NRL Round 14: Sunday Match Previews & Betting Tips

Manly sprung back into form last week and need a win against the visiting Dragons to maintain their top eight spot. Losing three straight, the desperate Roosters know a defeat at the SCG to the battling Bulldogs is simply unfathomable.

James Baxter
 | 
Thu, 13 Jun, 12:00 AM

Manly Sea Eagles vs. St George Illawarra Dragons – Lottoland – 2pm

Manly’s 22-20 win away to North Queensland could have large ramifications for their finals chances – after a run of poor losses recently, the Sea Eagles ground out a tight win to revitalise their campaign. Fullback Tom Trbojevic was a welcome return and although he made repeat handling errors under the high ball, his brilliance in attack proved telling, creating two tries to carry on from where he left off.

Before the season started Cade Cust would have been lucky to be in the top five of Manly halves options but the rookie has shown he has what it takes to play at the elite level and repaid coach Des Hasler’s faith with a great performance to take pressure off Daly Cherry-Evans. Considering the NRL experience the likes of Kane Elgey, Lachlan Croker and Trent Hodkinson have had, for Cust to emerge where the others have faltered through form or injury is a big tick for the Sea Eagles’ pathways.

For one of the few times this campaign Manly could field their three best players in DCE and the Trbojevic brothers but the Sea Eagles are at their best when their props are firing, and Addin Fonua-Blake and Marty Taupau delivered in spades against the heralded Cowboys pack. With Api Koroisau and Manase Fainu blossoming out of dummy-half, Manly have all the strike they need to trouble any rival and if they can improve their ball-handling, no side will relish a trip to Lottoland – just like the glory days of Hasler’s first reign at the Peninsula.

An emphatic 36-12 win over the Bulldogs saw St George Illawarra break their five game losing streak and keep them in the finals hunt. Corey Norman’s comeback from a fractured cheekbone was timely, the livewire five-eighth bringing balance to a Dragons attack which sorely missed him.

After chopping and changing through injury and form, coach Paul McGregor may at last have his best available backline possible. Zac Lomax’s return to centre saw him have a whale of a game, Mikaele Ravalawa is an unfinished project on a wing but as seen in his two try effort the big Fijian is improving as he gains NRL experience and fullback Matt Dufty was more like his dynamic self at the back.

Ben Hunt also thrived having the energy of Norman to compliment his own directional game and showed no signs of having made 53 tackles out of position in Origin midweek. The Sims brothers battered the Dogs pack while Tyson Frizell and Paul Vaughan also backed up successfully after their own Origin experience.

The challenge for this current lineup is to now maintain their form – there have been too many false dawns for the Dragons in recent years but at 5-7 they remain alive for a finals spot. Even without veteran leaders James Graham and Gareth Widdop the Dragons have experience and strike across the park but they now need to show they can build on what was a belatedly strong performance against a lowly Canterbury.

Key Stats: Manly need to overcome recent history here – they’ve lost four straight to the Dragons, including a 12-10 defeat in round six. Each of Manly’s last four wins at home have come by margins of 12 points or fewer.

Tip: Sea Eagles

Best bet: Sea Eagles to score first try - $1.72* (Sportsbet)

Value bet: Sea Eagles 1-12 - $3.10* (Sportsbet)

Sydney Roosters vs. Canterbury Bulldogs – Sydney Cricket Ground - 4:05pm

The Roosters’ eight-game win streak suddenly feels a long time ago as they suffered a third straight defeat, going down 18-10 away to the Panthers. Despite James Tedesco at times carrying his side’s attack on his shoulders, the Premiers’ performance resembled the team they fielded – incomplete.

Luke Keary’s ongoing absence through concussion concerns is perhaps the Roosters’ biggest issue currently. Cooper Cronk is having more hits than The Beatles, the Panthers lining up the veteran halfback time after time knowing the impact it would have on the Chooks’ attack.

The Roosters need to give their key playmaker more support both at second receiver and also through their forwards. Drew Hutchison became the fourth different non-Cronk/Keary Roosters half this season but much like Latrell Mitchell, Lachlan Lam and Brock Lamb, he struggled to truly deliver. One selection which did work well though was rookie Sam Verills at hooker.

In Jake Friend’s absence through injury, the Roosters relied on lock Victor Radley to be the stopgap nine but Radley’s shortcomings in distribution have been steadily exposed – having a genuine hooker did make a difference in the Roosters’ attack.

There’s little question when the Roosters are closer to full strength they’ll be back to their usual high standards but their confidence could do with a victory boost and against the Bulldogs they will now this is a great chance to achieve just that.

Canterbury punters must be hoping Dallin Watene-Zelezniak is a potential saviour – their struggling campaign needs all the help it can get after it went from bad to worse in a 36-12 thrashing to the Dragons. Perhaps the most painful aspect of their third consecutive loss was the Dragons entered the match in their own losing run but managed to play themselves back into positive form against a listless Doggies.

It was a familiar Canterbury pattern unfortunately – too many errors, poor final tackle options, not enough go-forward and defensive vulnerabilities on their edges. Jack Cogger’s day ending early with concussion after Tariq Sims’ brutal hit compounded their attacking flaws and with Lachlan Lewis injuring his ankle in Canterbury Cup, the Dogs may need to think left-field in how to assist Kieran Foran in the future.

Canterbury certainly had spirit however and hooker Jeremy Marshall-King had his best performance of the year in what was a rare bright light. But forward leaders in Aiden Tolman and Adam Elliott had disappointing matches and Dylan Napa can’t be expected to do it all on his own. Signing New Zealand captain DWZ is a genuine coup however for a club whose salary cap horrors appeared to doom them to years of no-frill buys and wherever coach Dean Pay slots the ex-Panther in, it’ll likely be an instant upgrade.

There’s never a great time when you’re bottom to face the reigning Premiers but the Roosters are in their own slump and the Dogs did show in round four against Melbourne they do have it in them to push the bigger clubs all the way. They will though need a massive shift in their attacking plans to generate enough points to give themselves a hope of a huge upset.

Key stats: The Roosters have four straight wins against the Dogs, all of them coming with halftime leads – in fact, the last 11 Roosters wins over Canterbury have all come from them leading at the break. In their last three SCG matches, the Roosters have averaged over 32 points per game.

Tip: Roosters

Best bet: Roosters halftime/fulltime - $1.55* (BetEasy)

Value bet: Race to 30 points – Roosters - $2.21* (Sportsbet)

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