2017 Season Results:
Head-to-Head Tipping: 130/196 (66%) [Last week:3/4]
Line Betting: 52/95 (55%) [Last week: 1/2]
2016 Season Results:
Head-to-Head Tipping: 71%
Line Betting: 54%
(NOTE: If this is your first visit to the site, be sure to click here for an explanation of what we’re all about. Then, be sure to sign up at the bottom of the page to get betting tips sent straight to your inbox!)
NRL Finals Week Two Tips and Previews
Broncos v Panthers
Offense VOA: Broncos 20.92% (3rd), Panthers -0.53% (7th)
Defense VOA: Broncos -4.52% (7th), Panthers -2.79% (10th)
Friday night will see Brisbane and Penrith compete for the dubious honour of getting pounded by Melbourne in a week’s time.
While realistically, the winner of this game is unlikely to matter due to the juggernaut waiting for them on the other side, that doesn’t mean this isn’t important. On any given Sunday, any team can beat any other; sporting history is littered with stories like Stephen Bradbury and the 2016 Sharks, who stumbled their way to victory after their opponents fell over (Sharks fans can say what they like, but if Josh Hodgson doesn’t hurt is ankle in Week One of last year’s playoffs, they don’t make the Grand Final). But they all have one thing in common – they were all there to take advantage in the first place, which is why this game is still critically important.
While the bookmakers have the Broncos installed as raging hot favourites, we find their confidence at least somewhat surprising. Yes, we acknowledge that the Broncos are a vastly superior attacking unit. Even allowing for the absence of Darius Boyd (who’s already been ruled out of this match, along with forward Tevita Pangai Jr), the Broncos still have plenty of weapons, and they’ve actually performed surprisingly well without him this year.
Just last week, they managed to put 5 line breaks and 4 tries on the Roosters, and that was while using a continuous cavalcade of custodians (or, to put it differently, three different fullbacks – though that doesn’t have the same ring to it). In earlier matches without him this year, they’ve performed similarly well. They put 30 on the Raiders without him in Round 16; 34 on the Knights in Round 19; and – most impressively of all – 42 on the Bulldogs in Round 20. In the interests of full disclosure, they did have a couple of clunkers, too (notably, a 10-point effort against the Warriors, and being held to 12 by the Storm), but the point stands – the Broncos are capable of scoring points, with or without Boyd.
The next question, then, becomes: how many points can the Broncos expect to get? Yes, the Panthers conceded 28 points to Manly a fortnight ago, but we’re happy to ignore that, on the grounds that they named a half-baked team in a game that didn’t matter, and played accordingly (last week, in a game that did matter, they held Manly to just 10). Outside of that game, they’ve held every opponent they’ve faced from Round 18 onwards to 22 points or less – and in that period, they’ve faced several of the league’s best offenses, including Manly (who were held to 8 & 10), Canberra (22) and St George Illawarra (16). So it’s probably fair to say that 22 looks like being the upper limit for a Boyd-less Broncos. (It’s probably also worth mentioning that over the same period, the Broncos conceded over 22 points 3 times – including their infamous 52-point capitulation to Parramatta at this very ground three weeks ago. So score one for the Panthers defense.)
So, let’s say that Brisbane score something in the neighbourhood of 20 points. Can Penrith score more than that?
It’s at this point that the pro-Penrith argument begins to look a bit shaky. For a start, the Panthers will be without their skipper, Matt Moylan. That doesn’t make the Panthers suddenly hopeless – since moving to five-eighth in Round 13, the Panthers have played six matches without Moylan, winning 4 (and in matches without Moylan, but with Dylan Edwards playing a full match, they’re undefeated). But it would be unrealistic to say that their attack is unaffected by his absence. Tyrone May is an excellent footballer, no doubt. However, he’s primarily a ball-runner, rather than a ball-player, which is evidenced by his stats – May averages just 0.3 line break assists per game, compared to 0.8 for Moylan (Moylan’s 14 line breaks assists for the season rank him 12th in the league, despite having played just 18 matches). Without Moylan, the team loses an enormous amount of creativity, and are instead forced to turn to Bryce Cartwright when they’re chasing points (who’s talented, but when it comes to consistency, he makes Manu Vatuvei look like Cameron Smith). Cartwright was excellent last week, having a hand in all of Penrith’s tries. However ultimately, just one of those came via a line break. The other two came from a kick, and from a knee (or, if you’re Trent Barrett and refuse to look at the Spider Cam vision; a knock-on).
Which makes us fear for how many points Penrith can actually score. Brisbane’s defense is putrid, but so, for that matter, is Manly’s. If Penrith are to win this match, they’ll need to dominate field position (which should be easy enough – their forward pack could eat Brisbane’s for breakfast), and then, turn that field position into points. Is it possible? Certainly, and we’re giving them a huge shot. But 20 points just feels like a lot of points to get at Suncorp. If they can keep Brisbane to less than 18, Penrith probably win this game. But that’s easier said than done.
Our unrealistically specific tip: Broncos 20-18
Eels v Cowboys
Offense VOA: Eels -0.71% (8th), Cowboys -15.24% (13th)
Defense VOA: Eels -3.80% (8th), Cowboys 13.70% (13th)
We know, we know – last week we declared the Eels the worst team remaining in the competition. As it happens, we still think they are (you might have been impressed by the Eels effort, but we weren’t). Yet, we’re tipping them to win here. How can that be? Let us explain.
For a start, please don’t be fooled into thinking that the Eels were good last week by the competitive scoreline. They weren’t. They were as comprehensively outplayed as you would have imagined. All that last weekend proved was that if things break your way, it’s entirely possible to be there when the whips are cracking, even though you’re totally outclassed by your opposition (take note, Brisbane and Penrith – that could be you next week).
Let’s begin with the Eels’ offense. They managed 16 points and 4 line breaks against the best defense in the league. That looks like a decent effort. But look again – 2 of those tries, and 2 of those line breaks, came while the Storm were reduced to 12 men due to a sin-bin. In the other 70 minutes (you know, the 70 minutes in which the two sides had the same number of players on the field), they managed just a single try and 2 line breaks. That’s not that great now, is it?
And defensively, they weren’t especially flash either. They may have only conceded 3 tries, but they also leaked 7 line breaks (9 if you ask nrl.com), were outgained by over 100 metres, and missed a disappointing 34 tackles (the 6th most missed against the Storm this year). It’d be great if this was the exception, but it’s not. They’ve allowed 5 or more line breaks in 12 of their 25 matches this year, and missed 34 or more tackles in their last 5 games in a row. This is a team that’s at best average on both sides of the ball, and who have fluked their way deep into the playoffs courtesy of the world’s softest schedule.
But yet, we have them winning. Not because we think they’re that much better than the Cowboys. We don’t. Generally speaking, we think the Cowboys can trouble more of the good teams than Parramatta can. But the Eels aren’t one of the good teams.
Due to an horrendous injury toll, the Cowboys have been forced into a painfully boring, possession-dependent gameplan, that has the effect of dramatically reducing the effectiveness of their opponent’s offense. Consider this – since Round 7 (when they first lost Johnathan Thurston), the Cowboys have conceded between 12 and 26 points in 15 of 19 matches.* This is largely the result of how the Cowboys play – their opponents are typically limited to a small share of the football (the Cowboys have lost the possession count just 3 times in that period), which in turn reduces the impact of the better attacking teams. While a stellar attacking team like Canberra might score 8 tries with the majority of the ball (as they did in 2 out 4 games in which they had 55% or more of the football), they managed just 3 when starved of possession by the Cowboys. The Cowboys will still typically concede a few tries per game, essentially because their defense isn’t very good. However, the less possession their opponent gets, the less the difference is between the good attacking teams, and the bad ones.
The flip side of that coin though, is that despite continually dominating possession counts, they still struggle to score. They’ve bravely kept plugging away without their star half, but their offense has completely bottomed out of late, as they’ve averaged less than 3 tries per game over the past three weeks, despite never having less than 54% of possession. Their attacking options are pretty much limited to hit-ups by Jason Taumalolo, who – as good as he is – can’t be expected to brute force his way to multiple tries.
Which makes it really hard to tip them. By our estimation, the Cowboys will likely require about 54% of the possession in order to win this game, and unfortunately, the Eels typically aren’t that accommodating. The Eels have allowed their opponents that much football on just 6 occasions this year (losing 5 of them), and have averaged less than 7 errors per game over the past 3 weeks. So as much as we’d like to see the Eels bundled out this week, it seems like the most likely outcome is a narrow Parramatta victory. Though if the Eels leave their discipline behind, it could be curtains.
Our unrealistically specific tip: Eels 22-16
NOTE: We don’t, however, think it’s impossible that the Cowboys could get the necessary possession share to make a go of it. For what it’s worth, when the Cowboys met the Eels in Darwin this year, North Queensland were ruthlessly disciplined, making just 6 errors and conceding just 4 penalties, on their way to a 54% share of possession.
They won, 32-6.
*For comparison’s sake, Parramatta’s opponents finished inside the same margin just 10 times. 5 times they conceded less than 12 points, and 4 times they conceded over 26 points.