The pool matches are done and dusted and we’re getting to the business end of the season, starting with the World Cup Quarter-Finals this weekend. The giant-killing Tongans will be looking to continue on their winning run, while all signs point to a Kangaroos and Kiwis semi-final clash. The Wolf’s best bet is New Zealand -14.5.
Australia v SamoaAs was expected before the World Cup started, Australia topped Pool A with ease, winning all three of their pool games and have only conceded 10 points along the way. Meanwhile, Samoa can count themselves extremely lucky to make it to the quarter-final stage after finishing with a 1-2 record through the pool stage, while a side like Ireland had two wins and missed out because only the winner of their group progressed. Samoa could only manage a 14-all draw with Scotland in their final pool game, hardly the form you want to be taking into a quarter-final clash with the powerhouse that is Australia. The Kangaroos and Samoa have clashed twice before, with Australia winning 66-10 at the 2000 World Cup and 44-18 during the 2014 Four Nations. If Samoa could only score 14 against Samoa, it’s hard to see how they’ll be able to put points on an Australian side which has only given 10 points through three matches. Michael Morgan has won the battle for the No.6 jersey over the Melbourne Storm’s Cameron Munster in a Kangaroos side, with 16 of the 17 players who played in the opener against England. Rain is forecast for Darwin on Friday night, so it will be up to Australia to adapt to the situation and might have to grind out a result depending on the conditions. The 32.5 line could be tricky to play this far out, so The Wolf is going to take the unders, with Samoa likely to struggle to put points on the board and the weather could have an impact. Best: Under 48.5 ($1.88) Value: Australia to win to nil ($4)
Tonga v LebanonTonga have been one of the surprise packets of the tournament, winning their three pool games including an upset win (as predicted by The Wolf at $3.35) over New Zealand last weekend to top Pool B and set up a much easier run through the knockout stages, starting with Lebanon this weekend. The additions of Andrew Fifita and Jason Taumalolo cannot be understated, while Sio Siua Taukeiaho has revelled in the prop role. Lebanon have already overachieved and created history by making the quarter-final stage, but it’s hard to see them progressing much further over a red-hot Tongan side. The Cedars were held scoreless against Australia last week, but showed plenty of fight in the first half, trailing 10-0 at half-time before the floodgates opened up and the Kangaroos wrapped it up 34-0. Tonga is on a roll and it’s not going to stop now, with a World Cup Final berth a strong possibility. Best: Tonga -28.5 ($1.90) Value: Tonga -28.5 & Over 46.5 ($2.80)
New Zealand v FijiThe Kiwis will have to do it the hard way after their shock 28-22 loss to Tonga last week and will now have to beat both Fiji, and most likely Australia just to reach the World Cup Final. The Kiwis held a 16-2 lead over Tonga at half-time, but couldn’t contain a rampant Tongan side in the second half. This is a massive danger game for the Kiwis and the loss to Tonga could be the wake-up call that they needed. Fiji have scored the most points (168) in the tournament and have conceded just 28 points through their three pool games. The counterargument to this is that Fiji have had one of the softest draws to date, with pool matches against the USA, Wales and Italy. This is Fiji’s grand-final and The Wolf isn’t sure if they’re up to the step up in class against a fired up Kiwi side. Best: New Zealand -14.5 ($1.90) Value: New Zealand to score 31-40 points ($3.15)
England v PNGEngland are still the side to challenge Australia for World Cup glory according to The Wolf, despite the rise of Tonga at this tournament. The move of Gareth Widdop to fullback to cover the injured Jonny Lomax worked a treat in the 36-6 win over France last week. Widdop ran the ball 18 times for 166 metres, scored a try and had two try-assists. England will also be boosted by the return of the injured Sam Burgess in their bid to book a semi-final spot. PNG have had the luxury of playing all of their pool games in Port Moresby, and haven’t faced any of the heavyweights, with wins over Wales, Ireland and USA. England defeated PNG 36-10 during the 2010 Four Nations and The Wolf is expecting a similar scoreline here. Best: England -14.5 ($1.90) Value: England to win by a margin of 21-30 points ($5)