NRL Round 14: Raiders v Sharks Preview & Betting Tips

Canberra are back in the top four – can they keep it that way against Cronulla breathing down their necks?

James Baxter
Wed, 12 Jun, 12:00 AM

Canberra Raiders v Cronulla Sharks – GIO Stadium 7:50pm

Canberra’s emphatic 28-0 shutout of the Tigers was the type of performance their impressive season start was built upon. Relentless defensive aggression, their forwards – both starting and interchange – gaining big yards and then their stars creating tries seemingly out of nothing.

John Bateman has become the heartbeat of his Raiders, the club losing three straight without their inspirational Brit before his amazing return ahead of schedule from his eye socket injury saw them beat the Dogs last start and now steamroll the Tigers.

Bateman’s scored in the last two weeks but there’s so much more to his game – not discounting his impromptu kicking skills which are well suited to his native Premier League – with his leadership going a long way for compensating for hooker Josh Hodgson’s absence.

Aiden Sezer at one stage was reportedly being shopped around for a mid-season departure but since coach Ricky Stuart recalled him, he’s making up for lost time. Sezer’s kicking has always been his best element but it’s also his ability to pick and choose when to run which is giving the Raiders an extra attacking element.

Canberra in 2019 may well be a momentum-driven side – when they’re on a roll they’re proving extremely hard to stop. And they’ve now shown they’re able to win games either side of Origin which fellow top four contenders have struggled with. It’s now building nicely for the Green Machine but a showdown against the sixth-placed Sharks is must-win if they’re serious about a top-four finish.

Cronulla put on a football clinic in their 42-22 defeat of Parramatta at PointsBet Stadium, at one stage leading 38-6 before putting their cue in the rack. The points avalanche was led by halfback Chad Townsend’s masterclass, tryscoring machine Bronson Xerri scoring twice and Wade Graham’s successful NRL return following a nine-month layoff with a knee injury.

Townsend is yet to get NSW representative honours but there’s no doubt he’s one of the best NRL-level halfbacks in the game when on song. Even without veteran halves partner Shaun Johnson, the Sharks’ attack didn’t miss a beat with Matt Moylan continuing to take pressure off with his playmaking from fullback.

And for a side who at one stage this season were struggling to name a 21 man squad, coach John Morris had the luxury of resting NSW centre Josh Morris post-Origin. The way the Sharks let the Eels run in three late tries may be a slight concern for coach Morris but considering how impressive they were in the game’s opening hour, there is a lot to like about Cronulla in 2019.

Key stats: Canberra now have three shutouts this season – the rest of the NRL have a combined zero. Sharks centre Bronson Xerri has six tries in his last three matches. Canberra have won four of their last five first halves at home.

Tip: Raiders

Best bet: Raiders first half - $1.95* (TopBetta)

Value bet: Bronson Xerri anytime tryscorer - $2.75* (Bet365)

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