He’s had a dream run for the past couple of months (10 winning weeks straight! but the Guru won’t be resting on his laurels and is wide-eyed and bushy-tailed to find the punters even more winners in the finals series. There’s an old adage that always rings true this time of year: the footy finals are a whole new competition and regular season form counts for nothing. Similarly, it’s both the Panthers and the Guru facing all the pressure this week after their very impressive winning streaks, one on the field and the other on the tip. Long may it continue, starting this Friday!
3 units Win Multi Penrith/Canberra @2.15
3 units Newcastle Knights +8.5 @2.00
NRL Finals Week 1 Match Previews
Penrith Panthers vs Sydney Roosters
Assessed Line: Penrith -2.5
Ladbrokes: Penrith -2.0
It’ll be a well-worn cliche by Friday night but “the minor premiers take on the reigning premiers” in an absolute cracking Qualifying Final. Penrith deserved top spot in 2020 and continued their remarkable form by finishing the regular season with a lazy 42-0 victory. Conversely, the Roosters were trounced 60-8 by a rampant Bunnies sparking many to immediately overreact with outrageous “can’t win the comp” statements. I’m totally disregarding that match in which the Roosters clearly weren’t intent on winning and in the process shrewdly avoided an interstate trip, securing this much preferred final and taking all the pressure off themselves – a potential masterstroke! I have no doubt Trent Robinson will have them primed. Historically the Roosters have also dominated this matchup (Penrith won only 6 of their first 39 clashes) but that trend is reversing with Penrith victorious in 4 of their last 7 clashes and notably the 2003 Grand Final. However, it basically boils down to whether the youthful Panthers can handle the pressure of the finals and continue to play their sublime brand of football against a much more experienced (ageing?) opponent. They can, they will and they are definitely worth a bet.
Canberra Raiders vs Cronulla Sharks
Assessed Line: Raiders -14.0
Ladbrokes: Raiders -14.0
Another intriguing matchup in the first of the Elimination Finals sees a powerful and rested Raiders outfit up against a struggling Sharks side. After limping into 8th spot and then being beaten at home by “the Mounties” last week, it’s almost impossible to envisage the Sharks travelling to Canberra and turning their fortunes around. The Raiders just have all the momentum going into this one. The only positive for Cronulla is their recent history of finals encounters (‘08 ‘12 ‘16 ‘19) with the results split 2 apiece, the most recent being a 2 point and a 1 point thriller. Chad Townsend returns from suspension and there’s no doubting the Sharks can produce a gutsy performance but with key playmaker, Shaun Johnson missing and not having beaten a top 8 side all year, they are clearly outclassed. The Viking Clap will live on in 2020, for another week at least.
Melbourne Storm vs Parramatta Eels
Assessed Line: Storm -12.5
Ladbrokes: Storm -13.5
Despite finishing 3rd on the ladder, most pundits have written off the Eels after an average patch of form over the past couple of months. It’s hard to disagree. Brad Arthur will have to pull off one of the great miracles against his former mentor to return home from the interstate trip to Queensland with a win. The Storm dominates their clashes overall, winning 10 of the past 14, and you can discard the unimpressive 14-0 Parramatta victory earlier this year as Melbourne fielded a second rate side. The Storm is also 6 from 6 in finals against the Eels including the 2009 Grand Final. Not to mention Melbourne’s imposing record at Suncorp. Dylan Brown returns but his fitness is a query and it’s going to be a daunting task for Parra. If they get behind early the score could blowout as they switch off and start thinking about their second chance next week. With no real value in the market, it’s not a game I recommend investing on.
South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Newcastle Knights
Assessed Line: Rabbitohs -7.5
Ladbrokes: Rabbitohs -8.5
Another case of two teams seemingly headed in opposite directions but how much can we make of Souths 50 point victory over a disinterested Roosters side? Of more concern to Newcastle would be their final round demolition at the hands of the surging Titans but we’ve come to expect such inconsistency all year from the Knights, and let’s not forget the Rabbitohs were beaten by the Bulldogs only a fortnight ago! Newcastle played perhaps their best patch of football earlier in the year to dominate Souths 20-0, only to find themselves lucky to hold on and win. In a sudden-death battle between two teams who struggle to perform for a full 80 minutes, I expect this to be a see-sawing affair and a grandstand finish is on the cards. The Knights at the plus represent a good betting proposition.
Good luck and great punting,
Punt Club NRL Guru