2017 Season Results:
Head-to-Head Tipping: 49/80 (61%) [Last week: 3/8]
Line Betting: 21/39 (54%) [Last week: 0/5]
2016 Season Results:
Head-to-Head Tipping: 71%
Line Betting: 54%
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NRL Round 11 Tips and Previews
Sharks v Cowboys
Offense VOA: Sharks -5.31% (9th), Cowboys -30.99% (15th)
Defense VOA: Sharks -33.05% (2nd), Cowboys 20.89% (12th)
Round 11 opens with the Sharks hosting the Cowboys, unfortunately with Queensland legend Johnathan Thurston expected to be absent once again.
This match will see the brutal Sharks defense trying to keep out a resurgent Cowboys offense. The Sharks defense has been outstanding since Day One, save for a single poor effort in losing to the Titans (which, incidentally was also at this ground). Their aggressive line speed effectively limits opposition run metres (RMCVOA -1.35% – 4th), and in combination with their ability to limit opposition line breaks (LBCVOA -32.45% – 3rd), has the effect of keeping a cap on opposition tries. Just once in 2017, all the way back in Round 1 against Brisbane, have the Sharks conceded more than 3 tries in a match, and twice they’ve kept their opposition tryless. This defensive dominance has kept Cronulla in every game they’ve played, and makes them a very difficult team to beat.
Difficult, that is, at full strength. Missing a megastar like Johnathan Thurston, it’s likely to be close to impossible. The maligned Cowboys defense finally stood up last week (though admittedly, it was against the woefully inept Bulldogs attack), but it’s their offense that will be required to win this match. Even if their defense plays out of their skin, in all likelihood their pack is going to be dominated, and as a result, try-scoring field position will be hard to come by. And when they do get down the Sharks’ end, it’s hard to be confident that they’ll have enough spark to trouble Cronulla.
We fully expect this match to be competitive (at least for a while), but on the back of a dominant forward pack, we expect the Sharks to get the chocolates.
Our tip: Sharks
Warriors v Dragons
Offense VOA: Warriors -20.18% (14th), Dragons 40.72% (1st)
Defense VOA: Warriors 3.20% (10th), Dragons -15.95% (5th)
What do you take away from the Warriors performance in Round 10? Were you impressed at the 28 points they put past the Panthers in their first half of football, or unimpressed by their second-half capitulation (which, incidentally, was the biggest capitulation in Warriors history. Amazing, for a team synonymous with spectacular capitulations).
Frankly, we were unimpressed by both. Obviously, in the second half, the Warriors weren’t worth a jug of warm piss. But, when you look at it, the first half wasn’t especially impressive either. Playing against a team who’d only won two matches since Trump became US President, the Warriors were largely outplayed for field position, and only ran up the score with the help of a 12-man defensive line and a couple of loose passes by the Panthers. Outside of those, they only managed two tries – one total fluke from a loose pass of their own, and the other from a kick. So, things certainly weren’t as good as they seemed, and when the Panthers opened up the engine, the Warriors defense had absolutely nothing.
And yet somehow, New Zealand enter this match as favourites. The reason for that, of course, is the absence of Dragons stars Josh Dugan and Gareth Widdop. However, don’t look now, but the Dragons have now played two matches without Widdop (and one without Dugan), and their offense has been… largely unaffected. The past two matches they’ve played the two best defensive sides in the competition, and have somehow mustered a combined 7 tries and 11 line breaks in that period. And to put it politely, the Warriors aren’t the Storm or Sharks (and last week, they weren’t even the Tigers).
No, oddly, Widdop and Dugan’s absences seem to have been largely felt on defense instead. They’ve conceded a shocking combined 9 tries and 15 line breaks in that period, and the reasoning is hard to put a finger on. Their defensive meltdown coincides with the absence of Widdop, but the line breaks haven’t been coming down the left-hand side (where Kurt Mann is defending in Widdop’s place), but rather down the right. It could well be that teams have finally figured out that running traffic towards the tiny Josh McCrone is a recipe for success, but in all likelihood, we suspect this may just be an anomaly.
But even if we accept the Dragons’ defensive drop-off as a new trend, they’re still better than the Warriors. The fact that a team placed 5th on the ladder can be rank outsiders against a team who just butchered a 22-point lead in 15 minutes of football against a team coming second-last is simply staggering. The Dragons defense might be trending down, but they will have 13 blokes on the field, and that seems to be all that’s required to keep the impotent Warriors offense at bay.
Our tip: Dragons
Broncos v Tigers
Offense VOA: Broncos 1.63% (6th), Tigers -3.40% (8th)
Defense VOA: Broncos -9.87% (8th), Tigers 28.93% (14th)
It goes without saying that the Broncos are better than the Tigers (for that matter, most teams are better than the Tigers). But there’s reason enough here to believe that the Tigers could make a ball-game out of this. (We know, we know, we said that last week. Look, we’re sorry. We’ll try to do better this week.)
We’ve been saying it for weeks, but these Broncos aren’t the dominant force that they were to open the season. It may well be that they’re just ‘doing enough to win’, but they just don’t look convincing. Last week, if Tom Trbojevic catches that bomb on the full, then he doesn’t blow out his knee, he doesn’t drop the ball, and the Sea Eagles don’t lose. Manly never looked threatened for 65 minutes, but in the space of a very weird few minutes (was Kodi Nikorima’s Hamburglar impression not the most bizarre try you’ve ever seen?) the Broncos were able to take control as the Sea Eagles went into meltdown. But that shouldn’t change the fact that up until that point, they didn’t look great.
The Broncos missed 37 tackles, the 2nd most they’ve missed this year (the most came just a week prior, against Penrith). The Tigers, by the way, just so happen to rank 4th in TBVOA (13.59%). In Round 9, the Broncos got torn to pieces when the Panthers begun embracing second phase play. Co-incidentally again, the Tigers rank 4th in offloads.
Of course, we’re not saying the Tigers will win. They were dreadful last week, and gave no indications of a team about to turn it around. But don’t be surprised if this winds up being a contest.
Our tip: Broncos
Titans v Sea Eagles
Offense VOA: Titans -9.30% (11th), Sea Eagles 39.34% (2nd)
Defense VOA: Titans 68.31% (16th), Sea Eagles -26.04% (4th)
Like the Warriors’ false dawn against the Panthers, allow us to explain to you why we’re not buying the Titans hype.
Yes, it’s impressive any time someone beats the Storm (and, for that matter, the Sharks – who the Titans have also knocked over). But the mass of points required by the Titans in order to win (because as usual, their defense was cut to ribbons) were so cheap that it’s hard to respect that performance. Sure, they scored 7 tries, but a whopping 5 of them were from kicks. Yes, they all count the same, but as we know, tries from kicks are one of the most inconsistent stats in rugby league. On this particular occasion, they were able to achieve the feat through sheer mass of possession – the Storm completed just 63% of their sets, on the way to handing the Titans a whopping 59-41 possession advantage. It’s nice to score a few tries from kicks, but if the Titans plan for beating the Sea Eagles consists of just showing up and hoping that their opponent keeps dropping the ball, they’re going to be soundly beaten.
And for that matter, to concede 6 tries and 7 line breaks to a team who only had the ball for two-fifths of the match is utterly disgraceful. There’s bad defense, then there’s terrible defense, then there’s last week’s Warriors, and then there’s that. Manly might be missing Tom Trbojevic, but they should still have enough firepower to put a few tries past the Titans (we might suggest they start by heading down the Titans’ right edge, where Konrad Hurrell and Ash Taylor seemed to continually come up with air).
Unlike the Warriors game, we can at least understand the Titans favouritism here. Trbojevic is a huge out for the Sea Eagles, and admittedly their meltdown after he left the field against Brisbane is hard to put out of our minds. But up until that point, the Sea Eagles have been very good so far this year, and we’d be disappointed if the loss of their fullback – talented as he may be – exposed their whole season as a house of cards.
Our tip: Sea Eagles
Eels v Raiders
Offense VOA: Eels -12.85% (12th), Raiders 10.79% (5th)
Defense VOA: Eels -5.00% (9th), Raiders -14.41% (6th)
Saturday night will bring us a meeting between Round 10’s most disappointing teams: the Eels, who were comprehensively thrashed by the Roosters; and the Raiders, who lost to the Knights (and any time somebody loses to the Knights, it’s fair to say that they should be disappointed).
Both sides were sloppy in their last start efforts, combining for 23 errors and 13 penalties conceded between them, though the Eels are typically more disciplined than that. They’ll need to be this week, as the Raiders are every bit as capable as the Roosters of putting tries past teams who offer them short fields to attack.
The Raiders are broadly speaking a better football team than the Eels, but as a match-up, the Eels should pose a unique challenge for the Green Machine. For a start, the Raiders like to dominate up the middle, and play off the back of their giant forward pack. However, the Eels are one of the better teams when it comes to run defense, ranking 3rd in RMCVOA (-4.39%). In their recent losses to the Sea Eagles and Bulldogs, the Raiders were outgained by over 300 metres on both occasions (and they were even held to under 1250 metres in their loss to the Knights), and the lack of go-forward completely stifled their attack.
Secondly, the Raiders prefer to attack to their dominant right edge, where Joey Leilua and Jordan Rapana wreak havoc through opposition defenses. However, the Eels left-side defense is typically strong, with their right-edge (where human turnstile Brad Taikarangi typically resides) their weak link.
However, that doesn’t mean there’s not points to be found by Canberra. To be honest, Jarrod Croker and Nick Cotric are talented players in their own right, and the Raiders would be well served to deliver them more football in general (and there’s no better time to start, regardless of whether Taikarangi or Kirisome Auva’a wind up on that edge). And if the Raiders stick to their typical gameplan and attack the Eels’ left-edge, the good news is that Corey Norman looks set to be replaced by new recruit Mitchell Moses, who, if you haven’t watched a Tigers game all year (and who could blame you) defensively makes Luke Brooks look like Trevor Gilmeister.
Both these teams are a bit out of sorts, so we’re backing the Raiders overall class to shine through.
Our tip: Raiders
Knights v Panthers
Offense VOA: Knights -38.37% (16th), Panthers -0.63% (7th)
Defense VOA: Knights 36.96% (15th), Panthers 11.46% (11th)
Thank goodness the Knights finally won a game, as we were running out of new ways to say “the Knights are shit”.
After last week declaring that we don’t believe in bogey teams, we’ll be checking under our beds this week after the Knights – who last year twice took the Top 4 Raiders to golden point, despite winning just one game all year – came out and knocked off Canberra in front of over 22,000 red and blue seats. They’ll be looking to make it two-in-a-row this week against the Panthers, who thrashed them 40-0 the last time they met.
Last week we told you that the Panthers were a red hot chance to beat the more fancied Warriors, we’re not going to say “we told you so” because; firstly, they were losing by 22 points at half time and required divine intervention (in the form of Isiaah Yeo) in order to get home; and secondly, because we got just about everything else wrong last week (again, sorry about that).
Not to be off-put, we’re declaring the Panthers raging hot favourites once again. Their defense has dropped off remarkably over the past 6 weeks, and we wouldn’t be shocked to see the ever-improving Knights put a few past the Panthers. But the Panthers offense has finally started to click over their last 100 minutes of football, and if they get going, the Knights just don’t have to ability to go with them. The Knights were fortunate to concede just 3 tries to the Raiders while leaking 6 line breaks and 34 missed tackles, but if they keep allowing those sorts of numbers, they’re quickly going to go back to losing, and we think they’re going back this week.
Our tip: Panthers
Bulldogs v Roosters
Offense VOA: Bulldogs -30.99% (15th), Roosters 12.91% (4th)
Defense VOA: Bulldogs -31.39% (3rd), Roosters -14.38% (7th)
Sunday afternoon brings one of those classic match-ups – the unstoppable force of the Roosters, up against the immovable object of the Bulldogs.
Ordinarily, we’d side with the better defense in a clash such as this, but having watched the Bulldogs leak 5 tries to a Johnathan Thurston-less Cowboys team last week, you can forgive us for not being completely ready to trust the Bulldogs just yet.
The Canterbury forwards were disappointing against the Cowboys, getting outgained just a week after their strong showing against the Raiders. Sadly, this is becoming something of a trend for Canterbury. The week after they owned the Warriors in Round 3, they were kept to under 1000 metres by the Sea Eagles. After crushing Souths in Round 7, they had their pants pulled down by the lowly Tigers, getting outgained by almost 200 metres. We don’t know why, but the Bulldogs have so far been incapable of stringing together strong performances.
The Roosters on the other hand, are rolling along comfortably in 3rd spot on the ladder. To be clear, we don’t believe that the Roosters are actually that good, and they do have obvious weaknesses (though one of them has been stood down indefinitely). They’re prone to spates of errors, ranking 5th in the league in that category. Their defensive efforts are inconsistent, with them looking outstanding one minute (as they did against the Titans and Panthers), and terrible the next (as they did against Brisbane and Canterbury).
We’re happy enough to back the Roosters on the back of a strong showing against the Eels, but we’d be lying if we said we’re super confident about it.
Our tip: Roosters
Rabbitohs v Storm
Offense VOA: Rabbitohs -8.12% (10th), Storm 38.01% (3rd)
Defense VOA: Rabbitohs 24.61% (13th), Storm -44.27% (1st)
The last match of the round will see last start winners, the Rabbitohs, host last start losers, the Storm.
The Rabbitohs kept the wolves from the door for another week in their demolition of the struggling Tigers, however the Storm are a considerable step up in class from Wests. The Rabbitohs forwards were relentless against an Aaron Woods-less Tigers pack, and they’ll need to back that up this week against the Storm if the Rabbitohs are to be any chance of competing in this game.
We were warning a month ago that if the Storm didn’t stop turning the ball over cheaply that incoming losses were inevitable, and they seemed to have straightened out their discipline in victories against the Sea Eagles and Dragons. However against the Titans they reverted back to their bad old ways, making 12 errors and conceding 7 penalties, to hand the Titans a mountain of possession. They were still their typical stout selves in defense, somehow conceding just 2 line breaks and a little over 1200 metres, despite spending what felt like an eternity defending. However, with great field position comes great tries-from-kicks-opportunities, and everything came together for the Titans to jag an upset.
Statistically, aside from it raining errors, the Storm were actually pretty solid. The only statistical category in which they were out of the ordinary was in run metres, where they made over 100 less opponent-adjusted run metres than average, but that was to be expected given the absence of half their forward pack. Nelson Asofa-Solomona is a chance of returning this week, which would go a long way to fixing that, but regardless, we actually don’t think the Storm were particularly bad.
We’re putting last week’s result down to variance, and expecting the Storm to carry on winning in Round 11.
Our tip: Storm