It’s been said before but, a week is a very long time in rugby league! The game has been forced to take drastic action and relocate all the Sydney based clubs, along with the Raiders and Knights, to Queensland for an indefinite period. This will impact clubs differently in the run towards the Finals. Some may benefit from the ‘road trip’ north, while others will be negatively impacted and lose the advantage familiar surroundings or home ground. Regardless, fans are thankful that the players were able to make such a commitment and following Origin on Wednesday, the round will begin on Friday night with two matches from the Gold Coast. With 3 out of the 4 teams featuring sitting inside the Top 8, it should make for an exciting evening of NRL action.
The Friday night double header in the NRL is back this week! Despite teams having to relocate out of Sydney through the week, the Round 18 action will go ahead as planned, kicking off on Friday night at 6.00pm. As always, Scooby has you covered with his preview and betting tips for both games below.
Cbus Super Stadium, Friday 16th July, 6.00pm (AEST)
The Titans were back to their attacking best in Round 16, hammering the Raiders 44-6 in what appeared to be a tricky road trip. Heading to the nation’s capital at this time of year is challenging for any team, let alone one who was struggling for form like the Titans were. Their previous issues appeared to be well away from as they went on an 8 try to 1 romp of their opponents. Even a 29th minute sin bin didn’t slow them down. In fact, they scored 3 tries during this period to lead 22-nil at HT.Their dominance was backed up on the stats sheet too. With 58% possession, they completed at 89%, averaged 9.4m per carry and made 11 line breaks (2 for the Raiders).
They still missed 31 tackles but limiting their opponents to just 6 points will add confidence to their defensive structures. The Eels weren’t so dominant in their last outing in Round 16, losing to the understrength Panthers team 13-12. Appearing poised to upset their more fancied opponents, a missed penalty goal at fulltime meant they suffered their 4th loss and slipped to 4th on the ladder. With 48% possession and completing at 80%, they appeared to be generating more momentum. Unfortunately, averaging just 7.7m per carry, fewer post contact metres (648 v 493) and having just 2 line breaks hampered them. Limiting the Panthers to just 13 points was a great achievement, but questions remain about their ability to compete with the top sides in this competition. With a week off, both teams should be ready to battle it out to open Round 18.
Head-to-Head = Titans 11 Eels 9
At Cbus Super Stadium = Titans 45% Eels 36%
Last 10 Matches = Titans 4 Eels 6 – The average winning margin is 16 points to the Titans and 19.7 points to the Eels. Despite having a poor record at the ground, the Eels have won the past two matches here, while also winning 4 out of the past 5 meetings between the two sides.
The Titans will look to build on their Round 16 effort and, providing their Origin players (Fa’asuamaleaui, Brimson and Fotuaika) back up, they will be unchanged from that game. In a massive boost for the Eels, hooker Reed Mahoney after missing the past 3 games through injury. His contribution to this team is often overlooked but make no mistake, they are a better team when is on the field. Only Moses will take the field following Origin with Paulo set to be rested. Regardless, the Eels will head into this game as favourites. Attack is not an issue for the Titans this season.
They average 24.1ppg (7th), 6.2 line breaks (3rd) and 35.9 tackle breaks (=1st with the Eels) compared to the Eels 28ppg (5th) and 5.4 line breaks (7th). Defence is the dividing factor; the Titans concede 27.6ppg (12th), 6.3 line breaks (13th) and miss an average of 31.1 tackles (8th). If the Eels can limit their opponents scoring, they will be presented with their share of scoring opportunities. Perhaps playing at home will help the Titans; the Eels have a poor record here, while the Titans have averaged 31.3ppg here this year and they have only won 50% of those matches. Either way, the visitors appear to be the better of the two sides and the line (4.5) is certainly not enough if the Eels are at their best.
Cbus Super Stadium, Friday 16th July, 8.05pm (AEST)
The Sea Eagles were always going to struggle against the Raiders at home last week without two of their strike weapons in DCE and Turbo missing from their line-up. Still, they went into the game as favourites but were outclassed 30-16. With a lack of possession (43%) and a poor completion rate (71%), the Raiders had control of the match. This led to some concerns for the Sea Eagles aside from the fact that they are becoming a 1 man team.
They missed 34 tackles, made 448m less than their opponents and fewer post contact metres (452 v 598). The Dragons had a much-publicised week off last week following a 19-18 victory over the Warriors in Golden Point. Trailing 12-6 at HT, the Dragons stuck with their opponents in the second half and scored 3 tries in the final 10 minutes to extend the match. Missing 4/4 conversions could’ve impacted the result, but they took their chances when they were presented with them.
They had more opportunities too with 54% possession, a 79% completion rate, carrying the ball for more metres (2,317m v 1,737m) and more post contact metres (706 v 644). As much as the exciting win would have improved their confidence, it also masks over some of their errors. They missed 37 tackles, allowed 9.3m per carry and committed 12 errors. All eyes will be on how they perform here with a number of difference factors impacting upon this match.
Head-to-Head = Sea Eagles 10 Dragons 21
At Cbus Super Stadium = Sea Eagles 67% Dragons 60%
Last 10 Matches = Sea Eagles 3 Dragons 7 – The average winning margin is 19.7 points for the Sea Eagles and 20.7 points for the Dragons. The Dragons have won 6 of the past 7 matches between the two sides.
Manly look set to rest Trbojevic from this match following Origin on Wednesday; Garrick will shift to fullback and Suli will come onto the wing. Turbo’s influence on his team has been highlighted this season and they generally struggle in his absence. That should not be the case this week though, with the Dragons having 3 players serve their 1-match suspension for a COVID break (Dufty, Fuimaono and Ellis). Both Hunt and Sims are expected to feature after playing on Wednesday, while DCE should also take the field for the Sea Eagles.
The recent issue the Dragons have experience can go one or two ways; it can galvanise the playing group and see them (especially their younger players) out to prove a point or it can completely derail their season. There is no doubt that this game will be won and lost in the middle; the Dragons are 13th for metres per game (1,380m) behind the 7th placed Sea Eagles (1,470m). As a result, the Sea Eagles are superior in line breaks (6.2 – =3rd v 4.2 – 14th), tackle breaks (32.1 – 6th v 25.3 – 14th) and tries per game (5 – 2nd v 3.8 – 8th). This is a fair indication of how the match is going to play out. On the other side of the ball, the two sides are even, with the major discrepancy coming in the Dragons allowing significantly more metres than the Sea Eagles.
It is no surprise that the Sea Eagles are strong favourites for this game and has made finding value difficult. With greater confidence in what team will turn up for the Dragons, you could consider using the line (13.5) to your advantage. However, their form would have to improve from a team that just overcame the Warriors with an indifferent effort.
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