2018 Season Results:
Head-to-Head Tipping: 70/116 (60%)
Line Betting: 22/48 (46%)
2017 Season Results:
Head-to-Head Tipping: 66%
Line Betting: 55%
(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 Round 16 Tips and Previews
Dragons v Eels
Offense VOA: Dragons 9.86% (6th), Eels -28.18% (16th)
Defense VOA: Dragons -21.08% (3rd), Eels 16.72% (15th)
The last time we saw the Eels, they were standing in their own in-goal, as a result of an 8 try Rabbitohs barrage. With two weeks having passed since that ignominious performance, you may have forgotten just how ordinary the Eels were that night. Let us remind you.
In the first half, the Eels enjoyed a lop-sided possession advantage, with their possession count sitting over 60% for much of the opening stanza, before settling in at 53% by half-time. And what did they have to show for all that footy? A 2-point half-time deficit. Then, when the possession inevitably flipped in the second half (the Rabbitohs had 58% of the footy after half-time) Parramatta got comprehensively smoked, ultimately going down 42-24. Now, to be clear: there’s no shame in losing to the Rabbitohs; they’re looking like the real deal. However, South Sydney gave the Eels a lesson here on what you need to do while ever you’re blessed with possession; and in that context, the Eels’ 3 line breaks for the match (and just 2 of which came during their possession-rich first half) was sadly disappointing.
And if the Eels couldn’t crack the Bunnies’ defense with a wealth of footy, they’re not likely to find it any easier against the Dragons. St George-Illawarra just held Manly (who are infinitely more offensively talented than Parramatta) to a single try, and have lost the possession battle just twice in 14 games – so if the Eels are struggling to score even with a heap of footy, we can only wonder how badly they might struggle without it.
This match is likely of more interest to the casual observer to see if the Dragons’ offense can heat back up. Though they’ve won their last 2, the Dragons attack has looked far from convincing for a while now, with the win over Manly the first time since Round 9 that they’ve scored more than 3 tries in a game. They certainly looked better against the hapless Sea Eagles, but an outing against the 2nd-worst defense in the league might be just what the doctor ordered for the Dragons.
If not, (and if the Eels manage to swing an upset) there’s certain to be questions being asked about the Dragons’ premiership credentials. For the record though, we think they’ll be fine here.
Our tip: Dragons
Warriors v Sharks
Offense VOA: Warriors 10.36% (5th), Sharks -0.97% (8th)
Defense VOA: Warriors 12.04% (12th), Sharks -19.91% (4th)
We still don’t know what to make of the Warriors, who’ve been surprisingly decent in their last two matches (albeit against lightweights Manly and North Queensland), but are still just a few weeks removed from a five-week period in which they copped 3 pastings of 20+ points. The Warriors seem to be doing enough to consistently beat the competition’s weaker sides (which is typically all that’s required to make the finals), but we’re still not convinced that they’re the real deal.
As it stands, New Zealand have played 7 matches against sides in the current NRL Top 8, and of those, they’ve managed to win just 3 (and have lost their last 3 on the trot, with their most recent coming all the way back in Round 7). They’re looking increasingly like a team of flat-track bullies, who are happy to rack up a score against the league’s bottom-feeders, but in the face of the slightest resistance, we don’t have much faith that they’ll stay in the fight.
That being said, the same argument could be leveled at Cronulla. Though the Sharks have won 7 of their last 9, just 1 of those wins came against a current Top 8 side (Penrith), and that, too, was back in Round 7. Their 2 losses, meanwhile, came against South Sydney and Brisbane. It would appear that as vastly improved as the Sharks’ offense is of late, they’ve still struggled when they’ve run into an above average defense. The good news for Cronulla then, is that the Warriors’ isn’t that.
Though the Warriors’ defense has looked superb in recent wins over the Cowboys, Eels and Tigers, all those offenses rank in the bottom 4 of the competition. In their sole outing of the last month against an offense who can actually play a bit (South Sydney), they were ripped apart for 30 points. Though the Sharks’ offense has struggled on occasion against the better teams, the same can’t be said of their defense, which has held every opponent they’ve faced to 3 or less tries for the past 6 weeks in a row (a period in which they’ve played all 4 of the best attacking teams in the competition – Souths, Canberra, Brisbane and Newcastle).
And that may be the difference here. Though both sides are capable of torching the crummy sides, only the Sharks have a defense that’s been dependably good week-in, week-out. Add in a superior forward pack (the Warriors have exceeded 1300m just twice in their past 5 games, while the Sharks have only missed that mark once in the same period) and question marks over the Warriors team (it remains to be seen how many, if any, of their Kiwi Test stars will back up here; plus captain Adam Blair is suspended), and we like the Sharks slightly better. One way or another, somebody will beat a Top 8 side on Friday night.
(Oh, and by the way, the God of Plod Aaron Woods will be making his Sharks debut on Friday as well. Feel free to adjust your expectations for Cronulla up or down, depending on your personal Woods-view.)
Our tip: Sharks
Roosters v Storm
Offense VOA: Roosters -4.28% (9th), Storm -4.58% (10th)
Defense VOA: Roosters -41.71% (1st), Storm -24.19% (2nd)
Easily the most evenly matched game of the round, the Roosters and Storm will do battle on Friday night for a potential spot in the NRL Top 4.
Both teams have shown flashes of brilliance in 2018 (the Roosters’ effort in eviscerating the Panthers in their last start was terrifying), but have also been held back by inconsistency. You could look at both sides recent winning streaks (4 games for the Roosters, and 3 for the Storm) and suggest that they’ve put those early season stumbles behind them, but we’re not sure we’d agree, at least on the offensive side of the ball.
Prior to belting Penrith, the Roosters had failed to make more than 3 line breaks in a game in their previous 3 outings, despite having the good fortune of drawing the Titans, Tigers and Knights – all teams who rank in the league’s bottom 6 for LBCVOA. The Storm, meanwhile, haven’t been much better – they have a high-watermark of 4 line breaks in a game over the same period (their win against Brisbane in Round 14), but are averaging just 2.5 line breaks per game over their last 4 matches (which likewise featured such defensive marshmallows as Manly, North Queensland and Newcastle).
So yes they’ve both been winning, but in truth, it’s been solely on the back of the two best defenses in the league – and it’s here that we’d argue that the Roosters are in marginally better form. Over their last 4 outings, the Roosters have held every opponent they’ve faced to 2 tries or less, and they’ve done it by keeping their line intact – their LBCVOA over that period of -50.83% puts them a distant first in the NRL, with daylight second. The Storm, meanwhile, have remained up and down. They average 2.5 tries conceded per game over the same period (which is still very good), but have probably been fortunate that that number’s so low. The Storm allowed 5 line breaks in both of their last 2 outings, yet conceded just 5 total tries. That’s an unusually large disparity, that can be explained by the Storm’s dominance of field position (they outgained their opponents by over 400m combined over that fortnight). Obviously, a conceded line break is less likely to lead to a try if it comes on your opponents’ side of halfway, where the Storm were spending much of those matches. This week however, they’re unlikely to find the going so easy – the Roosters rank 2nd and 3rd in RMVOA and RMCVOA, respectively. Should both sides defend to form, it’s entirely possible that an extra opportunity or two for the Roosters could be the difference between the two sides.
All this being said, we should also point out that we publish our tips on a Thursday, and unfortunately, there remain plenty of question marks over exactly who’ll be running out for both sides. Already Boyd Cordner has been ruled out for the Roosters, with Jared Waerea-Hargreaves in doubt at time of writing; while Sam Kasiano is out for the Storm, with the status of Josh Addo-Carr, Felise Kaufusi and Cameron Munster also up in the air. Depending on the eventual make-up of both sides, we could understand swinging one way or another. But as it stands, on the information we’ve got so far, we’ve got the Roosters by a hair.
Our tip: Roosters
Panthers v Sea Eagles
Offense VOA: Panthers -5.20% (10th), Sea Eagles 1.96% (7th)
Defense VOA: Panthers -3.85% (6th), Sea Eagles 10.41% (10th)
The Panthers return home to Mulgoa Rd after copping a royal hiding from the Roosters in their previous start. Lest we overreact to the scoreline in that particular game, allow us to remind you of two points: firstly, the Panthers haven’t really been as good as their lofty ladder position suggests (yet); but secondly, they also were nowhere near as bad as their last start’s box score might indicate.
With regards to their performance to date, we’ll direct you to their above VOA ratings – a mere 10th on offense, and 6th on defense. Not bad, but not the numbers you’d expect from a side sitting comfortably in the Top 4. As it stands, their successes so far have been built almost entirely on a combination of a relatively soft draw, and excellent discipline – both advantages that deserted them in their trip to the SFS. Though Penrith’s error count (14) wasn’t especially bad relative to the Roosters (12), it was shockingly bad for Penrith – in fact, it was almost 5 more errors than their season average, and their second worst outing of the year (their worst – a 16 error performance in Round 5 – they actually won, but mainly via tough defense and the hilarious ineptitude of Parramatta). This uncharacteristically sloppy effort, coupled with a 9-3 reaming in the penalty count (which we eerily foreshadowed in that week’s preview, albeit before choosing to ignore it) translated into the Panthers receiving just 37% of the football – the lowest possession share of any team this season. In that context, a 32-6 hiding from a fellow title contender is really not that bad; the only other two teams to receive less than 40% possession in a game – the Sea Eagles against Parramatta and the Roosters against New Zealand – both got flogged as well (44-10 and 30-6 respectively), but by opponents who are significantly worse than Sydney.
So, it’s important not to overreact to that particular loss. It’s highly unlikely that that sort of possession share will be replicated here (it was just the 3rd time all year that the Panthers have lost the possession count, period). The Panthers handling is likely to return closer to normal (where they average almost 1 error fewer per game than Manly), and back at home, they’re likely to get a much more favourable penalty count (the Panthers average 2 fewer penalties per game at Panthers Stadium).
And finally, though we don’t think that the Panthers have been that good for most of this year (their crushing win over the Dragons being the notable exception), it’s worth pointing out that they’ve been missing a huge slab of their squad for much of that time – a problem that’s shared by Manly, however the Sea Eagles have proven far less capable of replacing their injured stars with anyone remotely serviceable (and definitely not Jackson Hastings). Though the Sea Eagles get Dylan Walker back (who’s been inexplicably named at five-eighth, where he looks about as comfortable as a pair of wet socks), winger Akuila Uate has joined their burgeoning injured list, which critically still features hooker Apisai Koroisau. With a centre at five-eighth and Daly Cherry-Evans out-of-sorts (Cherry-Evans’ 7 try assists this year places him just 10th among NRL halfbacks), the Sea Eagles offense is limited almost entirely to Tom Trbojevic. Given the Sea Eagles’ lack of depth and creative options, it should come as no surprise then that they’ve lost their past 7 games in a row in which Koroisau hasn’t played, dating back to 2016.
And it’s this imbalance of playmaking ability that leaves us happy to back Penrith for an immediate bounce-back. They’re a different outfit at home, and even without Reagan Campbell-Gillard, they should have far too much firepower in the middle of the field, and – unlike Manly – their halves are red hot.
Our tip: Panthers
Knights v Bulldogs
Offense VOA: Knights 11.05% (4th), Bulldogs -10.83% (12th)
Defense VOA: Knights 13.55% (14th), Bulldogs 13.43% (13th)
You’d think that a date with the Knights – a team who’ve won just 1 of their past 7 matches – would be a near certainty for Canterbury sides of yesteryear. This week, however? Not so much.
This Bulldogs team comes into Round 16 having won just 1 of their last 8 themselves, and on the back of arguably the worst performance of any team this year. Not only did they manage to get whooped 32-10 by one of the worst teams in football, they did it at their spiritual home of Belmore, in Moses Mbye’s last game, and in a manner that was frankly embarrassing. While it’s never good to concede 10 line breaks in a single match, to do it against the Titans – who were averaging less than 3 per game at the time – is shameful. Canterbury leaked line breaks like honey through a crumpet, leaving a hot, sticky mess for Dean Pay to clean up.
In some respects the Bulldogs were perhaps unlucky to run into the Gold Coast having their best day of the season; but regardless, the sheer lack of effort in defense was hugely disappointing, and created the impression of a team who simply didn’t want to be there. And if they can’t stop the Titans, they’ll have bugger all chance of slowing down the Knights’ offense. Though Newcastle’s defense can be similarly soft, they do at least have the capacity to score points. They rank 3rd in the league for LBVOA, and have scored 18 or more points in 6 of their last 9 outings (a mark that the Bulldogs have hit just twice since Round 6). And if the Knights to happen to find holes in the Dogs’ defense as easily as the Titans did, then it’s hard to see how the Bulldogs could possibly keep pace.
The Bulldogs enter this match as the league’s 12th ranked offense, and are now without two of their better attacking players in Keiran Foran and Mbye. Between them, they rank 1st and 3rd in the team for try assists, 1st and 4th in line break assists, and 4th and 1st for try involvements, respectively. Taking both those guys out (in addition to the long-term absence of Josh Morris) leaves the team desperately lacking in attacking options, in stark contrast to the Kalyn Ponga-inspired Knights (Ponga alone has more line break assists than every player in the Bulldogs team this week combined).
In summary, it’s simply too hard to see the Bulldogs competing here. Newcastle typically go up a gear at home, but if the Bulldogs play like they did against the Titans, the Knights mightn’t need to even get out of second.
Our tip: Knights
Broncos v Raiders
Offense VOA: Broncos 16.35% (3rd), Raiders 22.79% (2nd)
Defense VOA: Broncos -0.13% (8th), Raiders -3.51% (7th)
So, um… Josh Hodgson’s pretty good, huh?
To be frank, the Raiders were already very good (a point we’ve been harping on about for a while now), but the return of Hodgson saw the Green Machine completely blow the Tigers off the park; putting 46+ points on Wests for the 4th time in a row, in what’s quickly turning into something of a yearly tradition in Canberra (we imagine that in another year or two, the annual Tiger thumping will rival Floriade as the ACT’s primary tourism event). The Raiders looked immediately better the moment that Hodgson came onto the field, and suddenly appeared unbeatable. We only have one minor concern this week, though. The Broncos are not the Tigers.
For a start, the Raiders don’t enter this contest with any sort of psychological edge like what they may hold over Wests. On the contrary; the Raiders haven’t beaten the Broncos since 2013, with the Broncos averaging over 24 points per game in that span. For whatever reason, the Raiders seem to struggle to defend the Broncos, which looms as particularly bad news, given that Brisbane come into this match in reasonably good touch offensively (they’ve scored 20 or more points in 7 of their past 9 matches). Indeed, when Brisbane have lost this season, it’s typically been because their defense let them down, rather than any shortage of points (they’ve lost just one game all season in which they conceded less than 26 points).
Which actually holds some promise for the Raiders, since they should be reasonably confident of winning a shoot-out against anybody. However, we hold some concern about exactly how many points they may have to chase if the Broncos land the lion’s share of the ball. As good as the Raiders were against Wests, it can’t be ignored that they enjoyed 53% of the footy – the first time that they’d won the possession battle since Round 9. And in the matches in between, they never scored more than 3 tries in a match. Here, there’s a very real possibility that they’ll be on the wrong end of that number again. The Broncos are the most disciplined team in the competition, having made the least errors and conceded the 2nd least number of penalties all year. Add in the Raiders’ worrying inability to force repeat sets (they’ve forced just 12 drop-outs all year, worst in the league), and you begin to worry if they’ll ever see the ball at all.
If they do, we definitely believe they can win. The Raiders offense is that good, that there’s no defense in the league that we’d be concerned about. But on an away trip to Brisbane, in front of a grumpy crowd of Queenslanders itching for some success after their State of Origin failure, we’re backing the Broncos to starve Canberra out of it.
Our tip: Broncos
Tigers v Titans
Offense VOA: Tigers -22.00% (14th), Titans -27.24% (15th)
Defense VOA: Tigers 11.70% (11th), Titans 48.89% (16th)
Please allow to say one thing about the Titans – they were awesome against the Bulldogs. They were. Yes, the Bulldogs were totally abysmal, but that shouldn’t take away from the strong performance the Titans put in. It was easily their best outing of the year, and they deserve a good pat on the back.
We also shouldn’t expect it to be replicated here. Up until their 10 line break effort against Canterbury, they were averaging less than 3 breaks per game, and had never made more than 5. This is what we call an ‘outlier’ – a value that lies outside the other values in a particular data set. Yes, it’s conceivably possible that the Titans are now awesome, and are about to run the table undefeated for the rest of year. However, it’s more likely that they return to normal, and continue to limp their way to 2 or 3 line breaks and 2 or 3 tries per game from here on out. (Indeed, that match was just the 4th time this season that the Titans have scored 30 or more points in a game; in the week following each of their other unusually strong performances, they scored 8, 12 and 14 points, respectively.)
That said, we should point out that the Titans’ typical offensive performance isn’t vastly worse than that of the Tigers. The Tigers actually have a slightly inferior LBVOA (-21.97% v -17.05%), and haven’t scored more than 3 tries in a game since Round 10. However, we find a bit more room for optimism with the Tigers. For a start, they’ve added fullback Moses Mbye and hooker Robbie Farah to their spine over the week off, giving the side an immediate boost in attacking firepower (Mbye instantly becomes the new team leader in tackle breaks , and ranks 3rd on the team for line break assists  and try involvements ). Though we shouldn’t expect the new line-up to be firing on all cylinders immediately, they do at least give the side a huge boost in talent, and the Titans’ defense is typically the sort you’d like to face when you’re looking for a tune-up.
Though the Titans defense does seem to be improving somewhat (they haven’t conceded 20 points in a game for 2 whole weeks!), they remain the worst in the competition, and shouldn’t be depended on to win the Titans the game. And though the Tigers’ D has been carved up in their past 2 outings, they actually don’t look that bad when placed into the context of how the teams who beat them have been traveling of late. Yes, they leaked 7 line breaks to Cronulla, but the Sharks have made 7 breaks in 3 of their last 4 games. Likewise, the Tigers leaked 8 to a red-hot Raiders side, but Canberra have made at least 5 line breaks in 3 of their last 4 as well. The Tigers’ latest defensive results admittedly look ‘bad’, but there’s an argument that they’re probably closer to ‘average’ – and average is a long way better than what we typically get from the Gold Coast.
So, we’re seeing a little bit of promise for the Tigers here. We’d be lying if said we’re dripping with confidence (both sides have pretty low floors), but at home at Leichhardt, with their season on the line, surely the Tigers have a bit more upside.
Our tip: Tigers
Rabbitohs v Cowboys
Offense VOA: Rabbitohs 52.42% (1st), Cowboys -21.51% (13th)
Defense VOA: Rabbitohs -16.58% (5th), Cowboys 4.21% (9th)
For those of you keeping track, the Rabbitohs are now up to 7 wins on the trot, and are firming as serious premiership contenders.
Though they were slow to get going against Parramatta, they certainly hit top speed eventually, as their high-octane offense torched the Eels for 42 points, amazingly the 12th time in 15 matches that the Rabbitohs have scored 20 or more points in a game. They’ve only really been slowed down by the Panthers and Dragons (two of the league’s best forward packs), and outside those games, they’ve been racking up points with a relentless consistency.
That said, what’s really impressed us of late is their defense. The Rabbitohs have been scoring at will since pretty much day one (remember, even in their Week One loss to the Warriors, they still mustered 20 points in defeat). However, their recent starch in defense is what’s transformed them from curiosities to contenders, and made them a team that’s looking darn nearly invincible. Through the opening 9 rounds, the Rabbitohs gave up 5 line breaks in a game on 5 separate occasions, putting their offense under pressure to score a heap of points in order to win (something that they were able to do in 3 of those games, but that’s not the point). Since then, they’ve held their opponents to 3 or less line breaks in every single game, which has resulted in them conceding over 16 points in a game just twice (after giving that up in 5 of their first 9), as they’ve rolled along undefeated, by an average margin of over 10 points per game. It’s hard enough to beat the Rabbitohs in a shoot-out; if you have to keep them under 3 tries to win, it’s likely to be close to impossible.
Especially if you happen to be the Cowboys – a team who’ve only scored more than 3 tries in a game in 4 matches this year. While the Rabbitohs are scoring 20+ in 80% of their matches, the Cowboys are hitting that same mark in just 33% of theirs, while being held to 14 or less in more than half their games. There’s probably some hope for the Cowboys in the fact that they went within a field goal of a win in their previous meeting, but the Cowboys were in better form then, and still had Michael Morgan, who’s now gone for the year.
After their Round 13 win over Manly, the Cowboys had the opportunity to make a late run for the finals, and instead backed it up with meek efforts against the Eels and Warriors. If they couldn’t come up with a big effort in those outings, it’s hard to make a case for them doing it here.
Our tip: Rabbitohs