Round 18 of the 2020 NRL season kicks off with a desperate battle to hold a spot in the Top 8 as the Wests Tigers take on the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Scooby is back with his preview, analysis and NRL betting tips for the match this Thursday night.
Bankwest Stadium, Thursday 7:50pm
The Tigers kept their slim finals hopes alive last week, with a thrilling ‘come from behind’ victory over the Sea Eagles on the road. Behind 32-18 with 13 minutes remaining, the Tigers clicked into gear with some fantastic team movements, leading to 3 tries and a 34-32 victory. The win was even more remarkable considering they only had 42% possession and completed at 78%. Meanwhile, they only had 366pcm and ran for just 1,200m; yet, there were some positives, with only 10 errors committed and 16 missed tackles. There were still dull-points in their attack but they will take confidence away from this effort.
After a few strong performances, the Rabbitohs suffered a 22-16 loss to the Storm at home. In this case, they were the team that were run down on the scoreboard, holding a 16-10 lead with just under 30 minutes to go. Unfortunately, they were unable to hold out their opponents slick attacking movements, while also not providing themselves with the best opportunities available. They only completed at 66%, created only 3 linebreaks, had 25 missed tackles and committed 15 total errors. After the hype was building, a performance such as this one will go a long way to refocusing the mindset of this team with 3 games remaining ahead of the Finals. With a Top 4 finish all but impossible to achieve, they will now focus on securing home ground advantage over an opponent in Week 1.
When it comes to scoring tries, these two sides are fairly close together; the Rabbitohs are ranked 5th with 69 tries, while the Tigers are in 6th with 67 tries. The difference in points would come down to successful goal kicking; the Rabbitohs average 24.6ppg (4th) compared with the Tigers 21.8ppg (6th). Interestingly, the Rabbitohs make more total metres (1,733.7m – 6th) and post contact metres (592.7pcm – 8th) compared with the Tigers metres (1,622.4m – 12th) and post contact metres (538.9pcm – 12th). Considering the difference on the ladder, it is no secret that defence is playing a key role. The Tigers average 28.8 missed tackles per game (6th) and concede 23.6ppg (6th); whereas the Rabbitohs miss 25.4 tackles per game (16th) and concede 17.3ppg (7th). Overall history is in favour of the Rabbitohs (but only just), with the visitors winning 19 out of 35 games. The Rabbitohs have won 4 out of the past 6 meetings (dating back to Round 10, 2017), including their 18-10 Round 9 victory this season. In that time, just won victory came as the home side, with the average margin between both sides sitting at 17.7 points, somewhat skewed by a 41 and a 20 point victory to the Rabbitohs.
The Rabbitohs head into this game as strong favourites and, despite a stirring victory last week, the Tigers still have plenty of work to do in order to lift to their opponents level and erase recent poor performances from punters memories. Their own fans will be the first to tell you that the current combination within their spine isn’t producing what is needed – constant, relentless pressure on their opponents. The Rabbitohs suffered a setback last week but will be better for the run. The fact that they were still able to score 16-points against the Storm in their first match without a major attacking weapon suggests that this team still has further development to come. With plenty to play for, it would be surprising to see the Tigers turn out a dull performance and be blown away on the scoreboard. The Rabbitohs have already recorded one victory over the Tigers this season and are a remarkably better side since they first met. The ideal option would be to take them minus the start and see what they produce in this contest with just 3-game remaining until the NRL Finals.
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