2017 Season Results:
Head-to-Head Tipping: 7/8 (88%)
2016 Season Results:
Head-to-Head Tipping: 71%
Margin Betting: 54%
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Roosters v Bulldogs
Offense VOA: Roosters 3.41% (10th), Bulldogs -31.84% (15th)
Defense VOA: Roosters 0.42% (10th), Bulldogs -8.87% (6th)
First up in Round 2 is the derby game between two of Sydney’s more fashionable clubs, the Roosters and the Bulldogs.
The Roosters were sizzling in Week One against the outmatched Titans, putting on a point-scoring clinic in the opening 40 minutes. Latrell Mitchell looks right at home in the centres, Michael Gordon fitted in beautifully, and all signs look positive for their new halves combination. On the back of that performance, the Roosters are deserving favourites with the bookies.
The Bulldogs on the other hand were outclassed in horrendous conditions by a more disciplined Storm outfit, and although the tens of fans who turned up to Belmore at 6pm (what was the NRL thinking when they scheduled that?) would have gone home disappointed, the Dogs showed some positive signs to build from. Defensively, they were outstanding, repeatedly turning the Storm away, despite frequently giving away cheap possession with poor ball control. Unfortunately, the offensive issues that plagued their 2016 campaign have resurfaced (and perhaps gotten worse). In attacking positions, they appear to have no set plays whatsoever (unless their set play is “get in a line and pass it one-by-one until we run out of space”, in which case they’ve nailed it), and their slow service to the kicker on the 5th tackle makes it difficult for them to put in decent attacking kicks. We think that the Bulldogs defense will stand up and make a game of this, but until they show something on offense, we’ll struggle to tip them.
Our tip: Roosters
Warriors v Storm
Offense VOA: Warriors 5.15% (9th), Storm 19.21% (3rd)
Defense VOA: Warriors -4.94% (8th), Storm -38.14% (2nd)
Fortunately for New Zealand, Penrith happened, and saved the Warriors the indignity of being the most disappointing pre-season darling of Week One. Ignoring the fact that they somehow managed to win in the end, the Warriors were comprehensively outplayed for around 60 minutes of the contest by the Knights. Yes, that’s the same Newcastle Knights who haven’t won a game in almost a calendar year. That Newcastle Knights.
Fortunately for New Zealand, there’s likely no other side in the competition as capable of bouncing back from a disappointing effort as the notoriously inconsistent Warriors, so there remains some hope for them yet. They’re fortunate to get the Storm minus their injured forward leader Jesse Bromwich, and early in the season before the Storm settle into their groove.
That said, we still believe the Storm remain one of the teams to beat in the NRL, and despite an unusually ill-disciplined effort against the Bulldogs (we’ll give them a pass on account of the monsoonal conditions in which they played the second half), we expect them to have too much for the Warriors. The Warriors should be much better than they were a week ago, but compared to Newcastle, the Storm are a very different beast.
Our tip: Storm
Broncos v Cowboys
Offense VOA: Broncos 33.80% (2nd), Cowboys 11.54% (7th)
Defense VOA: Broncos -27.78% (4th), Cowboys -48.76% (1st)
Friday night will treat us to the much-hyped ‘match of the round’ (although here at The Obstruction Rule, we’re more excited for the Raiders/Sharks clash a night later, but we digress). These two sides have dialed up some crackers in the last couple of years, and this one looks no different.
The Broncos surprised a lot of people in beating the defending premiers out of the gate, and it doesn’t get any easier in Round 2. Their defense was outstanding, particularly in surviving the Sharks’ opening blitzkrieg unscathed, and it will need to be again to keep out Johnathan Thurston and company.
The Cowboys were similarly impressive in their debut outing, and it could be argued that their defense was at another level again. Whereas the Broncos were deflecting the competent-but-not-terrifying Sharks offense, the Cowboys faced up against the NRL’s most intimidating offense – the Raiders – and stood up tremendously.
It’s that Cowboys defense that we expect to be the difference here. The Broncos were among the league’s best scorers in 2016, but it’s of some concern that with almost 60% of possession they could only muster 4 tries against Cronulla. Admittedly, the Sharks’ defense is very good, but so too is North Queensland’s, and we don’t expect the Cowboys to turn the ball over as cheaply as the Sharks did in Round 1.
Our tip: Cowboys
Knights v Titans
Offense VOA: Knights -39.35% (16th), Titans -25.22% (14th)
Defense VOA: Knights 81.30% (16th), Titans 42.24% (15th)
Surely the Knights have circled this one as a must-win clash. Newcastle showed up to Mount Smart last week and were the only people in the stadium (in the world?) who seemed to believe that they could win. They were mistaken, but my word, they gave it a red hot go. Yes, the Warriors were dreadful, but regardless there were plenty of positive signs for the Knights. Their forwards competed for large portions of the match, and even seemed to be on top of their more fancied counterparts for the first 20 minutes. With the ball in hand, they showed some creativity, and Trent Hodkinson seemed to be enjoying his footy for the first time in nearly a year.
The Titans on the other hand, were bog average. They came back in the second half to make the scoreline look respectable, but their match was over by half-time. We’re prepared to give the Titans a break on account of their opposition (we think the Roosters may be the real deal), but this match will be telling as to what kind of year the Titans have. A week ago we wrote about how the Titans spine may be the best they’ve ever assembled, but if they can’t work together it will all count for nought. We’ll take the Titans, but will be watching with interest.
Our tip: Titans
Sea Eagles v Rabbitohs
Offense VOA: Sea Eagles -5.92% (11th), Rabbitohs 5.68% (8th)
Defense VOA: Sea Eagles -18.19% (5th), Souths 21.02% (13th)
The most difficult match of the round to tip – a team with no props against a team with no talent.
Manly went down to the Eels in Week One, but not without impressing a lot of people (this author included). Some of the football they played with less than 40% of possession was head-turning stuff, as they shredded the Eels’ typically tight defense to the tune of 5 line breaks. Even more impressively, they somehow conceded just 3 tries, despite seemingly spending the entire match up their own end. Yes, the possession disadvantage was largely of their own making (they dropped more balls than an intoxicated juggler), but they’ll surely get more possession this week. And if they do, look out.
As for the Rabbitohs, it looks to be a long year ahead. They went into last week’s match requiring a huge game from Greg Inglis just to compete, only to lose him for the year to an injured ACL. With Inglis a passenger, the Rabbitohs had absolutely nothing. They were comprehensively outplayed by the Tigers in all facets of the game, and Michael Maguire still can’t seem to figure out a way to get the Rabbitohs going without a dominant forward pack.
Speaking of the Bunnies’ pack, if they are to have any chance of competing here at Brookvale, their forwards must dominate the Sea Eagles. Through injury and circumstance, the Sea Eagles find themselves short no less than four prop forwards, leaving Trent Barrett no choice but to send out a pack made up almost entirely of backrowers (although one of those backrowers, Frank Winterstein, is big enough to be a prop. Or a rhinoceros). The middle third of the field needs to be where the Rabbitohs attack Manly, but even if they can gain the field position, we’re not sure they’ll know what to do with it.
Our tip: Sea Eagles
Raiders v Sharks
Offense VOA: Raiders 16.68% (4th), Sharks 11.75% (6th)
Defense VOA: Raiders -1.51% (9th), Sharks -36.08% (3rd)
As we’ve already mentioned, this match looks like being truly enthralling stuff, and there’ll be no love lost in the nation’s capital on Saturday night. The Raiders arguably would have won their Week One final had Josh Hodgson not twisted his ankle (and in that weird Sliding Doors moment, the Sharks were presented with the opportunity to win their maiden premiership), and the Raiders will desperately want to make amends for that disappointment.
We’re not sure we see it going that way though. These are both very good teams, and both teams held themselves well in their first round losses. However, while the Broncos were able to hold out the Sharks in the face of a dominant forward display, we’re not sure the Raiders defense has the same mettle.
The Sharks for their part, were largely able to contain the typically explosive Broncos offense, so if they defend similarly against the Raiders, and their forwards aim up once again (no easy task against the giant Raiders forward pack), they may just squeak past the Green Machine here. Regardless, whoever loses here will place alongside the 2015 Cowboys as one of the strongest 0-2 teams in recent memory.
Our tip: Sharks
Tigers v Panthers
Offense VOA: Tigers 36.39% (1st), Panthers 16.03% (5th)
Defense VOA: Tigers 12.04% (12th), Panthers 25.75% (14th)
How good were the Tigers? Wests put the league on notice with their comprehensive dismantling of a below average South Sydney team. Unfortunately, the Rabbitohs offered so little that it’s difficult to get much of a gauge on just how good the 2017 Tigers actually are. With the ball in hand they were scintillating, and tore apart the Souths defense like it was made of tissue paper. However, the Tigers’ offense has never been their problem – it’s their shoddy defense that costs them games, and we’re not yet convinced they’ve fixed it. The Rabbitohs threw very little at the Tigers all game, though in the last 10 minutes when the match was over, the Bunnies walked through the Tigers’ edge defense disturbingly easily, with a couple of soft line breaks that looked eerily like the bad old days of 2016.
As for the Panthers, they were awful. Truly abysmal. The Panthers were so bad that they deserve a new word to describe just how bad they were (my handy pocket thesaurus has given me “grody”, though I’m not really confident how to use it in a sentence). In attack they made an astounding 15 errors, and their defense was somehow worse. Why poor old Bryce Cartwright keeps getting made to defend on the edge is anyone’s guess, though surely the Panthers will watch the tape of their loss to the Tigers last year and keep Carty well hidden from James Tedesco. Their pack was dominated, and they desperately miss their big wingers Josh Mansour and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak starting their sets off with a bang (though DWZ is rumoured to be getting rushed back as soon as this weekend).
All of this said, and against our better judgement, we’re leaning towards the Panthers again. For whatever reason, we choose to put more weight in the large body of evidence that the Panthers gave us last year than the 80 minutes of grody excrement (there we go!) they served up in Week One. Both these teams have defensive frailties, and both have the capacity to pile on points. But after getting embarrassed in Week One, we think Penrith simply must turn up for this game.
Our tip: Panthers
Dragons v Eels
Offense VOA: Dragons -16.96% (13th), Eels -12.08% (12th)
Defense VOA: Dragons 8.53% (11th), -7.03% (7th)
After that lecture on how bad Penrith were, it naturally follows that we still have question marks over the quality of the Dragons, given the quality (or lack thereof) of their opening opponent. There’s an air of confidence wafting up from Kogorah that their ‘new style‘ has solved their attacking woes. But one swallow doesn’t make a summer, and frankly, we weren’t that impressed by the feast of points the Dragons had on Saturday.
Yes, they piled it on against the hapless Panthers, but the majority of their tries were of the ‘brushing off a weak attempted tackle’ variety, rather than the result of offensive creativity, and by the time they started to show a bit of attacking flair, the match was already long gone. We expect the Eels tackles to stick (Beau Scott is no Bryce Cartwright), and as a result, we’re not sure the Dragons will be able to score enough points to get past the Eels.
For their part, the Eels did enough to beat Manly, but they weren’t particularly impressive themselves. One freaky 40/20 aside, the Eels didn’t do anything special, but defended stoutly when required in order to win the game. Their forwards were often put on the back foot by the Sea Eagles, and the Dragons’ big pack will look to do the same again. We think this shapes as a real meat-and-potatoes, high-percentage tussle, and if it is, that would likely favour the Eels.
Our tip: Eels
A quick note on the early round stats: The nature of our VOA-based NRL statistics is that they naturally require a league average as a starting point, thus the smaller the sample size, the less accurate these stats will be. However, to satisfy our readers, we’ll publish the stats and associated projections from Round 1 (despite a persistent letter-writing campaign, I’m yet to find any major footy tipping outlets who are willing to start their competitions from Round 10…). In order to do this, we’re forced to use the 2016 database as the foundation for the stats, and as the weeks pass these will be combined with the new season’s numbers and weighted progressively less each week until the numbers used are entirely from 2017. We can’t guarantee that this method is necessarily going to be effective (we’ve never tried it before, and naturally teams will have changed from one season to the next), but it’s the only way we can think of to present the data in the early rounds without it being totally skewed by an insufficient sample size. In short, for at least the first month it is best to consider our stats as purely for entertainment purposes. They may prove accurate (we’ll review them later in the season), but the method is firmly in the testing phase.