2017 Season Results:
Head-to-Head Tipping: 73/107 (68%) [Last week: 5/8]
Line Betting: 28/51 (55%) [Last week: 1/4]
2016 Season Results:
Head-to-Head Tipping: 71%
Line Betting: 54%
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NRL Round 15 Tips and Previews
Rabbitohs v Titans
Offense VOA: Rabbitohs -19.21% (14th), Titans -7.17% (10th)
Defense VOA: Rabbitohs 19.87% (13th), Titans 62.01% (16th)
We’ll give the NRL credit where credit’s due for this one – when the NRL schedule was being drawn up, it’d have been reasonable to assume that both these teams would be largely unaffected by Origin, with only injured Rabbitohs star Greg Inglis and Titans fullback Jarryd Hayne looking like viable possibilities at the time. As it turns out however, that’s not the case.
Through a combination of injuries and representative duties, this match sees a virtual full strength Rabbitohs outfit (notably without the aforementioned Inglis, though he’s gone for the season) meeting a Titans side who, even by their standards, is close to unrecognisable. Relative to last week (when the Titans got pumped by the unusually non-disappointing Warriors), the Titans are now without Hayne, Nathan Peats and Jarrod Wallace due to Origin commitments; as well as Kane Elgey and Karl Lawton through injury. They all join the pre-existing absences of familiar names like Tyrone Roberts, Agnatius Paasi, Chris Grevsmuhl, Ryan Simpkins and Dan Sarginson. Put it all together and the Titans will be lining up against the Rabbitohs missing almost an entire starting side.
To make matters worse, this probably wasn’t a good matchup for the Titans in the first place. It’s quite well established that the one-dimensional Rabbitohs like to play on the back of a dominant forward pack – the Titans come equipped with arguably the worst group of forwards not living in the Hunter. Take away their best bookend (Wallace), and they appear to be on a hiding to nothing.
If there’s a glimmer of hope for the Titans, it’s that the last time the Rabbitohs got a crack at an essentially reserve grade team (when they took on the Panthers in Round 6 minus an entire starting backline, except Cleary), they clumsily struggled their way to a 1-point victory.
Unfortunately for the Gold Coast though, the Panthers are much better than they are, and the Titans are missing three quarters of their spine, as well as half their pack. At full strength, this would have been a good contest, but as it stands, this is there to be taken by the Bunnies.
Our tip: Rabbitohs
Storm v Cowboys
Offense VOA: Storm 30.82% (2nd), Cowboys -9.45% (11th)
Defense VOA: Storm -47.31% (1st), Cowboys 18.94% (12th)
Unlike the game above, we’d love to know what on earth the NRL was thinking when they scheduled this blockbuster for an Origin round.
The big-name Cowboys would be a strong draw in Melbourne (as well as providing a great contest – their three encounters last year were decided by an average of just 5 points), but without all the Origin stars, it’s difficult to get excited about this.
Let’s take stock. The Storm enter this game minus Billy Slater, Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk, Will Chambers and Tim Glasby through Origin duty; they’re also down Jordan McLean and Cheyse Blair through injury. So, they’re short a fullback, hooker, both centres and two props relative to last week (Cooper Cronk was rested, and they’re also down Christian Welch due to an ACL tear). On the Cowboys side, they’re missing Johnathan Thurston, Michael Morgan, Coen Hess and Gavin Cooper. Which means that they’ll be short both starting halves and two back-rowers compared to Round 14 (in addition to the long-term absences of Matt Scott and Pat Kaufusi, two key forwards). We’re not really sure who has it worse.
Missing 3/4 of your spine is an enormous disadvantage, though the Storm have had the benefit of having played successfully without all three players at various stages of the season (though admittedly, not all at the one time). On the other hand, while the Cowboys have been forced to play without members of their spine as well, it’s worth pointing out that in short, frankly, they weren’t very good. In matches without Johnathan Thurston, the Cowboys won just 3 of 6 (against the two worst teams in the competition – Newcastle and the Gold Coast – and the disappointing Bulldogs). In matches without two members of their spine, they won just 1 of 3 (against the last-placed Knights). So as it stands, we’ll call it a wash.
So, how do we separate the two sides? With difficulty. Both sides will be entering the match a long way below their best, and the two sides’ forwards depth in particular is sure to be tested (as an aside, it’s surprising that the Storm have opted against rolling out new arrival Nate Myles for this very reason).
We’re going with the Storm, essentially because they’re that far above the Cowboys at full strength, that we have to assume that they’ll be just as much better when they’re both playing with replacement squads. But we’re not thrilled about it.
Our tip: Storm
Sharks v Tigers
Offense VOA: Sharks -0.25% (8th), Tigers -10.10% (12th)
Defense VOA: Sharks -39.39% (2nd), Tigers 27.97% (15th)
Saturday evening will see the Sharks – minus James Maloney, Andrew Fifita, Valentine Holmes and Jack Bird – hosting the Tigers, who’ll be robbed of what little star power they have (James Tedesco and Aaron Woods).
With the Tigers paying close to $4, we’d genuinely love to see the Tigers get up. With the number of outs for Cronulla, there’s enough question marks that we could honestly understand anyone who has a lash on Wests in the desperate hope of cashing in. But in all good conscience, we can’t really recommend it.
Yes, the Sharks are below-strength, but three weeks ago they took on an Origin-depleted Bulldogs side, and handled the occasion just fine, sneaking away 9-8 in what turned out to be a defensive war, as both sides ran with simple gameplans in the absence of key personnel. If this match turns out similarly, good luck. To put it bluntly, there’s no side in the competition more ill-equipped for a defensive slugfest than Wests.
The Sharks are undoubtedly much weaker than usual, but the Tigers struggle enough week-to-week as it is; without Tedesco and Woods, we’d struggle to tip them against the Knights, never mind the Sharks. Even without Fifita, the Wests forward pack looks completely inferior to Cronulla’s, and Fa’amanu Brown should give adequate enough service for the Sharks to still get through the Tigers typically wafer-thin defense (they rank 2nd last in LBCVOA – 28.52%). Conversely, the Sharks defense is as consistent as you could hope for, and outside Tui Lolohea, it’s tough to see where the Tigers will get any kind of spark from.
On any given Sunday, anything can happen. The Sharks have been generally disappointing at home this year, and Cronulla are well below their best. But we still can’t take the Tigers. We just can’t.
Our tip: Sharks
Eels v Dragons
Offense VOA: Eels -14.29% (13th), Dragons 31.88% (1st)
Defense VOA: Eels 8.62% (9th), Dragons -13.94% (7th)
Ordinarily in Origin-affected rounds, we try to err on the side of the conservative, and hope to get out of the week relatively unscathed. However, when looking at this match, one question immediately springs to mind – if it wasn’t an Origin week, and Dugan and Frizell were instead absent with injury, would the Eels still be favourites?
We ask the question because at least at first glance, the Eels’ favouritism looks more like a knee-jerk reaction to the Origin week than anything else. So far this season, the Dragons have been indisputably better than the Eels. Granted, the last two weeks St George Illawarra have been disappointing (and their defense has been slowly trending down for about a month). But, even then, have they really been any worse than Parramatta? The Eels, remember, are coming off a 26-point hiding at the hands of North Queensland, and the week prior bled 8 line breaks to the Warriors (yes, you read that right). So, even if you’re reacting to the Dragons’ dip in form, the Eels certainly haven’t been any better (and in our opinion, have actually been worse).
Which makes us suspect that the bookies are just looking at the ins and outs, and saying “Parramatta are virtually full strength, the Dragons are missing Origin players. Therefore, Parramatta.” But let’s get real for a moment – the Dragons are only missing two players to Origin – Josh Dugan and Tyson Frizell. The Eels, meanwhile, are missing an assortment of first graders to injury, including Michael Jennings, Peni Terepo, Frank Pritchard and Josh Hoffman (among others). And (apologies to Mr. Dugan), the absence of Dugan doesn’t really affect the Dragons’ attack that much.
In 4 matches without Dugan this year, they’ve averaged 25.25 points per game, and won all but 1 (a 4-point loss to the Sharks). They thumped the Sea Eagles, Cowboys and Warriors with Jason Nightingale at fullback (and against the Warriors, Gareth Widdop was also unavailable). Which isn’t to suggest that Dugan isn’t a great player. He obviously is. But, he simply isn’t that important in an attack that’s built on field position and dominating through the middle of the field. In that respect, we’d actually expect Tyson Frizell to be a more costly absentee for the Dragons. But how much is Tyson Frizell worth to the Dragons (particularly when you consider that the Storm just beat the Sharks without Cooper Cronk)?
We’re not saying that the Eels won’t win – far from it. This game looks like a barn-burner, and could easily go either way. But we ask you again – if this weren’t an Origin week, and Dugan and Frizell weren’t playing, would you still pick Parramatta? If you happen to believe that the Dragons defense has been exposed, and that teams have finally figured out how to defend the St George Illawarra offense, then by all means, pick the Eels (to be honest, we’re wondering the same things ourselves, and would agree that at this point, their VOA ratings probably aren’t reflective of their current performance). But, if you’re just looking at the outs for the Dragons and mindlessly selecting the favourite, we’d suggest you have a long hard think about it before you click the little circle next to ‘Eels’.
Our tip: Dragons