NRL Round 15: Friday Night Previews & Betting Tips
The Dragons’ finals hopes are flickering. Can they keep the fire burning when they host the Cowboys? Meanwhile, the Storm will be out for revenge when they face the Roosters in Adelaide.
St George Illawarra Dragons v North Queensland – WIN Stadium- 6pm
If the Dragons thought they turned a corner after their drought-breaking win over the Bulldogs, they received a reality check when Manly outplayed them in a 34-14 defeat. The Dragons’ opening 20 minutes was promising enough, generating an 8-0 lead but once Manly found their footing, a Tom Trbojevic masterclass tore apart a brittle Dragons defence.
Too often this year St George Illawarra have lacked confidence – unsurprising given this is a side with six losses in their last seven starts. But three straight games in Wollongong could be the impetus to turn their season around.
Ben Hunt was one of Queensland’s better players in a well-beaten side and will be eager to put his state’s Origin nightmare behind him with a star role against the Cowboys. Tim Lafai’s return will strengthen their backline and Tyson Frizell has put a neck complaint behind him to be named in what’s essentially a must-win match for the Dragons.
The Cowboys can’t seem to take a trick in 2019. Going down in Golden Point to the Tigers 27-26 was their latest heartbreaking defeat and for a club ravaged by injury, even the representative round has taken a toll. Josh McGuire will sit this week out with a suspension for a final minute cheap shot on James Maloney in Origin and Kurt Baptiste’s season is over with the bench hooker suffering an ACL injury.
The Tigers loss would have been haunting the Cowboys in their time off, with Benji Marshall’s extra-time field goal ending a wild night in Townsville. The Cowboys found themselves quickly behind 18-0 but made a stirring comeback based on another monster outing from Jason Taumalolo. Coach Paul Green was enraged post-game at two key officiating decisions he felt cost his side a chance at victory, the first being a non-referral for a suspect Ryan Matterson try and the second a Michael Chee Kam penalty try via Jordan Kahu’s desperate high hit.
There’s plenty of reasons for the battling Cowboys to feel sorry for themselves in what’s feeling like a cursed campaign but they’re continuing to fight and in their mid-season signing of ex-Storm fullback Scott Drinkwater they may at last have found a solution to their constant reshuffling at the back. Drinkwater at one stage was considered a genuine shot at starting 2019 as Melbourne’s fullback but a pre-season pectoral injury saw Jahrome Hughes get first crack and not look back.
With Queensland in turmoil there’s now a chance for a veteran like Gavin Cooper to make a charge for a bench spot and the backrower will look for a huge game in Wollongong. Michael Morgan returns to his favoured halves role and will need a solid game to ensure he retains his Maroons selection as well.
Key Stats: These sides met in round one – North Queensland won 24-12. The last time the Cowboys won in Wollongong was 2015. Michael Morgan has scored in both his last two matches against the Dragons. The Dragons have won six of their last eight WIN Stadium matches.
Best bet: Dragons -4 - $1.87* (Bet365)
Value bet: Michael Morgan anytime tryscorer - $4.50* (Sportsbet)
Sydney Roosters v Melbourne Storm – Adelaide Oval - 7:55pm
After a three-game losing streak, the Roosters wouldn’t have cared how they got back on track against lowly Canterbury. But their 38-12 win was their most complete performance since their round 8 destruction of the Tigers and a reminder to the rest of the NRL to write the Premiers off at your own risk.
Latrell Mitchell has dominated headlines with his Origin exclusion but the upside is the Chooks not only will have the star centre available for their Tigers clash next week – they also have him fired up with a point to prove. Mitchell will take huge heart from his brilliant performance when these sides met in their incredible 21-20 Roosters win earlier this season. We all remember his 40m field goal to win it but his first-half performance that night was as good as it gets.
The Roosters have a staggeringly low two Origin players in action and while they had plenty of participants in various tests, they’re managing to avoid a significant Origin drain compared to the Storm. The remaining players held an intense training camp during the week off and with Cooper Cronk steering the show, it makes for a fascinating Grand Final rematch. The Chooks know how to step it up when needed but it’s been a while since we’ve seen them truly hit their top gear. Facing off with a rare chance of doing a double over arguably their biggest Premiership threat could be just the incentive to deliver in spades.
Melbourne made an emphatic statement in their 34-4 demolition of the previously red-hot Newcastle before the representative round. Newcastle was NRL’s most in-form side and while the Storm were strong favourites, few would have seen such a brutal footballing lesson to be taught by Craig Bellamy’s side. The Storm was at their clinical best.
Cameron Munster and Cameron Smith flawlessly controlled the game’s flow from the platform laid by starting props Jesse Bromwich and Nelson Asofa-Solomona. It’s hard to believe Jahrome Hughes has only played 29 first grade games and the fullback spot in pre-season was once considered up for grabs.
Hughes has been a standout throughout 2019 and it’s his tremendous running and support play which has helped minimise the disruption some may have suspected after Billy Slater’s retirement. Marion Seve is the latest backline gem to be unearthed by Melbourne’s scouts and the centre has gone from an unknown to suddenly confidently filling the shoes of the injured Curtis Scott, scoring three tries in his last four matches. Munster had a night to forget in Origin 2 but the fiery five-eighth isn’t one to shy away from any challenge – another shot at the Premiers will be right up Queensland’s alley.
Key stats: These sides’ two matches in Adelaide have both been decided by 1 point. The last time the Roosters defeated Melbourne twice in a season was 2014. Josh Addo-Carr now has 10 tries in his last 10 NRL matches.
Best bet: Josh Addo-Carr anytime tryscorer - $2.20* (TAB)
Value bet: Storm 1-12 - $3.10* (Bet365)
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