Super Saturday action begins in Rockhampton this week, with the NRL deciding to take the Tigers v Sharks fixture there after already having one previously cancelled. Both teams are bound to be desperate to keep their chances of playing in the Finals alive. The second game begins a double-header on the Gold Coast with the Bulldogs aiming to keep their strong record over the Knights. The final game has the desperate Eels outfit aiming to restore some confidence, pride, and winning form up against the lowly placed Cowboys. It is exciting to see just what this game delivers with so little/a lot to play for.
NRL Round 23 Saturday Betting Tips
Wests Tigers v Cronulla Sharks
Browne Park, Saturday 3.00pm (AEST)
The Tigers kept their very slim Finals hopes alive with a 24-16 victory over the Cowboys. Despite a strong finish from their opponents, the Tigers were always the better of the two sides and did enough to capture the win. Defence was a key to the win as they missed just 14 tackles and it wasn’t until late in the contest that the Cowboys saw some freedom in attack. Elsewhere they were good and appear to be heading in the right direction ahead of their 2022 season. With possession split evenly, they completed at 78%, averaged 8.3m per carry, made 717pcm and 5 line breaks. The 11 errors, 6 more than opponents, is of concern and a better team would have made them pay for their mistakes.
While the Tigers Finals hopes are on life support, the Sharks are heading the same way after they suffered their 3rd consecutive loss in their 16-14 defeat by the Knights. In a tight contest, the Sharks demonstrated some resilience which had evaded them in previous weeks. They still managed to give up a HT lead for the second week in a row. Statistically, they kept themselves in the contest; with 46% they completed at 81% and averaged 8.5m per carry. They were let down by parts of their defence which missed 34 tackles yet allowed just 2 line breaks. Much like the Tigers, a better team would’ve made them pay for their mistakes.
Head-to-Head = Tigers 18 Draw 1 Sharks 13
At Browne Park Stadium = Never played here before
Last 10 Matches = Tigers 3 Sharks 7 – The average winning margin is 10 points for the Tigers and 11 points for the Sharks. The Tigers have won just 1 of the past 7 matches which was the most recent game in Round 3, 2020.
This game poses as an interesting contest moving forward. Given favouritism, the Sharks are the better side across the park but there are doubts about their form. They have struggled to cover the loss of Shaun Johnson, averaging just 17.3 points in attack. Thankfully, their defence has held strong, allowing fewer than 20 points in their past 2 matches. This is where the Sharks differ from the Tigers; the Tigers will not want to be drawn into a defensive battle with their opponents.
They have displayed lapses in defence in the past two weeks against the Cowboys and Bulldogs, allowing them to score easy tries. Even with the absence of Johnson, the Sharks should still be able to pick apart the Tigers defensive structure over 80 minutes. The decision then comes down to the margin of victory; the Sharks average win margin is 14 points while the Tigers average loss margin is 18.2 points. The Sharks should cover the 4.5-point line, but it will be closer than the average margins in 2021 suggest.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs v Newcastle Knights
Cbus Super Stadium, Saturday 5.30pm (AEST)
The Bulldogs all but assured themselves of the wooden spoon with their 24-10 loss to the Warriors. Appearing as an outside chance to steal victory, the Bulldogs conceded 3 tries inside 25 minutes but worked hard to drag back their opponents. In the end, it was too much for them and they failed to build on their points tally from the first half. Their lack of quality is evident in the fact that despite having a superior completion rate (82%), they ran for fewer metres per carry (averaged 8.3m), fewer post contact metres (677 v 544), had just 1 line break while conceding 6 and missed 33 tackles, 15 more than their opponents.
The Knights had no such issues in their 16-14 victory over the Sharks, yet they were made to work hard for it. Despite a more dominant margin expected, it was another step towards their combinations working well together; they are still in their infancy in terms of the season. More importantly, they led their opponents in just about every area; with 54% possession, they completed at 86%, averaged 8.9m per carry, missed just 24 tackles and made 9 errors. Unfortunately, they had fewer line breaks (3 v 2) but will look to build on that ahead of this game as their shocking points difference needs urgent attention.
Head-to-Head = Bulldogs 20 Draw 1 Knights 18
At Cbus Super Stadium = Bulldogs 27% Knights 33%
Last 10 Matches = Bulldogs 8 Knights 2 – The average winning margin is 8 points for the Bulldogs and 14 points for the Knights. The two Knights wins have been in the past 4 matches, including a 32-16 victory in Round 1.
There is no such thing as a forgone conclusion in rugby league, but this is very close to it. The Knights are a team which need to improve their points difference; it could mean the difference between extending their season in 3 week’s time or not. Currently, their -137 points difference is worse that the team’s sitting in 8th to 13th. The Bulldogs do not have the quality to match it with their opponents for 80 minutes.
If they cannot get close to teams like the Warriors and Tigers, then the Knights should be able to easily account for them. Even with the positive record they possess over their opponents, it is still not enough to change the outcome of this match. If they are serious about playing Finals, they should easily account for the Bulldogs here.
Parramatta Eels v North Queensland Cowboys
Cbus Super Stadium, Saturday 7.35pm (AEST)
The less said about the Eels performance last week in their 56-10 loss to the Sea Eagles, the better. They were never in the contest from the opening stages, conceding 10 total tries and scoring only consolation tries themselves. Never given a chance to get into the contest, the Eels were also poor statistically. In attack, with 43% possession, they completed at just 66%, averaged just 7.1m per carry, made just 1 line break and committed 10 errors. It was worse in defence as they allowed 14 line breaks and missed 35 tackles. Despite being guaranteed a spot in the Finals, the Eels season is on thin ice. They need to rescue some momentum and regain some confidence quickly.
The Cowboys are facing their own difficulties; they suffered a 24-16 loss to the Tigers and in doing so, extended their losing streak to 9 games. It wasn’t until the final 10 minutes of the match that the Cowboys appeared as though they were a chance to win the match. They also had more opportunities but were ineffective with them. With 50% possession, they completed at 86%, ran for more metres with fewer carries than their opponents (averaging 9.9m per carry) and having 4 line breaks (1 less than the Tigers). They were let down in defence though, missing 37 tackles and allowing 717pcm’s; it is difficult for any team to gather momentum in a match when they are losing the battle in the middle of the field. While probably not the most exciting Saturday night fixture, plenty of attention will be given to this game to see just how each team performs.
Head-to-Head = Eels 19 Draw 1 Cowboys 20
At Cbus Super Stadium = Eels 36% Cowboys 42%
Last 10 Matches = Eels 4 Cowboys 6 – The average winning margin is 17 points for the Eels and 22.8 points for the Cowboys. These two teams have a history of large victories with 6 out of the past 10 games being by 13+.
The Eels could not be presented with a better opportunity to rescue their season then what they are faced with here. The Cowboys are struggling for form, haven’t won a game since Round 12 and are understrength. The Eels, while facing their own struggles recently, have more class when it comes to facing teams outside the Top 8. So far in 2021, they have only 2 losses to teams currently on the bottom half of the ladder: Round 5 26-12 to the Dragons and Round 19 12-10 to the Raiders.
On the same standings, the Eels average a winning margin of 24.1 points against teams outside the Top 8; they beat up on these teams and the same is expected here. They will have to work for the result though. The Cowboys have demonstrated in the past few weeks that they are a team which fights for the contest, and it is their lack of quality which lets them down rather than execution. This all points towards a comfortable Eels victory. If they do not get it, then it is time to forget about pressing the panic button and abandon ship altogether.