Thursday, 2 April 2009
: TAB Sportsbet Previews NRL Round Four.
Brisbane v St George Illawarra
The Dragons boast an incredible record of seven consecutive wins against the Broncos but history will count for little when these teams line up at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.
The landscape at both clubs has changed dramatically this season with new coaches in charge and a substantial turnover of playing personnel.
It would have been unthinkable 12 months ago that Wayne Bennett, Darius Boyd, Wendell Sailor and Neville Costigan would be returning to Suncorp as Dragons and that Aaron Gorrell and Lagi Setu would be wearing Broncos livery.
It just goes to show how quickly circumstances can change. The Broncos, under new coach Ivan Henjak (ironically, a former Dragon himself), have got off to a flyer this season to be the only undefeated team after three rounds. Their performance in toppling the Cowboys, Storm and Warriors in their opening appearances speaks volumes for Henjak's impact.
The Dragons were ultra-conservative against Cronulla last Sunday and one gets the feeling that they held plenty in reserve for the Broncos this week.
The Broncos have scored first in two of their three games so look to a Brisbane try as First Scoring Play ($2-10) and stick with the home side to win by a 1-12 margin ($3).
First Tryscoring candidates include Steve Michaels ($13), Justin Hodges ($11) or Israel Folau ($8) for the Broncos or Darius Boyd ($15), Beau Scott ($17) or Ben Hornby ($17) for the Dragons.
Sydney Roosters v Parramatta
Parramatta coach Daniel Anderson was quick to find positives after his team scraped home by two points against Canberra last Saturday night, praising his team's desperation over the final 20 minutes after they looked down and out.
They may have been aided by a generous rub of the green but Anderson was spot on with his endorsement of the team's composure and ability to conjure the crucial plays when they were needed.
But the potential danger for the Eels is that the last-ditch escape may have taken the focus away from a disturbing first hour when Anderson's team appeared to do everything to hand victory to the Raiders.
After displaying such strong discipline and defensive commitment against the Rabbitohs a week earlier, the Eels showed little respect to the Raiders and almost paid with a loss.
Attitude problems are also affecting the Roosters, who slumped to another heavy loss last Friday night after establishing a commanding early lead over the Wests Tigers.
The decision by Willie Mason and Nate Myles to breach the club's strict alcohol policy is symptomatic of a poor attitude and both will spend this weekend contemplating their actions in the NSW Cup.
Look to an unders result in Unders/Overs betting and a Roosters/Eels ($6-50) or Eels/Roosters ($7-50) result in the Half/Full Double.
For First Tryscorer look to Sam Perrett ($15), Shaun Kenny-Dowall ($11) or Mitch Aubusson ($13) for the Roosters or Krisnan Inu ($13), Eric Grothe ($11) or Joel Reddy ($11) for the Eels.
Penrith v Wests Tigers
A restricted preparation after playing Monday Night Football is only one concern for Penrith coach Matt Elliott who faces the challenge of refocussing his players after they produced the biggest upset of the season so far with their 12-10 win over Manly.
No team has managed to conquer the Monday night factor after the opening rounds of the season with Canberra and the Wests Tigers (round one) and Cronulla and Newcastle (round two) all succumbing to their next opponents. Fatigue gripped all four clubs in the second half of their ensuing games; although admittedly three of the four played their next game in warm Sunday afternoon temperatures.
The Panthers have maintained a strong record against the Wests Tigers over the last decade, often creating havoc on the fringes with powerful surges by wide-running back-rowers.
But the Tigers have shown signs of defensive improvement in early wins over Canberra and the Roosters with prop Keith Galloway and former Leeds second-rower Gareth Ellis impressing.
The Panthers' short preparation should favour the visitors so look to a Tigers try as First Scoring Play ($2-10) and a Wests Tigers win by 13+ points ($4-10).
Best hopes for First Tryscorer include Michael Jennings ($11), Michael Gordon ($13) or Brad Tighe ($15) for the Panthers or Taniela Tuiaki ($11), Tim Moltzen ($15) or Chris Lawrence ($13) for Wests Tigers.
Melbourne v Gold Coast
The Titans have enough trouble eking out victory when they travel to Sydney but Melbourne has so far proved a bridge too far for John Cartwright's men.
In successive trips to the Victorian capital the Titans have been buried under an avalanche of tries. In 2007 it was 50-6 and last year 44-4 as Greg Inglis and former Storm star Israel Folau led the scoring procession.
They may not have Folau to contend with any longer on the trip south but the Storm's main men Inglis, Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith continue to represent a daunting threat.
For the second successive week the Titans will miss halfback Scott Prince. Although veterans Preston Campbell and Mat Rogers (combined age 64) stepped up to the plate against the Bulldogs it is a lot to expect them to produce a repeat performance away from home and up against such formidable opponents as Inglis and Cronk.
The Storm have an enviable record at Olympic Park, especially under lights and they will pursue their 20th consecutive night-time victory at the ground in this match.
Melbourne should be way too strong so consider a Storm try as First Scoring Play ($1-65) and a Melbourne win by 13+ points ($1-83).
Players to consider in First Tryscorer betting include Greg Inglis ($11), Billy Slater ($8) and Steve Turner ($11) for the Storm or Esi Tonga ($15), Chris Walker ($13) or Brett Delaney ($21) for the Titans.
Warriors v Souths
The Warriors will be counting on senior statesman Stacey Jones to produce something special this Sunday after captain Steve Price joined a growing casualty list earlier in the week.
Price joined top grade regulars Lance Hohaia, Ben Matulino, Evarn Tuimavave, Manu Vatuvei and Brent Tate on the sidelines after experiencing ongoing problems with an injury to his throat.
The injuries are a huge blow to the Warriors' ambitions although all bar Tate are expected to make speedy returns.
The Warriors were ambushed by the Rabbitohs last season and especially by halfback Chris Sandow, who shone at Mt Smart on his first grade debut. Souths, who had won only one of their first 11 games, fought back from a 14-0 deficit to win 35-28.
This year the Rabbitohs look far more settled and coach Jason Taylor appears to have achieved a balance between attack and defence. After three rounds Souths have the best for and against differential in the NRL.
Consider a Warriors try as First Scoring Play ($2) but look to a Warriors/Rabbitohs outcome in the Half/Full Double ($8).
First Tryscoring chances include Wade McKinnon ($13), Jerome Ropati ($15) and Denan Kemp ($13) for the Warriors or Nathan Merritt ($11), Fetuli Talanoa ($13) or Colin Best ($11) for Souths.
Bulldogs v Cronulla
There has never been too much love lost between the Bulldogs and the Sharks and angry words traded between the respective clubs' CEOs this week could light the fuse for an explosive clash.
The Bulldogs are already smarting after their 14-man controversy in round two and the punch-up involving top-liners Jamal Idris, Ben Barba and Lee Te Maari, while Cronulla's issues with discipline and a growing injury list have been highly publicised.
Former Bulldogs Reni Maitua and Corey Hughes are likely to have plenty to prove to their old club while old Sharks Brett Kimmorley and Bryson Goodwin will be similarly motivated.
The Sharks will be glad to have Brett Seymour back from his club-imposed suspension and if five-eighth Trent Barrett is cleared after his scare last Sunday, the visitors' attacking potential will suddenly increase.
Cronulla looked limited in attack even before Barrett left the field against the Dragons but without him they were clueless.
Look to a Bulldogs try ($2-10) or penalty goal ($9) as First Scoring Play and stick with Unders in Unders/Overs betting.
For First Tryscorer look to Josh Morris ($13), Luke Patten ($15) or Bryson Goodwin ($13) for the Bulldogs or Ben Pomeroy ($15) or Mitch Brown ($15) for Cronulla.
Newcastle v Manly
In better times Manly would have been virtually unbackable against a Newcastle side that has been decimated by injury but after their 0-3 loss to the season there has been little evidence of the Sea Eagles emerging from their slump.
Fullback Brett Stewart is still a week away from making a comeback, while centre Jamie Lyon will miss the match after damaging a knee in last Monday night's loss to Penrith.
Admittedly the Sea Eagles played under adverse conditions at Brookvale last Monday night but there was a distinct absence of the intensity and urgency that marked Manly's rise to premiership honours in 2008.
Newcastle already have more than half a team unavailable because of injury, with talented second-rower Cory Paterson the latest to be added to the list after injuring his ankle against the Rabbitohs last week.
The Knights have lost both of their daytime games this season and flagged noticeably at Bluetongue Stadium after backing up from their Monday night victory over Cronulla in round two.
It is Manly who will have to contend with the Monday night factor this week and like the teams that have preceded them on the Monday turnaround this season they could struggle after halftime.
Look to a Newcastle try as First Scoring Play ($2-35) and consider a Knights/Sea Eagles ($6-50) or a Sea Eagles/Knights outcome in the Half/Full Double ($7-50).
First Tryscoring chances rest with James McManus ($13), Akuila Uate ($13) or Junior Sau ($15) for the Knights or Michael Robertson ($15), Michael Bani ($13) or Steve Matai ($15) for Manly.
Canberra v North Queensland
The Raiders could be excused for feeling exasperated after losing to Parramatta last Saturday night.
Without their inspirational skipper Alan Tongue, Canberra were poised to produce a stunning upset win away from home until a series of controversial decisions went against them and the Eels launched their late Houdini act.
Canberra undoubtedly contributed to the loss with some crucial errors but even their opponents conceded that they had been the better side on the night.
It was a performance that could demoralise the club after three straight losses but the return of Tongue should ensure the team remains positive.
Coach David Furner reacted to the team's 0-3 start by dropping fullback David Milne and winger Brett Kelly, recalling the experienced Adrian Purtell and promoting exciting Toyota Cup fullback Josh Dugan.
Man of the match in last year's Toyota Cup grand final, Dugan promises to add plenty of zip in broken play and could thrive on the opportunities provided by five-eighth Terry Campese.
The Cowboys have won their last three matches against the Raiders but may not find the cool conditions in Canberra to their liking.
Look to a Canberra try as First Scoring Play ($2-30) and a Raiders/Cowboys ($6-50) or Cowboys/Raiders ($7) outcome in the Half/Full Double.
For First Tryscorer consider Jarrod Croker ($15), Joel Monaghan ($13) or Josh Dugan ($15) for the Raiders or John Williams ($13), Matt Bowen ($11) or Ty Williams ($15) for the Cowboys.