NRL Finals Week One Preview

The finals are here. 16 teams have become eight, and by the end of this weekend, we will have two with a week off, and two more eliminated.

Melbourne Storm vs Manly Sea Eagles

You could almost change this game to the Storm vs Tom Trbojevic and friends. The man they call Turbo was phenomenal last week. Manly struggled for 35 minutes against the Cowboys, then Trbojevic flicked a switch and the Sea Eagles ended up on 46. Trbojevic is averaging almost four try involvements per game, and the Storm will be right up against it if they can’t stop him.

Trbojevic will need help though. This Melbourne team are outstanding. They make the most line breaks, the fourth-most run metres and have the most possession of any team in the competition. That is a recipe for disaster, and while the Sea Eagles have been strong in defence, they will need to go to another level.

The Sea Eagles have probably been the team to push the Storm further than any other this season, but with only Josh Addo-Carr’s injury a cause for concern, Melbourne should book the week off.

Storm by 10

Sydney Roosters vs Gold Coast Titans

This is an intriguing contest for a knockout game. Despite the enormous contrast between the top six and the rest, the Roosters have only scored 50 more points across 24 games than the Titans this year.

The Roosters were almost brought undone in a shootout between these two sides in the regular season, when the Titans lost 35-34, and that is the sort of game they will attempt to create here. David Fifita makes more tackle busts than any other player, while he is also fifth for offloads and holds the key. In saying that, the Titans are fourth for tackle busts as a team and fifth for offloads. The Roosters do also miss the fifth-most tackles in the competition, while they have made the most errors.

Statistically, this is a dangerous game for the tri-colours, but the Titans have the worst defence of any team in the top eight, while the Roosters have scored the fourth-most tries in the competition. Expect the Roosters to win a high-scoring thriller, getting home on the back of their finals experience.

Roosters by 4

Penrith Panthers vs South Sydney Rabbitohs

The Panthers have been in fine form since Nathan Cleary returned from injury. It’s hardly a surprise given his season stats which include 16 wins from 16 games. He has ten tries, 19 try assists, 19 forced drop-outs, 14 line-break assists. It is ridiculous just how well he has played in 2021.

The Panthers have rumbled past South Sydney twice in the regular season and go in as heavy favourites here with good reason. Cleary is joined by the competition’s best winger in Brian To’o, who has allowed the Panthers to run for more metres, and more post contact metres, than any other team.

The Rabbitohs contending with that will struggle, particularly without fullback Latrell Mitchell. Wayne Bennett’s side have brought their defence back into check, but still have conceded 19 points per game, compared to the Panthers 12. They have also let in big scores to the top sides, and while that may not happen, the Panthers will win.

Panthers by 10

Parramatta Eels vs Newcastle Knights

This game really comes down to whether the Knights will be able to improve their attack or not. They have been woeful all season and hold the NRL’s second-worst attacking record, only ahead of the Bulldogs. They score just 17.8 points per game, which simply isn’t close to enough in this fast-paced era of the game.

Parramatta seem to have turned a corner as well. They beat the Storm a fortnight ago in their final contest at full strength, and with a refreshed line-up, it’s hard to see how they don’t win this and end Newcastle’s season. They make the third-most run metres in the competition, and the second-most offloads. The Knights’ defence isn’t good enough to contain that, and given they won’t be able to go with the blue and gold in a shootout, this seems a foregone conclusion.

The Knights also lost the only game between these sides in the regular season 40 points to 4.

Eels by 20


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