Super Saturday may appear underwhelming on the surface this week, with half of the teams destined to miss the Finals. Those sides can often improve their standard as the freedom removes restrictions which were once felt.
The first game has two desperate teams wanting to break a long losing streak. The Dragons have been winless for 6 weeks, while the Cowboys are on a 10-game winless run. The second game offers the Sharks the opportunity to move one step closer to a finals berth as they host the Broncos. The final game will be intriguing to see just how the Eels approach the Storm. Handing their opponents only 1 of 2 losses this year, they are capable on their day but are a shadow of the team which started the season.
Browne Park, Saturday 3.00pm (AEST)
The Dragons were terrible in their 40-22 loss to the Roosters. Trailing for majority of the match, they managed to pull ahead in the second half but that was quickly erased and as their opponents lifted in intensity and execution, they were powerless to go with them. It extended their losing run to 6-matches and heaps further blame on the infamous BBQ incident earlier in the year. Statistically, they were poor; they completed at 78% with 49% possession, averaged 8.4m per carry, had significantly fewer post contact metres, while missing 47 tackles and allowing 12 line breaks.
Despite being on a longer losing streak, the Cowboys are a team which at least demonstrates some fight in their performances. They were always going to be outclassed against the Eels but still annoyed their opponents in on their way to a 32-16 loss. Rather than lack a positive attitude, the Cowboys appear to have developed a losing habit. Even with more possession (51%) and a better completion rate (75%), they could only manage 7.9m per carry, and the same amount of line breaks (5) as their opponents. Their defence let them down also, as they missed 37 tackles and allowed significantly more post contact metres through the middle. This is a timely game for both teams and with pride on the line, pressure will also grow on the losing coach; this game appears to be an exciting one with the pending outcomes which are ahead.
Head-to-Head = Dragons 17 Cowboys 17
At Browne Park = Never played here
Last 10 matches = Dragons 6 Cowboys 4 – The average winning margin is 7 points for the Dragons and 13.8 points for the Cowboys. 8 out of the past 10 games have been decided by 12 points or less, including the Round 2 25-18 victory for the Dragons.
This is an ugly game to select a winner in. On one hand, you have a Dragons team that is on a terrible losing streak and barely showed any fight in previous weeks. Their opponents, the Cowboys, are on an (even worse) 10-game losing streak and appear to be lacking quality in several positions. They will want to finish the season with at least one victory to their name and this is perhaps their best opportunity. They are boosted by the return of Taumalolo, Fedlt and Taulagi to their team, allowing Holmes to shift to centre. Their inclusion increases the Cowboys chances of winning.
Not giving up on their hopes, the Dragons have made changes to include young, talented players with the aiming of sparking their attack. Passages of their play were dazzling at times, but it wasn’t consistent. In many ways, that can be an offset of having rookie players and expecting them to adjust to the rigors of the NRL. Confused yet? That is why the advice is to stay away from this game. If anything, it should be an exciting contest with two sides taking their chances; at the very least, perhaps the points spread (53.5 @ $1.90) is in danger. If forced to make a selection, the Dragons look the stronger of the two sides on paper but the chances of the Cowboys to grab a victory prior to the conclusion of their season outweighs the positives of the Dragons.
Stay away! If you must…
Suncorp Stadium, Saturday 5.30pm (AEST)
The Sharks needed a strong performance last week against the Tigers and delivered exactly that in their 50-20 victory. Only ahead 16-4 at HT, the result could’ve easily gone another way, but the Sharks were dynamic in the second half with 6 tries blowing their opponents off the park. Even with a greater share of possession (53%), the Sharks only completed at 70% with 15 errors plaguing their momentum. They overcame that to manage 11m per carry and 10 total line breaks. They will want to keep that momentum going here, as that win pushed them into the Top 8. The Broncos will be high on confidence following their spirited 24-22 win over the Warriors on Sunday.
Heading into the game as outsiders, the Broncos always kept themselves within striking distance of a win. Despite conceding more tries, they prevailed when it mattered. They worked hard to put themselves in a winning position too with 52% possession, a 79% completion rate, averaging 9.9m per carry, having significantly more post contact metres (636 v 531) and making 4 line breaks. They also managed to have fewer missed tackles, with their defensive structure supporting their new combinations in attack. With two games left, they will want to finish the season on a positive note and will take plenty of joy in ending the Finals hopes of another team.
Head-to-Head = Sharks 16 Broncos 26
At Suncorp Stadium = Sharks 32% Broncos 59%
Last 10 matches = Sharks 2 Broncos 8 – The average winning margin is 6 points for the Sharks and 9.6 points for the Broncos. 8 out of the past 10 matches have been decided by 12 points or less, including the Broncos Round 16 26-18 victory. The Sharks have won just 1 out of the past 7 matches against the Broncos.
This game is going to be a lot closer than the odds suggest. The Sharks attack came alive last week in the second half, but it did take time for them to gather momentum. The loss of Mulitalo on the wing will have an impact. On top of Shaun Johnson (leading try assists), Mulitalo is their 3rd highest try scorer and 3rd for line breaks. This doesn’t mean the Broncos are a better chance of winning; the Sharks defence will be key to dictating the terms of the match. However, it narrows the margin of victory. The Broncos have been building a positive foundation in recent weeks; in their past 5 matches, they have won 2 but haven’t been defeated by a margin greater than 8-points.
They are learning to put themselves within striking distance of their opponents. This game should be no different. They may even have a chance of winning this match towards the end of it. Nevertheless, the Sharks should prevail. If they cannot overcome a team like the Broncos, then they are not worthy to play Final’s football and a loss would make it very hard to extend their season beyond next week.
Suncorp Stadium, Saturday 7.35pm (AEST)
It was business as usual for the Storm last Thursday as they easily accounted for the Titans. Following a strong start for their opponents which had the Titans leading 16-12 at HT, the Storm produced 4 tries in the second half to put the result beyond and doubt. Despite not having their usual dominance, it was still a convincing victory. They had areas which limited their effectiveness including their completion rate (73%), committing 11 errors and making fewer post contact metres. In a positive, they averaged 9.7m per carry, had 9 line breaks and missed just 19 tackles. They rarely give opportunities away to their opponents.
The Eels captured a timely victory 32-16 over the Cowboys last week, a win which broke their 4-game losing streak. In an unconvincing display, the Eels found some confidence and built on their 14-6 HT lead. As crucial as that game was to their confidence, they still have plenty of work to do. With just 49% possession, they completed at only 70% and made 15 errors. This halted their momentum at key stages. Nevertheless, they managed to average 8.9m per carry, make more post contact metre and create 5 line breaks (which was equal with their opponents). Their defence was also improved, and this was evident in their 25 missed tackles (compared to previous weeks). They face a tough task of winning here but with a spot assured in the Top 8, the Eels may want to explore a variety of attacking options in coming weeks.
Head-to-Head = Storm 24 Eels 15
At Suncorp Stadium = Storm 86% Eels 48%
Last 10 matches = Storm 6 Eels 4 – The average winning margin is 21.3 points for the Storm and 9.5 points for the Eels. The Eels have won 2 out of the past 3 against the Storm, including their Round 2 16-12 victory.
The only likely outcome in this contest is a Storm victory. Sure, the Eels have defeated them once already this year and have form over them recently, but they are the inferior opponent. The win last week against the Cowboys provided just as many questions as it answered. Meanwhile, the Storm are ready to return to their dominant performances and make a statement with a strong effort here. They have not recorded a 13+ victory in the past 3 weeks and have Papenhuyzen, Munster, Hughes and Smith back together for the first time in a long time.
The fact that they have Hynes and Grant to also come off the bench adds to their firepower and the relentless pressure they can produce. The Eels have proven recently that they are vulnerable in this setting. They may be strong early, with changes to their bench suggesting that they are going to try and play a ‘power game’. It will only be able to count for so much. To add further support for the preferred selection, the record of the Storm at this ground is amazing, winning 25 of the past 29 matches played at this ground. The Eels are set to have ‘front row seats’ for yet another exciting show.
Lining up to score = Papenhuyzen, Olam and Addo-Carr to score a try @ $3.70 – The big guns are returning and the Storm are finding their groove. If you want to add some value to this investment, Brandon Smith inclusion in this multi lifts the odds to $8.
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