NRL Round 15: Saturday Match Previews & Betting Tips
Manly returned to the winners’ circle last start and will want to avenge their horror recent history against the Titans. After being brought back down to Earth, Newcastle will look to rebound against a desperate Broncos while Parra will aim to continue that in the Top End when hosting Canberra.
Gold Coast Titans v Manly Sea Eagles – CBUS Super Stadium – 3:00pm
Consistency is the Titans’ worst enemy in 2019 and their 24-20 loss at home to the Warriors further showed this. The match was a great chance for the Titans to string together rare back-to-back wins after their 26-18 upset of Brisbane but once again Gold Coast found themselves unable to build on positive momentum.
Even the match itself was the Titans’ seasons summed up – they leaked an early 10-0 deficit off shoddy defence before working their way back to an even score within two minutes but an inability to convert ongoing pressure into further points saw the Warriors take advantage of the game flowing the other way for match-sealing consecutive tries.
Nathan Peats didn’t have his best performance and the veteran hooker will know he needs to step up with halfback Ash Taylor’s ongoing unavailability. Jai Arrow’s ankle injury is a significant blow made and will increase the pressure on Jarrod Wallace to perform – never an easy challenge backing up from a well-beaten Origin side.
As ever the Titans still have enough talent to compete with any side in the competition on their day, and their 36-18 blowout of Manly just four round ago shows their ability. But until the Gold Coast learn what it takes to play consistently each week, there’s a reason why they’re a disappointing 15th on the ladder.
Manly continued their impressive 2019 campaign when they brushed aside St George Illawarra 34-18. The dark final stages of Trent Barrett’s regime at the peninsula are a distant memory under Des Hasler, who is getting the most out of his squad and anything other than a top eight finish will now externally be considered a failure.
Manly certainly has a “big three” of Daly Cherry-Evans and the Trbojevic brothers but what’s separated this version of Manly from recent incarnations has been how good they’ve been without DCE and Tom Trbojevic for long stretches this year. And now with all three stars in top form, Manly have an impressive platform to build a solid finals charge from. “Tommy Turbo” is playing out of his skin since his return from hamstring woes and seems hellbent on catching up for lost time. Yet it’s the performances from some of the lower-profile players which is proving Manly’s biggest strength.
Reuben Garrick joined Manly looking for a first grade chance he never got at the Dragons – and the goal-kicking winger showed his old side what they’ve missed out on with a fantastic performance last start capped with a try. Cade Cust has performed so well that the rookie has now leapfrogged more seasoned playmaker Kane Elgey to become DCE’s halves partner.
Curtis Sironen has always had the potential and shown glimpses of his ability but Hasler is now getting the backrower to showcase this week in week out. Api Koroisau is sidelined with injury which means Manase Fainu gets a start at hooker and will add real zip out of Manly’s rucks. Manly were stunned by the Titans in their last encounter but it’s hard to see Hasler’s side repeating their off performance this time around.
Key stats: Manly have lost four of their last five against Gold Coast, conceding an average of 35 points in their defeats. Manly are 4-0 this year when Tom Trbojevic has played. Turbo Tom has also scored four tries in these four games. The Sea Eagles have won their last three second halves by an average of over 11 points.
Tip: Sea Eagles
Best bet: Sea Eagles second half - $1.79* (Unibet)
Value bet: Tom Trbojevic anytime tryscorer - $2.20* (TAB)
Newcastle Knights v Brisbane Broncos – McDonald Jones Stadium – 5:30pm
Newcastle entered their Melbourne match as NRL’s most in-form side. They exited it with a reminder they’re not yet the finished article, their 34-4 defeat bringing Nathan Brown’s club back down to Earth.
The Knights are hardly alone in experiencing how good Melbourne is, and nor does one defeat undermine the huge strides the side have taken particularly in their six-game win streak. They will, however, be anxious to ensure this single defeat doesn’t spiral into a losing streak – just ask the Dragons how quickly this can happen.
Newcastle is far from a two-man side but it’s undeniable how important playmakers Kalyn Ponga and Mitchell Pearce are to the Novocastrians. When they sparkle – like against the Roosters – Newcastle looks a top four contender. When they struggle – like against the Storm – Newcastle look more like a bottom four side. It’ll be curious to see how Ponga handles the Brisbane game considering he followed his quiet Storm performance with a disappointing Queensland outing on the weekend.
Pearce avoided any Origin hysteria in ruling himself out with a hip complaint but will be eager to get his side’s campaign back on track. Mitchell Barnett’s horror crusher tackles mean the under-rated forward is out for three weeks and with David Klemmer still nursing a broken wrist means the Knights are now missing two of its pack leaders.
Brisbane’s pack copped a beating against Parramatta and then another beating in local media post-game – they’ll be out to prove a point and this environment is the perfect chance for NSW rep Daniel Saifiti to show why he’s now a starting New South Wales prop against a fired-up opposition. Overall Newcastle will know they need far better performances in the middle than what they produced against Melbourne if they’re to avoid consecutive defeats for the first time since round 6.
Rep weekend couldn’t have come quickly enough for the Broncos, who are reeling from two painful losses to severely endanger their fading top eight hopes. Their insipid 38-10 defeat to Parramatta was one of Brisbane’s worst performances in recent years, an ugly first half saw them trailing 26-0 to an Eels side who hardly entered the match in the finest of form. Brisbane was hellbent on sabotaging themselves – Corey Oates was perhaps the worst offender ball in hand with some soft errors and lack of field awareness turning possession over repeatedly but it was the Broncos pack who were the biggest culprits.
Parramatta’s forwards dominated them and Brisbane’s inability to compete in the ruck resulted in as much second-phase play as the Eels desired, which increased fatigue at a time when Matt Gillett and David Fifita each suffered head knocks. Their second half was a more competitive showing but given the game was already decided, it’s hard to give much credit to Brisbane.
The Parra thrashing was not the response coach Anthony Seibold wanted after his side were ambushed by the Gold Coast and having clawed back from their rough season start, Brisbane is at serious risk of having to start from scratch once again. While they had a large representation through Origin and Tests, the week off allowed Seibold to think things through and to plot how the Broncos regroup. They’re quickly entering the dreaded “must-win” stage to keep their finals chances alive and need a huge effort to turn their season around once more away to the top eight Knights.
Key stats: Newcastle don’t have recent history on their side - Brisbane have won six of their last seven against them. Corey Oates has scored five straight times against the Knights, while Hymel Hunt has scored seven tries in his last ten starts. Brisbane haven’t won a first half since round 7.
Best bet: Knights half time - $1.86* (Unibet)
Value bet: Hymel Hunt anytime try scorer - $3.10* (Sportsbet)
Parramatta Eels v Canberra Raiders –TIO Stadium (Darwin) – 7:30pm
When Parra have clicked in 2019 it’s been to devastating effect – their 38-10 thrashing of Brisbane hasn’t been the first time this campaign the Eels have blown an opposition away with ease. It’s their inconsistency however which sees them in a congested scramble to stay in the finals hunt. Mitch Moses perhaps epitomises the Eels better than anyone.
At times Moses has shown a complete game, taking the line on with such speed it leaves defenders unsure whether the halfback will find a runner or go himself. His kicking game has the ability to be one of the better ones in NRL and he’s slowly starting to embrace a leadership role within the side. Yet there have also been spells where Moses hasn’t looked up to NRL standards and so it’s been for the Eels this year. There are plenty of positives for Eels punters – this is a club rebuilding from a disastrous 2018 and they’ve already surpassed their win tally from last year.
Tim Mannah’s mid-season transfer to the Tigers has fallen through which avoids any potential fan fallout and will go a long way in maintaining squad harmony. Maika Sivo is one of the finds of the year and has gone from obscurity to suddenly one of NRL’s most prolific try scorers. The Eels have a great record in Darwin – although Canberra’s coach Ricky Stuart is no stranger to matches in the top end – and if they’re serious about September action, they need to minimise the gulf in quality between their best and worst performances. A match against the Raiders – who will be playing finals footy – serves as a great test for whether the Eels deserve to be considered a genuine finals chance.
Canberra’s nail-biting 22-20 victory over Cronulla was crucial for their top four chances. The win was made far harder than what the Raiders may have expected given they were up by 20 within 25 minutes but Jarrod Croker’s late penalty goal and then desperate intercept sealed the win to keep Canberra in the box seat for a double chance in September.
The Raiders’ burgeoning success has been in part to Jack Wighton’s positional shift from fullback to five-eighth and as seen in his impressive stint as a NSW centre, the playmaker’s confidence is now flourishing. They’re also a well-balanced outfit, compensating like they did against Cronulla without key players like injured hooker Josh Hodgson, or their bench forward rotation strategy needing an overhaul with Hudson Young’s suspension and Corey Horsburgh’s elbow injury.
They’re now finding ways to win the tight games more often than not – which is perhaps the biggest influence in why Canberra have their eyes set on the top four instead of a wishful lunge at the top eight as seen the last two seasons. There’s genuine competition for spots – just look at Aidan Sezer grabbing his halfback gig back from Sam Williams and not giving coach Ricky Stuart the chance to think otherwise. Josh Papalii was disappointed in his Queensland performance and Canberra’s enforcer may look to take his frustrations out on Parramatta – watch out.
Key stats: Parra has a 4-1 record in Darwin. Canberra has had the wood over the Eels though, winning 11 of their last 13. The last time the Eels scored a try against Canberra was in May 2017. Maika Sivo has now scored in eight straight matches.
Best bet: Raiders first to 10 points - $1.81* (Sportsbet)
Value bet: Maika Sivo anytime try scorer - $2.20* (TAB)
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