Friday 10th September 7:50PM, Sunshine Coast Stadium
The 2021 NRL Finals Series gets underway with a Friday night blockbuster that wouldn’t look out of place on Grand Final Day such is the recent form of both sides. They were a little slow out of the blocks, losing 2 of their first 3 games but the Melbourne Storm have once again been the NRL’s benchmark in 2021, recording 19 consecutive victories on their way to yet another minor premiership. Standing in their way this week are the Manly Sea Eagles, a team who have returned some of the most exciting performances of the year, highlighted by arguably one of the best solo seasons ever produced by a player, Tom Trbojevic. His play has elevated those around him to new levels, and it was terrific to see winger Reuben Garrick break the record for most points in a season, and along with Jason Saab, form a lethal trio with Dally M favourite Trbojevic. The Storm have opened reasonably firm and justifiable favourites, and I do think that they will win this game, but the Sea Eagles can certainly make a contest of it similar to their round 21 match up, however the class of the Storm, and their big match experience across the park will be enough for them to progress through and earn a week off.
Saturday 11th September 5:40PM, Queensland Country Bank Stadium
The Titans’ 44-0 shutout over the Warriors last week was their best performance of the season has propelled them to an unthinkable finals spot against the courageous Roosters side on Saturday. After what was largely a disappointing campaign, resulting in possessing the worst ever record for a side to play finals football under the current format, and will now look for another win to propel them into the second week of the finals. Sydney’s long list of injuries makes the Titans a very intriguing betting prospect, but there is some good news ahead for the Tri-Colours with Victor Radley and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves both returning for Saturday’s clash. Fans of both teams will likely be a little nervous heading into this game after the Roosters gutted out a 35-34 win over the Titans back in June. As far as betting goes, the Titans have been one of the toughest teams to catch all year, and having only beaten the Knights out of all the top 8 sides I couldn’t go with them but the line does appear to be in the favour considering the close nature of finals match ups.
Saturday 11th September 7:50PM, Queensland Country Bank Stadium
The Panthers have had South Sydney’s number over the last three years and look to make it 6 consecutive wins on Saturday against the foundation club. The Panthers, after some mid season jitters due to Origin duties and injury, have come into the finals in outstanding form, despite flying under the radar as the likes of Manly and the Storm received a majority of the media attention. The Rabbits are more than capable of piling on the points themselves, but the Panthers possess the best defence in the competition, conceding less than 300 points in the regular season, and will feel comfortable in defending against a side missing their biggest strike weapon in Latrell Mitchell. I’m looking for a big performance from the Panthers here as they look to go one better than 2020 and take the title back to Western Sydney
The Eels and the Knights will enter Sunday’s elimination game with similar mindsets after suffering respective double-digit losses last week. While Newcastle’s loss to Brisbane meant very little in terms of the ladder, it was still a disappointing way to run into the finals, whilst Parramatta’s annihilation at the hands of the Panthers cost them a chance at salvaging a top four finish and the double chance. To make matters even more complicated, these two sides have met only once this year with the Eels The additions of Kalyn Ponga and Bradman Best has made an enormous difference to the Newcastle attack over the last month, and it appears more reinforcements are coming with Tyson Frizell, Daniel Saifiti and Mitch Barnett all named after missing last week’s fixture. The Eels welcome back the majority of their outfit in what is a pivotal game for the future of Brad Arthur, however their inconsistent play in big games has me siding with the Knights at the line.
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NRL Round 19 Preview With two rounds left to play in the regular season the top eight has been locked in and it is now just a matter of teams figuring out their final spot within the eight. Read on as we preview round 19, which sees a large number of lopsided games due to […]