The Profits Round 8 2017 NRL kicks off on Friday night from Canberra and The Profits NRL expert Scooby previews all the matches and shares his best bets.
Canberra Raiders (5th) v Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles (9th)
The Raiders came out and won as expected on Saturday, allowing the Warriors to score just one try over 80 minutes. The 12-point victory was far more convincing that the score suggested, with the Raiders made to work hard at stages for their win and the outcome pleasing for their fans. They still have areas which they can improve upon, most notably their 12 errors accumulated over the match. The effort within their team was fantastic; you only had to look at a try saving tackle from Jarrod Crocker to see the application that this team has. It will be a tough task for the Sea Eagles to head south and halt their winning streak, especially considering that they are coming off a loss themselves. They had remarkable different efforts in each of the two halves; they found themselves down 30-12 in the first half and eventually lost the game 30-26. Keeping the Storm scoreless in the second 40 minutes was a big achievement and Trent Barrett will be pleased with how his team finished off the match. Nevertheless, they let the match escape them in the first half and they were unable to overcome their lapses in defence. One area that they could also improve on is the output by their forwards; they managed to average just 8.4m per carry of the ball. Sure, this was slightly ahead of the Storm but their completion rate didn’t allow them to build attacking pressure at crucial times. The key for them is playing consistently good rather than playing to an adequate level and being satisfied with that.
Raiders = Unchanged.
Sea Eagles = Martin Taupau (injury) returns at prop, pushing Addin Fonua-Blake back to the bench.
Overall = Raiders 12 Sea Eagles 13
Last 5 Matches = Raiders 3 Sea Eagles 2
At GIO Stadium = Raiders 50% Sea Eagles 50%
Form = Raiders 3 wins – Sea Eagles 2 losses
The Raiders are strong favorites for this game and rightly so; they are the leading team in terms of metres per carry (9.55m), the highest tackles breaks (38 per game) and the equal top tries scored, which averages out to 4.6 per game. This doesn’t read well for the Sea Eagles and the trip south doesn’t aid their cause. That being said, they sit at the top of line breaks (4.9 per game) and the fewest errors of any team in the competition (9.7 per game). This measured style of play is enough to disrupt the Raiders momentum, much like the Warriors attempted to do last week. If they had of maintained their first half effort, it would’ve been interesting to see how the Raiders responded. Nevertheless, the Raiders play was enough to disrupt their opponents and the Sea Eagles need to be wary of that. One area, which they need to focus on, is shutting down the Raiders lethal right edge attack. Leilua and Rapana are two of the best attacking players in the competition this year and are able to make their opponents pay for allowing them too much attacking room. Previous history suggests that the margin of victory will not be close either; the average in their past 5 matches is 15.4 points and only twice has it been by 12 points or less. With the Raiders growing in confidence, they will be hard to shut down but the Sea Eagles have proven this year that they are capable of doing so. Whether or not this is enough to win the match is another factor altogether, as the Raiders are the preferred selection. They are very strong favorites but the match may not be as one-sided as the betting markets are suggesting, especially with power returning to their forwards. The Sea Eagles pack will want to take the contest to the Raiders early and make them work through the middle. Ultimately, the home team should be too strong for their opponents on the edge, with this game promising to be an exciting contest.
Sea Eagles +11.5 @ $1.90
What if it’s exactly 12? = Raiders 1-12 @ $2.90 – Perhaps punters are spooked by the 12-point margin and may want to invest in this option rather than the suggested bet. It is worth some thought, as the past 2 home victories for the Raiders have been by exactly 12-points.
Watch Blake! = Blake Austin FTS and/or LTS @ $15 – It seems criminal not going for Leilua or Rapana, although the Sea Eagles will be wise to their attacking ability. Expect the outside players on their left edge to be pushing up hard in an attempt to shut them down, with Austin having the right running game to take the ball to the line and slide straight through.
South Sydney Rabbitohs (11th) v Brisbane Broncos (6th)
The Rabbitohs suffered a 15-point loss to the Bulldogs last Friday after arguably being the better team for majority of the contest. The game slipped away from their grasps in the last 20 minutes, with the Bulldogs piling on 16-unaswered points to edge out their opponents. Discipline hurt the Rabbitohs across the match and could very well do the same here as some players are forced to the sidelines for a week or two. Completing just 70% of sets with 45% possession is always going to make things difficult and fatigue got the better of them towards the end of the match. The Broncos had plenty of issues to overcome in their match against the Titans, with a James Roberts try with 2-minutes remaining stealing victory away from their opponents. It was an uncharacteristic effort from the Broncos; they completed just 63% of sets and committed 16 total errors. It will be a confidence booster that they were still able to win despite these statistics, although if they are aiming to build consistency, they are going the wrong way about it. After many pleasing efforts against high-class opponents, they were due for a drop and need to ensure that this is a “once-off” rather than a habit, which develops in their play.
Rabbitohs = Unchanged.
Broncos = Sam Thaiday and Korbin Sims are named to start, despite doing the same last week, yet coming off the bench. Joe Ofahengaue comes onto the bench to replace Tevita Pangai Junior (injured).
Overall = Rabbitohs 7 Draw 1 Broncos 17
Last 5 Matches = Rabbitohs 2 Broncos 3
At ANZ Stadium = Rabbitohs 52% Broncos 50%
Form = Rabbitohs 1 loss – Broncos 2 wins
The Broncos enjoy a strong overall record against the Rabbitohs with betting markets suggesting that this trend will continue. Of their recent matches, they have beaten their opponents by an average of 25.6 points, with two of those victories coming in Sydney. The recent form of the two teams suggests that the Broncos should have everything their own way; the Rabbitohs are still finding out how to play games for 80 minutes and this is to their detriment currently. It will be interesting to watch Cody Walker, the same player the Broncos turned down a while ago in pursuit of Milford. Nevertheless, they will need much more than just his contribution to decide the outcome of this contest. The forward of the visitors is far superior and as a team, they carry the ball for 9.3m per carry compared with the Rabbitohs 8.9m; this does appear to be a small difference but over the course of the match, this could mean attacking an opponents line at the end of sets or putting in a kick to find field position. Unfortunately for the Rabbitohs, they will need something special to cause an upset here. The Broncos have a short turnaround into their next match, which means that they will want to build a strong lead early. Given the rate at which the Rabbitohs concede points this year (22 per game) and the Broncos strong defensive structure, their history of large score lines looks set to continue. News that Adam Reynolds is out only further increases the Broncos chances of winning; no so much breaking down the Rabbitohs defence, but scoring points and their opponents unable to do the same.
Broncos -7.5 @ $1.90
History repeating = Broncos 13+ @ $2.55 – The Broncos have a strong recent history of hammering the Rabbitohs. They average a margin of victory of 25.6 points in their past 3 wins and 18.5 points in their past 6. The withdrawal of Reynolds only hampers their opponents further.
Parramatta Eels (10th) v Penrith Panthers (13th)
The Eels win over the Tigers last week snapped a 4-game losing streak that was beginning to cast doubt over their 2017 ambitions. They made things very difficult for themselves, missing 37 tackles, making 13 errors and completing at 74%. On a different day, a more accomplished team would’ve beaten them. The momentum they created in the second half was impressive and from the 59th minute onwards, they scored 16 unanswered points. All of a sudden, the Eels appear a different team with confidence restored to their team. They will sense an opportunity to make it consecutive victories against a team who is struggling in the Panthers. They were left without a try to their name with just an 8th minute penalty goal troubling the Sharks. With key players returning to their team, they didn’t manage to pressure their opponents; instead, they were given a lesson in building pressure and momentum. Due to the tough call being made to stand players down the previous week, questions are beginning to be raised around Anthony Griffin and his stay at the club. This type of performance is nothing new though; they missed 39 tackles and committed 15 total errors across 80 minutes. After 7 rounds of the competition, they are ranked 3rd for missed tackles and 5th for errors. The one-time Premiership favorites are finding it hard to maintain consistency; there is no doubt surrounding their talent but currently, they are not doing the little things that build a team towards victory. It is early on in the season, nevertheless, this could be a season defining game for them.
Eels = Ken Edwards comes onto the bench for Peni Terepo (injured).
Panthers = Unchanged.
Overall = Eels 18 Panthers 17
Last 5 Matches = Eels 2 Panthers 3
At ANZ Stadium = Eels 41% Panthers 41%
Form = Eels 1 win – Panthers 3 losses
This is an ugly game to pick between because neither team has convinced anyone that they can invest on them with confidence. Just like last week, the Panthers head into their match as favorites despite not earning the right to be given this status. Many are suggesting that the short turnaround for the Eels from their match on Monday will take a toll on their team in a Saturday match; yet the Panthers had a tough match just a day earlier. Furthermore, they have several issues to fix within a small timeframe and it may not be enough to overcome their problems that are listed above. Many of these areas can be improved by a shift in attitude, yet if it is not coming at this point then perhaps there are greater problems within the playing group. It may be a close game too, 4 out of the past 5 matches have been decided by 6 points or less, with one blowout to the panthers back in 2014. The Eels will undoubtedly rely on their defence to get them through this match but they will be tested by the Panthers unpredictability. How much they can bounce back from a tryless effort last week is an underlying question, yet their attacking ability have been evident during different stages of this season. Regardless, they have only scored more than 20 points or more just twice this season and one was a blowout to the Knights. For a head-to-head selection, more is needed from the Panthers before you can invest on them with confidence and the Eels new structure holds several weapons. If their defence can measure up, there is no reason why they cannot overcome the Panthers in this game.
Either Team Under 6.5 points @ $2.65
North Queensland Cowboys (8th) v Newcastle Knights (16th)
A severely understrength Cowboys team didn’t let the absence of key players overawe them in a spirited 6-point loss to the Dragons. If a few things had of played out differently, the Cowboys could’ve found themselves leaving Wollongong with a win. Nevertheless, it was a slow start in the first half, which meant that they were down 28-4 at HT. Errors meant that they were continually turning the ball over to their opponents and in the end, 15 errors meant that they couldn’t build enough pressure when needed. They got it right in the closing 25 minutes, scoring 18 unanswered points and keeping the Dragons scoreless for the entire second half. The Knights will want to be on guard, the Cowboys suffered an unusual loss last time at home to the Tigers, their second loss this year on home turf. The Knights were also winless in Round 7, going down at home to the Roosters. The difference in class between the two teams was evident early on and despite the pressure that was applied, the Roosters had no issues combatting what was thrown at them. Averaging just 8.19m per carry made it hard for them; this young team that is struggling to maintain confidence will only be able to deal with such losses for so long. Enthusiasm is evident in their play and they should be commended on this; they have more than most others teams but simply do not have the class of others. The Knights will need to head to Townsville and ambush their opponents if they’re a chance of winning.
Cowboys = Antonio Winterstein (injury) returns on the wing for Gideon Gela-Mosby.
Knights = Sam Stone is named to start in the second row for Joe Wardle (injured), with Anthony Tupou coming onto the bench.
Overall = Cowboys 15 Knights 18
Last 5 Matches = Cowboys 3 Knights 2
At 1300Smiles Stadium = Cowboys 81% Knights 33%
Form = Cowboys 2 losses – Knights 5 losses
Even with the players missing for the Cowboys, it is hard to go past them in this matchup. Playing with spirit is one thing, but actually winning games is another and thus far, the Knights haven’t done that well. It is as if they have forgotten how to put the finishing touches on performances. They too have injury concerns to players, which would otherwise have an impact on the outcome of this game. Unfortunately for them, they will not be present in a road trip that they already find difficult; impacted further by the Cowboys already suffering two losses at home this season. This factor is bound to push the Cowboys towards victory and make things extremely difficult for the visitors. Without Thurston, many are worried that the Cowboys will lack a crucial part of this attack; they went a long way to putting that thought to bed with their efforts last week and much of the same is expected. What that performance did do was restore confidence to this team and offer greater support for Michael Morgan; he has a great ability to control the team and while he has been supporting Thurston for majority of his career, he hasn’t had many opportunities to showcase the gameplay that other 5/8’s in the league need. Even without 3 of their 4 spine players, the Cowboys look set to pile on the points; their past 5 victories over the Knights have come with an average winning margin of 17.2 points, with 3 victories by 20 points or more. Expect more of the same here as the Knights spirit in difficult circumstances is tested further.
Cowboys 13+ @ $2.15
Right on the mark = Cowboys 13-18 @ $5 – The average over their past 5 victories falls within this range. Despite never actually having a total within it, the absence of key players may just limit the attacking power that we have become accustomed to seeing.
Cronulla Sharks (3rd) v Gold Coast Titans (15th)
The Sharks came out and played with purpose last week, with the reason why only unearthed in the post-match press conference. They were clinical in their 28-2 win over the Panthers, absorbing plenty of pressure on their line against their opponents over 80 minutes and holding tough with their defence. There were stages when it was tested, yet several impressive plays but individuals lifted those around them. Most impressively, they managed to keep one of the most threatening teams in the competition scoreless and then counteracted once they were given possession. It fired a warning to the rest of the competition about their credentials as others continue to doubt their chances. The Titans were heartbroken in their match against the Broncos, as they conceded the match-winning try with 2 minutes remaining on the clock. They produced some impressive plays at numerous points on the field and regardless who was on the field, they too had purpose. Losing more players to injury didn’t aid their cause though and they will have yet another tough week attempting to cover the missing players. The return of Nathan Peats at hooker provided plenty of hope as the Titans forwards carried the ball strongly and pressures the Broncos around the ruck. The Sharks look to dominate in this area and it will be an interesting contest; gaining control in this area could ultimately decide who takes out the match.
Sharks = Unchanged.
Titans = Joe Greenwood is named on the bench for Max King (injured).
Overall = Sharks 8 Draw 1 Titans 6
Last 5 Matches = Sharks 3 Draw 1 Titans 1
At Southern Cross Group Stadium = Sharks 56% Titans 33%
Form = Sharks 4 wins – Titans 4 losses
The Sharks were great last week and see them head into this game as strong favorites. Now that the Titans have a few players returning to their team, confidence is being restored to their play. There is also the outside chance that Kevin Proctor, Jarryd Hayne and Konrad Hurrell could be late inclusions for the Titans after being named in the reserves. If that were to happen, the odds for this game would become a lot closer. Even with those players in the lineup, the Sharks appear to be the stronger team, although the Titans have made quite the statement with their recent effort. Their woes this year have been hampered by the amount of injuries that they have suffered; nevertheless, they also manage to make the least amount of metres (8.61m per carry) than any other team in the competition. The Sharks love to play the game in the forwards and will aim to take the battle to the Titans here. Alarmingly, the Titans have also missed the most tackles of any other team, averaging 37.4 per match. Having these players return wouldn’t dramatically turn these statistics around, yet it would be a start. The visitors also have a poor record at this ground to overcome, with a 33% record that correlates to 3 wins in 9 attempts; although 2 of those 3 wins have come in their past 3 matches at this ground. This game should be close; of the past 8 matches between these two sides, 7 of them have been decided by 10 points or less with 5 of those games by 5 points or less. They also had an 18-all draw in their last meeting, leading one to think that the Sharks will get home, nevertheless by a smaller margin than anticipated.
Sharks 1-12 @ $2.90
Wests Tigers (14th) v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs (7th)
It was back to reality for the Tigers last week as they were unable to back up their impressive defensive display against the Cowboys in Round 6. In stead, they let a late defensive lapse lead to a try for the Eels, which took their opponents to a 4-point victory with less than 10 minutes remaining. They would be disappointed with their overall efforts, as a superior possession statistic in their favor was let down by 13 total errors. Furthermore, scoring points in the second half is still an issue, with just one converted try in the second 40 minutes. Even with the bizarre situation surround some of their off-contract players; you cannot overlook the underperforming nature of the team as a whole. The Bulldogs have been guilty of similar this season, yet had no such issues last week against the Rabbitohs. They managed to maintain focus in their contest to grab a win, despite arguably being dominated for majority of the contest. The most interesting aspect of their contest was the inclusion of Matt Frawley and movement of Moses Mbye to hooker midway through the match. It was a sign towards the direction that Des Hasler is willing go with his team, as another attacking dimension was added. They too had a positive possession statistic and eventually, it got the better of the Rabbitohs defence and the Bulldogs made the most of it. It will be interesting watching how they combat the attacking weapons of the Tigers, especially considering how for the second consecutive week, the home team faces an opponent rumored to be stealing one or two of their players next season.
Tigers = Michael Chee Kam is named in the centres for Jamal Idris (injured), while on the other side of the field Moses Suli moves to centre and Kevin Naiqama shifting to the wing. Joel Edwards fills the vacant bench spot.
Bulldogs = David Klemmer (injury) returns at lock, pushing Adam Elliot to the bench and Matt Frawley to the reserves.
Overall = Tigers 11 Bulldogs 20
Last 5 Matches = Tigers 1 Bulldogs 4
At ANZ Stadium = Tigers 44% Bulldogs 58%
Form = Tigers 1 loss – Bulldogs 3 wins
The Bulldogs head into this game as strong favorites on the back of 3 consecutive victories, 2 of which have been at this ground; and for the second straight week they will be running out on their home ground as the away team. A lot of change is occurring at the Tigers and it will need to continue if they are to overcome their poor record against their opponents. The Tigers have won just 2 out of the past 10 meeting against the Bulldogs, unable to match the power the Bulldogs bring within the forwards. It seems that defence is optional in meetings between these two teams also; the Bulldogs average margin of victory within that time is 15.3 points and the overall margin being 15.4 points. If this game comes down to defence, then the Tigers are in trouble; they miss the second most tackles per game of any team in the competition with an average of 35.3 compared with the Bulldogs 21.7, the least in the competition. The Tigers also make more errors, with an average of 11.8 per game compared with the Bulldogs 10.5 errors per game. The fact that there is growing turnmoil within this team surrounding future contracts and possible impending departures makes it even more difficult to side with the home team. Even without those issues, they have not been up to standard so far this season. If they are not careful, this could get far worse before their current situation improves. This could have the opposite effect whereby the players seeking a contract produce their best play; with this in mind, as well as the history between the two sides, invest cautiously and select the Bulldogs to just cover the line.
Bulldogs -5.5 @ $1.90
Sydney Roosters (4th) v St George-Illawarra Dragons (1st)
A traditional set of ANZAC Day fixtures begins with a top four clash between two entertaining teams. The Roosters managed to halt a 2-game losing streak by heading to Newcastle and beating the Knights; with that victory returning confidence to their play. After consecutive losses where they conceded a combined 50 points and scored just 20 points, many were beginning to suggest that their early season defensive ability had disappeared. The Roosters will not get too far ahead of themselves, they understand that it is just a win over the lowest ranked opponent in the competition bit it is a win nonetheless. All round they will need an improved effort if they are to beat the competition leaders. The Dragons managed to extend their winning streak last week against a struggling Cowboys team that was missing a host of key players. They were guilty of switching off in the second half; jumping to a 28-4 HT lead only to almost lose the match. The Cowboys drew within 6 points with 15 minutes remaining and had numerous chances to level the scores. Making 14 total errors allowed the Cowboys such opportunities and not scoring any points in the second half will be a concern. The positive is that they were still able to walk away with a win and have improvement left in them. Sitting at the top of the ladder means that the Dragons have a target on their backs and besides a match against a fatigued Sharks team, this is arguably their toughest match to date. The way they play the next 80 minutes will be a guide to how they are progressing with a tough set of fixtures ahead.
Roosters = Blake Ferguson moves to the wing, swapping with Shaun Kenny-Dowall, who will play centre. Jake Friend (injury) returns at hooker, with Kane Evans replacing Ryan Matterson (injured) on the bench.
Dragons = Josh Dugan (injury) returns at fullback, shifting Jason Nightingale to the wing and Kurt Mann out of the team.
Overall = Roosters 16 Draw 1 Dragons 19
Last 5 Matches = Roosters 3 Dragons 2
At Allianz Stadium = Roosters 62% Dragons 41%
Form = Roosters 1 win – Dragons 5 wins
This fixture is an emotional one to say the least and is always a game that both sides lift for. Since 2011, the Dragons have won 4 out of the 6 ANZAC Day matches between these two teams. The average winning margin in those matches is 11-points, with the last 2 decided by 2 points. Going on form, the Dragons are the ideal selection but betting markets are suggesting the opposite, with the Roosters strong favorites. This is puzzling to say the least as they’ve won just one out of their past three matches and their win was a little underwhelming. The extra time to prepare is expected to lift their performance after a tough recent run. That being said, this is a real test for the Dragons and up until this point, they have done little to suggest that their form is about to decline. The way they finished the game last week wasn’t overly convincing, yet neither were the Roosters. Despite the odds suggesting otherwise, there is little to split these two sides. The Roosters are still vulnerable on the edges and can be pressured either on the ground or in the air. Perhaps the safest option for this game is sticking with tradition of close contests in their last two matches and taking the Dragons to just get home based on form and form alone.
Either team under 6.5 points @ $2.65
Melbourne Storm (2nd) v New Zealand Warriors (12th)
The second ANZAC Day game heads down to Melbourne with the Storm rejuvenated following their win over the Sea Eagles. Following their 9-point upset at the hands of the Sharks in the previous week, the Storm had to bounce back with force last week. Their first half effort was impressive to say the least but that is where their scoring stopped, with their 18-point HT lead reduced to just 4-points with 15 minutes remaining. The Storm held firm though and their defence had a noticeable improvement; the most pleasing part was their 91% completion rate to continually build pressure on the Sea Eagles. The Warriors are aiming to reach this level of execution yet that evaded them last week as they completed at just 67% against the Raiders. Their effectiveness with 46% possession was hampered by committing 17 total errors, while also allowing 37 missed tackles. This meant that over the 80 minutes, the Warriors were forced to make 75 more tackles than the Raiders, ultimately leading to their 12-point loss. Unfortunately, they were unable to generate any major momentum in attack and their poor record in Canberra continued. It doesn’t get much better for them here either, as the Storm will look to reward their home fans for staying true to them after losing last time at AAMI Park. In the past, the unpredictability of the Warriors has troubled them but with that limited under the guidance of Kearney, there is no clear indication as to how the Warriors will aim to beat their opponents in this contest.
Storm = Will Chambers (suspension) returns at centre for Young Tonumaipea (dropped).
Warriors = Unchanged.
Overall = Storm 21 Draw 1 Warriors 16
Last 5 Matches = Storm 4 Warriors 1
At AAMI Park = Storm 74% Warriors 43%
Form = Storm 1 win – Warriors 1 loss
These two teams have already faced one another back in Round 2, with the Storm overcoming the Warriors by 16-points. That game saw the Warriors score just two tries and they went scoreless from the 16th minute of play. Scoring points in both halves has been an issue for the Warriors this year and was a major reason why they lost to the Raiders last week. Much like the earlier match, this game carries plenty of emotion. The Storm have won 4 out of the 6 matches between these two sides, with the average margin of victory sitting at 16-points; when the Storm have won they have done so by an average of 19-points, somewhat influenced by their 42-nil victory in this corresponding fixture last year. Based on this statistic and their victory over the Warriors earlier in the season, the home team appears set to seal another win. As for the margin, the Warriors struggle to limit their opponents scoring, averaging 21.4 PPG and keeping their opponents to less than 20 points on just one occasion; this poses a greater problem as they only manage to score 16.9 PPG. The Storm have only experienced one match whereby they have struggled to score points and will relish the extra room the Warriors line gives them. The visitors are developing parts of their game but are still not at a level to compete with the Storm over 80minutes.
Storm 13+ @ $2.20
Range finder = Storm 13-18 @ $4.75 – There is plenty of value for this option and you can make a great case for it. The Storm have already beaten the Warriors by this margin in 2017, and average this margin over their past 4 meetings on this particular day.