NRL Round 7: Sunday Match Previews & Betting Tips

Manly will be looking to bounce back from their controversial loss but face the Raiders who are on a roll while the Knights fight to get their season back on track against the electric Eels.

James Baxter
 | 
Tue, 23 Apr, 12:00 AM

Manly Sea Eagles v Canberra Raiders – Lottoland - 2pm

So close, so far for Manly as they rued a contentious 12-10 loss in Wollongong to the Dragons. A non-call on their centre Reuben Garrick getting escorted off a bomb on the siren denied Manly a shot at golden point, but in reality, they shouldn’t have had to resort to a Hail Mary last-second kick.

Manly was one tackle away from likely icing the game with two minutes left but couldn’t stop a wonky Ben Hunt kick worming its way through to Dragons winger Mikaele Ravalawa to take the lead. It’s one which got away for the Sea Eagles who defensively were otherwise impressive.

With limited firepower in the outside backs in injured fullback Tom Trbojevic’s absence, it’s their defensive mentality which will give them a chance against leading sides and with Ben Hunt staking a claim for the Queensland halfback role, look for Daly Cherry-Evans to respond with a big game.

The spotlight was on Canberra last Sunday against the Broncos – and the Raiders delivered in kind. Their 26-22 win gives the 5-1 Raiders their best season start since 2003 and was another big step towards Canberra earning its first finals berth since 2016.

We know the Raiders blueprint by now – a bullocking forward pack with the highly impressive Englishmen Josh Hodgson, Elliott Whitehead, Ryan Sutton and John Bateman are laying the platform for the likes of Jack Wighton – who had his best game in the number six jersey so far – and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad to use their creativity without pressure.

Josh Papalii’s mature development into a forward leader is no coincidence with the revitalised Raiders. Their defence leaked four tries which unlike in recent campaigns is an exception rather than the rule and will give coach Ricky Stuart an area for his side to work on this week. But there’s no denying Canberra’s progression and with their pack rolling through opposition week after week, the Raiders are a hard act to stop.

 

Key stats: The Raiders are unbeaten in away games in 2019. The average combined points tally in these sides’ last 10 head-to-heads is 51.5 points. Jordan Rapana has seven tries in eight games against Manly. The Raiders have scored the first try in their last four matches.

 

Tip: Raiders

Best bet: Jordan Rapana anytime try scorer $1.85* (BetEasy)

Value bet: Raiders to score first try and win $2.50* (Sportsbet)

Newcastle Knights v Parramatta Eels – McDonald Jones Stadium – 4:05pm

There have been greater losses in terms of margin – both large and small – in the Knights’ recent seasons but it’s hard to imagine a more catastrophic loss than their 38-14 defeat by the Titans.

The Knights were expected to be a top-eight contender after years in the wilderness but the side who got taught a footballing lesson by Gold Coast looked more a wooden spoon favourite. It was their fifth straight loss and it’s already a very long way back for a side more familiar with a losing culture than one of success.

Newcastle was their own worst enemies on the Coast – the Titans’ first two tries coming from soft Knights errors. The Knights’ supposed biggest strength – its forwards – went missing. Only David Klemmer (125m) surpassed 100 running metres, and this coming against a pack who were missing Jarrod Wallace, Kevin Proctor and after 10 minutes Ryan James.

Too often the Knights appear to be giving the ball to Kalyn Ponga and hoping for the best – it’s an unsustainable strategy. By the time they had some attacking menace, the scoreline was 28-0 for the Titans and the game was over. Compare this effort in a crucial game to a side like the Sharks – undermanned but putting in the effort no matter what – and it’s an ominous look for coach Nathan Brown’s future. A loss to Parramatta might be the final chapter of Brown’s Newcastle era.

It was a brand new stadium in 2019 but the Parramatta Eels played like it 1986 as they humiliated the Wests Tigers 51-6 at Bankwest Stadium. The Eels have been on a mission to restore pride following a disastrous 2018 campaign and a 4-2 start highlighted by a white-hot attacking display is doing just that. Making this incredible win even more impressive was the Eels were missing their most talented player in winger Blake Ferguson, who sat out with a ribs injury.

His teammates covered for his missing rampaging carries by instead rampaging through the heart of the Tigers defence at will. Mitchell Moses had the type of game which saw him in his earlier career linked with a move to the Roosters and potential Origin selection – his kicking game was spot on in building pressure on a nervy Tigers back three – giant centre Brad Takarangai’s spectacular grab to score from a perfectly placed Moses kick being a particular highlight – while his old side couldn’t find a way to slow down his running game.

Clint Gutherson had another great performance as an auxiliary playmaker, the fullback is known for his strong support but his ball-playing abilities offer the Eels’ tremendous attacking balance particularly on short side plays. The Tigers’ defence was a wreck but when Gutherson would swing to the Eels’ left blindside in the Tigers’ 20-metre area it created even more doubt and resulted in wide open spaces for the likes of big men Oregon Kaufusi and Shaun Lane to easily score through the middle.

There’s been plenty of speculation on the Eels’ contract situation – 19 players are unsigned for 2020 plus the coach Brad Arthur – and while this is the scenario which helped create turmoil for the Tigers in 2017, it seems the Eels are showing an opposite effect – they’re playing to increase their contract value.

Gutherson’s rejection of multiple Eels contract offers due to not matching his own perceived value could pay off handsomely if he continues to perform as he did last start for example. The Eels are unquestionably the most improved side of 2019 and while it remains relatively early stages yet, with a brand new stadium packed with optimism, Eels fans could well be picturing a return to finals footy in 2019 – when you put 51 points on a local rival, it’s hard to deny hope.

 

Key Stats: In the last eight matches the Eels have scored at least 36 points, they have a 5-3 record the following round. Stretching to July 2018, the Knights are on a 2-10 run and the last time they scored over 20 points was round 19, 2018. The Eels have won four first halves this year, the Knights have won only one.

 

Tip: Eels

Best bet: Eels first half $1.90* (TAB)

Value bet: Eels first to 20 points $2.14* (Sportsbet)

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