NRL Round 3 Previews and Betting Tips
Cowboys v Roosters
Thu 17 Mar, 8:05PM, 1300SMILES Stadium
The Sydney Roosters face a difficult away trip against the North Queensland Cowboys this Thursday night at the reigning Premier’s home ground as both teams come off a loss last round. Both clubs will be keen to get back on track after difficult starts to the season but a win from either would release a lot of the pressure on each squad.
The Cowboys tasted defeat for the first time since the finals series in 2015 after going down by a converted try in a poor showing against the Eels, but coach Paul Green has elected to make no changes to his squad from last week.
The Roosters only change comes with Mitchell Frei replacing Vincent Leuluai on the bench, although in an interesting backline change, boom rookie Latrell Mitchell will take the fullback role with Blake Fergusson reverting to centre as Shaun Kenny-Dowall moves to the wing.
The ‘Chooks’ were not the force they once were, likely due in large part to the absence of a number of senior players. Without the leadership of their core leadership group, the Roosters will be vulnerable against a full strength Cowboys outfit buoyed by the seemingly endless competitiveness of Jonathan Thurston. Expect the Queenslanders to come away with the win.
Betting Tip: Roosters +12.5 @ $1.91 (William Hill)
Bulldogs v Eels
Fri 18 Mar, 8:05PM, ANZ Stadium
The Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs will take on the Parramatta Eels this Friday night after both teams came away with impressive wins last round. Bulldogs’ rookie Kerrod Holland converted a try scored in the last minute of the game to give his club the win, while Parramatta produced an encouraging performance against the reigning premiers.
For the Bulldogs, Chase Stanley will return to the centres in place of Kerrod Holland. David Klemmer has also been named despite a pending judiciary result.
The Eels will replace the injured Nathan Peats with Issac De Gois as Kenny Edwards starts in the back row for the suspended Manu Ma’u and David Gower comes onto the bench.
It remains to be seen how the absence of Nathan Peats will impact the Eels, and while the Bulldogs are also missing their preferred hooker in Michael Lichaa, journeyman Craig Garvey proved an adequate replacement. The ‘Dogs have produced two impressive wins to start the season, and while the Eels will be their toughest test yet, expect Des Hasler’s men to come away with the win.
Betting Tip: Total Match Points Under 39.5 @ $1.91 (Bet365)
Knights v Raiders
Sat 19 Mar, 5:30PM, Hunter Stadium
The Newcastle Knights will play the Canberra Raiders at their home ground this Saturday evening with the Hunter Valley club facing a difficult challenge after two major losses in the opening rounds. Electing to blood a raft of NRL rookies into first-grade at the start of the season, coach Nathan Brown will hope the top level experience will translate to on-field performances soon.
The Raiders impressed last week with a narrow win over the Roosters despite the absence of their starting halves, but they will also be without the suspended centre Joey Leilua as Brenko Lee comes into the side.
The Knights will replace the injured David Bhana with Sione Mata’utia on an extended bench that also includes Pauli Pauli.
From their opening matches, it is clear Nathan Brown is playing the long game, electing to capitalize on Newcastle’s fantastic rookie talent by blooding a number of rookies, although it remains unclear when his squad will start to deliver. The Raiders have made a good start to the season with wins in the opening rounds, and they look set to continue their winning ways against the Knights.
Betting Tip: Raiders -4.0 @ $1.92 (Ladbrokes)
Panthers v Broncos
Sat 19 Mar, 7:30PM, Pepper Stadium
The Brisbane Broncos will travel south to take on the Penrith Panthers on Saturday night in Anthony Griffin’s first match coaching against his former club. It has been a baptism of fire for Griffin in his second first-grade coaching role as an injury crisis once again struck Penrith with Dean Whare joining Matt Moylan and James Segeyaro in the injury ward. Will Smith will return at fullback as regular halfback Peter Wallace will start at hooker, with Tyrone Peachy moving to the halves.
The Broncos have been one of the clubs least impacted by injury so far in 2016, but an injury to Corey Oates will see Greg Eden return on the wing.
The Broncos have been a cut above the competition in their wins against the Eels and Warriors in the opening rounds, although despite looking comfortable in both matches, the Brisbane club has failed to replicate the intensity that saw them reach the 2015 Grand Final. Wayne Bennett’s men should come away with the win against the injury ravaged Panthers, but the Broncos should be wary of an ambush by an opposition desperate for a win.
Betting Tip: Broncos Head to Head @ $1.53 (Luxbet)
Titans v Tigers
Sat 19 Mar, 9:30PM, Cbus Super Stadium
The Gold Coast Titans will play the Wests Tigers this Saturday night at the Queenslanders’ home ground as the joint-venture club backs up from two impressive wins against the Warriors and Sea Eagles in the opening rounds. Often talked about for their potential, the young Tigers’ spine looks to be delivering despite the absence of NRL veteran rakes Robbie Farah and Matt Ballin.
The Titans will return home after their 18 point loss to the Storm last week as a switch of Ryan James and Agnatius Paasi between the front row and bench shapes as the only change to the squad. For the Tigers, the injured Curtis Sironen will be replaced with Jack Buchanan on the bench as Kyle Lovett comes into the back row.
The Titans faced their first real test for the season against the Storm last week, and they were comprehensively outplayed. While the Gold Coast club look to be in a good position going forward with their new recruits performing well, expect them to go down against a Tigers side eager to live up to its enormous potential.
Betting Tip: Tigers -2.0 @ $1.92 (Ladbrokes)
Warriors v Storm
Sun 20 Mar, 2:00PM, Mt Smart Stadium
The New Zealand Warriors will play the Melbourne Storm this Sunday evening and Warriors’ coach Andrew McFadden will hope his squad’s first home game of the season will ignite his misfiring outfit after two losses in the opening rounds. With a fantastic recruitment drive in the off-season, the excuses are gone for the Kiwi club as the mercurial outfit continues to look for consistency.
In contrast, the Storm have opened their 2016 campaign in style with wins over the Dragons and Titans and will name the same squad that took the field last week after news that star fullback Billy Slater faces a yet another lengthy stint on the sidelines with another shoulder injury.
For the Warriors, Albert Vete and Charlie Gubb join the side in place of the injured Sam Lisone and Raymond Faitala-Mariner. Jonathan Wright and Konrad Hurrell have also been named on an extended bench as cover.
While the Storm rightly head into this match as favourites on the back of their results, facing a Warriors outfit desperate for a win in their first home game of the season is a tough assignment. Despite their losses, the Warriors improvement from the first to second rounds so far has been encouraging, and if they continue their trend of improvement, expect the New Zealand club to come away with the win against their traditional rivals at home.
Betting Tip: Total Match Points Over 42.5 @ $1.90 (Sportsbet)
Dragons v Rabbitohs
Sun 20 Mar, 4:00PM, SCG
The St George Illawarra Dragons will take on the South Sydney Rabbitohs this Sunday evening in a match that perfectly demonstrates the volatility of the National Rugby League. The Rabbitohs have opened their 2016 account with two massive wins over the Roosters and Knights, while the Dragons have gone down in poor showings against the Storm and Sharks.
Unsurprisingly the Rabbitohs have named an unchanged outfit as Paul McGregor’s experiment with his backline seems to be over. Josh Dugan will shift to the custodian role as Euan Aitken returns in the centres.
The Dragons had all the makings of a top side this year in a solid recruitment drive and continued improvement under coach Paul McGregor. McGregor has been forced to contend with inconsistency from his squad, but with Josh Dugan moving back to fullback, the coach will be looking to implement the same structures on the field as 2015.
Despite Dugan’s move, the Rabbitohs are coming off two massive wins so expect momentum to stay with the Red and Green.
Betting Tip: Total Match Points Over 40.5 @ $1.91 (Bet365)
Sea Eagles v Sharks
Mon 21 Mar, 7:00PM, Brookvale Oval
The Manly Sea Eagles will take on the Cronulla Sharks at their home ground of Brookvale oval this Monday night as the much hyped Manly club’s 2016 campaign has endured a baptism of fire. Both clubs come off significant results last week as Cronulla and Manly back up from a win and loss respectively.
The Sea Eagles will name the same 17 that took the field against the Tigers last week, while the Sharks will welcome back Chris Heighington from suspension in place of Joseph Paulo.
The Sharks were clinical against the Dragons last week as the Cronulla club looks on song with their new halves combination gelling nicely and Ben Barba returning to form in the custodian role.
While Manly should get up for a match at their home ground after two losses to open the season, the dominance the Sharks have displayed in the first two rounds should see them get over Manly. Having added attacking prowess to the defensive edge they developed last year, expect the Cronulla club to come away with the points.
Betting Tip: Total Match Points Over 39.5 @ $1.90 (Luxbet)
Broncos Head to Head @ $1.53 (Luxbet)