Possibly the game of the round gets the NRL finals series underway. Two teams with plenty of representative talent and good form heading into the pointy end of the season.
The Roosters welcome back Dylan Napa & Aidan Guerra who were rested in last week’s narrow win against the Titans with Daniel Tupou also a chance of returning on the wing. The Roosters have lost just 2 home games all year and haven’t lost to the Broncos at home since 2012. They will like their chances of moving straight through to a preliminary final.
The Broncos were convincing against the Cowboys and have only lost to 2 clubs (Parramatta and Melbourne) in their past 11 matches. The loss of Darius Boyd makes this week’s assignment that much more difficult with a reshuffle required in the backline with Kodi Nikorima most likely to play fullback with Benji Marshall into the halves.
The Roosters home form and the Broncos missing personnel is too hard to ignore. Roosters -4 @ 1.93
Storm v Eels
The Storm have been there, done that and then some when it comes to NRL finals. The Eels are making their first finals appearance since 2009 and come up against their grand final opponents from that year. Both teams bring tremendous form into the playoffs with the Storm winning 12 of their last 14 and the Eels winning 11 in the same amount of time.
The last time they met, the Eels produced a big upset, albeit affected by State of Origin, running out 22-6 winners in Melbourne. Their attacking unit is purring along nicely, failing to score 20 points in just 1 of their last 6.
The Storm defence has been incredible over the last 2 months with no team able to score more than 14 points against them. Meanwhile they’ve produced 140 points in their last 3 matches with coach Craig Bellamy well experienced at getting his team going at the right time of year.
I think the Eels will be well in this one and it’ll very much be a defensive slog even with both teams sporting such potent attacking weapons.
Eels +12.5 / Under 37.5 @ 3.68
Sea Eagles v Panthers
With all the possible results over the entire 2017 season and all the different combinations possible in terms of the draw, these two teams manage to face off in consecutive weeks after Manly thumped Penrith in the final regular season game of the year.
Manly have the wind in their sails after last week’s performance with their forwards dominating the Penrith pack, especially early on, racking up a 28-0 lead and threatening Penrith’s position in the top 8. The Panthers played well in the final 20 as they have all year to keep the score somewhat respectable.
The Panther’s chances this year have probably been blown out of proportion due ot their 7 game winning streak prior to the last fortnight. There were only two top 8 sides in that run, none of which are in the top 4 and they’ve since been unable to register a win. With captain Matt Moylan out for the season and fullback Dylan Edwards still in doubt, the Panthers have lost a bit of their structure.
A lot is up to the coach and senior players to turn the Panthers around and out of this slump. They will come out much stronger than last week but whether they will be able to topple Manly is another question.
Manly 1-12 @ 2.90
Sharks v Cowboys
While neither team has set the world alight in recent weeks, both these sides are full of quality players and this elimination final could prove to be one of the best matches this week. Easy to forget that these teams are the premiership winners of the last few years. These sides have met in elimination finals 3 of the last 4 years and built up quite the rivalry.
The Sharks ambushed the Cowboys when they met 3 weeks ago with a 24-6 first half to be eventual winners. However, with only 2 wins in their last 5, the Sharks will need to lift a gear to be competitive in this finals series. They’ve got the personnel to do it but it’s a matter of the senior players stepping up to the occasion. With Jack Bird & Wade Graham returning, they will fancy their chances.
While the Cowboys have only just snuck in (thanks to the Bulldogs late season form downing the Dragons), they’ve had a tough season with horrible injury luck and have been valiant to get this far. They’ve faced top 8 teams in 5 of their last 6 matches but have been unable to come away with any points. While the Sharks have been struggling, they might just be raring to go for these finals. The Cowboys are probably on their last legs and this match will probably see an end to their campaign.