Manly Sea Eagles v Canberra Raiders Saturday, March 31, 7:30pm (AEDT) Lottoland, Sydney
The Sea Eagles came crashing back to earth in last week’s 34-6 loss to the Rabbitohs after thumping the Eels 54-0 in Round 2. They’ll be back at Brookvale Oval this week and hoping for a bounce back performance. Sea Eagles winger Jorge Taufua has been ruled out for 8 weeks with a broken collarbone. The Raiders inexplicably blew a lead for the third week running and the pressure will continue to build if Raiders coach Ricky Stuart can’t get his side to play for 80 minutes. Blake Austin has paid the price, with Ata Hingano named in the No.14 jersey, while Joseph Tapine has been named to make his return from injury.
FormManly’s season has started in wildly inconsistent form, losing to Newcastle in Golden Point before a huge home win over Parramatta, following that with a disgraceful road loss to South Sydney. The Sea Eagles have scored the second most points of any team this year. Canberra have started the season winless despite leading at the 76 minute mark in all three. The Raiders have the third best attack in the premiership and have lost the three games by margins of two, two and one.
Key MatchupBrian Kelly v Joseph Leilua: Brian Kelly is one of the more underrated centres in the NRL, but The Wolf has always been a fan. Kelly already has four line-breaks for the season and his match-up against Joseph Leilua will be worth the price of admission at Brookvale on Saturday night. Leilua was heavily involved in last week’s heartbreaking loss to the Warriors and led the Raiders with 145 run metres. Consistency has always been an issue for Leilua, and with the Raiders under the pump, it’s up to him to string together back-to-back strong performances.
Stats That Matter– The Sea Eagles are 1-2 ATS with a 2-1 under record while the Raiders are 0-3 ATS with a 2-1 over record. – Manly have won 15 of the last 20 meetings against Canberra, including seven of the last nine at Brookvale Oval. – The last eight matches have all topped 38 with six surpassing 45. – Both matches last year were decided by margins of 1 and 2 points. – The Sea Eagles have covered 6 of their last 9 at Brookvale, while they are 5-2 ATS off a loss of 13-plus at the ground. – The Sea Eagles have covered just 4 of their last 11 as a favourite at Brookvale. – The Raiders are 25-13 ATS with a 24-14 over record away from Canberra Stadium since 2015, including a 14-4 ATS record at night. – As a road underdog the Raiders are 16-6 ATS. – The Raiders are 15-7 ATS on the road after conceding 20 or fewer.
Final ThoughtsBoth teams will be desperate on Saturday night after disappointing losses in Round 3. The Wolf doesn’t see much separating the sides and is happy to take the Raiders with the +5.5 start. Whether the Raiders can play 80 minutes is the big question as they haven’t been able to for the first three rounds. The Sea Eagles have won 15 of the last 20 meetings against Canberra, so they should get the cash but there won’t be much in it.