NRL Round 1: Knights vs. Sharks & Roosters vs. Rabbitohs Preview and Betting Tips

James Baxter
Wed, 13 Mar, 2:00 AM

Bookies are finding it impossible to split the Knights and Sharks whilst the game’s fiercest rivals face off again.

Newcastle Knights vs. Cronulla Sharks – McDonald Jones Stadium - 6:00pm

It’s the clash of superstar five-eighths who are making their first five-eighth appearances for their clubs! Kalyn Ponga’s Newcastle host Shaun Johnson’s Cronulla.

Bookies are finding it impossible to split the Knights and Sharks in the first twilight fixture of 2019 – and eyebrows were raised when just a fortnight ago Cronulla belted Newcastle 30-6 in a trial, a scoreline flattering the Novocastrians.

Both sides will field revamped playmaking combinations this season. Kalyn Ponga is now going to experience life in the front line as a five-eighth while Shaun Johnson has crossed the Tasman to join former Warriors teammate Chad Townsend in the Shire.

 

2019 TRIAL RESULTS

Dragons 18 – Knights 10

Sharks 30 – Knights 6

Sharks 28 – Sea Eagles 22

Sharks 30 – Knights 6

 

TRIAL TAKEAWAYS

All eyes are on Ponga’s switch from fullback to five-eighth but based on pre-season results the success for Newcastle thus far is mixed. The Maroon showed promising attacking signs particularly against the Dragons however errors were made with ball in his hands, and by defending in the front line he has now become a target for opposition forwards. Connor Watson was unconvincing in the vacated fullback spot.

After a chaotic off-season resulting in now former-Premiership winning coach Shane Flanagan’s deregistration, salary cap punishments, board changes, Valentine Holmes chasing an NFL dream and Shaun Johnson’s late recruitment, rookie NRL coach John Morris would have been pleased to not only get the Sharks’ campaign started but doing so in style.

New signing Josh Morris looked threatening in the victory against Manly, while Matt Moylan – back to his familiar fullback position- was the star in a demolition of Newcastle.

 

KEY STATS

  •     - Newcastle has only won one Round One clash under coach Nathan Brown, with last year’s 19-18 win over Manly coming in golden point.
  •     - Shaun Johnson has won his last five starts against Newcastle, his last loss coming in a round one clash in 2015.

 

Tip: Cronulla

Best bet: Sharks (-2) $2.25 with Unibet

Value bet: Shaun Johnson last try scorer $19 with Sportsbet

Sydney Roosters vs. South Sydney Rabbitohs – Sydney Cricket Ground - 7:55pm

The game’s oldest rivals face off again – with Souths looking for revenge on their Preliminary Final elimination at the hands of the eventual premier Roosters.

Both sides are expected to make the NRL’s final four again this season (Roosters $1.50 BetEasy, Souths $2.25 Bet365) and will enter 2019 with huge expectations. The Roosters are looking to become the first side to successfully defend their Premiership in a unified competition since Brisbane in 1993, while the Bunnies have hired that very same 1993 Brisbane Premiership coach in Wayne Bennett, a man with the most Premiership rings in the coaching ranks.

 

2019 TRIAL RESULTS

Wigan Warriors 8 – Sydney Roosters 20

Sydney Roosters 20 – Manly Sea Eagles 38

Rabbitohs 8 – Panthers 28

Dragons 24 - Rabbitohs 36

 

TRIAL TAKEAWAYS

The Roosters’ pre-season was different from their 15 NRL rivals. A trip to England and France served as their pre-season preparation. Opposed training sessions with Toulouse and St Helens was followed by a World Club Challenge win against Wigan. None of the 2018 Grand Final side played against Manly, although recruit Angus Crichton did start and already looks fit and firing on the right edge following off-season surgery. Crichton will receive a hostile reception from the travelling Souths fans since making the move across enemy lines and has been named on the bench to make his Roosters debut.

New coach Wayne Bennett would have been pleased with his side’s pre-season improvement. They were competitive against Penrith before wholesale interchanges saw a blowout against them while despite missing Adam Reynolds and Greg Inglis, the Bunnies looked menacing in attack against the Dragons highlighted by Corey Allan’s hat-trick. If you haven’t heard of Allan before, you will soon. The former Bronco junior is set to make a name for himself in 2019 whether on the wing or his preferred fullback role. New signing Ethan Lowe made his debut off the bench in the Charity Shield following his recent arrival from North Queensland.

 

KEY STAT

  •     - Roosters’ 2019 history will be about defying history, so they’ll get a perfect initiation against the Rabbitohs. In the last six first season clashes between these two sides, Souths have a 5-1 record.

 

Tip: Roosters

Best bet: Souths (+4) $2 with Bet365

Value bet: Roosters (1-12 margin) $3 with Sportsbet

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