NRL ROUND 5
Bulldogs v Broncos
It’s fair to say that Des Hasler’s tenure as coach of the Bulldogs is hanging by a thread coming off a heavy defeat at the hands of the Sea Eagles which now has them at just one win for the season, this is a proud club though so they’ll be desperate to put in a big effort here.
Despite the media claims of Bennett having lost the dressing room the Broncos are still putting in plenty on the park and came up with another gutsy win last week against the Raiders, it’s fair to say though they’re not at the peak of their powers at present.
The Bulldogs have suffered a blow with the suspension of Mbye, with the inexperienced Frawley replacing him at halfback in an otherwise unchanged side to last week; meanwhile the Broncos have named the same side to that which beat the Raiders.
The quality and experience the Broncos boast makes them the obvious favourites here but as mentioned they’re not playing at their best but even at 90% they’re still good enough to get the win over this Bulldogs side, they will meet plenty of resistance though as the home side dig deep on defence. The forecast is not great for Thursday night in Sydney and I don’t see this being a try-fest – the Broncos will do enough to come away with the win and we’ll take the value in the margins. Pick - 2 units on Broncos to win by 12 points and under
Roosters v Sea Eagles
The Roosters remain unbeaten after taking care of the Rabbitohs last week and once again showed this 2017 version has a much more hardened professional edge to them which has them playing to a consistently high level – a very rear quality in this competition when you look at the drastic fluctuations in other teams performances from one week to the next.
The dramatic turnaround of the Sea Eagles over the past two weeks has been quite incredible with huge wins over the Cowboys and Bulldogs which were orchestrated by DCE who has been on fire but has been helped by the physicality and dominance of his forwards. This will be another step up for the Sea Eagles against an in-form and hardened Roosters pack and I can’t see DCE getting quite the armchair ride he’s enjoyed over the past fortnight.
Friend returns at hooker for the Roosters to further add to their already experienced pack and as good as the Sea Eagles have been of late I just can’t see them keeping pace as dominance up front from the Roosters will give plenty of chance for Pearce and Keary to lay it on out wide. We’ll take the Roosters to cover the start on offer. Pick – 4 units on Roosters -7.5 point start (BEST BET)
Raiders v Eels
The Raiders have fought hard but have just the one win to their name thus far and it’s fair to say they’ll be desperate for the much needed victory here, the same can be said for the Eels too but they’ve tailed off in the last two matches and failed to build on their quick start to the season.
Both these sides pack plenty of punch on attack and I can see this late afternoon match, played in what’s forecast to be fine conditions, being a high-scoring affair. Last time the Raiders played at home they thrashed the Tigers 46-6 and whilst the Eels will put up a bit more defensive resistance I can still see the Raiders clocking up some big numbers. Cory Norman is the key to the Eels attack and will no doubt look to unleash French, Radradra and Jennings out wide as all three are devastating with any space.
This promises to be an entertaining match, the start on offer to the Eels seems about right but the combined points line at around 42.5 is too low. Pick – 3 units on total combined points ‘over’ 43.5
Warriors v Titans
All of the pre-season hype and hope surrounding the Warriors has long been forgotten after a series of terrible performances which has them at just one win for the season; that hope is rapidly turning into frustration and even anger amongst their expectant fans so they need to turn things around fast, starting this week.
The naming of Foran to start at five-eighth means that the Warriors have for the first time (on paper anyway as it will remain to be seen if he actually plays) the ‘superstar’ spine (as they were being lauded pre-season) all taking the field at once. If Foran does play then I’ve no doubt he’ll lift the Warriors performance as even though he’s been out of the game for a long time he’ll still bring that competitive and winning attitude that the Warriors are missing, he plays hard and will lift those around him to do so too.
The Titans have been hit hard with injuries already this season and in my opinion the Warriors will not get a better chance all year (apart from the one they’ve already had against the Knights) to grab a win – they’re at home, have named their best side and are against a side unfavoured to make the top eight.
Everything about this match screams ‘MUST WIN!!!!’ for the Warriors and as bad as they have been they’ll get the job done here as I expect their much criticized forward pack to fire up and create a bit more space for Johnson, Foran and RTS to work their stuff. If they fire up, like I’m expecting they will, then the defense should take care of itself with good line speed and desperation against what is an ok Titans attack.
It’s not something I like to do (based on a history of disappointment) but my instincts are screaming at me to back the Warriors for the comfortable win here – take them to cover the relatively narrow start. Pick - 3 units on Warriors -6.0 point start
Tigers v Dragons
The Tigers predictably reacted to the firing of their coach Jason Taylor with a spirited performance against the Storm last week, racing out to a healthy lead only to lose steam down the stretch but despite the loss they did show what they’re capable of and I’m confident they’ll carry that effort and enthusiasm into this clash.
The Dragons are the surprise package of the competition thus far having won three from four matches, we’ve seen in that small sample group of matches though the best and worst of them as they went from thrashing the Panthers in round one to being thrashed by the Eels in round two and I get the feeling their season will be riddled with inconsistency.
With Luke Brooks out injured here the opportunity to spark some attack at halfback goes to Littlejohn who along with Moses and Tedesco really do need to get the Tigers offence humming. The big challenge for the Tigers will be matching it with the Dragons pack who are playing out of their skin, I can see them lifting and getting a degree of parity though if last week’s performance is anything to go by.
Tedesco and Nofoaluma are leading the competition in tackle breaks and with Idris starting for the first time in the center’s the Tigers do not lack punch out wide – I really do see this coming down to how badly the side want it and without a coach to now blame for their woes the players realise they have to step up – which is what I believe they will do from the outset of this clash. We’ll have a nibble at the decent odds on offer for the Tigers to be leading at both half and fulltime as they jump out of the boxes and lead all the way. Pick – 2 units on Tigers/Tigers half/fulltime double