The 2017 NRL season continues this weekend with the second week of finals to be played on Friday and Saturday night. The Melbourne Storm and Sydney Roosters await in the preliminary finals while the Cronulla Sharks and Manly Sea Eagles were shown the door. See our NRL Semi Finals Preview and Betting Tips below.
Brisbane Broncos vs Penrith Panthers (Friday 7.50pm AEST)
The Broncos will host the Panthers in the opening game of the NRL Finals Week 2. The Broncos will enter the match on the back of a loss against the Roosters. The scoreboard showed the side lost by only two points and although they were leading with 10-minutes remaining, the Broncos didn’t play well at all. The side trailed 14-0 early and took a while to get going in the contest. However, their poor performance can also be taken as a positive because they ‘will’ welcome back their captain this week. Darius Boyd was named on an extended bench but he will take his place at fullback on Friday night. The Broncos will be a much better side with Boyd in team. He improves their attack as he helps organise while he sums up situations well when swooping around the mean. Meanwhile he is another defender in the line when the Broncos are defending inside their own 20m area. The Broncos will play at a higher standard on Friday night and they will have the advantage of playing in front of their home fans.
The Panthers haven’t been so fortunate. Their captain, Matt Moylan, will remain on the sidelines this week and he would have been a great inclusion. The Panthers will need all the attack they can get against one of the better defensive sides and fortunately for them Bryce Cartwright played his best game of the year last week. He scored two tries but more importantly he rolled up his sleeves, took hard hit ups and didn’t overplay his hand. The Panthers forward pack stepped up in the contest and they weren’t overpowered like they were the week before. We are expecting them to do the same against a Broncos forward pack and they will need to lay a good platform for their halves if they are to stand a chance of an upset.
The Panthers will need Nathan Cleary to have a great game if they are to win. He is capable of it but it is a lot of pressure to place on the shoulders of a 19-year-old. Meanwhile his halves pairing Tyrone May has only a handful of NRL games under his belt and fullback Dylan Edwards only has a few more than that. It is a big ask for a young team to earn a win in a finals match at Suncorp Stadium. We believe they will be in the contest but ultimately the experience will see the Broncos prevail.
Update: Since publishing, Broncos captain and fullback Darius Boyd has officially been ruled out with a hamstring injury. It is a massive blow to the Broncos' chances and because of this we are changing our tip. The loss of Boyd and Andrew McCullough hurts the structure of Brisbane in attack and defence. Five-eighth Anthony Milford will need to have a blinder for the Broncos to win. We believe it will still be a close contest but the Panthers will advance.
Parramatta Eels vs North Queensland Cowboys (Saturday 7.50pm AEST)
The Parramatta Eels would have been watching the match between the Sharks and Cowboys and licking their lips. The Cowboys were forced into extra-time against the Sharks and sides have a poor record after backing up from entering the extra period in the game before. The Eels won’t say it but they will also prefer to face off with the Cowboys then the Sharks, as the Cowboys are of course without Johnathan Thurston and other key players while the Sharks are next to full strength.
The Eels were impressive in their match against the Storm, a game where they were given no chance. If a few calls went their way they could have easily caused the upset. The side was strong defensively and held out the Storm for long periods of the game. We are predicting them to earn the win against the Cowboys on the back of this defence. The Cowboys have struggled to score points since the injury to Thurston. Meanwhile their attack has been improving week by week and even though they are without their first two choice fullbacks in Clint Gutherson and Bevan French, Will Smith has been a terrific third option.
The Cowboys showed they have a lot of heart in their win against the Sharks. They were trailing for the entire match, levelled the scores with under two minutes remaining to enter extra-time and took the lead for the first time to win. However, as mentioned above, we don’t believe they have enough spark in attack to crack the Eels line on enough occasions to earn the victory. Te Marie Martin is a predictable player and he was forced into a number of errors against the Sharks. The Cowboys will need Jason Tuamalolo to have another heroic performance while Michael Morgan and Lachlan Coote will need to play the best games of their career. The Eels will advance, and with ease.
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