NRL Round 25: Saturday Match Previews & Betting Tips
Canberra can secure 3rd spot by beating the lowly Warriors, Brisbane is finals bound & get invaluable practice on the road when they face the against the grinding Bulldogs and NRL’s 2 worst teams face-off Saturday night – fulltime can’t come quickly enough for the Titans & Dragons.
Canberra Raiders v New Zealand Warriors – GIO Stadium – 3:00pm
From one side fighting for their season to another counting down until their end-of-season holidays – the Raiders won’t have two more contrasting opponents than Cronulla and New Zealand. Their 15-14 golden point victory over the Sharks was crucial with the Green Machine overcoming a poor first half to fight their way back and via Aidan Sezer’s field goal hat-trick, the Raiders are in prime position for a top-four finish.
However, they looked anything but a Premiership contender early on in Paul Gallen’s farewell home match with poor handling and shoddy defence leaking three tries primarily through fill-in half Kyle Flanagan’s quick thinking. Cronulla was playing at a rapid pace with Gallen’s looming retirement fuelling their hot start but it was a different story second-half as Canberra fought back by going back to their strengths and frustrating the Sharks.
Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad had a ripper, John Bateman worked himself into the ground and Jarrod Croker’s electrifying kick return to eventually set up Nick Cotric saw momentum turn the Raiders’ way. A field goal shootout then emerged and when a stray pass headed for Sezer in the 89th minute, a draw looked a certain result but the halfback’s calm to control the wayward ball and nail the winning shot saw emotion spill out for the Raiders. Canberra isn’t at their best yet third spot is now theirs to lose and facing the terrible Warriors at home might be the tonic for Ricky Stuart’s side to run up a score ahead of finals footy.
The time where the Warriors were potential finals darkhorse this season feels like an eternity ago. Little more than cannon fodder since their season became mathematically over, New Zealand suffered another comprehensive defeat last start going down 31-10 to Souths. Yes, the Warriors have injuries and might feel like they’ve been cursed – such as Patrick Herbert, who only recently returned from injury, going down in pre-game warmups with a quad concern – but there’s no excuse for their lack of effort in recent weeks.
They’ve copped heavier defeats this year but their performance last Friday night belongs in the same category. Not one Warrior forward went close to cracking 100 run metres, overall they missed 38 tackles and made 9 handling errors. Issac Luke tried hard – returning mid-game from a head knock concern – yet it’s ominous the veteran hooker is a standout when he’s all but out the door.
The last time these sides met the Raiders made the Warriors look like third-rate competition, and that was on the Kiwis’ home turf. Needing a win to guarantee top four, the Raiders will be ready to go and unless something drastically changes this week, the mentally-absent Warriors could yet suffer one final humiliation this year.
• The Warriors have a recent 1-5 record, the last 4 defeats being 21+.
• The Raiders boast a recent 5-2 record over New Zealand, including their brutal 46-12 win a month ago.
• Jarrod Croker has 5 tries in his last 4 games and has scored more tries (17 in 18 matches) and points (170) in regular-season matches against the Warriors than any other side.
Best bet: Jarrod Croker anytime tryscorer - $2.10* (BetEasy)
Value bet: Raiders 19+ - $3.15* (BetEasy)
Canterbury Bulldogs v Brisbane Broncos – ANZ Stadium – 5:30pm
Canterbury’s slim finals chances were finished by the Cowboys in round 24 – an achievement in itself by the one-time wooden spoon favourites. The 15-8 defeat was like so many contests in the Dogs’ recent form turnaround, a tight grinding contest not exactly high on free-flowing attack.
Unfortunately for coach Dean Pay however this time the Dogs were the ones unable to convert chances into points. It’s the risk the Dogs run in their reliance on defence – they’re capable of limiting opponents but there’s little margin for error when their attack is rarely capable of posting a handful of tries. Injuries have impacted the regularity they’ve been able to team up but Aiden Tolman and Dylan Napa again showed they’re a reliable prop pairing when starting as they matched it with the higher-profile Cowboys pack.
Kieran Foran’s return to fitness has been a welcome one but the Kiwi international isn’t in peak form, understandably so given how stop-start his season has been. It’s not exactly cause for cartwheels but an upset over the Broncos would see the Dogs finish only two wins outside the top eight and for a side whose short-term future looked so bleak six months ago, it’s been a productive back-half of 2019 and a strong performance over finals-bound Brisbane would serve the Dogs well as they continue their rebuild into 2020.
Barring a ridiculous run of results this weekend, Brisbane assured themselves of finals football in their gripping 17-16 golden point win over Parramatta last Friday night. In the final game at Suncorp for 2019, Brisbane outlasted the Eels off the back of a Herculean performance from Payne Haas – it’s incredible to think he’s still a teenager – and Jamayne Isaako’s clutch golden point field goal.
The win comes with the added benefit of a psychological boost given there’s a chance the Broncos will meet the Eels in an elimination final next week. One man who certainly gained confidence was maligned veteran five-eighth Darius Boyd, who played a starring role in the vital victory. Boyd scored and looked the most involved in playmaking he has since his late-season positional switch, and the challenge now becomes for him to back this up.
Brisbane also had to withstand the controversial sin-binning of hooker Andrew McCullough, and despite the Eels rallying late to equalise the Broncos maintained their composure – a trait which holds them in good stead this time of year. With the Bulldogs eliminated Brisbane enter this game as strong favourites, and given Canterbury’s tight, grinding style the Broncos might get another finals-like contest under their belts before their elimination final next week.
• Brisbane needs to overcome recent history, losing their last 3 away games to the Bulldogs.
• In the Dogs’ last 9 matches their match score hasn’t exceeded 34 points, including their round 18 loss to Brisbane 28-6.
• The Broncos have won their last 3 away games.
• Brisbane have won 4 of their last 6 head-to-head first halves.
Best bet: Broncos first half - $1.83* (TopBetta)
Value bet: Broncos -1.5/Under38.5- $3.20* (Sportsbet)
Gold Coast Titans v St George Illawarra Dragons – CBUS Super Stadium – 7:30pm
The best piece of news all year is about to happen to the Gold Coast Titans – their 2019 season is 80 minutes away from finally being done. If there was a flicker of hope the Titans could build on a relatively impressive effort against Melbourne into a potential ambush of the rudderless Knights, a swift reality check was a reminder why Gold Coast are stone motherless last.
It was another horror display by the Titans, who lacked direction in a painfully misfiring attack and any sustained defensive pressure to at least keep their opposition honest. There were two Titans cracking 100 run metres – winger Phillip Sami (134m) and workhorse lock Jai Arrow (101m) – in comparison to eight Knights doing so. Once Ryley Jacks scored early on the Titans failed to trouble the scorers and for a side “winning” the wooden spoon with ease, their inability to respond to adversity in games is creating a vicious cycle, where they become vulnerable to a rapid run of tries to thwart any ideas of ending their worst losing streak in club history.
Veteran fullback Michael Gordon will play his final game before retirement and the match marks the final appearance for Jai Arrow before speculation grows even higher on where the Queensland rep’s future lies. Arrow is thankful for the Titans giving him a chance to play regular footy unlike at the Broncos but considering Arrow’s eyeing off a Premiership then the Titans can’t afford another capitulation against the only side within cooee of them on the ladder.
The Dragons ensured their worst finish in joint venture history courtesy of a 42-14 hiding by the Tigers at the SCG. Second-last is a fair reflection on the horrible year St George Illawarra have served and it could get even worse should they have one final implosion against the only side below them in the awful Titans.
Competitive for the opening 30 minutes – even earning a lead – the Dragons duly crumbled once the Tigers turned up the pressure to concede 6 of the game’s final 7 tries. It’s a limp farewell for Gareth Widdop, the whole-hearted captain signing off after Saturday to join Warrington. While Widdop threw an intercept to lead to one of young centre Paul Momirovski’s three tries, the Englishman was at least trying to create something in attack. Ben Hunt was all but anonymous and when hooker Cam McInnes suffered a broken leg late in the second half, the fear is the utter lack of hope for the Dragons carries over to the off-season. While they at least put up a fight against the Roosters the week before long after the contest was over, against the Tigers once momentum shifted it appeared the Dragons were going through the motions, willing the match to end.
The Dragons were too good when these sides last met in a point-scoring frenzy and with nothing on the line, it could be a case of an all-out attack to send Widdop off with something resembling a smile. A media report speculating coach Paul McGregor could be under pressure despite his recent two-year extension was the biggest cause of cheer for the suffering Dragons punters. And when rumours of a coach getting the axe are the highlight of a campaign, it sums up just how low morale is for the pre-season Premiership darkhorses.
• The Dragons’ 1-8 recent record includes a solitary win over the Titans, who themselves have lost 10 straight.
• The Dragons’ 40-28 win last time these sides met continued the recent high-scoring trend the last 3 head-to-heads have averaged nearly 63 points.
• Ben Hunt has 6 tries in his last 6 games against the Titans.
Best bet: Over 44 - $1.90* (Sportsbet)
Value bet: Ben Hunt anytime try scorer - $3.75* (Sportsbet)