The ‘Queensland Festival of Rugby League’ continues this week, with teams outside the Top 8 losing time to make their run towards the Finals. With 7 games left, it is now or never for some. Two one-sided outcomes could be on the horizon on Friday evening, but you can never be sure. The Knights fit into the ‘desperate’ category and will be out to cause an upset over the Roosters. The second game heads to Townsville where the exciting show that is the Melbourne Storm will be on display for all to see against the Cowboys.
Sunshine Coast Stadium, Friday July 23rd, 6.00pm (AEST)
The Roosters delivered a strong, yet somewhat unconvincing, victory over the Cowboys last week 34-18. It was strong in that they came back from a 12-nil, scoring 8 tries to 1 from the 25th minute in the match. This was reflected in the final score but their 3 tries in the last 11 minutes of the match, including one at fulltime, allowed them to pull clear. Nevertheless, it was a winning performance. Their effort was mixed statistically too; they completed at 79% with 52% possession, ran for 8.9m per carry (less than their opponents), had 11 line breaks but missed 34 tackles. They still remain inside the Top 6 and will want to send a message to the Knights about the standard which is required to compete with the top teams. The players from Newcastle will be desperate to atone for their 48-4 flogging at the hands of the Storm.
It was a reality check for a team which had defeated the Cowboys 38-nil in their previous fixture. They were never given a chance to perform well in the contest and were powerless to stop the momentum of the Storm (they allowed 10.3m per carry and 10 line breaks). With just 45% possession, they completed at 76%, ran for 8.5m per carry, had just 1 line break and missed 33 tackles. They are still level with the 8th placed Sharks, separated only by a shocking -137 points difference. With time running out, they will be determined to keep their Top 8 chances alive here with a win.
Head-to-Head = Roosters 30 Knights 13
At Sunshine Coast Stadium = Teams have not played here before
Last 10 Matches = Roosters 9 Knights 1 – The average winning margin is 25.6 points for the Roosters and 26 points for the Knights. There is just one win for the Roosters below 16 points in their 9 victories, including the Round 8 38-4 victory over the Knights.
There are a few interesting statistics floating around ahead of this game. One is the recent record the Roosters have over the Knights; it is dominant and suggests the Round 8 result should be repeated. The other is that the Roosters have not won 3 consecutive games this year yet have only lost one game to a team outside the Top 8 (Broncos – Round 11). Their season average winning margin against bottom 8 teams is 21.9 points but the past 3 wins (Titans, Bulldogs and Cowboys) is 7.7 points. When they play these sides, they generally play well above the standard of their opponents, but the past three efforts are of some concerns. They were unconvincing against the Bulldogs and Cowboys, appearing as though the injury toll is catching up on their younger/inexperienced players.
The inclusion of Tedesco is a massive boost for their team as it also allows Manu to move back to the centres. For the Knights, they will need a full-strength team to overcome the Roosters. They are missing Pearce but receive a boost with the return of Saifiti and naming of Ponga and Klemmer; both were lost early to concussion in their defeat to the Storm and add some much-needed experience, while Saifiti’s ball carrying is desired. If there are late withdrawals of key players for the Knights, then the odds of $1.30 for the Roosters are justified but there is a sense that this is too short. Sure, the Roosters are higher than them on the ladder, average more line breaks (6.1 – 5th v 4.4 – 13th), points per game (26.3 – 6th v 16.6 – 14th) and points conceded (20.5 – 5th v 24.7 – 9th) but the Knights are not without their positives.
They lead the Roosters in run metres in run metres (1,455m – 8th v 1,422m -10th) and the big Roosters forwards have had to work hard in the past few weeks to grab victory for their team; they are also ranked higher for missed tackles (27.5 – 6th v 32.2 – 11th). An upset is capable of occurring, but the Roosters are still preferred in H2H markets, just not at the current price. With their season on the line, expect a strong showing from the Knights, bringing a generous line into play.
Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Friday July 23rd, 7.55pm (AEST)
Hosting the Roosters, the Cowboys started strongly, jumping to a 12-point lead inside 15 minutes. They were dominating most areas and there was a genuine sense that they could cause an upset. Unfortunately, they were unable to maintain this level and went on to concede 8 tries to 1 from the 25th minute onwards. They performed well for majority of the match in attack; completing at 74% with 48% possession they carried the ball for 9.4m per carry and had 6 line breaks. Defence let them down though, missing a massive 52 tackles over the match and contributing strongly to the leaking of points. Amazingly, they are still 2-points outside the Top 8 but a drastic change is needed at this club and quickly.
The superiority of the Storm was again on display and this time, the Knights were at their mercy. Still missing a host of players for a variety of reasons, they began the match with a 5 try performance in the first half. At the end of 80 minutes, they completed at 76% with 55% possession, ran for 10.9m per carry and had 10 line breaks (to just 1). More impressive was their defensive resolve which missed just 21 tackles. At this stage, there appears little that can slow this team down and fans of the game should enjoy what they are producing each week.
Head-to-Head = Cowboys 10 Storm 31
At Queensland Country Bank Stadium = Cowboys 42% Storm – never played here
Last 10 Matches = Cowboys 0 Storm 10 – The average winning margin is 10.8 points for the Storm. The recent record is poor for the Cowboys to say the least; they have 1 win in the past 12 matches. You have to go back to the Preliminary Final in 2015 for the Cowboys last victory (the year they won the competition).
The odds (Cowboys $11 v Storm $1.03) highlight the difference between these two sides. The Cowboys have been struggling for majority of the season while the Storm have continued to raise the benchmark, appearing to be a better team than the one which won the competition last season. The Storm are also boosted by the return of Papenhuyzen (bench), Asofa-Solomona, Addo-Carr and Welch after the latter two were rested following Origin. Bellamy has chosen to rest his other Origin players in Munster, Kaufusi and Finucane. Looking at a record-equalling 15th consecutive victory, there appears little the Cowboys can do in order to halt the momentum of their opponents.
They are on a 5-game losing streak, losing by an average of 23.2 points during this period. At the same time, the Storm have scored above 40-points in 4 out of their last 5 games (and 11 times this season). The pain looks set to continue for the Cowboys and a comfortable win for the Storm appears to be on the horizon. Perhaps there will be some lift from the home team given the opponent they are facing but that will matter for little as their defence leaks points on both edges. It is hard to find value in this game, so be careful; this leads to the suggestion being to take on the line and enjoy the attacking power that the Storm have to offer.
Left-edge Nightmare = Addo-Carr & Olam both to score @ $2.15 – The Cowboys have draft Taulagi into right centre and he is expected to struggle. His last game in defence was horrible to say the least (Rabbitohs 3 tries on the edge). If he does swap sides and play on the right, take Smith & Ieremia @ $2.50.
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