2020 Season Results:Head-to-Head Tipping: 116/152 (76%) (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
- The final round kicks off tonight with the Broncos battling to offload the wooden spoon. This presents as a difficult match-up to pick, due to the staggering incompetence of both teams. As it stands, we’d give a slight attacking edge to the Cowboys, but it’s not convincing. The Cows barely fired a shot against Penrith, and despite the return of Jason Taumalolo (who gave a good account of himself with 117 run metres in just 40 minutes) they still got steamrolled up the middle, outgained by over 400m. It’s also noteworthy that the Cowboys’ offense is particularly error-prone – they rank 2nd-worst in the league, averaging almost 2 errors per game more than Brisbane. This is critical, as many of Brisbane’s issues are exacerbated by a persistent lack of possession. While North Queensland have won the possession count 6 times (winning half of those games), the Broncos have done so on just 3 occasions, winning 2 (with the third a 4-point loss to the Dragons). The opportunity to receive a few extra sets could be a refreshing change for Brisbane, helping protect their defense from too much exposure. And if they can maintain a little bit of possession, the Cowboys D is generally pretty friendly. They’ve leaked 10+ line breaks in over a quarter of their matches, and 6+ in more than half. Much of this is just the result of bad tackling – the Cowboys have 2 players in the NRL Top 10 for missed tackles (Scott Drinkwater and Josh Maguire), and rank 3rd last for TBCVOA. Though Brisbane lack any kind of ability to create space, they do pack a few guys who bust tackles one-on-one (Kotoni Staggs and Payne Haas immediately spring to mind; and if Staggs does indeed end up playing in the 6, he’ll have the freedom to go and find Drinky, wherever he’s hiding). This just might provide the opportunities required for Brisbane to find a few tries. Finally, it’s probably important to remember that while this game is essentially meaningless to the Cows, it means everything to Brisbane to avoid finishing in last place; and at home, you’d think that should motivate them to try that little bit harder than their typical ‘effort’.
- The rapid sudden improvement of the Titans over the final two months of the competition has been one of the great stories of 2020. After scoring 3 tries total over the opening three weeks of the competition, the Titans have now scored 3 or more tries in their past 7 games straight. We tipped their offensive breakout a while back, but it wasn’t until they started getting positive possession shares that we really started seeing what they’ve got. The past 3 weeks they’ve seen 50%+ of the ball in each game, winning all three and piling up 78 combined points. Though Jamal Fogarty has been the hot new thing, Ash Taylor has really been the key piece in the Titans’ rise (and he’s no doubt rescued his own career in the process). Throughout his career, good games have been few and far between, but have all had one thing in common – they’ve arrived on occasions where his forwards have been able to get on top. Though such games have typically been as rare as hen’s teeth, in 2020 the Titans pack has played with a ferocity we can’t recall ever seeing from a Gold Coast side. Yes, over the season they rank dead last for RMVOA, but you must remember: they were awful for much of the year. If we draw a line and measure the Titans from their narrow Round 12 loss to the Roosters onwards, we see a tale of two seasons. Pre-Round 12, the Titans were getting smoked between the 20s, with an embarrassing RMVOA of -9.18%. Since the Roosters game though, that number has been 0.25% (good enough to be 7th in the league). Behind a bit of forward momentum, their offense has exploded, with their LBVOA leaping from -48.70% pre-Round 12 to 61.66% post-Round 12. This tells us two things: first, the Titans are much better than you think. And second, their attacking success is closely tied to their run metres. We don’t have them winning here, but we do think they have a few tries in them. The issue will be their defense having to keep out a Knights side that just flexed its attacking muscles on the Dragons, and is getting back key attacking weapons Bradman Best and Kurt Mann. This game should be a lot of fun, but we’re expecting the Knights to get up in a shoot-out.
- We were certainly shocked to see the Rabbitohs get rolled by Canterbury last weekend. Granted, the Bulldogs did much of the damage against 12 men, but that isn’t really the point – it’s simply inexcusable for any team to concede 5 line breaks to Canterbury, much less a Canterbury team missing Kieran Foran. That outing marked the Bulldogs’ highest line break number of the year, resulting in their 2nd highest points total. For a South Sydney side who are depending on their defense to keep them competitive (due to the absence of Latrell Mitchell), this performance came out of nowhere, and casts serious doubt over how long they’re survive in the finals. As for how long they’ll survive against a Roosters team welcoming back James Tedesco, Jake Friend, Boyd Cordner and Siosiua Taukeiaho? Maybe until halftime.
- The Panthers will once again be resting a selection of stars this weekend, after James Tamou, Api Koroisau and Zane Tetevano took Friday off last weekend. In case you missed it, the absences did very little to slow the Panthers down, as Penrith put North Queensland to the sword in the opening stanza. This week those guys come back, with Dylan Edwards, Stephen Crichton and Viliame Kikau having breathers. This presents an interesting opportunity for the Bulldogs, who get to attack a brand new Penrith left edge of Tyrone May and Kurt Capewell. Unfortunately, we’ve seen nothing from Canterbury’s right edge to suggest they’re capable of taking advantage. Right centre Reimis Smith has just 4 line breaks and 4 try involvements all season, while winger DWZ has 7 line breaks for 3 try involvements. As a general rule, the Bulldogs prefer attacking to their left – where they’ll find a Penrith right edge that’s completely untouched (indeed, this may have been a factor in deciding who to rest). Consequently, we don’t expect Penrith’s absences to make much of a difference, and their dominant forward pack should once again lay the platform for victory (the Panthers have run for over 1700m for 4 weeks in a row; the Bulldogs haven’t done it once all year).
- Of all the teams resting players this weekend, the Raiders are the most perplexing one. A win here would put them temporarily above Parramatta, who won’t play until afterwards (and who are certainly not guaranteed to win). And with a Top 4 spot potentially on offer, what do they do? Rest half the team. They have a whole new spine, new back row, and gave Jarrod Croker a breather, to boot. The Sharks may have been ordinary lately (and have lost their best player, Shaun Johnson), but given the sheer scale of the changes for Canberra, we feel compelled to tip Cronulla. If the Sharks can’t get a win here, they’re absolutely no chance whatsoever when these sides meet again (potentially next week).
- We’ve been wrong before, but the Eels/Tigers game just might be the best of the round. In the blue corner, we have the misfiring Eels. They come limping into the finals in bog average form, despite eventually putting away Brisbane last weekend. Their offense has been held tryless twice in the past month, and has scored more than 2 tries in a game just twice in their past 7 games (Wests have managed it in 8 of their past 10). Defensively, they’ve been solid, though it should be noted that in the two games they’ve played against Top 5 offenses in that stretch (we’re not counting their game against Melbourne’s reserve unit), they conceded a combined 18 line breaks, while losing 58-2 (in case you’re wondering, the Tigers rank 5th in the league for Offense). In the orange corner, we have the opposite problem – the Tigers’ defense has gone totally to water over the past two months, conceding 4+ tries for 9 games straight (over the same period, the Eels have done this just once). So when these sides meet, who’ll break? Well, we’re inclined to turn back to last week and our observation about the Eels’ offense. In case you missed it, Parramatta’s offense has only been decent when they’ve outgained their opponent by 200m+. They rely on winning at the advantage line, before playing back through the middle of the ruck (as seen by Clint Gutherson’s 11 line breaks and 28 try involvements). However, the Tigers’ run defense is surprisingly good, ranking 4th in the league for RMCVOA (-3.54%). The Eels had success through the middle the last time they met, in Round 11 (they outgained the Tigers by 368m, and scored 5 tries as a consequence), but Wests were missing a host of regular forwards in that outing. Alex Twal, Luke Garner, Thomas Mikaele, Elijah Taylor – all will add starch to the Tigers’ run defense and slow Parramatta down. And if they can do that, we’re comfortable backing the Tigers to score enough points to get home in Benji Marshall’s last game for the club. Maybe we’re just sentimental, but at this price, we’re giving the Tigers a huge chance to pull off an upset, and claim their traditional ladder position of 9th spot.
- After sitting through the Sea Eagles‘ painful attempt at ‘football’ last weekend, we can’t believe we’re tipping them again here. They were absolutely horrendous against the Titans, completing just 70% of their sets, while giving away a further 11 total penalties (this was their worst performance of the season for combined errors and penalties). So how will we back them again? Reluctantly. First, we note that Manly will almost inevitably be better than last week (it was their worst effort of the season, after all). Any sort of positive regression will see them have a bit more ball, and we should remember that as bad as they were last week, they still managed to score 24 points. Defensively they’ll be better too, with Reuben Garrick back (whose best assets are his speed, and the fact that he’s not Albert Hopoate). And while Manly should be a little bit better, we expect the Warriors to be a lot worse. Without George Jennings, their offense dried up to score just 14 points, and now they’ve lost their captain, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. In general, the loss of Tuivasa-Sheck wouldn’t be a deal-breaker for us (he’s contributed a surprisingly low 10 try involvements all season), however our issue lies with how they have to replace him. The Warriors have opted to fill the fullback slot with utility back Peta Hiku – a generally sound choice. However, in a very limited attacking team, Hiku’s right hand flick pass has been the side’s primary attacking weapon. He ranks 2nd in the team for line breaks assists with 7, and has a whopping 17 try involvements. In moving him to fullback, they’ve somehow managed to downgrade two positions at once, and take away their best attacking combination. Instead, Hiku will be floating around in the middle of the field, where he’s far less likely to be able to isolate defenders and spring a man free. We hate this look for the Warriors’ offense, and Manly always a few points in them. As a result, here we are again tipping Manly, and preparing to hate ourselves later.
- Finally, we have very little analysis to give about the Storm, given they’ve decided to rest an absurd 12 regular starters against the Dragons. Sure, they managed an upset over the Roosters back in Round 14 without their Camerons, but this is a totally different situation. This outfit is significantly weaker than the one they trotted out the following week against Parramatta, and that team got shut out. Accordingly, our inclination is that they’ll similarly struggle for any sort of offensive output, and the Dragons should certainly have the firepower to put them away. If anything, we think the Dragons are generously priced at $1.77 at time of writing.