The following are previews with betting tips for the Preliminary Finals of the 2018 NRL season.
Storm v Sharks
Fri, Sep 21, 7:40pm
In the penultimate round of the NRL finals series, fans will be treated to a rematch of the 2016 Grand Final between arch-rivals in Melbourne and Cronulla. Despite the Storm’s freakish success in recent years, the Sharks have proven to be the club’s Achilles heel with their physicality often knocking the typically unflappable Victorians off their game.
Melbourne showed enormous class in a field-goal victory over the Rabbitohs in week one of the finals series and will be thankful for their rest after facing a mounting injury toll at the end of the regular season. Meanwhile, the Sharks defended a relentless Panthers comeback in a field-goal victory last week after losing to the Roosters in the first week of the play-offs.
Melbourne will welcome back Will Chambers in a massive boost, particularly to their edge-defense. Ryan Hoffman and Nelson Asofa-Solomona will also join the bench in a welcome injection of power and experience. Cronulla have named an unchanged squad but Josh Dugan is still a chance of making a return, with Paul Gallen also under an injury cloud.
Melbourne’s week-off, as well as returning key-players will see them installed as favourites, but Cronulla will be quietly confident heading into the game. Dominance through physical, hard-hitting defense is Cronulla’s blueprint to knock Melbourne’s superstars off their game but both teams have the experience and discipline to bring their best performance for 80-minutes. Expect a battle of attrition between these two teams with fatigue to play a massive part in the outcome. Could go either way but the Storm have a huge advantage after winning their first finals game and expect it to show at the back end of each half. Melbourne should take the win to become grand-finalists in consecutive seasons.
Betting Tip: Sharks +8.5 @ $1.92 (Ladbrokes)
Roosters v Rabbitohs
Sat, Sep 22, 7:40pm
Hollywood script-writers would struggle to emulate the drama of this year’s finals series with both games to decide the 2018 grand-finalists set to take place between arch-rivals. Both elimination semi-finals matches last week were decided by a field-goal with Souths’ halfback Adam Reynolds kicking three against the Dragons in the last 10 minutes to secure a preliminary finals date with the Roosters.
The ‘Chooks’ impressed against the Sharks two weeks ago as star recruit Cooper Cronk’s class looks to be making a massive difference to his club, particularly in critical high-pressure moments. They will take advantage from a rest last week but face a Rabbitohs outfit who have revolutionized their style of play in 2018 through their massive forward rotation and dominance of the ruck.
South Sydney have recovered from a late-season injury crisis to name an unchanged squad. Meanwhile, the Roosters have lost Latrell Mitchell to suspension with Mitch Aubusson shifting to the centres as Nat Butcher joins the bench.
The tri-colours will enter the game as favourites and will hope their opposition are put off their game by the media scrutiny over an alleged ‘sexting’ scandal surrounding superstar Sam Burgess. Expect Burgess to bounce-back after a relatively quiet performance last week as the Rabbitohs will look to emulate the dominance they consistently displayed throughout this season to make their first grand final appearance since 2014.
This contest will be decided in the ruck with both teams possessing speed-men who will capitalize on any quick play-the-balls or sloppy defense at marker. The Rabbitohs will be confident of their forward rotations’ ascendancy but will be sapped by their bruising encounter with the Dragons last week with the off-field controversy potentially a factor as well. Trent Robinson’s outfit will aim to move the ball around to tire out their opposition with the class of the Roosters’ superstar spine to play a vital role in neutralizing Souths’ massive forward rotation. Roosters to get the points.
Betting Tip: Roosters -1.5 @ $1.92 (Beteasy)
Roosters -1.5 @ $1.92 (Beteasy)