Another big Sunday slate coming up in the NRL this weekend as the Warriors and Sharks kick off proceedings from 2pm. That game is followed by the 2nd placed Panthers taking on the Cowboys from 4.05pm. See our full preview and betting tips for both games below.
Central Coast Stadium, 2.00pm (AEST)
The pictures from the Warriors pregame suggested that they were a team determined to capture victory and being ahead 12-nil after just 10 minutes supported the point that this was going to be a good night for the visitors against the Titans. Unfortunately, that is where their scoring ended and so too their chances of winning. Looking back, they were given plenty of chances by their opponents (the Titans made 20 errors) and failed to make the most of it. They also applied pressure to themselves as they only completed at 72% (with 48% possession) and committing 11 errors. If there were any positives, it was that they managed to limit the Titans to an average of 8.3m per carry (lowest this year). It was a dull performance from the Sharks, hammered 56-24 by the Panthers. The match was all but over by HT, with the Panthers leading 26-12. The final score does add some respectability, yet, they did concede two late tries taking the final tally of tries scored to 10-4 between the two sides. The Sharks need only to look as far as their own players for a reason for defeat. With only 42% possession, the Sharks completed at 72%, made 14 errors and missed a massive 47 tackles. Still capable of making the Finals, the Sharks will have the drastically improve if they are to worry teams moving forward.
This game could very well be a high scoring contest; both sides concede an average of 23.7 points per game, while also averaging a high amount of missed tackles. The Sharks are 2nd, missing 36.4 per game and the Warriors are 5th missing 31.3 each week. While being poor in defence, the Sharks have the ability to score points; they average 23.3 points per game (3rd) compared with the Warriors average only 13 per game (15th). The home ground advantage is working for the Warriors though, so far this season they have won all of their games at this ground (their only 3 wins for the season).
The ‘home ground’ advantage may count for something in this game, but just about every other area suggests that the Warriors are going to have a difficult time stopping the Sharks. The visitors are filled with quality; for them, it comes down to execution on game day. If they are at their best, they should be able to handle what the Warriors throw their way. This is also why the Sharks are strong favourites for this game. Even with the return of Nikorima in the halves for the Warriors, their impressive record at this ground appears to be about to end. The diverse range of each side to score points suggests a comfortable win to the visitors but rather than take on a margin, it would be ‘safer’ to take them to cover the line in the chance that the Warriors do apply pressure for 80 minutes to the Sharks.
Panthers Stadium, 4.05pm (AEST)
The Panthers demonstrated their attacking power last week, recording a comprehensive 56-24 win over the Sharks. At one stage, they were up 26-nil and many began asking how many points the visitors could score. There were brief stages of resistance, yet, the result was never really in doubt after that point. They enjoyed things their own way too with 58% possession; this was well compliments with a 79% completion rate, 10 errors and 33 missed tackles. The momentum is building nicely for this side and the challenge is to keep building their momentum. The Cowboys had no such luck. They were only the receiving end of a 42-16 and looked well out of their depth. Their issues were in defence as they missed 37 tackles and allowing 8 linebreaks over 80 minutes. While the Panthers are flying high, time is running out for the Cowboys to salvage their season.
The Cowboys ability to score points isn’t as bad as their performances may suggest; they average 21.7 points per game (7th), albeit, well behind the Panthers (24.2 per game – 2nd). Unfortunately, it is the other side of the ball where the Cowboys have their issues. They concede an average of 28.1 points per game (16th) and miss 30.7 tackles (6th) each week. Just like last week, this isn’t looking good again a team that averages the 3rd most try assists, the 2nd most linebreaks and 4th most run metres of any team in the competition.
The Cowboys have lost Holmes and Drinkwater to injuries ahead of this game, increasing the difficulty of winning further (many may suggest their omission will improve the execution within the Cowboys side). The Panthers are strong favourites for this game and rightly so. The Cowboys have been disappointing to date and a trip down to Sydney is only going to increase the difficulty of winning this match. It must be stated though that they in fact have a 50% winning record at this ground. The major difference is the points conceded and that points towards yet another strong performance from a Panthers team that is high on confidence. For value, take the home team to further improve their points differential and record a comprehensive victory. For further support, their past 2 victories against teams outside of the Top 8 have been by 32 and 26 points.
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