The last games of the 2020 NRL season will be played on Sunday, with the regular season coming to an end before finals get underway next week. For many teams, there's not a lot to play for - they've either missed out on finals or their position on the ladder cannot change. First up, the Warriors take on the Sea Eagles before the Dragons take on the Storm. That means there's been plenty of players rested for these games so tread carefully! Here's Scooby's best NRL bets for Sunday's action!
New Zealand Warriors (12th) v Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles (11th)
Sunday 2:00pm, Central Coast Stadium
After having their season ended in Round 18, the Warriors fronted up with plenty of effort last week in their 26-14 loss to the Raiders on the road. Making their opponents battle for every point and there was plenty of hope with a 16-10 HT deficit. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be and as the Raiders lifted to another gear, the Warriors were unable to go with them. This was also while having 55% possession and forcing mistakes from their opponents (a 66% completion rate). They also made more post contact metres and fewer errors. They will want to finish the season off on a positive note and a good starting point could be making more metres in each set.
The Sea Eagles had no such pride in their performance, disappointingly losing to the Titans 42-24. It wasn’t the fact that they lost, it was the manner in which it occurred; the Sea Eagles scored the opening points but allowed the Titans to score 4 first half tries. Along with this, they completed at just 70% and averaged just 8.2 m per carry. There were some positives, they (surprisingly) missed just 21 tackles and made more post contact metres than the Titans. Their task will be made more difficult with more players being absent from their squad.
The Warriors have been powerful this season in the middle and are far superior to the Sea Eagles. They average 1,658.7m per game (8th) and 614.5pcm (5th), compared with the Sea Eagles 1571.8m (14th) and 547.4pcm (11th). Interestingly, the Sea Eagles are superior to the Warriors in both tackle breaks (28.2 – 11th v. 24.9 – 14th), linebreaks (3.6 – 11th v. 3.0 – 14th) and try assists (2.5 – 11th v. 2.2 – 14th). Those statistics are fairly close, as is the errors (Sea Eagles 10.4 v. Warriors 10.1) and completion rate (Sea Eagles 79.2% v. Warriors 79.4%). The Warriors have the recent edge over their opponents; they have won 3 out of the past 4 games but the Sea Eagles have won 7 out of the past 10. When it comes to wins at this venue, the Warriors have a 56% winning record in 9 games, while the Sea Eagles have a 76% record in 19 fixtures.
The Warriors are outsiders for this game, somewhat surprising given the recent form of both teams. The loss of RTS for the Warriors has undoubtedly impacted this market directly. The Sea Eagles have their own injury concerns but have battled them all season. To suggest the Warriors, after all they’ve sacrificed this season, are ready to give up in the last game of the season is offensive to say the least. Something is not right at the Sea Eagles and it was highlighted in their loss last week’s loss to the Titans. They will sense an opportunity but that will only take them so far if the Warriors put up a fight. It would be surprising to see the Warriors completely blow away the Sea Eagles and for that reason alone, the suggested bet is for the Warriors to (deservingly) finish off the season on a positive and grab a victory.
St George-Illawarra Dragons (13th) v Melbourne Storm (2nd)
Sunday 4:05pm, Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Sydney
Even with a positive history in their favour, the Dragons lived up to their recent form, comprehensively beaten 42-18 by the Knights on the road. It was yet another disappointing effort for their fans, another supporter base that is waiting for the conclusion of the season. With just 44% possession, they completed at only 68%, made 1,314m, 543pcm and made 15 total errors. The less said about this team, the better; they’ve underperformed far worse than many thought they would in the second half of the year.
The Storm had no such issues in their match against the Tigers, eventually prevailing 50-22. Pushed to some extent by their opponents, the Storm were always seemingly in control of the outcome and generated momentum nicely at importantly stages of the match. The result was decided by HT, with the Storm leading 32-10. They lead just about every statistic over the Tigers, demonstrating the distinct difference between the leading teams and the rest of the competition. Interestingly, with no possible change to their standing on the ladder, Bellamy has seized the opportunity to rest just about every player in his squad. Maybe that will give the Dragons a chance of winning but their recent form suggests divine intervention may also be required.
Just to demonstrate how ineffective the Dragons are in capitalising in positive positions and possession, the Dragons have an average 80.8% completion rate (2nd) yet, average 3.2 linebreaks (13th) and 2.3 try assists (13th). In comparison, the Storm have a 77.8% completion rate (11th), create 4.8 linebreaks (3rd) and average 3.2 try assists (4th). Interestingly, the Dragons also average more metres than the Storm (1,757.2m – 5th v. 1,714.5m – 7th) and post contact metres (582.9pcm – 7th v. 575.0pcm – 9th). The Storm have won 8 out of the past 11 meetings between these two sides dating back to Round 1, 2013, while also winning 26 out of the 37 matches played. The travel shouldn’t worry them too much either; despite the Dragons having a 59% record at this venue, the Storm sit at 71% in 7 matches.
The drastic changes to the Storm team for this week has caused markets to quickly change, now seeing the Dragons installed as favourites. Sure, on paper, they have a superior team but the game is not played there. Recent form suggests that even with a (perceived) ‘weaker’ team, the Storm still have far more pride and have been playing to a higher level than their opponents. The Dragons have been poor to say the least and they will need more than ‘finishing the season at home’ to motivate them to win this match. That being said, the Storm will not want to take losing form into the Finals and there are players within this team who have been waiting a long time to ‘prove themselves’. The Storm should capture victory in this match and, with fewer attacking weapons, should do it by less than two converted tries.