NRL ROUND 19
Eels v Bulldogs
Not the greatest match to kick off Round 19 given how poorly both have performed this season but it does loom as a possible ‘wooden spoon war’ as both are in contention for the dreaded title, the Eels more so than the Bulldogs though.
We’d backed the Eels to get one over the Knights last week based on the recent upturn in their form and the side they’d named on paper being simply too hard to ignore, ignore it we should have though as the Knights snuck home off the back of an inspirational return to the field by Pearce. This week is much the same as I’m finding the Eels side on paper once again hard to ignore, especially when matched up against the Bulldogs, in particular the halves where Norman and Moses will surely outshine their young and inexperienced opposites.
The Bulldogs will eye the middle of the park as to where they can get some ascendancy but as long as the Eels attitudes are right on the night (which they should be given the looming wooden spoon) then they have the power to match the Dogs up front who have been equally as inconsistent in attitude as the Eels pack.
There is always plenty of feeling in this local derby and after the initial heated exchanges have died down it’s the Eels that I can see kicking on as they’ll be hurting following last weeks close loss to the Knights, have been on the improve of late and certainly don’t lack attacking quality with a backline from their halves right through to Gutherson at the back all capable of breaking a game open. Pick - 3 units on Eels -2.5 point start
Broncos v Panthers
To say the Broncos will have been licking their wounds all week following their embarrassing thrashing at the hands of the Warriors is an understatement, they simply did not show up and let the Warriors walk all over them and it’s fair to say Bennett will have put them through a very tough week of training and soul searching ahead of this crucial game.
That loss to the Warriors last week did come out of the blue somewhat as the Broncos had won three on the trot leading into it, complacency could have been a factor in the loss but there really were no excuses and given they’re now 8th on the ladder every game counts from here on in, especially with a fast finishing Raiders side looking the goods.
The Panthers have suffered through the origin period and go into this with one win from their past four matches, that win ironically came whilst they were at their most depleted state against the Warriors. The return to a mostly full-strength side will give the Panthers confidence going into this clash but there are still question marks over the harmony of the back office and coaching staff which seems to have filtered down to the player level and that always sounds alarm bells.
The halves of the Broncos are a concern but they were hardly helped last week by the abject performance of their forward pack and will receive a much more comfortable ride here as the Broncos really take it to the Panther sup the middle which the backline should feed off.
There’s no way the Broncos will play that badly two weeks running and the bounce-back factor looms large here which is not good news for the Panthers as the Broncos have a very dangerous side especially when they’re out to prove a point. Pick – 3 units on Broncos -2.5 or better point start
Knights v Titans
Two of the worst defensive sides in the competition square off here in an afternoon game forecast to be played in brilliantly fine conditions - the perfect storm for a try-fest. The one nagging doubt surrounds both sides attacking qualities but with Pearce back in charge for the Knights last week they looked like they'd finally found their rudder and the Titans are due an explosive performance after two weeks of average efforts on attack.
Both sides have faint mathematical chances of making the play-offs if they go on an unlikely streak (and other results fall their way) and it's that faint hope that will keep them motivated here with expectation that we'll see a high-intensity encounter and a real hunger for the try line.
The last time these two played was back in Round 11 where the scoreboard got a real work over with the Titans running out 33-26 victors; the game prior to that was Round 9 last year where it was another high-scoring match with the Titans again victorious 38-8 so recent history also points towards this being an end to end encounter. You know where we're going with this. Pick - 4 units on total combined points 'over' 46.5 (BEST BET)
Tigers v Rabbitohs
The Tigers have made a habit of causing boil overs this season as they claimed another big skelp last week in downing the Dragons at WIN Stadium of all places too, keeping their slim finals hopes alive in the process.
To conquer two top-four sides in a row will be a big ask for the Tigers, especially given how well the Rabbitohs have been playing but if they can find a way of limiting the damage done up front by the likes of the Burgess brothers then they'll give themselves a chance and with Cleary being the intelligent coach he is I'm sure he'll have a well thought out plan in place.
The late season acquisition of Mbye is proving to be a great buy for the Tigers as he provides some security at the back and a dynamism that adds another strong to what is an underrated Tigers backline which can look as slick and well-drilled as any in the competition on its day.
The Tigers have given themselves a sniff at making the top eight but last week’s giant-killing effort will amount to little if they can't back it up here with a win; they've shown they're up for the big fights many times this season and I reckon we'll see another top effort, especially if Farah can have another top performance as he breathed life into the whole side last week. Pick - 2.5 units on Tigers +9.5 point start and 0.5 unit on Tigers to win by 12 points and under
Cowboys v Dragons
The plight of the Cowboys this season has caught most pundits off guard and is hardly the way Jonathon Thurston would have envisaged things panning out for his final season. As the curtain slowly comes down on Thurston’s glittering career each remaining home game is a treasure and he nor his teammates will be waving the white flag as despite the season being a failure they’ll be desperate to send their legend out on top in front of his adoring fans.
The Dragons have had two weeks of mediocrity as they’ve relinquished the top spot on the ladder following losses to the Storm and Tigers; what will be concerning for their coach McGregor will be the flimsy defence shown at key moments and the crucial errors they’re committing, particularly last week, where they bombed numerous tries.
Just two matches back the Cowboys pushed the current ladder leaders the Rabbitohs right to the wire, eventually losing by just one point, reminding us of what a force they can and should be and the return to Townsville will certainly lift them as they are running out of time to restore pride in the jersey and send JT out in style. Pick – 2 units on Cowboys to win
WEEK RESULTS STAKES ROI BEST BET Week Twenty-Two +6.11 16 38% LOST Week Twenty-One +10.12 11 92% WON Week Twenty -0.6 14 -4% LOST Week Nineteen +9.02 15 60% WON Week Eighteen -6.32 13 -49% LOST SOO 3 +5.25 4 130% N/A Week Seventeen -7 7 -100% LOST Week Sixteen -1.7 11 -15% LOST Week Fifteen -3.87 17 -23% LOST Week Fourteen +3.44 10 34% WON SOO 1 +3.64 4 91% N/A Week Thirteen -7 7 -100% LOST Week Twelve +6.34 13 49% WON Week Eleven +1.24 15 8% WON Week Ten +3.96 12 33% WON Week Nine +9.67 10 97% WON Week Eight -1.09 13 8% LOST Week Seven +18.27 15 123% WON Week Six -3.51 15 -23% LOST Week Five -3.3 15 -22% LOST Week Four +3.6 11 33% N/A Week Three -7 7 -100% LOST Week Two -4.5 12 -38% LOST Week One -5.27 11 -48% LOST Total +29.5 294 10% 38%