NRL Round 6: Easter Monday Previews & Betting Tips
It’s an Easter Monday tradition – western rivals Parramatta host Wests in the first ever clash at Bankwest Stadium
Parramatta Eels v Wests Tigers – Bankwest Stadium – 4:10pm
It was another fruitless trip to the nation’s capital for the Eels – their 19-0 loss stretching their winless streak in Canberra since 2006. Parramatta’s performance wasn’t up to the bar set in their opening month with a dismal first half riddled with errors and only eight sets completed.
Mitchell Moses was coming off a dominant playmaking display against Cronulla but the halfback couldn’t find a way to break apart NRL’s tightest defence so far in 2019. The most concerning issue to arise from the Eels loss was their most important player copping a battering throughout. Blake Ferguson has been an inspirational signing but first a broken nose more suited to a heavyweight boxer followed by suspected broken ribs saw the rampaging winger exit the game early into the second half.
Ferguson’s absence was sorely felt by the Eels who rely on the NSW Origin hopeful to set their attacking tempo when coming out of their own half. Parramatta don’t have the depth to cover key injury absences and will be desperate for the flanker to be fit for their Easter Monday showdown with the Tigers. It’s not a terrible situation the Eels find themselves in however after five rounds. They remain in the top eight and with how youthful a lot of their squad are, it’s experiences like facing a watertight defence on the road which they’ll learn plenty from. Bankwest Stadium may be a new facility but the Eels will surely enjoy having a permanent home once again after their time spent at ANZ Stadium during the rebuild.
When you inspire Michael Maguire to cheer your side on like he’s got a pineapple on Winx’s final run, you know you’ve done something special. Michael Chee Kam’s ridiculous last-minute run to score a match-winning try for the Tigers away to Brisbane will be in the season highlights package – no doubt joined by the notoriously intimidating Maguire’s joyful celebration.
The Tigers got what they deserved in Brisbane – they showed greater composure in a frantic situation, halves Josh Reynolds and Luke Brooks worked hard to create improved field position and their defence helped the Broncos switch from a direct running style through the middle into shift plays they could more easily handle. It’s too early to judge how critical this Brisbane win is for the Tigers but the confidence boost from winning in such a style against a side who were considered top eight certainties pre-season is undeniable.
Chee Kam’s mazy run to silence over 24,000 fans at Suncorp is evident of the Tigers’ ongoing evolution under premiership-winner Maguire. The Tigers had a field goal-first mentality but when their set formation didn’t fool Brisbane, Brooks kept calm and went to plan b of keeping the ball alive with a shift to the nearest available ball-player – fullback Moses Mbye. This one play shows the Tigers who in previous seasons buckled under intense pressure more often than not may now be gone.
The Tigers spoke afterwards of their training to prepare for such a game situation but to prepare is one thing, to have the confidence to execute is another. The Tigers enter their Parra grudge match with the equivalent of a bye week in their 11-day turnaround. The break allows veteran hooker Robbie Farah to rest a nagging back complaint and gives Maguire time to judge on how best to accommodate the imminent return of fit again Benji Marshall. Reynolds has slotted in seamlessly in Marshall’s absence and based on the opening rounds, Maguire may not prefer to carry a half on the bench. It’s a great selection headache to have and another sign the Tigers are well on their way to their first finals appearance since 2011.
Key stat: These western derbies are traditionally close – six of the last seven have been decided by 12 points or fewer. Tigers winger Corey Thompson has scored five tries in four career starts against the Eels.
Best bet: Corey Thompson anytime try scorer – $2.45* (Bet365)
Value bet: Tigers 1-12 – $3.25* (Sportsbet)