NRL FINALS WEEK 1
Storm v Rabbitohs
This match has the potential to be an absolute cliff-hanger as there really was not much that separated them throughout the season and both sides cancel out each other’s strengths; I can’t help but feel the Strom have the slight edge though and we’re going to run with that.
The battle of the halves is one area that the Rabbitohs do have the upper hand as Reynolds and Walker have been very good, with their kicking game putting them ahead of the Storm pairing, but just how much influence they have will come down to what sort of ascendency the Bunnies pack can get, if any.
It's the battle up front that has the most intrigue around it as the brute strength and brawn on the Rabbitohs pack have so often laid the foundation for so many of their wins this season but whilst the Storm don’t have the same power they do have a smart pack that has seldom taken a back foot to anyone all season and I can’t see them being dominated here.
Again, in the backlines things appear fairly even but the Storm have the clear edge out wide with speedsters Ado-Carr and Vunivalu two of the most lethal attacking weapons in the competition with any space to work with and I’m sure the Storm will have some plans in place to exploit that advantage.
With all the above said I can ultimately see the biggest impact on this match being at the hands of Storm captain Cameron Smith as he’s a genius at the best of times but becomes even more so in the heat of finals footy. His masterclass around the rucks and ability to see so many phases ahead is second to none and I can’t see him letting a finals game slip through his grasp. We’ll take the value of the Storm in the margins. Pick – 2 units on Storm to win by 12 points and under
Panthers v Warriors
The Warriors have certainly turned heads this season in making the finals for the first time in seven years and whilst they’ve had the odd trademark Warriors blowout performance for the most part they have played with plenty of controlled passion and grit which has been absent over recent years.
The key factor in this game is James Maloney as his return from injury last week for the Panthers paid instant dividends as they upset the Storm in Melbourne, a very welcome win after losses on the trot to the Warriors and Knights. Winning is in Maloney’s DNA as is evidenced by the success he brings with him to every team he plays for and he compliments Cleary brilliantly in the halves allowing the youngster to get his dangerous running game going and play with a lot more confidence.
That win last week will have done the Panthers confidence a world of good and in front of what will be a huge home crowd they’ll build on that confidence and will be an all-round very tough assignment for the Warriors who have some bad memories at this ground.
The Warriors will be sweating on the fitness of Mannering and RTS, two vital ingredients into their success this season but whether they play or not the Panthers will have their number; this is a side that mid-season were playing like title favourites and I’m sure we’ll see more of that side here.
Unfortunately for the Warriors they’re going to come up against a Panthers team that will have been gee’ed up pre-match by the master-motivator Gus Gould and will have their tails up and with so many attacking weapons right across the park it’s simply going to be too touch of an assignment for the visiting Kiwi side. Pick - 4 units on Panthers -2.5 point start (BEST BET)
Roosters v Sharks
The Roosters pulled a rabbit out of the hat in the final round to grab the minor premiership, playing their best footy late in the season which is ominous considering the very strong squad they boast.
The only way the Sharks are going to be in with a chance here is if the likes of Fafita, Gallen, Graham and co can unsettle the Roosters pack up front but I just can’t see that happening with JWH back fighting fit and partnering with Taukeiaho as the bookends leading the charge.
Man for man in the backs the Roosters look to have a clear edge with the halves of Cronk and Keary now having had a regular season of play together and looking dangerous, whilst Mitchell at centre has been devastating in using his size and speed to overwhelm opposition defensive lines all season. Throw into the mix another couple of large and mobile humans in Tupou / Fergusson with Tedesco roaming around also and you can understand how they ended up minor premiers.
The Roosters are clear title favourites from here for mine and they’ll flex their muscles here against a steady but unspectacular Sharks side. Pick – 3 units on Roosters -4.5 point start
Broncos v Dragons
The dynamics for this game have been thrown out somewhat with the return from injury of Widdup to the Dragons as he was pivotal in their early season success and they’ve been dreadful in his injury absence but he’s a champion and will no doubt make an immediate impact on the Dragons attack here.
With the return of Widdup the Dragons halves all of a sudden look amongst the more dangerous in the play-offs as Hunt and him are capable of rocking any defence; what was also a feature of the early success of the Dragons was just how much their forwards stood up which has been missing in the second half of the season but they’ll be up for this clash.
The Broncos have the home advantage and are at full strength which makes them a very dangerous proposition but they haven’t been the consistent unit we’ve seen in previous seasons, looking very beatable particularly when sides take them on up front and pressure the halves of Nikorima and Milford which is exactly what the Dragons will look to do.
The bookies have the Broncos as the shortest priced favourites of any side in this week one finals, giving the Dragons a close to two converted tries start; I can see the Dragons taking the game to them though and keeping this close. Pick - 3 units on Dragons +10.5 point start
WEEK RESULTS STAKES ROI BEST BET Week Two Finals -7 7 -100% LOST Week One Finals +12.96 12 108% WON Week Twenty-Five -11.27 17 -66% LOST Week Twenty-Four +6.36 15 42% WON Week Twenty-Three +0.54 14 4% LOST Week Twenty-Two +6.11 16 38% LOST Week Twenty-One +10.12 11 92% WON Week Twenty -0.6 14 -4% LOST Week Nineteen +9.02 15 60% WON Week Eighteen -6.32 13 -49% LOST SOO 3 +5.25 4 130% N/A Week Seventeen -7 7 -100% LOST Week Sixteen -1.7 11 -15% LOST Week Fifteen -3.87 17 -23% LOST Week Fourteen +3.44 10 34% WON SOO 1 +3.64 4 91% N/A Week Thirteen -7 7 -100% LOST Week Twelve +6.34 13 49% WON Week Eleven +1.24 15 8% WON Week Ten +3.96 12 33% WON Week Nine +9.67 10 97% WON Week Eight -1.09 13 8% LOST Week Seven +18.27 15 123% WON Week Six -3.51 15 -23% LOST Week Five -3.3 15 -22% LOST Week Four +3.6 11 33% N/A Week Three -7 7 -100% LOST Week Two -4.5 12 -38% LOST Week One -5.27 11 -48% LOST Total +31.09 359 9% 38%