Round 9 in the 2020 NRL season concludes this Sunday with an interesting double header from 4.05pm! The first game of the afternoon will see the 4th placed Knights hosting the 1st placed Eels in a massive clash, before the Dragons and Se Eagles do battle later in the day. Scooby is back again to preview both games and give his betting tips below.
The Knights were desperate for a win after a poor performance against the Cowboys in Round 7. It almost wasn’t the case with a controversial call delivering them a 2-point victory against an understrength Manly outfit. They too faced their own injury issues in this match, being down to 2 players on the bench for majority of the match. It was an energy sapping performance, having 47% possession and making 58 more tackles than their opponents. A sign towards the improving maturity of this team, they still completed at 88% and valued possession when attempting to build pressure. Their defence will need to improve as they allowed 9.1m per carry, 11 offloads and missed 34 tackles.
Just when it appeared as though the Eels were due to face a major hurdle; they sent a message to the rest of the competition with a dominating 42-4 victory over the Cowboys. It is no surprise that they are sitting at the top of the ladder as they had 60% possession, an 84% completion rate, missed just 19 tackles and committed 8 total errors. All the while, they ran for 778m more metres and averaged 10.6m per carry. A mark of a good team is still being able to perform against a lesser opponent and it is hard to fault the Eels after 9 rounds of the competition.
There is little to separate these two sides and adds to the expectation that this game will be a thrilling contest. The Eels average 25 ppg (2nd) compared with the Knights 22.9 ppg (5th), the Knights complete at an average of 82.3% (3rd) and the Eels 79.3 % (5th), the Eels create 4.6 linebreaks per game (2nd) and the Knights 3.6 (4th) and the Eels have an average of 664.9 post contact metres per game (1st) while the Knights have 643.2m per game (4th). If anything, this game will be close in all areas, including the scoreboard.
The Eels head into this game as favourites and, after last week and still sitting at the top of the competition, there is little to suggest otherwise. That being said, they were rarely tested last week with the loss of Moses and his impact in a tight game is still unknown. A strong effort last week against a weak side might just be masking that. It will take a brave person to tip against the leading team in the competition but that is the way I am leaning. To add to the push, the Eels have just a 30%-win record at this venue. Last week’s performance from the Knights raised more questions than it answered, although, they are a team heading in the right direction. They will again lift for this contest and be ready to make a statement against the competition leaders. All things (including statistics) considered, this game is going to be a tight contest and investing on this appears to be the ‘safer’ move.
Despite the final result reading a 22-16 loss to the Raiders on the road, the Dragons never appeared in the contest as they were down 22-nil after 60 minutes. They also had plenty of favours in that match; they had 54% possession and an 80% completion rate. Having 13 total errors halted their momentum at times and the end to attacking sets were certainly questionable. Each loss only continues to increase the pressure on the playing squad and the deafening noise around the longevity of the coach.
What Dragon fans would do to have some of the fight that the Sea Eagles have displayed in recent weeks? Even with some key players missing from their squad, it was another spirited effort from the Sea Eagles. They attempted to control the speed of the game (53% possession with an 88% completion rate) while also creating second phase play (11 offloads). They are a gritty team that never gives any easy options to their opponents and missing just 17 tackles last week points towards the attitude within this squad.
Despite having very different seasons to date, the statistics between these two sides are quite similar. For points scored each week, the Sea Eagles (16.1 – 11th) are slightly ahead of the Dragons (15.3 – 12th); for post contact metres the Sea Eagles are 7th (569 per game) and the Dragons are 10th (555.5 per game); and for missed tackles, the Dragons are 12th (28 per game) and the Sea Eagles 16th (25.5 per game). Perhaps the attitude of each team is the major dividing factor within this match or the home ground advantage; the Sea Eagles have a 29% winning record at this ground compared with the Dragons 61%.
This is an ugly game to be investing on. The Sea Eagles are slight favourites over the Dragons, but there are many questions remaining about the credentials of both sides. You can always be certain that the Sea Eagles will play with heart and for 80 minutes. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the Dragons. Further impacting this match is the loss of more key personnel for the visitors. Without AFB in the middle, other players will be forced to generate the same momentum that he does, and it doesn’t appear as though it will be as easy as it sounds. Their winning record without Tom Trbojevic (31.3%) is also an influence on this result. With the Dragons winning 7 out of the past 11 meetings between these teams, they have the slight advantage. The best recommendation would be to stay away from this game entirely but, if you must have a bet, the Dragons appear the way to go. Given that they still concede an average of 21 ppg compared with the Sea Eagles 16.1 ppg, the suggestion would be to take the home side by less than two tries.
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