NRL Round 3: Saturday Match Previews & Betting Tips
This week we see the Manly v the Warriors, Cowboys v Sharks and Panthers v Storm.
Manly Sea-Eagles v New Zealand Warriors – Christchurch Stadium - 3:00pm
It was a tale of two halves for Manly last start. Their first half was almost as bad as the Lottoland conditions as the tries rained against them resulting in a 26-0 halftime deficit. No doors were unhinged by coach Des Hasler in his return to his old home ground but the second half saw a far more competitive Sea Eagles side – Daly Cherry-Evans regained his attacking mojo and the injection of interchange hooker Manase Fainu gave Manly new life. It wasn’t enough to rescue a lost cause but it did show the potential Manly can have in 2019.
If any side underestimates the Sea Eagles, they risk a rapid score being run up against them – just ask the Roosters. Tom Trbojevic’s return from injury is monumental for Manly. The fullback inspires so much confidence throughout the side. His positional play and organisational skills will tighten the Sea Eagles defence, and his support play will give Manly an attacking edge they’ve lacked so far this season.
What to make of the New Zealand Warriors? In true Warriors fashion, they’ve been consistently inconsistent. Their big round one win over the Bulldogs was followed by a big round two loss to the Tigers. The Warriors looked like two different sides in those eight days, the slick ball movement and free-flowing attack was replaced with handling errors and a poor kicking game, while their defence went from easily containing the Dogs to easily opening up time and time again to the Benji and Robbie show.
The only major personnel change was hooker Nat Roache being unavailable for the Tigers, but when Roache was only a replacement for regular hooker Isaac Luke, it doesn’t paint a pretty picture for what the Warriors dished up round two. The Kiwis will again play away round three but they’re spared a trip to Australia – they’re instead travelling to Christchurch for a Manly-designated home game. The recent tragedy in Christchurch is still painfully fresh for the local community, and it’s going to be an emotional crowd come Saturday afternoon.
The Warriors squad is far better than what they showed against the Tigers. Manly are winless in 2019 but will at least have their late second-half comeback against the Roosters to look to build upon. The Warriors will need halfback Blake Green to steady their ship like he did against the Bulldogs, and the edge combination of Solomone Kata and David Fusitua need to get themselves more involved both in attack and defence. The Tigers rattled the Warriors and Stephen Kearney’s side couldn’t put up a response – if they want to be taken as a serious top eight contender they’ll need to stand up this weekend.
Key stats: The Warriors won 34-14 in these two sides’ first meeting in Christchurch last year. This win broke a hoodoo – the Sea Eagles had won 13 of the previous 14 head-to-heads and these were based off hot starts, as the Eagles only trailed at half-time twice in this run.
Best bet: Warriors to score most converted tries $1.90* (Sportsbet)
Value bet: Manly to score first and not win $4.33* (Sportsbet)
North Queensland Cowboys v Cronulla Sharks – 1300 Smiles Stadium – 5:30pm
When the Cowboys were putting the finishing touches to their loaded forward pack with the recruitment of Brisbane veteran Josh McGuire, they wouldn’t have been expecting what happened to them against the Broncos last week to occur in 2019. The Cowboys big men were completely outgunned by a Tevita Pangai Junior-inspired understrength Broncos pack. Pangai Junior got up into the Cowboys’ faces and took exceptional delight in letting McGuire know who was on top. Jason Taumalolo’s knee injury early on was a disaster for Cowboys confidence and his stint on the sidelines recovering for at least six weeks will be a big test for North Queensland.
Worryingly when the Cowboys did have possession minus Taumalolo, they couldn’t muster much of a response – only McGuire and Jordan McLean surpassed 100 running metres, and with the Broncos targeting Michael Morgan, five-eighth Te Maire Martin looked like a playmaker short of confidence. Coach Paul Green has responded by a backline shuffle with Martin pushed to fullback and young playmaker Jake Clifford returning to first grade. The Cowboys are Premiership contenders but can’t afford to repeat their Brisbane horror show against a Sharks side with positive momentum on their side.
The Sharks did what they needed against the Titans – rarely threatened in their 20-6 win. Cronulla was efficient without being explosive, with their new attacking spine showing signs of improvement. Matt Moylan has returned to fullback with a bang, complimenting halves Shaun Johnson and Chad Townsend nicely. Sione Katoa added a try-scoring double to his growing reputation, while Briton Nikora joined him on the scoring list, the rookie doing a great job in compensating for Wade Graham’s unavailability. The Cowboys will be new coach John Morris’s toughest assignment yet, but the Shire side will take confidence in their Titans win coupled with the Broncos exposing some potential North Queensland defensive weaknesses.
Key stat: The Sharks have won five of their last seven Cowboys matches. Josh Dugan’s faced the Cowboys twice as a Shark – and scored both times. It’s early days but the Sharks defence so far has been reliable, only the table-topping Tigers have conceded fewer tries and points than Cronulla.
Best bet: Sharks +1.5 $1.63* (Unibet)
Value bet: Josh Dugan anytime try scorer $3* (BetEasy)
Penrith Panthers v Melbourne Storm – Carrington Park, Bathurst – 7:35pm
Penrith will be grateful in avoiding a 0-2 start to 2019 via their narrow 16-14 win over Newcastle. James Maloney was the unlikely inspiration – the five-eighth punching far above his weight with some crucial defensive decisions against a fast-finishing Knights. Ivan Cleary would have been pleased with his side’s effort, even if their attack wasn’t quite firing on all its cylinders. The Panthers relied on their biggest men to deliver and in James Tamou- again delivering a huge performance- and a much-improved Reagan Campbell-Gillard they showed they’re up for any challenge. Melbourne will present a step up from what the Knights offered – can Penrith match it?
No Billy Slater, no worries so far in 2019 for the Storm as they brushed aside Canberra 22-10 at GIO Stadium. Jahrome Hughes has slotted in seamlessly at fullback and growing in confidence by the week, helping relieve pressure on primary playmaker Cameron Munster. And if all else fails in their attack, Cameron Smith can always give the ball to Melbourne’s monster Nelson Asofa-Solomona close to the line, with the Kiwi international scoring a vintage barge over try last week. And all this happened while superstar winger Suliasi Vunivalu helped himself to a hat-trick inside the first 30 minutes! Melbourne remains the real deal and it’ll be fascinating to see how they approach a Penrith side playing in a city the Storm have never played before in Bathurst.
Key stat: Melbourne has won its opening three rounds in five of the last seven years. In their last ten matches, the Storm’s winning margin has been 9.5 points. Penrith has only won two from their last 19 matches against the Storm – although they did win these two side’s most recent head-to-head.
Best bet: Storm -4 $2* (Bet365)
Value bet: Melbourne 1-12 $2.85* (BetEasy)