Thu, Sep 6, 12:43pm by Staff Writer
The Sydney Roosters won the 2018 NRL minor premiership and face an in-form Cronulla side on Saturday night, with the winner guaranteed a home preliminary final.
On Sunday, the highly fancied Brisbane Broncos welcome St George Illawarra to Suncorp Stadium.
Sydney Roosters versus Cronulla Sharks
Saturday, 8 September 2018 at 7:40pm AEST at Allianz Stadium, Sydney
The Sydney Roosters finished the home and away season with 16 wins, but their superior points differential is what earned them top spot on the ladder after 25 rounds.
The Chooks are $1.55 favourites at Sportsbet to defeat the Cronulla Sharks on Saturday night, with the visitors $2.45 outsiders.
Cronulla has won its past four games and ran in six tries last Sunday to defeat Canterbury 30-18.
The Roosters tuned up for the finals with a 44-10 hammering of Parramatta, after losses to Canberra and Brisbane in the week’s prior.
Both sides won 16 games this season but were separated by points difference.
The two teams clashed in round five this season at Southern Cross Group Stadium. On that night, it was the Roosters who produced a 28-10 win.
Despite Cronulla owning 56 per cent of the possession, it was the Roosters who made their possession count.
The Roosters scored three tries in the first half and were never headed in a dominant performance.
The defence of the Sydney Roosters has been the best in the competition for many weeks and they have conceded only 361 points this season. Cronulla has the competition’s third best defence, giving away only 423 points in total.
It is essential that Cronulla complete their sets on Saturday night, as they own the competition’s second-worst completion rate at just 75 per cent.
The Sharks may be able to assert dominance on the Roosters in the forward pack, as the hosts will be without Dylan Napa and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.
The Roosters are 4.5-point favourites on the handicap at $1.91.
In margin betting, a Roosters win by 1-12 points is paying $2.75, while a Sharks win by the same margin is $3.30.
A Roosters win by 13+ is $3.50 and a Sharks 13+ win is $8.
It is a lottery as to who will score the first try, with the oddsmakers unable to split Valentine Holmes, Blake Ferguson and Latrell Mitchell who are all priced at $10.
We fancy the Sharks in an upset in this one. Cronulla are in form, love the big stage and have plenty of players with proven finals experience. The big question mark for the Roosters will be how their forwards lay the platform for their halves.
Best bet- Cronulla Big Win Little Win 1-12 at $3.30
Brisbane Broncos versus St George Illawarra Dragons
Sunday, 9 September 2018 at 4:10pm AEST at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
The Brisbane Broncos have hit form at the right time of the season and start their elimination final against St George Illawarra as heavy favourites.
The Broncos are $1.28 at Sportsbet to beat the Dragons, with the visitors paying $3.70.
The Broncos boast wins against the Rabbitohs, Roosters and Sea Eagles heading into the finals and finished the regular season in sixth position.
It has been a far leaner second half of the season for the Dragons, after their blistering start to the 2018 campaign.
They have won only three of their past nine games, but have won two of their past three.
The Dragons are set to recall Gareth Widdop, Euan Aitken and Jason Nightingale in a huge boost to their depleted backline stocks.
The Broncos are at full strength heading into this game and in their best form of the season, beating two top-four sides in the past month.
Brisbane has an imposing recent record against St George, winning four of the past five clashes between the sides. The Dragons’ lone win in that span was when the two sides met in round one this season.
On that night it was the Dragons who were big 34-12 winners in Wollongong, with Ben Hunt starring in his debut for his new club.
Brisbane is an 11.5-point favourite heading into this match, paying $1.91 at Sportsbet.
In margin betting, the Broncos to win 13+ is the shortest priced option at $2.10. A Broncos win by 1-12 is the next best at $3.20. If the Dragons are to win, the money says its going to be by a 1-12 margin, paying $5.50.
Corey Oates is the overwhelming favourite to be the first tryscorer at $6.50. His team mates Jamayne Isaako ($9.50) and James Roberts ($11) are the next best. For the Dragons, Matt Dufty and Nene Macdonald are both paying $15.
It is hard to make a case for the Dragons in this one given their insipid recent form and poor record against the Broncos.
Nearly two tries is a lot to give up in finals footy though and we are more comfortable in backing the Broncos to win a close one.
Best bet- Brisbane Broncos Big Win Little Win 1-12 at $3.20
NRL Finals Week 1 Odds – Sportsbet
Melbourne $1.78 v South Sydney $2.05
Penrith $1.71 v New Zealand $2.15
Sydney $1.55 v Cronulla $2.45
Brisbane $1.28 v St George $3.70
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