NRL Finals Week Two: Storm v Eels Preview & Betting Tips
Melbourne was shocked last week and could have their hands full with a hot Eels side fresh off a cricket score in this elimination battle.
Melbourne Storm v Parramatta Eels – AAMI Park – 7:50pm
Just when it looked like Melbourne were grinding their way out to a trademark methodical finals win, the rugby league gods struck and the Storm collapsed to a shock 12-10 loss to Canberra to significantly impact their Premiership hopes.
It was a physical battle against the Raiders with defence from both sides suffocating any attacking spark generated – normally a scenario up the Storm’s alley at home. Yet just like they did last month, the Storm found themselves the victim of an unlikely Green Machine comeback. When Josh Addo-Carr went for an early-set hit-up off the Storm goal-line inside four minutes to go, it seemed the set would continue going one-out until Cameron Smith would find the sideline to wind down the clock. Instead, the Fox was crunched, the ball sent flying, Joseph Leilua suddenly received possession and effortlessly flicked pass to John Bateman to score and stun not just Melbourne but the vast majority of NRL punters.
Coach Craig Bellamy wasn’t blowing a gasket post-game at his side’s fortunes – the effort was top-shelf – but the Storm now needs to immediately respond to this shock result. Bellamy made the call approaching the finals to cut Brodie Croft and shift Jahrome Hughes into halfback so boom rookie Ryan Papenhuyzen could become starting fullback instead of an impact sub. Papenhuyzen has been brilliant to watch approaching the finals in racking up huge run metres and consistent tries, but he was a man under siege against the Raiders.
For the first time since the Croft axing, Papenhuyzen’s attacking impact was muted courtesy of a pinpoint Canberra kick game combined with high impact shots by the Raiders’ chase. The fullback still earned 186 metres but he was unable to bust the game open. Wingers Addo-Carr and Suliasi Vunivalu also didn’t have their best nights and considering they’re facing Blake Ferguson – with memories of the 2018 Grand Final still fresh – and Maika Sivo, another off night could open the door for the Eels.
Smith’s ruck domination has allowed Hughes to not be a dominant halfback but as seen last week, finals are a different beast and the pressure is truly on Hughes to show he can step up when his team need him. While three of the four finals last week were comfortable results, the Storm’s loss was by far the tightest final and there’s enough quality and experience to ensure the sky isn’t falling down over their shock upset. They will need to be wary however of another visiting team eyeing off an ambush – look for Cameron Munster to bounce back with increased involvement to get the Storm’s campaign back on track.
If you can find a fault with Parramatta’s team effort last start, more power to you. The Eels rolled back the years to their 80s domination with a stunning 58-0 destruction of Brisbane sending them flying into week two. It was an incredible Eels performance led by halfback Mitchell Moses showing all the ability which once had him pencilled in as a future rep star. Moses was busting out the party tricks at a capacity Bankwest Stadium with kicks to himself, firing off dazzling cross-field balls, line breaks…you know your team does well when a goalkicker misses five shots and you still win by a cricket score.
Hitting 100 run metres is a barometer for some individual performances – remarkably more Eels players (9) cracked the ton than those who didn’t (8), an unheard-of domination. You might have been sent for an HIA if this time last year you tipped the then-wooden spooners’ outside backs of Blake Ferguson, Waqa Blake, Michael Jennings and Maika Sivo to unleash a point-scoring tsunami in the finals but that’s exactly what happened.
Each of the four stars boasts speed and size which is allowing Moses and five-eighth Dylan Brown freedom to play the width of the field instead of a reliance on a more dominant side. In Reed Mahoney, the Eels have unearthed a diamond and with Clint Gutherson’s unpredictability, the Eels have a backline to crank out metres, pressure and points
. Canberra’s upset over Melbourne changed the finals’ complexion and results in a trip to AAMI Park instead of Canberra Stadium for Brad Arthur’s side. These sides met in Brisbane during Magic Round which saw the Storm obliterate the Eels 64-10. No doubt both Arthur – once a Melbourne assistant – and Craig Bellamy will believe the sides bear little resemblance this time around, but it does show the major issue backing the Eels in 2019 – can you truly trust them?
These sides also played a gripping week one finals clash in 2017 in Melbourne with the Eels narrowly going down. The Storm’s attack may have malfunctioned last week but their defence remained strong and Moses is unlikely to get the ridiculous amount of space the Broncos gifted to him. The Eels have the strike, the creativity and the momentum to cause a boilover – but whether they can do so away from their beloved home fortress, we’re about to find out.
• The Storm boasts a recent 7-2 record over the Eels, including the infamous 64-10 thrashing in round 9.
Overall the Storm also has an 8-2 record in Melbourne against Parramatta since 2006.
• It’s over 13 months since Melbourne last lost consecutive games.
• Parra hasn’t won multiple finals in a season since 2009.
• Maika Sivo has 6 tries in his last 3 games plus was a try-scorer in their earlier clash.
• Melbourne has also won 4 of their last 5 second halves over the Eels.
Best bet: Storm second half - $1.54* (Unibet)
Value bet: Maika Sivo anytime try scorer - $2.25* (Bet365)