The following are previews with betting tips for the Preliminary Finals of the 2021 NRL season.
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Rabbitohs v Sea Eagles
Friday, September 24, 7:50pm AEST
After a poor loss to the Storm in the opening game of the finals series, Manly looked in danger of exiting the playoffs in straight-sets. Des Hasler’s squad responded in the best of ways against a courageous but depleted Roosters outfit with a dominant performance that saw all their key players fire. Their opposition in the Rabbitohs enjoyed a week off given their last-start upset win over Penrith with veteran coach Wayne Bennett sure to have fine-tuned his squad’s preparation to prime them for a huge game.
Manly have named an unchanged squad heading into this clash, although Sean Keppie and Martin Taupau will likely swap between prop and interchange in a tactic deployed to devastating effect last week. Meanwhile, Souths have also named no changes as they have the luxury of a full-strength roster but for Latrell Mitchell and Josh Mansour.
Since overcoming a horrendous start to the season, Manly’s form this year has generally seen them overcome their opposition early in the contest and score an abundance of points. They will need to be prepared to grind-out a win against South Sydney, whose superb discipline and kicking-game proved the difference against Penrith. Both these teams have underrated middle-rotations boasting physicality and skill in equal measure, but there will also be a fascinating contest for field-position between Souths’ superb kicking-game and Manly’s enormously effective back-three. Manly will struggle to dominate possession as they did against the Roosters and may struggle at the back-end of each half against a rested South Sydney outfit. Expect Souths to get the points.
Betting Tip: Rabbitohs -1.5 @ $1.90 (Sportsbet)
Storm v Panthers
Saturday, September 25, 4:00pm AEST
Penrith’s quest for the club’s first premiership since 2003 was rocked by a shock upset to South Sydney in week one of the finals series. Having dominated their opposition for much of the season, the Panthers were well contained by South Sydney’s defence and again struggled to score points in a narrow last-start win over the Eels. The result was somewhat mired in controversy, and coach Ivan Cleary will be hoping his squad’s confidence against elite opposition will hold firm. Their opposition in the Storm have been relentless this year, enjoying a 19-game winning streak at one stage despite missing the likes of Ryan Papenhyzen and Harry Grant for long stretches of the season. Melbourne posted a comprehensive victory over Manly in their last match and will be fresh after a week off.
Penrith will replace injured bench hooker Mitch Kenny with Tyrone May on the bench in an otherwise unchanged side. Brian To’o could also be a late inclusion to return from an ankle injury after he was named in the reserves. Meanwhile, Melbourne’s only change comes with the return of Josh Addo-Carr on the wing at the expense of Isaac Lumelume.
Penrith have enjoyed a large degree of dominance this season but coming up against quality sides like Souths and the Eels in recent weeks, Ivan Cleary’s squad has struggled to score-points and get the ball out of their own end at times. Expect Melbourne to play for field position and limit the Panthers’ opportunities on their try-line in a similar fashion to Penrith’s recent games. The Western Sydney club has played enormously physical games consecutively against Souths and Parramatta, while Melbourne will be fresh from a week-off. This game could go either way but expect a fresher and full-strength Melbourne outfit to get the win.
Betting Tip: Storm -8.5 @ $1.92 (Playup)
Rabbitohs -1.5 @ $1.90 (Sportsbet)