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NRL – Bunker Review Round 3

The shock results and surprise storylines rolled on in Round 3 of the 2023 NRL premiership, with heavyweights continuing to struggle and predicted also-rans thriving. 

Young talent time

In a weekend where another four betting outsiders got up (making it 11 across the first three rounds) and 20 points per game on average were scored than in the previous fortnight – a boon for overs punters with six encounters getting past the total match points line – it was a host of tyros who stole the show.

Josh Schuster emerged from a stop-start 2022 and an injury-delayed start to this season to immediately put his stamp on the No.6 jersey at Manly he has coveted for so long. The 21-year-old produced three try-assists, had a key hand in another try and generally terrorised Parramatta’s right edge in Manly’s 34-30 victory on Thursday. The Sea Eagles are 2-0 and have come in to $15 to win the premiership.

Brisbane Broncos were down on their blistering form of the first two rounds but caught fire down the stretch against St George Illawarra to chalk up the biggest win over the weekend. From a tense 18-all scoreline with 10 minutes left, the Broncos raced in four tries – two to fullback sensation Reece Walsh and one each to fellow 20-year-olds Selwyn Cobbo and Ezra Mam – to storm away 40-18.

The Broncos have climbed to the fourth line of title betting ($8.50) ahead of a massive Suncorp Stadium derby against the surprise-packet Dolphins, who are also 3-0 and are amazingly down to $26 for a debut-season premiership after opening on the last line at $67. The 22-year-old Tom Gilbert grabbed three Dally M votes from both judges in the Dolphins’ ill-disciplined, yet convincing, 36-20 defeat of the Knights.

Gold Coast’s 23-year-old skipper Tino Fa’asuamaleaui scooped all six Dally M points in his side’s upset of Melbourne. Meanwhile, AJ Brimson, great buy Aaron Schoupp and two-try rookie winger Alofiana Khan-Pereira provided the backline spark in the 38-34. The Titans’ defence remains one of the NRL’s most threadbare, but they are fun watch when they let the ball sing.

Sophomore-season winger Jacob Kiraz, 21, is the shock Dally M Medal leader with 11 votes, was best on ground for the second straight game as Canterbury made it two in a row with 26-22 defeat of fast-finishing battlers Wests Tigers at Belmore. Kiraz chewed off more than 500 running metres across the wins against the Storm and Tigers.

Desperate to get off the mark for 2023 after two agonising late losses, Canberra’s 24-20 upset of Cronulla on Sunday came largely on the back of barnstorming performances from agressive prop Corey Horsburgh, who bagged a double, and centre brute Matt Timoko, rather than their higher-profile stars.

The Bulldogs ($2.30), Raiders ($2.50) and Titans ($4.00) are all rated outside chances of Top 8 footy this year, but they should keep most teams honest and can’t be counted out of finals reckoning.

Tough-talking Souths fall short again

South Sydney were the fashionable pick among punters and pundits as a 2023 premiership smoky, a status only enhanced by a scratchy 27-18 win over under-strength Cronulla in Round 1 with Lachlan Ilias starring.

The Rabbitohs puffed their chests out in the lead-up to both of their subsequent Friday blockbusters…and twice came up short on the night. They struggled to find their rhythm against fired-up Penrith in Round 2, belatedly catching fire in the last 15 minutes of a 16-10 loss. The inverse occurred in Round 3: Souths raced to a 10-0 lead against Sydney Roosters before conceding four unanswered tries, going down 20-18 after running in a late consolation effort.

Discipline and a preoccupation with niggle – with veteran Cody Walker especially guilty – was telling in both defeats. While the pre-match banter is great theatre, the Rabbitohs must find a way to prevent it from becoming a distraction.

The 1-2 Rabbitohs are still well-backed in premiership betting – third favourites at $7.50 – but it’s a big month ahead with clashes against the Sea Eagles, Storm, Bulldogs and Dolphins before running the gauntlet with back-to-back matches against the Panthers and Broncos.

Statement game of NRL Round 3

The evidence was clear from their gritty 20-12 opening-round defeat of the Knights and a gallant loss by the same scoreline to the Roosters: the Warriors have turned over a new leaf under new coach Andrew Webster.

But few were expecting as dramatic an early payoff as an authoritative 26-12 defeat of the Cowboys on a stinking-hot Townsville evening. For the third straight week the Warriors fell behind early but once again remained composed, trusted their newfound defensive steel and eventually found enough holes in the Cowboys to pile up some points.

A fit and firing pack led by Addin Fonua-Blake, Tohu Harris, Dylan Walker, Mitch Barnett and Jazz Tevaga thoroughly outplayed a highly-rated North Queensland pack. Shaun Johnson is thriving again on the back of their work, Wayde Egan has started the season in superlative form and Te Maire Martin went up a gear against his former club.

With five first-choice players unavailable on the weekend, the Warriors’ next-man-up mentality was palpable. There seems to be buy-in to Webster’s methods across the board. It will come in handy again in Sunday’s fascinating match-up against the Bulldogs in Auckland with Egan (concussion) and Barnett (neck) set to be sidelined.

The Warriors are $3.75 to make the finals for just the second time in 12 years – but they won’t be for long if this vein of form becomes their base level.

NRL premiership market receives shake-up

The Panthers and Roosters have held their places at the pointy end of the 2023 NRL premiership market, but elsewhere there’s been dramatic movement in a few short weeks. The Rabbitohs, Broncos, Sea Eagles and Dolphins have made big strides, while the Storm, Sharks, Cowboys and especially the Eels have spiralled.

NRL PREMIERSHIP ODDS

TEAMCURRENT PRICEPRE-SEASON PRICE
Penrith Panthers$3.60$4.00
Sydney Roosters$6.00$6.50
South Sydney Rabbitohs$7.50$11
Brisbane Broncos$8.50$17
Melbourne Storm$10$7.00
Cronulla Sharks$14$10
North Queensland Cowboys$15$11
Manly Sea Eagles$15$21
Canberra Raiders$23$26
The Dolphins$26$67
Parramatta Eels$34$13
Canterbury Bulldogs$34$21
Gold Coast Titans$41$41
New Zealand Warriors$46$51
St George Illawarra Dragons$81$41
Newcastle Knights$101$67
Wests Tigers$101$26

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