NRL Round 6: Good Friday Betting Previews & Tips
Canterbury Bulldogs v South Sydney Rabbitohs – ANZ Stadium- 4:10pm
After a promising two week spell of a win over the Tigers and a cruel narrow loss at Melbourne, spirits were on the rise at Belmore. They came crashing down however in a deplorable 40-4 loss to the Dragons, leaving the Bulldogs in last place.
It was a miserable afternoon for the Doggies who had to endure Ben Hunt emphatically returning to form while having to watch their beloved former skipper James Graham run for 139 metres through them. Dylan Napa’s ankle injury may have more dire consequences than first imagined. Without their Queensland enforcer, the Dogs got outmuscled and outworked in the middle with ease.
The inexperienced halves of Jack Cogger and Lachlan Lewis tried hard but they couldn’t muster any real attacking danger to the Dragons. The edge pairing of Jayden Okunbor and Kerrod Holland drew praise for their performance against the Storm but followed this up with a disastrous showing. Combining for five errors, it was a reality check and it doesn’t get any easier with the top four Souths ready to capitalise on any Bulldog doubts.
Souths showed the trait of elite sides in their 28-24 win over the Warriors – they clearly weren’t at their best but found a way to get the job done. Cody Walker stole the headlines post-game – the livewire five-eighth scoring four tries in a superb attacking game. Walker on song is one of NRL’s finest running halves and he tore the Warriors to shreds. Even when down 24-12 in the second half, Souths kept at it and they overran a tiring Warriors late on. Walker’s brilliance takes on another level when considering the attacking changes needed from coach Wayne Bennett.
Without first-choice centres, Greg Inglis – now retired- and Braidon Burns, Bennett entrusted Walker to back himself with ball in hand. 12 runs for 149 metres are season highs in both areas for Walker and shows Souths are capable of restructuring their attacking setup as necessary. Damien Cook also tortured the Warriors’ defensive line, racking up 197 metres while creating two tries. In beating the Kiwis the Bunnies avoided undoing their bright season start and instead will look to go 5-1 against a Bulldogs side who on paper lack the attacking firepower the boys from Redfern have in their disposal.
Key Stats: Adam Reynolds is the joint-leading goalkicker after five rounds (20 goals) and has 41 goals in his last 10 matches against the Dogs. Souths also boast NRL’s second-highest points scored while the Bulldogs have conceded the most points. Souths have won 4 of their last 5 head-to-head matches against the Dogs, with 3 of these wins coming 13+.
Best bet: Souths to score most converted tries – $1.53* (Sportsbet)
Value bet: Souths 13+ – $2.25* (BetEasy)
Melbourne Storm v Sydney Roosters – AAMI Park - 7:55pm
On paper, an 18-12 win by an unbeaten Melbourne who has now beaten a confidence-ravaged Cowboys side nine times straight may not scream “impressive” but when looking into the game’s context, it’s a clear sign of the Storm’s Premiership credentials.
The Storm was coming off a gruelling 18-16 win over Canterbury – a game they won via a late comeback when they didn’t play at their typically high standards – but then faced a five-day turnaround with one of NRL’s longest away trips against a side playing for their season. Melbourne is masters at the grind – they used all their experience to muscle out the Townsville win and squeeze the life out of the Cowboys campaign. The Storm for years was known for their big four – Billy Slater, Greg Inglis, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith.
One of coach Craig Bellamy’s most underrated achievements has been the calm way he’s handled the transition of Cronk’s departure to their next opponent and Slater’s recent retirement. Brodie Croft is still learning to consistent halfback play at NRL level but he’s improved immeasurably with his decision making compared to this time last season. He also has Smith’s craftiness out of dummy half and a superstar five-eighth in Cameron Munster to take the heat off him. Munster has shown his worth in the two most recent wins. He stole the lead against the Bulldogs with a cheeky try directly from a scrum, and he backed it up with another crucial try assist which proved the difference against the Cowboys. Jahrome Hughes meanwhile has excelled at the back in the post-Slater era and had another superb performance. Hughes is growing in confidence by the week – he created two tries last start – and his ability to both kick and ball play offers Melbourne one of NRL’s most balanced attacking structures. It’s a massive Good Friday clash they face with the Roosters.
It may be denied publicly but there can’t be doubt Melbourne would have been left sour at the performance they turned out against the Chooks in their Grand Final loss last year. Melbourne pride themselves on controlling a game’s flow – Smith is arguably the greatest game manager of all time and does so as a hooker. But they suffered a blitz themselves that night and never looked comfortable being in the foreign position of chasing a significant deficit. One aspect perhaps overlooked in that defeat was Cooper Cronk’s impact on Melbourne’s attacking strategies. Cronk’s broken scapula is league legend now but he also may be inadvertently put Melbourne into confusion with their attack.
Cronk is a right-edge defender, whilst Melbourne in 2018 predominantly favoured attacking opponents on the opposite side. Suddenly they had a former teammate with one functional arm understandably trying to minimise his defensive involvement – and Melbourne went away from plays which got them into the decider, to begin with, instead shifting the opposite way but failing to genuinely pressure Cronk and in turn impacting their own attack efficiency. There will be no such media circus this week on whether Cronk will play or not, and instead Melbourne will not have a dilemma of shifting their attack philosophy due to an unprecedented opponent situation.
The Roosters enter this Good Friday blockbuster with four straight wins but with what dual Premiership coach Trent Robinson described as a mixed performance in a 30-16 win at Cronulla. For the game’s first 39 minutes and 40 seconds along with its final 20 minutes, the Roosters were unimpressive. They repeatedly turned the ball over – a Chooks trademark – but were unable to convert their own opportunities into points while much like they did against Souths and Manly, they faded out late on and leaked multiple tries without response. The 20 minutes and 20 seconds in between though could best be described via a famous Andrew Voss sound grab from the old Rugby League video games – “champagne rugby league.”
The Roosters attack clicked and it was devastatingly effective. They created two tries of the year candidates via Latrell Mitchell’s 60-metre burst on half-time from a millimetre-perfect daring Luke Keary chip before fill-in winger Matt Ikuvalu somehow crawled his way into the corner staying in-field underneath despairing Cronulla defence. The Roosters scored four tries in ten minutes – this is what they’re capable of when in full rhythm and the blitz came from nothing.
Cronulla was its own worst enemies in blowing two golden chances either side of half-time but by the time Roosters back-rower Angus Crichton joined that trend in failing to ground a Keary grubber, the result was secure. That did leave Cronulla able to score the final three tries though and meant in three from five 2019 matches, the Roosters haven’t finished with a wet sail. They’ll know full well they can’t get away with this trend against the ladder leaders. Intriguingly, the Roosters may have an inside scoop on Melbourne and not necessarily from Cooper Cronk. Instead, new assistant coach Adam O’Brien switched sides following the 2018 Grand Final and is seen as a future NRL head coach. O’Brien particularly worked closely with Cameron Munster. The Chooks dominated Munster in the Grand Final – the Queenslander making history as the first player sin-binned twice in a Grand Final – but the five-eighth is in form and no doubt ready to show he’s put the Grand Final horror show behind him. One extra hurdle the Roosters will face is the suspension of centre Joey Manu for a crusher tackle. This will mean another backline reshuffle with Brett Morris still nursing a knee injury.
Key stats: The Storm has won their last three matches at AAMI Park against the Roosters. In these sides’ last ten matches the combined average points total is 33.7 points. Melbourne have won every second half in 2019.
Best bet: Second Half Result – Storm – $2.12* (Unibet)
Value bet: Storm 1-12 – $3.10* (Sportsbet)