NRL Tips & Preview – Round 13

Sports writer, JASON OLIVER, looks over all 8 teams and previews this weekend’s Rugby League action with his NRL tips for all Round 13 matches.

Titans Cowboys
Jayden Campbell 1 Scott Drinkwater
Corey Thompson 2 Brendan Elliot
Brian Kelly 3 Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow
Patrick Herbert 4 Peta Hiku
Jamayne Isaako 5 Murray Taulagi
AJ Brimson 6 Ben Hampton
Toby Sexton 7 Chad Townsend
Moeaki Fotuaika 8 Jordan McLean
Erin Clark 9 Reece Robson
Jarrod Wallace 10 Coen Hess
Sam McIntyre 11 Tom Gilbert
Beau Fermor 12 Heilum Luki
Isaac Liu 13 Jason Taumalolo
Tanah Boyd 14 Jake Granville
Jaimin Jolliffe 15 Connelly Lemuelu
Esan Marsters 16 Jamayne Taunoa-Brown
Sam Lisone 17 Griffin Neame


History:
Played 28, Titans 11, Cowboys 17

Last Meeting: Round 7, 2022: Cowboys 30 def. Titans 4

Final Thoughts: The Gold Coast Titans did it again in Round 12… They blew yet another lead to fall to the Broncos 35-24. While the North Queensland Cowboys fell to the Panthers 22-0, they gave a good account of themselves. Defensively, in particular.

The Titans are without Tino Fa’asuamaleaui due to State of Origin and David Fifita to injury. However, Moeaki Fotuaika will make his return from injury. Patrick Herbert also returns which pushes Esan Marsters to the bench. Jason Taumalolo’s return for the Cowboys will help them cope with the absence of Val Holmes, Reuben Cotter, Tom Dearden and Jeremiah Nanai to Origin. Brendan Elliot, Connelly Lemuelu and Ben Hampton are the new faces in the side.

The Titans are doing something wrong – clearly. They look like a genuinely dangerous football side at their best. With a strong middle and two dangerous runners of the ball out wide in AJ Brimson and Jayden Campbell, they can score from anywhere. It’s the poor periods. The moments they fall asleep and allow the opposition to pile up points where the Titans fall over. While the Cowboys are depleted, there are still a lot of points in this side. Chad Townsend has done an excellent job of organising the Cowboys and moving them around the field. Scott Drinkwater sends teammates over the line at will and still has Peta Hiku, Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and Murray Taulagi to find out wide. Meanwhile, the foundations of the second-best defence in the NRL remain for the Cowboys. At the very least, they will make things difficult for the Titans with the ball. As we’ve seen time and time again, the Titans don’t cope well when things start to get difficult.

Tip: Handicap – Cowboys -5.5 @ $1.90

Panthers Bulldogs
Dylan Edwards 1 Matt Dufty
Taylan May 2 Jacob Kiraz
Izack Tago 3 Aaron Schoupp
Robert Jennings 4 Jake Averillo
Charlie Staines 5 Josh Addo-Carr
Kurt Falls 6 Matt Burton
Sean O’Sullivan 7 Kyle Flanagan
Moses Leota 8 Luke Thompson
Apisai Koroisau 9 Jeremy Marshall-King
James Fisher-Harris 10 Paul Vaughan
Viliame Kikau 11 Josh Jackson
Chris Smith 12 Raymond Faitala-Mariner
Matthew Eisenhuth 13 Max King
Mitch Kenny 14 Zach Dockar-Clay
Scott Sorensen 15 Corey Waddell
Spencer Leniu 16 Chris Patolo
Jaeman Salmon 17 Ava Seumanufagai


History:
Played 43, Panthers 24, Bulldogs 18

Last Meeting: Round 5, 2022: Panthers 32 def. Bulldogs 12

Final Thoughts: The Penrith Panthers needed to dig into their bag of tricks to get past a resilient Cowboys side 22-0 last week. The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs have no such bag of tricks. Another week, another loss. This time to the Dragons 34-24.

Major changes for the Panthers: Nathan Cleary, Stephen Crichton, Jarome Luai, Brian To’o and Isaah Yeo all out. Sean O’Sullivan, Robert Jennings, Charlie Staines, Chris Smith and Matt Eisenhuth all in. Kurt Falls will make his NRL debut at five-eighth. For the Bulldogs, Tevita Pangai Jr. is again unavailable but Raymond Faitala-Mariner is back into the starting side.

We’ve seen the Panthers play well without Cleary already this season, but it’s a bit different this time around. They managed to get by with Yeo playing a dominant role but he’s not around for this one either. Still, against a terrible Bulldogs side that plays with the worst attack in the NRL, the Panthers should still be too strong. The defensive systems remain for Penrith. While they may not be quite so potent with the ball, they will continue to play a patient brand in attack and rely on their defence to get the job done. The Bulldogs average 11.8 points per game. Showing little sign of improvement all year, it’s unlikely they find form with the ball against the defending premiers – depleted or not. The Bulldogs need to win the middle to be a chance but it’s an area the Panthers are still superior. James Fisher-Harris, Moses Leota and Spencer Leniu is arguably the best prop trio running around in the NRL this week. They will lay the platform for Sean O’Sullivan to kick well. From there, the Panthers will apply pressure on the Bulldogs defence until it cracks.

Tip: Total Score – Under 38.5 Points @ $1.90

Sea Eagles Warriors
Reuben Garrick 1 Reece Walsh
Jason Saab 2 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
Morgan Harper 3 Rocco Berry
Tolutau Koula 4 Adam Pompey
Christian Tuipulotu 5 Marcelo Montoya
Josh Schuster 6 Chanel Harris-Tavita
Kieran Foran 7 Shaun Johnson
Josh Aloiai 8 Ben Murdoch-Masila
Lachlan Croker 9 Wayde Egan
Toafofoa Sipley 10 Jazz Tevaga
Haumole Olakau’atu 11 Euan Aitken
Andrew Davey 12 Tohu Harris
Jake Trbojevic 13 Jack Murchie
Dylan Walker 14 Taniela Otukolo
Karl Lawton 15 Bunty Afoa
Marty Taupau 16 Aaron Pene
Sean Keppie 17 Bayley Sironen


History:
Played 36, Sea Eagles 24, Warriors 12

Last Meeting: Round 9, 2021: Sea Eagles 38 def. Warriors 32

Final Thoughts: The Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles came up against a Storm side that doesn’t lose three on the bounce last week. Craig Bellamy’s side got the job done with relative ease to win 28-8. The New Zealand Warriors, on the other hand, do lose three on the bounce. Four, in fact. They lost to the Knights 24-16 in embarrassing fashion in Round 12.

The Sea Eagles are without Daly Cherry-Evans for this one but will welcome the return of Marty Taupau, Jason Saab and Karl Lawton. Josh Schuster is into five-eighth with Kieran Foran at halfback. As for the Warriors, Wayde Egan and Bayley Sironen are back in place of Freddy Lussick and Dunamis Lui. Rocco Berry is in for the injured Viliami Vailea.

While the Sea Eagles couldn’t keep up with the Storm last week, they’ve at least shown glimpses in recent weeks. The Warriors, however, have not. They’re going backwards and there is little to suggest they find any sort of form this week. Des Hasler is without Cherry-Evans and Tom Trbojevic but the Sea Eagles have enough through the middle to dominate this one. Neither side are particularly dangerous in attack. The Sea Eagles are still adjusting to life without their fullback while the Warriors haven’t seemed to adjust at all. They’re still trying to go around the opposition rather than doing the hard work through the middle and the defence is having no trouble covering them on the slide. Manly’s edges are questionable in defence. Their right edge has offered free passage to the try line all season. However, the Warriors are the worst defensive team in the NRL. With Schuster, Foran and Jake Trbojevic all engaging the middle before sending it wide, it looks as though it will be the Sea Eagles finding success on the edges this week.

Tip: Win Try Combo – Tuipulotu anytime/Sea Eagles win @ $2.60

Raiders Roosters
Xavier Savage 1 Joseph Manu
Nick Cotric 2 Billy Smith
Matthew Timoko 3 Paul Momirovski
Sebastian Kris 4 Kevin Naiqama
Jordan Rapana 5 Joseph Suaalii
Matt Frawley 6 Sam Walker
Jamal Fogarty 7 Luke Keary
Corey Horsburgh 8 Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
Zac Woolford 9 Drew Hutchison
Joseph Tapine 10 Siosiua Taukeiaho
Hudson Young 11 Angus Crichton
Elliott Whitehead 12 Sitili Tupouniua
Adam Elliott 13 Nat Butcher
Tom Starling 14 Connor Watson
Ryan Sutton 15 Fletcher Baker
Corey Harawira-Naeraa 16 Egan Butcher
Trey Mooney 17 Terrell May


History:
Played 42, Raiders 14, Roosters 28

Last Meeting: Round 25, 2021: Roosters 40 def. Raiders 16

Final Thoughts: The Canberra Raiders fell 28-20 to the Eels last week but are starting to look a lot better overall. Similarly, the Sydney Roosters are starting to click and thumped the Sharks 36-16 in Round 12.

Jack Wighton and Josh Papalii miss this one for the Raiders. Matt Frawley is into the halves while Corey Horsburgh starts at prop. Joseph Manu takes James Tedesco’s spot at the back for the Roosters with Kevin Naiqama moving into the centres. Billy Smith replaces Daniel Tupou on the wing.

Both the Raiders and Roosters are trending up following slow starts to the 2022 NRL season. Ricky Stuart’s side has won three of their last four and played well while losing to the Eels last week. They continue to offload the ball more than 14 other teams in the competition, and recently, they’re going to hand. Josh Papalii has been superb in that regard but Corey Horsburgh and Joseph Tapine will be able to pick up the slack between them. Meanwhile, the Roosters have found a better balance between Sam Walker and Luke Keary and look a lot better for it. Keary has taken on a lot more responsibility with the ball and allowed Walker to pop up when he can. That has allowed James Tedesco to do similar. While Teddy isn’t available for this one, Joseph Manu is one of the best fullbacks in the NRL. Canberra’s attack is the worry this week. They can keep it close defensively but if they allow Sydney to get out to a lead, it’s difficult to see them chasing it down. They average only 17.5 points per game and that will be a tough number to crack with not only with Jack Wighton out, but with Jamal Fogarty still easing his way into the side. The Roosters have come good at the right time and know they can’t take a backwards step through the Origin period. Expect them play at a high tempo and look to get out in front early on in this one.

Tip: Handicap – Roosters -3.5 @ $1.90