2018 Season Results:
Head-to-Head Tipping: 83/136 (61%)
Line Betting: 28/59 (47%)
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 19 Tips and Previews
Eels v Bulldogs
Offense VOA: Eels -23.32% (14th), Bulldogs -9.88% (12th)
Defense VOA: Eels 11.26% (12th), Bulldogs 11.81% (13th)
You may have glanced at the draw, seen tonight’s battle for the wooden spoon, and thought to yourself, “seems like a good time to do my tax return”. And you know what? We don’t blame you. With just 7 combined wins between them (the Knights alone have 7 wins, and they’re coming 11th), you could easily assume that tonight’s clash will be a complete waste of time, not even enjoyed by the people involved, or their immediate families. Fair enough. But we’re here to offer a different point of view.
Sure, the Eels and Bulldogs are both suffering their way through bad seasons, but – relatively speaking – they’re both in reasonably good form (we acknowledge that “good form” for either side is probably just losing by 1-12, but they’ve both at least hit that mark in 2 of their last 3 games, AND they’ve both won a game within the last month. That’s not bad, right?!). Despite possessing two of the most disappointing offenses of 2018, they’ve both scored 11 tries in their past 3 games, courtesy of an uptick in line breaks; the Bulldogs LBVOA over their past 3 games has improved from -13.50% to -3.25%, while the Eels have seen an even more significant improvement, jumping from their season average of -22.19% (dead last) to +5.79% over the same period.
For Parramatta, that’s an improvement that can be rationally explained – it’s a period in which they’ve finally seen the return of Jarryd Hayne, Mitchell Moses and Corey Norman from various absences, and Clint Gutherson switched to fullback (in short, their spine and backline is finally at full strength). It’s a popular opinion these days to hang shit on Hayne for being rubbish, but he remains the most dangerous ball runner in the Parramatta squad, and the effect he has on their attack is undeniable (he’s only played 8 games, yet ranks 2nd on the team in line breaks, and 5th in try involvements).
For Canterbury, it’s a bit more surprising though. Their improvement has coincided with the removal of their best attacking player (Moses Mbye), as well as the supremely-gifted Aaron Woods. Trying to explain their improvement is not as easy. There’s been so much change over that period – Will Hopoate has taken over at fullback, Lachlan Lewis and Jeremy Marshall-King are the new halves, while Rhyse Martin has been a revelation in the second-row – it can be hard to determine where to attribute the responsibility. Let’s take a look.
For a start, it’s NOT the halves. Since being united three weeks ago, Lewis and Marshall-King have combined for just 2 tries, 2 try assists, 1 line break, and 2 line break assists between them. Those would be average numbers for one NRL quality half over that period, let alone two (for comparison, Corey Norman – who’s apparently so shit that the Eels don’t even want him back next year – has 1 try, 3 try assists and 3 line breaks assists over the same period, by himself). So that’s out. Next, Hopoate has been excellent at fullback. He’s been rolling along making solid contributions from the back; there’s just one problem with that theory though – as good as he’s been, it’s hard to argue that he’s been better than Mbye. Hopoate has made more assists (per game) than Mbye, but also makes significantly less line breaks and tackle breaks, so at best, that’s probably a wash.
Which finally brings us to Martin. Like Hayne for Parramatta, Martin’s numbers over a short period of time are impressive. Besides his obvious feast of tries against the Raiders a few weeks back, Martin ranks 2nd on the team for line breaks (despite having played just 7 games), and has the 2nd highest metres-per-carry among Bulldogs forwards. We love Martin. We just don’t love pinning our hopes on a second-rower tearing it up.
If both sides have a superstar out wide, the difference is likely to come from the spine – and if that’s the case, it’s not even a contest. The Eels’ playmakers mightn’t have been great this year, but they’ve been looking alright lately – which is more than could be said for their Bulldogs equivalents (Hopoate excepted).
Our tip: Eels
Sharks v Raiders
Offense VOA: Sharks -0.36% (9th), Raiders 26.88% (2nd)
Defense VOA: Sharks -16.84% (4th), Raiders -6.45% (6th)
The Sharks/Raiders clash will open a terrific night of footy, with the Sharks fighting towards a top 4 spot, and the Raiders making a late surge to the finals.
The Sharks did enough to win last weekend, though Shane Flanagan surely won’t have been impressed with his side’s defense, and in particular their soft defense in the middle third of the field. They were completely incapable of slowing down the Panthers forwards (though in all fairness, pretty much everyone has struggled to handle them this year), with Penrith’s entire starting pack making over 100m besides James Fisher-Harris (who still managed 88), and three Panthers middles making over 130m – a mark only matched by Aaron Woods (who required 17 runs to get there). But worse, the Panthers weren’t just gashing the Sharks for huge chunks of metres – they were also slicing right through the middle for line breaks. In a defensive effort that was completely uncharacteristic of Cronulla (who have the 2nd best LBCVOA in the competition), they bled 9 line breaks to the Panthers, including 3 straight through the middle of the ruck. To put into perspective just how poor that effort was, consider this: the Sharks have this year held their opponents to 2 or less line breaks in a match on 7 separate occasions. Against Penrith, they conceded 2 line breaks… to James Tamou. (They were also shredded down their right edge all night, but in their defense, they had a second-rower defending in the centres – Kurt Capewell – and were facing Waqa Blake and Viliame Kikau.)
Should the Sharks turn in a similar defensive effort against the Raiders, they’re likely to find their soft underbelly exposed once again, with Raiders hooker Josh Hodgson controlling Canberra’s offense. The Raiders have little difficulty scoring points (they’ve racked up 70 in their past 2 matches combined), and have plenty of strike power right across the park. The loss of Aidan Sezer is unfortunate, but thankfully for Canberra, they have Blake Austin ready to slot straight into the halves. If Sezer’s loss is likely to be felt somewhere, it may well be in forcing repeat sets – an area in which the Raiders have struggled at the best of times (they rank 2nd last in forced drop-outs). Though Austin is a capable enough running half, his short kicking game is inconsistent at best, and from 18 attacking kicks this year, he’s forced just 1 drop-out (by comparison, Sezer averages 1 in every 5.4). We expect Hodgson to pick up a decent chunk of the attacking kicking duties, but if they can’t force the Sharks defense to face sustained pressure, they may find they struggle in the red zone (remember: although Penrith cut through Cronulla at will in the middle of the field, they still only scored 2 tries – which is a reflection of just how good Cronulla are on their own goalline).
Ultimately, the match is likely to be settled by how many points the Sharks can score, rather than the other way around. With last week’s win, Cronulla made it 8 games in a row in which they’ve conceded 2 or 3 tries in the match, and that’s a period in which they’ve played offensive heavyweights like the Rabbitohs and Broncos. If we assume that the Raiders perform roughly the same, then we just have to ask – can Cronulla score more than 3 tries? To that, we’d say ‘yes’, for two reasons. Firstly, the Raiders average over 3 tries conceded generally (3.3 per game, to be exact), regardless of opponent. Secondly, in this particular matchup, the Sharks are getting back right centre Jesse Ramien (who’s one of his side’s best attacking weapons, ranking 3rd in his team for both line breaks and tackle breaks, despite having missed 4 games), while the Raiders have lost left centre Jarrod Croker (one of the game’s best defensive centres, having conceded just 7 tries all year, from 17 matches). He’ll be replaced by journeyman winger Michael Oldfield, who’s conceded 4 from 5 matches (and has a tackle efficiency of just 53%). If you haven’t noticed, this is an enormous mismatch (if the Raiders do indeed run out the team as named).
And for that reason, we like Cronulla here. It’ll surely be competitive, and there’s likely to be plenty of tries. However Cronulla’s offense has been slowly building as the season wears on, and they should find a few opportunities courtesy of the Raiders’ inconveniently-timed injuries.
Our tip: Sharks
Broncos v Panthers
Offense VOA: Broncos 13.60% (3rd), Panthers 0.79% (8th)
Defense VOA: Broncos -4.65% (8th), Panthers -6.48% (5th)
The second Friday night bottler may well be the match of the round, as the Broncos look to bounce back from a disappointing loss to the Warriors (‘disappointing’ is being kind), while the Panthers welcome back a host of stars for the run home.
We’re not going to overreact to last week’s loss – yes, the Broncos were poor, but they were likely gassed after a grueling Origin period, Isaac Luke was putting on a masterclass, and honestly, sometimes teams are just bad. It happens. That said, we’re still not sure we can back them here.
Ignoring for a moment last week’s match (in which they gave up over 1600m to a typically ordinary Warriors squad), the Broncos’ run defense has been their Achilles Heel all year. They rank 4th last in RMCVOA, and last week was the 8th time this year that they’ve conceded over 1400m in a game (in contrast, the Panthers rank 2nd, and have conceded over 1400m just 3 times all season). Brisbane continually give up huge metres, something teams absolutely can’t afford to do when playing Penrith. When the Panthers’ big boppers get a roll on, they quickly shift the ball to their edges, and let their second rowers wreak havoc on back-pedaling defenders (among all NRL second-rowers, the Panthers’ three regulars – Viliame Kikau, Corey Harawira-Naira and Isiaah Yeo – rank 2nd, 2nd and 7th for line breaks). Though the Panthers offense always has the potential to be explosive (they rank 7th in LBVOA and 5th in TBVOA), they’re damn-near unstoppable when their forwards are winning, with their LBVOA jumping from 3.62% on the season, to a ridiculous 56.32% when they make 1400m or more.
And that’s before we even touch on the incredible form that Viliame Kikau and Waqa Blake are in on the Panthers’ left edge. That duo combined for over 300m, 2 line breaks and 16 tackle breaks between them against the Sharks, and are fast becoming 2018’s equivalent to 2016’s ‘Leipana’ combination in Canberra (or, if Penrith fans would prefer a more Panther-related example, 2013’s Dean Whare and David Simmons, or ‘Whimmons’). Though James Roberts has improved his defense out-of-sight this year (he’s conceded just 7 tries in 14 games), he’s still been worse than his opposite this week, Blake (who’s allowed just 1 in 7). Add in the loss of Jaydn Su’a – who’ll be replaced once again by middle forward Tevita Pangai Jr – and Brisbane are certain to have their hands full (in the 4 games Brisbane have played with Pangai Jr defending on an edge, their LBCVOA has dropped from -5.40% to +15.35%, and that includes shutting out the hapless Titans).
If Brisbane are to win, they’ll definitely need to get back to their high-percentage, low-error count footy that they were playing before last weekend’s slip-up, and probably hope that the re-injection of Penrith’s star halves brings with it some teething problems. We’re not going to bet on that though, and we expect the confident young Panthers to maintain the tempo up in Brisbane.
Our tip: Panthers
Knights v Titans
Offense VOA: Knights 5.10% (5th), Titans -26.37% (16th)
Defense VOA: Knights 18.03% (15th), Titans 55.63% (16th)
The Knights snuck home last week on the back of Mitchell Pearce’s long kicking game, and there’s every chance they’ll need to lean on it again if they’re going to grab another win here.
The formula for the Knights isn’t likely to change, regardless of opponent. The Knights were fortunate enough to get one of the game’s weaker forward packs last weekend (the Eels have outgained their opponents in just 6 matches all year), but they were still easily outpointed between the 20s, and there’s a good chance that the Titans pack will be too good for them here. The problem with the Knights is a complete lack of punch from their middle forwards, and even worse depth. For example, this will be the 5th week in a row that Josh King starts for the Knights at prop forward, despite him averaging just 7.3 metres per carry, and being a large contributor to his side’s constant inability to get out of their own end. King is a willing and able defender (which is presumably why he holds his starting spot), but is so slow, his hit-ups look like he’s wading waist-deep through a pool of baked beans. Instinctively, you feel as though there must be someone better to be toting the rock, but they just don’t have any great alternatives – last week’s bench featured a winger, two aging props, and Jamie Buhrer (we’d probably try giving Jacob Lillyman more minutes, but at this point in his career, we assume they’re limiting his minutes for a reason).
For the Titans part, their depth is every bit as bad as the Knights’, but at least their starters are capable. Jai Arrow is one of the game’s best emerging middles, Jarrod Wallace and Ryan James are both fine, while Moeaki Fotuaika is looking like a decent find (perhaps now they can stop trotting James out for 80 low-impact minutes at a time). By our count, that’s at least four forwards at the Titans who are at least as good or better than anyone the Knights have available at the moment.
But, there’s more to life than forwards. The big men might earn the field position, but it’s up to the skill position guys to convert that position into points – which is where the Gold Coast struggle. Though the Titans have been known to have sporadic success with their kick-and-hope strategy, their consistent failure to create line breaks (they rank 3rd last in LBVOA) leaves them at the mercy of the kicking gods, and their scoring bouncing around like a yo-yo. It would be easy to point the finger at Ash Taylor for that, but in truth, the problem lies more in the players around him – though Taylor has a perfectly acceptable 15 line break assists from 16 games, the rest of their spine has a combined 8 between them, while five-eighth AJ Brimson is yet to make even 1, despite having now played 8 games (which is downright alarming). Though the Knights lose an enormous amount of output with Kalyn Ponga still sidelined (their LBVOA collapsed from 11.21% to -32.35% in his absence last week), we expect they’ll be better as both Pearce and Danny Levi settle into the spine, and we doubt that they’re noticeably worse than the Titans, anyway.
Which finally brings us to defense. Last weekend, the Knights turned in their worst defensive performance in 5 weeks – leaking 6 line breaks to the Eels (the most Parramatta have made in any game this season). Remember – that was the worst the Knights have defended in over a month. That’s important; because over that same 5 week period, the Titans have been conceding, on average, over 6 line breaks – per week.
So, as it stands, we’re looking at a similar spot to last week for Newcastle – their opponent is likely to dominate field position, but the Knights are more likely to create opportunities. The result is likely to be the same – a tightly fought shoot-out, that hopefully leaves the Knights in front when the siren goes. In the end, it may well be decided by how much success (if any) the Titans get from their attacking kicks; hopefully Ken Sio and Nathan Ross bring their A games.
Our tip: Knights
Tigers v Rabbitohs
Offense VOA: Tigers -16.17% (13th), Rabbitohs 49.06% (1st)
Defense VOA: Tigers 12.05% (14th), Rabbitohs -18.22% (3rd)
Saturday afternoon will see the Tigers politely hosting the Rabbitohs, in honour of John Sutton’s 300th game.
We told you last week that we liked the look of the re-modeled Tigers spine, and their encore performance didn’t disappoint, as they proceeded to upset the Dragons, and keep their own season alive. The difference in the Tigers is immediately obvious – they’ve suddenly gained the ability to generate line breaks, and they’re likely to score more tries as a result. Last week was a step in the right direction – their 3-try effort against the Dragons was the first time they’ve scored more than 2 tries in a game since Round 12, and marked the first time all year that they’ve gone back-to-back weeks making 4 or more line breaks. If they can continue to have this sort of success, tries will follow. The problem here though, is that as good as they’ve been, they’re not likely to continue that success against the Rabbitohs.
In South Sydney, the Tigers are facing an opponent who last week conceded 4 breaks for the first time since Round 9, and it was the first time all year that they’ve done so against a team with a negative LBVOA. The Tigers will need to play out of their skins to put a score on the Rabbitohs, and even if they do, there’s every chance that the Bunnies will score too many, anyway.
We can maintain optimism that the Tigers might get 4 line breaks against Souths, but it’s almost certain that the Rabbitohs will inflict that many (if not more) on the Tigers. Indeed, South Sydney have made 4 or more line breaks in every game they’ve played since Round 3; while the Tigers come into this match with a LBCVOA over the past month of 34.10% – worse than every team in the league, bar the Titans.
In closing, though we do think that the Tigers are looking significantly better with Moses Mbye and Robbie Farah, it’ll all be for nought if they can’t slow down the Rabbitohs. And very few teams have slowed down the Rabbitohs.
Our tip: Rabbitohs
Cowboys v Dragons
Offense VOA: Cowboys -23.83% (15th), Dragons 7.84% (4th)
Defense VOA: Cowboys 4.63% (10th), Dragons -5.91% (7th)
We’d love to say that we were surprised by the Dragons’ capitulation last weekend, but we weren’t.
Though it would be easy to dismiss last week’s effort as ‘the loss they needed to have’ or some such, we’d rather argue that it was the loss they were destined to have, because they’ve been playing pretty ordinary for a while, and at some point, it had to catch up with them.
Ignoring the weird Origin-affected game with the Storm (both sides were missing so many players, we won’t hold it against them), here’s a team who hadn’t played well since their flogging from Penrith, yet somehow hadn’t lost a game. Their defense has been okay (but not outstanding); the real problem has been that their offense – which was pacing the league for the first two months – has seemingly run dry, and without it, they look like just another middling footy team.
And their offense hasn’t just slowed; it’s fallen off a cliff. Here’s a team who made 5 or more line breaks in 6 of their first 11 games – and they haven’t achieved that since, despite having played 4 of their last 6 games against bottom 8 teams, and half of those games against defenses ranked in the bottom 5. It may well be a question of Origin fatigue (remember, the Broncos were terrible last week, too), but if they don’t rectify it soon, their season could quickly unravel.
The good news then, is that they get the Cowboys this week – a team running so bad, that they’ve won just 1 game in their past 8, which includes their own loss to the Tigers (plus a bonus loss to Parramatta). Paul Green continues to rearrange the deck chairs (this week, Justin O’Neill is back in on the wing, and Coen Hess is set to start on the edge), but the results haven’t been any different – if the Dragons’ offense is slowing, the Cowboys’ is in suspended animation. As ordinary as the Dragons have been lately, they’ve still managed to exceed 20 points in a game twice in their past 6 matches; the Cowboys have only managed it 3 times all year. There’s not a more boring red zone team in the competition than North Queensland, and at this point, it’s clear that Johnathan Thurston’s final year has been squandered. You could point to the loss of Michael Morgan, but that would be unfair; the Cowboys’ LBVOA with or without him is still poor (-4.95% v -17.63%). Rather, theirs is a problem of attacking structure, and a stale roster with relatively few attacking weapons.
So, while the Eels/Bulldogs match is the one attracting headlines for bludger of the week, it’s this game that takes the cake for us; two teams struggling for any sort attacking spark, but yet somebody has to win. We’re taking the Dragons because they’ve at least shown signs of life this year (albeit a long, long time ago). But are we looking forward to it? No. Not at all.
Our tip: Dragons
Warriors v Storm
Offense VOA: Warriors 4.80% (6th), Storm 2.85% (7th)
Defense VOA: Warriors 9.75% (11th), Storm -28.65% (2nd)
The Warriors were fantastic last weekend against the Broncos (though in saying that, it had been about 3 weeks since their last decent effort, so they were probably due), while the Baby Storm limped their way to an unconvincing win over the Sea Eagles. So, are we buying into the Warriors now? No. (You’re not a regular here, are you?)
Honestly, the Warriors offense has it’s moments, but generally speaking, it’s only against crap defenses. Since their Week One thrashing of the Rabbitohs, the Warriors have played 6 matches against teams with defenses ranked in our Top 5; in those games they’ve scored: 4 tries, 2, 0, 2, 2 and 1 (and critically, they required 62% possession to get that 4-try effort against the Roosters). They’ve had very little success against the league’s best defenses – like this week’s opponents, the Storm.
And if they can’t crack the Storm defense (and we’re certainly arguing that they won’t), they’ll necessarily have to lean on their defense to win. Yes, that’s the same defense that got carved up by the Panther cubs a fortnight ago. The same defense that’s conceded 6 or more line breaks on 7 separate occasions this year (only the Titans are worse, and they’re tied with the Eels and Tigers; illustrious company, indeed). The same defense that ranks 2nd last in line breaks conceded, and 3rd last in missed tackles.
And if you’re hoping that the Storm offense is just bad now, given their poor results against a typically ordinary Sea Eagles defense, you mustn’t have been paying much attention. Last week, the Storm rested all their Origin players, and still had too much for the Sea Eagles. Now, they get back Billy Slater, Josh Addo-Carr, Will Chambers, Cameron Munster and Felise Kaufusi; in addition to Jesse Bromwich, who returned from another absence last weekend. You could make an argument that this is the best team the Storm have rolled out since Round 8… when they thrashed the Warriors 50-10.
To summarize, we like the Storm here. We don’t much fancy the Warriors’ ability to string together consecutive good performances at the best of times (their only back-to-back wins since Round 5 came against the teams running 13th and 15th), but the Storm in particular don’t look like a good matchup for New Zealand.
Our tip: Storm
Sea Eagles v Roosters
Offense VOA: Sea Eagles -1.46% (10th), Roosters -9.54% (11th)
Defense VOA: Sea Eagles 1.04% (9th), Roosters -36.99% (1st)
Full credit to the Sea Eagles – they saw an opportunity against the Baby Storm, and they really got after it. Yes, they ultimately lost, but you can’t fault their effort. They were enthusiastic from the opening whistle, and for the opening quarter (at least), their unheralded forward pack were dominating their more fancied counterparts. Martin Taupau played the game of his life (he had 250m from a whopping 23 runs – those are Jason Taumalolo-type numbers), while getting excellent support from Addin Fonua-Blake and Jake Trbojevic (who was playing his second game in three days). The Sea Eagles were indisputably better through the opening 25 minutes. And then, Taupau and Fonua-Blake went off within minutes of each other, and the Sea Eagles didn’t score again (outside of their halftime field goal).
Unfortunately, this is a nightmare from which Manly can’t seem to wake up. Their starting 13 isn’t that bad. They have two Origin players in their spine, a solid starting forward pack, and rookie playmakers Tom Wright and Manase Fainu look fantastic. However, they may have the worst depth in the competition. To his credit, Trent Barrett seems to know it – he only played his bench forwards for 31, 24 and zero minutes each last week. The problem though, is that asking for such an enormous workload from your middle forwards necessarily comes at a cost; and that cost was that the Sea Eagles noticeably wore down as the match wore on. Without quality forward depth, Barrett is trapped in a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ sort of spot. When Taupau and Fonua-Blake come off, they immediately start losing the yardage battle, as their per-carry metres drop off (indeed Winterstein ranks last among Manly forwards, which likely explains why he was left on the bench). But when they’re brought back early and asked to play 50+ minutes each, they naturally lack the same impact in their second stint, and the Sea Eagles struggle with their second halves. Here’s a fun fact: Taupau has been asked to play increasingly long minutes since Round 8, and has played 53 or more minutes in 9 of 10 matches since then. In those 9 matches, they’ve only scored more than 1 second half try twice. We don’t necessarily have a solution (they could perhaps try staggering their interchanges so that Taupau and Fonua-Blake aren’t off at the same time, but that mightn’t help anyway), we’re merely pointing out that this is a recurring problem that isn’t likely to change without recruitment. (On the bright side, Taupau was amazing last week, though.)
And now they get a Roosters side welcoming back their Origin contingent, plus Cooper Cronk, Victor Radley and Mitch Aubusson. They’re fresh, they have the league’s best defense, and their forward pack is quietly doing very well too (their RMVOA is 2nd, only to the Rabbitohs).
If Manly turn in a similar effort to last week, they certainly have the talent to compete; but whether it takes 30 minutes, 50 minutes, or 75 minutes, we’d still expect them to get run down.
Our tip: Roosters