NRL Round 23: Sunday Match Previews & Betting Tips
This one could get ugly in a hurry – the wounded Storm are out to make a statement at the expense of the terrible Titans. A top-four showdown ends round 23 with highflying Canberra facing the dangerous Manly in a finals preview.
Melbourne Storm v Gold Coast Titans – AAMI Park – 2pm
Sunday afternoon might not be pretty for the Storm’s opposition – but it might be nothing compared to the spray Melbourne may have copped from Craig Bellamy after their stunning 22-18 defeat to Canberra. Melbourne was unbackable being ahead 18-0 after 30 minutes at home against a Canberra side with back-to-back sin bins, yet somehow found themselves powerless to stop one of the greatest comebacks NRL has seen.
Cameron Smith is renowned for game management but for one night only the veteran hooker met his match in Canberra counterpart Josh Hodgson. The Raider rake seized control of the contest after halftime and for once Smith was unable to provide a reply for his side, nor create opportunities to shift possession towards the home side. Just like the Roosters before them, Melbourne suffered one-on-one steals and remarkably found themselves outrun by a Canberra side who spent the first 30 minutes under siege with a reduced defensive line.
There was plenty to like about Melbourne’s swift execution as they built their lead but it’s a fascinating prospect to see how the competition leaders respond to an unexpected reality check. Facing the terrible Titans at home with eight days to stew on how they lost the unlosable, it might be open season as the Storm look to take their frustrations out Sunday.
The Titans can’t take a trick in 2019, their 36-12 defeat to Parra was bad enough and now they take the daunting challenge of facing the Storm – brewing over their shock crash to Canberra and a point to prove – in Melbourne.
It’d take an extreme optimist to find any reason for joy for the Titans’ current situation but here’s an attempt – they were at the very least somewhat competitive in their opening 40 minutes last week. They rode their luck with some dubious Eels’ attempts at finishing but they were only down a converted try at the break. The floodgates opened soon after though and it was only a case of how much damage the Eels could inflict upon the confidence-shot Titans. Basic mistakes like kicking off on the full and then compounding it with penalties aren’t the ideal way to start a second half.
The Titans were willing to chance their arm in attack but their lack of structure meant inevitable errors followed. Moeaki Fotuaika is the best thing Gold Coast have after a dismal year and the young prop was again their best in a well-beaten side. Gold Coast copped a thrashing when these sides last met but they did score the game’s first two tries. The expectations on a wooden spoon-bound side facing the Minor Premiers-to-be away are non-existent so look for the Titans to ramp up throwing caution to the wind and trying unorthodox attack – they’re going to need plenty of it to stay within touch of the Storm.
• Gold Coast made history last week, unfortunately, though it was all for the wrong reasons with a club-record eighth consecutive loss.
• In the matches immediately following their most recent 2 defeats the Storm have won 64-10 and 40-4.
• Melbourne have won 7 of their last 8 against the Titans and have only won once at AAMI Park.
• Will Chambers has 8 tries in his last 7 games against Gold Coast.
Best bet: Storm 19+ - $1.73* (Sportsbet)
Value bet: Will Chambers anytime try scorer - $2.40* (BetEasy)
Canberra Raiders v Manly Sea Eagles – GIO Stadium – 4:05pm
Canberra’s 22-18 win over Melbourne was arguably the club’s best triumph since their 1994 Grand Final and have the ability to transform the Green Machine into a genuine Premiership contender. Everything pointed to a Storm win – whether it was their 18-0 lead, the Raiders copping two sin bins inside 30 minutes or Canberra’s notorious inability to defeat top four sides in recent times.
Yet with the world and odds stacked against them, Ricky Stuart’s side showed they’re a force deserving respect in an incredible comeback. When Josh Papalii – in career-best form – crashed over to score under posts with three minutes left, it capped NRL’s most unlikely comeback win this year and one extremely deserved. Josh Hodgson’s class has been clear to see since entering the NRL but the English international’s guile still cannot be underestimated. Hodgson stirred his side back into life and took the game to the best hooker of all time – and won.
Jarrod Croker scored twice and thrived in a match played at finals intensity, while John Bateman and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad again demonstrated why they’re the two hottest favourites for recruit of the year with crucial roles in the Raider fightback. The win gives Canberra the knowledge they can defeat an elite side and keeps them in the top four. The Green Machine however now need to prove they can do it week in week out when they meet fourth-placed Manly. Another win and they’ll make even more believers they can potentially replicate that famous 1994 Premiership side.
Manly put their upset loss to the Warriors behind them to belt the Tigers 32-12 and get their top-four goals back on track. It was a comprehensive performance from Des Hasler’s side who stepped up their intensity just shy of halftime to run in two tries and break the Tigers’ spirit.
Manly had a whopping 61% possession but crucially remained patient enough despite at times tough Tiger defence and soft errors. The secret to Manly’s surprise 2019 success has been Hasler maximising the most of every bit of talent on hand and the trend continued last week. Curtis Sironen has always had the ability but not the consistency at NRL level – until this year.
The in-form edge forward’s injury though meant a start for the unheralded Jack Gosiewski, and the big man delivered big time. His two tries came in ways similar to how Sironen has become an attacking threat and with the spotlight forever on Daly Cherry-Evans and the Trbojevic brothers, role-players like Gosiewski are helping the Manly machine tick over. Manly are headed for the finals but their next three weeks will determine whether they get a double chance or an elimination final.
A win this weekend and they’ll be in a strong position for third spot, a loss though and the door is open for Souths and Parramatta to overtake them. This is a finals preview and just like they did in Melbourne, the Sea Eagles will need to win a high-pressure game on the road to maintain their momentum.
• Matches between these two sides are recently tight – 6 of the last 8 have been 1-12 margins.
• The Sea Eagles have also won at least one half in their last 5 head-to-heads.
• Manly’s last 3 defeats have all been away games, and they have only 1 win in Canberra since 2016.
Best bet: To win either half – Sea Eagles - $1.53* (Sportsbet)
Value bet: Raiders 1-12 - $3.10* (Sportsbet)