2017 Season Results:
Head-to-Head Tipping: 85/130 (65%) [Last week:2/4]
Line Betting: 32/63 (51%) [Last week: 1/2]
2016 Season Results:
Head-to-Head Tipping: 71%
Line Betting: 54%
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NRL Round 19 Tips and Previews
Warriors v Panthers
Offense VOA: Warriors -1.77% (9th), Panthers 3.49% (8th)
Defense VOA: Warriors 7.34% (11th), Panthers 8.80% (12th)
Question: Why didn’t the Panthers score more points against the Sea Eagles?
Answer: Because they didn’t make any real effort to.
While the Panthers’ offense has been the subject of much scrutiny after their anemic effort with a wealth of first half possession against Manly, what seems to have been lost to the casual observer (and some fairly ordinary sections of the media) is that the Panthers executed a very specific game plan for a very specific opponent – and it worked.
The Panthers had no chance in hell to beat the Sea Eagles in a shoot-out – Manly have more firepower and a better defense to boot. Instead, the Panthers went for an excruciatingly boring style of footy, designed to minimize errors. They drastically reduced their offloads – making just 6, after averaging over 12 per game since Round 9. They also steadfastly refused to go more than 2 passes wide, regardless of field position; turning it back inside if they even threatened going beyond the second-rowers. Waqa Blake and Tyrone Peachey may as well have brought a packed lunch and something to read, as they were completely ignored in the Panthers’ gameplan. The Panthers’ centres combined for just 15 runs against Manly (3 of which were from dummy-half), compared to 23 from their Sea Eagles counterparts. The point of this discussion though, is that it worked – and it will work again against the Warriors.
The reason it worked is that by reducing their errors (the Panthers made just 6 errors – far and away their best performance of the season) they protected their notoriously unreliable defense, by reducing Manly’s time with the ball. On top of that, their forwards dominated Manly in the middle of the park, leaving the Sea Eagles eternally running it out from deep in their own end. It’s the blueprint for beating Manly, and for that matter, beating the Warriors.
The Warriors play essentially the same style as the Sea Eagles – they’re just worse at it. Both sides lean heavily on discipline and winning possession (Manly rank 1st in errors; the Warriors rank 2nd), but the Warriors lack the forward pack to consistently turn that possession into field position (and, in turn, points). The Warriors have only managed to outgain their opponent in 6 of 16 matches so far. Their issue, specifically, is their inability to stop other teams rolling straight over the top of them – they rank 2nd last in RMCVOA (5.84%). If the Panthers can run through the Warriors in the same way they did against the Sea Eagles (and the Sea Eagles, FYI, rank 2nd in that same category), it won’t matter how good a touch the Warriors offense is in – they won’t get a chance to use it.
So for that reason, we’re taking Penrith. Not necessarily with enormous confidence – if the Panthers choose to open up the throttle and play a more expansive style, they’re just as much chance to be down 18 points at halftime as they are to be up.
Some may point to this match being Manu Vatuvei’s farewell, and the fact that the Warriors will be desperately wanting to earn a win for the occasion. But knowing the Warriors, the bigger the stage, the bigger the bed-wetting; so that might just set the table for some world-class disappointment across the Tasman.
Our tip: Panthers
Raiders v Dragons
Offense VOA: Raiders 14.11% (4th), Dragons 20.97% (3rd)
Defense VOA: Raiders -15.58% (5th), Dragons -12.42% (6th)
The good news in this particular clash is that one team has to win.
Both sides have been tremendously disappointing of late, with the Raiders losing their last 4, while the Dragons have been arguably worse, while winning just 1 over the same period (let’s all take a moment to remember that time when the Dragons conceded 28 points in 20 minutes to the Knights…yep, that happened).
Contrary to popular belief, the Raiders’ failures have nothing to do with their attack. They create opportunities and score points as well as any team in the competition. They rank equal 3rd in the competition in points scored, and even despite their recent run of losses, they’ve made 4 line breaks or more in their past 8 consecutive matches – the longest such streak in the league. Rather, their issue is that they make an astounding amount of errors on a disturbingly consistent basis.
The Raiders have made 13 errors or more in a match on 10 separate occasions – the most in the league (equal with Cronulla; however unlike Cronulla, the Raiders aren’t good enough to prevent those mistakes being turned into points). Of those 10 error-riddled performances, they went on to lose 8, including their dismal loss to the Knights in Round 10. And therein lies the problem – the Raiders are their own worst enemy. What they actually do with the football remains statistically amongst the best in the league, but each week it’s a lottery as to whether the Raiders show up with their boots strapped to their feet or their hands.
By contrast, the Dragons have just been bad. They’ve been missing a key forward in each of their past three matches, and in that time they were outgained twice (including by the pathetic Titans forwards), and conceded 1286 metres to the Knights (Newcastle’s 2nd best performance of the year – behind their game against the aforementioned Titans). If the Dragons’ forwards are struggling, the Dragons as a whole typically struggle – they’ve won just 2 matches all year in which they’ve been outgained. And bad news Dragons fans – you’ll be without Tyson Frizell this weekend.
Which pretty well makes up our minds. The Raiders have a big, strong forward pack, and will be welcoming back their gifted hooker Josh Hodgson for this encounter. It’s hard to imagine the Dragons forwards dominating the Raiders – we just need Canberra to hold onto the bloody football.
Our tip: Raiders
Knights v Broncos
Offense VOA: Knights -31.94% (15th), Broncos 10.88% (6th)
Defense VOA: Knights 34.00% (15th), Broncos -3.53% (8th)
It must be hard being a Knights fan. They get comprehensively outclassed most weeks, and then when they somehow get themselves into a winning position, they implode. Go outside, find the nearest Knights fan, and give them a hug. They need it.
You don’t have to be an expert to know that the Broncos are in a totally different class to the Knights – even the most casual observer would know that (“gee, that red and blue team sure lose a lot, don’t they?”). But this game remains interesting for its own reasons – it has the potential to be the first match in which the Broncos roll out their strongest possible halves combination – Benji Marshall and Anthony Milford.
When Anthony Milford was healthy earlier in the season, Marshall was pottering around in the Queensland Cup, where he then fractured his wrist and missed a month or so of football. Nobody was to know at the time, but Marshall has gone on to be the best performing of a talented quartet of halves options so far in 2017. In matches in which Marshall has started in the halves, the Broncos average a LBVOA of 39.53% and TBVOA of 20.53% – up from their season averages of 1.98% and 11.29% respectively. Add in the Broncos most talented half (Milford), and there’s potential for the Broncos to make a late surge towards the Top 4.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that Milford will actually play – he’s only been named on an extended bench at this stage – and if he does play, it remains to be seen whose place he’d take. But we need some reason to look forward to this game. Please, don’t take it away from us.
Our tip: Broncos
Titans v Sharks
Offense VOA: Titans -19.98% (14th), Sharks 5.14% (7th)
Defense VOA: Titans 58.89% (16th), Sharks -33.24% (2nd)
When these two sides last met, the Titans scrapped away to an unlikely win, in an awful match punctuated by an inordinate amount of stoppages, as the two sides combined for 40 errors and penalties between them. The uneven run of play seemed to badly affect the Sharks, as they turned in their worst performance of the year, however the chances of such a weird match being replicated would be about as high as the Titans’ chances of making the finals (read: nil).
The Titans have been consistently dreadful all year, led by their insipid forward pack, who’ve only outgained their opponents in 4 of 16 matches this year (by comparison, the Sharks have won the run metres in 13 of 16 games). It’s hard to imagine the Titans getting any sort of field position against the Sharks, and then when they do, they’d be at even longer odds to actually use it.
It remains to be seen how many of the Sharks’ Origin representatives will back up on Saturday night (Andrew Fifita has already been ruled out), but the Sharks have arguably the best depth of forwards in the competition anyway. Players like Jason Bukuya and Sam Tagataese typically ride the bench, while seasoned first-graders like Joseph Paulo and Jeremy Lattimore are available to join the starting 17 if required. Quite literally anyone from the Sharks bench would be a walk-up start in the Titans pack.
The Sharks annihilated the Roosters in their last outing, and they did it without a recognized hooker (James Segeyaro is a chance to make his return this week). The Titans are not in the same class as either of those teams, and we’d be very surprised if the Sharks don’t finally put the Titans’ season out of its misery on Saturday night.
Our tip: Sharks
Sea Eagles v Tigers
Offense VOA: Sea Eagles 22.49% (2nd), Tigers -9.79% (11th)
Defense VOA: Sea Eagles -24.96% (3rd), Tigers 32.49% (14th)
It sure was nice to see the Tigers finally get a win in their last start, even if it was only against the Knights. Ivan Cleary seems like too nice a guy to have to watch his career win percentage get torpedoed by this embarrassment of a football team; and after the year they’ve had, do Tigers fans really deserve to be lumped with the wooden spoon as well? No, we didn’t think so either.
Unfortunately, it’s back to reality for the Tigers this week, as they head to Lottoland for their inevitable beat-down. This match-up looms as being particularly poor for the Tigers. They come armed with some of the worst edge defense in the league (they rank 2nd last in LBCVOA with 32.06%), while the Sea Eagles three-quarter line is among the league’s very best. The Sea Eagles back 5 have combined for 44 tries in 2017; the entire Tigers squad have managed just 41. The closest thing the Tigers get to a defensive pattern is when they form a neat circle in their in-goal after conceding a try. It’s hard to imagine any way that this game plays out that doesn’t involve a steady stream of tries past David Nofoaluma and/or Kevin Naiqama, and after being kept largely in check by the Panthers last week, you get the feeling that the Sea Eagles will be itching to break out.
The Sea Eagles are locked in a battle with the Broncos for an all-important Top 4 berth (we don’t rate the Cowboys’ chances, given their horror run home), and we simply can’t see any way that the Sea Eagles let this one slip. It’s got to be Manly, and probably by a cricket score.
Our tip: Sea Eagles
Rabbitohs v Cowboys
Offense VOA: Rabbitohs -12.56% (12th), Cowboys -12.81% (13th)
Defense VOA: Rabbitohs 4.45% (10th), Cowboys 15.17% (13th)
The final match of the round could be among the most critical to the final make-up of the Top 8. The Rabbitohs need to win in order to maintain any hope of making the finals, while a loss for the Cowboys would see them fall as low as 7th, and be just 4 points clear of 9th, with matches against the Roosters, Storm, Sharks and Broncos still on their schedule.
The Rabbitohs would have been heartbroken by their last-start loss to the Roosters. A below-strength Sydney team was ripe for the picking, and a win would have placed the Rabbitohs level with the Panthers and Warriors for an unlikely run to the finals. Instead, they’re facing two months of do-or-die football, starting this weekend against the Cowboys.
After struggling through the middle part of the season, the Rabbitohs pack has really stood up of late, outgaining their opponents in their last 3 matches in a row (unsurprisingly, they won two of those, and came within 2 points of another). The performance of the Rabbitohs’ engine room typically dictates how the team as a whole performs, so their ability to win the middle of the field against the Cowboys will be crucial.
On the surface, it looks as though the Cowboys’ forwards have been performing well also, winning the run metres in their last 2 starts as well. However, the Cowboys required overwhelming possession advantages in order to achieve that – 58:42 against Penrith, and 60:40 against Canberra. If possession were equal, they’d have been outgained on both occasions by over 100 metres. Are the Cowboys likely to be gifted possession by the Rabbitohs? Possibly (they do have two Burgi in the starting 13), but the Bunnies have been noticeably more disciplined of late.
After averaging over 13 errors per game in the 5 weeks prior (a period in which they won just 1 game), the Rabbitohs have improved to a little over 8 in their last 4. Both sides average almost identical numbers of penalties conceded per game (just under 6), so on form, it’s conceivable that the possession will wind up being roughly equal, and if that’s the case, we think the Rabbitohs can win.
This has all the makings of being a tightly contested affair, but without a one-sided stream of possession, we just can’t see the Cowboys outscoring the Bunnies. The Cows haven’t made more than 3 line breaks in a game in over three weeks; in the same period, the Rabbitohs are averaging 7. Add in the kicking game of a healthy Adam Reynolds, and the continued absence of Johnathan Thurston hamstringing the Cowboys, and this match just might have the makings of a boil-over.
Our tip: Rabbitohs