NRL Round 11: Sunday Match Previews & Betting Tips
The Doggies almost stunned the Storm in round four and this time have the Belmore advantage against Melbourne. Meanwhile, it’s a grudge match between local rivals as the under-fire Dragons badly need a win over the Sharks.
Canterbury Bulldogs v Melbourne Storm – Belmore Sports Ground – 2pm
They took their time but the Bulldogs came home strong, winning their bottom-of-the-table showdown with Gold Coast 22-16 to give the Belmore boys some breathing room from the ladder’s basement. The Dogs’ start was terrible as they swiftly found themselves down 16-0 early in the first half and were fortunate to not be facing a larger deficit as repeat handling errors saw the Dogs shooting themselves in the foot.
Kieran Foran though was able to get some control over the game and with Dylan Napa loving the clash against fellow Maroons Jarrod Wallace and Jai Arrow, Canterbury started chipping away at both the Titans’ lead and their fragile confidence. Jayden Okunbor has had an up-and-down start to his NRL career but the flyer was on the incline during the Doggies’ fightback, scoring twice and proving a tough ask to slow down – he’ll be sorely missed with a foot injury meaning Christian Crichton gets a recall. Aiden Tolman hasn’t gotten the external recognition the veteran prop deserves, the former NSW player is the glue holding together the Dogs’ middle.
Tolman put in another gruelling performance to rack up 17 runs and 45 tackles to take the pressure off the more inexperienced Dogs’ middles. It’s hardly electrifying play but with the Bulldogs rebuilding, they need as much reliability as they can get and Tolman is providing it week in week out. Jack Cogger’s partnership with Foran is also developing well, coach Dean Pay will be desperate for both men to stay fit and firing with the Dogs unlikely to be impacted greatly by Origin, unlike some of their upcoming opponents. It wasn’t a complete 80-minute performance but for a side who had severe issues playing interstate, the importance of a fightback win over a similarly-placed side is significant. Last time the Dogs faced the Storm they were the longest head-to-head odds of the season and yet came within a whisker of the monumental upset and with Belmore behind them, the Dogs won’t be fearing Melbourne.
The Storm narrowly avoided another upset at the hands of the Wests Tigers, their 24-22 comeback win proving far trickier than they may have anticipated. It was most definitely a mixed performance from Melbourne who found themselves on the back foot against a Robbie Farah-inspired Tigers. Normally it’s Cameron Smith and Cameron Munster who control the game’s tempo but instead, the Storm found themselves continually needing to respond to an impressive Tigers display.
The Storm was dominated in all crucial facets (possession, territory and run metres) but with the Tigers opting for penalty goals instead of going for tries, Melbourne remained close enough if good enough, down by eight points with ten to go. And with the Storm showing their experience earned in high-pressure finals footy, they came home strong with Kenny Bromwich’s memorable charge to set up Will Chambers for the winning try sure to be on the Storm’s season highlights.
Ryan Papenhuyzen had a tremendous game filling in for injured fullback Jahrome Hughes and the Storm might have a battle on their hands to accommodate the blinding speed and confidence of the former Tigers youngster with Hughes’ return – a bench utility spot is likely his foreseeable future but he looms as a great replacement for Josh Addo-Carr’s impending Origin duties. Dale Finucane continues churning out big metres and tackles and is one of the NRL’s most unsung heroes. They say the best sides find ways to win when not at their best and if true then the Storm certainly lived up to that. The last time they faced the Bulldogs in round four they perhaps underestimated the Bulldogs and in return had to pull out a similar escape act to salvage a nail-biting win – no doubt coach Craig Bellamy is expecting a steep improvement in attitude and execution this time around.
Key Stats: The Doggies have a 2-6 Belmore record since returning there in 2015. Josh Addo-Carr has three tries in three games against the Dogs. Melbourne have NRL’s second best attack in 2019 while Canterbury has the second worst defence.
Best bet: Storm to score most converted tries - $1.49*
Value bet: Josh Addo-Carr anytime try scorer - $1.80*
St George Illawarra Dragons v Cronulla Sharks – WIN Stadium – 4:05pm
So often the plucky underdog taking it to the favourites, this time Cronulla were on the receiving end of an ambush as their awful record against Manly continued in its 24-14 loss at home. Scott Morrison may have been in the crowd but there was nothing the PM could do as his Sharks took over an hour before they started finding their stride – and by then they were down 20 points.
It wasn’t through lack of ball or position as Cronulla were the dominant side in most of the stats, they unfortunately just couldn’t convert chances into points. Halfback Chad Townsend had a mixed performance where he took on playmaking responsibility but made multiple errors. Fighting a bulging disk in his back, perhaps this is an understandable circumstance. Fullback Josh Dugan has been one of the Sharkies’ best performers in 2019 but he also had a frustrating afternoon with his hands at times betraying him. Cronulla’s clunky afternoon was summarised when Bronson Xerri put down a golden chance from Kyle Flannagan late on with the try line beckoning unmarked.
Andrew Fifita in game 200 was again his side’s best performer with 142 running metres and a trademark powerhouse performance leading by example and with his Origin unavailability will be a crucial strike weapon as the Sharks begin to welcome back senior players such as Matt Moylan, potentially back for the first time since a dodgy hamstring sidelined the fullback in round three. The Sharks were far from terrible in their loss and if they can get their attack resembling more the ruthlessly efficient setup which stunned the Storm recently, they’ll be the ones dealing out the ambush instead of suffering one.
There are no bones about it – the Dragons are in a major slump. A horrible 45-12 scoreline against Newcastle almost flattered them, with a cricket score looking on the cards early on. The loss means it’s now four straight defeats for coach Paul McGregor and he’s seen enough, deciding to drop fullback Matt Dufty, winger Mikaele Ravalawa and abandoning a utility back on the bench in favour of four forwards.
Zac Lomax is the new man at the back and has a major task to take pressure off the makeshift halves combination of Jai Field and Ben Hunt. The Dragons were starved of possession against the Knights and never had the defensive starch to hold off the white-hot Mitchell Pearce and Kalyn Ponga. Tariq Sims was the best of a truly beaten bunch, scoring and the only forward to crack a century in running metres (129). It has to be a huge concern for McGregor’s side seemingly getting worse in their last three defeats. Korbin Sims is a massive bench inclusion after recovering from a broken arm – he’ll just be hoping by the time he enters the match isn’t already over like it was last week.
Key stats: The Dragons have won four of their last five derbies with the Sharks and six of their last seven Wollongong matches. Euan Aitken has five tries in his last five matches against Cronulla.
Best bet: Dragons -1.5 - $2.02*
Value bet: Euan Aitken anytime try scorer - $2.88*