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2017 NRL Semi Finals preview and expert tips

Posted on 13/09 by Joe Gann

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Brisbane Broncos v Penrith Panthers betting
Team Odds
Brisbane Broncos $1.40 Bet Now
Penrith Panthers $3.00 Bet Now
Wayne Bennett was unimpressed with his side’s display in Friday night’s clash with the Roosters, concluding that they didn’t deserve to progress at the first time of asking.

A shambolic early defensive effort in which the Broncos committed 18 missed tackles undermined their pre-match preparation and the Chooks took full advantage to race into a 12-0 lead with just 20 minutes on the clock. Despite the diabolical opening, Brisbane managed to stay in the game courtesy of James Roberts’ try just before half-time and Corey Oates gave them hope of a dramatic late win when he pounced on a Blake Ferguson mistake to cross the line with just 9 minutes remaining.

However, Latrell Mitchell was the hero for the Tricolours, winning a pulsating encounter for his side 3 minutes later to earn a week off for his teammates. Bennett believes the error-strewn display from his men can be quickly rectified this week after seeing his side turn things around during the game. Captain Darius Boyd is still recovering from a hamstring injury and may not be fit in time for this week’s do-or-die clash with the Panthers and the veteran coach pulled off a surprise with his inclusion of David Mead in the full-back role ahead of Kodi Nikorima.

The experiment came to a premature end after 20 minutes, however, with Nikorima introduced to the action in a desperate attempt to swing the balance of the match back in his side’s favour; it is likely that he will continue in the position this week, if Boyd doesn’t regain fitness. Adam Blair will be free to start against the Panthers; the prop received a fine after pleading guilty over his trip on Roosters hooker Jake Friend.

The first weekend of finals saw some disappointing crowds in Sydney whereas the Broncos will be confident that they can attract a bumper crowd to the Suncorp on Friday; a partisan atmosphere created by the Queensland faithful may be vital to their team’s chances.

Controversy reigned in the Panthers’ win over the Sea Eagles on Saturday, with Manly boss Trent Barrett seething over the Bunker’s decision to award a Tyrone Peachy try. The 22-10 victory over the Silvertails was a surprise given the manner of their defeat to the same opponents in Round 26, but the Panthers managed to pull off an excellent win to head into the second week of sudden death football.

The sight of Matt Moylan in the stands at Allianz Stadium has led to speculation that the skipper may return to action this week; less than a fortnight after being ruled out of the rest of the season with mental health issues. His return would be an enormous boost for the side as they prepare for their toughest test of the campaign so far. Coach Anthony Griffin returns to his old stomping ground as he plots a win that would be extra special considering his sacking by the Red Hill club in 2014.

Much will depend on the halves combination of Nathan Cleary and Tyrone May; the duo have developed a good understanding over recent weeks but will be severely tested against Anthony Milford who is in fantastic form for the Broncos. For the second week running, the Mountain Men will go into a match as underdogs and victory in the Queensland capital may prove a bridge too far.

Selection: Broncos to win

Parramatta Eels v Nth Queensland Cowboys betting
Team Odds
Parramatta Eels $1.36 Bet Now
Nth Queensland Cowboys $3.25 Bet Now
The Eels made an immediate impact on their return to the finals arena after an eight-year hiatus at the weekend, proving they can mix it with the best after narrowly coming up short in Melbourne.

The fact that Brad Arthur’s men were disappointed to miss out on qualification to the preliminary final spoke volumes about their performance after being all but written off prior to Saturday’s clash. The 18-16 loss will have boosted belief in the Eels camp that they possess the ability to make it to the first week of October in this year’s competition; such was the quality of the display.

The high intensity of their play forced the Storm into committing more errors than their opponents – nine to seven – a rarity for the Minor Premiers this season. Parramatta have thoroughly deserved their place in the top four, and they showed no nerves on the big stage, in fact, the reverse is nearer the truth, they reveled in the big-game spotlight. With Cameron Munster sent to the bin, the Blue and Golds capitalised with two tries during the ten-minute period and led 10-4 going into the sheds.

However, a clinical spell from Melbourne saw the home side score two quick-fire tries to turn the game on its head and assume an insurmountable lead. With Semi Radradra having a quiet game compared to his blistering form of recent weeks, it’s a safe bet that the powerhouse will have a significant influence on the outcome of this one, in what could be the Fijian winger’s last game for the club before he leaves to join French Rugby Union club Toulon. The Eels are short odds to win at the second attempt this week and set up a mouth-watering preliminary final against cross-city rivals the Roosters.

The appearance of the Cowboys at this stage of the competition is a huge accomplishment by Paul Green’s team; the fact that their injury plagued season is still alive is a testament to the resilience of a stoic playing group. The victory over the Sharks destroyed the Premiers’ hopes of becoming the first team to successfully defend their crown since the inauguration of the NRL.

In what was an intense, nerve-racking elimination final, Michael Morgan’s field goal in the first half of extra-time was enough to dump the team from the Shire out and set up a date with the Eels this Saturday. Having been deprived of the services of Johnathan Thurston, Justin O’Neill and Matt Scott for large parts of the campaign, the durable North Queenslanders have dug in and managed to salvage something from a season that had threatened to unravel. In the absence of those star names, others have assumed responsibility for the team and the likes of Jake Granville, Lachlan Coote, Michael Morgan and Jason Taumalolo have been instrumental in the Cowboys progress.

Taumalolo, in particular, was immense in Sunday’s victory, providing 242 running metres, 30 tackles, and eight tackle busts; his unstoppable surge to the line, in which he carried four Sharks over with him, was the icing on the cake of a phenomenal individual display. Once again, the Cowboys will approach this weekend’s game without the burden of any expectation on their shoulders, and it may prove once more to be an advantageous situation for the 2015 Premiers.

Selection: Eels to win

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