2018 Season Results:
Head-to-Head Tipping: 77/128 (60%)
Line Betting: 25/53 (47%)
2017 Season Results:
Head-to-Head Tipping: 66%
Line Betting: 55%
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NRL Round 18 Tips and Previews
Panthers v Sharks
Offense VOA: Panthers -7.32% (10th), Sharks -3.23% (9th)
Defense VOA: Panthers -9.35% (5th), Sharks -21.49% (3rd)
The Panthers have opted to rest their three Origin stars following a draining State of Origin series, and with good reason – their 36-4 hammering of the Warriors without their best players was easily their most impressive performance of the past month.
In hindsight, that effort shouldn’t have been a huge surprise. The Panthers have been uncharacteristically sloppy over the past month, as they’ve parachuted James Maloney and Nathan Cleary into the squad, having barely trained with the rest of their team. The result has been high error counts, an ineffective offense, and back-to-back losses. With their star duo forced to stand down last weekend though, the guys who have been training with the Panthers’ firsts – Tyrone May and Jarome Luai – lit Panthers Stadium up, combining for 2 tries, 2 try assists, 2 line breaks and 1 line break assist, as Penrith completely exposed the Warriors as the pretenders we all know they are (the spectacular return of Waqa Blake didn’t hurt, either). So, it’s probably with good reason that the Panthers’ Blues reps have been given the weekend off; they can physically recover from a brutal month of footy, before re-joining the squad for the run home next week, knowing that the side is in safe hands.
So, with the Panthers’ cubs (NOTE TO FOX SPORTS COMMENTARY TEAM: A baby Panther is not a ‘pup’ – they’re cats, for fuck’s sake) having proven the better option than rushing back tired rep stars, the next question becomes whether or not the Panthers can actually win here; and more importantly, will they actually win here. The answer to the first part of that question is obviously a resounding yes – the level that the Panthers played last week (in both attack and defense) was at least as good as anything the Sharks have done this year. Indeed, just a week earlier, Cronulla faced the very same Warriors side, and scraped home by 3 points, courtesy of a rather suspicious-looking pass. Only the Storm have put more points on the Warriors in a single outing than the Panthers did last week; and defensively, it was the 4th time this season the Panthers have held their opposition to 6 points or less – an incredible mark, considering that the elite Sharks defense has only managed it twice. To summarise, we’re reasonably confident that last week’s Panthers would beat the Sharks.
Where we’re not confident though, is the likelihood that last weekend’s effort will be replicated (indeed, Penrith were SO good last weekend, that we’re reasonably certain that it won’t be). And if it isn’t, then what are we likely to see? The reality is that we’re facing an incredibly wide range of potential outcomes, from which accurately trying to pluck the Panthers’ performance level seems an impossible task. The team Penrith will be trotting out will be “the youngest and least experienced team in (the) NRL this season” (per Phil Gould), featuring another debutante at fullback, and no less than 13 players aged 23 or under. We love their upside, but it would be naive to assume that they’ll be playing at a consistently elite level from Day One (and God help the rest of the competition if they do).
The Sharks, on the other hand, are the definition of consistency. They’ve won 8 of their last 10 matches – a run that started with a narrow victory over Penrith (though it feels so long ago now, that the Panthers have since lost their fullback for the season, his replacement to a hamstring tear, and their captain that day has since retired). The Sharks have perhaps not hit the heights that we’ve been tipping them for yet, but they have been steadily improving, and rarely turn in an absolute clunker.
We absolutely believe that the Panthers have the talent to win this game, but feel like we’d rather hitch our wagon to a reliable “good” game from Cronulla, rather than rolling the dice on Penrith, and risking it coming up snake eyes. But if you felt lucky, we certainly wouldn’t blame you.
Our tip: Sharks