NRL Tips expert Steve Green previews the Friday night footy double-header, featuring the Titans’ trip to Manly and the Storm hosting the Eels.
Manly Sea Eagles vs Gold Coast Titans
This is another match that is affected by the insane coaching merry-go-around speculation that is hanging over the end of the NRL season. Recent reports are that Coach Barrett is already leaving Manly at the end of the season, so I am a little concerned how this will affect the Eagles’ preparation for this game.
Another concern is that because this is a dead rubber and because the Titans can attack, there is a chance that the Titans come out and throw the ball around. While Manly’s attack is strong, their defence has been exposed at times this year.
But on the plus side for Manly on Friday night is that they are coming off back to back wins, and the week before they had Panthers done until the final 10 minutes… so their form line is pretty strong.
They are missing a couple of players, but none of their stars. Plus, they are at home, whereas the Titans are on the road and without their goal kicking fullback.
While Brimson did well last weekend in the #1 jersey, and Elgey showed why he should be signed by one of the NRL teams in need of a half, the loss of Gordon is still significant. His goal kicking alone is valuable and I think that often this is overlooked when a goal kicker is ruled out and the back-ups are far less accurate kickers.
Statistically, I have backed Manly a bit this year because of their attacking prowess. They are 5th in line breaks, tackle breaks and forced drop outs, 6th in offloads and 9th in tries scored… all above where they sit in the ladder. Considering they held the Bulldogs to 6 last weekend, their defence seems to be holding up OK.
Melbourne Storm vs Parramatta Eels
When the Storm demolished the Raiders a couple of weeks back, money came pouring in for the Storm. I thought this was an overreaction, because the Raiders played horrible that game due to their make-shift backline. So now that Souths and Sharks have put them in their place in consecutive weeks, the Storm head into this match with the rare prospect of losing 3 on the trot.
Based on the thrilling performance of the Eels last weekend, the visitors will fancy their chances of ambushing the defending premiers. The Eels have troubled the Storm in many of their recent encounters, with their line speed and aggressive defence enough to rattle the Storm.
Admittedly, the 2018 Eels have lacked that mongrel, but they are certainly playing a lot better footy in recent weeks.
What made the Eels win last weekend even more impressive, was that they were missing 3 of their best forwards (Ma’u, Alvarao and Mannah). With Mannah back this week, and guys like Gower, Vave and Evans playing good footy last weekend, the Storm forward pack will have to be at its best here.
This is where I think the Storm are vulnerable, as Souths showed a fortnight ago.
Jesse Bromwich is a shadow of his former self and although Big Nelson is a damaging runner of the ball, he can be caught flat footed in attack. With the experienced Hoffman injured and Finucane still only a couple weeks back from a layoff, I think the Storm pack will need to really lift if they are any chance of going back to back this year.
However, there is a reason the Storm do not lose 3 in a row very often and that is because they rarely play poor games back to back. With Slater, Smith and Munster there and Hughes settled into his halves role, I think that the Storm backline will be too good for the Eels defence – which has been exposed many times this year.
I was hoping that the bookies would have gotten carried away with the Eels win last weekend and put up a line of 8 or less, but they have rightfully installed the Storm as 12 point favourites and that is about what my model says this game should be priced as.