The following are previews with betting tips for Round 3 of the 2018 NRL season.
Storm v Cowboys
Thu, Mar 22, 7:50pm
Last year’s grand finalists will meet in the Victorian capital this week with both clubs under pressure to start the season. The Cowboys were poor in a narrow loss to the Broncos in round two, with the Brisbane club dominating their forwards for much of the contest. Similarly, the Storm are burning from their last-start loss to the Tigers in which they were uncharacteristically sloppy.
Melbourne have named an unchanged side for the clash, while the Cowboys have named star five-eighth Michael Morgan to return in a move coach Paul Green hopes will bring some consistency to his struggling outfit.
Both these teams have been hugely successful in recent years and their inconsistent start to the season will have them desperate to turn things around with a good performance. The Cowboys will benefit enormously from the return of Michael Morgan – particularly with their fifth tackle options. Each club is capable of executing a winning game-plan, but a poor attitude to start the season has impacted their discipline. It will be difficult to predict which team responds better in the face of adversity but – despite the return of Morgan – the Storm should have the mental edge and the win.
Betting Tip: Storm -4.0 @ $1.92 (Ladbrokes)
Bulldogs v Panthers
Fri, Mar 23, 6:00pm
The struggling Bulldogs will take on a Panthers outfit flying high from two wins to open their season. Canterbury will be desperate for premiership points after losing to the Storm and Roosters in the opening rounds – both of whom finished within the top four in 2017 – but will be confident taking on a more evenly matched opponent in the Panthers.
After their last-start win over Souths, Penrith will bring Moses Leota in for the injured Sam McKendry in an otherwise unchanged side. The Bulldogs have made the call to drop five-eighth Matt Frawley and will replace the 23-year-old with Jeremy Marshall-King as Nu Brown also joins the bench.
Canterbury have had their worst start to their season in recent memory, but with so many changes to their playing and coaching staff it could still come together for the ‘Dogs. The performance over the opening rounds will see Penrith installed as the favourites and while the Bulldogs may return to top-form, it will take time before they get there. Panthers to get the win.
Betting Tip: Penrith -4.5 @ $2.00 (Unibet)
Tigers v Broncos
Fri, Mar 23, 7:50pm
Both the Tigers and Broncos made enormous statements last week with narrow but impressive wins over the Storm and Cowboys respectively. The Tigers – who placed third last in 2017 – held the reigning premiers to just eight points in a defensive performance that is testament to the coaching prowess of Ivan Cleary. Meanwhile, their opposition in Brisbane produced an encouraging victory in an intense Queensland derby that has staved off critics of the clubs forward rotation and halves combination.
Wests will replace the injured Elijah Taylor with Michael Chee Kam on the bench as Matthew Eisenhuth shifts to lock in an otherwise unchanged side. Brisbane are similarly forced to replace the injured Jordan Kahu as Tom Opacic shifts to the centres and Jaydn Su’a joins the bench. Jack Bird has also been included in the reserves and could make his club debut.
The Tigers’ victory over the likes of the Roosters and Melbourne in the opening rounds is a massive achievement for the joint-venture club. Ivan Cleary’s troops will be looking for another heavyweight scalp on Friday night, but given their past performances Brisbane will not underestimate their opponent. It will be a fascinating match if both teams play at their best and despite the Tigers recent form, expect Brisbane to improve again to take the win.
Betting Tip: Total Match Points Under 37.5 @ $1.90 (Unibet)
Raiders v Warriors
Sat, Mar 24, 3:00pm
The Warriors have been impressive in the opening rounds, producing encouraging wins over the Rabbitohs and Titans. They will face a Raiders outfit who again let victory slip away in the dying stages of their last-start loss to the Knights. Canberra will be disappointed with the results of the opening rounds but will hope their home-ground advantage will sway the result against a New Zealand side displaying an impressive level of discipline.
Aiden Sezer and Blake Austin will swap between the bench and five-eighth as Liam Knight also joins the interchange in his club debut for the Raiders. Meanwhile, the Warriors will replace the injured Isaiah Papali’i with Agnatius Paasi on the bench as Leivaha Pulu shifts to the starting side. Jazz Tevaga will also replace Sam Cook in the side as a bench utility.
Despite both teams’ recent performances, Canberra’s home-ground advantage will see them installed as favourites for the clash. After losing Josh Hodgson in the pre-season, the Raiders are still trying to find a winning spine combination. Expect a more dangerous Warriors outfit to chalk up three consecutive wins to start the season with a win.
Betting Tip: Warriors Head to Head @ $2.10 (Ladbrokes)
Rabbitohs v Sea Eagles
Sat, Mar 24, 5:30pm
A struggling Rabbitohs outfit will take on the Sea Eagles after the Manly club produced an enormous win over the Eels last round. The 54-0 victory will be an enormous confidence boost for Trent Barrett’s men, who were written off by many after failing to secure a replacement for the departed five-eighth Blake Green.
After Souths’ last-start loss to the Panthers, the injured Tyrell Fuimaono will be replaced with Hymel Hunt on the bench in an otherwise unchanged side. Greg Inglis has also been named to play despite suffering a head-knock last week. Manly have named an unchanged side after their huge last-start win over Parramatta.
Manly will go into this contest as favourites after their performance last week but should be wary of over-confidence against a Souths team desperate for premiership points. Captain Daly Cherry-Evans led from the front last week and expect his form – and that of Manly’s entire spine – to prove the difference between these two sides with the Rabbitohs yet to find their best combinations. Sea Eagles to get the win.
Betting Tip: Sea Eagles -2.0 @ $1.90 (William Hill)
Eels v Sharks
Sat, Mar 24, 7:30pm
Two of the most dangerous teams of the 2017 season will meet this Saturday night and find themselves in the unlikely position of being 0-2 to start the season. The Eels were accused of ‘not showing-up’ by coach Brad Arthur after a 54-0 loss to Manly last week has last season’s semi-finalists searching for the source of their attitude problem. The Sharks were also poor in their last-start loss to the Dragons after they let a 14-0 lead slip to lose the game by four points.
Beau Scott and Kenny Edwards will make their return from injury on the interchange in a big boost to the struggling Eels. Meanwhile, Cronulla will replace Aaron Gray with Jesse Ramien in the centres in their only change.
Despite the result last week, the Eels will enter the match as narrow favourites. Expect a cautious approach from both clubs as they will look to get back to basic football. Whomever discovers their physicality will have a huge edge as both clubs are capable of dominating the middle of the field through their defence. It could go either way but expect the Sharks to get the win.
Betting Tip: Sharks Head to Head @ $2.00 (William Hill)
Titans v Dragons
Sun, Mar 25, 4:10pm
After a narrow last-minute victory over the Raiders in round one, Titans fans were brought back to earth after their last-start loss to the Warriors. The Queensland club will again face a tough assignment this week against the Dragons, who have started the season with consecutive wins over the Broncos and Sharks to lead the competition.
Ashley Taylor and Jarrod Wallace will return from injury and suspension respectively in a huge boost to the Gold Coast outfit. Meanwhile, the Dragons have elected to name an unchanged squad from their last-start win over Cronulla.
Despite their opposition rated as heavy favourites heading into the match, the Titans will be confident of improvement with the return of key players in Wallace and Taylor. Halfback Ashley Taylor has displayed maturity beyond his years in his ability to control the flow of a match, but the Dragons will look to dominate their opposition through their intimidating forward rotation with the Titans naming only two middle-forward to start the game. Expect the Dragons’ pack to once again prove the difference.
Betting Tip: Dragons -6.5 @ $1.96 (Sportsbet)
Roosters v Knights
Sun, Mar 25, 6:30pm
The Roosters will meet the Knights in a massive clash to conclude round three in the first game new Knights halfback Mitchell Pearce faces his old club. After producing impressive performances against Manly and the Raiders in the opening rounds, Newcastle should be confident heading into the match but their highly rated opposition in the Roosters found form last week, producing a very classy win over the Bulldogs.
Dylan Napa will return to the starting side at the expense of Jared Waerea-Hargreaves – who has been relegated to the bench. Reece Robinson will also start on the wing in place of the injured Daniel Tupou. Meanwhile, the Knights have named Jamie Buhrer to return on the bench in their only change.
Luke Keary’s return last week completed the tri-colours’ preferred spine and the improved fluidity of the Roosters’ play was a clear result. Expect Mitchell Pearce to rouse passion in his new teammates when he takes on his old club but the ‘Chooks’ look like they could be building toward something special this year as star recruits Cooper Cronk and James Tedesco find form. Expect the tri-colours class to prove the difference.
Betting Tip: Knights +9.5 @ $1.91 (Bet365)
Tigers v Broncos Total Match Points Under 37.5 @ $1.90 (Unibet)
Warriors Head to Head @ $2.10 (Ladbrokes)