NRL Round 3: Sunday Match Previews & Betting Tips
Polar opposites in 2019 – the full of confidence Tigers face a besieged Bulldogs desperate to turnaround an already horror season start and fresh from a ten day break, the red-hot Bunnies will be ready to go against a shell-shocked Titans looking for a huge upset.
Wests Tigers v Canterbury Bulldogs – Campbelltown Stadium - 4:05pm
The Tigers made history in their imposing 34-6 win over the Warriors at Campbelltown Stadium – their late flurry of tries boosted their points differential and meant the joint venture finished the round atop of the NRL table for the first time in its 19 year history. It’s a small but notable step forward for Michael Maguire’s side.
Last season they recorded stunning back-to-back wins over the Roosters and Storm, however, these wins were ground out and reliant on a defence-first mentality. This season their defence so far has been strong but it’s their attack which is making the Tigers a dangerous side to face in 2019. The form of Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah has led some people to double check their calendars to confirm the year is not 2005 – these two veterans are on fire!
Last season the Tigers were overly reliant on halfback Luke Brooks for attacking inspiration. This season though Brooks is playing with more freedom and less pressure, even taking a back seat to Marshall against the Warriors. This is a great sign for the Tigers’ finals dreams, as it means opponents are needing to change their defensive plans to accommodate another attacking threat instead of just Brooks.
And this is without the evergreen Farah’s dummy-half wiliness. Farah’s always backed himself with ball in hand but in 2019 he’s chosen his spots selectively resulting in a well-rounded attack that’s so far been far too much for Manly and New Zealand to handle. All this has been achieved without the injured Moses Mbye at fullback, the veteran leadership of Chris Lawrence on an edge and voluntarily without Josh Reynolds. The Tigers will not get ahead of themselves – their 2018 season fadeout after another hot start will be too raw for players and fans alike – and surely will not expect another two Premiership Points against the Dogs just because they’re on a roll.
The Dogs meanwhile would feel like the 2019 season has lasted longer than 160 minutes of action. Unlike their round one capitulation across the Tasman, there were some positives in their 36-16 loss to Parramatta. The Bulldogs started off aggressively and shifted the ball early on, with the pressure resulting in an early 10-0 lead. Kieran Foran looked like he was regaining his momentum and coach Dean Pay’s selection of Jeremy Marshall-King at hooker ahead of Michael Lichaa was giving extra attacking spark. But then their props Dylan Napa and Aiden Tolman left the field and suddenly the Bulldogs floodgates were wide open through the middle of ANZ Stadium. The Dogs got blitzed and by the time Napa – who would go on to score- and Tolman returned, the game was already over.
It’s clear the Dogs are a side lacking self-belief. When momentum is on Canterbury’s side, they’ve shown they are capable of creating attacking pressure. Their generally conservative attacking play means high completions, so it’s not as if the Doggies are shooting themselves in the foot with cheap turnovers. But when momentum has turned against them in 2019, it’s gotten real ugly real fast. 76 points conceded in two games is a huge concern for a club traditionally known for rugged defence and will be their first priority in targeting during this week’s preparations. A raft of selection changes means a fresh start for Canterbury and if they can keep it close with the Tigers into the second half, they’ve still got enough experience to get an upset win. But it’ll be how the Dogs cope with adversity which will likely decide their round three fate.
Key stat: The Tigers will need to overcome their own recent history – they’ve lost their last four round three matches. These sides’ last three matches have also followed a similar pattern – tight, low-scoring affairs average a total combined score of 24.67 points. The Tigers defence over the first two rounds has been the tightest in the competition.
Best bet: Race to 30 points – neither team $1.57* (Sportsbet)
Value bet: Tigers winning margin 11-20 $4.50* (BetEasy)
South Sydney Rabbitohs v Gold Coast Titans – ANZ Stadium - 6:10pm
Souths have hit the ground running in 2019 – they were too strong for the Roosters’ forwards in round one, and last week their second-half ambush of the Dragons was impressive to watch. Sam Burgess looks a man wanting to reclaim his mantle of the NRL’s best forward, with the big Englishman delivering a knockout performance against the Dragons. Burgess ran for 170 metres and helped himself to two tries, and it appears the time spent with coach Wayne Bennett in the England national team has already paid off at Redfern.
Cameron Murray was touted as a future NSW representative last year – but the future may be now. Murray has gone back-to-back first try scorer but there’s been so much more to Murray’s progression than these two tries. Losing Angus Crichton to the Roosters saw the Bunnies lock Murray in for a contract extension, a big show of faith in who they see as the future cornerstone of their forward pack.
Murray’s involvements have skyrocketed – he had 71 involvements in the first two rounds last year. This year it’s already 89. Murray is making things happen with his hustle, including defence, meaning Souths are essentially attacking opponents via their own defensive line. This aggression has worn down both the Roosters and Dragons and the winless Titans will be their next target.
Souths are an intimidating prospect in their current hot streak. They’ve got strike weapons throughout their backline – Alex Johnston, in particular, is justifying Bennett’s decision to grant his wish to play in the number one jersey ahead of Greg Inglis- and although Inglis is in doubt for this game due to a nagging shoulder complaint, the next big thing Corey Allan is ready to step up. The Dragons had no answer for the Bunnies barrage and you get the feeling there’ll be more scalps added to that list sooner rather than later.
The Titans will need a rapid improvement if they want to shock Souths. A limp 21-0 loss at home to Canberra was followed by another disappointing 20-6 loss away to Cronulla. The Titans invested heavily in halfback Ashley Taylor and the young star’s quad injury has seemingly derailed the Titans’ attack. With news on Friday that Nathan Peats is set to miss up to three months, Mitch Rein will be starting hooker. But what will hurt coach Garth Brennan the most though is there still remains enough talent to be doing better than their current predicament.
Tyrone Peachey and AJ Brimson are good enough to feature in any side’s top 17, and Ryley Jacks has spent time around the likes of Cooper Cronk, Cameron Munster, Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney and was recruited to help guide the Titans through situations like this. The Titans are putting the effort in – they’re just not getting the points to give their defence a chance to win games. Jai Arrow earned plaudits for his monster individual performance against the Sharks – running for 299 metres. The Titans know though it’ll need a collective effort to kickstart 2019 – look for Jarrod Wallace and Shannon Boyd, in particular, to bring the fight to Souths’ pack – they’ll need to.
Key Stats: Souths have won 8 of their last 10 matches against the Titans. The Bunnies’ attack so far has been the most productive in the NRL this year. Cody Walker’s best tryscoring strike-rate is against the Gold Coast, the livewire pivot has scored in all three of his previous games.
Best bet: Rabbitohs half time/full time $1.57* (Bet365)
Value bet: Cody Walker anytime try scorer $2.70* (TAB)