NRL Rd 1: Sunday Match Previews & Betting Tips

James Baxter
Wed, 13 Mar, 4:00 AM

It's the battle of the West whilst the Titans welcoming the Raiders to cap off round one.

Penrith Panthers vs. Parramatta Eels - Panthers Stadium - 4:05pm

It’s the battle of the west as Premiership hopefuls Penrith ($9 – Parramatta.

12 months ago, this round one matchup was viewed as a potential finals preview – the Panthers came away 24-14 victors over Parramatta. But few could have seen the dramatic collapse Parramatta would go on to experience, finishing with another wooden spoon and huge question marks over their coach Brad Arthur’s future. The Panthers dramatically axed Anthony Griffin just weeks before the finals and finally found their man in Ivan Cleary, who returns to the club he led to a 2014 Preliminary Final.

These two sides do not like each other – expect physicality aplenty and points to potentially come at a premium, as seen in the Eels’ 20-0 shutout in a trial featuring these two clubs a fortnight ago.

 

2019 TRIAL RESULTS

Rabbitohs 8 – Panthers 28

Panthers 0 – Eels 20

Eels 20 – Raiders 22

Panthers 0 – Eels 20

 

TRIAL TAKEAWAYS

Ivan Cleary is back at the helm but he’s already encountering a storm. Off-field incidents have ramped up media pressure on a squad expected to challenge for the Premiership, and a disappointing performance against Parramatta would not have been the momentum Cleary was looking for entering a huge 2019. The Rabbitohs previously pushed the Panthers hard in the opening trial in a result skewed by both sides making mass interchanges in the second half.

Are there reasons for optimism for the long-suffering Eels faithful? New recruits Blake Ferguson and Shaun Lane have already settled in nicely, and a dominant defeat of round one opponents Panthers will surely give Brad Arthur’s side added belief. The Eels also looked threatening against Canberra, though much will rely on Mitchell Moses guiding his spine around the paddock, with pivot Dylan Brown making his debut and hooker Reed Mahoney only starting his fifth NRL game.

 

KEY STAT

     - Blake Ferguson enjoys playing Penrith – the 2018 Dally M Winger of the Year’s scored seven tries in his last six games against the Panthers.

 

Tip: Panthers

Best bet: Panthers (-2.5) and overall under 42.5 points $3.60 Sportsbet

Value bet: Blake Ferguson first tryscorer $13 Sportsbet

Gold Coast Titans vs. Canberra Raiders – Cbus Super Stadium – 6:10pm

Two sides flying under the radar but both desperate to end finals droughts – it’s the Titans welcoming the Raiders to cap off round one.

Both the Titans and Raiders arguably underachieved in 2018 and it’s easy to pinpoint the biggest area of improvement needed. The Titans lost seven matches by single-digit margins while Raiders incredibly lost 10 matches in this fashion.

Coaches Garth Brennan and Ricky Stuart have responded with big recruitment and selection calls. The Titans splashed out on big bopper Shannon Boyd who’ll face his former club with a point to prove, along with NSW Origin star Tyrone Peachey and the returning Tyrone Roberts. Roberts’ return pushes Titans rookie of the year AJ Brimson to the bench – look for the young sensation to be the Titans’ wildcard if needing to chase points.

The Raiders meanwhile let Blake Austin and Junior Paulo- among others- depart in order to recruit English forwards John Batemen and Ryan Sutton, along with shifting Jack Wighton from fullback to five-eighth. Wighton is no stranger to the six jersey and will welcome more opportunities to capitalise on his ball-running ability.

 

2019 TRIAL RESULTS

Cowboys 26 – Titans 22

Titans 22 – Broncos 25

Eels 20 – Raiders 22

Raiders 28 – Bulldogs 22

 

TRIAL TAKEAWAYS

Based on trial selection it appears coach Garth Brennan will favour the experience of Michael Gordon over the youthful flair of AJ Brimson at fullback, while big money signing Tyrone Peachey will begin his Titans career in the centres. The Titans have expensively recruited on and off the field this pre-season, adding Mal Meninga as a culture consultant in a bid for the club to at last live up to its potential.

Coach Ricky Stuart readily admits he’s under pressure to perform – his side has missed finals in consecutive seasons. He’s responded by shifting the Raiders spine – Charnze Nicoll-Klokstand joins Canberra to play fullback, Wighton will attempt to make the number six jersey his own at the second time of trying, while Aidan Sezer will be expected to guide the side into the top eight as first receiver.

 

KEY STAT

     - Points haven’t been hard to come by in recent clashes between these two sides when on the Gold Coast – since 2014 in five such fixtures the average combined points tally is 52.8 points with the lowest tally being a 28-12 Titans win in 2015.

     - Kiwi backrower Kevin Proctor scored Titans tries in both 2018 matches with these two clubs.

 

Tip: Raiders

Best bet: Raiders (+3.5) and Over (42.5) Points $3 Sportsbet

Value bet: Kevin Proctor to score anytime $5 Bet365

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