Thursday, 23 April 2009
: TAB Sportsbet Previews Round 7 with latest Team and betting news.
Brisbane v Parramatta
Parramatta's new halves pairing of Kris Keating and Feleti Mateo will have their work cut out when they confront the Broncos on Friday night.
They will be up against one of the most accomplished halves partnerships in the NRL in Darren Lockyer and Peter Wallace. The Brisbane pair may have been together for little more than one season but they have developed a tremendous understanding and are the architects for the majority of the Broncos' attacking plays.
Keating and Mateo are mere novices by comparison and their lack of combination was evident in the Eels' heavy loss to the Bulldogs last Sunday. Since Brett Finch's sudden departure three weeks ago, Parramatta have struggled for effectiveness in their last play options and that invariably leads to frustration among the rest of the team.
The Eels once relished the journey to Brisbane but in recent times they have garnered only one victory from their past four visits.
Brisbane have scored the first try in five of their six games while the Eels have conceded the first try in every game they have played. Stick with a Broncos try as First Scoring Play ($1-80) and consider a Brisbane win by 13+ points ($2-10).
Best options for First Tryscorer include Israel Folau ($8), Antonio Winterstein ($10), Justin Hodges ($11) or Karmichael Hunt ($13) for the Broncos or Jarryd Hayne ($13) for the Eels.
Souths v Cronulla
The return of rugged Test forward Paul Gallen cannot come quickly enough for the Sharks who have virtually sunk without trace in his absence.
Gallen may not provide the panacea for all of the club's ills but he will instil some much-needed aggression and passion into their play.
The Sharks have laboured in attack all season (and for much of last), managing an average of only two tries per game in 2009. They were among the worst attacking teams in the competition last year as well but their defence was almost impregnable last year and they won almost every close game they contested.
This year has been a different story with injuries and suspensions ensuring the Sharks got off to the worst possible start. At 1-5 they face an uphill battle to resurrect their season but they are only two wins adrift of the top eight so there is plenty of opportunity for them if they are good enough.
Despite a brilliant opening to their campaign, Souths have also struggled for points in recent weeks and halfback Chris Sandow has noticeably dropped in confidence.
Look to a Sharks try as First Scoring Play ($2-30) and a Rabbitohs/Sharks ($7-50) or Sharks/Rabbitohs ($6-50) outcome in the Half/Full Double.
For First Tryscorer consider Fetuli Talanoa ($13), Nathan Merritt ($11) or Luke Capewell ($15) for Souths or Ben Pomeroy ($15), Mitch Brown ($15) or David Simmons ($13) for Cronulla.
Sydney Roosters v St George Illawarra
New South Wales selectors may have done Brad Fittler a favour this week by leaving Roosters big guns Braith Anasta, Willie Mason and Craig Fitzgibbon out of the preliminary State of Origin squad.
The high-profile trio will take on the Dragons with added motivation and that can only be a positive for the Roosters who have been hampered by inconsistent performance all season.
The last two weeks have been a nightmare for Fittler. He watched them fall behind 18-0 against the Broncos before fighting back to lose by four and then last week they charged to a 16-0 halftime lead against the Warriors, only to go down in golden point.
The Dragons suffered a surprise defeat against Newcastle last Saturday when they clearly missed the defensive muscle of Neville Costigan and Michael Weyman. The Knights were the first team this season to disrupt the Dragons' defence in the middle of the field but the return of the experienced duo should fix the problem.
Look to a penalty goal to either side as First Scoring Play ($8-50 each) and a Roosters/Dragons ($6-50) or Dragons/Roosters ($7-50) result in the Half/Full Double.
Best chances for First Tryscorer are Sam Perrett ($15), Iosia Soliola ($15) or Shaun Kenny-Dowall ($11) for the Roosters or Darius Boyd ($13), Brett Morris ($11) or Wendell Sailor ($11) for the Dragons.
Melbourne v Warriors
The Warriors are likely to experience little trepidation when they journey to Olympic Park this week following their giant-killing performance at the ground last September.
Ivan Cleary's outfit made history when they became the first eighth-placed team to knock over the minor premiers under the McIntyre finals system. It was their second victory in three visits to a ground that is fast losing its reputation as “The Graveyard”.
Melbourne's attacking game has all but dried up at Olympic Park this season and they have managed an average of only 13 points in their three appearances. In those games they have conjured a golden point victory over the Dragons, lost by 12 points to the Titans and pipped the Panthers by two points.
Home fans grew accustomed to the site of giant Israel Folau charging over for tries from the boot or the hands of Cooper Cronk over the past two seasons but with Folau's departure to Brisbane the tries have virtually disappeared.
The Warriors bounced back from three straight losses to overcome the Roosters in extra-time last Sunday; the win coinciding with the return from injury of Steve Price, Lance Hohaia and Manu Vatuvei. All played important roles in the win, underling their importance to the team.
Consider a Warriors try as First Scoring Play ($2-50) and a Warriors victory by 1-12 points ($4-25).
First Tryscoring options include Billy Slater ($8), Greg Inglis ($8) or Anthony Quinn ($11) for the Storm or Manu Vatuvei ($11), Jerome Ropati ($15) or Denan Kemp ($13) for the Warriors.
North Queensland v Manly
The short-term prospects of the Sea Eagles nosedived earlier this week when the news of Brett Stewart's injury setback broke.
The possibility of missing their star fullback for the next 12 weeks could come at a huge cost for the premiers, who had just begun to rediscover their touch after a disastrous start to the season.
Stewart played a huge part in the mini-revival, scoring five tries in wins against the Wests Tigers and Souths, but now the team's confidence is likely to be shattered.
The Sea Eagles will confront a North Queensland side who found form in the second half of their game against Cronulla in Adelaide last Sunday.
With pressure mounting from Gold Coast Titans halfback Scott Prince, Cowboy skipper Johnathan Thurston produced his best game of the season and he may be ready to ignite his team.
Manly have scored convincing wins in their last two matches against the Cowboys but their recent record in Townsville is poor.
Look to a Cowboys try as First Scoring Play ($2-25) and a North Queensland victory by 13+ points ($3-40).
Players to consider for First Tryscorer include Matt Bowen ($11), Willie Tonga ($15) and Ashley Graham ($15) for the Cowboys or Jamie Lyon ($13), Michael Bani ($13) or Michael Robertson ($15) for Manly
Canberra v Bulldogs
The foot injury that has sidelined centre Josh Morris could have a serious impact on the Bulldogs, who have been highly effective down the left side of the field this season.
Morris and winger Bryson Goodwin have each collected five tries, many of them the result of Morris' direct and powerful bursts. Rookie Jamal Idris was selected as Morris' replacement this week but both he and Daryl Millard are more often seen on the right side of the field.
The magnitude of their win over the Eels last Sunday flattered the Bulldogs, who looked tired after a heavy defensive workload in the first half and an attack of “Mondayitis” following their previous week's win over Souths.
Canberra went close to achieving back-to-back away wins when they fell by six to the Titans last Friday night but they should be far more comfortable playing on home soil. The Raiders have beaten the Bulldogs in three of their last four encounters at Canberra Stadium.
Look to a penalty goal to either side as First Scoring Play ($13) but stick with a Bulldogs victory by 1-12 points ($3-40).
First Tryscoring options include Joel Monaghan ($13), Josh Dugan ($15) or Jarrod Croker ($11) for the Raiders or Bryson Goodwin ($11), Luke Patten ($15) or Hazem El Masri ($13) for the Bulldogs.
Wests Tigers v Newcastle
Wests Tigers have not managed to string two winning performances together this season but they will have a good opportunity when they confront Newcastle at Campbelltown Stadium this Sunday.
The Tigers were outstanding in their 16-6 defeat of Melbourne last Monday night, at last discovering their defensive steel to limit the Storm to a single try.
There were signs of an improved defensive performance in their previous week's loss to Manly but if they can maintain their standard then results will surely improve.
They will need to guard against fatigue after playing in heavy conditions at Leichhardt and after six rounds only three of 10 teams have managed to beat the Monday night curse. And they will need to sustain their effort against a Newcastle side that has shown itself to be ready and willing to give maximum effort for 80 minutes.
The Knights' forward pack is under-rated however the likes of Ben Cross and Mark Taufua are establishing a strong presence up front and hooker Isaac De Gois is proving an effective replacement for Danny Buderus.
Consider a Knights try as First Scoring Play ($2-15) and a Newcastle win by 13+ points ($4-50).
Best hopes for First Tryscorer are Beau Ryan ($13), Taniela Tuiaki ($10) or Chris Lawrence ($11) for Wests Tigers or James McManus ($11), Adam MacDougall ($15) or Junior Sau ($15) for the Knights.
Penrith v Gold Coast
The Titans' confidence should be soaring after recent away wins in Melbourne and Townsville and success in the team's only previous visit to CUA Stadium should have John Cartwright's men in an optimistic mood.
Former Panther Preston Campbell was one of the Titans's stars when they won 24-22 at CUA in 2007 and he has been in vintage form for the Gold Coast in 2009.
The Titans are aiming for their fifth straight win to match precisely their start to the 2008 season. Just like last year, the Titans went win-loss in their opening games before embarking on an unbeaten run.
Penrith, meanwhile, are looking for improvement at CUA Stadium where they have managed only one win from their previous five games.
They matched the Broncos for a long period of last Friday night's game before conceding two late converted tries. The Panthers have now conceded 60 points in their last two home games.
Look to a Penrith try as First Scoring Play ($2-20) but consider a Panthers/Titans ($6-50) outcome in the Half/Full Double.
First Tryscoring hopefuls include Lachlan Coote ($15), Michael Gordon ($11) and Michael Jennings ($11) for the Panthers or Kevin Gordon ($13), Esi Tonga ($13) or Preston Campbell ($15) for the Titans.