NRL Finals Week 1: Eels v Broncos Preview & Betting Tips
Parra is a different beast at home and they are strong favourites to end the Broncos’ season on Sunday arvo.
Parramatta Eels v Brisbane Broncos – Bankwest Stadium – 4:05pm
There’s no place like home for the Eels, who emphatically showed their Bankwest credentials in a 32-16 victory over Manly to secure fifth position. Maika Sivo secured NRL’s top try-scorer gong with a bulldozing hat-trick in a monster outing for the beloved Fijian winger, continuing his incredible strike rate on home soil. If there were any nerves from Parra punters they were dispatched inside seven minutes with two Eels tries setting the tone – Parramatta was in control while Manly never truly found their rhythm.
There is room for improvement for Brad Arthur’s side though, riding their luck before halftime with two blown Manly opportunities before the Sea Eagles eventually rallied to draw within a converted try with 15 minutes left, but Sivo’s second and third tries were enough to secure the win and the 11+ point margin needed to leapfrog Manly into fifth. While Sivo and rep winger Blake Ferguson are attracting the spotlight out wide, veteran centre Michael Jennings is enjoying a remarkable turnaround considering he was on the outer earlier this season.
Playing for a new contract, Jennings is now resembling the star who Parra was desperate to lure from the Roosters instead of the version low on confidence and ball security. The Eels may have put last year’s wooden spoon long behind them yet there remain enough members of their 2017 team to know how pear-shaped a finals campaign can become. A promising fourth finish that year saw them go down swinging to Melbourne away but then suffer an embarrassing elimination to the heavy underdogs North Queensland. The Eels don’t have the luxury of a double shot this year however their Bankwest fortress is a significant boost and as long as Mitchell Moses maintains his composure, the Eels are capable of running up a score at a rapid pace at home.
If Brisbane were looking for momentum into their elimination final, they instead found a brutal reality check courtesy of Canterbury. The Broncos’ 30-14 loss at ANZ Stadium was downright ugly and instead of sealing seventh spot and a match with the decimated Manly, Anthony Seibold’s side limped into eighth and was a Sharks-Tigers draw away from not even making the eight. Seibold’s side has lacked consistency throughout 2019 and while they escaped an incomplete round 24 performance against Parramatta in golden point, they were made to pay dearly by the fast-finishing Bulldogs.
The most frightening aspect was the lack of intensity for a side finals-bound – without context, you’d have sworn it was Canterbury playing for their season. Aside from Kotoni Staggs’ two-try burst just before half time it was one-way traffic and meant another monster effort from Payne Haas (201 run metres) was in vain. Seibold didn’t hold back post-game, saying his side looked for a “soft” hitout and based on that effort have “absolutely no chance” in the finals.
The Broncos might take heart from that Parramatta victory but the Eels are a different proposition at Bankwest. Anthony Milford and Darius Boyd have reflected the Broncos’ 2019 campaign in their new positions – moments when you think they’re ready to turn the corner followed by disappearing. The experienced duo needs to stand up on the weekend if there’s any chance of a Bronco boilover.
Perversely the pair would have memories of this time last season, however, when Brisbane were hot favourites at home to the Dragons in an elimination final, only for St George Illawarra to obliterate the Broncos. There’s enough individual magic in the Broncos to give punters hope – David Fifita is playing out of his skin and Corey Oates is a try-scoring machine when firing – but unless there’s a turnaround in their effort, there’s good reason why they’re at long odds this weekend.
• The Broncos have a miserable 1-6 record in NSW this year.
• Parra meanwhile is 8-2 at Bankwest, including a 38-10 belting of Brisbane in round 14.
• Maika Sivo now has 20 tries in his last 21 games after his brilliant hat-trick last week.
• The Broncos have only won one of their last four second halves while the Eels have won three, including these sides’ round 24 game.
Best bet: Eels second half - $1.65* (Unibet)
Value bet: Maika Sivo anytime try scorer/Eels win - $2.67* (Bet365)