2018 Season Results:
Head-to-Head Tipping: 53/88 (60%)
Line Betting: 16/35 (46%)
2017 Season Results:
Head-to-Head Tipping: 66%
Line Betting: 55%
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NRL Round 12 Tips and Previews
Broncos v Eels
Offense VOA: Broncos 9.47% (6th), Eels -26.78% (15th)
Defense VOA: Broncos -6.32% (6th), Eels 13.51% (14th)
Subjectively, we still find it hard to get especially excited about the Broncos – they just don’t look good.
That said, they’re amassing consistently impressive numbers that are becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. Offensively, they reside in the Top 6 for both LBVOA and TBVOA; which – when combined with their consistently high possession shares, earned by their impeccable discipline (they’ve made the 6th least errors and conceded the least amount of penalties) – have seen the Broncos average 4 tries per game over the last six weeks, and score 20 or more points in each week over that period. They might look stale and disorganised, but at some point, it becomes difficult to argue with production.
The Eels, on the other hand, both look bad, and are bad. After giving their fans a glimmer of hope with back-to-back wins over the Sea Eagles and Tigers, the Eels have now lost three-on-the-trot, and well and truly picked up where they left off earlier in the year.
In truth, there were arguably some positive signs in their losses to the Sharks and Bulldogs, with the team posting a solid 19.02% LBVOA over that fortnight (good enough for 2nd in the league); in those matches, they were losing more due to their consistently poor defense than their offense. Against the Warriors, though, they looked exactly like the Eels of the season’s opening month, somehow only managing 2 tries and 3 line breaks, despite earning a whopping 55% share of possession, and gaining almost 300 extra metres. Quite simply, their attack was absolutely atrocious, and cost them a victory in a match that they were absurdly well placed to win.
Against the Broncos, it’s highly unlikely that they’ll get anything like the same number of opportunities. In addition to the Broncos’ tight discipline, Brisbane have also forced the 3rd most repeat sets in the league, a combination that’s seen them earn at least 50% possession in 6 of their last 7 outings. And of the 7 matches in which the Eels have had 50% or less possession, how many have they won? Zero.
In short, it’s Brisbane for us.
Our tip: Broncos
Raiders v Sea Eagles
Offense VOA: Raiders 19.26% (2nd), Sea Eagles 11.94% (5th)
Defense VOA: Raiders 3.51% (10th), Sea Eagles 7.22% (12th)
We mentioned last week that the Raiders are a theoretically good match-up for the Sea Eagles, and we stand by that – in general, we’d expect Manly to perform better against other teams with poor defenses, against whom they can win a shoot-out (as they did in their previous outing against the Raiders, a 32-16 win for the Eagles). That said, it doesn’t actually mean we’ll be backing Manly here – rather, that we think they’re in with a huge chance.
To begin with, though the two sides profile similarly (that is, they’re both high-octane offenses, paired with typically brittle defenses), we’d argue that the Raiders are slightly better on both sides of the ball. Though both sides can run in a try or ten, we have the Raiders ranked higher in all three major metrics (LBVOA, RMVOA and TBVOA), as well as overall offense. Further, though the Sea Eagles have been the more impressive team of late, scoring 10 tries in the past fortnight (double the Raiders’ 5), there’s something to be said for the Raiders’ consistency. While the Sea Eagles’ offensive production bounces around like a yo-yo, producing more than 3 tries in 4 of 11 outings, and less than 3 in another 4 matches (obviously, they scored exactly 3 in the remaining 3), the Raiders have been held to less than 3 tries just once, and have scored between 3-4 in 8 matches this year. When it comes to projecting outcomes, there’s a lot to be said for reliability, and – so far at least – the Raiders offense has certainly been that (if you’re interested, both occasions in which they scored more than 4 were against the competition’s whipping boys, the Titans).
And if we’re going to guess whether this week will be an ‘up’ week or a ‘down’ week for Manly (something that is increasingly looking like a mug’s game), we’ll need to consider more than just the sloppy defense of the Raiders. The Sea Eagles squad has been once again hit by injury and suspension, this week losing Dylan Walker and Api Koroisau. Instinctively, you’d imagine that the loss of Walker would most affect the Sea Eagles’ production, but surprisingly, his impact has been relatively limited in 2018. Though he’s admittedly only played in 7 games (including 3 at five-eighth), it’s still striking that he’s yet to make a line break this year, and he actually ranks 8th among Sea Eagles outside backs for try involvements (though that list includes Trent Hodkinson, who played 4 games for the Sharks).
No, the absence that’s likely to sting the Sea Eagles the most is that of Koroisau. Losing Api is likely to hurt the Sea Eagles on two fronts. Firstly, they lose his production – Koroisau has been among Manly’s best attacking weapons, ranking 3rd on the team in try involvements (10), and 2nd in line break assists (4). But secondly (and perhaps most importantly), they’ll get stung by the drop-off in quality of his replacement. Utility Lewis Brown has been named to replace Koroisau, and though we love Brown as a footballer (his versatility makes him a perfect #14), he’s nowhere near the calibre of hooker that Koroisau is, and the Sea Eagles now not only have to find Koroisau’s impact elsewhere, they likely will have to do it while dealing with sub-standard service from dummy-half (FUN FACT: Though Brown has started 4 career matches at hooker for Manly and New Zealand, he didn’t win any of them, and only once did one of those teams score more than 10 points).
So, while we do think the Raiders are a decent match-up for the Sea Eagles, this just seems like a bad week to draw them (though we’re not ruling out an upset, by any stretch). Expect the Eagles to fare better either next week, at home against the Cowboys, or the following week against the Warriors.
Our tip: Raiders
Cowboys v Storm
Offense VOA: Cowboys -21.93% (13th), Storm -2.25% (9th)
Defense VOA: Cowboys 5.82% (11th), Storm -25.67% (2nd)
There seems to be a weird narrative doing the rounds at the moment that playing Michael Morgan at fullback, rather than Lachlan Coote, gives the Cowboys more attacking ‘spark’ (and if we’re to believe the team lists, that will be the combination they roll out again this week). Without wanting to call into question the strategic nous of Paul Green, we’re not entirely sure that the evidence so far supports that notion.
Last week was the first outing this year in which the Cowboys have rolled out that combination from the opening whistle, and – tight match result aside – the results were inconclusive at best. Despite dominating both time in possession (55 v 45), and field position (via a dominant 238m yardage advantage), the Cowboys were only able to make a pedestrian 3 line breaks, and 2 tries. Indeed, it appeared that even Green had reluctantly accepted his own team’s inability to score points, instructing his troops to repeatedly kick penalty goals at every opportunity, regardless of the match situation (a strategy that ultimately almost snatched them an unlikely win).
Of course, the sample size is small, and with time, that combination will presumably get better. Our main objection though, is that Coote wasn’t a problem in the first place. While it’s understandable that you’d be looking to make changes after winning just 3 of your opening 10 matches, it’s worth pointing out that the Cowboys’ offense had already been better since Coote’s return from injury. Though the Cowboys’ LBVOA is a woeful -9.32% on the season (11th), that leaps to 5.90% (5th) when Coote is in the team; with the team making 5 or more line breaks in 3 of 5 outings with Coote, while hitting that mark just once in 6 outings without him.
So, do we believe that this, new Cowboys combination is significantly more dangerous in attack? No, we don’t; and it’s doubtful that they’ll trouble the Storm in the slightest. The best chance the Cowboys have to win is to hope that the Storm arrive in Townsville and serve up the same slop they did last week – a possibility that is perhaps not as unlikely as you might think.
Last week’s bludger against Manly was actually the 4th time this season that the Storm have completely imploded, making 15 errors or more on their way to a shameful loss (more than a third of their games so far). Previously, we’ve explained away those stinkers as just bad matchups for Melbourne – both the Tigers and Sharks (the beneficiaries of the first three Melbourne meltdowns) happen to rank 2nd and 3rd in opponent errors, making a Storm stinker a bit more understandable. However, the Sea Eagles aren’t such a team – on this particular occasion, the Storm were just plain bad.
So, if the Storm have the capacity to be bad at any given moment, how can we try to predict it? Let’s look to the past for a guide, and see how the Storm have backed up after their previous howlers. As it so happens, the results are split, but slightly in favour of a bounceback. On the first occasion, they came back with a 30-14 hammering of this week’s opponent, the Cowboys (that sounds ominous). But after the second, they actually turned in another stinker, going back-to-back with bludgers against both the Sharks and Tigers. And after that third piss poor effort? A 40-14 belting of the Knights, that kicked off a three-week run of scoring 30+ points per game.
We’re not really sure that helps all that much, but it does give us some confidence that it’s more likely than not that the Storm will right the ship, and return to form this weekend. And if they do, they’re undeniably better than the Cowboys have been at any point so far this year.
Our tip: Storm
Roosters v Titans
Offense VOA: Roosters 2.16% (8th), Titans -29.78% (16th)
Defense VOA: Roosters -30.66% (1st), Titans 60.54% (16th)
Since we called out the Roosters’ struggling offense three weeks ago, they’ve been quietly building up a significant stockpile of eggs to wipe on our faces.
Since the low-water mark of their outing against the Dragons, the Roosters have progressively improved each week with the ball, making progressively more tackle breaks and line breaks in each subsequent week, building up to their strong 4-try, 8-line break, 1505m effort against the Broncos (an effort that was both the most line breaks and most run metres that the Broncos have conceded in a game all season). Yes, the Roosters still have ball handling issues (they remain the only team in the league to have made double-digit errors in every game this season), but they’re at least finally starting to click into gear – and that’s bad news for the Titans.
While we were pleased to see the Titans end their five-game losing streak (and further complicate the wooden spoon race), they were hardly free of the defensive problems that have plagued them all season. Despite winning the game, their 26 points conceded brought them to 9 out 11 games in which they’ve conceded 20 or more points – that’s a starting point that will make it very difficult to win many football games, particularly when you have an offense as dependent on tries from kicks as the Titans are.
The news gets worse for the Titans when you examine specifically where the Knights were punishing the Titans – down the Gold Coast’s right edge. The Titans allowed 4 line breaks and 3 tries down that channel last week, and though they won’t be the last team to be tortured by Kalyn Ponga this year, it doesn’t get any easier this week against Luke Keary and Latrell Mitchell, who have a combined 13 try assists and 13 line break assists between them.
It seems extremely unlikely that the Titans will keep the Roosters under 20 points (and they’re probably a good shot to get over 30, too), and against the consistently excellent Roosters defense (who we currently have ranked 1st in the league), it’s difficult to see exactly how they could outscore them. It looks like a comfortable Roosters win to us.
Our tip: Roosters
Warriors v Rabbitohs
Offense VOA: Warriors 4.88% (7th), Rabbitohs 52.93% (1st)
Defense VOA: Warriors 16.44% (15th), Rabbitohs -11.65% (5th)
Last week, we tipped against the Warriors, due to their frequent late team changes, and the defensive ineptitude of Peta Hiku at centre. So, the Warriors made a late change, shifting Hiku to fullback, and replacing him with the more defensively competent Gerard Beale. Well played, New Zealand Warriors. Well played.
Though statistically Beale didn’t look substantially better (he still allowed one line break, and missed 3 tackles), he certainly passed the eye test, as the Warriors’ right edge repeatedly turned away the Eels’ attacking raids, despite constant attention from Corey Norman. Watching Beale defend, we couldn’t help thinking to ourselves, “if Peta Hiku plays right centre ever again for the Warriors, it will be too soon”. And lo and behold, with the return of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck comes the return of Peta “the try-scoring corridor” Hiku to the three-quarters; and with him, a sick feeling in our stomach, and reluctance to back New Zealand.
There is some good news for the Warriors though. With Greg Inglis being forced to shift to fullback as cover for the injured Alex Johnston, that’s one less giant problem for Hiku to have to deal with (imagining Hiku marking Inglis was giving us flashbacks to Steve Turner). That said, Adam Douehi is no slouch either, and the Warriors’ right edge is arguably just as bad anyway, if you include Blake Green (who’s let in 10 line breaks himself) – and they’ll still have Dane Gagai to worry about.
In general, we’re loving what the Rabbitohs are doing at the moment, and although they were held to just 2 tries last weekend, we were impressed to see their offense keep producing opportunities, despite having very little football (last weekend marked the 6th week in a row that the Bunnies have made 5 or more line breaks in a game – the next longest such streak is the Knights, with just 3). Yes, the Warriors thumped Souths all the way back in Round 1, but a lot has changed since then. The Rabbitohs have now won 5 of their last 6, while the Warriors have won just 3, including twice getting thrashed by 30+ points.
As risky as it is to believe the Warriors team sheet, if they’re trotting out Hiku at 3, we just can’t back them. The Rabbitohs are tearing apart good defenses at will of late, and that’s a weakness that’s just too easily exploited.
Our tip: Rabbitohs
Panthers v Dragons
Offense VOA: Panthers -7.43% (10th), Dragons 18.27% (3rd)
Defense VOA: Panthers 2.08% (9th), Dragons -19.94% (4th)
We wrote at length last week that if the Raiders could just earn an even share of possession, they actually have the cattle to beat the Dragons; and, in some ways, we feel vindicated by their performance.
Though most will have looked at the final score and said “25-18; yep, the Dragons are better than the Raiders, just as I suspected”, it’s worth noting that the Raiders were on the arse-end of a 44-56 possession difference. Further, the game was actually 10-10 at halftime – the Dragons weren’t able to pull away until the second half, when they were benefiting from a 59-41 possession share, or to put it differently, almost 50% more time in possession. The Raiders were right there with a huge chance to pull off an upset over the competition’s benchmark, until a sloppy second half – in which they made 6 errors and gave away a further 7 penalties in just 40 minutes of football – saw the match slip away.
We make the point because, similarly to the Raiders, the Panthers are arguably good enough to beat the Dragons, should they be able to earn a decent share of possession. Though Penrith’s overall offensive season numbers are average at best, it’s worth noting that they’ve played the majority of their games without half their squad, and are beginning to get troops back. Specifically, boom halfback Nathan Cleary returned last weekend; and though the sample size is small, in the 4 matches in which Cleary has played this season, the Panthers’ LBVOA leaps from 10th to 3rd (17.03%, and ahead of the Raiders, who put 5 past the Dragons last weekend), and they average 19 points per game, despite 3 of those outings being against top 8 Defenses.
The major question though remains: can they actually earn an even share of possession? On the surface, you’d argue that Penrith are as well placed as any opponent to earn a good chunk of the footy – while the Dragons have won 50% or more of the possession in 10 of 11 matches this year, the Panthers aren’t far behind at all, having done the same in 9 games. Our doubt over the Panthers is built on the way with which the Panthers earn possession. Yes, Penrith typically fare well in that particular stat, but they do it the old fashioned way – that is, by not stuffing up. They turn up each week, complete their sets, and earn possession by not giving their opponents cheap turnovers (the Panthers have made the 3rd least errors this season). In contrast, the Dragons can get a bit loose with their ball control, but they’re able to earn extra sets differently – by forcing repeat sets. By gaining more possession in this manner, the Dragons have been able to earn large possession advantages even in games where they’ve made double digit errors, as they did against the Storm and Rabbitohs (the South Sydney numbers in particular were amazing; where despite losing the match, their 3 forced drop-outs saw them earn a 56-44 possession share, despite making 3 extra errors). This could potentially be critical here, against a typically clinical Penrith side.
There’s enough here that we’d love to tip Penrith, and if they can just get a decent chunk of the footy, we genuinely believe they can win (and a vocal home crowd is sure to help in that regard, by booing their way to a few extra penalties). However, at this point, it just seems like getting cute to tip against St George. If you mindlessly tipped the Dragons every week so far, you’d be rolling along at 82% for those matches, which is a pretty good launching pad for any tipping comp. Should be a pearler of a game, though.
Our tip: Dragons
Knights v Sharks
Offense VOA: Knights 12.52% (4th), Sharks -22.30% (14th)
Defense VOA: Knights 9.27% (13th), Sharks -20.47% (3rd)
The Knights were a bit unlucky to lose last week, having made more line breaks, broken more tackles, and made less errors than their Titan counterparts. So, how did they manage to do it? Sadly, the same way they lose most weeks – their forward pack got absolutely dominated.
To be fair, they were always going to be up against it after losing Jacob Saifiti (arguably their best forward not named Herman Ese’Ese), and – although we don’t rate him – losing Brock Lamb probably didn’t help either. But regardless, getting outgained by over 200m by a team who hadn’t won the yardage battle since Round 5 isn’t a good look – if they can’t outmuscle the Titans, it’s hard to imagine who exactly they will put yards on. What we do know is that’s unlikely to be the Sharks, who rank 6th in RMCVOA, despite having been trotting out a skeleton staff in their forward pack for the past month.
Having conceded over 1500m in each of their past two games, the Sharks will no doubt be thrilled to run into an opponent who haven’t hit 1400m in a game all year. Cronulla’s offense has been quietly building over the past month, scoring 4 tries in each of their past 3 games (after hitting that mark just twice in their first 8); and with good field position against an opponent who’ve been very welcoming to opposition line breaks of late (Newcastle’s LBCVOA of 8.57% over their last 3 games ranks 4th last in the league), this might be just the breakout opportunity the Sharks have been waiting for.
If there’s a factor here that’ll make us pause for thought, it’s that they’re playing in Newcastle (where the Knights do typically turn in a good effort), but this shapes as a bit of a mismatch anyway, before you even consider the sketchy Knights forwards, and the expected return of Luke Lewis and Wade Graham. We really like the Sharks here.
Our tip: Sharks
Tigers v Bulldogs
Offense VOA: Tigers -12.61% (12th), Bulldogs -8.37% (11th)
Defense VOA: Tigers -0.75% (8th), Bulldogs -2.92% (7th)
Finally, we get to the Tigers and the Bulldogs – two teams with just 2 wins between them from their last 10 matches combined.
Neither team is traveling particularly well, with Ivan Cleary going heavy on the changes this week, in an attempt to spark his sputtering side. Their re-shuffled side probably looks better on paper, though that likely depends on your opinion of the enigmatic Tui Lolohea (we’ve always been fans of his, but admit that he’s an acquired taste). Corey Thompson shifts to the wing for Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, and Mahe Fonua (who was amazing in their sole win of the last month) comes into the centres for Michael Chee-Kam. Arguably the best move of the lot though, is the decision to start Jacob Liddle at hooker (finally!). Similarly to Lewis Brown at the Cowboys, Elijah Taylor is an excellent footballer, but a bog average hooker; and getting more minutes out of Liddle is surely a step in the right direction for the Tigers’ offense (though it remains to be seen how Cleary intends to use the returning Josh Reynolds off the bench, and how he impacts on the Tigers’ spine). Liddle has only started 2 matches this year, and in those matches, Wests averaged 29 points per game (though it’s worth mentioning that they were both against opponents with bottom 5 defenses).
So, we like the changes that Wests are making, but do we like what they’ve been doing lately? No, we don’t. Outside of a superb performance against the Cowboys, the Tigers’ offense has been abysmal, with last week’s tryless effort against Penrith a long time coming. Though they’ve won 6 matches so far, they haven’t gotten anywhere near winning a game without dominating possession, in large part because they struggle to score points. While we’re optimistic that this week’s re-shuffle should help in that regard, it would be foolish to immediately assume that will be the case.
All that being said, it’s not like the Bulldogs have been noticeably better. They were held tryless themselves a little over a month ago by the Roosters, although few objective analysts would consider Penrith to be the defensive equals of Sydney. We have some optimism that the Bulldogs offense has been gradually trending up since then, with their LBVOA steadily climbing from a pathetic -53.20% against the Panthers, to an outlandish +60.51% against the Sharks (this effort totally reeks of an outlier, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive). We’re not expecting them to produce anything like last week’s numbers here, but we do think they’re a good chance to perform marginally above their season average – a season average that’s already fractionally better than Wests’.
That’s in part due to their current form line, but mostly due to the Tigers’ recent defense. You can pinpoint the exact moment that the Tigers’ defense turned to water, and it was in their romping 38-12 win over the Sea Eagles. That day, the Tigers somehow let in 7 line breaks to Manly, despite having a 60% share of the ball, and from that point on, they’ve never recovered. If you drew a line between ‘pre-Manly’ and ‘post-Manly’, you’d get a phenomenal Tigers defense on one hand, averaging just 11 points conceded per game, with a LBCVOA of -36.09% (1st in the NRL); and on the other, a disjointed, hot-and-cold defense, averaging 18.7 points conceded per game, with a porous LBCVOA of 34.98% (2nd worst in the NRL). And as bad as the Bulldogs have been over the past five weeks, that’s a LBCVOA mark that the Bulldogs have only hit once in that entire period (ironically, in the only match they won).
So, on form, we have to give a narrow edge to the Bulldogs. Subjectively, we like the changes the Tigers are making on paper, and at their best, they’ve certainly got what it takes to stop the Bulldogs’ offense. However, they haven’t been at their best for a while now, and we’re not prepared to take a guess that they’ll return to that level this week.
Our tip: Bulldogs