We kick off the NRL Finals series on Friday night with the reigning premiers, the Sydney Roosters taking on the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
Two games on Saturday with the Melbourne Storm clashing with the Canberra Raiders. That will be followed by the Manly Sea Eagles vs the Cronulla Sharks.
Sunday will then see the Parramatta Eels play against the Brisbane Broncos.
We preview all four finals matches:
Sydney Roosters vs South Sydney Rabbitohs
A place in the preliminary finals is on the line as the Roosters and Rabbitohs square off for the third time in 2019 and for the second straight week. For a game that ultimately meant nothing, the Roosters and Rabbitohs played out arguably the most brutal contest of the season, with Souths coming up trumps by a 16-10 scoreline. It was a significant victory for the Rabbitohs, who have struggled since the Origin period following their lightning start to the season, which included an opening round win over the Roosters. Meanwhile, the Roosters were on a seven-match winning streak heading into last week and looking like the NRL’s hottest team going into the finals. Souths have won both of their previous encounters this season, but they came in the first and last games of the regular season. This is the game that matters, and with some of their star troops back on deck, I expect the Roosters to rise to the occasion and avenge last week’s loss to return to the preliminary finals.
Prediction: Roosters 1-12 ($2.80 TopBetta)
Melbourne Storm vs Canberra Raiders
It’s been another incredible season from the Storm, with the club winning 20 of their 24 matches, including 11 out of 12 away from home, but one of those defeats came against the team they meet on Saturday night. And the Storm were cruising in that encounter, but for the first time in their history, they let slip of an 18-point lead as Canberra staged an outstanding comeback to prevail 22-18. Bellamy will be determined not to let a repeat of that result occur on Saturday night, especially after his side registered a statement 36-6 win over Manly two weeks ago, following that up with a comfortable home win over North Queensland in their last game of the regular season. However, Canberra didn’t end the season on the brightest note, falling 24-20 to the Warriors at home – and Ricky Stuart would have no doubt given them a spray about maintaining their intensity heading into the finals. Canberra will take huge confidence from their win over Melbourne last month, but finals footy is a different beast and the Storm have been there and done that countless times over the last 15 years. It’s a tough ask for the Raiders to do the double in Melbourne within the space of the month – I’m backing the Storm home in a close one.
Prediction: Storm 1-12 ($2.85 TopBetta)
Manly Sea Eagles vs Cronulla Sharks
Manly have been rocked by injuries over the last month, losing superstar fullback Tom Trbojevic for the season with a pectoral injury, along with key forwards Joel Thompson (broken arm) and Curtis Sironen (foot), while they also lost Martin Taupau to suspension during the week. On a two-match losing run heading into the finals where they conceded 30+ points to the Storm and Eels, can Manly lift for the big dance? Under normal circumstances I’d say no, but the Sea Eagles have an outstanding record against the Sharks on the Northern Beaches, staying undefeated since 2008 and losing just five times in their 52-year head-to-head history. Cronulla have been up and down all season and haven’t really been able to generate any significant momentum at any stage. The Sharks produced a great second half blitz to beat the Tigers last week and secure their spot in the finals, but they haven’t proven they can be a consistent force all year. With that in mind and Manly’s incredible record against them at Lottoland, I’m backing the Sea Eagles to claim the upset on Saturday night.
Prediction: Sea Eagles win ($2.45 TopBetta)
Parramatta Eels vs Brisbane Broncos
Parramatta have been near-on invincible since returning to Bankwest and in my eyes are heavy favourites to conquer the Broncos and continue their resurgence after finishing with the wooden spoon 12 months ago. These two teams squared off just two weeks ago, with the Broncos coming out on top 17-16 in a golden point thriller at Suncorp, but it was the Eels who came away with a dominant victory when they played at Bankwest in Round 24, crushing Brisbane by a 38-10 scoreline. Brisbane simply haven’t been able to get going this season, but with Payne Haas and David Fifita among the best young forwards in the country, they are always going to be in with a chance of causing some trouble. However, the Broncos have been hindered in big games by their lack of a recognised creative player, and in finals you need someone to guide the side around the field. Add in Brisbane’s sub-par performances away from home and their last display at Bankwest, which will be absolutely rocking on Sunday, I don’t see how they can overcome Parramatta in this one.
Prediction: Eels wins ($1.48 TopBetta)