NRL Round 11: Saturday Match Previews & Betting Tips

Canberra need a win against the Cowboys if they want to stay in the top four, the Broncos take a trip across the Tasman to face the reinvigorated Warriors while the Tigers will aim to go one better against a Premiership powerhouse in the Rabbitohs.

James Baxter
 | 
Wed, 22 May, 12:00 AM

Canberra Raiders v North Queensland Cowboys – GIO Stadium - 3:00pm

Is the Raiders’ glass half full or half empty? Canberra’s 2019 campaign has been highlighted with a strong desire to shake off their major flaw which has held them from the top eight in the past two seasons – their inability to win the close games against elite opposition.

Canberra established themselves in the top four across the opening two months backed by a defence often the tightest in the league. Although their performances were impressive the biggest question mark was the Raiders had only beaten one top eight side in that stretch – Parramatta. With consecutive matches against fellow top four sides Roosters and Souths, we were about to find out if the Raiders had made that jump from potential into reality. And by following their 30-24 loss to the Chooks into a tense 16-12 defeat to Souths, the answer is not quite yet.

It’s no reflection of their effort – the Raiders were an extremely tough side for the Bunnies to overcome and facing arguably the two Premiership favourites away is a daunting task. But it’s again a case of so near yet so far and now means the Raiders are at risk of undoing their positive season start. Ryan Sutton thrived in the Battle of Britain against fellow Poms in the Burgess boys and Josh Papalii continues to become one of NRL’s top enforcers, but their platform laid wasn’t converted into points often enough from halves Sam Williams and Jack Wighton. It now leaves their Cowboys clash a genuine danger game. The Raiders will be favourites to pick up a needed win but will need to be wary of any slip up which would see their top four spot vanish and mean a three game losing streak leading into Origin season. We’re about to find out if punters should be optimistic or pessimistic about the Green Machine in 2019.

The Cowboys made their home fans sweat it out in a tight match against the Eels but in the end created two late tries to sneak home 17-10. The performance was even more admirable when they lost winger Ben Hampton to a biceps injury inside two minutes. Hampton’s quietly been one of North Queenslander’s better performers in a challenging season and his loss resulted in a Cowboys reshuffle – but the Cowboys bench stepped up to fill the void, led by impressive youngster Mitch Dunn.

Matt Scott was an unlikely first tryscorer and the veteran prop almost made it two tries but was disallowed for obstruction, remarkably one of three such disallowed Cowboys tries in the first half alone. There’s no question the Cowboys are a different side with their Tongan superstar Jason Taumalolo fit and firing, and the lock is capable of shaking up Raiders enforcer Josh Papalii. After a bleak season start North Queensland are slowly building confidence and are more than capable of delivering an upset if the Raiders underestimate them.

 

Key stats: North Queensland are yet to win consecutive matches in 2019. The Raiders easily won 30-12 in their round four clash. The Raiders have won their last four first halves at home.

 

Tip: Raiders

Best bet: Raiders half-time - $1.65*

Value bet: Raiders 13+ - $2.65*

New Zealand Warriors v Brisbane Broncos – Mt Smart Stadium – 5:30pm

It’s two straight away wins for the Warriors after their convincing 30-10 victory against Penrith revitalised their top eight chances. The Kodi Nikorima effect seems to have been immediate, it’s hardly a coincidence the New Zealanders have appeared their most balanced since the ex-Bronco halfback arrived earlier this month. Nikorima’s addition has allowed Blake Green to play his more familiar role as an organiser without needing to worry over an inexperienced halves partner.

Nikorima scored a try but in general seems to be a much more settled player than the one who experienced an inconsistent start with the Broncos. With Roger Tuivasa-Sheck hitting full stride, the Warriors attack now has legitimate strike through the middle and intriguingly the recent upturn in form has come without high-priced veteran Adam Blair, who was overlooked for even a bench spot.

Jazz Tevaga has had an injury-impacted 2019 but the now fit reigning Dally M Interchange Player of the Year makes a huge difference off the bench. Tevaga adds another dummy-half option to go with the likes of Issac Luke, Nat Roache and Karl Lawton. It means the Warriors suddenly are having increased competition for spots and coach Steve Kearney has made clear past reputations don’t count. It’s proving an effective formula with the Warriors turning their season around and will be desperate to ensure their strong last two starts don’t go to waste with a down performance back home.

Brisbane delivered their best performance of the season to upset the defending Premiers Roosters 15-10 at a loud Suncorp Stadium. The clash had the intensity of a finals contest which was appropriate given the Broncos are playing for their September hopes already. Coach Anthony Seibold’s squad changes have worked the past fortnight with players like the returning Jamayne Isaako firing, Kotoni Staggs excelling in the centres and Tevita Pangai Junior delivering a strong response to being benched.

The biggest catalyst though for their Roosters win may have been their newest recruit. James Segeyaro was signed from NSW’s Canterbury Cup to help fill the void Andrew McCullough’s injury has left and “Chicko” made an electrifying debut from the bench, adding a new attacking style and playmaking enthusiasm. It’s going to be an interesting selection conundrum when McCullough returns in a few weeks with both Segeyaro and Jake Turpin forming a promising hooking tandem already.

The biggest strike weapon the Broncos had though was their 19-year-old prodigy giant Payne Haas. It’s amazing to think Haas is still finding his way in the sport’s toughest position – he’s already looking like someone with a hundred games under his belt. Haas may be a colossus but it’s hardly like his opposite opponent last week Jared Waerea-Hargreaves is a bantamweight. Haas’s agility and ability to break past defenders with his subtle footwork is freakish and it’s appearing Haas and not Pangai Junior might be the future of Brisbane’s pack. There’s still plenty of work for Brisbane to do if they’re to catch up with the top eight but two straight wins have given the Broncos some respite from a barrage of external criticism. A third straight win would be priceless ahead of their bye.

 

Key stats: The Broncos will need to reverse their 2019 fortunes – they’re yet to win away from Suncorp Stadium. The last time the Warriors won three straight was in round 5, 2018. The Broncos are good finishers in 2019 though, they’ve won the second half in each of their wins. Corey Oates has three tries in his last four matches against the Warriors.

 

Tip: Broncos

Best bet: Corey Oates anytime tryscorer - $2.10*

Value bet: Broncos second half - $2.15*

South Sydney Rabbitohs v Wests Tigers – ANZ Stadium – 7:30pm

Wayne Bennett’s Bunnies Juggernaut continues to roll through the NRL. Canberra were their latest victims in a gripping 16-12 win, the Raiders taking Souths to the limit but in the end unable to crack through a resolute Bunny defence. The spotlight has been on Cody Walker this year and it’s well deserved with the five-eighth in line for a New South Wales debut whether in the 6 or 14 jersey, and it was Walker’s brilliance which perhaps was the biggest difference in the result.

Walker was the lynchpin in attack, scoring a try off smart Damien Cook work and creating another try for young winger Mawene Hiroti in a performance which was ruthlessly effective. The Bunnies had plenty of hurdles to overcome in their win including yet another outside back injury Kyle Turner – who himself is a makeshift centre – suffered a broken toe to leave him facing at least a month out, leaving bench forward Ethan Lowe to become yet another new face in the Souths backline. Yet despite the constant turnover of players through injury, Souths continue to find ways to win and are worthy frontrunners after ten rounds.

Cook’s dynamic dummy-half play is well known but his defence continues to impress – he made 41 tackles without a single miss, while Raiders hooker Josh Hodgson made 35 tackles with six misses and three ineffective. Souths face the prospect of losing ¾ of their spine in Walker, Adam Reynolds and Cook to Origin selection (in addition to others like a certainty in Dane Gagai and a probable in Cameron Murray) and coach Bennett knows better than anyone what Origin takes out of players and clubs. Therefore expect Souths to go all out to put the plucky Tigers away this week – they can’t afford to ease off their intensity against a side who nearly made Melbourne pay for that very trait.

Talk about the one that got away. The Tigers came within three minutes of defeating Melbourne for the third straight time in their heartbreaking 24-22 loss. A Mahe Fonua miss on Kenny Bromwich created a chance for the Storm backrower to find centre Will Chambers who squeezed his way through a despairing Tigers defence to take the late lead for Melbourne.

The Tigers would have been kicking themselves as for the vast majority of the game they were in control – indeed they held an eight point lead inside the final ten minutes. The lead came through a combination of the Tigers attacking pressure creating plenty of penalty goal opportunities and hooker Robbie Farah relishing potentially his final showdown with old rival Cameron Smith. Farah’s 2019 has been one of his best in recent years and it’s a remarkable effort from the veteran who created two tries and controlled the game’s tempo well against the best hooker to ever do so.

Moses Mbye has stepped up in the past month and become the attacking threat out of fullback the Tigers need if they’re a finals hope while Ryan Matterson has been one of the NRL’s best 2019 recruits, the mammoth edge forward proving a ball-playing dimension the Tigers have lacked since Curtis Sironen left in 2016. The Tigers can’t afford to feel sorry for themselves however – coach Michael Maguire prides his sides on defence and Bromwich’s late break shows his men still have improvement needed if they’re to compete for a full 80 minutes. They’ll get a great chance to show this improvement against the table-topping Bunnies, and if the Tigers can build on their solid performance last start, they’ve got a real shot at causing an upset.

 

Key stats: Cody Walker now has 11 tries in his 10 matches this season. The last time the Bunnies beat Wests by a 1-12 margin was way back in round five, 2012. Souths are unbeaten at ANZ in 2019.

 

Tip: Rabbitohs

Best bet: Rabbitohs -8.5 - $1.95*

Value bet: Cody Walker anytime tryscorer - $2.30*

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