Previews with betting tips for the NRL Qualifying & Elimination Finals.
Roosters v Storm
Fri 11 Sep, 7:55 pm, Allianz Stadium
The Sydney Roosters will take on the Melbourne Storm this Friday night in a top four clash to start the 2015 NRL finals series. The Storm put their inconsistency of this year behind them last week with a gritty win over the 2nd-placed Broncos to clinch a top four berth. With a side extremely experienced in finals football, Craig Bellamy’s men will be out to prove they still have what it takes to win a competition.
The Roosters are the Premiership favourites for good reason. The loss of Mitchell Pearce and Jarred Waerea-Hargreaves had little effect on the Chooks’ momentum with over a dozen consecutive wins to their name.
Both sides have named unchanged teams for this clash.
It will be an interesting matchup between two sides with different strengths. Both teams are missing key players from their spines but expect the Storm to capitalise on the composure of Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith in a measured performance. Melbourne will look to contain the Roosters intimidating forward rotation in the ruck, while the Roosters will be looking to execute a faster paced, more free flowing game-plan. Unless the Storm can force the Roosters’ halves to have a shocker as they did with Brisbane’s Anthony Milford last week, expect the Roosters to come away with the points.
Ben’s Best Bet: Total Match Points Under 35.5 @ $1.90 (Sportsbet)
Bulldogs v Dragons
Sat 12 Sep, 5:50 pm, ANZ Stadium
The Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs will take on the St George Illawarra Dragons this Saturday night as the ‘Dogs narrowly missed a top four berth after the Storm beat the Broncos last week. The Bulldogs have won their last five matches as they go into the finals with a lot of momentum, while the Dragons have produced inconsistent performances leading up to the play-offs.
For the Bulldogs, Brett Morris returns at Fullback after being rested at the expense of Chase Stanley, while the Dragons have named an unchanged squad from the side that beat the Tigers last week.
The Dragons were in a phenomenal position earlier in the season, but their second half was rife with inconsistency and poor form. Still missing Gareth Widdop, expect the Dragons’ confidence to be down against an enthusiastic Bulldogs side. The Bulldogs have put together a dangerous squad in their last month in the absence of Trent Hodkinson and Michael Lichaa.
The Bulldogs will rightly go into this match as heavy favourites and with a dominant forward rotation, they will look to smash the vulnerable Dragons out of the finals. Only a hairs-breadth from making the top four, the Bulldogs should come away with the win.
Ben’s Best Bet: Bulldogs -10.0 @ $1.88 (Luxbet)
Broncos v Cowboys
Sat 12 Sep, 7:55 pm, Suncorp Stadium
The Brisbane Broncos will take on the North Queensland Cowboys this Saturday night in a massive top-four Queensland derby to kickstart the finals series. In a clash between 3rd and 4th, this match will decide which Queensland club reigns supreme as both clubs are in a great position to win the competition.
The Broncos will be bolstered by the return of Halfback Ben Hunt, who was sorely missed against the Storm last week, while Second-Rower Alex Glenn will also be a valuable inclusion to protect Anthony Milford after he was successfully targeted last week by the Storm.
For the Cowboys, Five-Eighth Michael Morgan returns for the Cowboys. Morgan will be a massive inclusion and take a lot of pressure off superstar Jonathan Thurston.
Form rarely matters in Queensland derbies with the Cowboys and Broncos natural rivalry. Expect the return of Ben Hunt and Alex Glenn to improve the Broncos after their loss to the Storm last week. While the Cowboys will be a major threat, the Cowboys have been disjointed of late so expect the Broncos home-ground advantage to play into their hands in a tight match.
Ben’s Best Bet: Broncos -3.5 @ $1.93 (Pinnacle Sports)
Sharks v Rabbitohs
Sun 13 Sep, 4:10 pm, Allianz Stadium
The Cronulla Sharks will play the South Sydney Rabbitohs this Sunday afternoon as the Cronulla club capped a remarkable rise from the bottom of the ladder with a disappointing loss against Manly last week to miss out on a top four spot. It was a disappointing finish to a fantastic season for the Sharks, who remain one of the form teams going into the finals, despite the loss.
The Rabbitohs will be reeling after back to back floggings at the hands of the Broncos and Roosters would have shaken their confidence, as they lose Prop George Burgess to suspension for 2 weeks. Also, the return of Greg Inglis will be a big in for the struggling club.
For the Sharks, Matt Prior and Tinirau Arona are relegated to an extended bench for Andrew Fifita and Ben Barba.
While Greg Inglis is a big in for the Rabbitohs, the injection of Ben Barba and Andrew Fifita for the Sharks will be massive against the reigning Premiers minus George Burgess. The Rabbitohs have struggled under the pressure of defending their title in the second half of the season, so expect the Sharks to capitalise on the shell-shocked Rabbits to come away with the win.
Ben’s Best Bet: Sharks -2.5 @ $1.92 (Ladbrokes)