2020 Season Results:Head-to-Head Tipping: 56/80 (70%) (Last week: 6/8)
2019 Season Results:Head-to-Head Tipping: (64%)
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 odds mightn’t show it, there’s an argument to be made that the Tigers just might be the form attacking team in the competition. After being held to just 3 line breaks in 4 of their first 5 games, their whipping of the Broncos marked the 5th game in a row in which they’ve exceeded that total. Granted, they’ve faced four bottom-8 defenses through that stretch, but you have to give them credit – they’ve punished each and every one of them. So why aren’t we tipping them here? Quite simply, it’s because they’re still yet to produce against a good defense – and the Eels are exactly that. In their six games against bottom-8 Ds, the Tigers average an incredible 29.8 points per game. Against top-8 defenses though, that drops to just 16.5. For this reason, it’s likely that in order to win, they’ll need to keep Parra to under 3 tries – something that’s easier said than done. Indeed, through ten weeks, only 3 teams have managed it (the Bulldogs, Roosters and Knights). Of further interest is the fact that those three games are also the only three games in which Parra have lost the possession battle, suggesting that the only way Parramatta have been beaten so far was by starving their attack of the football. If this is the secret, it doesn’t bode well for Wests, who’ve only won the possession battle 3 times so far this year. We really like what Wests have been doing, and believe they’re far more competitive than their $3.55 price suggests. We expect a contest, but fancy with Mitch Moses back in, the Eels should be able to find the four tries they need to get it done.
- We spent some time agonising over it, but after Addin Fonua-Blake finally complied the flu shot regulations, we’ve decided to back the Sea Eagles again. To be clear, we were not impressed by anything they did against Parramatta – if you tune out the talking heads and look at what actually happened, Manly were every bit as bog average as they’ve been every other week since they lost Tom Trbojevic (who’s now apparently been rubbed out for another month). All the same problems were there, they simply benefited from a shockingly high Parramatta error count (15 – the Eels’ second-worst performance of the year), and a couple of embarrassing moments from Parramatta’s defense. So why then, are we tipping them now? Because Manly’s defense remains solid (they rank 8th in the league, vs the Cowboys‘ 16th), and the return of Fonua-Blake should help address their go-forward concerns. Long-time readers will know that we regard Manly’s pack as among the worst in the competition (they rank 5th-last in both RMVOA and RMCVOA), but without their forward leader the past two weeks (and yes, he’s definitely the leader – despite having missed two games, he still leads the entire team by over 400m), they’ve been completely dominated. After managing four straight weeks with relatively even yardage shares, the past fortnight has seen Manly somehow outgained by a combined 1200m(!). So, it’s obviously a huge plus for Manly to get Fonua-Blake back in. The next is the fact that the second-worst team over that period was this week’s opponent, the Cowboys (whose net yardage over the past fortnight is -777m). This gives us hope that Manly won’t just match it with the Cowboys’ middles – they may actually beat them. And finally, the other reason they keep losing is the fact that without Tom Trbojevic, their offense is completely one-dimensional, running entirely through Daly Cherry-Evans. The Dragons and Knights both found that pretty easy to shut down, but those sides are also Top-5 defenses; we’re not convinced the Cowboys defense can shut down anybody.
- Don’t say we didn’t warn you that the Roosters had fallen off a bit. Of course, we certainly didn’t see them losing to Canberra, but responsibility for that should fall firmly at the feet of the Roosters’ analytics guy (how on earth they could enter that match with a clear plan to attack the Raiders’ left edge is simply beyond us). That being said, there’s certainly some reason to believe that Sydney may struggle with the top teams going forward (and having already recorded losses to Penrith, Melbourne and Canberra, you could say they’ve struggled with the top teams going backward, too). The Roosters’ go-forward has clearly regressed without Victor Radley and Sam Verrills, producing a RMVOA below 2% for the second week running (and in the first game without the duo, they lost the yardage battle for just the second time all season). As we’ve already stated, this alone isn’t why they lost to Canberra – that was a strategy issue – but it does give us pause for concern when Sydney play the better teams. Why? Because all the other decent teams have top packs. Parramatta, Newcastle and Penrith all feature Top-5 offenses for yardage, while Melbourne and Penrith are Top-5 for limiting opposition yardage. The Roosters remain the best team in the league, but they’re not far enough better than the competition to consistently beat the top sides without good field position – and at the rate their forwards are dropping, they may need to learn how quickly.
- The Sharks/Dragons contest looms as an especially tricky game to pick, presenting the classic battle of a stoppable force meeting a moveable object. The stoppable force here is St George-Illawarra – while Shane Flanagan’s work as attacking assistant has been getting all the praise in the mainstream press, we’ve been sitting here dumbfounded – why on earth would anyone be wrapping an offense that hasn’t exceeded 3 line breaks in a game for four weeks running? I mean, we agree that over the past five weeks they’ve “turned it around” – but only insofar as the fact that their offense was previously OK, and now it’s terrible. Since they’ve been “good”, the Dragons have seen declines in LBVOA (from -18.56% in the first five weeks to -30.68% in the last five), RMVOA (from 8.24% to 4.63%) and TBVOA (from 6.76% to -11.28%). So no, they haven’t been winning because of their offense at all; they’ve been winning thanks to a bit of good fortune and a defense that’s kept every team they’ve beaten to 3 line breaks or fewer. And can they keep the Sharks to that kind of number? It’s not likely. After stinking the place up through the opening six weeks, the Sharks, on the other hand, have legitimately turned a corner with the ball, averaging 6.5 line breaks per game over the past four weeks (and that’s despite playing two Top-8 defenses in that period). The issue for the Sharks is that their defense is SO bad, it’s become comparable to that of the Titans (yikes!). While their offense has been humming, their D has been getting massacred, with a LBCVOA of 82.77% over the past four weeks (worst in the league) and a TBCVOA of 45.64% (also league worst). Sharks fans have been hating on Chad Townsend’s defense, but we’re more bothered by the 9 line breaks Wade Graham has conceded so far (because unlike Townsend, Graham is typically very good). So, since we’re confident that the Sharks have a few tries in them, the question becomes: how many can the Dragons put past one of the league’s worst defenses? And it’s here that we find ourselves leaning towards Cronulla. You see, the issue with Cronulla’s defense is overwhelmingly on the edges – Graham, Townsend and Jesse Ramien have all conceded 9 line breaks so far; while Sione Katoa and Josh Dugan have added another 8 and 7, respectively. Through the middle, though, they’ve been comparatively stout, with only Toby Rudolf and Aaron Woods conceding more than 5. However, attacking the edges is hardly the Dragons strong suit – through ten weeks, their only outside back with more than 2 line breaks is Mikaele Ravalawa. There’s definitely a weakness there to be taken advantage of, but we’re simply not convinced that St George have the ability to capitalise. For this reason, we’re taking the Sharks.
- We’ve backed the Raiders on Saturday night, but don’t feel great about it at all. Though last weekend’s defensive effort was decent, their frail right edge was hardly tested, and in the meantime has somehow gotten worse. Their right centre slot that has so far conceded 9 line breaks (vs 5 on the left) will now be filled by Jordan Rapana – a career winger who has played just one game at centre (a 34-6 loss to the Roosters five years ago). Rapana’s lack of defensive experience at centre makes us extremely uncomfortable, and his 72% tackle efficiency doesn’t help either.
- The Rabbitohs, however, may be just as bad. With Latrell Mitchell, Braidon Burns and James Roberts out, they’ll be trotting out a makeshift backline of their own – a combination that last week got shredded for 5 line breaks by Newcastle, all made exclusively down the edges. With two dreadful edge defenses going head-to-head, it’s near impossible to split these teams. Their packs are evenly matched, and both spines are missing their best attacking player (Josh Hodgson for Canberra, and Mitchell for Souths). In the end, we’ve essentially just picked the home team.
- Though we still fancy the Panthers should be too good for the Titans, we’d be dialing back our expectations of a whooping a little bit. The loss of Api Koroisau is significant, but not a deal-breaker (Mitch Kenny is a decent enough short-term replacement), but the loss of Dylan Edwards has the potential to be significant. The value of Edwards to Penrith lies in his number of supports – Edwards’ speed and fitness allow him to consistently back up line breaks and offloads, converting opportunities into tries. In the five games with Caleb Aekins at fullback, Penrith’s try-to-LB ratio was 68%; in the four full games Edwards played, that climbed to 80%. The difference in tries is directly attributable to the fullbacks, with Aekins producing just 1 try involvement in five games, vs 9 for Edwards in four-and-a-half. The takeaway here is that if the Panthers do indeed trot out Aekins at fullback (we’re still holding out hope of a late change that could see either Stephen Crichton or debutante Daine Laurie slot in at the back), they can expect to score fewer tries per opportunity created. Thankfully, the Titans are generally quite accommodating when it comes to allowing try scoring opportunities, so this shouldn’t be a huge drama for the competition-leaders. But if Aekins remains at the back for an extended period, Penrith may struggle to score points when they run into a side with a decent LBCVOA (like, for example, Manly – who they play next week).