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2021 NRL Preliminary Final: Storm vs Panthers Preview & Betting Tips

September 23rd 2021, 1:13pm, By: Scooby

NRL Storm vs Panthers Betting Tips

There is just one spot remaining in the NRL Grand Final and this fixture has been moved forward to accommodate the ARL Grand Final later in the evening. The earlier kick off time will offer fans the opportunity to view some afternoon rugby league in perfect conditions, while perhaps also providing the chance for free-flowing attack. Many thought that these two sides would feature in the decider but that was changed in Week 1 of the Finals. Regardless, fans will be treated to yet another spectacle here.

If you'd prefer to digest your previews in podcast form, then tune in to the latest edition of the Before You Bet podcast! Scooby is back with his preview for this weekend's NRL finals action!

Melbourne Storm vs Penrith Panthers

Preliminary Final, Suncorp Stadium, Saturday 4:05pm (AEST)

The Storm enjoyed a week off following a dominating 40-12 victory over the Sea Eagles in Week 1 of the Finals. It was a near flawless display which had many people who had previously doubted the Storm, eating humble pie. The proof was in their execution, as they never gave the Sea Eagles an opportunity to get themselves into the contest. They also did an admirable job eliminating the effectiveness of Tom Trbojevic. In the end, the Storm completed at 90%, averaged 8.9m per carry, made 171 more post contact metres (total 474pcm), had 5 line breaks (while also keeping the Sea Eagles to 0) and missed just 19 tackles. Now, they are in the box seat to take out a ‘back-to-back’ title.

The Panthers stand in their way following a gritty 8-6 victory over the Eels last week. In a tight contest, the Panthers held out the Eels late to narrowly prevail. Despite a lot of controversy around some refereeing decisions, each team was presented with their opportunities. It was still not the complete performance that we have come to expect from the Panthers though; there is no greater evidence in that they were only capable of producing 1 line break and for the second straight week, they scored one try which was created via a kick.

Despite having a high completion rate (84%), the Panthers averaged fewer metres per carry (7.7m v 8.1m), fewer post contact metres (437pcm v 492pcm), missed more tackles (36 v 35) and allowed 2 line breaks. That aside, it is a new opportunity presented to them this week and they will want to channel the same performance which saw them defeat the Storm 12-10 back in Round 3. A lot will need to improve within a week though, as they don’t appear to resemble the same, confident team, which took the field for that match. 

The Stats

Head-to-Head = Storm 28 Panthers 10

At Suncorp Stadium = Storm 83% Panthers 48%

Last 10 Matches = Storm 7 Panthers 3 – The average winning margin is 23.8 points for the Storm and 5 points for the Panthers. These two sides have met twice this season; Round 3 where the Panthers were victorious 12-10 and Round 20 which the Storm won 37-10. The Panthers were without Nathan Cleary in the second match. Only once in the past 5 years (2019 v Roosters) have the Storm failed to make the Grand Final following a week off. 


The Storm are strong favourites for this game; while they appear to be the preferred selection, the Panthers are not without a chance of winning. The Storm will have over 14 days to prepare for this game, which may catch them out early but serve them well over 80 minutes. There is some weight to the argument that the Panthers will be ‘battle hardened’ prior to this match after two very draining/tough games; while that may be a positive in one respect, it will undoubtedly impact their fatigue levels towards the end of this match.

There is plenty of impacting factors to digest ahead of this fixture. Firstly, you should trust your eyes; the Panthers have barely resembled the team which played majority of the season and they have only scored two tries in the Finals, both of which came off kicks. They appear to be missing confidence and key players are not performing to their potential. The evidence of this is with Luai and the way he is failing to take on the line, as well as Cleary and his ability to take the ball deep into the defence (something he has always done well prior to his injury). The other is the omission of Mitch Kenny; this means Api Koroisau will be pushed to play 80 minutes and the Storm will be targeting him early in defence, aiming to burn his energy.

The Storm are not without their weaknesses either; the last time they were truly pressured by an opponent, they were defeated and that was only 3-weeks ago against the Eels. Another worrying factor is their weak right-edge defence and how their opponents may look to expose this. Plenty have written off the Panthers in this game, but their defence will be crucial. Defence wins premierships and stopping short of saying that, the Panthers have the best defensive record this year, closely followed by the Storm.

They have also only conceded 16 and 6 points in the previous 2 finals matches. The fact that 9.5 is being offered for the line is somewhat offensive. This game should be far closer. While a lot of that decision must be on trust, the ceiling is far higher for the Panthers than their current form suggests and there is every chance that they lift to that level here. Whether or not they are victorious remains unanswered. For that reason, the Storm are the preferred selection by less than 2 converted tries. 

Storm 1-12



Scooby is our NRL guru with over ten years experience writing about rugby league with Before You Bet and previously at The Profits. His background is in playing and coaching but he's enjoyed the switch to share his knowledge through his articles, as well as sharing his thoughts on Twitter.

Scooby's strength is assessing the overall team - what they offer across the field in a match and how the ethos of a club contributes to their success. Momentum also has a major impact on sports, and Scooby likes to explore this, while underpinning his judgement against a solid basis of statistical analysis. When combined with the aforementioned points, it combines for a holistic approach towards betting on rugby league.

Other sports he enjoys include Cricket, Horse Racing and NFL. There is a reason why Scooby ‘clicked’ with BYB from Day 1 - he loves his sport as much as we do.

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