2019 Season Results:Head-to-Head Tipping: 41/64 (64%) (Last week: 3/8)
2018 Season Results:Head-to-Head Tipping: (58%) Line Betting: (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.)
- Sea Eagles
- Though the under-strength Sharks pulled the surprise of the year by upsetting Melbourne last week, we warn not to get too carried away by the result. Predictions of a drop in offensive output without their star playmakers still proved to be true – their 2 line breaks against the Storm was their season-low, and came despite earning a season-high possession share (56%). No, this win was a reward for amazingly improved discipline, as the Sharks – who rank 4th last for handling errors – turned in an exemplary display, producing just 7 errors in the match. We don’t expect to see the Sharks repeat that sort of effort this week, which may make their clash with the Titans tighter than first thought. The Sharks’ D is certainly better than that of the Gold Coast, but not as significantly as you may expect (last week was the first time since Round 3 that the Sharks have conceded less than 20 points), and the Titans’ offense is an improving work-in-progress. We’ll stop short of tipping a boilover, but we’re not expecting a cakewalk, either.
- The following is the complete list of teams who’ve produced 7 line breaks in a match this year, while still managing to lose the match: the Knights, the Eels, the Warriors (twice), and now, the Panthers. At a glance, that’s obviously not a list on which you want to find yourself (the Eels’ current Top 8 status notwithstanding). That being said, there is a glimmer of light for the Panthers filtering through from that boulevard of butchered opportunities. When we look back at what those teams did after blowing a bevy of line breaks, a trend starts to emerge. For the Knights, they had just one more high-line break/low try scoring week, before turning in back-to-back high-scoring efforts of 28 and 36 points, seemingly out of nowhere. In the case of the Eels, their flop came against the Knights, before turning in a 32-point outing last week against the Dragons. And in the case of the Warriors, they racked up 26 points the week after their first disappointment, but just 10 points (from 5 line breaks) after their second (but hey – they are the Warriors). The point here is clear – though not all line breaks produce tries, a good many do – and teams who can consistently produce them will (eventually) produce points. James Maloney and Nathan Cleary have been getting caned in the Sydney press because of the Panthers’ poor start to the year, while it apparently goes unnoticed that they rank 7th and 10th in the league respectively for line break assists (ahead of media darlings like Cameron Munster, Cooper Cronk and Daly Cherry-Evans). Yes, we’d like to see the Blues’ incumbent halves winning more matches, but it’s hardly their fault if their teammates don’t support each other on line breaks, or effectively contest attacking kicks. Regardless, after a slow start to the year in which they produced just 9 breaks in their first 4 matches, they’ve now produced 20 in the past 4. The wins mightn’t be coming yet, but we have to believe that they’re not far away.
- The other interesting point from the above list is that the Sea Eagles were the victorious opponents twice. While this is obviously fortunate for Manly, it also gives an indication that perhaps the Sea Eagles’ water-tight defense isn’t quite as tight as it first appears. If it’s true that teams who produce a lot of line breaks will eventually produce a lot of tries (over a large enough sample size), the same is necessarily true in reverse – teams who concede a lot of line breaks will eventually leak a lot of points. Indeed, the stats reflect this, with the Sea Eagles, Roosters and Raiders the only teams to have conceded 32 or more line breaks on the season, while conceding less than 150 points (the Sea Eagles have conceded just 130 – 5th in the league). The point here isn’t to bag Manly, but rather to point out that their defense (and that of the Roosters and Raiders) has a long way to go. We’re backing them here, not because we’re sold on their defense, but because the Broncos‘ has so far been measurably worse (the Broncos rank 3rd last in LBVOA). For the record, we actually believe that the Broncos have the offensive talent to beat up on the Sea Eagles if they play to their ability, but they’ve been so bad of late that we’re not going to bank on that.
- As mentioned earlier, the Knights offense has suddenly kicked into gear over the past fortnight, something we tipped in this very column three weeks ago. The uptick in production has coincided with a sudden surge in run metres, with the Knights running for over 1500m in both their last two outings (and as it happens they’ve now won the yardage battle 3 times this year – their only 3 wins). If yardage is vital to the Knights’ fortunes, what chance do they have here? Well, they’d be a HUGE chance, if the Bulldogs Round 8 effort is anything to go by. Canterbury had absolutely nothing against the Sea Eagles between the 20s, getting outgained by 222 metres, as their forwards were paced by the God of Plod himself, Josh Jackson (HOT TIP: when your leading metre-eater is Josh “17th on his own team in metres per carry” Jackson, something has gone catastrophically wrong). The Dogs have won the yardage battle just twice this year themselves, and never by more than 80 metres. If they allow David Klemmer (who surely has a point to prove) and the rest of the Knights’ pack to roll over the top of them in the same way Manly did, it could be a long afternoon for the Bulldogs.
- If you’re wondering what sort of masochists would pick the Warriors two weeks in a row – particularly the week after their dismal showing against the Knights – please, allow us to explain. For the most part, this has less to do with anything the Warriors have or haven’t done (in general, looking too far into the Warriors’ “form” only serves to aggravate us, anyway), and more to do with the loss of Corey Norman for the Dragons. We can’t stress enough just how good Norman is, and how good he’s been for St George-Illawarra. In losing Norman, they not only lose their five-eighth; they lose their team leader in try assists and line break assists, as well as his excellent long and short kicking game. Last week, the Dragons didn’t score another point in the 26 minutes after he left the field, as the Dragons’ hopes of winning imploded along with Norman’s face. Without him, Ben Hunt is the only player remaining in the Dragons’ squad with more than 2 assists this year. That seems like a lot of pressure on Hunt, who… um… let’s just say, isn’t exactly known for his composure.
- Back onto the Warriors, and you’ll notice that Kodi Nikorima makes his debut for New Zealand this week, at the expense of Chanel Harris-Tavita. Nikorima immediately becomes the team leader in total try involvements and line break assists, but we can’t help but feel Harris-Tavita is a bit hard done by – he’s been a minor revelation for the Warriors this season, and we’d argue demands to at least be in the Warriors’ Top 17 somewhere. Hopefully he won’t be missing for long.
- We’ve got the Storm tipped to win here (last week’s result aside, their defense is still ridiculously amazing), but we feel the need to sound a warning – if we were to pick the kind of team capable of upsetting the Storm, the Eels are exactly that team. To get to the point, the Storm’s offense ain’t that flash. They’ve been held to 22 points or less in all but 1 match this year, and have now scored 3 tries or less in their last 5 matches straight. To put it differently, the Storm aren’t winning because they’re outscoring teams, but rather because they’re able to limit the scoring of their opponents. Enter the Eels. Parramatta come into this match ranked 1st in Offense VOA (45.76%), off a 32-point performance against the Dragons, and having been held to under 20 points just 3 times so far this year. If somebody’s ever going to put 20+ on the Storm, the Eels seem as good a chance as any. In fact, the only reason we haven’t tipped them here is the fact that of their 3 flops, 2 came against elite opposition (the Roosters and Raiders). It remains plausible to us that the Eels are just flat-track bullies who punish bad teams, while going to water against the legit contenders. But if not, they’ve got a huge chance to shock the nation on Saturday night.