nrl 2021, nrl preliminary finals

As well as providing his best value bets every week, our NRL guru Steve Green also previews every NRL game for members. Each week on the blog we feature some of his match previews. Check out his NRL Preliminary Finals Previews below…

NRL Preliminary Finals: Storm v Panthers

It doesn’t feel that long ago that the Storm were limping into the finals off the back of some unconvincing performances.

In Round 21 and 22 they beat Manly and Canberra respectively but were in a real fight in both matches, and if their opponents had have been a little more clinical in the final 20 minutes, they easily could have lost both of those games.

In Round 23 they beat the Titans – but not very convincingly – and then in Round 24 they were well beaten by a determined Eels line-up.

So they headed into their final regular season match against the Sharks looking a little unsettled. But that was the match where the Storm played themselves back into form. Papenhuyzen was amazing, while Harry Grant also recaptured his 2020 form.

In the middle, the return of Tui and Big Nas ensures they have plenty of spark off the bench… and what a ridiculous luxury to have a guy like Nico Hynes to bring on to spark the attack.

On my ratings, this Storm line-up is about as strong as any club team I have ever seen. So I understand why they head into this match such big favourites.

For the Panthers, they played tough footy to beat the Eels and while I know a lot of people have lost faith in their Premiership credentials, I am not writing them off here.

With news that To’o is still in a moonboot and Edwards was limping, there’s a chance the Panthers will go through some late minute changes… but that would be not the worst outcome in my view. Crichton to 1 could be the attacking spark the Panthers need at the back.

With Kikau, Yeo, Capewell and Martin, the Panthers have plenty of strike on the fringe and Cleary, Luai and Koroisau are still extremely crafty players, all of whom managed to get Origin experience in 2021. So they won’t be fazed by the big stage of a preliminary final.

While G Jennings and R Smith have been revelations in 2021, they stand out to me as a potential area for the Panthers to attack this weekend. G Jennings is a worry under the high ball, so I think Cleary will be sending plenty his way this weekend.

However the Panthers are also vulnerable out wide, with Crichton scheduled to play out of position and Brett Naden coming off just four games as starting winger for the Panthers NRL side.

I think the game is likely to come down which winger makes a bad read, and which winger finishes their chances. In such an environment, I am happy to back the team that’s getting close to 10 points plus with the bookies.

Predicted score
Storm 22
Panthers 18

NRL Preliminary Finals: Souths v Manly

Before Week 1 of the finals, if someone told you Souths and Manly would be playing in a preliminary final… you would have probably put Manly down as 6-point favourites.

But Week 1 of the finals threw up so many surprises that Souths are indeed the bookies favourites heading into one. While I understand why this is the case, I do think the form of Manly in the second half off 2021 has been overlooked here and they are the team that deserve to be slight favourites heading into this match.

In Week 1 of the finals the Storm suffocated the Manly line up, with the Manly forwards being totally dominated and Tommy T shut out of the game. Manly’s error rate was horrendous and although it was a concern, the Storm do have the ability to do that to teams.

In fact, the Storm annihilated South 50-0 earlier this year and as we all know, no team that’s ever conceded 50 points in a season has gone on to win the premiership.

Another factor that has me believing that Manly should be favourites here is the way in which they demolished the Roosters. Although I thought the Roosters would struggle with such a heavily weakened team, the ease at which Manly won that game should stand them in good stead to back it up here and beat Souths.

Rather than play a brutal match, like the Eels v Panthers game, Manly coasted through and with Lachlan Croker back at 9, they looked a much more settled line-up.

As for Souths, while the week off would have been well received by the players, the win against the Panthers in Week 1 might have reflected a Penrith outfit that is failing to regather their mojo from earlier in the season. While the Panthers defence against the Eels was terrific, they only managed the one try.

Considering the Panthers only scored one try against Souths too, there is a risk that Souths looked good in Week 1 because a slightly depleted and injured Panthers team failed to fire in attack.

However Manly are an attacking dynamo and will have enough options to worry the Souths defensive line. Although all eyes will be on DCE and Tommy T, guys like Schuster, Foran and Olakau’atu offer plenty of threats on the fringe of the ruck, and Adam Reynolds and Cody Walker will struggle with plenty of traffic on the fringe.

I also think that if you look at Souths’ form over the past few months and the quality of opposition they have played – when compared to who Manly have played over the same time period – Manly do look the more battle-hardened team here.

For example, although Souths had to play the Panthers twice within a month, as well as the Roosters in Round 24, their draw since the Round 13 bye only required them to face the Eels once and the Roosters once. Their other big wins over the backend of the season were against the Knights, Broncos, Wests, Cowboys, Bulldogs, Warriors, Dragons (twice) and the Titans.

In contrast, since Round 21 Manly have played the Storm twice, the Eels, the Raiders and the Roosters. The key difference being the fact that Souths have avoided the Storm since their Round 9 annihilation, whereas Manly have had to take them on twice in recent times.

If Souths played Storm Week 1 of the finals, and Manly got the Panthers, then I think things would have panned out differently and this match would be priced much differently to what it has been.

This game will be a thriller… and in such an encounter I’m always happy to take the small plus and bank on it going all the way to the 80 minute siren.

Predicted score
Manly 22
Souths 18

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