NRL Round 22: Friday Previews & Betting Tips
Parramatta scraped home last week but will be eyeing a points difference boost against the lowly Titans. Meanwhile, the finals have arrived early – the loser will be out of the eight when Brisbane host Penrith in a must-see Suncorp showdown
Gold Coast Titans v Parramatta Eels – CBUS Super Stadium – 6pm
It’s a dangerous thing to say but surely 2019 can’t get worse for the Titans? Their 40-28 defeat to the Dragons means they’re now six points away from fifteenth spot and their miserable year will be capped off with a fitting wooden spoon.
Gold Coast’s defence was yet again shambolic and it appeared the side was more interested in a point-scoring shootout than attempting to create pressure through defence. The Dragons’ attack has rarely fired on all cylinders this year but they had a field day and considering one-time wooden spoon favourite Canterbury are significantly improving as the season gets closer to ending, it’s a massive task to find reasons for how Gold Coast can salvage anything before their end-of-season holidays.
Perversely now the spoon is all but theirs, the Titans may well feel like the only way is up and they still have the talent – on paper – to cause headaches for Parramatta. Phillip Sami is a proven try scorer, AJ Brimson is a playmaker they can build their future around while Jai Arrow’s asking price continues to grow with his strong individual performances.
With claims the Titans have under $100,000 available on recruits for 2020, the onus remains on the current roster to show future coach Justin Holbrook why they deserve a crack in first grade next year. Based on the performances since his appointment, Holbrook would hardly be approving of what he’s seen.
They caused heart palpitations for their punters but Parramatta eventually got the job done, overcoming out-of-form Newcastle 20-14 at home to draw level with fifth-placed Manly.
Down a converted try with 25 minutes left, the Eels may have feared a costly defeat but eventually got their act together to sneak a win when they weren’t at their best. With Tim Mannah exiled in Canterbury Cup, Clint Gutherson is quickly becoming Parra’s heart and soul and the “King” reigned supreme with a crucial double, helping compensate for a wayward goalkicking performance from mercurial halfback Mitch Moses.
Manu Ma’u will be a major loss come season’s end when he joins Hull and the Eels enforcer had a cracking game almost capped off with a knockout hook to David Klemmer after taking exception to a facial from the Knight. Gutherson eventually had to drag Ma’u away from another confrontation with Klemmer after the siren – there can be no doubt of the fire inside the Eels in 2019.
The win was another the Eels have chalked up without star winger Blake Ferguson, who sat out again through his infection. Earlier this year the Eels looked overly reliant on Ferguson but are now stringing together wins without their backline leader. It’s another step forward for the side and with the three teams directly above them on the ladder all losing last week, the Eels gained some ground on the ladder.
Their final-round showdown with Manly looms as having a major say on where both sides finish on the ladder. Before then though Parra needs to keep up their momentum and a slip-up to lowly Gold Coast would undo their growing self-belief in one night.
• Gold Coast now have 7 straight defeats, conceding at least 24 points every time – in this same run, the Eels have won 6 games, scoring at least 20 points 6 times.
• Maika Sivo is a tryscoring machine with 14 tries in his last 14 games.
Best bet: Race to 20 points - Eels - $1.67* (BetEasy)
Value bet: Maika Sivo anytime try scorer/Eels - $2.43* (TAB)
Brisbane Broncos v Penrith Panthers – Suncorp Stadium – 7:55pm
To paraphrase Andrew Voss, the Queensland derby might have been “a bludger” but the Broncos couldn’t care with their 18-14 Townsville win getting them back into the top eight.
Brisbane did it the hard way with Jake Turpin’s try in the final minute finally breaking the Cowboys’ hearts after a scrappy night. It’s easier to name the Broncos who didn’t make a handling error than those who did, so shoutouts to Corey Oates, Andrew McCullough, Dave Fifita, Joe Ofahengaue, Rhys Kennedy and Darius Boyd. The latter hardly had a stellar night though – it’s hard to make a handling error when your night’s attacking efforts included only one run for one metre.
It’s hard to get a read on the Broncos’ defensive efforts considering North Queensland were just as rotten in holding onto the ball themselves. Ill-discipline also dogged the Broncos and it appeared Payne Haas’ blatant penalty to hand the Cowboys a gift penalty goal and lead inside the final ten minutes would cost the Broncos a vital win. It would have been slightly unfortunate given Haas was arguably the best Bronco on the field with a strong effort against Jason Taumalolo and friends.
Coach Anthony Seibold was more relieved than elated at full-time and understandably so – if the trait of successful teams is winning when under-performing then the Broncos took that to an extreme length last week. Remarkably given their various slumps this year a top-eight spot is now the Broncos’ to lose and a win over Penrith will see them climb to seventh regardless of other results. It’s going to need a significant improvement on their Cowboys performance but in front of a packed Suncorp, anything is possible for the Broncos when they’re in full gear.
Penrith secured perhaps their most important victory this campaign in their 26-20 upset win against Cronulla. The match was essentially a finals four-pointer – just like this week’s fixture – and even without their most experienced playmaker James Maloney, the Panthers embraced the pressure while forcing their opponents to eventually crumble.
With Maloney joining Super League next season, the Panthers got a look into the future with Nathan Cleary becoming the dominant half while paired with debutante Matt Burton, and the pair clicked impressively. Burton was labelled in the media as “Penrith’s fifth-choice half” but the NSW Under 20 rep showed impressive composure after being thrown in the deep end, creating a try and not looking out of place at the elite level.
Dylan Edwards picked a great time to have arguably his best game of the year with the fullback scoring twice, and while James Tamou has received attention for his strong 2019, prop partner James Fisher-Harris stepped up against the powerful Cronulla pack with a powerhouse display highlighted by 187 run metres. It was critical for the Panthers to respond positively after their recent disappointments against Canberra and Canterbury and coach Ivan Cleary would have been proud of his men in their gruelling Cronulla contest.
Although entry into the top six – and the week one home final it brings – looks unlikely, their Broncos trip is another must-win. It’s realistic for Penrith to finish in seventh spot and face a sixth-placed Parramatta in week one at Bankwest Stadium – what a mouth-watering derby that would be. But a defeat on Friday coupled with other results and the Panthers could be entirely out of the eight. It’s another week where the finals have arrived early for the Panthers.
• Brisbane has won 5 of their last 6 games at home to Penrith, including a brutal 50-18 demolition the last time they met.
• Corey Oates has 6 tries in 7 career appearances against the Panthers. top-eight
Best bet: Broncos -2.5 - $1.90* (Sportsbet)
Value bet: Corey Oates anytime tryscorer - $2.10* (TAB)