NRL Round 13: Friday Night Previews & Betting Tips
The Knights were NRL’s most in-form side pre-bye – can they maintain their momentum against the Bunnies? With Canberra coming off a gutsy win, can the Tigers defeat them to break into the top 8?
South Sydney Rabbitohs v Newcastle Knights – ANZ Stadium – 6pm
James Roberts has jetted into Redfern and considering how stretched the Bunnies’ backline is, there’s no doubt coach Wayne Bennett may have been performing metaphorical cartwheels after luring the former NSW centre effective immediately. Souths were gallant in their 26-14 defeat to Parramatta last start, stripped of their Origin stars on top of a troubling injury list.
Their patched-up side was competitive against the near full-strength Eels with Tom Burgess continuing to build on possibly his best season start in his NRL career. Taking the spotlight away from brother Sam, the tough prop has been a cornerstone for the Souths pack and was one of the best on ground.
The defeat did mean their seven-game win streak ended but based on the opening 12 rounds the Bunnies are still the team to beat. Bennett will be crossing fingers and toes the likes of Damien Cook, Cody Walker, Cameron Murray and Dane Gagai emerge unscathed from Origin, having the shortest turnaround means even the slightest of knocks is likely to rule them out, hardly ideal considering how well their visitors are going in recent weeks.
Newcastle made one of their biggest statements in recent history in emphatically defeating the Roosters 38-12 at a raucous McDonald Jones Stadium. Mitchell Pearce played like it was a revenge game, scoring plus setting up two more while his partner in crime Kalyn Ponga continued his superb form at the back. From being in the NRL’s biggest slump at round six the Knights are now the hottest side in the competition with five straight wins, the closest being 12 points.
It’s been years since the Roosters have been manhandled so thoroughly and this stemmed from David Klemmer’s monster game. The NSW enforcer’s 178 metres was double of the nearest starting Knight forward’s tally and shows the damage he can cause – just imagine what he wants to do against the Burgess-led Souths big men.
The only downer was hooker Danny Levi’s ankle injury meaning coach Nathan Brown needs to reshuffle his side with Connor Watson named in the nine jersey and Kurt Mann returning to five-eighth. It does provide an obvious target in their defensive line for Souths to direct traffic but considering how impressive Newcastle have been, even that may not be enough to hold the Knights back.
Key Stats: Souths have beaten Newcastle nine straight matches. In this run, the Bunnies have led at half-time seven times. In his starting debut, James Roberts scored for both the Titans and Panthers. Souths has opened scoring via an Adam Reynolds penalty goal in their last three starts.
Best bet: Rabbitohs half-time - $1.70*
Value bet: Rabbitohs penalty goal first scoring play - $5.40*
Wests Tigers v Canberra Raiders – Bankwest Stadium – 7:55pm
The Tigers wouldn’t have minded their bye arriving last week, the break allowing coach Michael Maguire’s club to regroup after three defeat in their last month. The 32-16 loss against Souths saw them unable to capitalise on the Bunnies’ losing halfback Adam Reynolds mid-game with a leg injury and instead allowed Souths hooker Damien Cook to run amok.
It seemed to sum up the Tigers’ season start – competitive but not quite making the step to the next level. Corey Thompson and Ryan Matterson were the Tigers’ best, hardly a surprise given they’ve also been among the top Tigers this season. Thompson remains an unsung workhorse out of the back, racking up 164 metres and notching another try while Matterson showed the form which got him a nod as NSW’s 18th man. The ingredients remain in place for the Tigers to work their way into the top eight but if they want to be taken as a genuine finals contender, their Canberra clash is exactly the type of game they must win.
Out of context, a 12-10 win over the lowly Dogs hardly screams “season-defining win” but make no mistake, the victory will go down as a turning point in the Raiders’ season should they end their finals drought. Having lost three straight and stripped of their sizable Origin contingent and racked with injuries, Canberra toughed it out to the very end against a desperate Canterbury.
This was shown with fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad putting his body on the line to stop a potential game-winning Dogs attack in the final moments of the tight affair. Nicoll-Klokstad has been the best value recruit of the year, delivering an amazing 307 running metres while saving two tries overall. He was ably supported by the returning John Bateman, the English lock thriving in his early return from an eye socket fracture. As so often has been the case though in 2019, the Raiders’ win was soured with forwards Hudson Young (eye gouge, five weeks suspension) and Corey Horsburgh (elbow fracture, three weeks) now unavailable. The Raiders can’t afford any Origin injuries with their depth already suffering but if they play with the heart shown against the Dogs, they’ll fancy their chances against any opposition.
Key stats: A Tigers win would mean the Raiders become the side to have lost to the Tigers the most in the joint-venture’s history. Jarrod Croker has six tries in his last eight games against the Tigers. The Tigers’ average win margin in 2019 is 18.
Best bet: Tigers -1.5 - $2*
Value bet: Jarrod Croker anytime try scorer - $2.85*