It's the business end of the season in the NRL as well with two cracking matches scheduled this weekend.
Making his debut on the blog is seasoned wagering veteran Shaun Beirne, @shaunbeirne.
Semi Final (Week 2) History since 2000
Of significant interest to me here is that results of matches played at the designated home ground of one of the teams has resulted in a win rate of 75%. Off an admittedly small sample when the highest ranked team plays at home they have won 87.5% of matches. The margins have a history of blowing out. The average of the total match points is high and the count of the over at the current Tab lines (NQ v Bris 36.5 and Raiders v Penrith 38.5) suggests the propensity of the games to blow out.
North Queensland v Brisbane
Last year’s Grand Finalists meet earlier in the semi-final series this time around and we can only hope for a repeat of that match, or indeed either of their matches this season which have all been decided by 1 point.
In team news the Cowboys will be missing Kane Linnett and Ethan Lowe is also in doubt. The Broncos have lost James Roberts to suspension and whilst his centre partner Tom Opacic has been named he is still in doubt. So interestingly we could start the match without three of the expected four centres, the impact of this may see points harder to come by, however it is equally likely to result in a disjointed defence which can offset that.
At home this season the Cowboys have won 11 of 12 and their only loss was to Melbourne without Jonathan Thurston. The Broncos have won five of 11 away matches.
Brisbane overran the Titans to win their sixth match on the trot last week but they had every decision and bounce of the ball go their way and still struggled to put them away. Conceding 28 points is also a major concern heading into this match.
The Cowboys hung tough against the Storm but were too timid in attack seemingly more obsessed with repeat sets than moving the ball when close to the line. That however was possibly more due to the slippery conditions rather than a specific game plan and barring similar conditions I expect them to be more expansive on their home track.
Back the Cowboys -6.5 and 13+ and back the over 36.5.
Canberra v Penrith
Two teams who could hardly have been expected to be in this position pre-season have done a remarkable job just to be here but yet neither team will be wanting the season to come to an end just yet.
Canberra have been extremely strong at home this season winning 10 of 12 including their last eight. A feature of their matches has been the high total match scores, an average of 47.9 with 10 of 12 over 38.5. Penrith have won six of 11 on the road and managed just two wins from five at Top 8 teams.
Team news is perhaps the key factor coming into this match. Penrith are unchanged from their thumping win over the Bulldogs. Canberra have named Blake Austin and Josh Hodgson but must be hugely doubtful.
The Raiders attack went missing last week and unless both Austin and Hodgson play they are going to once again struggle for points, not something you want to be doing against the free-scoring Panthers.
The stats point to a Raiders victory but even if Austin and Hodgson play, which I don’t think they will I just can’t be confident enough in them to play. Instead the play is to back the over 38.5