The 2018 NRL Finals are here and we are set for four fascinating games this weekend.
It all gets underway with a potential Grand Final Preview between the Melbourne Storm and the South Sydney Rabbitohs on Friday night and continues until Sunday afternoon when the Brisbane Broncos host the St George Illawarra Dragons.
We have analysed all four games set to take place this weekend and our complete 2018 NRL Finals Week 1 tips can be found below!
Melbourne Storm Vs South Sydney Rabbitohs
Friday 7 September, 7:40pm, AAMI Park
The Storm may have relinquished the minor premiership last weekend, but this is still a very talented outfit that can’t be taken lightly.
We saw last Friday night against the Panthers how vulnerable Melbourne are without some of their biggest playmakers, but they are expected to boast a full squad in their qualifying final against the Rabbitohs and this should see the Storm of old return.
For the Rabbitohs, last week was a chance to regain some much-needed momentum heading into the finals, and the Bunnies did just that against a miserable looking Tigers side.
Souths piled on 51-points against Wests, but more importantly shared the ball around in expert fashion.
Eight different Rabbitohs players cracked the scoreboard, while Damien Cook looked unstoppable.
Speaking of Cook, his match up with Cameron Smith this week is just one minor storyline to watch this week.
The Storm have won four of their last five meetings against the Bunnies, but the Rabbitohs got the better of Craig Bellamy’s side in Round 21, walking away 30-20 victors at home.
A trip to AAMI Park is a much tougher task this week though, especially since South’s have failed to win their last two road games in Brisbane and Canberra.
Still, it appears the bookies aren’t sold on the Storm.
Melbourne have opened at $1.80, while the Bunnies are out to just $2.00.
South Sydney are 0-7 as the underdog vs. Melbourne, and unless Greg Inglis can rewind the clock and produce something brilliant, this looks a bit beyond the Rabbitohs, especially in what could be Billy Slater’s final game in front of the hometown fans.
Tip: Back the Storm 1-12 @ $2.88
Same Game Multi: Storm 1-12, Storm Over 3.5 Tries, Dale Finucane Anytime Try Scorer
Penrith Panthers Vs New Zealand Warriors
Saturday 8 September, 5:30pm, ANZ Stadium
One of these teams is not like the other.
The Warriors look deadly right now, and you could perhaps go as far as saying New Zealand are the most dangerous team in the finals.
Penrith, well last week’s win over an understrength Storm side was nice, but there’s still a lot of questions left to answer after a rocky final eight weeks of the home/away season.
Since this is an elimination final, the Panthers will rest easy knowing they hold home-ground advantage, but that basically means zilch against a team like the Warriors.
Stephen Kearney’s side won eight of their 12 away games during the year, and although the Kiwis open as the underdogs, New Zealand’s 6-1 record as the away underdog over the last 12 months suggests they are the team to back.
Luckily for punters, you don’t have to rewind very far to find the last meeting between these two.
Penrith traveled to Mt. Smart Stadium only a fortnight ago, a game that saw them surrender 36-points in a dismal defensive effort around their own line.
Punters also won’t need a reminder of who led the league in tries during the regular season.
David Fusitu’a has looked even more dangerous over the last month, registering a hat-trick against the Panthers in Round 24, and adding another to his tally last week against the Raiders.
For the Panthers to keep not only Fusitu’a quiet, but also Solomone Kata and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, they’ll have to play the defensive game of their lives.
Penrith have held the upper-hand over New Zealand in recent history, winning three of the last five, but there’s simply too much speed and athleticism between the Warriors back-three for the Panthers to contain this week.
Tip: Back New Zealand Warriors To Win @ $2.15
Same Game Multi: Warriors To Win, Roger Tuivasa-Scheck Anytime Try Scorer, Total Penrith Panthers Points: Under 19.5
Sydney Roosters Vs Cronulla Sharks
Saturday 8 September, 7:40pm, Allianz Stadium
There’s a lot riding on this game for the Roosters.
The minor premiership is safe, but after an expensive offseason of signings, anything less than an actual actual premiership could be deemed as a failure.
You probably can’t say the same for Cronulla.
Nobody expected the Sharks to finish Top 4 this year, but with perhaps the most complete roster in the league, Shane Flanagan’s side are just as good a premiership chance as anybody this month.
Of course, that’s what makes this weekend’s second qualifying final so exciting.
These two sides have met just once this year, a game the Roosters won comfortably 28-10, but after a strong second half to the season, Cronulla are certainly capable of an upset at Allianz.
If the Sharks are to trump the Roosters, they’ll need to squeeze every little bit of their premiership experience into this game.
Cronulla went 5-2 as the away underdog during the regular season, but more importantly, hold a 4-2 record as the away underdog against Sydney.
Not for the first time, this game will come down to the likes of Paul Gallen, and as we all know, he’ll be up for the fight – literally.
The Sharks bullied and outmuscled the Storm at AAMI Park three weeks ago, playing stingy defence and relying on big runs from the likes of Valentine Holmes. That’s the exact game we should expect from Cronulla on Saturday night.
As for the Roosters, there’s plenty of experience on this side, and Cooper Cronk will no doubt have his troops ready for battle.
Still, Sydney have been careless with the footy in recent weeks, and missed tackles against this Sharks side will be costly.
This could easily be the closest game of the weekend, but it’s one the Sharks should win.
Tip: Back the Sharks To Beat The Line (+4.5 Points) @ $1.92
Same Game Multi: Sharks To Win, Valentine Holmes Anytime Try Scorer, First Half Betting: Sydney Roosters
Brisbane Broncos Vs St George Dragons
Sunday 9 September, 4:00pm, Suncorp Stadium
The Dragons enjoyed a cruisy week against the Knights to close out the home/away season, but they had to be watching with bated breath as the Broncos pummeled Manly at home on Sunday afternoon.
Brisbane’s season has been up and down, choc-full of inconsistencies and worrying signs on attack, but it appears coach Wayne Bennett has lit a spark underneath wingers Corey Oates and Jamayne Isaako.
Both of those players figure to give the Dragons headaches this weekend, and in front of what will be a raucous crowd at Suncorp, St. George’s defence is really going to feel the pressure.
The Dragons should find some confidence in the fact captain Gareth Widdop returns to the side, though.
It takes the spotlight off Ben Hunt, but also adds some much needed leadership to a side that is by far the biggest worry of the remaining eight teams.
Head-to-head, the Broncos have won four of the last five meetings between the two, but the Dragons got the upper-hand on Brisbane back in Round 1, opening the season with a 34-12 victory.
Things have changed a lot since then though, and if the Dragons are to repeat their success, they’ll need to find some life on attack, and in particular, the kicking game.
Unfortunately, keeping up with the Broncos fast-paced attack is no easy task, and as if Issako and Oates weren’t scary enough, there’s also players like Anthony Milford to worry about.
We’ve been waiting for the Dragons to revert back to the team they were in May/June for quite some time, but it’s yet to happen.
As for the Broncos, they’ve taken that extra step and now look like a serious contender.
Tip: Back the Broncos 13+ @ $2.10
Same Game Multi: Broncos To Win, Corey Oates Anytime Try Scorer, Under 41.5 Total Match Points
The NRL regular season is in the books and the 2017 NRL Finals get underway this weekend.
The Melbourne Storm won the NRL Minor Premiership in a canter and they are dominant premiership favourites, but anything can happen in the NRL Finals and there are sure to be some surprising results over the next four weeks.
There are four interesting games set to take place this weekend and our complete 2017 NRL Finals Week 1 tips can be found below.
Sydney Roosters Vs Brisbane Broncos
Friday 8 September, 7:55pm, Allianz Stadium
This is a massive game for both these sides as the winner will secure a week off and a direct passage to a preliminary final.
The Sydney Roosters won the most recent game played between these two sides and they will go into this clash as narrow favourites.
Sydney have been far from impressive in recent weeks – they only recorded narrow wins over the Wests Tigers, Cronulla Sharks and Gold Coast Titans – but they are a side that has generally gone to another level when they take on the best sides in the competition.
The Roosters have won nine of their past 11 games as home favourites for a profit, but they are a very poor 3-8 against the line in this scenario.
The Brisbane Broncos secured a top four finish with their win over the North Queensland Cowboys and the Parramatta Eels have been the only side to trouble them over the past couple of months.
Winning away from home has been something of an issue for the Broncos this season and they have won only one of their past five games as away underdogs, but they are 3-1-1 against the line in this scenario.
There really is nothing between these two sides and I expect to see a repeat of the arm-wrestle we saw the last time that they did battle, which makes the Broncos an attractive proposition to beat the line with a start of 3.5 points.
Back Brisbane Broncos To Beat The Line (+3.5 Points)
Melbourne Storm Vs Parramatta Eels
Saturday 9 September, 4:10pm, AAMI Park
The Melbourne Storm are clear NRL Premiership favourites and they are easily the shortest-priced favourites in the NRL this weekend.
Melbourne have not lost a game since they were beaten by the Parramata Eels in July, but they went into that clash without their State Origin stars and a host of other regular starters.
The Storm have taken all their rivals before them this season and it is really tough to envision a scenario in which they don’t make the NRL Grand Final.
Melbourne have won 11 of their past 14 games as home favourites, but they are still only 6-8 against the line in this scenario.
The Parramatta Eels have been something of a revelation in the NRL this season and their only loss in the past two months came at the hands of the Newcastle Knights.
Their massive win over the Brisbane Broncos a fortnight ago showed that they are capable of beating the best teams in the competition and they are a team that should be suited to finals football.
They have won three of their past six games as away underdogs, but they are only 3-3 against the line in this scenario.
This is a game that the market looks to have gotten just about right, but their is still value to be round in the Total Points betting market.
Backing the Under in games involving either of these teams this season has been a winning betting play and that looks unlikely to change in the NRL Finals.
Back Under 38.5 Points
Manly Sea Eagles Vs Penrith Panthers
Saturday 9 September, 7:40pm, Allianz Stadium
This is one of the most interesting games of the weekend.
The Manly Sea Eagles gave the Penrith Panthers an absolute flogging last weekend and it is no surprise that they will go into this clash as clear favourites.
Manly have been one of the trickiest sides in the NRL to get a read on week-to-week – sometimes they look like genuine world-beaters and than produce an absolute stinker the next week.
They have won eight of their past 12 games as favourites, but they are 4-8 against the line in this scenario.
The wheels have fallen off the Panthers wagon in the past fortnight.
Penrith were one of the form teams in the NRL two weeks ago, but they have since suffered two poor defeats and have been plauged by off-field issues surrounding the future of Matt Moylan.
This will be a big test of the mental strength of Penrith, but it does make them a tricky side to analyse from a betting perspective.
They have won only two of their past seven games as underdogs for a loss and their record against the line in this scenario is not much better.
These are two teams that are very tough to trust from a betting standpoint and at this stage I am keen to stay out from a betting perspective.
Cronulla Sharks Vs North Queensland Cowboys
Sunday 10 September, 4:10pm, Allianz Stadium
The two most recent NRL Premiers will do battle in this elimination final.
The Cronulla Sharks have not been particularly impressive in recent weeks, but they will still start this clash with the North Queensland Cowboys as clear favourites.
Cronulla have won the past four games played between these two sides, but they were far from convincing in their two wins over the Cowboys this season.
The Sharks have won only five of their past ten games as home favourites this season and their record against the line in this scenario is a very poor 1-9.
The loss of Johnathan Thurston has really been felt by the Cowboys over the past couple of months and they are lucky to have made the NRL Finals – it was only a St George Illawarra Dragons choke that ensured their presence in September.
While they have won only one of their past six games, the Cowboys have not been disgraced in any of their defeats and it has been a lack of execution inside their own 20 metres that has let them down in recent weeks.
The Cowboys have won only three of their past eight games as away underdogs, but they are an impressive 6-2 against the line in this scenario.
Cronulla are no sure-thing to keep alive their title defence and the Cowboys are a good bet to beat the line with a start of eight points.
Back North Queensland To Beat The Line (+8 Points)
It’s finally here, the 2016 NRL Finals with four scheduled matches in Week 1 including two elimination quarter finals with eight teams still in the hunt for the NRL Premiership.
The NRL finally got rid of the controversial McIntyre system in 2011 and since 2012 they have used this much fairer method, which gives the teams that finish in the top four a genuine advantage.
Everything is on the line in the Brisbane vs Titans clash on Friday night and the Penrith vs Bulldogs do-or-die showdown on Sunday with the losers of each knocked out of the premiership race.
Second plays third in the first on Saturday night with the Raiders hosting the Sharks, before the Minor Premiers Melbourne take on the reigning Premiers North Queensland at AAMI Park – the winners of each earning a week’s rest.
Brisbane Broncos Vs Gold Coast Titans
Friday 9 September, 7:55pm, Suncorp Stadium
Footy finals kick off in a must-win Queensland Derby up in Brisbane with last year’s Grand Final runners-up Brisbane hosting little brothers the Titans in a sure-to-be sell-out at the old Lang Park.
After the good Round 25 win over Melbourne, the Broncos did lots wrong in the first quarter of their final regular season game against the Roosters last Thursday before fighting back to secure fifth spot on the ladder.
The Titans meanwhile play in their second all-Queensland clash in as many weeks after losing 32 – 16 to the Cowboys last week, but secured a spot in the Top 8 after the Tigers were knocked out by the Raiders.
Brisbane chase their sixth win on the trot so have all the momentum going into this and their finals experience far surpasses that of the Gold Coast who make their first post-season appearance since 2010. This is only the third time in club history they’ve qualified for the Finals Series.
The stats are in favour of the Broncos too who have won the past four meetings between these two clubs.
The Titans have won only three times from 16 games played at Suncorp in the NRL era, but can the inclusion of fullback Jarryd Hayne give them a shot at an upset? His errors last week suggest perhaps not.
Add the fact Brisbane have made the second least errors of any club in the comp this season and the Titans are facing an uphill battle to atone for their 40 – 32 loss when the two last met in the finals back in 2009.
Back the Broncos to Win by 6 – 10 points @$5.25
Canberra Raiders Vs Cronulla Sharks
Saturday September 10, 5:35pm, GIO Stadium
The definite surprise package of this season has been Canberra who finished-up second on the ladder and get a chance to progress straight to the preliminary finals with a win over the Sharks here.
The Raiders are in blistering form and chase their 11th straight win when they host Cronulla in the nation’s capital on Saturday evening.
While Canberra come in on the hot streak, finals footy is an all-together different arena pressure wise and how they stack up under that pressure will be key to their chances of getting the week’s rest.
Earlier in the season the Sharks strung together the most wins of any club this year, but heading into the finals they have been on a slippery downward slide and have won just one of their last six matches.
Last week the Storm put 20 points on Cronulla (26 – 6) and the Sharks really need to be improving off that if they don’t want to host a semi-final in Week 2, but they have won both their games played at this venue so they know how to win here.
When these two met last month the Raiders enjoyed a 30 – 14 victory and the odds suggest a similar result on Saturday with Canberra (118) having scored more tries this season than any other club including the Sharks (99).
Canberra also finished up the regular 2016 season with the most line-breaks (124) and try-assists (86), but they will have to watch off-loads from the Sharks who lead their hosts in that department (304 – 233) for the season.
If the Sharks’ backs get back to their early season form they’ll make a game of it, but the Canberra backline is pretty imposing.
Wait to hear whether Raiders fullback Jack Wighton survives the NRL judiciary on Tuesday night, but even so the club are looking hard to stop.
Raiders to Beat The Line (-2.5 @ $1.92)
Melbourne Storm Vs North Queensland Cowboys
Saturday September 10, 7:55pm, AAMI Park
In Round 26 the Storm wrapped-up the 2016 Minor Premiership with their big win over the Sharks and they now get to play at home in Melbourne on Saturday night taking on the Cows in what many are tipping as a Grand Final preview.
North Queensland also enjoyed a confidence-boosting 32 – 16 win over the Titans last week, but their rivals in Week 1 will be tougher to beat as they’ve discovered over the season losing both their previous 2016 games to the Storm.
No club has secured back-to-back Premierships in the NRL era (since 1998), with the last team to do it being Brisbane (1997-1998) with their first under the Super League.
But it’s not the NRL Grand Final yet and North Queensland are looking for the away win here to get next week off before popping back up in the prelims in a fortnight.
The stats between these two clubs for the season are tightly matched including: Tries (Cowboys 98 – Storm 97); Line Breaks (Storm 113 – Cowboys 108); and Try Assists (Storm 81 – Cowboys 76).
The Storm’s defence last week though was some of their best of the season and if they can build on that, they can salute for the punters on Saturday adding to their imposing 22 – 10 head-to-head winning form over NQ.
That said, the North Queensland boys never go down without a fight and their outsider’s price in betting looks the best value of the week.
Back the Cowboys to Win @ $2.10
Penrith Panthers Vs Canterbury Bulldogs
Sunday September 11, 4:10pm, Allianz Stadium
The second Week 1 knock-out has the sixth-placed Penrith club taking on the seventh-ranked Bulldogs at Allianz where there is real no genuine “home advantage” between these two in a rematch of the 2014 preliminary finals.
The Panthers finished off the regular season on a high with their 36 – 6 win over Manly, while Canterbury left lots to be desired going down 28 – 10 to the out-of-form Rabbitohs.
Momentum can be key heading into the finals, and that is firmly on Penrith’s side here.
The poor recent defensive efforts from the Dogs of late has seen them lose their last three straight games and has them as underdogs in betting up against the Panthers who chase their sixth win on the trot.
The stats show Canterbury have won three of the past four games played between these two, but form franks figures in this one especially with the Dogs still without the injured Sam Perrett (neck).
Penrith to Beat The Line (-5.5 @ $1.90)