NRL Round 24: Friday Night Previews & Betting Tips
Souths have a spring in their step after beating Brisbane and can re-enter the top four by defeating the Warriors in NZ. Both teams suffered painful defeats last week – who will claim a precious win when Brisbane host Parramatta with everything to play for?
New Zealand Warriors v South Sydney Rabbitohs – Mt Smart Stadium – 6pm
With their finals hopes done, the Warriors offered little resistance last start as they crumbled 42-16 to Cronulla. The signs were ominous when they conceded a try to Bronson Xerri inside the opening two minutes and things didn’t get much better afterwards.
The biggest issue for New Zealand was whenever they threatened to unsettle the Sharks, they’d invariably fail to follow through and found themselves conceding further points. Veteran half Blake Green tried hard but aside from setting up a try for returning centre Pat Herbert, there was little he could do to stop the momentum against his men.
While the Sharks forwards ran roughshod, it was more a defensive slog in vain for the Warriors and it would have stung their suffering punters seeing Shaun Johnson reinvigorated against the side who agreed to move him on this past off-season.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck remains in Dally M considerations and a better platform laid by his pack might give the brilliant fullback some hope he can salvage at least something from what’s been another disappointing season for the Warriors.
With Souths coming off a breakthrough victory last start, there might be fears of what happened recently when the Warriors faced top four contenders Canberra and Sydney coming true again – the memories of the brutal defeats suffered are still raw across the Tasman.
Are the Bunnies back? Their 22-20 win in a Brisbane slugfest could be the spark the Rabbitohs need to reignite a season which threatened to splutter out. The war of words between Souths and their ex-coach Anthony Seibold, coupled with two former Broncos returning to their old side for the first time since mid-year transfers ensured a fiery atmosphere.
Those two ex-Broncos each found themselves sin binned for off-the ball incidents – James Roberts for an elbow to a prone Corey Oates, Jaydn Su’a for a cheap shot on Alex Glenn – and duly copped judiciary charges post-game. Rising about the constant niggling from both sides however was superstar hooker Damien Cook. The dynamic dummy-half’s form somewhat slumped after Origin season and it’s hardly a coincidence his side began dropping matches at the same time.
Cook exploded back into action though at Suncorp with a monster game. Always at his best when darting out of the ruck with scattered markers, Cook embraced a run-first mentality and clocked 134 run metres, a try showcasing his unmatched agility but it was his final contribution on the night which will be most remembered. Clinging onto their narrow two point lead in the final minute, Souths were under siege from a desperate Broncos attack and it appeared when the massive Oates broke through the Bunnies’ defensive line near the tryline their season might plummet even further.
The diminutive Cook had other ideas though and made perhaps the purest try saving tackle of the year in cutting Oates down around the legs, dropping him on the spot and allowing Souths to hold on for a vital win. That one tackle could be the difference between Souths returning to the top four or facing a week one elimination final. If the Bunnies can maintain that hustle, they’ll be more like their rampaging early season selves and give the competition a real shake.
• South Sydney has beaten the Warriors 8 of their last 9 matches, including round 5 this year.
• The Warriors haven’t defeated the Bunnies in New Zealand since 2012.
• Cody Walker has 7 tries in his last 4 games against the Kiwis.
• The Warriors’ last three defeats have seen them leak over 40 points each time for an average margin of 32 points.
Best bet: Race to 20 points – Rabbitohs - $1.77* (BetEasy)
Value bet: Cody Walker anytime tryscorer - $2.90* (TAB)
Brisbane Broncos v Parramatta Eels – Suncorp Stadium – 7:55pm
So close but so far for Brisbane, who suffered a spiteful 22-20 loss at home to Souths despite two Bunny sin bins and a golden opportunity for Corey Oates to score a match-winner with time running out. These two sides have built a rapid rivalry in trading coaches and media barbs and the showdown only increased tensions, but it was the Broncos left hurting at fulltime.
A failure to contain Damien Cook and conceding a string of tries left the Broncos down 22-8 inside the final 15 minutes yet their late rally saw them burst home with momentum and were it not for Cook’s superb tackle on Oates, the Broncos would be all but assured of finals footy.
David Fifita may have added another $100K to his market value with a barnstorming game highlighted with two tries and being the backbone behind their late fightback. It’s becoming freakish how accustomed we’re getting with teenage prop Payne Haas clocking monster numbers but the NSW prop did it again with 207 run metres while Kotoni Staggs continued to thrive in the centres and got himself a try to drag the Broncos closer to an unlikely win.
'As it stands the Broncos need at least one more win from their final two games to reach the finals, their Warriors draw negating point differentials with those around them. Two wins though and Brisbane will be guaranteed a playoff spot, and if they can stretch their flashes of brilliance from last week into an 80 minute performance against Parra, we could well be looking at a September rematch between Wayne Bennett and Anthony Seibold – grab the popcorn.
What’s the matter Parramatta? Eels punters’ worst fears were realised last week when their side kissed their top four chances goodbye by losing to bitter rivals Canterbury 12-6. The Bulldogs are 2019’s spoiler side and the Eels were their latest victim, following a familiar path of being brought down to a grind and unable to break the Bulldogs’ defensive shackles.
Mitchell Moses made headlines pre-game for claiming a Canterbury rejection was the best thing to happen to him but the Lebanon international wasn’t crowing come fulltime with a quiet performance far removed from what he’s capable of. We’ve spoken in recent weeks of how much Nathan Brown has improved with a string of games under his belt but while he was showing signs of his past form, unfortunately the lock also showed old habits die hard.
His inexplicable late hit on Dogs fullback Dallin Watene-Zelezniak earned him a sin bin and two week suspension, leaving Parra now short of their best forward threat for the rest of the regular season. Blake Ferguson is a welcome inclusion after a lengthy spell suffering an infection and will bring his trademark confidence to a suddenly spluttering backline.
The Bulldogs defeat means the Eels are likely to be hosting an elimination final week one but they can still banish a rough Canterbury night with an improved showing this week. Limping into the finals is unlikely to end well and the Eels will be out to show they’re a better outfit than they showed last start.
• Brisbane has won 3 of their last 4 home games against Parramatta.
• Corey Oates loves Parra – he’s scored in each of his last 5 Eels games (overall record 8 tries in 7).
• The Broncos’ last 4 wins have come by an average margin of 15 points.
Best bet: Corey Oates anytime try scorer - $1.90* (TAB)
Value bet: Broncos -4.5 - $2.02* (Unibet)