NRL Preview – Round 3 – 2013
Storm v Bulldogs
|Head to Head||Won 4 of last 5|
|At Ground||Won last 6 straight||Lost last 3|
Melbourne: 8.00pm Thursday
Bellamy and his staff would be giggling at all of the suggestions that due to their UK trip they’d be underdone or suffer jetlag or alike. If ever there was to be a reinforcement of a) the quality of the off season program that they do (I’m regularly told by those in the know it’s one of if not the toughest off season program of any NRL club) and b) the systems and coaching process that they have in place that then delivers the end results that they do, then the last two weeks have provided it. The Storm are up and running, and right now a number of rungs above everyone else. They come off a quality win in Townsville against a legitimate title contender and line up at home for a grand final rematch but such is tempered with the fact of a 5 day turn around off the back of a distant away leg. The Bulldogs defended well in winning over the Eels last week but they are desperately missing their 4 key players who remain out (Kasiano, Graham, Pritchard and Barba). They don’t control the mid field as they normally do nor have the punch forward, Pritchards hit on an edge or the skill and polish of Barba’s classy line break or finishing. Right now there is also not the cohesion. Keatings kicking game needs significant improvement and they could well have had some much better questions asked of their defence by the Eels. Storm back at home should be winning and are priced accordingly but I’d suggest caution playing a 3 try line and expect the normal cohesion with a side off the back of a short turn around, distant away leg and a few days of light training.
Last Word: Right now the Storm look at a different level to everyone else, and they get a significantly weakened opponent at home.
Betting Interest: I expect the Storm to win but given the circumstances I’m happy to leave the long line alone.
Tigers v Eels
|Head to Head||Won 5 of last 6|
|At Ground||Won 3 of last 6||Lost 4 of last 6|
Leichhardt: 7.00pm Friday
Key forward outs for both sides here – Galloway for the Tigers, Maitua for the Eels. Tigers got the job done last week over the Panthers but the form line through either (Tigers or Panthers) doesn’t look all that strong right now (and they’ve come up with a key up front injury which they don’t need), with both sides contributing poor key stats in an error riddled offering. Although not taken advantage of once again the yardage through the Tigers middle was soft which is I’m sure exactly where Stuart will want to play. The Eels plan and structure in general has improved considerably as has their general kicking game and they are playing off better field position more regularly than they have for some years. However, their final 30 metres attack red zone play needs a lot of work. With some brains and execution they could well have beaten the Bulldogs last week. But with Mannah, Moimoi and Lussick they should be able to work their way forward consistently and offer Sandow, Hayne and Paulo some room to play, I’d expect with greater ease than what the Tigers will. Certainly the home and away records here are factors, the Tigers are very good at Leichhardt (and Cambpelltown) while the Eels away record through the last two years has been abysmal but I’m happy to take that risk here and look to the visitors improvement and enthusiasm to be the difference.
Last Word: The Eels have only been winning near 1 in 10 away through recent years and so are again a significant risk, but there has been some positive signs through the last two weeks that they might have the muscle and yardage answers through the middle here to be winning.
Betting Interest: Play the Eels H2H at around the $2.25.
Titans v Sea Eagles
|Head to Head||Won 3 of last 5|
|At Ground||Won 3 of last 5||Won last 2|
Robina: 5.30pm Saturday
Nice test for the Titans which will tell us much more about the depth of their form. They come off a soft win over the Raiders where they were gifted a mountain of ball and some pathetic defensive offerings as they waltzed through for 36 unanswered points. They had few questions asked of their own defence – the Eagles will be a far different offering. The test here will be a) how they handle are far more physical opponent who will offer them far less room to move, and b) on the back of this how their 9, 7 and 6 then play, as I’d expect that they will be obvious targets. They do have the advantage of an extended home prep and be buoyed by their positive win last week. Right now the Eagles would be clearly marked as the next best behind the Storm off the back of impressive wins through the Broncos and Knights, they have the size and skill through the middle to dominate the advantage line and then the class of Foran and Cherry-Evans to then capatalise, the skill of their kicking game will also see the Titans have to earn field position. The Eagles have been very good away, and even better through the last 12 months with distant road games winning 6 of their last 7, but there remains some injury doubt over Brett Stewart and Matai. The Titans execution and handling struggled against a committed defence two weeks ago (Sharks), I think that’s again the key to this game where I think the Eagles have too many guns.
Last Word: Right now the Eagles look a key long term contender, we are yet to be convinced where the Titans stand.
Betting Interest: I’d wait for the final pre game team lists before any betting play, should the Eagles be at or near full strength then I expect them to be covering the single try line.
Roosters v Broncos
|Head to Head||Lost 6 of last 8|
|At Ground||Lost 7 of last 9||Won 4 of last 6|
SFS: 7.30pm Saturday
The Broncos remain of the road with back to back Sydney away legs and are now to be without key outs of Hodges and McGuire. They carry the advantage of a healthy recent H2H and ‘at ground’ record but right now they look a long way off quality form. Hodges is a key out. He is a class game breaker who has arguably been their best through the last two weeks and whose absence weakens their attack strike power considerably. The Broncos defence was sound last week but let’s put it in context – the Dragons currently can’t buy execution let alone points so although getting through the work well enough there were few questions of quality put to them. The Roosters won what has been a difficult away leg for them for some time (Warriors in NZ) and again showed some positive signs through the first 50 or so minutes (including a 16-0 lead) but again two weeks in a row they have failed to run out a strong final 30 minutes. They do have plenty of size and grunt through the middle (Waerea-Hargreaves, Moa, Nuuausala and Kennedy) through which I’m sure they will look to play and I expect to trouble the Broncos, I also think they’ll target plenty of attack via their favoured left edge (SBW and Jennings) especially now against a weakened Broncos right edge offering missing Hodges. I am seeing upside and improvement in the Roosters through the last two weeks, I’m not so sure about the Broncos (nor a weakened Broncos facing another away leg), look for the Roosters to work them over through the middle then play with some speed and ball play to their edges (in particular to their left).
Last Word: Home side improving each week, expect then to take a further positive step here.
Betting Interest: Roosters to cover the line.
Sharks v Warriors
|Head to Head||Won 3 of last 6|
|At Ground||Won 3 of last 7||Lost 5 of last 7|
Cronulla: 2.00pm Sunday
Lewis a key out for the Sharks but they do look to have stronger depth this year. If the Sharks are anywhere near 70% of their best then they will be winning this, the problem right now as we know is guessing from week to week how they might be faring under the weight of the current ASADA investigations. They showed a preparedness to ball play and or shift the ball to their edges and then return last week against Souths which worked well for them, quickly moving their opponents defence around, opening yardage and defensive holes and playing to their attacking strengths off Carney, Gordon and Graham. A similar approach here would have the Warriors spinning like a top as they do not have the defensive smarts nor structures to handle such a game. I think the final scoreboard flattered the Warriors last week. At 16-0 it could have and probably should have led to another blow out loss. Having saved a little face last week I would not be surprised to see them again drop their guard. The signs are there that the Sharks are committed and working as hard as they can against some very difficult circumstance right now, far more than any of the signs coming out of the Warriors. They get their chance here back at home and should be winning.
Last Word: Sharks have been rolling their sleeves up, with a similar commitment then they’ll be winning here.
Betting Interest: I don’t like the Warriors at all, but I also don’t think the Sharks are a betting proposition at present.
Panthers v Rabbits
|Head to Head||Won 3 of last 6|
|At Ground||Won 3 of last 4||Lost 7 of last 8|
Penrith: 3.00pm Sunday
Well the market gives you a clear lead as to what looks on offer here. The Panthers have a key out in losing Coote for what looks like the season which will disrupt and weaken their halves combination and blunted their key attacking options. Clearly the market is suggesting that the Panthers formline looks very questionable (Raiders, Tigers) against which I can’t argue. Those games were each of ordinary quality reflected in the poor handling, completions and defensive errors. Interestingly the Rabbits have had a very poor record at this ground, having lost 7 straight prior to their win here last year, they come off a win last Monday night and have the key in of Sam Burgess who’s presence and play will lift them significantly. For mine they bombed 4 opportunities on their left edge against the Sharks and should well have recorded a far more comfortable victory, I’d expect that coach Maguire will make some further adjustments to the attack combinations on their left and be somewhat forceful about the improvement he’d be looking for here. Realistically we have a top 4 contender playing a weakened bottom 4 side, evened up slightly by the venue.
Last Word: Rabbits will win, the margin is the question.
Betting Interest: I expect the Rabbits to cover the line.
Raiders v Dragons
|Head to Head||Won 13 of last 14|
|At Ground||Won last 4||Lost last 10 straight|
Canberra: 6.30pm Sunday
We have two season to date losers facing up against each other. After two weeks away the Raiders will welcome their first formal home game, and given their poor form what better than that of playing the side who has been your “bunny” for years. The lopsided advantage that the Raiders have held over the Dragons is quite amazing, they’ve won 13 of their last 14 H2H while the Dragons have lost their last 10 straight games in Canberra, now that’s what we might call “owning” someone. The Raiders were ordinary first up against the Panthers, then disgraceful against the Titans, all of which smells of attitude issues, we’d be only guessing if we thought any sort of shake up this week and or the fact of playing at home might well help them. The Dragons have their own problems, they had enough ball and field position to win 2 games last week, their line break and attack options are terrible, they too have a terrible away record (3 wins from their last 14 away starts) let alone the record of playing against the Raiders or at this ground. At least with the Raiders one knows that they do have upside in them, I’m not sure that the same can be said about the Dragons. Going with the home side on trust.
Last Word: Raiders have ‘owned’ the Dragons H2H for some time, and in particular at this Ground.
Betting Interest: No, two losers H2H is not a place to play.
Knights v Cowboys
|Head to Head||Lost 3 of last 4|
|At Ground||Won 4 of last 6||Won last 2 (4 from7)|
Newcastle: 7.00pm Monday
Somewhat a rollercoaster ride through the opening two weeks for both sides, credible in not impressive wins first up followed by disappointing (Cowboys) if not very poor (Knights) results in round 2. The Knights also looked to have picked up a few key injuries which won’t help them short term, in particular with the loss of Gagai. The Knights problem through the last 12 months has been measuring up when it mattered against the contenders of the competition, especially when away, again shown up when trampled at Brookvale last Monday night. They will improve back at home but they’ll need to improve how they handle things through the middle considerable if they are to compete here. The Cowboys weren’t that far off the Storm for good periods of that game last week, they also made numerous line breaks and off loads and had at least 4 near try scoring opportunities, most of which was not reflected on the scoreboard, so the quality of what they were offering was ok, and thorough an impressive formline. Much like the Eagles they will come at the Knights with size and power through the middle, while I’m sure Thurston will also look to target the Knights right edge defence which has looked decidedly suspect through periods of the last two weeks (and from which they now lose Gagai). Cowboys road record has been very good, they’ve also won 7 of their last 13 distant games and their last two at the ground, I think they’ll win here.
Last Word: The Storm formline will be strong, Cowboys weren’t that far away last week and can bounce back here.
Betting Interest: Cowboys H2H
Individual Game Tips
Storm, Eels, Sea Eagles, Roosters, Sharks, Rabbits, Raiders, Cowboys
I won’t be firing a serious bullet till round 4 or 5 but for those looking for an interest this week I’d suggest these –
– Eels – H2H, get their chance to break through on the road
– Roosters – Line -4.5, at home, weakened opponent
– Rabbits – to cover the line v Panthers
– Cowboys – H2H, like the formline, will be keen to atone
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