2018 Season Results:
Head-to-Head Tipping: 116/198 (59%)
Line Betting: 42/88 (48%)
2017 Season Results:
Head-to-Head Tipping: 66%
Line Betting: 55%
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NRL Finals Week 3 Tips and Previews
Storm v Sharks
Offense VOA: Storm 7.34% (5th), Sharks 4.24% (8th)
Defense VOA: Storm -28.15% (2nd), Sharks -13.24% (4th)
The Storm are better than the Sharks.
They’re not as good as the 2017 Storm (or the 2016 Storm for that matter… or the 2015 Storm, come to think of it), but they are better than the Sharks.
That being said, they were better than the Sharks in 2016 too, and we all know how that panned out. It’s one of rugby league’s great mysteries, but for whatever reason, the Sharks always put on a good show when they meet the Storm, and more often than not, they seem to come away with the win (the Sharks have won 5 of their 7 meetings since 2016).
Cronulla will need every bit of that voodoo magic here, though. In addition to trotting out a weakened squad that’s already without its best player (Wade Graham), the Sharks have now lost captain Paul Gallen for this contest, leaving their backs firmly up against the wall.
Though Cronulla have found plenty of recent success against Melbourne, it’s worth pointing out that that success has followed a similar pattern. Specifically, when the Sharks win, they win with defense. In all 5 of their recent wins over the Storm, the Storm have scored no more than 14 points in a game, and they were held to 6 or less in 3 of them. That’s great, except for one tiny problem – the Sharks defense hasn’t been anywhere near that good lately. They’ve only held 1 team to less than 3 tries in their past 7 matches, and are now without their best edge defender (Graham), and their best middle defender (Gallen).
And if they can’t keep the Storm to under 3 tries (or if Cameron Smith doesn’t miss most of his kicks, as he did the last time they met), then they’ll have to start finding more points than the 18 or less they’ve scored against Melbourne in their last 21 games in a row (which dates all the way back to 2005). This is likely to be difficult for the Sharks for two reasons. Firstly, because of the aforementioned absence of Wade Graham, who’s arguably the Sharks’ second-best attacking weapon. But secondly (and probably most importantly) because the Storm have historically defended the Sharks’ primary attacking weapon – Matt Moylan – incredibly well. Though Moylan has been superb for Cronulla in 2018 (he’s ranked 3rd in the league for line break assists and 6th for try assists), he’s never had any significant attacking impact against Melbourne. In 6 career matches against Melbourne, his team has never scored more than 17 points, and he’s produced a disappointing career total of 0 line breaks, 4 line break assists and 3 try assists. Moylan’s a brilliant attacking player, but if he’s going to be forced to put the team on his back, you’d rather it be against almost anyone other than the Storm.
And so we have to take Melbourne. They’re not the Storm your father talks about any more, but at this minute, neither are the Sharks. If Cronulla were at full strength, we very well might be backing them in here; but it’s looking to us like their roster’s broken down inches from the finish line.
Our tip: Storm
Roosters v Rabbitohs
Offense VOA: Roosters 12.37% (4th), Rabbitohs 39.74% (1st)
Defense VOA: Roosters -41.39% (1st), Rabbitohs -17.46% (3rd)
The Roosters and Rabbitohs present as two of the most evenly matched teams in the league, with the Rabbitohs’ attacking prowess matched only by the Roosters’ impenetrable defense.
However, we’re no longer sure that the Rabbitohs’ offense is the unstoppable force that it was for most of the season. Against the Dragons, they turned in a pitiful 2 line breaks, against a side who’d conceded 5 or more in 4 of their past 7 matches. Indeed, after having made 5 or more line breaks in a staggering 15 games in a row between Rounds 6-21, the Rabbitohs have now hit that mark just once in their past 6 matches (against the lowly Tigers). For whatever reason, their attack has suddenly come to a grinding halt, at the worst possible time.
Further complicating matters is the fact that the cause of the issue isn’t immediately obvious. Typically, down games from the Rabbitohs have coincided with their forwards getting beaten, but that hasn’t been the case here. Against St George-Illawarra, the Rabbitohs got over 100m at around 10m per carry from all three Burgi, as well as the under-sized Cameron Murray. As a result, they were able to outgain the Dragons by over 400m, and yet they still couldn’t convert that into points.
Adding to the confusion is the fact that since their attacking slump started, their team has actually been getting stronger, with Greg Inglis, Robert Jennings and Campbell Graham all returning to the side over that period. With the team’s best finishers all getting back on deck, it’s almost unfathomable that they’d be struggling for potency. If we had to point the finger somewhere, it would have to fall on last weekend’s hero Adam Reynolds; and to a lesser extent, Alex Johnston. That pair have combined for 33 line break assists this season, to compliment the 28 from under-rated star Cody Walker, however since Round 22, they’ve combined for just 1 assist, compared to Walker’s 5. Part of those numbers may be connected to an over-reliance on Walker for production (he’s had 57+ receipts in his past 3 games, a mark he hit just 5 times the rest of the year), and the team would likely benefit from injecting Johnston into the play more.
However, if we expect them to do the same things they’ve been doing, they’re likely to see the same results. Against the Roosters, they’ll be facing a defense lightyears beyond anything they saw against the Dragons, and even without Latrell Mitchell, you’d expect the Roosters to be capable of finding enough points to win here (indeed, if the Rabbitohs are to gain anything at all from Mitchell’s absence, it’s that Souths may be encouraged to attack towards their own right edge more, making their attack a bit less predictable).
The Rabbitohs are an excellent team, and we fully expect this game to be a physical, enthralling contest. However, we can’t look past the fact that the Rabbitohs weren’t particularly good last week, and frankly, haven’t looked themselves for a while. Against a Roosters team fresh from a week off – and who’ve been the defensive benchmark all year – they’ll need to improve significantly to win here.
Our tip: Roosters