NRL Round 3: Friday Night Previews & Betting Tips

Two sides coming off losses look to establish themselves as top eight threats and an unbeaten Eels get their biggest 2019 test when they square off against the reigning Premier's, the Roosters.

James Baxter
 | 
Tue, 26 Mar, 12:00 AM

Canberra Raiders v Newcastle Knights – GIO Stadium- 6:00pm

Canberra was brought down to Earth with their 22-10 loss to Melbourne rendering their round one Titans shutout a distant memory. Canberra’s effort was unquestioned but against a Melbourne Storm side with whom they have their worst NRL head-to-head record against, they were outclassed and couldn’t recover from a slow start. Ricky Stuart still has positives though, John Bateman has already established himself as a reliable forwards contributor two weeks into his NRL career while Jordan Rapana’s early return to fitness is a massive boost. Jack Wighton also is looking confident as a five-eighth, but he’ll be needing halves partner Aiden Sezer to step up – the halfback had a night to forget against the Storm.

Newcastle let two Premiership points slip against Penrith last start. Their attack didn’t quite click against a desperate Panthers defence, and repeated errors ended their hopes of maintaining their unbeaten 2019 start. But much like the Raiders, it’s not doom and gloom. Their forwards kept them in the Panthers contest for longer than perhaps their execution deserved with David Klemmer again leading the way with 183 metres - almost matching the combined running metres of starting backrowers Lachlan Fitzgibbon, Sione Mata’utia and Tim Glasby (210 metres) alone.

Both Canberra and Newcastle finished outside the top eight in 2018 and know it’s matches like this which will go a long way in whether their 2019 finals goals will be achieved. Expect physicality and desperation in equal measures.

 

Key Stats:

Canberra has won three of their last four home head-to-head Newcastle clashes.

- This rivalry has been high scoring – going back to 2010, in their last 16 matches the average total points scored is 52.25.

- Jordan Rapana enjoys versing the Knights – he’s scored six tries in his last five matches against them.

 

Tip: Raiders

Best bet: Jordan Rapana Anytime Try Scorer $2.10* (TAB)

Value bet: Raiders -0.5/Over 36.5 Total Match Points $2.75* (Sportsbet)

Parramatta Eels v Sydney Roosters – ANZ Stadium - 7:55pm

Parramatta is loving life in 2019 – they’re an entirely different side from the one who looked like they were counting down the days until they would be put out of their 2018 misery last campaign.

The Eels made a slow start against rivals Canterbury but once they clicked into gear they went on a Blake Ferguson-inspired rampage. The 36-16 result made it two wins from two starts and increased the sense of optimism around the massive Eels fanbase. The Eels’ list on paper doesn’t scream top eight however this young squad has momentum on its side. The likes of Dylan Brown, Reed Mahoney and Jaemen Salmon either had little or no involvement with last season’s debacle so are playing freely without fear.

Shaun Lane has settled in immediately on the Eels’ left edge – the rangy backrower has always shown his potential but has been in and out of first grade across three clubs in a short span, Lane is showing the confidence of a forward knowing his coach is sticking by him.

Clint Gutherson got a double against the Dogs and is approaching the one year mark since his return from a serious ACL injury and is getting closer to his pre-injury heights. “King” Gutherson’s support play was a highlight against the Dogs and another promising display of the effort being put in by Parra in 2019.

And the signing of Ferguson so far has been a masterstroke. Ferguson joined the Eels with the taste of Premiership success still fresh – he knows what it takes to succeed week in and week out at NRL level and his determination has already rubbed off on his team-mates. Ferguson’s right-hand side combination with centre Brad Takarangai is worth watching for punters this season. Takarangai offers tremendous size but also has ball-playing ability from his younger days as a five-eighth. His offload to Ferguson to eventually set up Gutherson’s second try will give Roosters coach Trent Robinson some worrying food for thought. It may be a currently unheralded centre-wing combo but it’s not going to surprise anyone if Parramatta chose to favour this right edge attack in 2019 – Takarangai and Ferguson have size, power, passing and experience favouring them.

We’ll learn more about Parramatta’s true potential when they’re faced with setbacks – about whether heads will drop, doubts from 2018 return if the younger players pull back on their attacking instincts – but for now, they’re a dangerous challenge for the Roosters. They’ll play the reigning Premiers without external expectations on them, and promisingly for Arthur, they would know despite their two wins so far, the Eels are yet to deliver an 80-minute performance, meaning room for improvement is there. The Eels face their biggest challenge in 2019 so far – are they up for the fight?

The Roosters defeated Manly 26-18 last start – a win much more impressive than how it appears on paper. Through injuries and positional reshuffles, the Roosters were forced to make eight changes to their originally named 17 man team. The absentees included Cooper Cronk and Jake Friend, meaning significant changes to the Roosters’ attacking structures. This, however, meant Luke Keary assumed chief playmaking responsibility and much like in the 2018 Grand Final the feisty star delivered in spades. The torrential rain didn’t stop the Roosters’ preference for ball movement and taking attacking chances no matter the territory. Daniel Tupou and Boyd Cordner benefitted from Keary’s left-side preference, bagging two tries each. The Tricolours did fade out late in the second half allowing Manly to shrink the margin and will be wary of a similar collapse against Parramatta.

 

Key stats: The Eels have only won three of their last 12 matches against the Roosters. ANZ Stadium hasn’t been kind to the Eels either while they’re waiting to move into Bankwest Stadium – they’ve only won six of their 16 matches at Homebush. Latrell Mitchell has faced Parramatta three times in his young career – he’s scored every time with six tries in total.

 

Tip: Roosters

Best bet: Roosters -8 $2.02* (Unibet)

Value bet: Roosters 13+ $2.50* (BetEasy)

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