NRL Round 5: Sunday Match Previews & Betting Tips

Canterbury faces the rejuvenated Dragons while Canberra hosts Parramatta in a cracking Sunday clash.

James Baxter
 | 
Tue, 9 Apr, 12:00 AM

St George-Illawarra Dragons v Canterbury Bulldogs – Netstrata Jubilee Park – 4:05pm

Corey Norman’s left foot may be the most valuable in the NRL – it’s proved golden as he nailed a second straight game-winning field goal for the Dragons. St George-Illawarra is undermanned with plenty of injuries and unavailability – Korbin Sims lasting two powerful appearances in his new club before breaking an arm as the latest out – but they’ve twice found ways to squeeze a result out.

The 13-12 win over Newcastle took until golden point to secure but it means the Dragons are now on a roll and they’ll be better with another round’s experience in their new-look spine. Matt Dufty’s return to fullback paid its first dividends with the youngster’s delightful cutout pass setting up Mikaele Ravalawa’s crucial try. Tyson Frizell’s early return from his eye-watering injury led to the Dragons’ other try and the Australian international’s experience will be invaluable for the constantly reshuffled Dragons lineup. The loss of Korbin – who played nearly 15 minutes with his broken arm – means Tariq Sims will need to again step up with his aggression against a Dogs pack without its own firebrand in Dylan Napa.

The Dragons controlled the ruck against Newcastle, particularly with their defence slowing down Newcastle’s tendency for quick play-the-balls. Look for the Dragons to push their luck in slowing down the ruck again this week with their Canterbury opposition featuring a hooker in Jeremy Marshall-King who’s got the ability to play in the halves along with Jack Cogger and Lachlan Lewis – two young halves who look to take the ball to the defensive line.

So close, so painfully far for the Doggies. Perhaps we shouldn’t have been so surprised the longshot Dogs nearly sprung NRL’s upset of the year in their 18-16 loss away to Melbourne – the Dogs had won their previous three matches at AAMI Park and were coming off a morale-boosting win against the Tigers. Coach Dean Pay would not have been prouder of Canterbury’s effort last week. They lost star five-eighth Kieran Foran long-term midweek before Dylan Napa – the new cornerstone of the Belmore pack – suffered syndesmosis during the contest, yet the Dogs continued to persevere against a powerhouse.

The Dogs of the last fortnight are a different breed to the ones who copped back-to-back hidings in their opening fortnight. Aiden Tolman deserves recognition, as the ex-NSW prop put in a massive shift to cover for Napa’s loss with 16 runs and 46 tackles. The Dogs forwards look a more complete unit after Pay’s round three selection reshuffle, like with Rhyse Martin’s edge running game offering an attacking dimension to the new halves pairing of Jack Cogger and Lachlan Lewis. The Dogs also were well-prepared for the Storm – they had a clear gameplan and stuck to it. By using sweeping plays to the left with Kerrod Holland in particular, the Dogs built an early lead and rattled the Premiership favourites. The loss though does leave them with a 1-3 record and they face another 2018 finalist in the Dragons who themselves have had to reinvent their spine already. Canterbury will again be underdogs but will have plenty of confidence and momentum to work towards another upset.

 

Key stats: The Dragons don’t have history on their side - the Bulldogs have won seven of their last eight matches against them.  Both sides have struggled for points in 2019 (Dragons ranked 11th, Bulldogs 13th) and each are yet to reach 30 points in a 2019 game. The Dragons have won their last two second halves, coming home strong to set up memorable one-point wins.

 

Tip: Dragons

Best bet: Race to 30 points – neither side – $1.46* (Sportsbet)

Value bet: Dragons 1-12 – $2.88* (Sportsbet)

Canberra Raiders v Parramatta Eels – Canberra Stadium – 6:10pm

Canberra continues to impress in 2019, facing a desperate Cowboys side in Townsville resulted in a comprehensive 30-12 win. The Raiders in recent campaigns were notorious for building leads before squandering them in late fadeouts, but that hasn’t been a concern so far for Ricky Stuart’s side. They were methodical in demoralising North Queensland, with Jordan Rapana adding two tries to his 2019 tally. Aiden Sezer’s absence with injury gave an opening to Sam Williams – in his third stint at the club – to keep the side ticking over, and it’s admirable the Raiders have coped seamlessly without their first choice halfback. The biggest factor in the best Raiders start in 15 years however is their forward pack. With a distinctively British flavour in hooker Josh Hodgson, prop Ryan Sutton and back rowers Elliott Whitehead and John Bateman, Canberra is making significant running metres in 2019 – they’re up 15% already compared to this time last season:

2019 – 8386m

2018 – 7289m

It’s showing Canberra are no longer the pushovers- particularly late in games – they once were. They’re competing for longer, winning better field position and onto a winning formula with their revamped pack.

It’s an intriguing matchup against a Parra side who similarly are perhaps surprising some outsiders with their 3-1 season starts. Whoever wins this will be entrenched in the top eight, and if the competition resembles 2018, it’ll be far harder to break into the top eight in the backend of the season than it will be to fall out of it.

Parramatta’s highly promising 2019 opening month has seen them to tremendous strides in earning something which last season’s wooden spooners would have seemed unfathomable – trust. The Eels were impressive in dispatching Cronulla 24-12 in their final home game at ANZ Stadium before they move back home to a shiny new Bankwest Stadium. The Sharks have made their recent reputation on grinding out wins with their defence and extracting maximum effort from their team, but the Eels were more than good enough to put away another 2018 finalist.

Mitchell Moses had the dreaded “maligned” tag last year with his confidence at a low but he’s been revitalised this campaign and was best on ground. His kicking game has always been the one-time Origin hopeful’s strength and he used it to great effect, forcing errors from Josh Dugan and Sosaia Feki which lead to points. Whether it’s been Dylan Brown or now Jaemen Salmon pairing Moses in the halves, it seems he’s thriving on the increased responsibility his coach Brad Arthur has entrusted him with. Reed Mahoney had the best game of his young career and the hooker’s combination with Moses continues to develop. But Parramatta’s most important combination could well be their electrifying right edge of Blake Ferguson and Brad Takairangi. The giant pairing tore Cronulla apart and with their size, speed and ball-playing ability they’ve become a must-watch. Perhaps the best compliment to pay Parramatta is they’ve improved in every 2019 performance. Their only loss so far was against the Roosters but even then it was an impressive showing over 60 minutes before a late collapse. The Eels learned from this though and didn’t fade away against Cronulla, and will hold no fears over a trip to Canberra to face the in-form Raiders.

 

Key Stats: The Raiders have won 10 of their last 12 starts against the Eels. The last time the Eels won in Canberra was 2006. Since then, the Eels have led at halftime in Canberra only once. In all three of their wins this season, Canberra have led at halftime.

 

Tip: Raiders

Best bet: Raiders -4 – $1.91* (Bet365)

Value bet: Raiders half-time/full-time – $2.10* (Unibet)

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