The following are previews with betting tips for Finals Week One of the 2017 NRL season.
Roosters v Broncos
Fri Sep 8, 7:55pm, Allianz Stadium
Week one of the NRL finals will begin with a titanic clash between the Roosters and Broncos this Friday night. Both teams have been well below their best at some stages this year, particularly heading into the play-offs. The Broncos seemed recovered from their terrible round 25 loss to the Eels with a defensively sound win against the Cowboys last week, while the Roosters produced an unconvincing win against the Titans in their last game.
The Broncos will shift Kodi Nikorima to fullback to cover the injured Darius Boyd, with Benji Marshall moving to the halves. Jai Arrow and David Mead will join the bench to cover hamstring injuries to Boyd and Tevita Pangai Jr. For the Roosters, Dylan Napa and Aidan Guerra will return to the starting line-up in a huge boost for the Sydney club.
Each team will be disappointed with their form heading into this match. The result will largely rely on each team’s response to the pressure of finals football. Expect a brutal contest between the all-star forward packs but the loss of Darius Boyd and the disturbance of their halves will hurt the Broncos execution enormously. Expect the Chooks to get the points.
Betting Tip: Roosters Head to Head @ $1.60 (Sportsbet)
Storm v Eels
Sat Sep 9, 4:10 pm, AAMI Park
Week one of the finals just keeps getting better with Saturday’s clash between the Storm and Eels shaping to be an intense, physical contest, the result of which is far from certain. The Eels have been in wonderful form heading into the finals, with their last start victory over the Rabbitohs elevating them into the top four. The Storm have similarly been in top form with big wins over the Rabbitohs and Raiders in their last two matches.
The Eels have named the same squad that took the field against Souths in round 26, while the Storm will welcome Dale Finucane and Tim Glasby back into their forward rotation in a big boost for the Victorian club’s pack.
The Eels may be one of the only teams in the competition with the physicality to dominate the Storm. They will struggle to compete with Melbourne’s execution as the Parramatta club faces the Queensland spine – but expect the no-mistake discipline of the Victorians to give them the edge. Melbourne to get the win.
Betting Tip: Eels +12.5 @ $1.93 (Bet365)
Sea Eagles v Panthers
Sat Sep 9, 7:40pm, Allianz Stadium
The Panthers will take on Manly this Saturday night in a bizarre scheduling coincidence that will see these teams face each-other for the second consecutive week. Their last start clash in round 26 resulted in a comprehensive 28-12 victory for Manly and the Panthers’ coaching staff will be desperately doing homework on their opposition to swing the result in a different direction.
Both teams have elected to go into the match unchanged from last week with Panthers’ captain Matt Moylan still a noticeable omission after he was granted compassionate leave. With rumours circulating of a rift between Moylan and coach Anthony Griffin, the Panthers will be looking to eject their off-field distractions as they look to make week two of the play-offs.
The 28-12 score-line last week is extremely flattering to the Panthers with their two tries coming as a consolation in the last five minutes. The Panthers defence has been an area of concern for the club and don’t expect miraculous improvement over so short a period. Manly’s attacking potency will give them the edge but their stout defence they put on show last week will prove the difference. Sea Eagles to get the win.
Betting Tip: Sea Eagles -4.5 @ $1.95 (Unibet)
Sharks v Cowboys
Sun Sep 10, 4:10 pm, Allianz Stadium
Week one of the finals will finish with the Cowboys taking on the Sharks in Sydney on Sunday night as the respective 2015 and 2016 premiers look to win the competition from outside the top eight. The Cowboys were outclassed by the Broncos in a 20-10 loss last week as their massive injury-ward continues to impact their execution and consistency. Their opposition in the Sharks will be far more confident going into the match after barely missing the top four by only two premiership points.
The Cowboys have named an unchanged squad for the clash, while the Sharks will welcome back Jack Bird and Wade Graham in a massive boost for the reigning premiers.
The Sharks will go into the match as heavy favourites against a vulnerable North Queensland side. However, Cronulla must be cautious of complacency with the players’ focus likely to drift toward the long road to the grand-final, but expect coach Shane Flanagan to have his men on-song as they look to go back-to-back. Sharks to get the win.
Betting Tip: Sharks -8.0 @ $1.92 (Crownbet)
Sea Eagles -4.5 @ $1.95 (Unibet)