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The Last 8 stand ready! Your betting guide to the NRL finals 2012. Previews, finals tipping and odds

Posted on 04/09 by Les H

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The top eight are set in stone for the start of the finals next week, and what a week it promises to be! We’re in for some real treats on the pitch, and there are some compelling tactical battles going on, too. The game that kicks it all off on Friday night is the one that NRL marketers’ dreams are made of: the Manly Sea Eagles meet the Canterbury Bulldogs in a clash that looks set to ignite the finals. A great one for the neutrals as much as anyone else, it’s a big game in which Manly will have to live up to some serious billing as the team to beat.

Let’s have a look at the teams that have made it into the top eight, and whose sights will be set on bringing the NRL trophy home for the season. It looks like a close pack, and whilst the early talk has set Manly out as the team to beat, there’s no shortage of outfits who can do that. We’ll take a look at how the teams are set for the run to the final, and give you an idea of the odds you’ll get on them over at

Let’s look at Manly first, then, as the press coverage has them carrying the tag of favourites. Not that they don’t deserve it – over the course of the season they have been, in flashes, the most dangerous side in the league. They have started games explosively, and they have put sides away in the last third. What they haven’t done yet is put it all together, and the finals would be a good time for them to find a complete performance.

Manly have the players to defend their title this year (Kieran Foran’s form leading the line will be crucial, and has been good) and there is enough experience in the squad to overcome any finals nerves. Dangerous going forward, and uncompromising in defence, the Sea Eagles are the bookmaker’s favourites – at $3.50 to lift the trophy come September 30th, and $1.72 to overcome the Bulldogs on Friday night.

But the Bulldogs are the team that finished at the top of the pile, and that must count for something. At the very least, it tells the story of Canterbury-Bankstown’s consistency over the whole of the season, and they will be keen to take that reliability with them into the finals. Impressive against Sydney in Round 26, the Bulldogs held on to the ball very well, and that was what won them an encounter that could have been much closer than the final score suggests.

You’ll get odds at of $2.15 for the Bulldogs to pull the carpet out from under Manly on Friday, and $4.50 for them to go all the way and lift the cup. It’s worth remembering, if you’re in the mood for a bet, that the last team to beat the Sea Eagles was the Bulldogs...

The South Sydney Rabbitohs registered a good win at Newcastle in Round 26, putting in a solid defensive performance. It’s an area of their game that will be a real strength in the finals. If they can stop teams scoring, then the Rabbitohs will be able to grind their way further into the finals, and might just see themselves lining up on Grand Final Day. Their odds stand at $2.30 to beat Melbourne Storm on the first of Saturday’s games, and at $5.00 to lift the trophy.

The Storm are favourites to secure themselves a crucial week off in the second Qualifying Final on Saturday afternoon, standing at $1.65 to get past the Rabbitohs, and at $4.00 to go all the way to winning the Grand Final. The Storm have been on winning form over the past couple of weeks, but it’s unlikely they’re in the sort of form they would like to be with the finals just around the corner.

There is a feeling that the Storm are just too strong for a developing Rabbitohs side that will be a more likely Grand Final side next year, but if there is a side to expose some of the flaws in the Storm set-up, then it could be South Sydney. Craig Bellamy will hope to iron out his side’s weaknesses before Saturday comes.

Brisbane Broncos face a tough challenge on Saturday night if they want to keep their season alive for another week, when they face a North Queensland Cowboys outfit their own coach describes as ‘slick’. Mind games notwithstanding, the Broncos may lack the strength across the board to match the Cowboys, but this is the finals, and Anthony Griffin’s men are unlikely to give anything less than their all. This might seem like the game of the first finals weekend that will be the most one-sided, but the Broncos may just be worth a bet at $2.75 to win on the night, and at $21.00 to win the Grand Final.

The Cowboys will be confident going into Saturday night’s game against Brisbane, but their laundry list of injured players could just be cause for concern. More positive is the excellent recent form of a powerful pack that includes James Tamou, Gavin Cooper, Jason Taumalolo and Scott Bolton, and which is more than capable of supplying enough quality possession for Jonathan Thurston and Matt Bowen to give the Broncos real problems. Odds on a Cowboys Grand Final win are $13.00, and expect to get $1.47 for them to beat Brisbane at the weekend.

The last game of the opening weekend sees Canberra Raiders and Cronulla Sharks clash in another sudden-death Elimination Final. It won’t be easy for the Sharks to turn things around after a disheartening defeat in North Queensland, especially with the news that centre Ben Pomeroy has been referred directly to the NRL judiciary on a dangerous conduct charge. He has a chance to plead his case, but his exclusion will be another blow to a Sharks side that faces the longest odds of the last eight to take the trophy, at $31.00. They’re at $2.30 to beat the Raiders on Sunday, though, which they can certainly do if the Raiders aren’t on top form.

At half time in Auckland, it looked like the Raiders were down and out, and they couldn’t have imagined a worse lead into the finals. But 36 unanswered points in the second half have left David Furner’s men full of belief. And those 40 minutes have confirmed what lots of people have thought for a while: when the Raiders are on form, they’re on fire.

The Warriors were poor in the second half, and Canberra won’t expect the Sharks to fold like the New Zealanders did, but a Raiders side firing on all cylinders could be too much for the Sharks to handle. Look out for a bet on the Raiders to win Sunday’s clash at $1.65, and at $26.00 to go all the way.

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