The 2016 NRL season returns to action on Thursday with every team having suffered a loss over the opening four rounds. Continue reading for our NRL Round 5 Preview and Betting Tips.
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Manly Sea Eagles vs South Sydney Rabbitohs (Thursday, March 31 at 8.05pm AEDT)
The Sea Eagles managed to hold on for victory against the winless Roosters on Saturday but it took a bit of luck and a controversial decision from the bunker. The two points came as a cost with halfback Daly Cherry-Evans suffering a high ankle sprain and will miss up to a month of football. This puts the home side in a dangerous position as they already have question marks surrounding Dylan Walker playing in the halves as he is predominantly a runner of the football. If they need to rely on him to be the playmaker, they will likely struggle to score points. Jamie Buhrer also suffered an injury in his return and won’t return until round 9. In a positive for the club, big men Martin Taupau and Brenton Lawrence will return from serving one-week suspensions and will add a lot of punch up front.
The Rabbitohs were blown off the park last week and it was clear the side didn’t turn up with their heads switched on. The Bulldogs made 100m in their opening set off the kick off which is unheard of against any side and especially the Rabbitohs that pride themselves on bashing sides up the middle. Sam Burgess returns whilst his brother Thomas could possibly make the line up also. They will still be without halfback Adam Reynolds and John Sutton and I expect the side to return to the basics this weekend after having a lot of dropped ball last week, especially in their own half.
Argualy the biggest issue with the Rabbitohs right now is the poor form of Greg Inglis. Whether he is hampered by injury or not, their captain has been sluggish in all aspects of his game and is no longer the intimidating and dangerous runner of the football that defences would shudder at. He needs to regain the form and carry his side in the absence of other key players and play at the level he shows during Origin. However, the return of the Burgess brothers will help the Rabbitohs, their willingness to want to bounce back after last week’s embarrassment, and Manly’s loss of Cherry-Evans whilst also playing their third game in 10 days will all contribute to a victory for the Rabbitohs.
Gold Coast Titans vs Brisbane Broncos (Friday, April 1 at 8.05pm AEDT)
It was deja vu for the Broncos and their fans on Friday night as the Cowboys found a way to level the scores in the final minute and send the match into overtime. However, this time it was the Broncos who came out on top and a lot of it was due to what we stated last week – The Broncos needed to find a way to get James Roberts involved if they were going to win. They did that successfully and Anthony Milford also had a tremendous game as he continues to grow as a playmaker whilst his running game is constantly a danger for the opposition defences.
Meanwhile the Titans have been shocking everyone as they have won three of their opening four matches and find themselves in the top four. They have overcame a lot of injuries to be successful and they will need to do it again as they will be without five-eighth Tyrone Roberts in this one. Whilst the Titans have impressed, it is another step up to take on the Broncos and their inexperience will show in this one as they fall by a big score line.
Melbourne Storm vs Newcastle Knights (Saturday, April 2 at 3pm AEDT)
The Knights had their best forty minutes in the first half against the Warriors but then they returned to the side that had faced the Rabbitohs in the second half and were dominated. The side currently has nine players on the sidelines and for an already weaker and experienced squad compared to most teams it is a hard ask for the side to put in a full 80-minute performance.
The Storm had an uncharacteristic match against the Sharks on Monday as they made a lot of handling errors and pushed passes that weren’t on. Coach Craig Bellamy would have been fuming and he will expect a more complete performance this weekend. Cameron Munster continues to impress at fullback as a replacement for Billy Slater and he was constantly involved in everything and was their best player on a losing side. Losing Kevin Proctor prior to the game was a huge loss on the edge and he will be a boost this weekend as he returns to the side. It is a tough road trip for any side heading to Melbourne but a five-day turn around travelling from New Zealand will impact the Knights even more and contribute to a blow out victory for the Storm.
Wests Tigers vs Cronulla Sharks (Saturday, April 2 at 5.30pm AEDT)
The Sharks captain Paul Gallen almost returned to action on Monday against the Storm which suggests he is a certain starter this weekend against the Tigers. His workload will be welcomed back to the side and it will help take a lot of pressure off the forwards around him. Ben Barba was able to take his game to another level and showed a lot of confidence as he ran straight through a massive hold and burned fullback Cameron Munster with his pace to score the opening try for the Sharks. He also pulled off a try-saving tackle in the final minutes to ensure his side would have victory. The Sharks should have won the match by a lot more as Valentine Holmes suffered a case of butter fingers as he dropped the ball three teams just metres away from the line in a great position to score.
Meanwhile the Tigers were nowhere near their best as they were held scoreless against the Eels. The Parramatta side needs to be credited for its great defence but the Tigers barely challenged them in attack as they constantly hit one up off the ruck despite trailing with minutes remaining in the match. Their reliance on James Tedesco to provide magic was on show as they constantly gave him the ball near the end of their set and hoped he would produce a miracle. The Sharks will be able to outmuscle the Tigers up front and it is unlikely Holmes will have a day like he did on Monday anytime in the near future and the Sharks will earn the victory.
North Queensland Cowboys vs St George Illawarra Dragons (Saturday, April 2 at 7.30pm AEDT)
The Dragons have bounced back after a poor start to the season to win their last two games. Other than their loss to the Sharks, their matches have been decided by two points but their match shouldn’t be that close this weekend. Despite the move of Josh Dugan back to fullback being a success as they have two victories – their attack still has struggled as they have scored just 22 points in the two matches. Dugan is a great ball runner but his inability to pass the ball will make it easy for the Cowboys to defend against him.
The Cowboys were unfortunate not to earn the win in the Grand Final rematch against the Broncos as a few decisions went against them. The side lost their centre Kane Linnett and he will be out of action for at least three weeks. However, the rest of the side is at full strength and the improved performance of Michael Morgan suggests he has found his form from last season. The Cowboys will earn the victory but with such a big line against a strong defensive team, I suggest steering clear of betting on this match.
TIP: No bet
Sydney Roosters vs New Zealand Warriors (Sunday, April 3 at 2pm AEDT)
After a poor first half, the Warriors came out flying in the second half and blew the Knights off the park. They were far too strong and a lot of their success came off the back of Shaun Johnson returning to his strength, which is his running game. The five-eighth had a lot of criticism placed on him but it was his confidence letting him down after suffering a severely broken ankle whilst scoring a try last season. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck also had his best game of the season whilst Isaac Luke returned earlier than expected from injury.
The Roosters almost earned their first win of the season as they put on a strong performance against the Sea Eagles. Blake Fergurson had a great game and he and other experienced players need to continue to step up in the absence of Mitchell Pearce, Boyd Cordner and Jared Warea-Hargreaves.
The Warriors lost to the Broncos and Storm in close encounters and showed they have the ability to tear sides apart with their attack last week. If they can find some consistency and hold onto the ball they should dominate the Roosters this weekend.
Parramatta Eels vs Penrith Panthers (Sunday, April 3 at 4pm AEDT)
Matt Moylan was unable to return for the Panthers last week and he was definitely needed as the side struggled to break the strong defensive line of the Dragons. He is almost a certainty to be in the line up this weekend and they will need him if they are going to break the defence of the Eels that held the Tigers scoreless for 80-minutes. The Eels have conceded the least amount of points in the competition and are averaging less than 10-points against them a game.
The Eels have won three straight games, including a win against the defending champions the Cowboys. The addition of Kieran Foran to the side has been wonders for the club as he has given them a lot of leadership and structure. Their forward pack is big, strong and intimidating and Junior Paulo has been leading from the front and was the sole try scorer on the weekend. We are backing the Eels defence to hold against the Panthers whilst they will be able to create enough chances to earn a narrow victory.
Canterbury Bulldogs vs Canberra Raiders (Monday, April 4 at 7pm AEDT)
The Bulldogs showed the form they had in the opening week of the competition as they demolished the Rabbitohs last week. Their forwards were making big metres whilst in defence they had quick line speed and were putting the Rabbitohs on the back foot from the start. They will need to show that again this weekend as they face a big Raiders forward pack that will want revenge after letting a big lead slip for the second time in two weeks.
The Raiders allowing comebacks against is likely a result of them losing their halves pairing Aiden Seizer and Blake Austin. Seizer is an experienced half and he would play out the match in a stronger way that would shut out the opposition whilst Austin is a quality player that would contribute to his side scoring a lot more points. It is possible for them to return this weekend, however the Bulldogs will still be too strong if can find some consistency.
Head to the official NRL website for the full Round 5 schedule.
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Take note: Any of the tips in this article are simply the author’s opinion, so bet at your own risk and always gamble responsibly. Also be sure to check out the Before You Bet Twitter Page for all our thoughts in the lead up to bets! Happy punting!
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