NRL Round 21 Sunday Match Previews & Betting Tips
A top-four doubleheader on Sunday starts with the Roosters looking to overturn a rough away record at Canberra while it's a must-win for the Souths against Melbourne if they want to remain in the top four.
Canberra Raiders v Sydney Roosters – GIO Stadium – 2pm
Canberra boosted their top-four chances in walloping the Warriors 46-12 in Auckland courtesy of a scintillating first half. Blitzing into a 30-0 lead before the half, Canberra ran riot through a Warriors side playing for their season. Josh Hodgson was the architect, capitalising on his side’s significant possession advantage to create havoc out of the ruck including a try, try assist and 112 run metres. Canberra’s veteran props Sia Soliola and Josh Papalii laid the platform from kickoff and each got tries, while Jarrod Croker would have felt he walked under a ladder outside Mt Smart Stadium when denied two tries in the opening minutes from the Bunker. The Raiders are a momentum-driven side – they’re an extremely hard side to contain once on a roll and given their British contingent, many of their key players have avoided Origin’s toll. Nick Cotric returns from his controversial three-match ban this week and coach Ricky Stuart would have been delighted how strongly fringe backline members Michael Oldfield and Bailey Simonsson performed – continuing Canberra’s impressive tryscoring ability. The massive win also saw the Raiders overtake Souths on the ladder and comes at a crucial time given their next three matches see them against fellow top-four contenders Roosters, Storm and Manly. This three-week stretch could define the Raiders in 2019 and what better way to kickstart it than overtaking the Roosters on the ladder?
You can only beat what’s in front of you, and the Roosters showed no mercy in crushing rock bottom Gold Coast 58-6 at the SCG. The Roosters at times looked like they were staging a contested training run as they time and time again tore through the Titans. Brett Morris scored a first-half hat trick, James Tedesco earned the Oddschecker Player of the Week gong with a sterling performance and even young hooker Sam Verills darted across from dummy-half to finish the contest with his first career try. The for-and-against boost the Chooks got in their destruction could be the most significant outcome given how congested positions second, third and fourth. It’s likely going to be a far different scenario this weekend however with Canberra themselves fresh off their own cricket score and can overtake the Premiers with a win. These sides last met in Magic Round where the Roosters blitzed Canberra in a brilliant opening half hour – then put the tricoloured cue in the rack and almost lost what they might have thought was the unlosable. This mouth-watering clash will be decided by the forwards and it’s Verills’ inclusion which could prove telling. The natural dummy-half frees Victor Radley to return to his preferred lock role and considering the absentees the Chooks have in their pack, it gives the best balance possible. Angus Crichton has been a maligned signing but the ex-Bunny had his best game in Roosters colours last week and could look to make a statement against perhaps the signing of the year John Bateman. This clash has significant top four ramifications and we’ll get a week one finals preview come Sunday.
• Canberra has a 5-0 record at home to the Roosters since 2012, the five wins all coming 1-12.
• The Raiders also boast a recent 5-2 home record and have been the first to 20 points in their last 4 wins.
• The Roosters’ last five defeats have all come away from the SCG.
Best bet: Race to 20 points – Raiders - $2.80* (BetEasy)
Value bet: Raiders 1-12 - $3.20* (Sportsbet)
South Sydney Rabbitohs v Melbourne Storm – Central Coast Stadium – 4:05pm
Are the Bunnies in top four danger? After looking the goods under coach Wayne Bennett in the first half of 2019, suddenly Souths now have a fight to stay in the top four. Their 39-24 loss to Cronulla would have made for horrific viewing in their post-game analysis with Cronulla – who haven’t had the most fluent attack – transformed into a free-scoring machine against an aimless Bunny defence. In their two most recent wins Souths relied on late comebacks against battling North Queensland and St George Illawarra but it wasn’t third time lucky as they paid the price for another incomplete performance. If Souths had hopes pinned on Sam Burgess’s comeback then they were dashed with the veteran Englishman perhaps lucky to avoid a sin bin for his high shot on Matt Moylan early on, and his ill-discipline continued with a forearm to Paul Gallen’s face resulting in another penalty. It’s not doom and gloom though, Dane Gagai and Cameron Murray are in strong form post-Origin and Damien Cook remains his scheming best out of the ruck. Even with their recent woes the Bunnies put it behind them with a vital win against Melbourne. Cook’s showdown against the best to ever play the position Cameron Smith will be fascinating and Bennett will know just how critical a win will be – at the very least, an 80 minute performance is required against the ladder leads – something they haven’t achieved in recent weeks.
If there were doubts Melbourne would slump their heads after a rare defeat, they were banished in brutal fashion as the Storm towelled up Brisbane 40-4 at Suncorp. The Broncos were playing to keep their top eight spot but Melbourne instead gave them a reality check. Such was the Storm’s dominance it’s hard to pinpoint precise players who starred as simply put it was a complete team performance. Cameron Munster was superb in the halves and it felt almost unfair having veteran Darius Boyd – still adapting to his new position after over a decade at fullback – as his opposite number. Kenny Bromwich played like a man possessed as his career-best season continued with a double and even the wiliest veteran of them all Cameron Smith crossed the line for his first try in 2019. The ease Melbourne bullied a previously in-form Brisbane pack is a reason for grave concern for other title contenders. Nelson Asofa-Solomona was barnstorming and the Storm pack had a point to prove after how well Manly fared against them last week. The only lowlight from the belting was the cruel knee injury to popular prop Christian Welch. The Maroon prop’s ACL tear ends his season and deprives Melbourne of their bench cornerstone. As the competition sits, this matchup is a week one finals preview and after the psychological edge Manly gained in any potential September rematches, look for the Storm to ramp up their aggression against the vulnerable Bunnies.
• Souths have a horrific record against Melbourne, an overall 5-25-1 record including only 3 wins in the last 14 years.
• Melbourne is yet to concede over three tries in a single 2019 match.
• Suliasi Vunivalu has 6 tries in his last 3 matches against the Bunnies, to go with a career 4-0 record over them.
• 6 of Melbourne’s last 8 wins have been 13+.
Best bet: Suliasi Vunivalu anytime try scorer - $2* (TAB)
Value bet: Storm 13+ - $2.88* (Sportsbet)