2017 Season Results:
Head-to-Head Tipping: 61/92 (66%) [Last week:4/4]
Line Betting: 26/45 (58%) [Last week: 2/2]
2016 Season Results:
Head-to-Head Tipping: 71%
Line Betting: 54%
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NRL Round 13 Tips and Previews
Storm v Knights
Offense VOA: Storm 28.66% (3rd), Knights -32.94% (16th)
Defense VOA: Storm -49.11% (1st), Knights 32.65% (15th)
David v Goliath. Balboa v Creed. The Christians v the Lions. On Friday evening, the Knights will take their place in another of the great mismatches of history, when they head down to Melbourne to receive their requisite flogging from the Storm.
We won’t insult your intelligence by explaining to you the different facets of rugby league in which the Storm are superior to the Knights (HINT: it’s all of them). Instead,we’ll try to list the reasons why the Storm might not win by 50.
- With this match being played two days after State of Origin, there’s the possibility that some (if not all) of the Storm’s Origin representatives may not play (or if they do play, they may not see out the full 80 minutes, providing some respite for the Knights in the latter stages of the match).
- Last year, the Storm seemed to play unusually badly against the Knights, winning both games by just 4 points.
- Despite dominating the competition, the Storm have yet to score 50 points in a game this year (and their highest points total thus far, 36, came in a loss to the Titans).
- They might all sleep through their alarms, and miss the game entirely (admittedly unlikely, given the 6pm kick-off. And frankly, even if the entire team were to be absent, and the Storm were forced to just throw 13 empty jerseys into a pile on the field instead; we’d probably back the laundry, if only by 1-12.).
So yes, we’re picking Melbourne. (And we’re expecting Billy Slater to have a big game.)
Our tip: Storm
Eels v Warriors
Offense VOA: Eels -11.86% (11th), Warriors -16.99% (14th)
Defense VOA: Eels -3.84% (9th), Warriors 6.94% (10th)
We feel like we’ve heard this one before: the Warriors, on the back of an impressive win, are looking to go on a run and get their season back on track. The last time we heard that, it was following their unlikely home victory against the Roosters. The next week, they spectacularly blew a 22-point lead to the Panthers, in the biggest meltdown of the season so far. So forgive us if we’re not falling over ourselves to back the Warriors in.
The Eels were outstanding last week against the Rabbitohs, with their forwards blowing the big Rabbitohs pack off the park, and Mitchell Moses playing his best game of the season as he single-handedly tore the Bunnies a new one.
However, we noted last week that the Eels presented as a particularly bad match-up for the Rabbitohs, as the Eels possess one of the league’s best run defenses, and the Rabbitohs’ only game plan involves beating teams between the 20s, and launching off the back of their forwards. The Warriors however, are not the Rabbitohs.
It’s unlikely that the Warriors are under any illusions that their pack is any good (in fact, replacing most of them appears to be their top recruitment priority for 2018). How the Warriors try to win games (typically unsuccessfully) is essentially by getting a hold of the ball, then doing nothing at all with it. Only 3 times this year have the Warriors reached double digits for errors, and with good reason – they rank 14th in offloads, 14th in LBVOA (-17.11%) and last in TBVOA (-24.64%). Against the Eels, this strategy could prove effective for the Warriors again, after they rode a 55-45 possession advantage to victory over Parramatta back in Round 6. They didn’t throw much at Parramatta that day, and it’s unlikely they will this week either, but if they can keep the ball out of Mitch Moses’ hands, it ultimately may not matter.
Which is why we do actually think this match shapes as being surprisingly close. Will we take the Warriors? No. But we are looking forward to what should be a competitive encounter.
Our tip: Eels
Dragons v Tigers
Offense VOA: Dragons 48.48% (1st), Tigers -8.13% (9th)
Defense VOA: Dragons -19.29% (5th), Tigers 32.20% (14th)
Looking at this match, we have some genuine concerns for the well-being of the Tigers players after what the Dragons are going to do to them.
Let’s ignore for a moment that the Dragons have lost three of their last four. In those losses, they managed to put 22 and 14 points past the league’s two best defenses (the Storm and Sharks), as well as disemboweling a horrid Warriors team to the tune of 6 tries, 10 line breaks and 42 tackle breaks. And they did this without their two best players, Gareth Widdop and Josh Dugan – both of whom are expected to return in time for this encounter with the Tigers.
The Tigers defense, for the record, also happens to be worse than that Warriors defense (for that matter, it’s worse than most teams). The Tigers’ defense hasn’t been good for years (actually, we can’t remember a time when it was ever good). However, they’ve previously been able to compete in games off the back of an exciting attacking game. Lately though, that attack appears to have checked out.
Mitchell Moses has already departed to Parramatta. Aaron Woods and James Tedesco will be backing up 3 days after State of Origin (and Tedesco has been generally below average for the Tigers these days anyway). Luke Brooks is out injured. The only glimmer of hope for the Tigers is the arrival of Kiwi excitement machine Tui Lolohea, though given that he only arrived on Monday, it’s surely too much to expect for him to spark an upset against one of the league’s best teams.
We like the Dragons, by plenty.
Our tip: Dragons
Roosters v Broncos
Offense VOA: Roosters 20.90% (4th), Broncos 1.38% (6th)
Defense VOA: Roosters -10.44% (7th), Broncos -7.29% (8th)
The last time these two sides met, back in Round 6, we (correctly) backed the Broncos in to dish out some pain to the ill-disciplined Roosters. At the time, we had the Broncos rated as one of the form teams in the competition, while the Roosters looked like also-rans. How times change.
Since then, the Broncos have slowly drifted down our VOA Ratings, largely as a result of their surprisingly disappointing defense, coupled with some surprisingly poor discipline (the Broncos have made 15 errors in each of their past two matches, and reached double digits in four of their last six). Yes, we do believe that the Broncos would have easily accounted for the Warriors, had they had their Origin players available (after all, most teams easily account for the Warriors), but make no mistake, their disappointing 5 tries conceded in that match had been coming for a while.
Against the Panthers and Sea Eagles, the Broncos allowed a combined 15 line breaks and missed a whopping 80 tackles. The real mystery here is how they haven’t leaked 5 tries in a game sooner. If they turn up and defend the way they have been against the Roosters, Sydney have the firepower to blow them away.
The Roosters may be prone to turning the ball over, but when they have it, they sure can punish teams. Through the last three matches, the Roosters have averaged a LBVOA of 55.34% – which over the course of the season, would be good enough for first by a long way (and in last week’s match, they did it despite missing 5 players to Origin duty).
It remains to be seen how well these sides back up after Wednesday night’s battle, and that may affect the outcome. But as it stands, we think the Roosters are a good shot to reverse the outcome of their last encounter.
Our tip: Roosters
Cowboys v Titans
Offense VOA: Cowboys -10.32% (10th), Titans -12.07% (12th)
Defense VOA: Cowboys 19.39% (11th), Titans 60.60% (16th)
We frequently like to remind our readers that the Titans are not a good football team (that’s the polite way of saying it. The less polite way is that they’re bigger frauds than Cocaine Cassie.) However, this week we’re going to break from tradition and say that this game actually looks competitive, and…entertaining?
If you cast your eyes an inch upwards, you’ll see that both teams possess relatively average offenses so far. Not terrible, and certainly not outstanding. However, if you look at the next line down you’ll see that while their offenses are okay-ish, their defenses are anything but.
Which is why this match shapes as a whole lot of fun. The last time these sides met, they put on a 32-26 try-fest, and we don’t see any reason why this should be any different. The Titans leak line breaks worse than any other team in the competition (LBCVOA – 40.62%), while the injury-ravaged Cowboys have only begun getting their own house in order in their last two outings (a win against the Bulldogs, and a loss to the Sharks). In the month prior to that, the Cowboys averaged a woeful LBCVOA of 71.77% – dead last over that period by some margin.
The Cowboys’ slight improvement in recent performance is enough for us to give them a narrow edge, but we expect another high-scoring shoot-out between these two sides.
Our tip: Cowboys
Sea Eagles v Raiders
Offense VOA: Sea Eagles 34.38% (2nd), Raiders 13.05% (5th)
Defense VOA: Sea Eagles -27.18% (4th), Raiders -16.20% (6th)
Back in Round 8, these two teams put on the match of the year, when the Sea Eagles narrowly ran out 2-point winners in golden point. Now, the Raiders get their shot at revenge.
There’s absolutely nothing between these sides. In order to beat the Raiders last time, Manly had to play an almost perfect game of football, making just 5 errors, and forcing a devastating 4 drop outs, to keep the Raiders pinned up their own end for much of the game – and they still only won by 2 points. There’s almost no chance that the Sea Eagles are going to be capable of turning in another performance like that. The question though, is whether or not they’ll need to?
Since they last met, the Raiders have looked wholly unconvincing, going down to the Bulldogs and Knights (yes, you read that right), before a couple of scratchy wins over the Eels and Roosters. The Raiders have shown promise at times, and broadly speaking, we feel like they could break out at any moment. But is this the game in which that’s most likely to happen?
Against the Roosters, the Raiders’ pack finally stood up, dominating the inferior Roosters forwards for much of the game. The Raiders enjoyed the lion’s share of both possession and field position, yet outside Josh Hodgson and Jordan Rapana, they looked completely void of ideas as to how to actually score points (their red zone ineffectiveness could best be described as “Anthony Griffin-esque”).
Even allowing for the absence of Tom Trbojevic, we expect the Raiders will need to score 20+ points to beat the Sea Eagles. It’s entirely possible, and we do expect the Raiders to explode into form at any moment. But it’s a big ask.
Our tip: Sea Eagles
Bulldogs v Panthers
Offense VOA: Bulldogs -32.22% (15th), Panthers -3.47% (8th)
Defense VOA: Bulldogs -27.26% (3rd), Panthers 27.27% (13th)
The final match of the round could be just about anything.
The Bulldogs have turned in a few brave performances of late, going down narrowly to the Roosters and Sharks in recent weeks. On the other hand, the Panthers have managed to dig themselves out of enormous holes against pretty ordinary opposition, in the Warriors and Knights.
Where the Bulldogs have been getting beaten is right up the middle, having been outgained in both those losses by over 400 metres each time. The Panthers are by no means a dominant pack themselves (in RMVOA they rank 10th compared to the Bulldogs’ 14th), however Trent Merrin and James Tamou should be fresh and fired up after missing the Blues victory on Wednesday night, and the return of Josh Mansour effectively gives the Panthers an extra forward at the start of each set (he’s also good for drawing an extra penalty or two).
But regardless, where this game will be decided is in Penrith’s attack. The Panthers have struggled badly thus far against elite defenses, having scored a combined 18 points in 3 matches against defenses ranked in our Top 5. However, it’s worth pointing out that the offense we’re getting this weekend isn’t likely to look a whole lot like the stinky offenses they rolled out earlier in the year. In their past 3 2nd halves, they’ve scored a combined 78 points, typically through a Matt Moylan-heavy attack. This week, Moylan looks to be making his long-awaited shift to five-eighth, sending the message that we can expect to see a whole lot of the Penrith captain from the get-go. The inclusion of exciting youngster Dylan Edwards gives the Panthers the sort of running fullback they haven’t seen at the foot of the mountains since Rhys Wesser. Add in the aforementioned return of Josh Mansour, and this Panthers offense suddenly looks a lot more exciting.
The question will be how quickly it can gel. They don’t have time to get it wrong – the Panthers sit precariously in 10th spot, with dates against the equally desperate Raiders and Cowboys on the horizon. If this new-look Panthers offense gets going, it’s unlikely the mediocre Bulldogs attack can keep up. If not, this could be the beginning of the end.
Our tip: Panthers