The following are previews with betting tips for Round 3 of the 2017 NRL season.
Storm v Broncos
Thu March 16, 8:05 pm, AAMI Park
The Brisbane Broncos will take on the Melbourne Storm in the Victorian Capital on Thursday night in yet another blockbuster clash to kick off round three of the competition. NRL fans were left in awe last week after the epic derby match between the Broncos and Cowboys proved an early contender for the game of the season. Despite ultimately losing the game, the signs are very bright for a dangerous looking Broncos outfit but this week they will face a clinical Storm squad looking for another heavyweight scalp.
The Broncos will go into the match unchanged, while their Victorian opposition will welcome back Billy Slater after an extended injury lay-off for the veteran superstar has seen him play only eight matches in the last two years. Cameron Munster will move to five-eighth to accommodate Slater at the expense of Ryley Jacks.
With the Storm’s home-ground advantage and a short turnaround following the Broncos’ brutal extra-time derby with the Cowboys, the Storm will go into the contest as heavy favourites. While the Broncos have impressed over the first two rounds, Brisbane will struggle to compete with Melbourne’s control. Expect Melbourne – inspired by Billy Slater’s return – to get the points.
Betting Tip: Storm -4.0 @ $1.92 (Crownbet)
Bulldogs v Warriors
Fri March 17, 6:00 pm, Forsyth Barr Stadium
The New Zealand Warriors will host Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs in Dunedin this Friday night in a match between two teams who have struggled in the first two rounds. The Bulldogs will follow up from another inconsistent performance against the Roosters last week with a difficult away trip to New Zealand while their Kiwi opposition faces their own teething issues after a poor performance against the Storm last week.
The Bulldogs were stung with Kerrod Holland and Will Hopoate each ruled out for over a month last week, with Brad Abbey and Marcelo Montoya set to make their NRL debuts at fullback and wing respectively. The Warriors are not without their own injury woes with captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck a late withdrawal after failing to recover from a concussion. Manu Vatuvei will return on the wing with Jacob Lillyman and Bodene Thompson joining the starting side, relegating Bunty Afoa and Charlie Gubb to the bench.
It will be a difficult match to pick with both teams producing patchy form and marred by injuries. A home-ground advantage should see the Warriors go into the match as favourites, but the result last week will give some pause over its merit. Tough one to call but the Warriors should get the points.
Betting Tip: Warriors -2.0 @ $1.91 (William Hill)
Titans v Eels
Fri March 17, 8:05 pm, CBus Super Stadium
The Gold Coast Titans will take on the Parramatta Eels this Friday night after both teams started the season with enormous potential but find themselves at opposite ends of the ladder. The Eels have rallied to win their first two matches against the Dragons and Manly, however they have yet to be tested by a 2016 premiership contender, while the Titans’ horrendous injury toll and off-field controversy have seen them lose their opening two games.
Injuries to Jarryd Hayne and Anthony Don will see Tyler Cornish make his NRL debut at fullback, with William Zillman returning at wing. Dan Sarginson will also return in the centres as Ryan Simpkins joins the bench. Not without their own injury woes, Jeff Robson will replace star halfback Corey Norman for the Eels in the only change to their 17.
With the Titans’ sizeable injury ward, the Eels will go into the contest as heavy favourites but with Norman a key absence for Parramatta the result of the game is no certainty. If the Titans are at their best they stand a decent chance of winning, but expect Neil Henry’s inexperienced squad to come up short against an Eels outfit who have made their name performing in adversity. Parramatta to get the points.
Betting Tip: Eels -5.5 @ $1.97 (Pinnacle)
Knights v Rabbitohs
Sat March 18, 4:30 pm, McDonald Jones Stadium
The Newcastle Knights will take on the South Sydney Rabbitohs this Saturday afternoon after the Hunter Valley club snapped a 19-game losing streak with a win over the Titans last week. It will be an enormous boost to the morale of the young Newcastle squad but they face a Rabbitohs outfit coming off a big win and buoyed by the return of a key player.
Both teams will go into the match unchanged.
The Rabbitohs were given an enormous boost against Manly last week with Adam Reynolds returning from injury, and it will be through the control of Reynolds and Robbie Farah that Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire will hope to outplay Newcastle. With the Knights’ inexperienced spine, the Rabbitohs will hope to play completion football and grind their less-experienced opposition into submission. Conversely, the Knights will be hoping for a more open contest and speed around the ruck but unless they can pull off a special performance, expect Souths to get the points.
Betting Tip: Rabbitohs -5.5 @ $1.93 (Bet365)
Panthers v Roosters
Sat March 18, 7:00 pm, Pepper Stadium
The Penrith Panthers will take on the Sydney Roosters this Saturday night after the Penrith club stamped their authority on the competition with an enormous 36-2 win over the Tigers last week. After a poor loss to the Dragons in their opening match, the pre-season hype surrounding the Panthers looked all but gone but if their performance last week is any indicator, coach Anthony Griffin has his squad back on track.
The Roosters will replace the injured Blake Fergusson with Joseph Manu in the centres as Isaac Liu also returns on the bench. The Panthers have named the same 17 as last week.
Both teams have enormous potential for the 2017 season and as such, there is no clear favourite going into the contest. Still so early in the season, it is difficult to pick a victor with so many variables especially given the massive difference in the Panthers’ performances in round one and two. The Panthers will likely take some time to warm into the season and work past the inconsistency that has plagued them in the past, but at this stage of the season the more experienced and disciplined Roosters’ pack should have the upper hand through the middle of the field. ‘Chooks to get the points.
Betting Tip: Roosters Head to Head @ $1.95 (Bet365)
Cowboys v Sea Eagles
Sat March 18, 9:00 pm, 1300Smiles Stadium
The North Queensland Cowboys outfit will host the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles this Saturday night as both teams look to be in troubled waters early in the season. The Sea Eagles have lost their opening matches in poor showings against the Eels and Souths, while the Cowboys face a mounting injury toll.
North Queensland will go into the contest missing Lachlan Coote, Antonio Winterstein and Matt Scott with Jason Taumalolo also been suspended for two weeks following a shoulder-charge in round two. Shaun Lane returns on the bench in place of Bill Bainbridge in the only change to the Sea Eagles’ 17.
The Cowboys will bring in Javid Bowen and Kalyn Ponga to their backline to cover injuries to Winterstein and Coote, with Patrick Kaufusi starting in the front row and Sam Hoare joining the bench.
Matt Scott’s knee injury will see him miss the 2017 season in a massive blow to the Cowboys forward-rotation, however the quality of the Cowboys’ cover will see them installed as heavy favourites and with an extremely talented roster and home-ground advantage it should be easy to see why. While the Sea Eagles may have a chance, the Cowboys injury absences don’t discount the fact that they still have the core of a premiership winning squad. Expect the Queenslanders to get the points.
Betting Tip: Total Match Points Over 45.5 @ $1.91 (Bet365)
Raiders v Tigers
Sun March 19, 4:00 pm, GIO Stadium
The Canberra Raiders will take on the Wests Tigers this Sunday night after the joint venture club produced a disappointing performance last week against the Panthers, indicating Jason Taylor’s young squad clearly have a lot of work ahead of them to threaten for the premiership. They will face staunch opposition in the Raiders with the Canberra heavyweights looking to redeem their poor performance against the Sharks last week.
Tim Grant will join the Tigers bench at the expense of Jamal Idris in the only change to the Tigers’ 17, while the Raiders will be boosted by the return of Captain Jarrod Croker with Elliott Whitehead to return to his preferred position in the second row. Dave Taylor and Clay Priest will also join the interchange bench.
The Raiders will go into the game as heavy favourites, particularly boosted by the return of Jarrod Croker. The Tigers have a long way to go before they can hope to dominate a team like the Raiders, and Ricky Stuarts’ men will see this game as a good confidence booster to get them back on song. Raiders to get the points.
Betting Tip: Raiders -7.5 @ $1.92 (Ladbrokes)
Sharks v Dragons
Sun March 19, 6:30 pm, Southern Cross Group Stadium
The closing match of round three will see the Cronulla Sharks take on the St George Illawarra Dragons this Sunday evening after the joint-venture club backed up their phenomenal win over the Panthers in round one with a flat game against the Eels last week. Their opposition in the Sharks did just the opposite, roaring to a 42-16 win over the highly-rated Raiders to get their season back on track.
Both teams will go into the match with an unchanged 17 from last week.
The Sharks will go into the match as heavy favourites and after recovering from a poor performance against the Broncos in round one, expect Cronulla to continue their winning run. There have been mixed signs from the Dragons so far this year, but nothing indicates they should threaten a Sharks outfit eager to stamp their authority on the competition. Cronulla to get the points.
Betting Tip: Total Match Point over 38.0 @ $1.88 (William Hill)
Roosters Head to Head @ $1.95 (Bet365)