THE LONG HARD LOOK WITH MIKE WILSON
Rabbitohs v Bulldogs
Fri 18 Apr, 4:00pm, ANZ Stadium
Rabbitohs:1.Greg Inglis 2. Nathan Merritt 3. Dylan Walker 4. Kirisome Auva’va 5. Bryson Goodwin 6. John Sutton 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Dave Tyrell 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. Luke Burgess 11. Kyle Turner 12. Chris McQueen 13. Sam Burgess
Round 7 kicks off with a somewhat traditional Easter Friday afternoon match which sees the Bulldogs on the Bunny hunt as they look to maintain their place near the apex of the ladder by claiming another big scalp.
The Doggies have already knocked off the Storm and the Roosters and somehow scraped home with the bacon against the Warriors in New Zealand last Sunday.
They are building on their attacking game week by week and even with victories over some of the top teams; it’s evident that the Bulldogs still have plenty of room for improvement.
When in the opposition 20 they still stand very flat in attack, particularly Tony Williams who would surely be a more devastating ball runner if he managed to run onto the ball instead of receiving it flat footed. Williams did indeed score a try from close range against the Warriors but that was more due to the early work in the movement by Ennis and Reynolds. I would really like to see Ennis taking control of his forwards more and have them hitting holes at speed, rather than floating around right in front of the advantage line waiting for one of his flat passes.
The Rabbitohs took on the Panthers last week and once again their reshuffled line up that is more resemblant to the 2013 squad, paid dividends.
With the forwards spearheading movements directly through the centre corridor, the Rabbitohs have taken a necessary step backwards to get their game back in order and re-establish themselves as serious contenders. A win over the Bulldogs would see expectations for the Rabbitohs’ season rise once more, as happened immediately after their round one victory over the reigning premiers.
By all rights this should be a tight match, but I’m not prepared to stick my neck out and bet on either one of two heavyweights in the competition, especially with form lines throughout the NRL still proving to be highly mercurial after the first 6 weeks.
I reckon that even office tipsters will be divided on who to tip here, but I’ll stick with the Rabbitohs who have the slightly stronger vein of form coming into this match.
Mike’s Tip: Rabbitohs
Mike’s Best Bet: None
Casual Bet: I won’t be betting, but if you’re after some big odds for a casual bet, be sure to check out Bookmaker.com’s specials for this game:
1. Sam Burgess to score a try at anytime and Rabbitohs win @ $10
2. Josh Morris to score a try at anytime and Bulldogs win @ $5.50
Knights v Broncos
Fri 18 Apr, 7:40pm, Hunter Stadium
Knights:1. Darius Boyd 2. James McManus 3. Dane Gagai 4. Joseph Leilua 5. Josh Mantellato 6. Jarrod Mullen 7. Tyrone Roberts 8. Kade Snowden 9. Kurt Gidley 10. Willie Mason 11. Beau Scott 12. Chris Houston 13. Jeremy Smith
After four rounds of this year’s competition, the Knights had only just collected their first win thanks to coming across dilapidated Sharks side, whereas the Broncos were looking the goods having won three matches.
Now as both sides face each other in Round seven, a win for the Knights would see them draw level with the Broncos, and they are currently favourites with the bookies to do so.
The home ground advantage plays a big part in the Knight’s favouritism, but more so the recent re-inclusion to the side of Jarrod Mullen and Darius Boyd.
Mullen and Boyd are clearly key players and there is a lot more stability in the team when these two are playing.
The Broncos appeared to be the better side last week against the Titans but dropped their lollies at the back end of the match and went down by a mere four points.
The week before that, in Round 5, they were ambushed by the Eels and there’s no doubt that the Brisbane side will be playing with a sense of desperation in order to prevent a hat-trick of losses from happening. Justin Hodges will need to regain some of his old form if this is to happen.
I’m not game to have a bet on this match as the Knights to date have proven to be very enigmatic, although as I mentioned earlier, the return of Mullen will stabilise the side. But I’d rather just wait and see how Mullen’s return plays out for the Knights before investing any money on them.
And besides, the Knights could come out and play some good footy, only to be trumped by a Broncos side that we know are capable of good footy of their own.
The form lines of both teams are simply too ‘up and down’ for me to invest.
Mike’s Tip: Knights
Mike’s Best Bet: None
Casual Bet: Knights 1-12 @ $3.00 (Sportsbet)
Sea Eagles v Cowboys
Fri 18 Apr, 7:40pm, Brookvale Oval
Sea Eagles: 1. Brett Stewart 2. Jorge Taufua 3. Jamie Lyon 4. Steve Matai 5. Peta Hiku 6. Kieran Foran 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Josh Starling 9. Matt Ballin 10. Brenton Lawrence 11. Anthony Watmough 12. Justin Horo 13. Glenn Stewart
The Sea Eagles have opted to move this game to Gosford and Bluetongue stadium where they have enjoyed plenty of success in the past.
They take on the Cowboys who have enjoyed little success at all this year and currently sit on just two wins for the season with wins over the Raiders and the Knights.
The Sea Eagles suffered a heavy defeat to the Tigers two weeks ago but it was business as usual last week as they made up for it with a 24 – 4 defeat of a Sharks side that didn’t even have a go in the first half.
It was one of those games where Manly never looked in danger and simply ran around the field as if it was a training session for working on new manoeuvres. Winger Jorge Taufua had made his return to the side from injury and I have no doubts he will be even better this week thanks to having that run under his belt.
The Cowboys’ round six match was against the Tigers and whilst they stayed relatively close to the Tigers throughout the game, it was a glaring insight into just how badly Johnathan Thurston’s men are struggling to piece any decent attacking plays together.
If you’d had your money on the Cowboys, you would have been frustrated to bits. I wonder how long it will take for someone in that fraternity to suggest that Robert Lui be replaced by someone who can actually play halfback.
One shining light in the North Queensland side has been Matt Scott who has led the way from the front. Fullback Michael Morgan was so instrumental in the Cowboy’s Round 5 victory and the halves need to learn from this and get him more involved in attacking raids, particularly in the opposition 20.
I was after $1.50 about the Sea Eagles for this match but the best available is $1.40 with Pinnacle and I don’t think I want to risk that on a game at a neutral venue. Best left alone this match.
Mike’s Tip: Sea Eagles
Mike’s Best Bet: None
Casual Bet: Jorge Taufua to score a try at anytime @ $2.10 (Bookmaker)
Dragons v Warriors
Sat 19 Apr, 5:30pm, WIN Jubilee Oval
Dragons:1.Josh Dugan 2. Brett Morris 3. Dylan Farrell 4. Gerard Beale 5. Jason Nightingale 6. Gareth Widdop 7. Michael Witt 8. Jack Stockwell 9. Mitch Rein 10. Dan Hunt 11. Joel Thompson 12. Ben Creagh 13. Trent Merrin
Boy oh boy, it must be tough being a supporter of the Warriors right now. The side appears to be chewing itself up from the inside and a much needed win to restore some hope to the pride of New Zealand was taken away from them in the dying minutes of last week’s match by the Doggies.
If they are to finish in the top 8 it has to be a cardinal objective for the Warriors to win their home games. Granted you can’t win them all, particularly when up against gritty teams like the Bulldogs last week, but the Warriors can tend to suffer a bit more than other teams when playing on the road, and when you’re sitting on two wins and two coaches after six rounds, the home games count for so much more.
On to the Dragons, and when you talk about teams having games taken away from them, then the Dragons will forever be remembered for the time they lost a game thanks to a play that started in the 81st minute. However their focus on this week will be defence now that they have conceded an average 30 points per game in the last three rounds and in the modern game it’s near impossible to win a match in that fashion.
The recent and not so recent match up stats are on the Dragon’s side having not lost to the Warriors in Sydney since 2003. The Warriors are going to find breaking that hoodoo much more difficult with strike forward Ben Matulino on the sidelines thanks to a suspension.
You can see Dragons fullback Josh Dugan improving each week and in his third game back from injury, I expect him to really hit his straps this week. In Dugan’s first week back, Coach Steve Price was reluctant to drop stand in fullback Adam Quinlan from the side and experimented with him at halfback. It was a failure and Price ultimately bit the bullet and brought Michael Witt back to the halfback role and as a result, the Dragons were only a shandy off beating the Melbourne Storm, in Melbourne no less.
It’s the Dragons first game back at a home venue since round 4 and they already accounted for the Warriors this year in round 2 to the tune of 31-12.
Take the Dragons at the line, but make sure the line is -4.0 and not -4.5
Mike’s Tip: Dragons
Mike’s Best Bet: Dragons -4.0 @ $1.93 (PalmerBet)
Sharks v Roosters
Sat 19 Apr, 7:30pm, Remondis Stadium
Sharks: 1. Michael Gordon 2. Sosaia Feki 3. Blake Ayshford 4. Ricky Leutele 5. Jonathan Wright 6. Todd Carney 7. Jeff Robson 8. Andrew Fifita 9. John Morris 10. Bryce Gibbs 11. Tupou Sopoaga 12. Wade Graham 13. Chris Heighington
I stated in the previous preview that it must be tough being a Warriors supporter, but Shark’s fans must have been sick to their stomachs watching their troops against the Sea Eagles last week. The Sharks took the field…and that was about it. They did not exert themselves in the first half and only managed to draw the second half 4-4 because Manly took their foot off the gas and coasted home.
One could say that it’s hard to know where the Sharks have to go to from here, but a good place to start would be by simply putting in some effort.
I had little praise for stand in Coach Peter Sharp in the pre season and it would appear my absence of positive comments is becoming ever more justified as the weeks roll on. Sharp appears to have little control over the players and injuries are no excuse for those on the field not being prepared to get their hands dirty.
The Roosters are coming into this match off the back of a two point loss to the Eels and watching them play, they are fast proving to be a mirror image of the Storm as they struggle to post points, but are still putting in some mammoth defensive efforts. It’s almost unheard of that the Roosters have lost their last 3 games despite only conceding 8,9 and 14 points in each respective game. Clearly, their attack is the problem and many are attributing it to their deep attacking style not being suited to this year’s increased ruck speeds.
I have no interest in betting on this game. The Sharks can defend ok when they want to and the Roosters struggle in attack and that could increase the chances of an upset. But if the Sharks decide they can’t win and take the field with a poor attitude, the Roosters could do a 13+ on them.
Mike’s Tip: Roosters
Mike’s Casual Bet: Total match points UNDER 38.5 @ $1.90 (Sportsbet)
Mike’s Best Bet: None
Raiders v Storm
Sun 20 Apr, 3:00pm, GIO Stadium
Raiders:1. Anthony Milford 2. Reece Robinson 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Matthew Allwood 5. Bill Tupou 6. Jack Wighton 7. Terry Campese 8. David Shillington 9. Glen Buttriss 10. Brett White 11. Josh Papalii 12. Joel Edwards 13. Shaun Fensom
Generally the Raiders are rock solid when playing at home regardless of how bad the rest of their season is going. But at the moment, the Green Machine seems to be struggling to defend GIO Stadium. Now they have to defend their home turf against the Storm who are not strangers to winning in Canberra. In fact the last 4 visits to Canberra have seen the Storm take victory, including the 68-4 shellacking last year.
Even the overall tally is pretty damning with the Storm having won 24 of the 33 overall clashes between the two sides.
We saw the Storm get out of jail last week against the Dragons when realistically they shouldn’t have gotten themselves in that situation in the first place but for some poor defence throughout the first 60 minutes of the game.
The Storm are conceding over 25 points per game on average in 2014 and it will be cause for concern if Coach Craig Bellamy doesn’t figure out how to stop the leak sooner rather than later.
The Raiders have been plagued by general inconsistencies throughout matches and appear to be struggling a tad without an established 5/8th. I’m wondering how long Coach Ricky Stuart will keep trying the Jack Wighton experiment.
I’m keen to back the Storm in betting here. Despite almost having lost 2 in a row but for last week’s 81st minute try, the Storm’s form is far superior to that of the Raiders. The last 15 minutes against the Dragons was exactly how the Storm should be playing for 80 minutes, and Coach Craig Bellamy and Captain Cam Smith would have been smart enough to pick up on this and turn it into improvements this week.
Mike’s Tip: Storm
Mike’s Best Bet: Storm Head to Head @ $1.71 (Pinnacle)
Eels v Tigers
Mon 21 Apr, 4:00pm, ANZ 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
One major factor has shaped the odds well in the Eels favour against the Tigers in Monday afternoon footy, and that is the absence of Robbie Farah.
The Tigers will be hurting greatly without Farah and his omission with an injured elbow only further compounds the recent loss of fullback James Tedesco.
The Tigers still have plenty of oomph in the forward pack to make them competitive but the loss of a blue chip player in Farah can often lead to a lack of motivation amongst other players.
The Eels are hardly lacking motivation as they come into this encounter off the back of three wins in a row and there is plenty of motivation for a fourth straight win as it would lift the Eels to equal first on the ladder.
Darcy Lussick returns to the side from from a 4 week suspension but it seems the Tigers aren’t too concerned as was evident when Tigers forward Martin Tapau was asked what he expects from a fired up Lussick.
“”Not much, just running the ball. We’re a pretty good defensive team, I reckon. We’ll just wait for them to run at us and we’ll just dominate the ruck,” he said.
I’m keen to have a bet in this one; The Eels are on a roll thanks to some up-tempo attack on the edges and they look more than capable against a Farah-less Tigers outfit.
The Eels were always favourites of mine to cover the -6.5 line even though their recent record at ANZ Stadium is poor. But the fact of the matter is that the Eels recent record at any ground is poor and they are starting to turn that poor discipline around.
Mike’s Tip: Eels
Mike’s Best Bet: Eels -6.5 @ $1.99 (Pinnacle)
Panthers v Titans
Mon 21 Apr, 7:00pm, Centrebet Stadium
Panthers: 1.Matt Moylan 2. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 3. Dean Whare 4. Jamal Idris 5. Josh Mansour 6. Jamie Soward 7. Peter Wallace 8. Sam McKendry 9. Kevin Kingston 10. Brent Kite 11. Sika Manu 12. Elijah Taylor 13. Adam Docker
Rounds one through five of the NRL had left me baffled as to how the Titans were sitting on top of the ladder after playing some pretty ordinary footy the whole way.
Their round 6 match against the Broncos was their best performance of the year as they played hard and with a belief they could win, which ultimately got them over the line.
The Titans hung in and just managed to outlast the Broncos after a breakaway try from David Mead and another in the Broncos in-goal area after Ben Barba failed to hold onto a kick.
Despite the recent improvements, I’m really starting to wonder when the Titan’s luck is going to run out. I thought it was going to well and truly run out two weeks ago when they travelled to Melbourne to face the Storm, but in fact, I was well and truly wrong. Will it happen this week? They take on the Panthers in Penrith and conditions look set to be dry which will be conducive to some faster footy. We’ll get a better taste of what the Panthers are capable of after they have had to endure two wet games in their last three.
This is Jamal Idris’ first game against his old team and it will be interesting to see what kind of treatment he gets from Titan’s hard hitters like Greg Bird.
I can’t bring myself to have a bet here. The Titans are just too much of a mystery to me and the Panthers seem unable to stretch to their full potential.
In the last 6 match ups between the Titans and the Panthers, the wins have been shared at 3 each and that hardly gives us any sort of indicator either.
I’ll be happy to just sit back and watch.
Mike’s Tip: Panthers
Mike’s Best Bet: None
Mike’s Casual Bet: If you’re after some punting entertainment in Monday night footy, why not have a stab at the Penrith wingers in First Try Scorer markets?
Josh Mansour and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak are currently paying $9.00 and $11.00 respectively on Sportingbet.