NRL Round 17: Sunday Match Previews & Betting Tips
The Chooks are resting their Origin stars – will it haunt them against a Cowboys side with nothing to lose? The Tigers copped an all-time beatdown when they last faced the Eels – can they turn it around to break into the top eight?
Sydney Roosters v North Queensland Cowboys – Central Coast Stadium – 2pm
There’s a reason the late, great Bart Cummings is remembered as “The Cups King.” With a record 12 Melbourne Cup wins, Cummings earned the reputation of mastering when to peak a horse for Cup contention. If Roosters coach Trent Robinson has half the success Cummings had in his own career then he’ll be an-all time coaching legend, but perhaps Robinson is starting to master when to time his Premiership charge.
The Roosters’ 24-16 defeat of the Tigers leaves them in second position, well behind the Storm but slowly regaining their full complement of players after a chaotic rep season with injuries and suspension. The Premiers took no chances with Luke Keary’s concussion issues, opting to rest him across six weeks and upon his return instantly looked far more menacing in attack. Latrell Mitchell was an unexpected bonus with the discarded NSW star instead resuming his role of Tiger torturer with a game-changing second-half burst.
Robinson is unafraid at squad rotation mid-year, prepared to risk losing matches in return for increased freshness for the business end of year. This is seen with the Roosters’ two Origin reps James Tedesco and Boyd Cordner not even named in the 21 man squad this round. Last year the Roosters hit their peak in the first half of the Grand Final. We’re still a long way off October but with Jake Friend joining Brett Morris, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Keary as recent returnees, the Chooks are looking ominous for another finals charge.
The Cowboys found fresh misery in a demoralising 2019, a 22-14 defeat to the Dragons meaning a return to finals footy is looking increasingly gone. Seemingly snake bit by injuries, the Cowboys were dealt a major blow early in the second half when star playmaker Michael Morgan was smashed by Dragons enforcer Tariq Sims, resulting in Morgan leaving the game and the officials opting to award the Dragons a scrum for the following forward pass.
Coach Paul Green blew up deluxe post-game and Sims’ eventual suspension hardly helped the Cowboys’ situation on the night as their attack wasn’t the same with Morgan’s absence. A positive though was Scott Drinkwater’s fullback debut, the mid-season Storm recruit may finally be the man to fill their problematic number 1 jersey. He had a delightful try assist for Tom Opacic whilst scoring himself and if he can avoid the injury curse ravaging the Cowboys, he may be an invaluable addition to the North Queensland roster.
Jason Taumalolo continues to be a beast and with memories of his outstanding demolition of the Roosters in the 2017 preliminary final still fresh, he’ll be ready to make a stand through the middle. Near enough but not good enough seems to be the Cowboys’ 2019 story but there’s still time to turn their fortunes around – it just needs to start sooner rather than later.
Key Stats: The Roosters have only won 2 of their last 12 matches in Gosford. Daniel Tupou is finding form with 3 tries in his last 4 matches. The Chooks’ last three wins against North Queensland have been by 1 - 12.
Best bet: Daniel Tupou anytime try scorer - $1.72* (Sportsbet)
Value bet: Roosters 1-12 - $3.30* (Sportsbet)
Parramatta Eels v Wests Tigers – Bankwest Stadium – 4:05pm
For 30 minutes it looked like the Eels were at risk of being frogmarched on foot from Darwin to Parramatta by coach Brad Arthur after some poor efforts allowed Canberra a 16-0 lead last start. But once Parramatta got themselves back towards their favoured style of play, they found a way into the contest and eventually overran the Raiders 22-16 to give their finals hopes a boost.
Blake Ferguson was the Eels’ best and there’s no coincidence Parra is at its best when their giant winger is firing. Ferguson tallied 185m including a long-range intercept try and the confidence he spreads around the team is unmistakable.
Mitchell Moses might be the textbook definition of a “maligned halfback” but in 2019 the Eels’ star playmaker is leading NRL in try assists and for the first time since round 3 he was reunited with five-eighth Dylan Brown. The 19-year-old pivot is seen as Parramatta’s brightest talent but serious back issues sidelined him early into his debut campaign, but the way Brown started to gel with Moses as the Raiders match progressed was highly encouraging. The Eels annihilated the Tigers last time around and a fast start might encourage some mental demons from the Tigers to reappear.
The Tigers will take plenty from their 24-16 defeat to the Premiers Roosters last start, a match where for over 50 minutes they held their own before being unable to match the step up in class Luke Keary and Latrell Mitchell provided. Under Michael Maguire, the Tigers are a side on the incline and would have relished the showing Ryan Matterson delivered against his old club.
The edge forward is one of NRL’s top buys in 2019 and wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Blues jersey. Jacob Liddle also added spark off the bench and with reports he’s about to sign a new two-year deal, he’s putting forward a strong case for increased game-time whilst veteran Robbie Farah weighs up his next steps.
The Roosters did exploit Esan Marsters’ defensive vulnerabilities and while there’s no shame in losing to a Premiership favourite, there was significant shame the Tigers copped when they last faced Parramatta. The Tigers’ final drought is well documented and a win against the Roosters would have been considered a bonus. But if the Tigers are to be taken seriously as a finals contender in 2019 they simply must beat the Eels.
With how tight the NRL ladder is for the final top eight spots, this match can be considered a four-pointer and while not a finals eliminator, it’ll be a significant hurdle the Tigers need to overcome should they go down. They showed plenty last Friday night – but can they put together an 80-minute performance to roar into the eight?
Key stats: The Tigers have a 1-3 record at Bankwest while the Eels have a 4-1 record. Maika Sivo has scored in every match he’s played in at the new stadium. The Eels have won 6 of their last 8 against Wests.
Best bet: Maika Sivo anytime try scorer - $1.72* (Sportsbet)
Value bet: Eels second half - $1.85* (TAB)
St George Illawarra Dragons v Canberra Raiders – WIN Stadium – 6:10pm
St George Illawarra pushed the Storm all the way but their 16-14 loss at WIN Stadium was another blow to their finals chase. Both sides were nowhere near full-strength due to Origin, leading to a most inexperienced halves combo of Jai Field and Darren Nicholls to pilot the Dragons.
Their biggest attacking threat though was hooker Cameron McInnes who relished his showdown with Cameron Smith and is having a strong season in a struggling side. It was a gritty defensive effort from the Dragons in wet conditions but Jacob Host’s escort penalty on Jahrome Hughes was all Smith needed to nail the winning penalty goal and leave the Dragons outside the eight ruing what could have been With the Dragons in the midst of a string of matches in Wollongong, they need to capitalise or else be two wins outside the eight.
It’s been two long weeks since Canberra went down 22-16 to the Eels in Darwin – long because it’s a fair stretch to have a Ricky Stuart blast ringing in your ears. The Raiders’ opening 30 minutes was spot on, they raced to a 16-0 lead with Jack Wighton starring in their impressive blitz. However, the Raiders wilted away thereafter in the Territory conditions, crucially allowing the Eels back into the contest before halftime and then sabotaging their hopes of moving to equal second with handling errors aplenty.
Jarrod Croker was the hero when he intercepted a desperate Sharks pass to seal a win last month but this time he was the villain when Blake Ferguson ran nearly 90 metres to score off an errant Croker ball to gift Parra the lead.
Canberra are a vastly-improved team compared to the past two seasons but they’re risking falling into a familiar trap – they’re starting off well but unable to finish. They got away with it against the Sharks but Parra made them pay dearly and life won’t get any easier against a desperate Dragons outfit needing a win to keep their season alive.
The Raiders are expected to announce their latest British signing in Wigan half George Williams for 2020 – perhaps this is a wakeup call to incumbent half Aidan Sezer to take increased control of the side and not risk undoing their promising 2019 to date.
Key stats: The Dragons have won 5 of their last 6 against the Raiders, plus 7 of their last 9 at WIN Stadium. Mikaele Ravalawa has 4 tries in his last 4 matches.
Best bet: Mikaele Ravalawa anytime try scorer - $1.72* (Sportsbet)
Value bet: Dragons -1.5 - $2.00* (TAB)