NRL Fans are in for a great afternoon/evening of action that they will hopefully enjoy on their day off. While on paper it appears as though both matches are forgone conclusions, plenty of questions still remain unanswered about the 4-teams involved. Strange things can also happen when teams are expected to dominate. Let’s take a closer look at whether or not this will be the case here. Don’t forget, the first game kicks off at 4pm.
Stadium Australia, Friday 4.05pm (AEDT)
The Bulldogs season went from bad to worse last week, suffering a harrowing 24-nil loss to the Broncos on the road. It was the second consecutive week that they were kept scoreless and left many asking how much more was to be done in this rebuild. With just 47% possession, the Bulldogs completed at 75%, but it wasn’t errors (total 9) which hampered them; rather, it was their inability to create attacking chances and stop the momentum of their opponents. At the end of 80 minutes, they had just 1 line break, 14 tackle breaks and 39 missed tackles. The task this week doesn’t get any easier, with the Rabbitohs on a 2-game winning streak. Their most recent effort was a satisfying 26-16 victory over their bitter rivals, the Roosters. The match was all but over 5-minutes into the second half as they jumped to a 24-nil lead. A small fightback from their opponents only flattered them as the Rabbitohs were in control for entire contest. While injuries didn’t help the Roosters, the Rabbitohs amassed 543 post-contact metres, 4 line breaks and 27 tackle breaks; all the while, only missing 20 tackles. It was a reminder just what this team is capable of and a warning that they should not be forgotten.
Head-to-Head = Bulldogs 23 Draw 1 Rabbitohs 16
At Stadium Australia = Bulldogs 55% Rabbitohs 56%
Past 10 matches = Bulldogs 4 Rabbitohs 6 – average winning margin is 15.7 points for the Bulldogs and 13 points for the Rabbitohs. 4 out of the past 10 matches have been decided by 10 points or less.
Given the form of both sides, deciding on a winner should be fairly straight forward. Based on their opening 3 matches, the Bulldogs do not have what it takes to produce an upset. Despite always lifting for this encounter, a lot more will have to change within their side if they are to win this match. The 21.5-point margin almost isn’t enough as the Rabbitohs have dominant attacking weapons across the field. You also have a team averaging 23.3 ppg (Rabbitohs) against one with an average of just 5.3 ppg (Bulldogs). This suggests the Bulldogs should be able to cover the line but scoring points is hard to come by for them. If they allowed 24 last week against the Broncos, there is no telling what total can be scored here. The only risk would be the Rabbitohs allowing soft tries towards the end of the match. Then again, if they want to be taken as a contender this season, they will need to comprehensively beat the Bulldogs and not allow that to happen.
AAMI Park, Friday 8.05pm (AEDT)
You could’ve got a great price at the start of the season that the Broncos would be ahead of the Storm on the competition ladder by the time this match was played. If you have watched any of the opening 3-matches they have played, this is highly unfair against the Storm. Last week, they suffered a 12-10 loss to the Panthers on the road. With the game on the line in the dying stages, the Storm were unable to prevail and were held out by some desperate Panthers defence. The statistics were evenly matched between the two sides in possession (53% Storm), completion rate (78% Panthers – 76% Storm), line breaks (4 each) and errors (11 each) being close; as coach Bellamy stated at fulltime, the Panthers won the ‘deciding moments’ over 80 minutes. The Storm had 36 missed tackles though, an uncharacteristic effort from a usually disciplined side. Traveling home and welcoming injured players back will ensure an improved effort on last week. The Broncos captured their first win of the season (and first since Round 9, 2020) against a struggling Bulldogs outfit. In a dour match which took 58 minutes to produce its first try, the Broncos closed out the match well in the final 20 minutes to prevail 24-nil. It would be pleasing that they gave themselves every chance of performing well with an 82% completion rate which eventually wore their opponents down. They can also take confidence from their 720 post-contact metres, 39 tackle breaks, 6 line breaks and 14 missed tackles. The challenge, albeit a big one ahead of them this week, is to produce a similar effort against a leading team in the competition.
Head-to-Head = Storm 34 Draw 1 Broncos 13
At AAMI Park = Storm 74% Broncos 27%
Past 10 matches = Storm 9 Broncos 1 – average winning margin is 24.2 points for the Storm and 10 points for the Broncos. Only 2 of the Storms victories have been by 10 points or less.
Much like the earlier match, this game is almost a forgone conclusion. The recent form of both teams points towards the Storm and it is hard to see the Broncos overcoming that, let alone their horrible record at this ground (just 3 wins in 11 matches here). Interestingly, the Broncos average more points this year than the Storm and concede slightly more (15 v 17 per game). Then again, this is the first ‘quality’ team they have faced apart from the Eels; in the opening game they were a team that was hyped for the occasion and that form can be questioned somewhat. Deciding on how much the Storm win this match by is easy. They have broken down some of the best defensive structures in the opening 3 weeks of the competition and, while not scoring many points, will relish the extra opportunity here against the Broncos. Expect a free-flowing match which has the home team dominating the middle, continually moving over the advantage line and swinging the ball wide to finish expansive attacking movements.
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