Intercept tries and live rugby betting odds

Weekend lessons – interception tries

It’s the off season for me as a punter as my three rugby betting loves the Premiership, the Rabo & Top14 have all left me for the summer (well, I say three ‘loves‘, but the Top14 is really more like that girlfriend that you have nothing in common with and drives you insane but still has you coming back for more every time). That doesn’t mean i don’t have a bet each weekend, but I’m a bit more picky about what i get involved in, and the stakes are considerably smaller than my regular season action.

Last weekend was a bit different – knackered from some contract work during the week I had lots of spare time lounging around the house, feeding the birds, talking to the cats about not eating the birds, and (not without some shame) picking my fantasy football team for the wendy-ball starting in three weeks. As I scratched around online for some betting value, there were three bets in three games that had been on my mind from Thursday onwards. Only one of those rugby bets turned out to be a winner, but I noticed something quite valuable for the future that never really factored into my calculations before.

Firstly, we’ve all seen intercept tries at the start of games that give the vanquished loser a small consolation. But what effect do intercept tries have in games that are still contests? There are no official figures for intercept tries, so we’ll have to mostly go from memory here and base most of our thinking on last weekend, some high profile past games, and any help you guys can give in the forum to test this hypothesis.

Ok, so most rugby fans know that intercept tries are valuable commodities – it’s not rocket science. But last weekend there were three intercept tries that caused the favorites at the time to lose their games. One worked out well for me, two didn’t – but they all had the same effect on the game.

Rugby bet 1 – Kings 1-12 v Lions at 14/5, Super 15 playoff. Result – bet Lost

There was a massive disparity in the winning margin odds for this game so I felt it was good value. The Kings were at home, and Paddypower were only offering 9/5 on the Kings 1-12 when Stan James were offering 13/5. These two-way playoffs in any league are usually very tight affairs won by the home team, and I felt the Kings were well able to eek out a win. Everything was going great by the 37th minute – the Kings were totally dominant for the past 25 minutes in all the half-time buzz-word statistics, they were playing good percentage rugby, and they were ahead on the scoreboard.

The Lions were probably mentally in the land of the losing bonus point until, in the 38th minute, Stokkies Hanekom grabbed an intercept try for the Lions as the Kings were attacking (with an overlap). It totally changed the game, and the Kings never looked like winning after that; they lost all the collisions, they lost their excellent flyhalf Catrakilis on 57 minutes (who had thrown the intercept), they lost on the penalty count.

Many Kings fans will blame the ref, and it definitely didn’t help that Jaco Peyper (who had been moved from linesman at the Bulls game to referee this one two days previously, for some reason) had one of the dodgiest refereeing performances i’ve seen in a long time – when all of his dodgy decisions and non-decisions seemed to go against the Kings. Even the commentators were exasperated at times, and in truth, had the owner of the Lions franchise reffed the game himself he couldn’t have done more for his team than Peyper did. However, most of us know what Peyper is, and while we laugh at the SARU and SANZAR on a weekly basis (who still seem to think we can’t see what goes on week-in-week-out in suspiciously-reffed South African Super15 games), the fact remains that the intercept try on 38 minutes totally changed the momentum & psychology of this game and was instrumental in the Lions getting the win.

Rugby bet 2 – Chiefs ht/Crusaders full time 7/1, Bet lost

This match went the opposite way to my own punt – the Crusaders were winning at half time (9-3) and the Chiefs at full time (20-19). This game started with the Crusaders -4 point favourites on the handicap. After leading at half time, the first five minutes of the second half were truly edge-of-your-seat living for Chiefs fans; Carter hit the post with a penalty to miss taking the gap to nine points; Read screwed up the final pass in a move where the Crusaders looked destined to score a try. Not much money was going on the Chiefs at this point, and the Crusaders were on top, no doubt about it.

Still, the Chiefs survived that early onslaught (amazingly), and earned a penalty on 46 minutes to make it 9-6. The Chiefs put on a surge and after Masaga scored that wonderful monster of a try, they were leading 13-9 after 50 minutes. Nobody was writing off the Crusaders though, as they had been the better team, and the live betting was reflecting this – with the Chiefs only slight odds-on favourites despite being ahead by 4 points and at home.

In response, the Crusaders set about pounding the Chiefs line but knocked on at the crucial moment. Winding up once more (it was only a matter of time surely before the heroic Chiefs defence would break!), the Crusaders were once again on the attack and looking dangerous, when KERBLAMMO! – Aaron Cruden took an intercept in midfield and raced to the other end to score the try, making it seventeen unanswered points for the Chiefs in the space of about 15 minutes.

It was testament to the Crusaders that they hit right back with Dagg’s solo effort soon after, but the damage had been done – Cruden’s try was a true 14 point swing against the Crusaders when even my dog (who is currently a very disappointed Warrington Wolves fan – more on that below) was expecting the Crusaders to score next just before the intercept happened. The intercept try again proved crucial as Carter scored a pen and missed a pen in the final 20 minutes, and it afforded the Chiefs the option of concentrating on defending against an undoubtedly tired Crusaders side.

Would the Chiefs have won without the intercept? No, I don’t think so. And while the live odds reflected the fact the Chiefs had gone into an 11 point lead so we couldn’t take advantage this time, the polar opposite psychological effect on both teams was evident in those final 20 odd minutes.

Rugby bet 3 – Hull to beat Warrington in the Rugby League Challenge cup semi-final at 4/1. Hull win, bet wins

Warrington went into this game as -14 point favourites, and have a fantastic record in the Challenge cup. They’re second in the league (just a point behind Wigan) and are in good form. I backed Hull as they were at home, had their main kicker back from injury, and had plenty of motivation. I thought if they could stay with Warrington there would be plenty of opportunity to trade out for a profit.

Anyway, after racing into an 8 point league with some excellent play, many viewers will have felt that the writing was on the wall and it was going to be another hammering (after Wigan won 70-nil the day before)- my initial thinking looked to be way off, and Hull went to as high as 20/1 in live betting to win the game. At this point I felt my bet was gone – Hull were defending again 20 metres out, Warrington looked like they were going to totally blitz Hull to a hammering, and the home fans were very quiet. So what happened?

Warrington tried a cross kick. The kick itself was quite good and it was there for the taking by the Warrington lads on the wing. But Hull winger Tom Lineham went for it, intercepted, and ran 80 yards to touch-down for Hull’s first (and vital) score. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Hull were fired up, and they scored the next three tries to go into a 16-8 lead. They ended up squeaking the win after Warrington snuck a try in the last five minutes, but there was no doubt – the intercept totally changed the game psychologically, and made the massive underdog the better team, and the winner on the day.

Co-incidence?

Of course it could be. However what is interesting is that all of these three games had something riding on them. They weren’t just ordinary league games- motivation was at it’s highest for all six sides involved in games with interceptions. Knockout games are the thoroughbred horse races of Rugby – it’s when you can usually count on maximum effort, and your appraisal of form can be most counted upon. All three intercepts had huge opposing psychological effects on the six teams in the three games, in favour of the perceived lesser team (in the eyes of bookmakers and most neutral fans). These three games were not home/away league games so home advantage is slightly less important relatively speaking.

I guess the ultimate lesson i’m trying to convey here for rugby bettors and non-punters, is that an intercept try seems to be worth far more than the 4 or five points (depending on code) you see on the scoreboard. Again, many fans will have noted this already, but this past weekend is compelling evidence that’s it’s not just hearsay and conjecture. The price you see after an intercept try in live betting may hold alot more value than at first glance – I know a few punters who think the opposite effect takes place, and that the team who conceded the intercept become even more motivated to score next. That view has some merits, but I know what side of the debate i’m on.

Joe Roff’s try, right after half time, the intercept try, was just the medicine we needed…

John Eales and George Greegan sum up what i’ve been on about pretty well here when talking about this massive game-changer;

There’s lots more out there, and i’ve set up a thread in the forum that we can add to whenever we see one in future. The lesson here overall is to pay close attention to betting prices after intercept tries – they’re worth far more than points on the scoreboard in my opinion.