|NRL Grand Final Preview
Melbourne Storm v North Queensland Cowboys
Sunday, October 1, 7:15pm (AEST) at ANZ Stadium, Sydney
|Best: Melbourne 1-12 ($2.80)
Other: Under 36 ($1.90)
The Melbourne Storm have been the benchmark all season, winning the minor premiership by six points over the Sydney Roosters in second place. Craig Bellamy’s men also possess the best attack and defence in the NRL, the perfect recipe to make amends for last year’s grand final loss to the Cronulla Sharks. The disappointment of last year’s defeat in the decider has been the driving force in the Storm’s remarkable season to date. The cherry on top would be to farewell one of their favourite sons, Cooper Cronk, in the best possible fashion. One team that won’t be singing off the same hymn sheet is the giant-killing North Queensland Cowboys. They’ve started underdogs in all three of their matches (Sharks, Eels and Roosters) during this finals series and will be rank outsiders here once again. Cowboys coach Paul Green has stated that representative forward Matt Scott will only make his return from an ACL injury if one of the Cowboys’ players suffers a mishap at training. Cowboys utility forward John Asiata has been playing with a broken hand and would be a candidate if something happens during the week. It’s been a remarkable finals series for the Cowboys, led by Michael Morgan and Jason Taumalolo, but they’ve got one more huge fish to fry if they want to lift the Provan-Summons Trophy on Sunday night.
The Storm have won five straight and 17 of their last 22 against the Cowboys, including 23-22 and 26-8 wins this year. The Storm also won last year’s Qualifying Final by 16-10 over the Cowboys in Melbourne. Storm flyer, Suliasi Vunivalu has scored three tries in his last three matches against the Cowboys. Seven of the last nine meetings have failed to break 35 points.
Melbourne have been the standard-bearers all season, going a remarkable 20-4 in the regular season with the top rated defence and top ranked attack, averaging 26.38ppg while conceding just 14. The Storm ride a 10-game winning streak into the decider having not lost since Round 18. Over that stretch they have recorded five wins of 18-plus and enter this off a 30-0 hammering of Brisbane in the preliminary final. Following the loss of Johnathan Thurston to a season-ending injury, the Cowboys faded bad and needed an unlikely Dragons defeat on the final day of the regular season to make it to the playoffs in eighth spot. They finished the regular season with a 13-11 record, the 10th ranked attack and the fifth rated defence. Since getting another lease on life though, North Queensland have recorded three stunning road upsets on the trot with wins over Cronulla, Parramatta and the Sydney Roosters. North Queensland have not conceded more than 16 points over that run.
Stats That Matter
– Melbourne are 15-11 ATS with a 14-12 under record while North Queensland are 17-10 ATS with a 17-10 under record.
– The Storm have won five straight and 17 of their last 22 against the Cowboys, including 23-22 and 26-8 wins this year.
– Seven of the last nine meetings have failed to break 35 points.
– The under has hit in eight of the last nine Grand Finals.
– Favourites have won and covered seven of the last nine Grand Finals.
– Double digit favourites are 3-4 ATS in finals since 2008.
– Melbourne have covered just three of their last nine finals games.
– As an interstate outsider of more than a converted try, the Cowboys are 9-3 ATS.
– North Queensland have covered 10 of their last 13 finals.
– The Storm are 1-2 ATS at ANZ since 2014 while North Queensland are a perfect 6-0 ATS.
– The Storm have covered five of their last six as a favourite of 8 or more.
– The Storm have covered 4 of their last five night games.
– Backs have won 16 Clive Churchill Medals with forwards 15.
– Three players have won from a losing team.
– No winger, centre or bench player has ever won the Clive Churchill Medal.
The Wolf is sticking with the fine-tuned machine that is the Melbourne Storm. They’ve been the benchmark all season and won’t let the opportunity slip to make amends for last year’s grand final loss. In terms of betting angles, the Cowboys have been very gutsy throughout the final series and shouldn’t let this one get out of hand. The Cowboys have covered in 10 of their last 13 finals, making the Storm 1-12, The Wolf’s best bet. The unders is also a strong play, with the unders hitting in eight of the last nine Grand Finals. Players like Cameron Smith ($3) and Cooper Cronk ($5.50) are the obvious choices to win the Clive Churchill Medal, but The Wolf is keen on a few players at value. Cameron Munster ($9), Felise Kaufusi ($26) and Dale Finucane ($41) are all in with a strong shot at man of the match honours and at a good price.
How It’s Shaping Up
Melbourne by 6
Melbourne 1-12 ($2.80)
NRL State Championship – PNG Hunters v Penrith Panthers (Sunday 3:40pm)
The NRL State Championship will see the Intrust Super Premiership champions, Penrith Panthers take on the Intrust Super Cup winners, PNG Hunters. The NRL State Championship was started in 2014, with sides from Queensland’s premier competition holding a 2-1 advantage over their NSW counterparts. The Hunters booked their spot here with a 12-10 win over the Melbourne Storm-littered Sunshine Coast Falcons. They had the sixth best attack and second best defence during the regular season of the Intrust Super Cup and it’s that defence that will hold them in good stead here. Ase Boas and Watson Boas will be critical to the success of the Hunters, while lock Moses Meninga was one of the standout performers in the Intrust Super Cup grand final, with 18 runs for 161 metres and 31 tackles. Meanwhile, the Panthers booked their spot in the NRL State Championship with a strong 20-12 victory over the Wyong Roos in the NSW Cup decider. The Panthers will be relying on the first grade experience of the likes of Mitch Rein, Sitaleki Akauola and Sione Katoa if they’re to get the better of the Hunters. The Wolf also has a big opinion of fullback Mason Cerruto, who looks to be a handy player on the rise and is one to watch. The Hunters were the benchmark in the Intrust Super Cup as minor premiers and The Wolf holds a bigger opinion of the competition in Queensland. They’ll have plenty of support at ANZ Stadium on Sunday and the $2.45 for the Hunters looks a big price in what should be a very close contest.
PNG Hunters ($2.45)
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