Thursday, 3 September 2009

You play to win the game.

This week’s National League 1 game was by far the most infuriating game I can remember this season. It is perfectly acceptable that a couple of refereeing decisions might go one way, the ball might bounce another way, that’s part of the unique randomness that makes Rugby League so great. However, when a team plays with a certain disregard and apathy to whether they win or not; well there is nothing wrong with that as they are perfectly entitled to do so but it sure is frustrating.

Barrow travelled to Sheffield in tonight’s SKY game knowing that they only needed to gain a “Bonus point” to secure the league. Meanwhile, Sheffield were faced with the prospect of finishing anywhere between 2nd and 6th so were desperate for a win.

Trailing by twelve in the second half, Barrow received a penalty in Sheffield’s half where they made the decision to go for goal. At this stage of the game, the rationale behind the decision was clear. Barrow had little concern as to whether they won or lost; the key aspect was whether they got the bonus point or no points. (A bonus point is awarded to any team losing by 12 or less.) It was a slightly curious decision, because 2 points by itself would not have any real advantage unless Sheffield then dropped a goal.

It did make sense that when Barrow got another penalty, they would go for a further 2 points – keeping the bonus point should Sheffield get an unconverted try.

Barrow then dropped a goal to lower the margin to 7. Again, a slightly curious decision because again by itself, it would have a limited impact although it would make a huge difference when Barrow then dropped another goal, meaning that even another Sheffield try would ensure that Barrow kept their bonus point.

Only Sheffield didn’t follow the script, or followed it too well, as Barrow ended up getting another try to somehow draw level, before a late Sheffield drop goal and try ensured that Sheffield won by 7 in a result that kept both teams happy.

Now, I have no issue with either team. They both had an objective to meet and even though I disagree with Barrow’s method (their safety first approach actually created further risk in my opinion) you can’t blame them. They had nothing to gain by winning as opposed to obtaining the bonus result and in no way was the game “fixed”.

My immediate frustrations were more with my trading, which I shall explain shortly, but before I do, I hope that the fundamental flaw with the bonus point system has been promoted. It is a system which rewards one side whilst not punishing the other. (Obviously there is the issue of points difference but in a game tight enough to invoke the bonus point, a 6 point swing in points difference is negligible.)

And Sheffield themselves have been perhaps the greatest beneficiary of the bonus point system, given that they currently sit 2nd despite winning less games than the team in 6th! The Eagles have achieved the bonus point in each of their losses and maybe it does reward consistency (mediocrity I would suggest).

However, if the RFL are to continue with such a system, and I don’t think they should; the argument that it keeps losing teams “interested” is flawed because any team that is close enough to the bonus point will still have a chance to win (until the very end) whereas a real thrashing will not be brought back to the bonus point! then I think at the very least a system needs to be incorporated where a team is punished for allowing a bonus point. This could be very easily achieved by having a Points system of 4 for a win, 2 for a draw and 0 for a loss, but 3 and 1 if the game qualifies for a bonus point.

Anyway, enough of my thoughts on RL in general; there will be an off-season for them, and onto my trading! My style of trading is very much to trade the market to apportion the green as I see fit. It is something that I have done very well this season; except for tonight where whenever I backed one team, the advantage would shift to the other!

It got to the stage where I just found it funny. I seemed to be able to control the course of the game and somehow at Half Time, I was only effectively £30 down. In part this was due to my draw trading; I had over £2,000 on the draw; a result of the poor liquidity on the draw in National League games! I even got the price swing at Half Time wrong, well I actually got it right, but I had bailed just before the market suddenly swung 3 or 4 ticks!

Anyway, my second half trading was better to begin with, catching onto Sheffield’s score and trading the draw well before Barrow decided to just go for the bonus point. At this time, I had around £2,000 on the draw, a couple of hundred on Barrow and a red of around £150 on Sheffield.

However, when I saw Barrow’s antics, I basically gave up trading the game. I looked to just get out at any price only for Barrow to comeback and see my 1.1 backs of Sheffield and my Draw lays of 30+ go to 2.5 and 6! I’ll let you count up how much that cost me, but it wasn’t over yet as in my haste to try to get on Sheffield in a change of possession, I actually missed the price I wanted and got the next. Only for the liquidity to be so bad that instead of getting 2, I got 1.2!

Looking back, I suppose it was near enough a miracle to win just under £100, but it could have been so much more… And it should have been. I just got so agitated by Barrow’s tactics that I failed to appreciate the context of the match and yet again, I had an abysmal trading performance only to be helped out at the end for a reasonable profit.

Still, I missed out on a chance to earn a larger amount, which I need to start doing on account of my recent qualification for the Premium Charge. Forgive me if I fail to celebrate too loudly. At least Betfair did notify me that they would reimburse the charge for the first week (Gee that was nice but why not also reimburse the remaining allowance for that week as well?) A whole £27.02, I can’t imagine all the delights I can buy with that, but at least Betfair did have the grace to point out that the charge would only apply if I continued to be “successful” (Not true – if I win one week and then lose the next; you don’t refund it!) and they even had the modesty to sign off with Betfair – Betting as it should be. (Indeed, if you like losing approximately 20% of your winnings through a calculation that no-one understands and cannot replicate!)

A quick preview of the weekend’s action, and I do mean quick because I am in need of sleep!

Saints v Leeds – The value will come in play as usual. It depends on which Saints side turns up and whether the rumoured disagreements with Coach Potter are actually true. One to watch.

Wigan v Hull FC – It’s hard to see Hull winning a second successive game but you guys know my feelings on 1.1 or 1.2 shots! Especially when the other team are so reliant upon a rookie halfback who can very easily have an off day. (See Myler, Richard.)

Moving onto Saturday

Hull KR v Warrington – Again, wait and see. The value will come in play and whilst it is a must win game for Warrington, will their Cup celebrations have adversely affected their preparations? Tony Smith is a stickler for detail, but it is incredibly hard to focus fully after such an emotional high. Personally, if Warrington win here and go onto make the playoffs, it would be such an achievement that I would make them a good shot to get to Old Trafford.

Celtic v Huddersfield – Obviously Celtic are putting out youngsters who aren’t ready for Super League, but remember, the same was said about Huddersfield against Saints. Not one to invest wisely in, but if you have £2 which the premium charge would otherwise take, there are worse ways to lose it.

Catalans v Wakefield – Classic case of overrated home bias. Catalans should be favourites and are most likely to win, but might the pressure get to them? Whilst Catalans do have a genuine home advantage, do not forget that Wakefield have had 2 weeks to prepare, and anything over 3 is worth strong consideration.

Finally, on Sunday there are two games.

Bradford v Salford – A mixture of Catalans and Wigan. Bradford are again the clear favourites, but it must be remembered that Salford have defeated both the top two this year (so have Bradford as well). Bradford have put together an excellent run of late but might the week off have stalled their progress? They need to win to keep their incredibly faint playoff hopes alive (although they could be crushed before they play). Again, anything in the 1.1 – 1.2s is worth a back of the away side. It’s worked up until now.

Harlequins v Castleford – The tightest game of the round and probably the most important. Whoever loses will be all but out of playoff contention, although Castleford’s last match against Celtic could see them scrape through even with a loss here. A very tough game to call as my two main strategies conflict. (Recent poor form v Home bias) For that reason, I’d be tempted to go with the outsider which is currently Castleford, but this is obviously not a very strong call!

Although, as with all of them, I have qualified and disqualified them all so many times in my head that whatever happens, I won’t be surprised! If only I stuck to my original opinions, I would have had a much better season (Probably!) And remember, as usual, I’ll send you a 100% refund cheque for the cost of my tips if they go wrong.

14 Super League games remaining, and 18 Televised games remaining so it is time to make the most of everyone of them before I attempt to re-find my social life on weekends!

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