5 Lessons Learned – NRL Round 1


The NRL is back, for now anyway, and for the second season so is our regularly scheduled 5 Lessons Learned recap of the action.

For those of you tuning into this for the first time, we’re going to cover our big takeaways from the previous round of NRL action and look at the key news, facts, figures and trends across the game.

It was certainly the most bizarre opening to an NRL season in memory with the Corona Virus hanging over the heads of every fan, spectator and media member at the games.

Either way the show continues for the time being so let’s get into our big takeaways.

1 – Favourites & Underdogs Split Honours

It was an interesting weekend when it came to backing the favourites in the NRL with a fairly even split of results.

Head to head the eight favourites (the Eels, Raiders, Cowboys, Knights, Souths, Roosters, Storm and Dragons) went 5-3 head to head and just 3-5 against the spread.

Only one team was favoured by over 10 points and that was the Eels in the season opener, which they obviously didn’t cover having only scored 8 points (in a winning effort mind you).

That did continue a general trend from last season where teams were double digit favourites sometimes struggled to cover those big lines.

The biggest upset of the weekend came on Saturday night when the defending premiers, the Roosters, were upset by the Panthers who went 6-8 both head to head and against the spread as an underdog in 2019.

2 – Points at a Premium

You can always expect a little bit of rust in these teams as the season commences, especially in attack, but this weekend was a good one to back the under in as points were hard to come by.

Six of the eight games played went under the total points line with only the Cowboys-Broncos and Souths-Sharks games going over.

With most points totals for this weekend hovering in the high 30’s range, backing the over was not the worst strategy but as weather and general uncertainty over the playing conditions set in, it became clear this was a weekend for low scoring encounters.

Brisbane were the highest scoring team of the round with just 28 points, which was the first time since Round 7 last season that no team had scored over 30 points in a full eight game round.

Brisbane was the highest scoring team that weekend as well putting up 29 points in a win over the Sharks.

In a surprise to nobody that backed them last season, the Bulldogs were involved in the lowest scoring game of the round after 19 of their 24 games in 2019 went under and 2020 got off to a similar start with just 10 points in their clash with the Eels.

The Bulldogs take on the Cowboys in the first game of Round 2 on Thursday night and the Cowboys who went under on 15 occasions last season.

3 – Knights Nail the Shutout

For the second straight season, we had a team getting shut out in Round 1 of the NRL season.

Newcastle has a very impressive 20-0 win over the New Zealand Warriors on Saturday afternoon, getting their season off to a perfect start.

Canberra defeated the Gold Coast Titans in Round 1 last year by a score of 21-0 however we’re not saying the Knights are headed for a Grand Final appearance just yet (for several reasons), but it was still a good start to 2020 in the Hunter.

If you’re looking for a trend based on last season’s shutout wins, there isn’t really one to follow with the Raiders losing to the Storm in Round 2, before winning and covering against the Broncos in Round 6 after their 19-0 win over the Eels, then winning and not covering in Round 14 against the Sharks after blanking the Tigers.

What it does do though, is set up a very interesting clash between the Knights and fellow Round 1 winners West Tigers on Sunday afternoon, as both sides will look to build on the momentum they built up past weekend.

4 – Raiders Rolling Again

Any concerns over the Raiders having a grand final hangover from 2019 were put to bed early in their season debut.

After a scintillating first half against the Titans, we can safely assume the Raiders will be pretty good in 2020, they were the only team to trigger our early payout offer scoring three first half tries.

Last season they went a co-competition best 15-9 against the spread and look like they will be one of the stronger teams to back in that market once again.

5 – Which Sides are on an Uptick in 2020?

Early on in every season, it always helps to try and pick out teams that might have underachieved the year before and are primed for an uptick and back them before the market catches up.

Last season the Titans went 6-18 against the spread and new coach Justin Holbrook has a bit of work to do before this side is competing for wins, although they could be worth taking if the spread is big enough.

Five sides went 10-14 against the spread and you should be able to find a side to target in this group, with the Broncos, Dragons, Knights, Panthers and Souths all posting that record.

Brisbane, Newcastle and Penrith all recorded first up covers with the Broncos and Panthers both pulling off upsets.

Brisbane and Souths tend to get a couple of extra points in the line market just because of how popular both sides are so it will be a good barometer of where these sides stand when they face off on Friday night.

That will do it for this week’s recap and whatever happens going forward, we’ll be back with this when the NRL is.

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