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Those 50/50s are critical

If you’re getting the 50/50 games then you’d be steadily climbing the ladder in your respective tipping competition. Not too many upset results in recent weeks, so get those 50/50s and you’re laughing.

NRL (Round 9)

16-EELS v 6-BULLDOGS: It was astonishing when the Eels rolled the Bulldogs in a preliminary final in 2009. It was astonishing when the Eels piled on five tries in 13 minutes in their 31-30 home loss to the Tigers last weekend. The Bulldogs, who are battling to get over the try-line of late, have fallen to the Rabbitohs, Storm and Sea Eagles, but it would be astonishing if they succumbed to the Eels despite the fact they have only won three of the last 12 games when both teams have clashed at ANZ Stadium. Tip: BULLDOGS

5-COWBOYS v 4-DRAGONS: The Dragons came from nowhere to topple the Roosters in the closing minutes on Anzac Day. The Cowboys gave the Rabbitohs a 20-point headstart last weekend before falling four points short. Hence, both teams will be determined to get off to a flying start. The Cowboys are set to welcome back prop Matt Scott, while the Dragons have lost talented utility Beau Scott. The Dragons are aiming for their fourth straight win over the Cowboys, but have lost seven of their past nine games in Queensland. Tip: COWBOYS

12-WARRIORS v 2-BRONCOS: It’s hard to fault any aspect of the Broncos’ game as they aim for their seventh straight victory. The return of hard-hitting Te’o is also an added bonus for the Broncos, who are the equal of the Storm when it comes to being the best team running around in the NRL at the moment. The inconsistent Warriors were far from disgraced against the Storm on Anzac Day and surely it won’t be long before they finally click. The Warriors can match the Broncos in the forwards, but the Broncos have got the Warriors covered out in the backs. Tip: BRONCOS

14-PANTHERS v 1-STORM: The Panthers are struggling and go into battle minus halfback Walsh. Lewis (shoulder) and Jennings (neck) have been named despite making an early exit in Newcastle on Monday night, but with Origin imminent will they take the risk? The Storm continue to set the bar at a very high level and it’s hard to see them not making it nine wins from as many matches this season. In their past three games against the Sea Eagles, Tigers and Knights, the Panthers have been outscored 94-14. Tip: STORM

15-TITANS v 11-TIGERS: Hard to believe that the Titans were just one game short of a grand final in 2010. They have now lost their past five maches and 11 of their past 12 games at home. Two weeks ago, the Titans stunned the Sea Eagles at Brookvale, but last week they were no match for the Broncos at Suncorp. The Titans have lost Prince, but welcome back Harrison. In their last two games, against the Panthers and Eels, the Tigers were awesome for 145 minutes before almost letting things slip in rather remarkable fashion against the Eels. Tip: TIGERS

8-SEA EAGLES v 13-RAIDERS: Victory over the Bulldogs in a tight battle last weekend indicates that the Sea Eagles shouldn’t have too many difficulties when they play host to the Raiders. Brett and Glenn Stewart played key roles in the Sea Eagles’ win last weekend and with a spot in the NSW team within their grasp they could make life extremely difficult for the out-of-form Raiders. The Sea Eagles stumbled at the hands of the Titans when last they appeared at home, so it’s unlikely the premiers will lack respect for the Raiders. Tip: SEA EAGLES

10-ROOSTERS v 7-KNIGHTS: The Roosters stole defeat from the jaws of victory against the Dragons on Anzac Day. They should never have lost and it was a remarkable return to form after an awful display against the Cowboys in Darwin, where they leaked 50 points. The Knights have lost Buderus and Gidley through injury, so everything points to a Roosters victory if they continue from where they left off against the Dragons. The fact that the Roosters have toppled the Knights in six of their seven starts at Allianz Stadium is significant. Tip: ROOSTERS

9-RABBITOHS v 3-SHARKS: Clearly a 50/50 encounter. Minus Burgess and Asotasi, the Rabbitohs have been highly competitive and they have won their past two games at ANZ Stadium. And, of course, they blew it against the Roosters in Round 1. The Sharks have won six straight and they’re proving hard to stop at home and on the road. The Rabbitohs blitzed the Cowboys in the first half last weekend before escaping with the points in the second half. The Sharks jumped out of the blocks against the Raiders and never took their foot off the pedal in an emphatic display. The Sharks scored 44 points in Canberra but, amazingly, they have lost seven of their past eight matches after scoring 40 points or more in their previous game. Tip: SHARKS

 

AFL (Round 6)

Tipping winners in the AFL most weekends isn’t all that hard, and the landscape is unlikely to change until the Giants, Suns and Demons show immense improvement. There are other teams who continue to battle on the road and when will the Hawks start to flex some muscle?

13-BULLDOGS v 10 MAGPIES: The Bulldogs are still finding their feet under a new coach, while the Magpies had more than a solid work-out against the Bombers on Anzac Day to prepare for this match. Unlike the Magpies, the Bulldogs haven’t got a key forward like Cloke to kick a bag. The return of defenders Shaw and Reid for the Pies will also make it difficult for the Dogs to score. Tip: MAGPIES

5-BOMBERS v 12-LIONS: The Bombers didn’t lose too many friends when they lost by a point against the Magpies on Anzac Day – which was even more significant considering the club’s alarming injury toll. The Bombers had won their opening four games before the Magpies match and there are clear signs that they’re the real deal. Will the Lions have the legs after battling the elements at the Gabba last weekend? Tip: BOMBERS

8-CATS v 16 DEMONS: One of a number of games this weekend where it should be one-way traffic. In the corresponding match last year, the Cats kicked 37.11 (233) to sink the Dees by 186 points. The return of Clark and Frawley is a bonus for the winless Demons, who never lay down in their past two games against the Bulldogs and Saints, but the Cats have stars all over the ground and will win comfortably. Tip: CATS

17-SUNS v 9-FREMANTLE: With Ablett, this may have been an interesting contest as the Suns have pushed the Bombers and Kangaroos in recent weeks. The Dockers were punished for their inaccuracy against the Blues last weekend and fell eight points short. No Sandilands and Fyfe will hurt the Dockers, but after rolling the Saints in Melbourne they should get the cash against the Suns on the Gold Coast. Tip: DOCKERS

6-SAINTS v 11-HAWKS: The Saints would fancy their chances, but the bottom line is that they have only tasted success against the Bulldogs, Demons and Suns. The Hawks had made an encouraging start to the year before a deplorable effort against the Swans in Tasmania, after suffering an honourable loss in Perth against the Eagles. The Saints can win, but the Hawks have a lot more match-winners. Tip: HAWKS

2-SWANS v 4-CROWS: Here’s your match of the round. The Swans have yet to lose a game and are playing superbly as a unit, but the Crows boast an outstanding record at the SCG. In truth, the Crows have had better teams in the past and the Swans haven’t started a season as impressively as they have since the late 1990s. How will the Crows perform after the Showdown? It was hard not to admire the Swans’ performance in Launceston. Tip: SWANS

3-BLUES v 18-GIANTS: This could get ugly. With percentage bound to raise its head when the finals race hots up, the Blues should rattle up a cricket score against the Suns. Judd, Kreuzer, Waite and Carrazzo are missing from the Blues line-up as they gear up for the Saints on Monday week. The Giants were easy on the eye against the Bulldogs in Canberra, but they face a major learning curve this weekend. Tip: BLUES

15-POWER v 14-TIGERS: Both teams featured in epic games last weekend, so how will they back up a week later? The Power seemingly lacks that vital ingredient because they just can’t land that killer blow. They have made their critics eat their words. The Tigers pushed the Cats to the limit and many argue that they let a golden chance slip against the Eagles last weekend. Another 50/50, but the Tigers may have a slight edge in midfield class. Tip: TIGERS

1-EAGLES v 7-KANGAROOS: The Kangaroos are clearly a better side this year, but they have yet to make a serious impact on the road. They were considered a big chance of rolling the Swans at the SCG after defeating the Cats, but were second rate. They get another chance to test themselves interstate against a quality side when they take on the unbeaten competition leaders in WA. The Eagles are a lethal commodity in Perth these days, especially with Cox and Naitanui, but who is going to kick the goals in the absence of LeCras, Nicoski and Kennedy? The Kangaroos can be satisfied if they get within 20 points of the Eagles. Tip: EAGLES

Super Rugby (Round 11)

For the likes of the Sharks, Waratahs and Reds, it’s crunch time because they need to string a few wins together if they hope to grab a finals spot ahead of the Chiefs, Stormers, Brumbies, Bulls, Highlanders and Crusaders. It makes for an exciting climax to the 2012 season.

10-HURRICANES v 15-BLUES: Neither side is setting the world on fire, but it’s a North Island derby and therefore pride is very much on the line. The unpredictable Hurricanes gave the all-conquering Chiefs a run for their money last weekend and the home ground advantage may get them home against the bottom-placed Blues. Definitely a 50/50 clash. Tip: HURRICANES

12-REBELS v 4-BULLS: Cipriani exited the Rebels during the week after a turbulent tenure and injury has sidelined O’Connor and Saffy, but Mortlock makes his first appearance of the season off the bench. The Bulls are gaining momentum and have won for of their past five matches, and they will prove too good for the Rebels. Beale plays at No.10 for the Rebels and faces Steyn, the Bulls’ point-scoring machine. Tip: BULLS

1-CHIEFS v 14-LIONS: The Chiefs are flying and after previously appearing in a Super Rugby final where they were mauled by the Bulls, the NZ outfit are clearly the team to best this year. They have won eight straight and they are the “bet of the round” when they play host to the Lions, who, believe it or not, won the Currie Cup last year. Tip: CHIEFS

3-BRUMBIES v 8-WARATAHS: No love lost between these two teams. There are four former Brumbies in the Waratahs outfit — including Elsom, who’ll again come off  the bench — which should make things rather spicy. The Brumbies have had a tremendous season and are clearly firing under coach Jake White, but the Waratahs boast a bit more class and were terrific against the Crusaders. A classic 50/50. Tip: WARATAHS

7-SHARKS v 5-HIGHLANDERS: The Highlanders are still on course to make the finals after pulling off a stunning win over the Cheetahs last weekend after trailing by 21 points in the second half. The Sharks provide stiffer opposition for the New Zealand visitors and, after the bye, welcome back key forwards Kankowski and “The Beast” Mtawarira. Dismiss the Highlanders at your peril. Tip: SHARKS

11-CHEETAHS v 13-FORCE: Hard to believe that the Cheetahs capitulated in such dramatic style against the Highlanders last weekend. Hasn’t been a good week for the Force after Genia reneged on a deal by electing to stay at the Reds. A lot more competitive at home than they are on the road, the Force could find it tough going in the first match of their South African tour. At their best, the Cheetahs should prevail. Tip: CHEETAHS

6-CRUSADERS v 9-REDS: A replay of last year’s final, where the Reds triumphed 18-13 in Brisbane. The Reds, who have won their past three matches against the seven-time Super Rugby champions, won’t be intimidated after a first ever win over the Blues in Auckland last weekend. The Reds started like a house on fire against the Blues and a repeat dose is imperative in Christchurch. Fruean is on song for the Crusaders and McCaw is tipped to start the game. The Crusaders have won five of their past six games, which also included a 32-30 loss overseas at the hands of the Bulls. Tip: CRUSADERS

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