Penrith Panthers (9th) v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs (13th)
The Panthers season was on life support a few weeks ago and it is amazing what a few wins can do; on the back of a 3-game winning streak, the Panthers are hot on the heels of the Top 8 and a win against the Titans last week only enhanced their prospects. Their effort last week was pleasing to some degree, yet worrying that they still had to play from behind against a team that was just as desperate as they were. An improvement in their execution in the second half was just what they needed, as was a 53% share of possession. They are still making things difficult for themselves, completing at 75% and making 10 errors appears good, although to compete with the top teams it must be better. They will fancy their chances to keep their winning momentum alive, following a 38-nil win over the Bulldogs back in Round 13. That was arguably the low-point of the Bulldogs season and what followed was a crisis meeting to turn their campaign around; the lasting effects were temporary and they are low team currently underperforming. A 42-12 loss last week to the Broncos highlighted the difference between where the Bulldogs are and where they wish to be; fact is, they are unable to build pressure and are continually relying on their defence to get them through matches. They are averaging just 14-points per game and their attacking flaws are beyond embarrassing for a first grade team; once their defence had conceded 4 tries within 25 minutes of the second half, the Bulldogs quickly folded. Completing at 73%, with 10 errors and 30 missed tackles only made things more difficult and they head into this game aiming to play for pride, as well as disrupt the Finals chances of another team in contention.
Panthers = Tyrone May is named at 5/8 to cover for Matt Moylan (injured). Reagan Campbell-Gillard is named to start, swapping with Tim Browne, who will start from the bench.
Bulldogs = James Graham (injury) returns at prop, pushing Danny Fualalo to the bench and Francis Tualau to the reserves.
Overall = Panthers 18 Draw 1 Bulldogs 16
Last 5 Matches = Panthers 3 Bulldogs 2
At Pepper Stadium = Panthers 54% Bulldogs 47%
Form = Panthers 3 wins – Bulldogs 1 loss
The Panthers need to keep winning matches if they are any chance of making the Finals; currently on a 3-game winning streak, the possibility of winning this game appears a reality as the Bulldogs continue to struggle. Hasler managed to keep his job on Tuesday, yet the noise is growing louder that there is changed needed to stimulate an improved performance. When things are going as bad as they are at the Bulldogs, it is only a matter of time before they completely unravel. It must be stated that they are a team that can spring a surprising performance under a ”siege” mentality. The return of James Graham will add some stability to the middle of the field, while the Panthers will need to work hard to cover the loss of Matt Moylan; they were able to do this a few weeks ago against the Warriors and a similar defensive structure is expected for their rookie 5/8. Nevertheless, the home team should still be too strong for their opponents and only have to overcome the Bulldogs strangling defence to prevail; the Bulldogs concede and average of 18.9 points per game compared with the Panthers 19.7 points. The real difference between the two sides is in the attack with the Panthers averaging 7.3 points more per game than their opponents. Amongst their poor form this season, the Bulldogs have struggled further on the road, winning just 1 game from 7 attempts; the Panthers on the other hand have a positive record at home and will only want to improve it as they chase hard towards the Finals. In terms of an investment, the fact that the Bulldogs have an average losing margin of 13.7 points this season, with only 4 being by 16-points or more demonstrates that when they lose heavily, it is a large margin. If the game is close, the Bulldogs will consider themselves a chance at winning but that does appear unlikely, especially if their last game is any indication to go by. The Panthers should cover the line and if they are in the right mood, run up another large tally on their opponents.
Panthers -6.5 @ $1.90
New Zealand Warriors (12th) v Cronulla Sharks (4th)
The Warriors were desperate to keep their Finals hopes alive and started the game strongly against the Cowboys in Townsville. Unfortunately, they were always going to find it difficult without Shaun Johnson, who is unavailable for the remainder of the season, while others were expected to stand up in his absence to ignite their attack. Heading into HT at 12-all gave them some hope, yet once the Cowboys increased their intensity, the Warriors couldn’t match their opponents and remained scoreless in the second half. Now, the Warriors are only a mathematical chance of the Finals and perhaps the time is right for Kearney to encourage his players to find a balance between measured play and flair. The Sharks head into this game after a win that put a loss in Round 19 behind them, with a 26-12 win over the Rabbitohs restoring confidence in their play. More importantly, it moved them into 4th on the ladder, with every performance now crucial for remaining there in the run towards the Finals. They dominated the entire match, but it wasn’t until the finals stages of the match where they were able to pull away from their opponents. Two late tries demonstrated their superiority over their opponents when it mattered most, although they will want to improve on that effort. A match with 57% possession for the reigning Premiers would demand more, yet it was all that was needed for victory. That aside, they still missed 38 tackles over the match and made 10 errors; these are two areas that they will want to improve upon and have the right conditions with their opponents just about out of the running for 2017.
Warriors = Unchanged.
Sharks = Fa’amanu Brown is named at 5/8 to cover for James Maloney (injured), while James Segeyaro is named to start at hooker. Jack Bird (injury) returns in the centres, with Kurt Capewell relegated to the bench.
Overall = Warriors 14 Sharks 18
Last 5 Matches = Warriors 2 Sharks 3
At Mt Smart Stadium = Warriors 58% Sharks 43%
Form = Warriors 3 losses – Sharks 1 win
The Warriors are entering dangerous territory; with their season (just about) over for 2017, they can now play with a carefree attitude that can cause their opponents headaches should they feel the need to throw the ball around. The Sharks bounced back strongly last week over the Rabbitohs, yet this game poses another set of difficulties. The last time these two teams met at this ground was ironically Round 21, 2015 whereby the Sharks were 4-point winners. The loss of Maloney hurts the Sharks; they were without him in Round 19 and they lost by 20-points to the Titans, as he offers leadership and direction on both sides of the ball. The move of Segeyaro to hooker will alleviate some pressure in the middle and it will not be surprising to see the Sharks play a forward-dominated game. The loss of the Sharks key 5/8 is equaled out in some respects by the absence of Johnson for the Warriors, as their point scoring options are limited further and their defensive structure becomes increasingly important. This has plagued the Warriors all season; they concede an average of 22.3 points per game, while only scoring 19.5 PPG. In the same instance, the Sharks score an average of 20.1 PPG and concede 15.7 PPG. This spells trouble for the Warriors and only enhanced by the fact that the Sharks have performed well on the road this season; they have won 7 out of 8 matches and have no issues playing strongly at this ground. These two sides have a recent history of tight matches, as 5 out of the past 6 matches have been decided by 4 points or less, with the Warriors only winning 2 of those matches. The average winning margin in the past 5 matches sits at 8.8 points and the same is expected here with a major part of the visitors attack missing. Once the Sharks cover the line, they should get home by less than 2 converted tries.
Sharks 1-12 @ $2.80
Parramatta Eels (7th) v Brisbane Broncos (3rd)
The Eels have a short turnaround to contend with and will want to quickly overcome an underwhelming 1-point win over the Tigers last Sunday. Rather than demonstrate their superiority and improve their point’s difference, they were guilty of playing down to their opponents level and had to wait until the 77th minute to seal the game. With 51% possession, the Eels continually let themselves down when it mattered; they completed at just 68%, committed a massive 17 errors and missed 38 tackles. Each of these statistics were worse than their opponents and they only have themselves to blame. A season-ending injury to Clint Gutherson only increases the Eels pain, as they will struggle to cover his weekly contribution. The Broncos will be ready to pounce on their opponents and they will be fresh following a comfortable 42-12 win over the Bulldogs. The match was tight early and they were made to work hard for their tries in the first half; following the resumption of play, the Broncos went on a devastating run of attack. It was evident at this point that they had increased the intensity of the match and their opponents were unable to match their output. Having 59% of possession was a clear indication of how much they dominated and there were extended periods where their opponents went without touching the ball. To add to their impressive execution, they completed at 80% and missed just 27 tackles, with 9 total errors coming about as they attempted to improve their attacking flair by chancing their hand. More importantly, the win brought them back into the Top 4 and they are a genuine chance of finishing in this position. It is a matter of maintaining their intensity each week and continuing to set high standards that most of their opponents are unable to reach.
Eels = Bevan French moves to fullback to cover for Clint Gutherson (injured), with Josh Hoffman coming onto the wing.
Broncos = Darius Boyd (injury) returns at fullback and Kodi Nikorima relegated to the reserves.
Overall = Eels 17 Broncos 19
Last 5 Matches = Eels 1 Broncos 4
At ANZ Stadium = Eels 46% Broncos 52%
Form = Eels 4 wins – Broncos 3 wins
On a 4-game winning streak and winning 6 out of their past 7 matches, the Eels are confident that they can win this game. Betting markets are suggesting the opposite though and they will head into this game as outsiders; a major influence on this is the season-ending injury suffered by Clint Gutherson and his outstanding contribution to this team so far in 2017. There is no doubt that the Eels struggled to cover his loss last Sunday and it will against be a tough task for them. The Broncos demonstrated how good they can be last week against the Bulldogs and only get stronger with the return of Darius Boyd to their team; he offers another attacking dimension out the back of plays, something they have lacked in his absence. The standard of opponents is expected to be increased in this game though and they grinded them into the ground with relentless pressure; nevertheless, the Eels desperate to remain inside the Top 8. The history between the two sides points towards the Broncos winning this contest; they have won 4 out of the past 5 meetings, while their average winning margin over the Eels in the past 5 wins sits at 13-points. Expect this game to be close though; The Eels have tightened up their defence since Round 14, with their opponents averaging 11 points in their past 4 matches compared with their season average of 19.5 PPG. It is no secret that one of the Broncos strengths is their attack and averaging 23.3 PPG will mean the Eels need to work on their defensive structure. Furthermore, they will have to limit their errors (10.4 per game) and make the most of the Broncos (9.5 per game), a team that doesn’t give away too many opportunities over 80 minutes. The Broncos are set for victory in this contest and keep their momentum rolling, yet it may be tougher than they are hoping. Given the nature of the Eels defence in recent weeks, perhaps invest on the Broncos to cover the line and viewing how this match plays out is the way to go; this allows for a blowout should the Broncos continue their dazzling attacking display of last week, as well as fatigue impacting the home teams performance.
Broncos -6.5 @ $1.90
Newcastle Knights (16th) v St George-Illawarra Dragons (8th)
The Knights were always going to find it difficult last week against the Roosters, yet would’ve fancied their chances with their opponents missing some players. Another spirited effort was expected, but they found themselves drastically outclassed from the opening minutes. A solitary try demonstrated the lack of class and the difference between the two teams, with the Roosters never appearing to get out of second gear. They didn’t aid their cause, completing at 67%, committed 13 errors and missing 38 total tackles; this was the first sign that the spirit which was once evident has perhaps left them as the season draws to a close. They will sense another opportunity to cause an upset against the Dragons, after a narrow 32-28 loss to them in Round 16. That game saw them go scoreless in the second half and give up a 28-10 HT lead. The Dragons attacking ability was evident during that game and it was on display again last week against the Sea Eagles. In what shaped as a crucial match to keep them inside the Top 8, the Dragons lifted and performed beyond what they have been capable of in recent weeks. The final score of 52-22 highlighted the difference between the two teams as the Dragons continually benefitted from positive attacking position, with 57% possession, completing at 84% and committing just 8 errors, they dictated just about every area of the match. Following a 30-nil HT lead, there was a momentum of panic as the Sea Eagles scored 4 tries to begin the second half and closed the gap to just 8-points. That is where their scoring stopped though and the Dragons quickly regained the momentum of the match; it is no surprise that the points in this match coincided with a dominance of possession. More importantly, the Dragons looked dangerous again with the ball and will want to maintain that level of performance against a team that will have a less structured defensive line to better teams in the competition.
Knights = Ken Sio returns on the wing for Chanel Mata’utia (concussion).
Dragons = Josh Dugan (injury) returns in the centres for Euan Aitken (injured), with Matt Dufty remaining at fullback. Joel Thompson (injury) returns in the second row for Blake Lawrie, who is relegated to the reserves.
Overall = Knights 10 Dragons 24
Last 5 Matches = Knights 0 Dragons 5
At McDonald Jones Stadium = Knights 56% Dragons 83%
Form = Knights 8 losses – Dragons 1 win
The Dragons will want to avoid a similar set of circumstances to the last match they played against the Knights; this means that they will have to take control of the match from the opening momentum, just like they did last week against the Sea Eagles. It is crucial that they set an early standard and do not find themselves playing from behind, as they did in Round 16. Unfortunately, their record against the Dragons isn’t a good one, with their last victory coming in Round 26, 2015. Furthermore, the Dragons have a great record at this ground, winning 15 out of the 18 matches between the two sides at an 83% strike rate. Most people are expecting the same to happen, although you cannot overlook the impact that a short turnaround will have on the Dragons. Thankfully, the travel and preparations shouldn’t be too difficult to manage and winning form always makes the easier. This game is a matter of how much the Dragons win by and if last week is anything to go by, the Dragons should have everything their own way. The Knights are at a stage in their season whereby their motivation is lacking and it appears as though it is a challenge to compete for 80 minutes. This should be all the Dragons need to kick clear of their opponents and win by a comfortable margin. Their past 5 matches against the Knights have been won by an average of 8.6 points; regardless, the Dragons average the 4th highest amount of points this season (22.5 PPG) and the Knights have conceded the most of any other side (27.7 PPG). With the home ground advantage appearing to be non-existent in this game, perhaps the Dragons will score the points they should’ve last time these two sides met.
Dragons -10.5 @ $1.90
South Sydney Rabbitohs (14th) v Canberra Raiders (10th)
The Rabbitohs head into this game desperate to break a 3-game losing streak that has ended their hopes of featuring in the Finals. Their most recent effort was another inept display whereby they were outclassed by their opponents from start to finish. It is no surprise that their losing streak has come against teams inside the Top 8, demonstrating how far they are away from competing with the leading clubs. Pulling within 2-points of the Sharks with 25 minutes remaining gave the perception that they were close to stealing victory but in reality, their opponents were only going through the motions rather than relentlessly competing. Again, their stats were good; they completed at 82%, made just 8 errors and missed 29 tackles, rather it is their inability to strike in attack that has hurt them the most. The Raiders are also hurting following their 20-14 loss to the Storm at home. The game has been talked about for plenty of reasons since its conclusion, some warranted and some not. Ricky Stuart was vocal following his team’s loss that accountability needs to be given to officials; nevertheless, the Raiders should perhaps address their own issues that included completing at 68% and committing 13 errors that came at crucial times. The fact that they struggled for momentum in the middle of the field was impacted by plays around the ruck, yet they had plenty of chances to create attacking pressure. The tries, which they conceded, were made via poor defensive reads and the referees only had a minor impact on the eventual result. As it stands, time is running out for the Raiders to make a run towards the Finals; time is just about up on their campaign and as they sit 6-points out of the Top 8, this is a must win game on the road.
Rabbitohs = There is a reshuffle in the backline with Alex Johnson shifting to fullback, Robert Jennings to the wing, Tyrell Fuimaono named at centre, Cody Walker at 5/8 and John Sutton to the second row. Hymel Hunt (injury) returns in the centres, with Braidon Burns dropping out. Damien Cook is named at hooker, with Robbie Farah relegated to the bench, while Cameron Murray comes onto the interchange for Zane Musgrove.
Raiders = Michael Oldfield is named on the wing for Jordan Rapana (suspended). Joseph Tapine is named in the second row for Sia Soliola (suspended), with Luke Bateman named at lock. Josh Hodgson is back in the starting role at hooker, pushing Kurt Baptiste to the bench, along with Jeff Lima, who fills the vacant spot.
Overall = Rabbitohs 11 Raiders 12
Last 5 Matches = Rabbitohs 2 Raiders 3
At ANZ Stadium = Rabbitohs 52% Raiders 59%
Form = Rabbitohs 3 losses – Raiders 1 loss
A complete reshuffle of the structure of this team is intended to have an impact on both sides of the ball; it is noticeable that they have added speed to their play with the players they have moved into certain positions and they will want to use this to their advantage. The Raiders are a team that can be beaten around the ruck if their opponents push through the middle; this has brought them undone several times this year and was highlighted by the Storm last week. Whether or not the changes will have the desired impact for the Rabbitohs immediately in this game in unknown; something does need to change for them and players will be going out to make a case for their selection heading into 2018. The Raiders are favorites for this game, based mainly on the poor form of their opponents rather than their own success. Their recent form has been poor to say the least and while they have been competing in some matches, they are definitely a team that is underachieving. In saying that, the Raiders have more quality than their opponents and will look to make the most of the situation they find themselves in. The Rabbitohs are bound to play a measured style and the Raiders have to be patient, making the most of quality possession when they have it. Ironically, the last time these two side met was in Round 21, 2016, where the Raiders were victorious 54-4; if the Rabbitohs do not control the play early enough in this game, then they could be heading for a similar outcome. There are other, more enticing games to invest on this weekend but if you must, take the Raiders to cover the line. The Raiders average more points in attack (21.4 PPG v 18.5 PPG) than their opponents, while also managing fewer points than them in defence (18.5 PPG v 21.7 PPG); this should give enough reasoning for them to cover the line, with the preference being to sit back and watch this game above all else.
Suggested Bet (If you must…)
Raiders -4.5 @ $1.90
Sydney Roosters (2nd) v North Queensland Cowboys (5th)
The Roosters had everything their own way against the Knights and won accordingly. This game was always expected to be an easier one for them, to the point where they never appeared to get out of second gear in their 28-4 win. The difference in class was evident, with the Roosters completing at 81%, committing just 9 errors and missing only 26 tackles. Many were worried that the absence of key players, Michael Gordon and Jake Friend, would hurt than more than expected. While it didn’t last week, it could prove an issue against a team with the class of the Cowboys. They too were victorious last week in a game they were expected to win, with 24-12 win over the Warriors in Townsville. Limiting their opponents to 2 tries gave them the platform they needed to establish a win, although at times it was appearing to be more difficult than they were expecting/hoping. A try in the 80th minute extended the margin of victory and the difficult nature of the match can be attributed to the Warriors fighting for their season rather than Cowboys underperforming. They still completed at 84%, missed just 21 tackles and had 8 total errors; these statistics have highlighted the level the Cowboys have gone to without JT in their team. Their win over the Warriors has lifted them into 5th on the competition ladder, equal third with the Broncos and only separated by points difference. Their play in recent weeks has been impressive, with a 4-game winning streak coming at the right stage for them; in reality, those 4 wins have come against teams outside the Top 8, albeit, desperate for a position in there. They haven’t played a similar team to them since the Storm in Round 15, where both teams were understrength and they went down by 1-point. This will be a great measure of where each team is at with the Finals fast approaching.
Roosters = Joseph Manu (injury) returns to the centres, allowing Mitchell Aubusson to move to the second row and Aidan Guerra back to the bench.
Cowboys = Antonio Winterstein (injury) returns to the wing, forcing Javid Bowen to the reserves. John Asiata is named to start at prop, relegating Shaun Fensom to the bench.
Overall = Roosters 20 Cowboys 10
Last 5 Matches = Roosters 3 Cowboys 2
At Allianz Stadium = Roosters 63% Cowboys 32%
Form = Roosters 2 wins – Cowboys 4 wins
Both sides are hitting form at the right time of the season and are displaying impressive passages of play. They have made a habit of performing well at the business end of the season and they are not about to let that standard slip. The Roosters head into this game as favorites and it isn’t surprising given the Cowboys record at this ground; they have a 32% winning record after winning just 6 games from 19 attempts. Most are overlooking the fact that the Roosters are without two key players that are crucial to their success; the Cowboys are also without Thurston, although have proven capable of covering his loss in recent weeks. The Roosters haven’t lost either, yet they are yet to face a quality opponent without Gordon and Friend. The contribution of Friend through the middle is what creates momentum for the Roosters pack moving forward and they will need someone else to create this for them against a pack that will be up for the challenge. This level of doubt removes the edge that the Roosters had over their opponents and there are still several areas they need to improve on; they average the second-highest errors in the league at an average of 11.4 per game and the Cowboys will make them pay for their mistakes. In recent weeks, the Roosters have been getting away with making these errors against lower ranked opponents. It is a different set of circumstances now and the Cowboys appear primed to cause an upset, albeit, in a very grinding contest.
Cowboys @ $2.25
Finals football = Either team under 6.5 points @ $2.75 – With the intensity increasing towards the business end of the season, so too does the quality. These two teams are expected to feature heavily in the Finals and this is bound to create a tense atmosphere that ensures defence takes preference over attack.
Melbourne Storm (1st) v Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles (6th)
The Storm came out and took care of business, just as the leading team in the competition is expected, against the Raiders in Canberra. In what always shaped as a difficult road trip with their opponents season on the line, the Storm dominated the middle of the field and slowed down the ruck to their speed. It was frustrating at times to watch; yet the class of the Storm was evident throughout. Their performance was under threat once Cameron Smith left the field with an injury and was only increased by the concussion suffered by Billy Slater; nevertheless, they didn’t panic and other players stepped up to fill the void. Despite the calls from opposition coach, Ricky Stuart, the Storm forced the Raiders to play the way they did and they are aware that they could’ve performed better. A 77% completion rate is below their high standards and scrambling for tackles over 80 minutes led to them missing a massive 45 tackles. A few tough weeks are ahead without some of their stars and the Sea Eagles will be out to make the most of this opportunity. For them, travelling to Melbourne on the back of an embarrassing loss to the Dragons could be good as they are escaping the pressure of Sydney. It was surprising to see them down 30-nil at HT as they were given minimal opportunities and were poor when they did have the ball. The Sea Eagles managed to pull themselves within 8-points after they opened the second half with 4-consecutive tries, yet that is where their scoring stopped. For the game, they had just 43% possession, completed at 69%, committed 9 errors and missed a massive 50 tackles. The decision to omit some players prior to KO by Barrett has come under scrutiny, as many have questioned the “injuries” they were suffering. There is no doubt that they would’ve increased the Sea Eagles performance, although not enough to change the result. After a few tough weeks, they looked a tired team and that loss may just be what they need to refocus them towards the Finals; this game poses the ideal match to measure how they are progressing.
Storm = Cameron Munster moves to fullback for Billy Slater (concussion), with Ryley Jacks named to start at 5/8. Cameron Smith is named, although Slade Griffin is in the reserves should he withdraw.
Sea Eagles = Matt Wright (injury) returns on the wing, Brenton Lawrence (injury) at prop and Apisai Koroisau (injury) at hooker. These chances has Cameron Cullen and Lloyd Perrett moving to the bench, pushing Brad parker, Darcy LUssick and Jarrad Kennedy to the reserves.
Overall = Storm 17 Draw 1 Sea Eagles 13
Last 5 Matches = Storm 3 Sea Eagles 2
At AAMI Park = Storm 74% Sea Eagles 20%
Form = Storm 1 win – Sea Eagles 1 loss
The old rivalry between these two sides is sure to draw plenty of attention this round and it is a chance for the Sea Eagles to make amends for their 4-point loss back in Round 7; unfortunately, the Storm have been impacted by injuries and it will hamper their performance somewhat. In saying that, they have proven several times this season that they have a set of capable youngsters waiting for the opportunity to feature in the NRL and are out to make the most of their opportunities. The fact that this game is played in Melbourne will worry the visitors; they have just 1 victory at this ground from 5 attempts and that came in their last trip here (Round 8, 2015). The form they displayed last week was worrying, it isn’t the best preparation for a game of this intensity and if the Dragons can do that to their defensive structure, there is no limit to what the Storm can achieve. Obviously, an improved effort from the Sea Eagles is expected and it would be surprising to see a similar performance; nevertheless, the Storm are great exponents of any team and will look for any weakness that the Sea Eagles display. This, along with the home ground advantage, has the Storm favorites for this game and it would be surprising to see the visitors cause an upset. Road trips have been their strength in 2017, winning 6 out of 8 matches to prove that they benefit from the more time they spend together and strangely, the Storm have dropped 3 games at home this season. That aside, the Storm have still assembled a strong squad of players that will challenge their opponents; as for the margin, 5 out of the past 6 matches have been decided by 4-points or less at an average of 5.3 points. The lower margin appears to be the right selection, especially with part of the Storms attack missing and will only be made more relevant should Cameron Smith be a late withdrawal.
Storm 1-12 @ $2.90
Kicking clear? = Storm -3.5 @ $1.85 – If you prefer a safer option that allows for a blowout margin, than consider this. The Sea Eagles defensive structure was pressured last week and it doesn’t appear as though some of those issues can be fixed quickly. If the Storm do gather momentum, they can emulate the Dragons performance last week, yet it does appear unlikely given the players missing and history of contests between the two teams.
Third time a charm! = Suliasi Vunivalu FTS and/or LTS @ $7 – It is no surprise that Vunivalu is at this price, he has scored the first try in the last two matches between these two sides. The last time he scored was back in Round 17 against the Broncos (also the first try for the match) and he is the leading try scorer for the Storm for a reason.
Gold Coast Titans (11th) v Wests Tigers (15th)
The Titans hopes of featuring in the Finals ended at the hands of the Panthers last week following a 24-16 loss on the road. There were positives signs early in the match, as the visitors established a lead, yet gave it up just prior to HT. Form that point onwards, they were unable to halt the attacking momentum of their opponents and suffered through the middle. They were forced to make 60+ more tackles than their opponents and it showed when it came to mounting their attack. Now, they are left playing for pride and need a win here to restore plenty of confidence and build towards 2018. The Tigers came agonisingly close to upsetting their rivals, the Eels, however they fell 1-point short courtesy of a 77th minute FG. In a dour affair, the Tigers played well beyond the form they have exhibited thus far in 2017; they completed at 83% and made just 9 errors, well down on their season average of 11.1 per game. The fact that they were able to push the Eels to win in the dying stages of the match was pleasing and perhaps the last big effort that the Tigers have in 2017. The challenge ahead is maintaining motivation, although the draw which lies ahead doesn’t appear kind and it looks to be a tough end to the season for them.
Titans = John Olive is named in the centres to cover for Konrad Hurrell (injured), while Karl Lawton comes onto the bench for Kane Elgey
Tigers = Chris Lawrence is named in the second row for Kyle Locett, with Suauso Sue (suspension) returning from the bench.
Overall = Titans 11 Tigers 7
Last 5 Matches = Titans 4 Tigers 1
At Cbus Super Stadium = Titans 49% Tigers 44%
Form = Titans 1 loss – Tigers 1 loss
These two sides met recently back in Round 16, where the Titans were successful on the road 26-14; they did enough in that game to overcome their opponents, with the weight of possession working in their favor. The Tigers were without Tedesco in that instance, although his presence hasn’t been much of an advantage for them throughout the year. To make the task more difficult, the Tigers haven’t beaten the Titans since Round 1, 2015 (it was at this ground) and betting markets believe that this record is set to continue. The Tigers had their chance last week, yet looked off the pace against superior opponents. Unfortunately for them, they lack the quality required to compete with the better teams in the competition; the Titans are not at that level by any means but they have demonstrated far more potential than the Tigers. The Titans will be disappointed with the way they executed in the second half against the Panthers and need to make amends here; returning home will help and an extra day to prepare should assist their cause. There is the sense that the Tigers peaked last week with their last chance to grab a win this season and while you cannot rule it out completely, it looks beyond them in this game. As for the margin, these two teams have a had a recent run of close matches, with all of their past 5 decided by less than 12 points and two of those were by 1-point. The average winning margin during that time sits a 6.6 points and while the Tigers overall form has been disappointing, they haven’t lost a match by more than 13-points since Round 14 (v Roosters 40-18); they’ve lost 6 games this year by more than 2 converted tries at a strike rate of 42.9%. The point scoring ability of the Titans has been evident in 2017 as they average 21.7 points per game except they struggle defensively, conceding an average of 24.4 PPG; only twice this year have they won by 13-points or more and while many think a blowout lies ahead, this game is set to be closer than what most think.
Titans 1-12 @ $3