NRL Tips & Game Previews | Finals Week 2 | 2021

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MrG provides our NRL Tips Previews and content each week for our Reading The Play NRL subscribers. Further details on our NRL offering here

MrG’s Game Handicaps for this round

-14.5 Eagles v Roosters – Mackay
-11.5 Panthers v Eels – Mackay


Recommended Bet List

Bet 2.5 units Eagles -10.5 $1.90 BB
Eagles -14.5 for me, Roosters have two further key outs from normal starting forward line up and have been running on fumes for weeks, Titans beat them at run mtrs and post contact mtrs last week and should have won, Eagles drop back a big level here off Storm, that formline is strong, if this game plays to form as I expect Eagles look decisive winners

Bet 1.5 units anytime try Tom Trbojevic (Eagles) + Reuben Garrick (Eagles) $2.72

BB – Indicates Best Bet

Any longer term plays that have been recommended in prior weeks will be listed at the base of this message


Individual Game Tips

Eagles, Panthers


Game Preview Notes

Notes – Finals Football:

Finals Facts

  • 16 of the last 20 Premiers have won the comp off the back of finishing top 4, winning week one and having a week off into their Prelim final game (and then winning)
  • 11 of last 13 Premiers were one of the Top 2 defensive sides that season – this year Panthers and Storm (same as last year)
  • 6 of the last 7 grand finalists who had played 4 weeks straight, have lost
  • No Origin or International Rep #7 or #6 – No Chance
    In the last 41 years 39 of the 41 Premiership winners had a rep (Origin or International) #7 or #6

Key Winning Criteria

  • Top 4
  • Top 2 best defence
  • Win Week 1 then Week off
  • Origin or International Rep #7 or #6

Overall Record (excluding finals)

-14.5 Eagles v Roosters – Mackay

Ground: Mackay
46.5 Total Points (market position)

Eagles would be stung off that poor loss last week, but lets keep that in perspective losing to a hot Bellamy prepared all but full strength Storm in a finals game is no embarrassment. One of the stronger longer term form lines for top half of table teams has been losing to the Storm and then performing the following week. Eagles get Croker back at #9, positive in given how well he has played in this spot this season. Roosters come off a narrow win to the Titans in what was a scrappy and thin form reference game for mine and now have 2 further key forward outs which they can ill afford losing Taukeiaho and Verills, so a big body middle and their starting #9.

It’s well documents and written numerous times over recent months what an amazing lift the Roosters have put in to have lasted this long and be where they are given all of the injury outs that they have. I’m sure off the record if a few months ago they thought they’d be in week two of the finals they’d have taken that hands down, but to be fair as I have said all season long this comp this season has a very long tail and so a very well coached team still with a sprinkling of quality on field talent and some well developed next generation back up replacements they have beaten those below them for the most part and earnt their way through. Last week they dropped a level all be it a semi final in against the 8th placed team who arrived with a losing record of 10 and 14 and were very luck to scrap through with a late win. They could never gap the Titans, their opponent had at least 3 opportunities to steal a win late, they (Roosters) made multiple basic error through out the game (12) and missed a staggering 44 tackles against an opponent who have a pretty predicable attack plan. For weeks now they have looked to be playing on old fumes, trying to lift, trying to put in, but also looking worn down but the amount of lifting that they have done and the need for a few key players to really perform for them to be a chance. And that’s no know, they have done super, but it looks like the well is all but dry. What also changes here is that they face a top 4 opponent not one down the table and their record when back at this level is 1 and 6 from 7 this season. They also face a team that can play quick, can shift, and has strike, all of which is surely going to test a team playing on fumes.

The Eagles also drop back a big level in quality. But its now a sudden death final and so no room for a flat one, but I am sure they are smarting off last week and have a point to prove here. Lets be fair, the Storm are or are all but the benchmark and were very well prepared for last week with a game plan to target the Eagles right edge, in particular Harper but also Cherry-Evans and with all but surgical precision went about their business. Harper in his first full year at this level had a bad night and got found out under some pressure, and DCE had a couple of plays he’d like back again, and it didn’t take long for the game to start to get away from the Eagles, the Storm to be growing in confidence and the scoreboard points and pressure to be mounting. Lets also keep in perspective that the Storm have one of the best defensive systems in the game over many seasons, they also shut down the Eagles yardage and opportunity, but for me it was less about Turbo and co having room to play and more about them being put under consistent attack and defensive pressure that didn’t allow them to get into their normal groove. They now face a Roosters team who can leak points, coughed up 24 last week to the 8th team, 54 a few weeks prior to another top 4 opponent in the Rabbits and have been 22 a week all season.

I am expecting the Eagles to be up and on here and have a serious point to prove. They have yardage and strength through the middle, they can create room to play, and they then have the smarts at 7 and 6 and then Tom chiming in to play some ball shift, some running game and some strong attack. I expect they favour to play to their left edge and target the Roosters right and Foran, Tom and Garrick in particular to focus and or get plenty of opportunity here. If they can start strong and get going early they can look to do to the Roosters something similar to what the felt last week. It looks the right game and set up for the Eagles, back off strong hit out but loss last week, a strong form reference, back a level, point to prove, into an opponent with further key outs, overall much weakened list, prone to leaking points trying to lift again.

-11.5 Panthers v Eels – Mackay

Ground: Mackay
42.5 Total Points (market position)

Really interesting game in so many ways and overall I am happy to stay out. Panthers here off surprise loss when warm favs last week to the Rabbits and do get two key ins in Edwards at the back and Leota up front. Edwards is important, quality unsung hero for what he does and now tidies up the balance of their back 5, take of the high ball, kick return and his support play. Leota should add some much needed muscle and yardage in the middle and strengthens up their middle rotation and depth. Eels a few moves in the list but no real change, Matterson like starts in the 17 this week and would add size and muscle and help on their right edge.

On paper it was easy to find the Panthers as 10 to 12 point favs, and all of that makes sense. Finished top 2, prior to the move to Brisbane and post Origin they were in very strong form but as we know have had a whole range of key injury and form issues since. They also then made a late change to plan which is now critical, originally they were going to rest a whole heap of players in the last round game against the Eels (who had 13 out) but when the Storm had the surprise loss the week prior and the distant opportunity of the minor premiership opened up (if the Sharks beat the Storm in the final round) Coach Cleary went to a different plan and went full team and full tilt into the last round and with a spoken (internally) plan of win last round, win week one of finals and then we have our rest / week off. Well we now know how that hasn’t worked out. It also sends some confusion and hesitancy into the player group about what the Coach is doing. Fisher-Harris has been well below his best, Luai questionable form over recent months, Nathan made some key decision errors last week and also had a lot of his room shut down by some quality defence. The other thing that the Rabbits in both of their last two meets with them over recent weeks have shown up is that if you whack hard through the middle third and play physically tough with both your defence and your yardage the Panthers can be opened up. All of this mounts pressure of expectation now on them, and if this gets physical and remains close pressure in team sport can do interesting things. So while the numbers suggest warm favs, for mine this is not straight forward.

The Eels are a bit tricky. I have to rate them off around where they were a few weeks ago against the Storm and suggest that that is what they can be capable of. They handled the reshuffle at #9 last week well, the revert of the halves back to opposite sides has worked (Moses back to left, Brown to the right). Their record in recent finals has been poor but as they showed a few weeks ago Arthur has a knack of getting their heads right for key games, lifting, and also being very physical. Campbell-Gillard returned to his best of probably 3 or 4 yrs ago last week, he was super and that sort of intent in the middle with Paulo and co makes a big dent into this game. Their halves have to be very good, and they have to play some direct and at the line footy, and lead. The Eels are a despised underdog here, they have no expectation, this is really going to suit them.

Panthers start strong early and get away and build some confidence then they probably play to the market number and win well enough. But I don’t expect it to be straight forward. I do think the Eels can give this a physical shake early and that can open things right up mentally, and then we will see who gets a sniff, and who aims up. For all of the ifs and buts outlined I have no firm opinion on the game, it looks a cracker to watch (especially the mental approach) and might weave and turn in different ways all the way through the 80 minutes. As a betting proposition I’m very comfortable to leave well alone.


Longer Term Recommended Bet List

Bet 5 units Storm-Panthers Grand Final Quinella $2.75
On numbers the Storm or Panthers are now an approx 95% chance of either winning the premiership and likely now the clearest stand out top 2 and likely Grand final quinella pairing that we have seen for many many years. On numbers and reality the Eagles are now for mine the only real chance of challenging these two into that final game but would likely then have to win two or three games at their best to make the GF. We already have Storm outright to win comp as a futures bet, rather than hedge with the Panthers I think the better option and value right now is to take the quinella option now a week prior to the finals starting when we still have approx 10 teams taking up some % of the market and so this price much higher now than in a week or weeks to come.

Bet 6 units Storm to win Premiership $2.60
Clearly now the benchmark and the one to beat, Panthers likely to have longer term injury questions over Cleary (shoulder) and Luai (knee), Storm have key depth, confidence and quality combinations

Bet 3 units Eagles to make Top 4 $5.00
Think the price is way too high, Eagles have a very soft run home with only 2 games vs Top 4 contenders then a further 10 vs bottom 8 sides/contenders. Clearly they are very reliant on the fitness of Tom Trbojevic which is factored into the odds and my bet, but if he plays most of these games they give this a huge shake

Bet 3 units Raiders to miss Top 8 $2.00 Topsport $1.95 Tab
Lost 5 straight and should have been beat by 16th placed Bulldogs last week, not a happy crew from everything I hear, think bottom of the 8 gets very competitive in second half of the yr and have to take them on

Bet 4 units Panthers Minor Premiers $3.30 Topsport
Market is also available at Tab and Sportsbet $3.00
Undefeated after 3 rounds, quality longer home record and have depth in key positions, my numbers right now suggest they now appear as $2.00 chance

Bet 5 units Titans top QLD team $1.77 Topsport
Market is also available at Ladbrokes $1.75 and Sportsbet $1.67
We have a small interest speculator on Titans Top 4, think this is a positive way to cover our stake longer term. Three way contest, what we are betting is the final table position between Titans and Cowboys and I’m confident on the Titans progression late last yr (won last 5 games), key signings, positive off season + quality coach that this is the right play. Should Cam Smith turn up mid season as I expect then icing on the cake!

Bet 6 units Storm Top 4 $1.85
Looks an excellent longer term anchor bet, Bellamy’s record of top 4 finishes each season is unparalleled, as is his ability to replace players and bring his team back to the top. They will win near 90% of home games (Melb or Sunshine Coast), have near the best D once again and likely finish top two.

Bet 3 units Broncos most losses $5.00
Expected / rate them closer to $2.00, this price looks very very generous. The squad is weaker than last yr (and they finished with the spoon), start the season with key injury outs, question mark on whether Coach is up to this task and have a hard draw.

Bet 2 units Titans to make Top 4 $4.50
Think the Coach is quality, started to put his imprimatur in them late into the season with some very positive and exciting play/results. They have purchased astutely, top 4 might be a reach (you can save top 8 at $1.85 if you wish) but I just see a) lot of up side and b) a comp with potential long tail. They look the team with the flashing red light for me this season. There is some $5.00 available in some places.


Market Odds Comparison – a quick link to assist with the available odds across many possible providers – nrl-odds-comparisons

Staking: The recommended units bet is indicated next to each bet in the above bet list. The base bet is 1 to 5 units (and is also a reflection of confidence. Everyone chooses to bet in different bet sizes, from differing betting banks (the personal funds they put aside for betting). Some will bet $20 per bet, some $200 per bet. So as to keep things simple and clear for everyone to follow we then talk in bet units. Our advice is to decide what size betting unit is likely to work for you and call this your betting unit, remembering that you may have approx. 5 to 10 units of recommended outlay per week per sport and that you also run the risk of losing.

Game Notes Preparation: FYI, with the introduction of Thursday night games in recent years it is now near impossible with the work and list of things that I chose to do to have all game previews written and finished until late in each week or early Saturday am. With the final team lists not announced until Tuesday afternoon, which I then re rate against (current performance, key ins and outs / final team lists and then look to handicap each up coming game then consider a range of form and match up factors towards final potential bets and written game previews. In short with team lists announced late Tuesday that then leaves two days to work through these tasks. I will focus the first preview notes at any game that has a recommended bet so that any key factors and reasoning is then known in advance, and then be working through each game there after in order of day and time (from Thursday onward).

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