DISCLAIMER: ALL OF THESE GAMES WERE ORIGINALLY SCHEDULED FOR SATURDAY BUT HAVE BEEN MOVED TO SUNDAY. WE STAND BY ALL OF OUR TIPS FOR THE RESCHEDULED GAMES.
Before you get to Scooby's preview, why not check out our new weekly NRL podcast hosted by the NRL guru himself! Scooby previews all of the Round 20 NRL action for you here:
Suncorp Stadium, Sunday 6.25pm (AEST)
The Dragons are slowly falling apart and losing their grip in the Top 8. Despite being outsiders for their match against the Titans, many believed they had a chance to perform well. It was a tight first half and as they trailed 14-6, they were within striking distance of causing an upset. Unfortunately, as the Titans lifted in intensity, the Dragons were unable to match their opponents and conceded 3 second half tries before scoring a consolation one in the 75th minute. Looking at the statistics, they only have themselves to blame. With just 44% possession, they completed at 71% and made significantly fewer meters (almost 500m). Defence was also an issue and despite conceding 32 points, they missed 47 tackles and made 13 total errors.
It will be another level altogether this week and if a similar defensive effort is exhibited, this match will be over before halftime. The Rabbitohs are full of confidence after last week’s 66-20 drubbing of the Warriors. Ahead 34-16 at HT, the Rabbitohs went on with it in the second half and were lifted by the return of Latrell Mitchell to the spine. Their attack was at its dynamic best, and he was leading the way. In the end, they dominated every area; they had 67% possession, completed at 81%, averaged 9.8m per carry, had 16 line breaks and missed just 25 tackles. Despite a poor showing against the top two sides in the competition, there is no telling what this team is capable of on their day.
Head-to-Head = Dragons 17 Rabbitohs 17
At Browne Park = First match for both teams at this ground
Last 10 matches = Dragons 2 Rabbitohs 8 – The average winning margin is 3 points for the Dragons and 10.9 points for the Rabbitohs. The Rabbitohs have won their past 6 matches against the Dragons.
The Dragons ($9) are unbackable in this game and rightly so given the players they are missing. They have chosen this week for Bird, Maguire, De Belin and Lawrie to serve their 1-game suspension for a COVID breach. The fact that it has happened this game suggests they are resigned to the fact that it will be difficult to disrupt the momentum of the Rabbitohs. Their hopes rest on a bunch of young players coming into this team and playing without fear. Then again, a lot will have to go their way if this is to affect the outcome of this match.
The Rabbitohs appear too strong in the middle and the return of Graham in the centres improves them on both sides of the ball. The form of Mitchell last week was superb, and they will grow in confidence ahead of this game. Not that they will publicly say this, but they will fancy themselves to finish 2nd on the competition ladder. A win here would keep that hope alive and they are expected to make another statement with their swift ball movement, aided by a desire to improve defensively. The 3 largest losses for the Dragons have been by 26 points (Storm), 24 points (Roosters) and 22 points (Titans & Bulldogs), totalling 40% of their losses this season.
Suncorp Stadium, Sunday 1.50pm (AEST)
Sitting just 2-points out of the Top 8, the Knights had everything to play for and were boosted by the return of key players. Still missing Pearce at 7, the Roosters appeared vulnerable, and they grabbed the opening try. Leading 8-nil prior to the 30th minute, they had a lapse prior to HT and conceded two quick tries. From that point onwards, they were scoreless, conceding 4 more tries and failing to show any fight. A team who concedes 10 line breaks while only scoring 2 and missing 32 tackles rarely deserves victory.They also failed to respect the ball (46% possession & 9 errors). With the same margin to the 8th placed Dragons (and their opponents here), this is yet another crucial game for their Finals chances.
The Raiders have suddenly turned into one of the form teams in the competition. They extended their winning streak to 3 games with a hard fought 12-10 win over the Eels. The win was built on their tough defence; they never cracked under goal line pressure, missing just 24 tackles and conceding just 2 line breaks. It was also a disciplined effort in attack; with just 41% possession, they completed at 85%, made 9.6m per carry and committed only 8 errors. They appear to be getting better each week and it will be interesting to see what they deliver in this contest.
Head-to-Head = Knights 19 Draw 2 Raiders 19
At Suncorp Stadium = Knights 38% Raiders 20%
Last 10 matches = Knights 4 Draw 1 Raiders 5 – The average winning margin is 10 points for the Knights and 13 points for the Raiders. The Knights have a strong recent record over the Raiders, winning 3 out of the past 4 matches.
The Finals hopes of both teams heavily depend on their ability to capture a win in this match. The Knights are boosted by the return of Best and Klemmer, while Pearce is an outside chance of playing after being named in the reserves. If he takes the field, their chances dramatically increase, and you can expect their price to come closer (if not level) to the Raiders. Prior to last week, there was still plenty of doubt in the minds of punters around the chances of this Raiders team. Their two previous victories were hardly anything to get excited about, but they made a statement against the Eels. It must be put in perspective though; the Eels were missing their halfback and failed to really pressure the Raiders with their attack.
You can completely forget about the advantage of playing at this ground too; both teams have a shocking record at this ground, combining for just 8 wins in 28 matches. Their Round 9 match might be a guide. On that occasion, the Raiders lead 16-nil at HT only to concede 24 unanswered points in the second half to lose 24-16. Pearce was also absent on that day. Toss a coin and that should be your answer for who can win this game. As poor as the Knights were in the past few weeks, they are a different team with the players listed to return. All things considered, invest around the margin of this game being close and allow either team to get the victory. For making a call on the game, I would prefer to see the team lists prior to kick off, so pay attention to Twitter.
Suncorp Stadium, Sunday 4.05pm (AEST)
Winning their past three matches by 40+ points, many expected an easy win for the Storm last week against the Cowboys. It was anything but that in a narrow 20-16 win, with their opponents making them work hard for victory. It was probably the ideal preparation for this match too, reminding the Storm that a few mistakes can hamper their momentum. In that game, they were guilty of making 12 errors. The score wasn’t the only close thing between these two teams; possession was evenly split, the Storm had an inferior completion rate (76%) and they missed 32 tackles. They carried the ball strongly (8.9m per carry and 6 line breaks), yet there is no doubt that they were not at their best in this match.
The same can be said for the Panthers, who like the Storm, were also missing some key players. There is no one more important to the hopes of the Panthers this year than halfback Nathan Cleary and this team will struggle to win the competition without him. The Panthers did try hard against the Broncos and their desire probably got them over the line in the end. With 55% possession, they completed at 82%, ran for more metres (average 8.8m per carry) with few carries and had more post contact metres (640pcm). However, there was an edge missing, highlighted by only 3 line breaks which is half of their 2021 average. Coach Cleary is still without his number 1 playmaker, and is forced into making some tough decisions this week due to further injuries suffered by key players.
Head-to-Head = Storm 27 Panthers 10
At Suncorp Stadium = Storm 85% Panthers 43%
Last 10 matches = Storm 7 Panthers 3 – The average winning margin is 17.3 points for the Storm and 5 points for the Panthers. The two narrowest margins have come in the past two games; the Storm won the 2020 Grand Final by 6-points and the Panthers won the Round 3 match by 2-points.
The Panthers are out to their largest price in some time ($5.50) and rightly so given the players who are missing. On top of Cleary, they will be without To’o, Yeo and May. It was evident last week that they are a shadow of the team that they are with Cleary at 7. Ivan Cleary has been forced to change his halves pairing with the injury to May, with Luai named at 7 and Burton shifting to 6. This weakens the outside backs for the Panthers in both attack and defence, while the absence of Koroisau in the middle means the Panthers are without 3 of their first-choice spine players (in their starting positions). You cannot count this young team out though. They are destined to put up a fight against the Storm and prove their capabilities.
Even their horrible record at this ground (9 wins from 21 games), they have still won their past 7 matches in Queensland. On the other side of things, the case is far stronger for the Storm. They have Munster, Kaufusi and Finucane returning and field one of their strongest teams of the season. While the Cowboys managed to halt their momentum, the returning players add experience to off-set that. Once they gather enough momentum, the Storm should run away with this match. They only have one margin, from their past 10 matches against the Panthers, below 14-points and that was in the 2020 Grand Final. It should be close for majority of the contest, but the class of the Storm should deliver a comfortable victory.
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