NRL Round 17: Friday Match Previews & Betting Tips
Penrith is on a serious roll and can make it six straight wins by defeating the troubled Titans at home while Newcastle remains in the hunt for a top-four spot and will need a win against Canterbury to recapture their momentum.
Penrith Panthers v Gold Coast Titans – Panthers Stadium – 6pm
Penrith continued their mid-year resurgence to make it five straight wins when their late comeback stole a 19-18 golden point win away to the Warriors. It wasn’t Penrith’s best performance in their turnaround but such is their growing confidence they delivered a money play when the game looked lost, young centre Brent Naden racing over 60m to score a critical late try.
With Nathan Cleary still sidelined with his ankle injury, veteran James Maloney has suddenly got his tail up and playing like the wily dual-Premiership winning playmaker instead of the error-strewn half he was even two months ago.
Penrith’s depth continues to be tested but with league’s most productive nursery, the Panthers are finding success in blooding the likes of Naden and young hooker Mitch Kenny, who already has received a contract upgrade. Experienced big man James Tamou is having his best season since his illustrious peak with the Cowboys and alongside Reagan Campbell-Gillard the Panthers’ ex-Origin props are finding their rhythm.
Whether the bye has halted Penrith’s momentum, we’re about to find out but after looking destined for a wooden spoon battle following their woeful season start, Penrith is now giving themselves a red hot crack at a top-eight berth.
Gold Coast’s 2019 goes from bad to worse, their 30-12 loss at home to Manly heaped further pressure on embattled coach Garth Brennan. Their first half was one of their worst in recent times and given their inability to shut down Manly’s big three of Daly Cherry-Evans and the Turbo brothers if anything they were lucky to only be down 20-2.
Their start was best summed up when centre Brian Kelly made a rare line break and found fullback AJ Brimson in support. With Tom Trbojevic to beat, Brimson backed himself with a step but unfortunately tripped over himself to tweak his ankle before then dropping the ball cold shortly after.
In the Titans’ favour they did stage a more competitive second half but Manly’s cue was already in the rack. Philip Sami continued his own promising season with a double to help fill the tryscoring void left by Dale Copley and Tyrone Roberts threw everything except a dressing room sink at the Manly line to chase points. And while wooden spoon rivals Canterbury had an upset win over Cronulla to boost their spirits, it’s increasingly hard to see the light at the end of the Titans’ tunnel.
Rumours of Tyrone Peachey wanting out continue to grow and the man who could be the cornerstone of their pack for years to come, Jai Arrow, is starting to be linked with big-money moves elsewhere. It’s increasingly now or never if Brennan wants to put an end to rumours the Titans may make a coaching change soon.
Key Stats: The Titans have only won 2 of their last 9 matches, but did notch their first season win against the Panthers in round five. Gold Coast haven’t defeated Penrith away since 2016 and have never beaten Penrith twice in one season. Brent Naden now has 4 tries in his last 3 starts. Remarkably, Penrith is yet to hit 20 points in their five game-winning run.
Best bet: Race to 10 points – Panthers - $1.48* (TAB)
Value bet: Brent Naden anytime try scorer - $2.50* (Unibet)
Newcastle Knights v Canterbury Bulldogs – McDonald Jones Stadium – 7:55pm
It was a bizarre night in Newcastle last round when the depleted home side lost 24-20 to the Warriors. Amazingly considering the Knights were missing their array of Origin talent plus injuries to Kalyn Ponga and Edrick Lee, they could well have beaten a near full-strength Warriors side.
It’s hard to read a hell of a lot in the performance since – barring an obscene injury crisis – the Knights won’t field this 17 again, but coach Nathan Brown could take heart from the effort his makeshift side showed. They blitzed the Warriors in the first half, Lachlan Fitzgibbon’s try from a grubber which wormed its way past David Fusitu’a and Shaun Kenny-Dowall needing to be seen to be believed but just reward for how well Newcastle was backing themselves.
When the Knights signed Kurt Mann and Mason Lino in the off-season, it was this kind of scenario they had in mind and the two journeymen continue to show their value as they kept Newcastle ticking over. Connor Watson though will regret his mistake from a grubber with five minutes to go which gifted the Warriors the lead and continues his mixed run under pressure kicks at the back.
Two bright lights were the returns of Aiden Guerra and Jacob Saifiti from a broken ankle and leg respectively, which further boosts the Knights’ pack depth. This comes in handy as Fitzgibbon bravely played through a dislocated elbow late on and will now spend around a month recovering. Brown has taken the safe route of naming Origin forwards Klemmer and Glasby in the reserves – no doubt the former would be desperate to take on his former club though.
The Dogs might be bottom but there’s light at the end of the tunnel, their gutsy 14-12 win over Cronulla ensuring they entered their bye week with springs in their steps. Canterbury isn’t going to blow teams off the park with brilliant attack – they’ve scored the fewest points in 2019 – but this time their defence was good enough to hold onto a hot start which they couldn’t quite build upon.
This slump coincided with veteran playmaker Kieran Foran leaving the match with a hamstring injury, which meant interchange debutant Brandon Wakeham was thrown into the deep end to take over the halves. Dallin Waetene-Zelezniak had a more confident showing at fullback than his club debut against the Roosters and the Kiwi’s experience proved vital with the young Dogs under siege in the second half. Wakeham’s inclusion in place of the now Leeds forward Rhyse Martin was vindicated but it does continue a frightening trend of Foran injury setbacks.
Canterbury doesn’t have the depth to fully compensate the loss of by far their most credentialled and experienced playmaker, meaning his absence this week is a concern. The lack of sustained attacking spark may also have been related to impressive hooker Jeremy Marshall-King’s injury-enforced absence – Michael Lichaa has shown he’s able to be a livewire out of the ruck on occasion but there’s a reason he was moved out of hooker for JMK to begin with.
Newcastle will have plenty of rep players backing up in short turnaround – coming off a bye, there’s no reason why the Dogs can’t replicate their hot start again – but whether they have enough quality to finish the job remains to be seen.
Key stats: It must be magic – Newcastle broke a winless drought stretching back to 2013 when they beat the Dogs 22-10 in Magic Round. The Dogs have NRL’s worst attack and their points average drops even further in matches when they’ve been without Kieran Foran. The Dogs have only won one second half in their last five matches.
Best bet: Knights second half - $1.60* (TAB)
Value bet: Knights -8.5 - $2.08* (Unibet)