NRL Round 22: Sunday Match Previews & Betting Tips
The Roosters are crowing and will look to consolidate second spot against the suddenly dangerous Warriors. A southern derby finishes the round with Cronulla desperate to re-enter the top eight against rivals St George Illawarra
Sydney Roosters v New Zealand Warriors – SCG – 2pm
The Roosters broke a near-decade-long Canberra hoodoo, leaving the nation’s capital crowing following a tense 22-18 defeat of the Raiders. In a match played with finals intensity, the Chooks’ big-game experience proved crucial in squeezing out a win in a hostile environment.
Missing Sia Siua Taukeiaho, Boyd Cordner and Jake Friend, it was a crucial step towards second spot for the reigning Premiers, who were relatively coasting at 22-12 in the second half before an Elliot Whitehead try ensured a gripping finish.
Grip was an issue the Roosters had throughout, three times suffering one-on-one steals leading to coach Trent Robinson blowing up post-game at the law allowing multiple tacklers to leave the contest to allow a split-second one-on-one scenario for a steal.
The spray may though be masking some Tricoloured concern over the Raiders exposing a potential flaw in the Roosters’ gameplay – being susceptible to these momentum-swinging strips. Angus Crichton is starting to live up to pre-season expectations when he joined from Souths with consecutive strong performances, while James Tedesco’s highlight reel at season’s end might be a feature-length presentation.
His linebreak to set up Victor Radley’s opening try was superb but his catch and pass while on his knees to give winger Daniel Tupou a saloon passage for a double is the stuff you’d struggle to recreate in a video game. With Tedesco in career-best form, a showdown with reigning Dally M Medallist Roger Tuivasa-Sheck will be worth watching this game for alone. Second spot – and the potential preliminary final home advantage going with it – is now the Chooks’ to lose and they won’t want to allow their ex-superstar RTS the chance to stop their increasing momentum approaching September.
If any other side responded to one of their worst performances in club history by upsetting an in-form opponent to somehow keep their finals chances alive, we’d be raving about it. Given the Warriors did just this last week though, all we can do is shrug our shoulders at why this franchise has such inconsistency embedded into its DNA.
Their 24-16 defeat of Manly itself epitomised how up-and-down Steve Kearney’s side are. The Kiwis dominated the opening 65 minutes with their 18-0 lead coming from some powerhouse defensive efforts to put the shackles on one of NRL’s most dangerous attacks – itself an achievement given how soft this same club was in their Canberra capitulation the week before. Yet when Adam Blair copped ten in the bin for impeding Manase Fainu, suddenly Manly surged and notched three rapid-fire tries to leave coach Kearney presumably in the foetal position in the box.
Jazz Tevaga though ensured the Warriors’ first home win in six matches with a late try to ice the win. Given the circumstances of their meltdown and any remaining finals hopes on the line, the Manly game represents one of the Warriors’ gutsiest 2019 efforts. With Kodi Nikorima injured, Chanel Harris-Tavita was clutch in the halves and created two tries, while Tevaga is fast becoming NRL’s most unsung workhorse, filling in ably at hooker for the banned Issac Luke and once again tackling himself into the ground for his side.
The Warriors are yet to find a sustained winning formula this season but still have a finals hope. With Roger Tuivasa-Sheck looking like a man hellbent on retaining his Dally M medal, if the Warriors’ attitude is switched on they remain capable of beating any opponent, and their superior 2019 away record will give them confidence they can take it to the Premiers.
• The last time the Roosters lost at the SCG was round 1.
• In all of the Roosters’ 14 wins this year they’ve been the first to 20 points.
• Remarkably, Daniel Tupou is yet to score a single try in 8 matches against the Warriors – the only NRL team he’s faced who he hasn’t scored against.
• Tupou does have 12 tries for the year, however, including 4 in his last 4 games.
Best bet: Race to 20 points – Roosters - $1.40* ( BetEasy)
Value bet: Daniel Tupou anytime try scorer - $1.80* (TAB)
Cronulla Sharks v St George Illawarra Dragons – Pointsbet Stadium – 4:05pm
Cronulla failed to build on their impressive Souths ambush, suffering a 26-20 loss to Penrith to further weaken their finals aspirations. The Sharks are still in the hunt for September yet there’s a growing frustration in the Shire over how difficult Cronulla are making their lives are. The defeat pushed them again out of the top eight and while they now have three straight home games, their inconsistency is a potentially season-ending flaw.
Despite missing James Maloney, the Panthers blitzed the Sharks in the first half to open a 20-4 lead. Too often in their recent form slump goalkicking has brought the Sharks undone and again it cost them dearly, with both sides scoring four tries but a flawless night from Nathan Cleary’s boot unmatched from Shaun Johnson.
Cronulla notably improved in the second half but they left their run too late – a fate they’re in serious jeopardy of replicating in their season finish. Wade Graham continues to be Cronulla’s best, comfortably leading their metres gained on the night but could do with more support from his experienced pack colleagues.
Losing Matt Prior to a rib injury early on hampered Cronulla’s rotation but considering the talent the Sharks still had available, they really should have done better against an understrength Penrith. The Dragons are a dangerous opponent for Cronulla to now face – they have nothing to lose and would take joy in further denting their rivals’ finals chances. In what will be Paul Gallen’s final derby, can the G-Train wind back the clock to lead his side to a crucial victory?
The Dragons finally broke free from their attacking shackles to outgun the Titans 40-28 to all but rule themselves out of wooden spoon contention. Their opposition offered little resistance but it was a badly-needed confidence boost for St George-Illawarra, who far too often in 2019 have had reasons to drop their heads. The big win was created from their powerhouse forwards – Paul Vaughan ran for 201m, Tariq Sims had a season-best game and Tyson Frizell showed his representative class.
James Graham was making his 400th appearance across the UK and Australia and would have been grateful for his side’s step up in intensity. It was hardly a complete performance with the Titans at one stage looking a threat of an unlikely comeback in the second half after a tryscoring run, but it was a bittersweet glimpse of the attack the Dragons are capable of – it’s just unfortunate for their punters it came in a Spoon Bowl.
With Gareth Widdop’s NRL career winding down and any wooden spoon battle seemingly over, the Dragons may well look to throw caution to the wind in the last month. Corey Norman remains a game-breaker at fullback and halfback Ben Hunt has already acknowledged the difficulties faced in retaining Australian selection without finals football.
With fan unrest at coach Paul McGregor still at a high, the Dragons may as well look to finish 2019 with a bang – they’ve got the cattle to do it and a win over their derby rivals to sabotage their finals chances would go a fair way in ensuring 2019 isn’t a complete write-off for the Dragons.
• Cronulla has a 3-1 record at home since round 13.
• These sides met in 11 where the Sharks won 22-9.
• Although their win last week was their first since round 15, the Dragons have been competitive – 5 of their last 7 matches have had margins of 1-12.
• Josh Morris now has 5 tries in his last 5 games.
Best bet: Josh Morris anytime try scorer - $2.10* (TAB)
Value bet: Sharks 1-12 - $3.20* (Sportsbet)