After a week of no regular rugby league action, fans will relish two fixtures on Friday night. A week is a long time in rugby league and unfortunately, recent restrictions will see both fixtures played in front of no crowds. This is probably a greater shame for the second fixture which promised to be an exciting clash at Penrith but thankfully for fans, rugby league is still on the television. Check out our NRL tips for Friday night's action below!
NRL Round 16 Friday Betting Tips
New Zealand Warriors v St George-Illawarra Dragons
Central Coast Stadium, Friday 6.00pm (AEST)
The Warriors missed a good opportunity in Round 15 to push for a spot in the Top 8, going down 10-6 to the Knights in horrendous conditions. While impacted by the weather, the standard of play was hardly anything to get excited about and the Warriors only have themselves to blame. With just 44% possession, they completed at 68%, ran for fewer metres/post contact metres, missed 43 tackles, and committed 13 errors. It was an uncharacteristic display from a team who had demonstrated improvement in these areas in 2021.
The Dragons had a much better outcome in similar conditions in Wollongong, fighting back from a 20-6 deficit with 30 minutes remaining to prevail 22-20 over the Raiders. Slow to start, the Dragons finished better than their opponents and key decisions in the final 30 minutes from their halves positively impacted the result. It was a match that could’ve gone either way too; with 53% possession they completed at 79%, averaged just 8.2 m per carry (v 9.3m for the Raiders), had fewer post contact metres but made more line breaks (7 v 5) and missed fewer tackles (25 v 27). It was a much-needed win too as it kept them inside the Top 8 and should act as a timely boost to their confidence ahead of this encounter and run towards the Finals.
Head-to-Head = Warriors 10 Dragons 21
At Central Coast Stadium = Warriors 56% Dragons 0%
Last 10 Matches = Warriors 6 Dragons 4 – The average winning margin is 10.3 points for the Warriors and 19 points for the Dragons. The Warriors have won their past 5 matches against the Dragons, including their Round 6 fixture. You must go back to Round 11 2017 to find the Dragons last victory over the Warriors.
This is a crucial game for both teams in the run towards the Finals and could have a large impact moving forward. Despite having more wins, scoring more points per game (21.4ppg v 20.5ppg) and conceding fewer in defence (22.1ppg v 25.5ppg), the Dragons find themselves outsiders for this game. There is uncertainty for the Warriors too with newly acquired Townsend named at halfback and Walsh missing altogether. The inclusion of Dufty and expected return of their Origin players adds strength to the Dragons team.Perhaps the poor record of the visitors against the Warriors, combined with their inconsistency, is clouding judgement.Regardless, the Dragons appear better placed to win this game.
The power of attack is with the Warriors averaging more line breaks (5 v 4.2), a higher completion rate (79% v 78%) and more tackle breaks (26.3 v 24.7) but they are let down by their defence. The Dragons concede fewer line breaks (4.7 v 5.4), fewer points (22.1 v 25.5) and fewer tries (3.7 v 4.5). It will take a similar effort from Round 6 for the Warriors, where they completed at 98%; they were only successful by 6-points. Goal kicking was the difference in that outing and this game is also expected to be tight. If Walsh were available, it would be a different story, but he isn’t and Hunt is in far better form than what he was earlier in the year. For that reason, take the visitors to cause a (narrow) upset.
Penrith Panthers v Parramatta Eels
BlueBet Stadium, Friday 7.55pm (AEST)
Staring down the possibility of a 3rd consecutive loss, the Panthers Origin stars returned to their line-up against the Roosters and the difference between the two sides was highlighted by the final 38-12 score line. Facing a competitive opponent early, it took the Panthers a while to find their momentum in this contest but once they did, they were able to dictate the terms of the match with authority. Their 6-try effort was emphasised on the stats sheet; with 59% possession they completed at 80%, averaged 9m per carry, dominated the post contact metres (563pcm v 341pcm), had more line breaks and fewer missed tackles and errors. These exact areas were where they were losing their two previous matches. That effort also highlighted how important the Panthers representative players are to their success.
The Eels achieved a similar result in their match, albeit under very different circumstances against the Bulldogs. Trailing 10-6 at HT, many were wondering if an upset was on the cards as the home side struggled for momentum. Thankfully, the break gave them an opportunity to compose themselves and they clicked into another gear in the second half, eventually winning 36-10. With 58% possession for the match (70% second half) and a 78% completion rate (92% second half), they were always going to be difficult to stop. In the end, they also had more post contact metres (621pcm v 435pcm) and line breaks (5 v 1). Their defence also improved, missing just 3 tackles in the second half for a total of 13. If they want to be competitive in this game, they will need to replicate a similar second half display for 80 minutes here.
Head-to-Head = Panthers 21 Eels 21
At BlueBet Stadium = Panthers 58% Eels 40%
Last 10 Matches = Panthers 7 Eels 3 – The average winning margin is 8 points for the Panthers and 6.7 points for the Eels. In the past 10 matches, just 1 game has had a margin of more than 10 points. The Panthers have also won 4 out of the past 5 games at home against the Eels.
It is a shame that this game will be played in front of no spectators because it promises to a great contest. It is further impacted by the injury (and omission) of Nathan Cleary; there have been many times this season where he has been the difference between his side winning and losing. It is also no coincidence that he was absent in the two losses which they have suffered this year. The statistics where the Panthers are ahead of the Eels can also be attributed to the impact Cleary has on his team; these include line breaks (6.2 v 5.1), completion rate (81% v 79%) and kick metres (22.3 v 21.9). Fullback Dylan Edwards is also missing for the Panthers. The Eels still find themselves as outsiders for this game and that is no surprise given the rest of the Panthers representative stars are expected to feature.
This is also an audition for Mitchell Moses to replace Cleary at Origin level. If he can produce a strong performance here, he will come to the forefront of selection for the 14th July match. The Eels deserve more respect than what is being given but uncertainty surrounds the new combination of Burton (five-eight) and Luai (halfback). They are chasing 4-consecutive victories here but haven’t faced a Top 8 team since their Round 12 loss to the Rabbitohs; the Eels have also lost 3 of their past 4 games against Top 8 teams. They will be up for this game, and it should keep the margin close (as the history suggests) but the Panthers should be too strong in the end.