2018 Season Results:
Head-to-Head Tipping: 112/192 (58%)
Line Betting: 39/84 (46%)
2017 Season Results:
Head-to-Head Tipping: 66%
Line Betting: 55%
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NRL Finals Week 1 Tips and Previews
Storm v Rabbitohs
Offense VOA: Storm 3.84% (8th), Rabbitohs 42.08% (1st)
Defense VOA: Storm -27.97% (2nd), Rabbitohs -17.86% (3rd)
The finals open with a Friday Night Football clash between the Storm and the Rabbitohs, in what everyone expects to be one of the games of the season.
Though the Storm are coming off a disappointing loss to Penrith, AND were well beaten by Souths the last time they met, it’s worth noting that this particular Melbourne team bears very little resemblance to the side that played in either of those losses. Notably absent from the Storm’s loss to Souths were winger Suliasi Vunivalu and utility Brandon Smith. In addition, they’ll be regaining superstars Billy Slater and Cameron Munster following the loss to Penrith. The return of Vunivalu in particular is crucial, given that in both matches, the overwhelming majority of their opponents’ attacking success came down Melbourne’s right flank, where Vunivalu would otherwise have been defending. Against the Rabbitohs, they leaked 4 line breaks and 3 tries down that corridor; against Penrith it was 2 and 4. In total, that’s 6 line breaks and 7 tries in just two matches – Vunivalu has conceded just 12 breaks and 8 tries all year.
So if we assume that the Storm’s right edge will tighten right up, the next question will be whether or not they can score a few points. To that, the answer is a resounding yes. We know that, because we’ve already seen them do it before. In their previous loss to South Sydney, they still managed to score 20 points (and it would have been more if Cameron Smith had his boots on the correct feet, given that they scored 4 tries). To put that into perspective, the Storm’s defense is so good, that 20 points would be enough to tie or win 19 of their 24 matches this year. If the return of Vunivalu has the positive effect on Melbourne’s defense that we think he will, then all they have to do is perform equally as well on offense, and they should be sweet.
Which means that for South Sydney, the result is likely to hinge on the performance of their defense. While winning is easy when you outgain your opponent by over a kilometre, as they did last week against the Tigers (that’s not an exaggeration), they’re not likely to see anything like those video game numbers here. The Storm are a distant 1st in RMCVOA, and have only been outgained by over 200m on 3 occasions all year (though one of those was the Rabbitohs game). Notably, the Storm lost the possession battle in all of those matches, highlighting the importance of discipline here for South Sydney. If Souths can control possession and deny the Storm decent field position, they can put their own defense in the best possible situation to succeed.
In a close game, that makes us lean towards the home team. Though the Rabbitohs aren’t generally too poorly treated by the referees, they can be punished away from home, with the team having conceded double-digit penalties 5 times this year in just 12 games away from ANZ. In contrast, the Storm have hit that mark just twice when playing at home. We like Melbourne’s defense to contain the Rabbitohs to a catchable total, and expect they’ll be handed every opportunity to get the points they need.
Our tip: Storm