Sports writer, JASON OLIVER, looks over all 4 teams and previews this weekend’s Rugby League action with his NRL tips for all Week 2 finals matches.
Parramatta Eels v Canberra Raiders @ CommBanks Stadium
|Clinton Gutherson||1||Xavier Savage|
|Maika Sivo||2||Nick Cotric|
|Will Penisini||3||Matthew Timoko|
|Tom Opacic||4||Sebastian Kris|
|Waqa Blake||5||Jordan Rapana|
|Dylan Brown||6||Jack Wighton|
|Mitchell Moses||7||Jamal Fogarty|
|Reagan Campbell-Gillard||8||Josh Papalii|
|Reed Mahoney||9||Zac Woolford|
|Junior Paulo||10||Joseph Tapine|
|Shaun Lane||11||Hudson Young|
|Isaiah Papali’i||12||Elliott Whitehead|
|Ryan Matterson||13||Corey Harawira-Naera|
|Makahesi Makatoa||14||Tom Starling|
|Jakob Arthur||15||Emre Guler|
|Oregon Kaufusi||16||Corey Horsburgh|
|Marata Niukore||17||Ryan Sutton|
History: Played 37, Eels 16, Raiders 21
Last Meeting: Round 12, 2022: Eels 28 def. Raiders 20
Form & Team News
The Parramatta Eels went into their fixture against the Penrith Panthers with high hopes and managed to get through to halftime only a point behind before losing 27-8. The Canberra Raiders travelled to Melbourne with similar hopes and turned them into an incredible 28-20 NRL Finals win over the Storm.
Mitchell Moses’ healthy is the main consideration during the week. He left the field after a head knock last week and needs to clear concussion protocols to play in this one. Otherwise, Brad Arthur has named the same 17 Eels again. Ricky Stuart would have liked to do the same with the Raiders but Adam Elliott will miss this one with a pelvic injury. Corey Harawira-Naera will start with Ryan Sutton to join the bench.
Where are the points coming from?
As favourites for the game, the Eels wingers are at the top of the list to cross first with Maika Sivo at $8 ($1.73 anytime) and Waqa Blake $9.75 ($2.10). He’s only scored in one of his last five games, but Clint Gutherson is on the second line of betting at $11 ($2.10). One of Jordan Rapana ($14/$2.55) or Nick Cotric ($15/$2.80) are likely to cross first if the Raiders are to cause an upset. The Raiders score most of their tries down the left edge, but Ricky Stuart pulls regular tricks on punters by routinely switching his wingers – tread carefully.
Hudson Young has been scoring tries for fun to have 14 this season. He’s at $3.60 anytime but he’s likely to be involved early. The Raiders will be looking to build pressure and pin the Eels in their own end to start. With Jack Wighton likely to be the one putting the grubber through on the left edge, look for Young to be sniffing around to pounce on it.
The Eels tries to beat the Panthers at their own game last week. It worked for roughly 50 minutes, but as has been the case for much of the last three years, the Panthers pulled away late. Their dominance in the middle, line speed and patience won out in the end. It’s important the Eels go back to what works for them on Friday. Offload at will (their 13.2 offloads per game is the most in the NRL), play down the tram lines and involve the big bodies early. Get up the field and allow the likes of Brown, Lane and Sivo to manufacture points. In contrast, we know what we’re going to get from the Raiders. They play direct through Joseph Tapine and Josh Papalii before firing a shot down the edges. Like Parramatta, the second phase is key for Canberra to throw 11.7 offloads per game (2nd). Parramatta are deserving favourites based on their form throughout the season, but the Raiders are flying into this one. They play with no fear. The Eels, on the other hand, will be playing to avoid yet another Week 2 defeat. If Canberra’s passes stick, we’re in for a boilover. Expect the first half to be low-scoring regardless, though.
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks v South Sydney Rabbitohs @ Allianz Stadium
|William Kennedy||1||Latrell Mitchell|
|Connor Tracey||2||Alex Johnston|
|Jesse Ramien||3||Isaiah Tass|
|Siosifa Talakai||4||Campbell Graham|
|Ronaldo Mulitalo||5||Taane Milne|
|Matt Moylan||6||Cody Walker|
|Nicho Hynes||7||Lachlan Ilias|
|Toby Rudolf||8||Tevita Tatola|
|Blayke Brailey||9||Damien Cook|
|Royce Hunt||10||Mark Nicholls|
|Briton Nikora||11||Keaon Koloamatangi|
|Wade Graham||12||Jai Arrow|
|Dale Finucane||13||Cameron Murray|
|Teig Wilton||14||Kodi Nikorima|
|Cameron McInnes||15||Hame Sele|
|Braden Hamlin-Uele||16||Michael Chee-Kam|
|Andrew Fifita||17||Siliva Havili|
History: Played 35, Sharks 19, Rabbitohs 16
Last Meeting: Round 20, 2022: Sharks 21 def. Rabbitohs 20
Form & Team News
The win was there for the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks. However, a late game fade allowed the Cowboys to force the game beyond 80 minutes to lose 32-30 at home. The South Sydney Rabbitohs managed to beat the Sydney Roosters 30-14, but will still be feeling the effects of a brutal encounter.
They played 93 minutes last week but Craig Fitzgibbon has named the same 17 Sharks again for this one. Jason Demetriou hasn’t been able to do the same with the Rabbitohs in Week 2. Thomas Burgess has been banned for two games with Michael Chee Kam joining the bench.
Where are the points coming from?
He became the first player in NRL history to score 30 tries in a season twice last week and Alex Johnston is the overwhelming favourite to cross the line first at $6.75 ($1.50 anytime). We can expect the Rabbitohs to look left in attack through Johnston, Isaiah Tass ($23/$4) and Jai Arrow ($46/$7.75). Interestingly, the Sharks left edge defence is the best in the NRL alongside the Panthers. For the Sharks, Will Kennedy scored a double in his first game back and will again be floating to both sides of the field in search of points ($13/$2.55). Connor Tracey is again out on the right wing at $11.50 and $2.15.
Ronaldo Mulitalo is the play for the Sharks, though. The Roosters repeatedly exposed Taane Milne on the right wing last week. They hit the four-in defender, played the short side and forced him into difficult decisions. More often than not, it resulted in Daniel Tupou streaking down the sideline. Expect the same again with Mulitalo on Saturday.
The Sharks let it slip last week. Even with only 12 men to finish, they really should have got the job done. Instead, they lost the match, and while this one is down as a Sharks home game, they lost that advantage as well. Rabbitohs fans will bounce into Allianz on the back of a good win last week. The performance itself wasn’t particularly flash. It’s difficult to get a read on the football given the stop-start nature of the game. However, unlike the Sharks, they were able to overcome adversity and end up on top. Their finals experience on the way to the 2021 NRL Grand Final last season will help here, too. The Bunnies pack loses some punch following Burgess’ suspension. He has been excellent this season and is a bigger loss than most are giving credit. He ensures they’re a force through the middle for the full 80 minutes. Meanwhile, Braden Hamlin-Uele and Cameron McInnes will be installed into the game at around the point Burgess would have been. The 20 minutes either side of halftime are going to determine a lot of this match. Expecting an early grind to start, the Sharks look good to finish the first half strong and go into the sheds with a lead.