NRL Tips expert Steve Green previews two massive ANZAC Day clashes. The Sydney Roosters host St George to get things started before the Storm welcome New Zealand to Melbourne.
Sydney Roosters vs St George Illawarra Dragons
The Roosters are currently equal first, having scored more tries than any other team in the competition. With Keary, Cronk, Tedesco and Mitchell, they have fire across their backline and up front, they have a forward pack that doesn’t give an inch.
But statistically, there is nothing exception about this team so far in 2019. The Roosters rank 11th in Tackle Breaks, 10 in Post Contact Metres, 4th in Errors made and, 5th in Line Breaks Conceded and 3rd in Ineffective Tackles. While they rank better is some of the other key stats, that is not your statistical snapshot of a team that is the outright favourite to win the competition.
So how can the Roosters lag in so many KPIs, but still dominate their competition? Firstly, they make the most of their opportunities. By scoring 28 tries this year, the Roosters have shown an amazing ability to make a try out of nothing. A missed tackle close to the line will often see a guy like Tedesco or Mitchell crash over for the try.
Secondly, they make their errors late in their sets, rather than 1st tackle coach killers. For example, Keary has made a ton of errors in 2019, but he has done so at times that has not placed his team under pressure.
Thirdly, the Roosters have been a little lucky….yes I know that might be mocked by some, especially when I am having a down year to date, but the results could have been different. The Eels were neck and neck with the Roosters in Round 3, while Souths beat the Roosters in Round 1. Then on the weekend the Storm tied it up and could have won that.
Their three comprehensive wins were against the Broncos (who are having a horrible start), Manly missing Tom T and the Sharks (who had a lot of injuries too).
I am not saying the Roosters are unproven, they are the friggen Premiers…but with Keary out, and Friend back after a few weeks out, Radley moves back to lock…and Manu is back in centres, so with a lot of change in one week, there is a chance they are a little slow to start this weekend.
Although I have the Roosters favourite, I think the head start is a little big for a game that should be a thriller. The Norman-Hunt combination continues to improve, while the Dragons pack – being led by Vaughan, will match the Roosters here.
But the Roosters have shown they have the ability to lift for big games and with Manu coming in out wide and Taukeiaho back in the middle, this Dragons team will have its work cut out for it in this one.
I still think Ravawala is a liability and I am not sure how many errors (10 so far this year) he has to make before Coach Mary changes this. The Roosters will target him and that is likely to be the difference here.
Melbourne Storm v New Zealand Warriors
I think the Storm were made to look good last week, by a Roosters that took their foot off the pedal and had a big injury toll to deal with. Keary copped a big head knock in the game, while Taukeiaho was ruled out before kick off and Manu was suspended (Friend was also already out).
For most of the game, the understaff Roosters looked the far better team and considering the week before the Storm were nearly beaten by the Cowboys, I think the Storm are in a mini form rut…they have certainly dropped away from their scintillating start to the season.
However, one area where the Storm still reign supreme is in the all-important line breaks conceded statistic. With 15 conceded for the season, they are far better than their next rivals (Eels and Raiders on 19)…and nearly 10 less than the Warriors who are on 24.
But the big news for the Warriors, is the potential loss of RTS. The star fullback is apparently battling a hamstring injury and rarely do you see a player that relies on their speed overcome such an injury so quickly (as we saw with Tom T a couple of games ago, the chance of re-injuring it is also significant).
Fusitua has been ruled out already and Kata has to be in some doubt with his injury, so there is a very good chance the visitors will be without three of their key backs.
Whereas with Scott back last week, the Storm’s backline is now back to its best and after seeing how the Cowboys were able to shut down the Warriors, the Storm will fancy their chances of a shut out here.
Last week the Warriors were horrendous, and besides Wests and Knights, it was the worst performance of the round. They made basic errors at crucial times and guys like Blair have no place in the NRL on their current form. He is without a doubt the most overpaid player in the NRL and if ever there was a player that should have been shopped around by Coach Kearney, it was Blair.
Blair makes about 60 metres a game, which is less than half what Finucane makes (a player paid nowhere near as much as Blair). Despite handling the ball for such little time, Blair has still made more errors and given away more penalties than Finucane. And in case you thought defence was Blair’s strong point, Finucane has made more tackles and missed less too.
That is why Coach Bellamy has been at the top of the pecking order for so long….he doesn’t sign overpaid, aging players past their best…he gets value for money in every position.
One player that I do think gives the Warriors hopes, is the return of Blake Green. It was clear that they were missing his cool, calm head last weekend. Harris-Tavita is a gun, but he needs someone like Green to take the pressure off and Hiku belongs out wide.
I also really like what I saw from Nathaniel Roache and I think he and Luke should share the 9 duties, with Tevega playing exclusively in the back row (last weekend Coach Kearney stuffed up his hooker rotation big time, which was another reason he Warriors looked so disorderly at times).
If I had to have a bet on this one, I would be taking the plus, as I do think the Storm are struggling a little bit at the moment, but the Warriors let us down so badly last weekend that I have to just watch and see if Coach Kearney has identified the issues and turned things around.
Might be looking for a bet on the run if things have improved for the Warriors, because I could see the bookies getting carried away with an early Storm lead here and there might be a big plus on offer.
After 3 straight winning seasons, Steve Green’s NRL Tips is back for NRL 2019.
Steve is covering every NRL game for the season, as well as State of Origin and Internationals.
New to this season, Steve is recommending some half-time plays on selected games as he looks to further exploit his advantage over the bookies.
You’d be mad to miss out on Steve’s NRL Tips this season.