Roosters v Sea Eagles
Fri 28 Mar, 7:40pm, Allianz Stadium
Roosters: 1. Anthony Minichiello 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Michael Jennings 4. Shaun Kenny-Dowall 5. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 6. James Maloney 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Jake Friend 10. Sam Moa 11. Boyd Cordner 12. Mitchell Aubusson 13. Frank-Paul Nuuausala
The start of the 2014 season has been so hectic and full of surprises that few have noticed the Round 4 Grand Final replay sneak up on us.
Allianz Stadium hosts the rematch of the 2013 finalists, and it was a Grand Final worth every cent of the ticket price when the Roosters came from behind in classy fashion to down the Sea Eagles 26-18. And who could forget when the two sides met in week one of the finals and played out a 4-0 result to the Roosters in one of the most epic defensive battles seen in the NRL for years.
This time around, both teams enter the contest with indifferent, yet similar form despite both having won two games from the first three rounds.
Both sides lost in round one, both have beaten the Eels and both scraped home by the skin of their teeth in round 3 to snatch last minute victories.
With shaky form lines leading into this match it’s difficult to pick a winner. Mitchell Pearce has been solid as a rock in the halves which is a testament to the Grand Final victory and the added confidence it can give to certain players. Their forwards are lacking that bit of spark but are getting the job done nonetheless. This could be a knock on effect from the loss of Sonny Bill Williams to suspension. The Roosters would prefer to have Williams in the team but have coped pretty well without him.
The Sea Eagles have to contend with losses of their own in fullback Brett Stewart, prop Jason King and five-eighth Kieran Foran who is struggling to overcome a calf injury and is likely to miss kick off.
When you begin to talk about teams having that ‘spark’, the Sea Eagles are the best at finding it for the big games and there is every chance they could simply out-enthuse the Roosters on the big occasion.
Luxbet have tossed up a generous line of +7.0 @ $1.92 which looks like the best option if you’re having a dig, but personally I’ll just be watching.
Mike’s Tip: Roosters
Mike’s Best Bet: None
Casual Bet: It should be a hard fought game and a hard one to value either head to head or at the line. But if you’re betting no matter what, take a piece of the $1.92 on offer from Luxbet for the Sea Eagles +7.0 @ $1.92
Dragons v Broncos
Fri 28 Mar, 8:00pm, WIN Stadium
Dragons: 1. Adam Quinlan 2. Brett Morris 3. Dylan Farrell 4. Gerard Beale 5. Jason Nightingale 6. Gareth Widdop 7. Sam Williams 8. Tyson Frizell 9. Mitch Rein 10. Dan Hunt 11. Leeson Ah Mau 12. Ben Creagh 13. Trent Merrin
It might sound odd to anyone outside the ‘Red V Army’ but the Dragons are on top of the ladder, contrary to the wider NRL community’s preseason predictions.
Wins over the Tigers, Warriors and Sharks has them three from three so far and they get the chance to make it four from four in front of the parochial Wollongong faction of supporters at WIN Stadium.
Gareth Widdop has proven to be a shining light for the club and has lead from the front in setting up tries for a team that have turned out to be quite able and free flowing in attack.
The Broncos have based their success on the defensive side of their game and would also have three wins from three starts if it wasn’t for a last minute loss against the Roosters last week after leading by 8 with 5 minutes to go.
Despite the loss, the one major positive they would have taken out of the game is that they were able to score a hefty amount of points which is where the Broncos have struggled in the first two rounds.
Picking a winner in this encounter will be tough. The bookmaker’s prices reflect this sentiment with the Dragon’s best current price sitting at $1.83 on Centrebet whereas the Broncos’ average price of $2.05 with most corporates has been well and truly superseded by Pinnacle’s odds of $2.18
Just because it’s hard to find a winner, doesn’t mean it will be hard to find some value and I think we have a bit in the 12.5 point tri-bet.
Luxbet offer a 12.5 tri-bet option where you can back either team to win by 12 points or less @ $1.49, but if you jump on Palmerbet you will see that the 1-12 betting options for the Dragons and Broncos are paying $3.15 and $3.45 respectively. If you use dutch betting and split your 1 unit bet up and place 52% of it on the Dragons 1-12 and 48% of it on the Broncos 1-12, you are effectively making the same bet as the Luxbet 12.5 tribet but instead you are getting odds of $1.65
(All prices correct 27/3/2014)
Mike’s Tip: Dragons
Mike’s Best Bet: Either Team to win by 12 or less @ $1.65 (Palmerbet)
Warriors v Tigers
Sat 29 Mar, 3.00pm, Westpac Stadium
Warriors: 1. Sam Tomkins 2. Glen Fisiiahi 3. Dane Nielsen 4. Jerome Ropati 5. Manu Vatuvei 6. Chad Townsend 7. Shaun Johnson 8. Sam Rapira 9. Nathan Friend 10. Ben Matulino 11. Jayson Bukuya 12. Simon Mannering 13. Sione Lousi.
The Warriors host the Tigers at another of their homes away from home in Westpac Stadium, Wellington; some 600+kms from their true home ground in Auckland.
The Warriors struggle badly enough when playing at their ‘other’ home ground at Eden Park which is just over 10kms away from Mt Smart, so I’m not sure that Westpac Stadium is going to be a venue that holds any sort of home ground advantage for the Warriors.
Travelling all the way to Townsville was hardly ideal for them last week, but the Warriors still mustered up a win against a lacklustre Cowboys outfit that could have won but left their charge far too late.
Despite all these negatives, I’m certainly not suggesting the Warriors won’t win, but they are up against a Tigers side that is brimming with confidence and are packing a +6.5 head start in betting which is enough for them to cover the line. Their simple ability to complete most of their sets was key and they will want to do the same this time around so as not to let the likes of Luke Brooks and James Tedesco anywhere near their line.
The Tigers defied all predictions last week and rolled $1.20 favourites the Rabbitohs. It was an epic performance that saw them complete 36 out of 40 sets, rattle George and Sam Burgess, and walk away with two competition points.
Thanks to one of the most impressive wins for the club in the last couple of years, the Tigers now have two wins from three starts and are riding a high.
Momentum is a factor to be considered here and the Tigers have it in spades. The +6.5 which I mentioned earlier is far too good to pass up and I’m backing Robbie Farah and his troops to give this one a good shake.
Mike’s Tip: Tigers
Mike’s Best Bet: Tigers + 6.5 @ $1.92 (Sportsbet)
Eels v Panthers
Sat 29 Mar, 5:30pm, Pirtek Stadium
Eels: 1. Jarryd Hayne 2. Semi Radradra 3. Will Hopoate 4. Willie Tonga 5. Ken Sio 6. Corey Norman 7. Chris Sandow 8. Tim Mannah 9. Nathan Peats 10. Fuifui Moimoi 11. Kenny Edwards 12. Manu Ma’u 13. Joseph Paulo
This is a scenario I’ve been waiting for since the Eels showed some flair in round one to dispose of the Warriors by 20 points. The stars have realigned once more and I’m ready to dive in and take my piece of the Eels at the line. If you’re wondering if this is a reaction to the close loss the Eels suffered last week; it’s not.
I’m adamant the Eels are a much better team with Nathan Peats running the engine room from hooker. Rookie coach Brad Arthur knows the positive effect Peats has on the entire team and it’s going to keep the Eels away from another wooden spoon.
Throw the home ground advantage into the mix and we have a contest on our hands.
I just hope Chris Sandow is indeed ready to make his return to first grade, just as Brad Arthur believes. Arthur has spent time as assistant coach to the Storm and Sea Eagles and had a bird’s eye view of names such as Cronk and Cherry Evans, so I’m sure he knows what he is looking for when selecting his halfback.
Keep an eye on Jarryd Hayne who was left far from 100% fitness when he suffered an early ankle strain in last week’s game that hindered him immensely and made him look no better than a reserve grader.
The Panthers have undoubtedly been impressive in their first three matches and went very close to winning all of them except for losing to the Storm in round 2 by a single point. They thrive at home but travelling to Pirtek Stadium might just prove to be a little too much on the back of two close matches in the last two weeks where they have had to fight tooth and nail for the entire 80 minutes on both occasions.
Mike’s Tip: Eels
Mike’s Best Bet: Eels +2.5 @ $1.93 (Pinnacle Sports)
Bulldogs v Storm
Sat 29 Mar, 7:30pm, NIB Stadium, Perth
Bulldogs: 1. Sam Perrett 2. Corey Thompson 3. Josh Morris 4. Tim Lafai 5. Chase Stanley 6. Josh Reynolds 7. Trent Hodkinson 8. Aidan Tolman 9. Michael Ennis 10. James Graham 11. Frank Pritchard 12. Tony Williams 13. Dale Finucane
With the Eels and the Panthers battling it out in a showdown of the western suburbs, the Bulldogs and Storm will be battling out a showdown in the west…Perth to be precise!
The Bulldogs need to find something extra if they are going to win this game. A loss here will put them behind the eight ball with one win from four starts, but if they can at least lose the match whilst showing the class of a top side, then the Canterbury side will know they are capable of picking up another 11 wins throughout the year; the likely amount required to scrape into the top 8.
The Bulldogs have an all round solid style and game plan, with a defensive structure that has seen them concede a respectable 40 points after 3 games. It’s their attacking pieces that are lacking venom and if you take out their demolishing of a weakened Shark’s outfit, the Bulldogs are struggling to score anywhere but in the corners of the field.
The Storm are going to have to go around the Bulldogs if they are to be the victors. The Dogs are vulnerable on the flanks and the Storm have the strike power in Sisa Waqa and Young Tonumaipea to notch up tries in the corner.
These observations lead me to my best bet for the match: Sportingbet offer a market called ‘Jersey of First Tryscorer’ where you can select the first tryscorer to be wearing jersey number 1,2,3,4 or 5 @ $1.55. It’s not a bet that I pay much attention to on any ordinary day but the style of these two sides suit this wager nicely.
Mike’s Tip: Storm
Mike’s Best Bet: Jersey of First Try Scorer – 1,2,3,4 or 5 @ $1.55 (Sportingbet)
Rabbitohs v Raiders
Sun 30 Mar, 2:00pm, ANZ Stadium
Rabbitohs: 1. Greg Inglis 2. Nathan Merritt 3. Joel Reddy 4. Bryson Goodwin 5. Lote Tuqiri 6. Dylan Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. George Burgess 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. Sam Burgess 11. Chris McQueen 12. Ben Lowe 13. John Sutton
I’m finding it surprising that a lot of people are questioning the Rabbitohs abilities so intently after their loss to the Tigers last week. I agree it was a sub-par performance from the Redfern crew but they did have to play the 80 minutes without star fullback Greg Inglis after he was knocked out at the start of the match, and that kind of player absence would hurt any side.
Inglis returns to the side and barring any other accidents that may sideline him once more, the Rabbitohs will be well suited in greasy conditions against a Raiders side that doesn’t tend to cope so well on wet tracks.
The Rabbitohs can be so strong up the middle and even without regular hooker Isaac Luke (shoulder) they will adapt to a choppy ANZ surface, which following recent rainfall has become a bit soggy.
The Raiders are a bit more reliant on their fleet footed three-quarters and the soggy conditions will ‘clip their wings’ so to speak. Particularly fullback Anthony Milford who is capable of sidestepping on a dime, although I’d be surprised if the Rabbitohs would be silly enough to even kick the ball to him in open space, so expect Milford to chime into the backline a lot more to get his hands on the steeden.
When looking ahead to this round on Tuesday, I was pretty keen on taking the Rabbitohs to cover a -9.5 handicap, but then the heavens opened up and dumped a huge amount of rain on Sydney. (I think it was something to do with promoting Russell Crowe’s new film ‘Noah’)
Now, I’m happy to just take the Rabbitohs at best odds of$1.36 with Sportsbet.
Despite having that Sportsbet commercial played ad nauseum during games, the available promo of ‘money back if your team leads at anytime in the last 20 minutes and loses’ just might come in handy.
Mike’s Tip: Rabbitohs
Mike’s Best Bet: Rabbitohs Head to Head @ $1.36 (Sportsbet)
Knights v Sharks
Sun 30 Mar, 3:00pm, Hunter Stadium
Knights: 1. Matt Minto 2. James McManus 3. Dane Gagai 4. Joey Leilua 5. Akuila Uate 6. Michael Dobson 7. Tyrone Robers 8. Kade Snowden 9. Kurt Gidley 10. Willie Mason 11. Beau Scott 12. Robbie Rochow 13. Jeremy Smith
I’m always mentioning the importance of the mental aspect of Rugby League. But I can’t even begin to imagine how the Newcastle Knights players must be feeling after last week’s tragic on field accident that saw their teammate Alex McKinnon suffer two fractured vertebrae and has left him in an induced coma.
Team mates were obviously upset by the incident and there’s no doubt they would love to start dedicating some wins to Alex.
This could be the time to do it; a home game against a Sharks side struggling in attack and still missing 6 players from their starting 17.
One shining light for the Sharks is the return of Andrew Fifita to the fray. Fifita has missed the last two games and the club need him to step up in the absence of the entire back row of Gallen, Lewis and Tupou.
Unfortunately, its bleeding obvious that the Sharks only have one strike weapon and that is five eighth Todd Carney. Halfback Daniel Holdsworth offers no help and fullback Michael Gordon fails to chime in at the right moments. The Knights will go far simply by targeting Carney and if they can shut him down they will all but win the match.
With such a lack of solid form being shown by both sides in the first three rounds due to injury, I won’t be pulling my wallet out for this one.
The Knights are definitely my pick to win but the best available odds are $1.50 and that’s gross unders in my books.
All messages of support and well wishes for Alex McKinnon and his family can be emailed to the Newcastle Knights at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike’s Tip: Knights
Mike’s Best Bet: None
Casual Bet: Total Match Points Under 42.5 @ $1.91 (Bet365)
Titans v Cowboys
Mon 31 Mar, 7:30pm, Robina Stadium
Titans: 1. Will Zillman 2. Kevin Gordon 3. Brad Tighe 4. Brad Takairangi 5. David Mead 6. Aidan Sezer 7. Albert Kelly 8. Luke Douglas 9. Beau Falloon 10 Nate Myles 11. Greg Bird 12. David Taylor 13. Ashley Harrison
The Titans come into this game after seeing off the Raiders at home last Sunday night, and we know that winning in Canberra is no easy feat. They return home to CBUS Stadium where they will be out to give the locals a better show than the one they put on two weeks ago against the Tigers where they were flogged to the disgust of the home crowd.
Last week’s win was made more impressive without some key players such as five-eighth Aidan Sezer and his return to play alongside halfback Albert Kelly will be a big plus.
Kelly is proving to be a bit of an old school halfback who doesn’t need structure to play his best attacking footy and appears to always be improving.
The Cowboys have been good enough to win their last two matches (which they lost) but slow starts put them in a difficult position from the outset. Even the round one match where they secured a victory had them coming from behind after the Raiders had broken away to an early lead.
Thurston is the man to look for the big plays from, but life is always tougher for him when the forwards fail to do their job in the first place.
No bets for me in this one. The Cowboys look the more likely to win, but it is an away game for them and unpredictability is the theme that applies to both these sides. Add to that the current unpredictability of the Gold Coast weather, which is on and off with rain at the moment, and we don’t even know what kind of conditions these sides will be facing.
Mike’s Tip: Cowboys
Mike’s Best Bet: None
Casual Bet: If you’re not happy just spectating, play the unders for the total match score if it’s still raining come kick off: Under 40.5 @ $1.91 (Sportsbet)