centre of the NRL’s latest scandal will do battle this Saturday night.
Melbourne and the Gold Coast will be missing key players after breaching the NRL’s illicit drugs policy and with a stack of players backing up from rep duty, this isn’t what either coach would’ve wanted.
The Storm are sitting four points clear at the top of the table after blowing away the Dragons in Wollongong 34-22 while the Titans recorded a big win over Newcastle to go back-to-back for the first time this season.
Melbourne were ruthless against the Dragons in Round 9 and raced out to a huge lead of 22-4 at half-time. Exposing the flanks of Stgeorge Illawarra, Josh Addo-Carr and Suliasi Vunivalu were the main beneficiaries and their performance will definitely put the Titans wingers and centres on notice here.
The 34 points they racked up was a season-high, however, they were penetrated quite easily on a number of occasions in the second half by the competition’s best attack to eventually concede 22 points – the second most they have leaked this season.
Not surprisingly a lot of Melbourne’s early season success has been because they’ve flown out of the blocks, however, when it comes to second half performances they are last in the comp with just 78 points scored.
They are without Jesse Bromwich and man mountain Nelson Asofa-Solomona for this clash with greatly reduces their punching power up front.
STARTING TO LIFT
Coach Neil Henry almost has a full roster to play with and that is something he hasn’t had the luxury of for most of 2017.
The only caveat to that here is that he is missing one of his leaders in the forwards – former Storm player Kevin Proctor.
The return of the team’s big-name players has resulted in a turn in fortunes for the Gold Coast who easily disposed of Newcastle last week and the defending premiers before that.
While their defence has been the main reason why they are 3-6 through nine rounds, they have been pretty solid in the past two games with just 18 points conceded.
Have they turned the corner?
MELBOURNE has owned the Gold Coast since they entered the comp in 2007.
Of their 17 clashes, Melbourne has won 11 of those with nine wins and just two defeats since 2011.
A worrying sign for Gold Coast fans is the blowout margins they have suffered at the hands of the Storm in their past three encounters. They have been beaten by an average of 26 points so the Storm 19+ option is very appealing at the $3.75 with Unibet.
We think this is going to be a bit closer than most people think.
We all saw what the Storm did do Stgeorge Illawarra last start, however, they were missing Gareth Widdop who has been instrumental to their early season success. With Gold Coast starting to find their feet and the defence starting to tighten up, Melbourne could be in for a tough one.
Remember this is the first of a double-header at Suncorp Stadium and the venue suits Melbourne right down to the ground with 12 wins from 15 there. In fact, their last loss at the ground was in 2009.
If the Titans can stick with Melbourne early then we could be in for a good game.
Incredibly, Gold Coast has the third-best attack in the competition so the Storm’s outstanding defence, which concedes just 13.44 points per game and is ranked second in the NRL, could be in for a busy night.
Melbourne’s two highest totals they’ve conceded have been against the high-powered attacks of Manly and Stgeorge Illawarra so we expect Gold Coast to at least rack up some points. Take the Away Team Total Points Over 19.5 @ $2.81 with Sportsbet while a juicy exotic bet is the Both Teams To Score Over 20 Points @ $5.20 (Sportsbet).
Ultimately though Gold Coast aren’t a finished product yet so we can’t back them to win so take ‘old faithful’ and put Melbourne in your Multis.
BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE AT LEAST 20 POINTS