Rugby is a game of big, bold scorelines and strategic extremes; and there's no better place to exploit that than the winning margin markets.
While predicting winning margins is a fine art in sports like football, where goals are few, or ice hockey, where the gap between the teams is often small, rugby offers such volatile scores that the winning margins available at bookies like Bet365 are forced to reflect this. This makes building a betting strategy around the winning margin market much easier.
For players looking for bigger odds, the highest potential rewards are found in the standard winning margin market: where predictions are made in blocks of five points. For example, backing Leeds to beat Wigan by 16 - 20 points in their Super League meeting in May 2014 was available pre-match at 7/1 with bet365. The final score, incidentally, was 28-12 to Leeds.
Those looking to rack up regular, but slightly more modest, wins are better advised to look at the winning margin five-way market, which allows players to bet on much broader outcomes in some matches. In the Leeds vs. Wigan match, for example, Leeds to win by 13 or more was 19/10; which still isn't bad considering the impressive form Leeds were in prior to the meeting.
The choice between these markets isn't only one of risk exposure, however - it's also about the games that you choose to bet on. And there are some key statistics and comparisons that should inform your decision.
The most useful number is the points difference, which is the total points scored minus the total conceded. Take this for any team, divide it by the number of matches played, and you'll have the average winning (or losing) margin. Comparing this before a game will give you a good idea of whether the teams are likely to be an even match, and therefore whether you should be looking at a high or low margin between them.
In order to get a more nuanced idea of the differences between two sides, it's also worth comparing points for and points against. Going back to Leeds against Wigan, it was clear before the match that both sides were free-scoring - with Leeds totaling 326 from 10 games and Wigan totaling 306 from nine. But when you look at the amount they conceded, 82 and 160 respectively, there were clear signs of a fair-sized Leeds win.
Players will need to avoid pitfalls, too. Top of the list is the context of a team's form. Far too many punters will look at two teams' recent results without examining their opponents. A string of especially weak or strong opponents can quickly skew form, and that applies doubly for scoring statistics.
It's also sensible to keep an eye out for teams that can grind out results in even matchups. The May Super League meeting between Hull and Widnes is informative, because although Hull had a better points difference, Widnes' superior form and table position flagged warning signs that they could fight, and win, a close game. And so it proved, with Widnes winning 34 - 29.
So before placing bets, scour the statistical landscape for clues, and see how that translates to value in the pre-match odds.
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