NRL Round 15: Sunday Match Previews & Betting Tips
Penrith is on a roll with four wins straight, but a trip across the Tasman poses a huge challenge with the temperamental Warriors while Cronulla has top four goals and can’t afford to let two precious competition points slide against bottom-placed Canterbury.
New Zealand Warriors v Penrith Panthers – Mt Smart Stadium – 2pm
It’s bizarre to think but the side who theoretically should have one of the greatest home advantages in the NRL are finding far more success away. The Warriors’ 24-20 win over the Titans was their third straight win away and went some way towards compensating for their poor home record this year.
Steve Kearney’s men were dangerous on the Coast without nailing an 80-minute performance – perhaps understandable given a stomach bug worked its way through their camp pre-game. The halves pairing of Kodi Nikorima and Blake Green continues to develop and with Roger Tuivasa-Sheck regaining form after a brief slump, the New Zealanders have the ability to quickly add points – their scoring against the Gold Coast all came in bunches.
Adam Blair had a tireless performance in his 300th NRL appearance and capped it off with a sin bin inside the final minute – some things never change for the veteran. Kearney was more relieved than ecstatic post-game, claiming his side “found a way to win and sometimes that’s all it takes.” It’s an interesting statement and perhaps one reflecting a maturing side who are growing in confidence. Their home record though is a concern and despite their below-average season start, the Warriors are still alive for a finals spot and a win against the Panthers would serve a double benefit for them – taking themselves closer to the eight while preventing the Panthers gaining further ground in their own finals chase.
In round ten the Warriors had one of their best performances this year against a besieged Panthers. With Penrith now on a serious roll, do the Warriors have it in them to capitalise on home advantage and give their ex-star James Maloney a miserable trip back home?
Penrith is on a roll – and they may be regretting the representative weekend’s timing. With four straight wins following their tense 19-18 win over Souths, the Panthers’ self-belief has never been higher in 2019 but it’ll be interesting to see how they respond to the competition’s pause. Nathan Cleary won’t be part of the trip to New Zealand, an ankle injury likely ruling the halfback out for up to a month. All that means though is greater responsibility for James Maloney, who’s gone from out of form to suddenly back to his unique best inside a month.
Jarome Luai is a handy halves replacement though who made his name last year in a breakout performance during Origin season against the Warriors and is every chance of doing so again this time around. James Tamou is having his best campaign in years, the veteran prop’s promotion to sole captain has been one of coach Ivan Cleary’s better moves this season. With Dallin Watene-Zelezniak well and truly gone, Dylan Edwards is showing signs of rebounding at fullback after his rough season start.
Winger Brian To’o is also finding his way at the top level and slowly building a reputation for his impressive agility right before he crashes into kick chasers. Maloney though is the star man and after his early year form slump has returned a changed player after a suspension. As long as Maloney is firing like he has done so lately – especially in their win against the Roosters – then Penrith will back themselves to beat anyone. What a change this is from their horror losing streak just five rounds ago.
Key Stats: The Warriors have lost four straight at home. The Panthers have won their last two away matches and four of their last six head-to-heads. Viliame Kikau has four tries in his last four matches.
Best bet: Panthers - $2.45* (TopBetta)Value bet: Viliame Kikau anytime try scorer - $4* (TAB)
Canterbury Bulldogs v Cronulla Sharks – ANZ Stadium – 4:05pm
So close, so far for Cronulla last start when they went down 22-20 at Canberra. The Sharks paid a heavy price for their sluggish start, trailing 20-0 inside the opening 25 minutes through some brilliant Raiders attack and average Sharkie defence.
We’ve all seen though in 2019 the Sharks will never stop competing and they unleashed a strong fightback with their attack finally getting in sync. Cronulla has struggled to field their first-choice backline this season but when they’ve got the likes of Matt Moylan, Josh Dugan and Josh Morris fit and firing, they’re always a chance of stringing together a points flurry.
The scores were level 20-all but a long-range Jarrod Croker penalty goal edged Canberra in front and Jarrod Croker’s gutsy intercept thwarted Cronulla’s final-seconds attack on Canberra’s line. Maybe the most frustrating element of the defeat was Cronulla scored four tries to Canberra’s three – it was Croker’s superior goalkicking over Shaun Johnson which was the deciding factor. Cronulla would have been delighted to see Wade Graham’s outstanding cameo off the NSW bench – their inspirational back-rower is still finding his way back from his severe knee injury and there’s so much he adds to the side which goes beyond tackles or ball-playing. His leadership and confidence make a huge difference for the numerous young or inexperienced Sharks players around him. These traits will become even more important with Andrew Fifita’s suspension – look for a monster effort from Paul Gallen to try compensating for the big void in the middle Fifita’s ban creates.
Canterbury’s miserable 2019 continued with a fourth straight defeat, this time going down 38-12 to the Roosters. As is so often the case the Dogs couldn’t generate points from their sustained attacking pressure and inevitably when their defensive floodgates opened they leaked points rapidly.
Dallin Watene-Zelezniak made his club debut being rushed into his preferred fullback slot but DWZ was unable to contribute greatly – though a talented player proven at NRL level, the Kiwi captain is not going to be the cure for the Dogs’ attacking woes. Coach Dean Pay did roll the dice in adding Nu Brown as a halfback with Jack Cogger unavailable, but it was a tough ask expecting a utility player yet to cement himself in NRL to steer the ship for the bottom-placed Dogs facing the reigning Premiers.
Cogger returns this week and Michael Lichaa is reinstated to hooker for the injured Jeremy Marshall-King and you’d think it’s now or never for the Lebanon international to show he has a future with the Bulldogs. Dylan Napa’s broken wrist is a huge blow for a struggling pack and only increases the reliance on veteran Aiden Tolman to churn out big minutes to compensate for a lack of experience in their middle.
It’s a vicious cycle the Dogs are in – with their ineffective attack their best shot at victories are grinding out oppositions but their defence is not at the level needed to protect the small point tallies their attack is producing. Cronulla is the masters of the grind and the Dogs will need an exceptional improvement in their attack if they have a hope of a desperately needed win.
Key stats: The Bulldogs now have the worst attack and defence in 2019. Cronulla has won their last five against Canterbury – each by a margin of 12 points or under. Josh Dugan has three tries in his last two games and also scored against the Dogs when he last faced them.
Best bet: Sharks -8 - $1.87* (Unibet)
Value bet: Josh Dugan anytime try scorer - $2.10* (TAB)
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