NRL Round 5: Friday Night Previews & Betting Tips

The winless Titans face the Panthers while the Cowboys will try to turn it around against the Storm.

James Baxter
 | 
Tue, 9 Apr, 12:00 AM

Gold Coast Titans v Penrith Panthers – CBUS Super Stadium- 6:00pm

The Titans are running out of excuses – and fast running out of time – with their horrible 2019 start now risking ending their campaign at the earliest possible instance. Never before have the Titans started 0-4 but a disappointing 26-10 loss to the Warriors condemned Garth Brennan’s side to this unwanted piece of history. Including their horror finish to 2018, Gold Coast are on a six-game losing streak and it’s no wonder their confidence is at a low.

First-choice halves Tyrone Roberts and Ash Taylor returned to the side after injury spells but they were unable to assert themselves against a Warriors side who had conceded 80 points in their last two matches. Shannon Boyd – brought in from Canberra in a big-money deal – has been unable to keep his place in a starting forward pack who haven’t matched the efforts of Jai Arrow and Jarrod Wallace. It’s dark days already on the Glitter Strip and without a drastic turnaround against the Panthers, it will only get bleaker.

The Panthers meanwhile pulled a win from the fire against the Tigers. The Panthers huffed and puffed but until the final minute, they were unable to find a way through the Tigers’ watertight defence. Dylan Edwards though stole a try with the fat lady ready to sing and with Nathan Cleary’s extra-time field goal, the Panthers will be feeling far more satisfied with their ladder standing a month in.

Coach Ivan Cleary won’t be impressed with a lowly 65% completion rate or with how hard the Panthers made life for themselves but yet his side still found a way to get the job done. NSW coach Brad Fittler made headlines last week with his thoughts on Panthers halves James Maloney and Cleary having never “been a good combo” and it’s clear the star pairing haven’t been firing recently. A clash with the league’s bottom side might be the chance they need to restart their attacking rhythm.

 

Key Stats: The Titans have lost four straight in 2019 – and have also lost four straight against Penrith. Waqa Blake has five tries in four matches against the Titans and has scored in each appearance. These two sides have the two worst attacks going into round five.

 

Tip: Panthers

Best bet: Panthers -4 – $2* – (Bet365)

Value bet: Waqa Blake anytime try scorer – $2.30* (TAB)

North Queensland Cowboys v Melbourne Storm – 1300 Smiles Stadium - 7:55pm

It feels like the Cowboys may have hit rock bottom in the Paul Green era. An inconsistent opening fortnight (a convincing win to St George before being blown off the Suncorp Stadium pitch by Brisbane) preceded a run of three straight home games to sides who are all expecting to play finals footy this season. Heading into this run, the Cowboys would have looked at a minimum two wins if they wanted to give themselves a realistic shot at getting themselves established in the top eight before rep season kicks in. Instead, they were belted by Cronulla (46-12) before a limp 30-12 loss to Canberra last start consigned North Queensland to second-last.

It’s been a disastrous 2019 in general thus far for the Cowboys. They’re still feeling the effects of planning their attack around Ben Barba – who then got terminated and blacklisted from NRL before pre-season had finished. They’ve tried Jordan Kahu and Te Maire Martin at fullback but neither has convinced. Jake Clifford- who spent much of 2018 shadowing Johnathan Thurston in the halves – was recalled to spark their attack but that hasn’t worked either. Jason Taumalolo’s continued injury absence has compounded the Cowboys’ woes but with their pack strength, there are no excuses for them being dominated at home back-to-back times as they have.

Canberra controlled the game’s pace with ease while the Cowboys looked panicked with the ball. Josh Hodgson also had a field day out of dummy half, exploiting the Cowboys markers and in turn manipulating North Queensland’s defensive line at will. At 1-3 the Cowboys are already behind the eight ball and cannot afford to finish their three-game home stretch with only losses to show. It might be round five but this is a must win for North Queensland. They may feel the rugby league gods are against them but circumstances have slightly turned their way in this tough clash.

Melbourne was expected to dominate Canterbury but instead were fortunate to escape with an 18-16 win. The Dogs also may have done Green a favour – they exposed defensive frailties in Melbourne’s right edge defence. Suliasi Vunivalu and Will Chambers were exposed by centre Kerrod Holland twice for two tries in the first half, giving the Dogs a shock 12-0 lead early on. The Storm also has the bugbear of any coach this week – the dreaded five-day turnaround. Compounding this will be Melbourne making one of NRL’s longest trips up to Townsville. Based on their unconfident showing against Canberra, it’s going to take a significant turnaround in attitude for them to defeat Melbourne. But with the short turnaround and Bulldogs’ inadvertent assist, they have factors favouring them to build on.

Melbourne was the hottest favourites this campaign so far against Canterbury – and instead came within a Rhyse Martin sideline conversion attempt of a golden point shootout. Their 18-16 victory leaves them as NRL’s only unbeaten side but certainly left the competition heavyweights with an unexpected bloodied nose. The Storm is known for their hot starts but this time they were left reeling from a Bulldogs ambush. A 12-0 deficit took the Storm until the 69th minute to overcome as the Dogs gave a performance more resembling Melbourne than what the Storm themselves dished out.

Cameron Munster is the Storm’s go-to playmaker in 2019 but the five-eighth struggled to influence the game. His late try though showed Munster’s threat – there are few attacking threats like the Queenslander in the competition. Whether his kicking game, his passing vision, ability to burst through the line with speed or his all-round aggression, Munster is capable of winning matches and showed that last start.

An unheralded hero for Melbourne continues to be Lock Dale Finucane. Always completing over 40 tackles while missing next to zero, Finucane’s attacking game was one of Melbourne’s biggest weapons against the Dogs. The Boy from Bega was unlucky not to score his first 2019 try last weekend, and his running game through the middle took pressure off Jesse Bromwich and Nelson Asofa-Solomona who each didn’t have their best games.

Winning games when you’re not at your best is regarded as the trait of champion teams – if true, Melbourne fit that bill against the Dogs. Coach Craig Bellamy though has plenty for his side to work on against a North Queensland side whose predicament as a one-win team matches the Bulldogs side who came so close to the year’s biggest upset.

 

Key stats: Melbourne have the mental wood over North Queensland, winning their last eight matches against them, a streak spread across four separate venues. In their last three matches in Townsville, Melbourne has won by an average margin of 9 points while the combined points total has averaged under 24 points. Josh Addo-Carr has four tries in five matches against the Cowboys.

 

Tip: Storm

Best bet: Josh Addo-Carr anytime try-scorer – $1.67* (Bet365)

Value bet: Storm -5.5 and under (41.5) points – $3* (Sportsbet)

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