NRL FINALS WEEK ONE
Broncos v Titans
Ever since Hayne joined the Titans their attack has lost a lot of its cohesion which doesn’t bode well for them against a Broncos side who are seasoned professionals when it comes to finals footy and will have their defence well and truly set like stone here.
The experience the Broncos have in key positions will be telling here with Hunt and Milford both having tasted the pressure of big-match footy plenty of times; throw in the mostly representative forward pack as well as Boyd at the back and on paper at least it’s very hard to go past a comprehensive Broncos victory.
With Parker having been such a loyal and trusted servant of the Broncos I’d expect the entire squad will have an extra spring in their step here as they make sure this isn’t his final NRL match; meanwhile Bennett comes into his own during finals footy and the master motivator will have his side amped for a huge match.
The Titans are good enough to not get blown out here but not good enough to win and the Broncos victory in the margins at handy odds looks the goods. Pick – 2 units on Broncos to win by 12 points and under
Raiders v Sharks
The Raiders enter the finals in peak form, easily disposing of all before them in the lead up whilst the Sharks have stumbled their way in losing four of their last five matches, conceding a top two spot that looked to be all but theirs for the taking.
With Wighton cleared of a shoulder charge during the week the Raiders are, with the exception of Austin, at full strength but Williams has slotted into the halves seamlessly over the past two weeks as a replacement; meanwhile the Sharks are also close to full strength.
The last time these sides met was just a few weeks ago in Round 22 where the Raiders ran out easy victors 30-14 at Shark Park and with the big home ground advantage here and all the momentum the Raiders have behind them a similar result is certainly on the cards.
The right edge Raiders combination of Leilua and Rapana is the most devastating in the competition and they’ll take plenty of stopping, especially if the big Raiders forward pack can again dominate the Sharks pack and get the defensive line back-pedalling.
The Storm held the Sharks to just one try last week, highlighting some of the offensive deficiencies they have in the face of a solid defence - Townsend and Maloney struggled to create opportunities in the halves, and the likes of Bird, Barba and Holmes lacked the confidence we saw from them earlier in the season.
A home finals match and having a side that’s a genuine title contender has been a long time coming for the loyal Raiders fans and I can’t see them disappointing the capacity crowd that will be cheering them on. We’ll take the Raiders to cover the line on offer. Pick – 3 units on Raiders -4.5 point start
Storm v Cowboys
The Storm have been the benchmark team for most of the season, deservedly taking out the minor premiership and appear to be back to their clinical best after completely suffocating the Sharks last week in a dominate victory. The Cowboys impressed too in comfortably beating the Titans in Townsville, they’ve had to travel a long way for this match though and face quite different conditions than back home and will have a large Melbourne crowd barracking against them.
The ‘egging’ incident won’t have done Jason Taumalolo’s (arguably the Cowboys most devastating forward) preparation for this game any good and it’s a distraction they can well do without going into such a big match.
Short and sweet here, the combined genius of Smith and Cronk will edge that of Thurston and co with the Storm duo orchestrating yet another great clinical team performance. Pick – 3 units on Storm -1.5 point start
Panthers v Bulldogs
The Bulldogs are another side that has limped into the finals but Hasler is an old pro at getting his teams up for the big matches and won’t be altogether unhappy about facing the Panthers, a side that he’ll be confident the Dogs can get the better of.
The return of Kasiano from suspension is a huge boost for the Bulldogs up front as he’s another big man to cart the ball up and compliments the likes of Graham, Klemmer and Williams who together make a formidable pack that are capable of causing plenty of headaches for the Panthers up the middle.
The more the seasons gone on the more the likes of Moylan, Wallace, Peachey, Cleary and Cartwright have come into their own as playmakers for the Panthers but with the exception of Wallace they’re all short on finals experience and that should play into the Bulldogs hands as they pile on the pressure. I like the Bulldogs chances here but we’ll take them on the start. Pick – 4 units on Bulldogs +5.5 or better point start
WEEK RESULTS STAKES ROI BEST BET Grand Final
Week Three Finals
Week Two Finals
Week One Finals