BOTH Queensland sides and two Western Sydney clubs battle it out for a berth in the NRL’s final four this weekend in two fascinating semi finals.
The Broncos will hope their returning captain and home ground advantage can lift them over the line on Friday night when they take on the young, skilful Panthers riding high after a dominant Elimination Final win.
On Saturday night we head to ANZ Stadium to see if North Queensland can spring another finals upset, this time against Parramatta who came within a whisker of knocking off minor premiers Melbourne last week.
Here’s how our sports traders see both fixtures. You can get set on both games at TopBetta here.
Brisbane Broncos $1.40 v Penrith Panthers $3.07
It is a set up synonymous with the NRL these days – the Broncos being long odds on favourites at Suncorp Stadium on a Friday night. Even in the finals they’ve somehow jagged their favourite time slot, where they will host the Penrith Panthers for a place in the prelims.
The Broncos lost by two points last week but they were for the most part very poor. It looked at one stage like a bloodbath was on the cards when the Roosters took a 14-0 lead but the Broncos fought back, in part due to some sloppy defending from their opponents. But as quickly as they took the lead in the dying stages they gave it away and now face a sudden death encounter. The return of Darius Boyd will be huge for them going forward and in defence.
The Panthers turned the tables on Manly last week, with their 12-point victory coming on the back of a 16-point loss to the same opponents only a week earlier. Many predicted the turnaround and Penrith didn’t disappoint as the young Panthers showed their superiority across the park. Matt Moylan is still missing for them but in many ways that only frees up Nathan Cleary to direct them around the park. He will need a similar showing from his forward pack though against the Broncos’ hard men to give him a chance to weave his magic.
Matches at Suncorp tend to be high scoring encounters and both sides have shown defensive frailties in recent weeks. We think the Broncos will probably edge this one but there’s little value, so lets go for an action-packed fixture instead.
Betting tip: Total points over 38.5 @ $1.91
Parramatta Eels $1.35 v North Queensland Cowboys $3.34
The Eels’ surge in the latter half of 2017 has been remarkable and they face the battered, bruised but brave Cowboys for the final Prelim position on Saturday.
Parramatta took a 10-4 lead into half time against the Storm last week, but the minor premiers’ class and a few 50-50 calls saw them edged 18-16 in a thriller. The market gave them next to no chance in the fixture but they showed they are a force to be reckoned with in a performance that would have stuck in the minds of the other sides who are still alive. The Eels do still suffer from the odd defensive lapse, but should they tighten the screws this week they will present North Queensland with a monstrous challenge.
The Cowboys won’t roll over though, as they proved with their gritty extra time win over the Cronulla Sharks. A huge late-season slump saw them limp into eighth with a decimated squad but led by Michael Morgan in the halves they’ve punched well above their weight to make it this far. The question is did they play their ‘grand final’ last week – we think perhaps yes.
We’ve been with the Eels as the main challenger to the Premiership favourites Melbourne for a long time and we’re not about to drop off here. They came within a whisker of beating them last week and that form against the Cowboys should stack up.
Betting tip: Parramatta -8.5 @ $1.96