Round four saw a host of impressive performances mixed in with some not so impressive performances as three teams kept their undefeated tags whilst a couple of teams have some serious question marks over there 2020 plans. Read on as we preview round 5 with a look to trying to find some value in the market after what was a tough week last week.
Round five kickstarts with the Brisbane Broncos travelling south to take on the Manly Sea Eagles with both teams coming off losses in strikingly different fashions. The Broncos put in arguably their worst performance in the clubs history as they lost 59-0 to the Roosters, a loss that was not only their first to the Roosters at home in 6 years but also the clubs largest ever loss and the first time that have been held to 0 at Suncorp Stadium. On the other hand the Sea Eagles will feel robbed after having a match winning try called back for a questionable forward pass, one that the NRL has come out and said was the wrong call, in a 3 point loss to the current ladder leaders, the Eels. Despite this loss the Sea Eagles put in a gallant effort last week and for that reason coach Des Hasler has stuck true to his team by keeping the same 17 for this week’s match. On the other hand the Broncos are feeling the pressure and have made a host of changes to try and reignite an attack that has managed just 6 points in the previous 160 minutes. Corey Oates moves into the back row with Xavier Coates taking his spot on the wing, Kotoni Staggs returns in the centres in the place of Jesse Arthars, Matt Lodge & Joe Ofahengaue come into the starting pack and Ben Teo plays his first NRL game in over 3 years as he comes onto the bench. Anthony Seibold will be hoping these changes can help add to the Broncos impressive 4 wins from their last 5 meetings against the Sea Eagles but we are thinking otherwise. It’s hard to go anywhere near the Broncos with the way they’ve played in the last 2 weeks and with Manly coming off a tough loss we are predicting them to send a statement to the competition with a dominant win to start the round.
The second game at Central Coast Stadium in under 24 hours sees two teams coming off losses in the New Zealand Warriors and the North Queensland Cowboys clash. Both losses halted each team’s momentum after coming off wins and neither side will want to make it two losses in a row in what looks a winnable game for both sides. For the Warriors, despite a gallant effort in defence, they were unable to put any points on the board in a 26-0 loss to the Panthers. The telling point of this loss was their inability to get out of their own half as they lost the run metres count by over 600m and made 14 errors across the game. On the other hand the Cowboys lacked discipline as they completed at an extremely poor 61%, thanks to 17 errors, on their way to a 26-16 loss to the Sharks at home. The Cowboys will be hoping that Jason Taumalolo, currently named on the extended bench, will be fit to play as their forward pack lacked punch and direction without his strong runs. They have also been forced to a number of other changes with Ben Hampton, John Asiata and Jake Granville all out and will be replaced by Hamiso Tabaui-Fidow, Coen Hess and Reece Robson respectively. For the Warriors Lachlan Burr comes into the starting side in the place of Isaiah Papali’i as they remain without their two star wingers David Fusitua & Ken Maumalo. Without these two players for the Warriors and with the Cowboys also missing a host of their strike players we are leaning towards a low scoring affair between the two sides. Supporting this prediction is the fact that in 3 of their last 4 meetings the total score has been under this week’s total points line and this is enough for us to go for another low scoring, scrappy contest between the two sides.
Recommended Bet: Total Points Under 38.5 Points $1.88
Friday’s primetime game sees first play third as both the Parramatta Eels and the Penrith Panthers put their undefeated status in 2020 on the line in what looks a blockbuster match. Both sides will be brimming with confidence after the first 4 rounds with the Panthers putting together a more complete performance last week as they kept the Warriors scoreless on their way to a 26-0 victory. The platform for this victory was largely laid by their starting front rowers, James Fisher-Harris & James Tamou, combining for 464 metres in a performance that will have returning NSW halfback Nathan Cleary licking his lips. For the Eels they may consider themselves lucky after a controversial forward pass call late in their 19-16 victory over the Sea Eagles but they will know that their forward pack has the strength to match it with the impressive Panthers forwards as they look to improve on a record of just 1 win in their last 4 meetings. For the Eels to buck this record against the Panthers they will be hoping for another dominant performance from their two wingers, Blake Ferguson & Maika Sivo, who combined for 426 metres in last week’s victory and provided the start to their sets that every team craves for. This week sees Cleary take Matt Burton’s spot in the Panthers starting side as Burton moves to the bench whilst the Eels welcome back Nathan Brown from suspension with Marata Niukore moving to the bench along with Ray Stone as Brad Takairangi and Oregon Kaufusi are dropped. Despite the Panthers also being undefeated the Eels have been installed as convincing favourites for this clash, which, to be honest, we were quite surprised by. With the Panthers favourable record against the Eels as well as the return of Cleary we are looking towards the Panthers to cover the line in a game that could go either way.
Saturday’s first game sees the Gold Coast Titans, coming off their first win in almost a calendar year, take on the South Sydney Rabbitohs who are currently on a 3 game losing streak. The Titans will be brimming with confidence as they showed a resilience that hasn’t been seen in a long time by coming back from 12-0 down after 15 minutes and 23-22 down with 3 minutes to go to score a 28-23 win against the Tigers. This win was on the back of a 2 try assist performance from Ashley Taylor and a huge 217 metre performance from front rower Moeaki Fotuaika. As a result coach Justin Holbrook has kept faith in the same 17 from last week as they look to make it back-to-back wins for the first time in over a year. Souths coach Wayne Bennett will be hoping that the return of Cody Walker and James Roberts into the starting side will spark an attack that has managed just 20 points in their last 2 matches. The inclusion of Walker & Roberts means that Braidon Burns & Troy Dargan are out of the 17 along with Mark Nicholls and Keaon Koloamatangi who are replaced by Patrick Mago and Bayley Sironen. These changes should spark Souths into gear as, despite losing their last 2, they have played reasonable footy and it has been the x factor in attack, which this week’s inclusions bring, that they have been missing. As a result we are leaning towards them adding to their 3 successive wins against Titans and for a little bit more value we are predicting them to do it by under 12 points, a score that they have won by in 3 of their last 4 wins against the Titans.
Recommended Bet: South Sydney Rabbitohs 1-12 $3.00
Potentially the game of the round sees the second placed Newcastle Knights welcome the fifth placed Melbourne Storm to Central Coast Stadium with plenty at stake for both sides. The Knights have, in my opinion, been the most impressive side of 2020 and it is a testament to new coach Adam O’Brien for the changes he has been able to make in such a short period of time. Last week they showed they aren’t any pushovers by beating the premiership favourites, the Canberra Raiders, 34-18 on the back of dominating performances from Kalyn Ponga & 18-year old centre Bradman Best. If the Storm are to silence some of their critics then knocking off the Knights will go a long way towards doing this as, despite winning last week, they have been unconvincing in recent weeks. Last week’s 22-8 victory over Souths came on the back of some brilliance by Cameron Munster and Ryan Papenhuyzen and it will take a much more complete performance if they are to win this week. Coach Craig Bellamy will have to do without halfback Jahrome Hughes this week too as he is replaced by Ryley Jacks whilst Christian Welch comes into the starting side, Brandon Smith moves to the bench, Nelson Asofa-Solomona returns from suspension and Chris Lewis drops out of the side. On the other hand the Knights have stuck strong with the same 17 from last week’s victory but will have to hope that Kurt Mann gets through training okay after an injury scare last week. If Mann is to drop out then you can expect Phoenix Crossland to come into the side, Lachlan Fitzgibbon is also on the extended bench as he looks to return. With the Knights recent resurgence in form it is no surprise that the Storm have won the last 7 meetings between the sides but this isn’t stopping us from being confident in the Knights. The Knights have scored almost double the points (110-58) than the Storm have this year and are a side playing with confidence and for that reason we’re ignoring history and happy to take on the market in this one by going for the Knights to win.
Not many people would have predicted both the Wests Tigers and Canberra Raiders to be coming into their round 5 meeting off losses but that is exactly the situation that faces both teams this week. The Tigers were embarrassed by losing to the previous winless Gold Coast Titans as they squandered a 12 point lead to lose 28-23 in the final two minutes of the game, in a performance that coach Michael Maguire has been critical about in the media. Maguire has even gone to the lengths of slamming the inconsistency of his team in a statement that will hopefully be a major wake up call to the underperforming Tigers. Similarly, the Raiders went into their clash against the Knights as heavy favourites after dismantling the Storm away from home but were left with their heads in their hands after the Knights outmuscled them in the forwards and exposed multiple holes in both sides of their defence. Raiders coach Ricky Stuart, also took a similar approach to Maguire, by being quite vocal about how his side played like “children” as he hopes for a much improved performance. This week the Tigers have swung the selection axe by dropping veteran Benji Marshall, Robert Jennings, Luke Garner, Oliver Clark and Billy Walters for Josh Reynolds, Tommy Talu, Zane Musgrove, Chris Lawrence, Russell Packer and Michael Chee-Kam. On the other hand the Raiders have decided to stick faith with the same 17 from last week as Stuart is giving his side a chance to right their wrongs. Stuart will also take confidence in the Raiders having won 6 of their last 7 against the Tigers, including their 2 meetings from last year. In these 2 meetings from last year the Raiders won by a combined score of 48-12 and we are confident that they’ll make easy work of the Tigers again come Saturday night.
Two teams with a rich history of heated games in the Canterbury Bulldogs & the Sydney Roosters meet at Bankwest Stadium in the penultimate game of the round. Both teams are also coming off convincing wins that were highlighted by sturdy defence as they conceded a combined 2 points last week and put on 81 points between them. The Bulldogs managed to score their first win of 2020 as they defeated the Dragons 22-2 on the back of a 86% completion rate, which was highlighted by a 100% completion rate from the 20th to 70th minute. This win will have the Bulldogs brimming with confidence but they will need to pull off something special if they are to down a Roosters side who defeated the Broncos 59-0 in a near perfect performance. What made this even more convincing was the fact they were without 2019 Dally M Winner James Tedesco who returns this week as Brett Morris moves back to the wing and Ryan Hall drops out of the side. For the Bulldogs their only change has been Christian Crichton coming onto the bench in place of Kerrod Holland to play the utility role. In recent history the Roosters have also dominated the Bulldogs by winning their last 6 meetings and it’s hard to see anything but another Roosters victory in this meeting. With the return of Tedesco you can probably expect another high scoring affair and we’ll lean towards the Roosters in dominant fashion.
The final game of the ground sees a cross-town Sydney rivalry with the St. George Illawarra Dragons taking on the Cronulla Sharks at the Campbelltown Stadium in an important match for both sides seasons. For the Dragons they will be looking to score their first win of the season as they currently remain the only winless team after managing just 2 points in their last 160 minutes of football on the back of a 22-2 loss to the Bulldogs. This loss was compounded by the fact that they made 9 consecutive errors in the middle 40 minutes last week and looked disorganised in attack. If the Dragons are going to reverse this form it will take something spectacular and they are coming up against a Sharks side that are fresh off their first win for 2020. This win was the result of a determined performance from their whole team as they downed the Cowboys by 10 points away from home. The Sharks will also be boosted by the return of Chad Townsend and Andrew Fifita as Matt Moylan moves back to fullback, Toby Rudolf reverts to the bench, William Kennedy drops out of the side and Ronaldo Mulitalo is replaced by Mawene Hiroti on the wing. For the Dragons Euan Aitken replaces the injured Brayden Williame in the centres, Tyrell Fuimaono starts in the back row in place of Tariq Sims and Matt Dufty joins the bench. Surprisingly, despite the Dragons woeful form, the market still has them at a respectable price and for this reason we are quite happy to take them on. With the Sharks getting two big players back in Townsend & Fifita and having also won their last two meetings against the Dragons by 6 & 13 points then we are confident in them covering the line for this week’s match to make it two wins in a row.
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