NRL Round 17: Saturday Match Previews & Betting Tips
Coming into this off a losing streak, Souths face a dangerous Manly while Brisbane looks to keep their season alive against the Warriors and the Storm chases eight straight wins when they play the Sharks.
South Sydney Rabbitohs v Manly Sea Eagles – ANZ Stadium – 3:00pm
Bye week couldn’t come quickly enough for the battling Bunnies. Beset with injuries and at the mercy of representative season, Souths have now lost four on the hop with their 14-9 defeat to Wests one which got away. The game revolved around defence and Souths is no strangers to the grind, eventually inching themselves in front via Adam Reynolds’ field goal. But Michael Chee-Kam had other intentions and his careening run smashed through the Rabbitohs and gave the Redfern boys plenty of food for thought in their round off.
Souths remain in a strong position on the ladder in equal second and coach Wayne Bennett has more experience than any other coach in NRL history. Sam Burgess’ return from shoulder surgery is crucial, especially with brother George copping a nine-week ban for eye-gouging ex-teammate Robbie Farah. There’s cause for concern but not alarm for the Bunnies – a chance to avenge their upset golden point loss to Manly earlier this year would be a great way to bounce back into form.
If there were concerns with Daly Cherry-Evans finding his feet at club level after his long-term ankle injury and Origin comeback, they were brushed aside with his brilliant performance spearheading Manly to a comfortable 30-12 win over Gold Coast pre-bye round.
DCE created two tries and three line break assists to put the game all but out of reach by half time to keep Manly safe in the eight. Their second half wasn’t as smooth with some sloppy handling allowing the Titans to register their only two tries and gave coach Des Hasler some room to work with during the bye.
Curtis Sironen has long been billed as a potential breakout star but a combination of injury and application has seen him yet to reach the heights more associated with his surname, and this was on display against the Titans. Sironen helped himself to a double and was breaking the Gold Coast line at will, yet found himself in the bin before halftime for a professional foul on Brian Kelly.
It was a memorable 100th NRL appearance for the backrower but a sign Hasler could be the coach to finally get the most out of his talent. Hasler may well be watching Origin 3 with nails getting chomped, with Manly’s short turnaround meaning the slightest knocks to Cherry-Evans or the Trbojevic brothers could easily rule them out.
Manly was the first side to defeat Souths this campaign and Hasler will have them ready to cause Souths’ fifth straight defeat – especially if they can have a second half resembling their barnstorming effort when these sides last met.
Key stats: The last time Souths lost five straight was 2016 when they lost 9 on the trot. Recent head-to-head history indicates a Souths win – the sides have traded wins since 2015. The last time Manly beat Souths at ANZ was 2013. Tom Trbojevic has four tries in five NRL appearances this year, including a try against Souths.
Best bet: Souths -4.5 - $1.91* (Bet365)
Value bet: Tom Trbojevic anytime try scorer - $2.25* (Sportsbet)
Brisbane Broncos v New Zealand Warriors – Suncorp Stadium – 5:30pm
There’s still life left in the Broncos this season. Against all odds and logic, the most youthful Broncos side this generation – who then lost their halfback mid-game - conjured a stunning 24-22 upset of the Sharks to break their Sydney hoodoo and keep hope alive for another round yet.
Coach Anthony Seibold has copped a blasting from plenty of media and fans for the Broncos languishing in 14th position but as this performance shows, Seibold knows how to get the most out of young talent and deserves credit for the Baby Broncos’ fearless effort.
Jake Turpin returned to the Broncos after a stint in the Storm’s developmental systems and is quickly making a name for himself. Having debuted at hooker last year, Turpin returned to his younger days as a half with ease, particularly stepping up when Sean O’Sullivan limped off with a hamstring injury.
Veterans Darius Boyd and Andrew McCullough haven’t had their best campaigns but their experience was priceless as the Broncos steadied the ship after the Sharks caught up with the game’s speed.
The biggest praise though goes to Payne Haas, who earned our Player of the Week award for a powerhouse effort through the middle. Cronulla still had ex-Origin players like Paul Gallen, Aaron Woods and Matt Prior on hand but teenager Haas was the match’s biggest enforcer and even scored a try to keep the Broncos in the contest late on.
The next challenge for the Broncos is keeping this momentum going for a most unlikely finals chase – they’re boosted by returning Origin stars but they need to show the same ticker the makeshift youthful Broncos showed in Cronulla.
It was ugly, controversial, at times eyebrow-raising…a typical Warriors win in the end, as New Zealand outlasted a severely-understrength Newcastle 24-20 to keep their finals goals alive.
The two biggest takeaways from the chaotic night were the Warriors extended their away win streak to four and after they had their hearts broken by Penrith’s late charge last round, this time it was the Warriors who finished the strongest.
Sam Lisone was the most unlikely matchwinner, the bench prop pouncing on a ricochet from Knights fullback Connor Watson to steal the lead late on. Ken Maumalo is one of NRL’s most improved players and remarkably is now equal top of the NRL tryscoring table with his double and the Kiwis had to dig deep after conceding a controversial try after centre Peta Hiku’s frightening head injury and an all-time Bunker Blunder denied Maumalo a perfectly legitimate third try.
It is worth noting though the Warriors were pushed to the brink by a Knights side beset with Origin callups and injuries, and they can’t afford to be giving away headstarts when they’re struggling to keep up with the cluster of teams eyeing off a dwindling number of available finals spots.
The fact Newcastle were ahead 12-2 at halftime despite the Warriors having 56% of possession is a major red flag to halves Blake Green and Kodi Nikorima. The latter will meet his former side for the first time this week since his mid-season exit and this might be the nudge Nikorima needs to take on the defensive line with more regularity.
Key stats: The Warriors have four straight away wins and have won three of their last five Suncorp matches. Only once in 2019 have the Broncos strung together multiple wins. Ken Maumalo now has 10 tries in his last 10 matches. In each of their last four away wins the Warriors have won the second half.
Best bet: Ken Maumalo anytime try scorer - $1.91* (Sportsbet)
Value bet: Warriors second half - $2.60* (Unibet)
Melbourne Storm v Cronulla Sharks – AAMI Park – 7:30pm
There was a time where Geoff Gerard’s mark of 303 first grade appearances set the benchmark for rugby league endurance. It’s incredible to think Saturday night we’ll hit unchartered territory when Cameron Smith makes his 400th NRL match in perhaps the sport’s toughest position.
Smith’s greatest strength has always been in between the ears and his ability to game manage remains unsurpassed, as was evident in the Storm’s 16-14 win over the Dragons in an Origin-impacted fixture last round. Just like he did against the Roosters the week before, Smith took control of the match in the second half and ensured young playmakers Brodie Croft and the on-debut Billy Walters didn’t need to overplay their hands. Smith made the most of the experienced forwards Melbourne still had on hand and courtesy of a late penalty, guided Melbourne to another tight win.
Melbourne top to bottom might be loaded with talent but their list isn’t the strongest in the league. Where they’ve exceeded is maximising effort week in week out – and it’s why their shock loss to Cronulla earlier this season would still be burning away inside Storm camp. It was one of the rare times an opposition out-enthused Melbourne and with their captain making rugby league history, it’s a safe bet they won’t allow the same mistake to happen twice.
Cronulla is in a unique run of results. They’ve lost three straight matches primarily though goalkicking despite scoring more tries every time. Their last two defeats to lowly Canterbury and Brisbane have sparked civil war at the Sharks with coach John Morris openly berating his senior players for not stepping up, to the point he hooked star signing Shaun Johnson with four minutes to go against the Broncos.
It’s a remarkable scenario to find themselves in – it’s not as if their attack is struggling nor their defence is deplorable. But overall the Sharks’ execution under pressure has now cost them dearly on the ladder, where they’ve gone from dreaming of fourth spot to now in a quagmire to stay in the top eight.
Another common theme in the Sharks’ horror run is starting slowly – every time they’ve found themselves needing to play catch-up footy and painfully against the most inexperienced Broncos side since Paul Gallen was a fresh-faced rookie in 2002 they managed to take the lead before a defensive implosion saw the Broncos punch through the Sharks’ left edge again for a match-winning late try.
In one respect perhaps the Sharks overachieved in their strong opening season half. They had a miserable off-season, a rookie coach and then a lengthy injury list particularly decimating their forwards. Despite this they remained in great shape as rep season started. Yet this now feels a distant memory and perhaps a 2016 Grand Final rematch against the Storm – who they memorably defeated in round 8 – will be the spark needed to compete for 80 minutes. If not, it’ll be four straight losses and for the first time since round 10 the Sharks will be out of the top 8.
Key stats: Cronulla are 3/12 in goalkicking across their three losses. The Storm have only one loss at AAMI Park in 2019. Josh Addo-Carr has 10 tries in his last 11 NRL matches.
Best bet: Josh Addo-Carr anytime try scorer - $1.62* (Sportsbet)
Value bet: Storm -8.5 - $1.91* (Bet365)