NRL Finals Week 1 Previews and Betting Tips

The following are previews with betting tips for Finals Week 1 of the 2021 NRL season.

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Storm v Sea Eagles

Friday, September 10, 7:50pm AEST
Sunshine Coast Stadium

Sea Eagles

The first game of the finals series will be a blockbuster clash between arch-rivals Manly and the Storm in a massive test for Des Hasler’s troops after a wonderful regular season. The northern beaches club has done tremendously well to recover from a woeful start to their season to make a late-charge into the top-four. Conversely, the Storm have dominated all season, including a massive 19-game winning streak with the Victorian club taking the minor premiership.

Melbourne have had the luxury of resting their top-line stars in recent weeks, although they still managed an impressive victory over Cronulla last week. Cameron Munster, Christian Welch, Felise Kaufusi, George Jennings, Jesse Bromwith, Reimis Smith, Tom Eisenhuth and Kenneath Bromwich will all come into the starting side, giving Craig Bellamy his preferred 17 but for the injured Josh Addo-Carr. Meanwhile, the Sea Eagles chose not to rest any of their troops last week with the only change coming with the return of Josh Aloiai in the front-row.
Des Hasler is one of the few coaches in the NRL with a winning record against Craig Bellamy, and given the Sea Eagles impressive performance against the Storm in round 21, the Victorians should be wary of the game-plan their opposition will deploy to nullify their strengths. Melbourne’s injury troubles have cleared at the perfect time of the season with the return of Harry Grant and Ryan Papenhyzen to full-fitness with the latter returning to the starting side last week. Manly are certainly capable of producing an upset in this match, particularly if the Storm are unable to maintain their winning momentum having rested so many players. This game could go either way but expect the star-power within this Melbourne outfit to get them over the line.

Betting Tip: Sea Eagles +8.5 @ $1.90 (Sportsbet, Bluebet)



Roosters v Titans

Saturday, September 11, 5:40pm AEST
QCB Stadium

The Titans produced their biggest ever winning margin in an impressive 44-0 victory over the Warriors last week in a result which elevated the Gold Coast club into the top-eight for the first time since 2016 in a massive win for the resurgent club. They face a massive test against an in-form Roosters outfit who ended the Raiders’ season in a classy 40-16 win of their own as the tri-colours attempt to overcome an unprecedented injury and retirement toll to go deep into the finals despite missing-out on the ever-important top-four berth.
Despite barely missing the top-four on points-differential, the Roosters have proactively rested key players leading into the finals and should be in a good position to field a strong team. The return of Jarred Waerea-Hargreaves and Victor Radley from injury and suspension respectively will be a massive boost to their forward-rotation with Fletcher Baker also set to join the bench. Meanwhile, the Titans will welcome Kevin Proctor back into the second-row in an otherwise unchanged squad.
The Roosters have produced some wonderful football this season despite an unprecedented injury toll. Although Trent Robinson will be disappointed at missing the top-four on only point-differential, his squad has done a tremendous job in the face of so much adversity. While the Titans have shown glimpses of impressive yet unconventional attacking football, expect this disciplined and well-drilled Roosters outfit to contain the Gold Coast’s attacking weapons. This game will be a brutal contest through the middle but the more composed and experienced spine and back-line combinations should get the tri-colours over the line. Roosters to get the win.

Betting Tip: Roosters -11.5 @ $1.90 (Sportsbet)



Panthers v Rabbitohs

Saturday, September 11, 7:50pm AEST
QCB Stadium

South Sydney have been one of the standout teams in the 2021 season but question marks are still lingering over their ability to go deep into the finals without superstar fullback Latrell Mitchell. Souths will face their biggest test since Mitchell’s suspension against a red-hot Panthers outfit in a troublesome match-up for Souths’ faithful, given Penrith notched a comfortable win in their last clash in round 23 against a Rabbitohs side containing Mitchell.
Souths rested a large number of players against the Dragons last week with Adam Reynolds, Alex Johnston, Cameron Murray, Cody Walker, Damien Cook, Dane Gagai, Keaon Koloamatangi, Jai Arrow and Thomas Burgess coming back into the side. Meanwhile, Penrith will welcome Mitch Kenny and Spencer Leniu on the bench in an otherwise unchanged squad.
Souths dominated for much of the first half in the last clash between these two teams, but went on to concede 25 unanswered points to lose the game. Expect another fast start from South Sydney as they look to disrupt the Panthers’ dominance. Questions remain over the absence of Mitchell and his replacement in rookie fullback Blake Taaffe with the young custodian producing a mixed performance against St George last week. South Sydney’s coaching team will likely look to implement a targeted game-plan to minimise their opposition’s strength, but expect the Panthers class across the field and settled combinations in both attack and defence to prove the difference. Panthers to get the win.

Betting Tip: Rabbitohs +11.5 @ $1.93 (Playup)



Eels v Knights

Sunday, September 12, 4:05pm AEST
Browne Park, Rockhampton

The Eels have recovered from a late-season form-slump just in time after an impressive 10-point win over the Storm in round 24 propelled them back into the premiership race. The club produced a disappointing 40-6 loss to a relatively full-strength Panthers outfit last week, albeit with the majority of their starting team rested for the clash. Newcastle’s form slump came earlier in the season but they have put together an impressive six-week period to comfortably make the top-eight. Similarly to the Eels, Newcastle produced a poor loss to the Broncos last week but coach Adam O’Brien will be unconcerned given they rested most of their starting squad.
Parramatta will welcome back Clint Gutherson, Dylan Brown, Isaiah Papali’i, Junior Paulo, Marata Niukore, Mitchell Moses, Nathan Brown, Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Waqa Blake back into their squad with Ryan Matterson and Oregon Kaufusi also possible late inclusions after they were named in the reserves. For the Knights, Daniel Saifiti, Hymel Hunt, Jacob Saifiti, Jeyden Brailey, Mitchell Barnett, Sauaso Sue and Tyson Frizell will come back into their squad.
Both these teams elected to rest large parts of their preferred 17 in round 25 and will be hoping their respective mass team changes and poor last-start result do not impact their momentum heading into the finals. The Eels will be looking to emulate their physical style of play deployed to great effect against Melbourne in round 24 as the club looks to distance itself from their poor form slump and prove they are finals contenders in the absence of key player Reed Mahoney. This match could go either way but expect this relatively full-strength Parramatta squad to get over the line.

Betting Tip: Knights +7.5 @ $1.95 (Unibet, Bluebet, Bet365)


Best Bets

Sea Eagles +8.5 @ $1.90 (Sportsbet, Bluebet)

Knights +7.5 @ $1.95 (Unibet, Bluebet, Bet365)


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