There are only four teams left in the 2018 NRL Premiership race and we are in for two outstanding Preliminary Finals this weekend.
The Cronulla Sharks may be the only team in the NRL that have the wood over the Melbourne Storm and there will be nothing between those two sides on Friday night, while the oldest rivalry in the game continues on Saturday night as the Sydney Roosters take on the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
Which two sides will meet in the 2018 NRL Grand Final? We have closely analysed both games and our complete 2018 NRL Preliminary Finals tips can be found below!
Friday 21 September, 7.40pm, AAMI Park
At home, of course the Storm are favourites, but just what can this Cronulla side bring to the table on Friday night?
Luckily for punters, you don’t have to rewind very far to find the Sharks last win at AAMI Park.
These two met in Round 22, a game Cronulla won 17-14 in wet conditions.
There’s a lot we took away from that game, in particular the Sharks wherewithal to roughen up the Storm with hard hitting tackles and plenty of wide attacking play to stretch the Storm’s defence.
Cronulla also handed Melbourne a defeat back in Round 4, and there was of course the small matter of the 2016 Grand Final, a game the Sharks won in equally gutsy fashion 14-12.
The Storm boast a full-strength side this week, but given their recent history against Cronulla, it’s safe to say this game has developed into a heated rivalry.
Melbourne are 11-3 at home as the head-to-head favourite this season, but more importantly, the Sharks are a so-so 4-4 as the away underdog.
With Billy Slater potentially playing his last game, this is one the Storm should be up for, however there is one other talented fullback taking the field this week: Valentine Holmes.
The gun 23-year old scored a crucial try during the Sharks win last month, and the battle between the two Queensland representatives should prove to be a fascinating watch.
As far as the winner goes, it’s really going to come down to who can play disciplined footy.
The Sharks gave up 12 penalties back in Round 22, while the Storm committed 11 ball-handling errors.
If Cronulla can show up and rattle the Storm with some big hits from the likes of Paul Gallen, the Sharks should take the crowd out of this game.
A week off can be great for some teams and dangerous for others, it’s up to the Sharks to make the Storm nervous early.
Tip: Back the Sharks 1-12 @ $4.00
Same Game Multi: Sharks To Win, First Team to Score a Try: Sharks, Edrick Lee Anytime Try Scorer
South Sydney Rabbitohs
Saturday 22 September, 7.40pm, Allianz Stadium
Likewise, the Roosters and the Rabbitohs are pretty familiar with each other, having last met in Round 22.
Sydney pinched that game by four-points, while the Bunnies got the edge on the tri-colours earlier in the season back in Round 6.
The common theme in both of those meetings has been the battle for possession, which for the Roosters, could spell bad news this week.
Despite the close scoreline, South Sydney looked in total control during last week’s one-point win over the Dragons, particularly in the second half.
Scoring a try in the 55th minute, Adam Reynolds was huge for the Bunnies, also nailing all three of his set-shots.
Reynolds’ strong form should be a worrying sign for the Roosters, however their head-to-head record suggests otherwise.
Owning an 8-4 record, Sydney have been impressive as the home favourites this year, while the Rabbitohs have posted a dismal 1-3 record as the away underdog.
Since we’re talking numbers, the Roosters will also have to make do without centre Latrell Mitchell this week.
The Origin star was ruled out following his crusher tackle during the Sharks win a week ago, leaving Sydney without one of their biggest on-field leaders in the middle alongside suspended front-rower Dylan Napa.
On the other hand, the Rabbitohs boast a completely fit and healthy squad this week, and it’s now up to Reynolds to take care of the Roosters other key leader, Cooper Cronk.
With a hard fought, gutsy win over the Dragons last week, the Rabbitohs look like the dark horse out of the four remaining teams.
We can’t forget how easily they piled on the points three weeks ago against the Tigers, a theme we saw on numerous occasions during the year.
It’s up to Reynolds, Greg Inglis and Damien Cook now to lead their team all the way.
Tip: Back the Rabbitohs To Win @ $2.15
Same Game Multi: Rabbitohs To Win, Adam Reynolds Anytime Try Scorer, Total Match Points: 21-30
There are now only four teams left in contention for the 2017 NRL Premiership and we are set for two outstanding Preliminary Finals this weekend.
The Melbourne Storm have been the best side in the NRL all season long and they will go into their Friday Night Clash with the Brisbane Broncos as clear favourites, while the North Queensland Cowboys are clear outsiders to continue their fairytale run through the 2017 NRL Finals.
Which two teams will meet in the 2017 NRL Grand Final? We have analysed both games and our 2017 Preliminary Finals tips can be found below.
Friday 22 September, 7.55pm, AAMI Park
Melbourne Storm 30 - Brisbane Broncos 0
The Melbourne Storm have set the benchmark all season long in the NRL and they are clear favourites to dominate for yet another Grand Final.
Melbourne have not lost a game with their full-strength team since their shock defeat at the hands of the Gold Coast Titans in round 10 and they head into this preliminary final on an eight-game winning streak.
The Storm have had the measure of the majority of teams in the NRL in recent history, but this is especially the case with the Brisbane Broncos.
Melbourne have won six of the past eight games played between these two sides and the Storm beat the Broncos by 30 points when they met at Suncorp Stadium in June.
They have won 11 of their past 14 games as home favourites for a clear profit, but they are only 5-9 against the line in this scenario and the Parramatta Eels showed that they are not invincible.
The Brisbane Broncos have qualified for the preliminary finals, but it is fair to say that they have not been particularly impressive over the last month.
Brisbane were lucky to get as close as they did when they went down to the Sydney Roosters in their qualifying final and they did enough to beat the Penrith Panthers last weekend, but didn’t put them away when they had the chance to ice the game in the second half.
The Broncos will take confidence from the fact that they beat Melbourne in Melbourne in both 2015 and 2016 and they will be buoyed by the return of captain Darius Boyd.
Brisbane have won only one of their past five games as away underdogs, but they are 4-1 against the line in this scenario and they have generally not been disgraced on the road.
There is no doubt that Melbourne will be incredibly tough to beat, but it would not surprise if this game was closer than the market expects and the Broncos are a good bet to beat the line with a healthy start.
Back Brisbane To Beat The Line (+10.5 Points)
North Queensland Cowboys
Saturday 23 September, 7.40pm, Allianz Stadium
Sydney Roosters 16 - North Queensland Cowboys 29
The North Queensland Cowboys have made plenty of fans with their tough NRL Finals run to date, but the market suggests that their season will come to an end at the hands of the Sydney Roosters on Saturday night.
The Sydney Roosters earnt their place in the preliminary final with their late win over the Brisbane Broncos in the first week of the NRL Finals and their performance in that game was better than the final scoreline suggested.
They have won their past four games by less than a converted try and have played some inconsistent rugby league in that time, but they do look like a side that can go to another level when challenged by the best teams in the competition.
The Roosters have won four of their past five games against the Cowboys and they have not lost to their preliminary finals rival in Sydney since 2012.
They have won ten of their past 12 games as home favourites for a profit this season, but interestingly they are only 3-9 against the line in this scenario.
Even if wasn’t for a meltdown from the St George Illawarra Dragons, the Cowboys would not even be in the NRL Finals but they have taken advantage of their opportunity with two impressive performances.
The Cowboys showed plenty of toughness and grit to beat the Cronulla Sharks in their Elimination Final clash and that was present against the Parramatta Eels as well, but it was combined with some classy rugby league.
Michael Morgan has gone to another level since Johnathan Thurston was ruled out for the rest of the season and if Morgan, Lachlan Coote, Jake Granville and Jason Taumalolo all fire the Cowboys are capable of beating any team in this competition.
North Queensland have now won five of their past ten games as away underdogs for a bit profit and they are a most impressive 8-2 against the line in this scenario.
The Cowboys go into this clash with a genuine chance to record another upset win and they are a great bet to cover the line with a start of eight points.
Back North Queensland To Beat The Line (+8 Points)
It has been a truly fascinating season in the NRL and there are intriguing storylines surrounding all four sides that remain in premiership contention.
The North Queensland Cowboys kept alive their chances of winning back-to-back premierships with their incredible golden point victory over the Brisbane Broncos and they face a Cronulla Sharks outfit that is desperate to deliver the club a maiden premiership.
Melbourne remain premiership favourites, but they must see off a Canberra Raiders outfit that is playing a scintillating brand of football.
Both preliminary finals are set to be fascinating betting affairs and you can find our tips for both games below!
North Queensland Cowboys
Friday 23 September, 7.55pm, Allianz Stadium
Cronulla may have the home ground advantage, but it is the North Queensland Cowboys that will start this preliminary final as favourites.
North Queensland bounced back from their poor effort against the Melbourne Storm to beat the Brisbane Broncos in another golden point thriller and once again they were able to show an incredible amount of composure during key moments.
The scary thing for the Sharks is that the Cowboys were not anywhere close to their best against the Broncos and it is highly unlikely that fullback Lachlan Coote will play as badly as he did last Friday night.
North Queensland will start this clash as favourites, but they have proven to be an inconsistent outfit away from home this season.
They have won just five of their ten games as away favourites this season and they have won just six of their past 15 games not in front of their home fans.
Cronulla earnt their week off with a fighting victory over the Canberra Raiders in the opening weekend of the finals.
The Sharks play the sort of grinding rugby league that is perfect for the finals and it is very easy to see them frustrating the Cowboys in this clash.
Paul Gallen will be back after missing the first week of the finals, but the big question will be whether coach Stuart Flanagan selects Chad Townsend.
Flanagan benched Townsend during the first week of the finals and there is little doubt that they played better rugby league without him on the paddock.
Cronulla have been nothing short of outstanding with the home ground advantage this season and they still have that despite the fact that this game will be played at Shark Park.
The Sharks may never have a better opportunity to win a maiden NRL Premiership and they are a good bet to keep their chances alive on Friday night.
Back Cronulla To Win @ $2.15
Saturday 24 September, 7.40pm, AAMI Park
What a game this clash will be!
Many experts were quick to write the Melbourne Storm off at the start of the NRL season, but they have been nothing short of outstanding in 2016 and they will start this preliminary final as clear favourites.
Melbourne are another side that play a style of football that is perfect for the finals and they were too consistent for the Cowboys in the first week of the finals.
They will take a similar conservative game-plan into this clash with the Raiders and it could be the perfect counter to a Canberra outfit that does not have a great deal of big-game experience.
Melbourne have been very tough to beat in front of their home fans this season and they have won 10 of their past 12 games as home favourites, while they are 6-6 against the line in this scenario.
Canberra have truly been a revelation in 2016 and the club is now one game away from their first Grand Final since 1994.
The Raiders lacked composure at key times during their qualifying final loss at the hands of Cronulla, but they were always in control against Penrith last Saturday night,
This is a team that is playing with a great deal of confidence and they have a number of genuine game-breakers that are more than capable of turning a game on its head in just a single play.
Canberra have proven to be a winning betting proposition as away underdogs this season and they have an excellent record of 5-1 against the line in this situation.
I have no doubt that this match will be closer than the current betting market suggests and I am keen to back the Raiders with a start of 7.5 points.
Back Canberra To Beat The Line (+7.5 Points)