How good was the opening week of the NRL finals series?
Each game was in the balance right to the wire and upsets for PENRITH and NORTH QUEENSLAND ensured their respective fairtytale seasons will go on for another week at least.
MELBOURNE and SYDNEY ROOSTERS earned the week off after tough Qualifying Finals wins but they certainly didn’t have it their own way with Parramatta and Brisbane putting up one hell of a fight.
Finally, we say goodbye to Manly and the defending premiers CRONULLA who did everything in their power to lose their Elimination Final against the Cowboys on Sunday afternoon.
The Eels went down to AAMI Park and took on the near-invincible Storm and played them at their own game. A few dubious calls from the referees and the NRL Bunker (surprise, surprise) didn’t go their way though and ultimately that may have proven to be their downfall.
Despite that Brad Arthur’s men earned plenty of praise for their effort and now get a second bite at the cherry when they face the never-say-die North Queensland Cowboys at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night.
The Eels only need to reproduce a similar performance to get the job done against the visitors and the $1.42 @ bet365 looks overs for us.
Looking further ahead and Centrebet has Parra @ $17 to win the premiership which is clearly the best odds available anywhere for the Blue and Golds.
The defending premiers went through hell to win their maiden title last season but seemed to go down rather meekly against a Cowboys side missing Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott.
Poor completions cost the Sharks dearly but that’s no surprise because it has been their Achilles Heel all year. Just 43 percent possession and a 60 percent completion rate invited North Queensland back in the game.
Yes, the referees made several bad calls against them late in the game which gave the Cowboys every chance to come back and force extra time but in the end, if Cronulla had simply held the ball they would’ve won.
We are also giving the NRL Bunker and Referees a mention in this part of the column too.
Unfortunately for the officials they made several bad calls in each of the four finals over the weekend and were front and centre of punters’ fury – and for good reason too!
Let’s hope they do their job properly and get through Week 2 without being noticed.
The Panthers were belted by the Sea Eagles in the final round of the regular season but turned the tables on them just seven days later.
Anthony Griffin’s men are $3.10 @ bet365 and Unibet to cause another upset and march on to a date with Melbourne at AAMI Park in the Preliminary Final.
Brisbane seemed to get better as the game went on against the Roosters last week and hit the front late in the game before the chooks sprung one last surprise on them. With an expected full house at Suncorp behind them, Wayne Bennett’s side may just be a bridge too far for the Panthers who have done exceptionally well to get this far following their 2-7 start to the season.
And for those betting early it’s worth mentioning that Penrith has only won twice at Suncorp since 2008!