The NRL world never ceases to surprise and after the chaos of last week, anything can be expected. Friday’s fixtures are not only important to the teams playing and their Finals chances, but results will also impact teams around them. The first game has the Raiders up against the Dragons.
Two sides who are desperate to get back into the Top 8 after dropping out following Round 20 losses. The second match is a blockbuster Top 4 showdown between the Eels and the Rabbitohs. There is no doubt that this should be a great night of NRL action.
NRL Round 21 Friday Betting Tips
Canberra Raiders vs St George-Illawarra Dragons
Cbus Super Stadium, Friday 6th August, 6.00pm (AEST)
On a 3-game winning streak and appearing to turn around their form, the Raiders were powering their way into the Top 8. That came to a screeching halt last Sunday at the hands of the Knights as the Raiders returned to the same level of performance which has seen them lose 11 games this year. Conceding 3 tries in the first 20 minutes set a poor standard and it was difficult for the Raiders to wrestle back momentum in the second half, trailing 22-6 at HT. The two final tries with 9 minutes remaining only flattered the Raiders and added some respect to their defeat. It is difficult to pinpoint where they went wrong; with 48% possession, they completed at 82%, averaged 8.5m per carry, had more post contact metres (518pcm), equal line breaks (5) and made just 7 errors. In defence, they missed 30 tackles. If anything, it was a flat performance.
The Dragons are in a far worse situation than the Raiders, sliding quickly down the ladder and now face the prospect of playing without Ben Hunt for the next few weeks. He has been great for them this season but even his effort could do little to wrestle the momentum away from the Rabbitohs in their 50-14 loss. It was a 9 tries to 3 performance on Sunday evening, with the Dragons severely impacted by the decision to have key players serve their 1-match ban in this game. They were given no opportunity to perform well either. They completed at 77% with just 41% possession, averaged just 8.1m per carry, had 2 line breaks and committed 11 errors. It was worse in defence as they missed 56 tackles and allowed 13 line breaks. If they do not improve quickly, their Finals hopes will end prematurely.
Head-to-Head = Raiders 20 Draw 1 Dragons 12
At Cbus Super Stadium = Raiders 56% Dragons 50%
Last 10 matches = Raiders 4 Dragons 6 – The average winning margin is 15.3 points for the Raiders and 7.8 points for the Dragons. Despite winning their Round 15 match 22-20, the Dragons have still lost 3 out of the past 4 matches against the Raiders.
The loss of Hunt will hamper the severely in this match and it could go a long way to explaining why the Raiders are listed as strong favourites for this game. It’s probably not deserving if their form last week is anything to go by. The Dragons were equally as poor but, despite losing Hunt, have Bird, Maguire, De Belin, Laurie, and Lomax returning from their COVID ban and Ramsey also returning from injury. To cover the loss of Hunt, Bird has been shifted to fullback, Norman to 5/8 and Clune named at halfback. The impact of this move is unknown, but it would be surprised to see Bird, who is a talented player, perform to the same level as other fullbacks in the competition.
This game will be won and lost in the middle; when the Raiders have played well this season, they have won the battle here by running for more metres, post contact metres and thus, creating more line breaks. Their pack remains strong and are reinforced by a talented bench. For the Raiders, it is about keeping it simple and maintaining their momentum. Confidence is low for the result of this game, but the Raiders are the preferred selection. When settling on a winner, the Dragons will struggle to score points without Hunt’s influence. This should allow the Raiders to win by more than 2 converted tries and keep their recent average over their opponents.
Parramatta Eels vs South Sydney Rabbitohs
Cbus Super Stadium, Friday 6th August, 8.05pm (AEST)
It was another one-dimensional, flat performance from the Eels last Thursday in their 28-nil loss to the Eels. After a narrow 12-10 loss to the Raiders in Round 19, many thought that they would bounce back against an injury ravaged Roosters team. Even without Moses at 7, they still appeared the superior team. That judgement was wrong as they offered little more than one out carries and were clueless to find a second option. They were not disadvantaged in attack either; possession was even (50/50), completion rates were close (76% v 74%), as were post contact metres (570 v 563) and errors (11v 12). It was a different story in defence, as they allowed 8 line breaks yet missed fewer tackles than their opponents (35 v 22).
The challenge of stopping their 2-game losing streak becomes increasingly difficult this week as they face a dangerous Rabbitohs team that scores points with ease. On a 7-game winning streak, the Rabbitohs faced the Dragons in Round 20 and were barely troubled on their way to a 50-14 victory. It was a dominant display; with 59% possession, they completed at 76%, averaged 9.9m per carry, made 716pcm and had 13 line breaks. In defence, they were rarely troubled missing just 14 tackles and allowing 2 line breaks. They are a chance of finishing 2nd on the competition ladder and will want another strong performance against a team they could play in a few week’s time.
Head-to-Head = Eels 17 Draw 1 Rabbitohs 17
At Cbus Super Stadium = Eels 38% Rabbitohs 88%
Last 10 matches = Eels 3 Rabbitohs 7 – The average winning margin is 10 points for the Eels and 16 points for the Rabbitohs. The Rabbitohs have won 5 of the past 6 matches against the Eels, including their Round 12 fixture 38-20. The Rabbitohs have a great record at this ground winning 7/8 matches, while the Eels have won just 5/13.
The Eels will be hoping that the injection of Moses transforms their performance. While it will improve their attacking options and add another dimension to their kicking game, his return will not address the issues on defence. The Eels are a capable team but have appeared lost in recent weeks. They need to evolve their game plan and their issues in defence will be exposed by the powerful Rabbitohs team. The return of Murray for them will speed up the middle and allow Cook to create more attacking options for the Rabbitohs halves.
Perhaps the Eels are in a ‘low’ period of form or perhaps there are bigger issues at play; either way an improved effort is expected on last week. Improving is one thing, lifting to a consistent 80 minute performance against the might of the Rabbitohs is another. The Eels will be presented their share of opportunities and better defensive structure is needed to halt their opponents points. Don’t forget, the two Rabbitohs halves may also want to prove a point against the players they were overlooked for in Origin. All signs point towards a Rabbitohs victory and one which covers the line.