We were treated to some outstanding contests in the opening weekend of the 2018 NRL Finals and the two games this weekend are set to be just as intriguing.
The action begins on Friday night when the Cronulla Sharks take on the Penrith Panthers in the first ever finals meeting between the two sides before the South Sydney Rabbitohs face a rejuvenated St George Illawarra Dragons outfit on Saturday.
We have analysed both games set to take place this weekend and our complete 2018 NRL Semi Finals tips can be found below.
Cronulla Sharks Vs Penrith Panthers
Friday 14 September, 7.40pm, Allianz Stadium
Things started clicking fast for the Sharks last week, as Sosaia Feki put one down in the corner inside the first five minutes of the game.
After such promise though, Cronulla fell away from there on out, allowing two unanswered tries to the Roosters to lead at the half.
The Sharks had plenty of chances, but Sydney did a great job of stretching Cronulla’s attack, limiting them to very few opportunities on the wing.
The end result was a 21-12 loss after Luke Lewis dropped an absolute sitter over the line.
As for the Panthers, their win over the Warriors was nothing short of dominant.
Tyrone Peachey was the difference, scoring two tries within a ten minute span during the first half, while Nathan Cleary was a deadeye dick in front of goals.
For what will be a worrying sign for Sharks coach Shane Flanagan, Penrith were exceptionally precise with their passes and also managed to win the field position battle with some well-timed kicks.
So what does that say about Friday night’s fixture?
Having won five straight dating back to 2016, recent history tells us the Sharks are good for a bounce-back, but they’ll certainly have their work cut out for them against this rejuvenated Penrith side.
Cronulla enter at the shorter odds, which is good news for punters considering the Sharks are 4-1 as the home favourite against the Panthers, however they’ll need to knuckle down defensively if they are to win this.
If anything was evident last week, it was Cronulla’s weakness defending the kick.
The Roosters chose their moments sparingly, but when they layed down a couple of grubbers, both led to scoring chances.
The Sharks will also need to tighten up with their tackling. Cronulla missed 34 tackles last week, but more importantly committed 10 crucial penalties.
Still, this has been the story of Cronulla’s season – average one week, dazzling the next. It’s worth remembering the Roosters are the classiest side in the competition right now, and despite the scoreline, the Sharks were in the game right up until the 75-minute mark.
Expect a bounce back this week from the heavy favourites. There’s simply too much experience in this Sharks outfit to die quietly.
Tip: Back the Sharks 13+ @ $3.60
Same Game Multi: Sharks To Win, Sharks Over 3.5 Tries, Josh Dugan Anytime Try Scorer
South Sydney Rabbitohs Vs St George Illawarra Dragons
Saturday 15 September, 7.40pm, ANZ Stadium
Were the Storm too good or were the Bunnies not good enough last week?
Perhaps a bit of both, but one thing is for sure, the Rabbitohs are still one of the most dangerous sides left in the finals hunt this season.
Right on time, Greg Inglis showed up last week, crossing the line twice on each side of half time, while Damien Cook was special once again playing on Cameron Smith.
If it wasn’t for Adam Reynolds’s horror night in front of the posts, Souths would have won this game, but Anthony Seibold’s team didn’t die wondering as they threw everything they had at the Storm in the final ten-minutes.
The Dragons, well where do you begin?
After a season that began so brightly only to be muddled with inconsistencies, St. George looked like their old selves last week at Suncorp.
The ‘Red V’ fans turned up in force, and so did second-rower Tariq Sims – the big 28-year old managed a hat-trick against the dumbfounded Broncos.
Perhaps the most impressive sign from the Dragons though, was their creativity with the ball.
They kept Brisbane guessing, and more importantly missing tackles around their own line.
It’s safe to say if the Dragons play like that again this week, they’ll be tough to beat.
The Rabbitohs have won three of the last five meetings between these two, and somehow come in well under the odds at $1.25 despite St. George’s return to form.
Perhaps the bookies have been paying close attention to the head-to-head record between these two clubs.
The Dragons are a miserable 1-4 against the Bunnies as the away underdog, while the Rabbitohs have been good, but not unbeatable at 5-3 as the overall home favourite this season.
Much of this game is likely going to come down to defence, and with the Dragons ranking second in the league in missed tackle and the Rabbitohs ranking first in points scored during the regular season, you don’t have to be a genius to realise that doesn’t spell a close game.
With Gareth Widdop back in the side last week, the Dragons looked reborn again, but an unlucky shoulder dislocation has cost the captain a date with a surgeon and the end to his season.
It’s a big loss for St. George, and with their main leader off the field, the Bunnies should run rampant.
Tip: Back South Sydney 1-12 @ $2.90
Same Game Multi: South Sydney 1-12, Under 7.5 Total Match Tries, Dane Gagai Anytime Try Scorer, Timoteo Lafai Anytime Try Scorer
How good was the opening weekend of the 2017 NRL Finals!
All four games were genuine thrillers and we are set for two more outstanding games this weekend as the Brisbane Broncos host the Penrith Panthers and the Parramatta Eels do battle with the North Queensland Cowboys.
We had three wins from our four tips in the opening weekend of the NRL Finals and we are confident that winning record will continue in our 2017 NRL Semi Finals tips.
Brisbane Broncos Vs Penrith Panthers
Friday 15 September, 7.55pm, Suncorp Stadium
The Brisbane Broncos return to Suncorp Stadium and they will start this clash with the Penrith Panthers as clear favourites.
Brisbane did not play at anywhere near their best against the Sydney Roosters, but they still almost came away with the win.
There is no doubt that they miss the structure that Darius Boyd gives them and there is every possible chance that he will be cleared to take his place in the Broncos side this weekend.
Brisbane recorded a dominant win over Penrith when these two sides met earlier this season and the home side has won seven of the past eight games played between these two sides.
The Broncos have won nine of their past 11 games as home favourites for a clear profit this season, but they are only 5-1-5 against the line in this scenario.
It has been a tough fortnight for the Panthers, but they bounced back to a semblance of their best form to beat the Manly Sea Eagles – with some help from The Bunker.
Penrith will still need to improve on that effort to have any chance of beating the Broncos, but their recent record against the Broncos would inspire some confidence.
The Panthers have won three of their past seven games as away underdogs for a profit, but they are only 3-4 against the line in this scenario.
This is a game that Brisbane really should win, but there is no real value at their current quote and we have to dive a little bit deeper to find a betting play.
Recent meetings between these two sides have served up some high-scoring games and the Total Points betting market of 37.5 points does not look like enough – this total has been beaten in five of the past six games played between these sides.
The Over has saluted in nine of the past 12 games played by the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium and that record should improve again on Friday night.
Back Over 37.5 Points
Parramatta Eels Vs North Queensland Cowboys
Saturday 16 September, 7.40pm, ANZ Stadium
The Parramatta Eels were desperately unlucky not to beat the Melbourne Storm last weekend and they will start this clash with the North Queensland Cowboys as clear favourites.
Parramatta had every right to be feel hard done by after a couple of refereeing decisions went against them against the Storm last Saturday afternoon, but that performance did show that they are capable of competing with the very best teams in the NRL.
The form of the Eels should not be understated – they have won nine of their past 11 games and those wins do include a couple of big scalps.
Parramatta have won six of their past eight games as home favourites for a profit, but they are only 3-1-4 against the line in this scenario.
The Cowboys looked in massive trouble in the early stages of their clash with the Cronulla Sharks and finding the try line seemed just about impossible.
A mentally weaker side would have been blown off the park by the Sharks, but the Cowboys hung tough and they were rewarded with a thrilling golden-point win.
North Queensland played well when it mattered, but ball security let them down throughout their elimination final clash and they will need to play much better to have any chance of beating the Eels.
The Cowboys did beat the Eels comfortably in their most recent fixture, but they had Johnathan Thurston in the side that evening and they were handily beaten by the Eels when they met earlier in the season.
North Queensland have won four of their past past nine games as away underdogs for a big profit and they are a very impressive 7-2 against the line in this scenario.
Parramatta deserve to go into this clash as favourites, but there is not as much between them as the current betting market suggests and the Cowboys are a nice bet to cover the line.
Back North Queensland To Beat The Line (+7.5 Points)
This is the second week of the NRL Finals and there are two massive games set to take place this weekend.
There will be no repeat of the all-Queensland Grand that we saw last year as both the North Queensland Cowboys and Brisbane Broncos will do battle this weekend to keep their title chances alive.
The Penrith Panthers are arguably the form team in the NRL and they have an excellent opportunity to progress to the Grand Final Qualifier when they face an injury-hit Canberra Raiders.
You can find out thoughts and betting recommendations for both games below.
North Queensland Cowboys Vs Brisbane Broncos
Friday 16 September, 7.55pm, 1300Smiles Stadium
It is on again – the North Queensland Cowboys vs the Brisbane Broncos in an NRL Finals showdown.
It is now no secret that the past three games played between these two sides have been decided by a single point, but this will also be the third season in a row that North Queensland have taken on Brisbane in the finals.
Finals history is against Brisbane as they have lost their five previous finals clashes with North Queensland and it is the Cowboys that will start this clash as clear favourites.
North Queensland were very close to stealing a win over the Melbourne Storm in the qualifying final, but it is fair to say that the Cowboys would not have deserved the victory.
The Cowboys did not control the football, were ill-disciplined and their kicking game was poor – it is amazing that they only lost by a converted try.
The fact that this game is being played in Townsville in what is highly likely to be dry conditions is a big positive for the Cowboys.
North Queensland have won all 12 of their games as home favourites this season – with their only defeat at home coming when Johnathan Thurston was out with a hamstring injury – and they are a most impressive 9-3 against the line in this scenario.
The Broncos scored a big win over the Gold Coast Titans in the elimination final, but there was not a great deal to like about the performance.
A number of refereeing decisions went the way of the Broncos and their defense was very poor throughout.
If the Broncos produce a similar performance against the Cowboys, Thurston will tear them to shreds.
Brisbane have only played three games as away underdogs this season and they were able to win one, while they are 3-1 this season when giving away a start.
I don’t think that there will be only one point in this contest – a firing North Queensland can maintain their stellar record over the Broncos and keep alive their chances of becoming the first side to win back-to-back premierships in the NRL era.
Back The North Queensland Cowboys To Beat The Line (-5.5 Points)
Canberra Raiders Vs Penrith Panthers
Saturday 17 September, 7.45, GIO Stadium
The Canberra Raiders and Penrith Panthers have been the two big improvers in 2016 and this will be a truly fascinating clash.
Canberra will rue an opportunity that go away against Cronulla.
They stormed out to an early lead and looked as though they were going to put a score on their rivals, but a lack of composure at key moments cost them badly and they lost star hooker Josh Hodgson in the process.
Canberra will still go into this game as favourites, but that could change if Blake Austin is unable to make his return from injury.
The Raiders have proven to be a very safe betting play at home and they have won nine of their 11 games as home favourites this season, while they are a non-profitable 5-6 against the line in this scenario.
Penrith made it six victories on the trot with their win over the Canterbury Bulldogs and they did so in truly emphatic fashion.
There has been plenty to like about the rugby league that the Panthers have played in the past month and they will take plenty of confidence into this showdown.
Penrith will go into this game with what is a full-strength them and their record as underdogs this season has been excellent – they have won three of their seven games as away underdogs for a healthy profit and they are 5-2 against the line in this situation.
The loss of Hodgson will be crucial for the Raiders – they lost their way when he went off the field against Cronulla – and the Panthers are a great bet to keep alive their scintillating season.
Back The Penrith Panthers To Win @ $2