NRL Finals Week 1 Tips and Predictions - 4 best bets and a multibet to back

Steve Bennett 5 Sep 2018
  • Four tips for week 1 of the finals 
  • Combine them in a multibet

Week One of the finals is here and for half the remaining clubs, it's sudden death.  Here is what I came up with for our last multi of 2018.....
The Storm finished the ordinary season losing 22-16 to the Panthers. They were, however, severely understrength for that match and went down fighting. The Rabbitohs, on the other hand, bounced back from a three-game losing streak by crushing the Tigers in a 51-10 romp. 

Melbourne had nearly half their regular squad missing through injury and suspension but still managed to finish within six points of the Panthers. Meanwhile the Rabbitohs showed they were back to their scary best with a real no mercy attitude against a Tigers outfit who showed they were looking forward to the offseason with a lacklustre performance to end their year.

The Storm welcome back several of their missing stars which will boost their strength and chances of a victory. Billy Slater will be back in the number one jersey while Suliasi Vunivalu returns from injury on the wing. Boosting their attacking options, Cameron Munster is back at five-eight while Jahrome Hughes moves out of the fullback role and joins Munster in the halves. Brandon Smith also returns from injury and will start from the bench.

With all these gun players returning, it makes for a classic match-up across the park. In the halves, Hughes and Munster will be tested by the kicking games of Adam Reynolds and running game of Cody Walker. Up front, the Burgess brothers lock horns with Bromwich brothers while the best hooker of the game (Cameron Smith) goes up against the most elusive runner of the ball in Damian Cook. Then, for desert, we have Inglis and Gagai out wide who will have the likes of Vunivalu and Addo-Carr running at them all game. It’s recipe worthy of a finals match.

Head-to-head in NRL era: Played 29; Storm 24 wins, Rabbitohs 5 wins
Previous result: Rabbitohs won 30-20 at ANZ Stadium in round 21

The Rabbitohs took the points last time in Sydney but history overwhelmingly lies with the premiers. With all but centre Will Chambers back on the field, the Storm look as threatening as ever. The Rabbitohs were impressive last week but beat very little in a disinterested Tigers side. Melbourne are a big game team and while Cameron Smith is there to lead them, they are even harder to beat. The Rabbitohs have plenty of points in them but the Storm have one of the best defensive records in recent years. In front of a partisan home crowd, I believe they will outstay their Sydney opposition and win their way to a week off in a close match.
The Panthers are coming off their first ever win at AAMI Stadium where they overcame a weakened Storm outfit. A heavy first half penalty count against them plus two players spending time in the sin bin didn’t prevent them from taking the points back to Sydney with 22-16 win. The Warriors were too strong for the Panthers in Auckland two weeks ago then last week did everything they could to lose against the Raiders but ended the match with a 20-16 victory in a sloppy game of errors.

The Warriors visited Panthers Stadium in round 17 and faced a severely weakened Penrith side who were missing their origin players and an injured Josh Mansur. With a near full strength side to boast about, the Warriors were humbled by the near reserve grade strength Panthers in a 36-4 belting. They turned the tables on them in round 24 with a 36-16 win against a Panthers side minus their playmaker James Maloney. 

Both sides will field their strongest available sides at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night with key match-ups that could decide the game. The battle of the halves will be a real sight to see with Cleary and Maloney matching it with Shaun Johnson and Blake Green who is back from injury in place of Mason Lino. The forward clash will also be a treat as the Panthers front row pairing of Campbell-Gillard and Merrin lock horns with Gavet and Paasi from the Warriors. The Panthers backline will also have to contend with the elusive Tuivasa-Sheck who is in line for Dally M player of the year after an outstanding season at the back of the Warriors side. 

Head-to-head in NRL era: Played 37; Panthers 21 wins, Warriors 15 wins
Previous result: Warriors won 36-16 in round 24 at Mt Smart Stadium

Very little separates these two sides and it usually depends upon which Warriors side turns up on the day. They have proven to be a risk even at their Mt. Smart home ground but on the road they are always a risk. Having said that, they ended the season winning eight of their twelve away games which was an outstanding achievement and one of the reasons why they are playing finals football. 

History shows the team who best handles pressure usually comes out on top in the end and that’s how I see this battle. With their strongest available side on the field this weekend, the Panthers can get away with this game provided they don’t allow the Warriors to get away to a big start. They have proven to be one of the best finishing teams in the competition and with Maloney back at the helm I see him steering them home here.
After the Storm went down to the Panthers, the Roosters had to do ‘a job’ on the Eels to secure the minor premiership and the duly obliged. Ensuring another wooden spoon trophy for the Eels, The Roosters, led by a hat-trick of tries to Latrell Mitchell, humbled the Parramatta side in a 44-10 drubbing. The Sharks ended the regular season in the best possible fashion, winning their final four games. 

The key match-ups for this encounter at Allianz Stadium have been dampened somewhat with Roosters front-rower Dylan Napa missing through suspension but they have Jared Waerea-Hargreaves back to strengthen their engine room and his battle with the controversial Andrew Fifita will be worth the admission fare alone. 

The two fullbacks will be entertaining the crowd all night long as James Tedesco will be hell bent on outplaying the elusive Valentine Holmes out the back of the Sharks line. Seeing how young Latrell Mitchell handles the strong defensive game of Josh Dugan will also be worth seeing. Then the battle of the halves should be an interesting affair with Moylan and Townsend taking on the Roosters playmakers of Cronk and Keary. A precision kicking game here will be a massive advantage as both sides have big forward packs who won’t enjoy being turned around all night.

Head-to-head in NRL era: Played 39; Roosters 22 wins, Sharks 16 wins, 1 draw
Previous result: Roosters won 28-10 at Southern Cross Group Stadium in round 5

The Roosters gave the Sharks a football lesson in front of their own crowd early in the season but the Sharks have come of age at the right end of the season and shouldn’t be taken lightly. A shock 1-point loss to the Sea Eagles in round 21 was all it took to bring the Cronulla side to life as they finished the season on a high with a 30-18 victory over the much improved Bulldogs side. 

This is probably the most even of this weekend’s finals matches which could come down to just one mistake that could very well sway the game. A lose ball, a missed tackle and someone like Luke Keary or a Valentine Holmes could pounce and seal victory for their side. This is a game not many would like to try and confidently choose a victor. For that reason, I am happy to go with the Sharks at the line.
One team on the up and up and the other in real rut should make this Sunday afternoon game at Suncorp an interesting affair. The Dragons got away with an unimpressive victory against the Knights last week while the Broncos put their foot forward and destroyed a hapless Manly Sea Eagles side.

The Dragons finished the season in similar fashion to their previous three seasons with far more losses than victories. However, this year they still did enough to secure a finals berth, only they will be doing it the hard way with sudden death staring them in the face from week one.

Both sides have key players returning from injury which will enhance the battle in the middle. Dragons captain and playmaker Gareth Widdop returns from an elbow injury while the Broncos get their hooker back as Andrew McCullough returns from a week off suffering concussion. His clash with Cameron McInnes will be entertaining. 

There is some doubt over the fitness of Dragons’ Origin star Jack De Belin however at this stage reports say he will play, with pain killing injections if necessary. The Dragons pack will need his added strength if they are to match it with a fully pumped Broncos forward pack. James Graham will need to be at his best if he is to match it with the likes of Sam Thaiday and Matthew Lodge up front. 

Out wide, the Dragons will miss the speed and defence of Ewen Aitken and the retiring Jason Nightingale who are both on the wounded list however have been named on the reserves list (in case).

The out-of-form Ben Hunt will need to step up in a hurry if he expects to match it with the Broncos halves pairing of Milford and Nikorima who both stood up in last week’s mauling of Manly. 

On the ropes since the Origin series, it’s hard to see the Dragons finding enough to hold the Broncos at bay here. The Red V look out outclassed across the park but do have a strong forward pack who are capable of keeping them in the ball game. The burning question is, do they have enough out wide to finish it off ? I don’t think so and see a Broncos win here in front of their home crowd. 


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NRL Finals Week 1 Tips and Predictions - 4 best bets and a multibet to back

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