Penrith Panthers v Canterbury Bulldogs
Sunday, September 11, 4.10pm (AEST), Allianz Stadium, Sydney
|Best Bet: Under 41.5 ($1.90)
Other: Penrith -4.5 ($1.85)
Penrith/Under 41.5 ($2.80)
In-form Penrith tackle out-of-form Canterbury in the second elimination final of the opening weekend of the finals. The Panthers and the Bulldogs know it is win or season over in what will be a season-defining battle.
Penrith are unchanged while Canterbury remarkably will go in without fullback Will Hopoate, who is bypassing the match for religious reasons. Brett Morris goes to fullback for the first time this year with Tyrone Phillips starting on the wing. Sam Kasiano is back from suspension, replacing Danny Fualalo.
Penrith and Canterbury have met 89 times with the Bulldogs winning on 51 occasions to the Panthers’ 35 with three draws. The teams met just once this year with Kerrod Holland kicking a conversion on the bell on his debut to give Canterbury an 18-16 win. The Bulldogs have won the last two and five of the last eight matches between the sides. Low-scoring matches have been the norm with 7 of the last 9 matches tallying less than 38 points. These teams have met just once at the SFS with the Bulldogs eliminating defending premiers Penrith on their way to their last title 30-14 in 2004. The teams have met three times in finals matches with Penrith eliminating Canterbury in the 1997 Super League competition with the Bulldogs winning preliminary finals in 2004 and 2014. Curtis Rona has scored two tries in three games against Penrith.
Penrith finished the season sixth on the ladder with a 14-10 record and a +100 differential. They finished the season with five straight wins, scoring at least 36 points in four of them. They have won just 3 of their last 7 against Top 8 opposition. Penrith finished the season ranked fifth in attack (23.5ppg) and eighth in defence (19.4ppg) but since Round 11 they have risen to second in attack (26.1ppg) and fifth in defence (19.0ppg). Canterbury stumbled into the finals on the back of three straight losses and seven straight ordinary performances, averaging just 13.86ppg over that stretch. The Bulldogs finished the year ranked ninth in attack (21.1ppg) and sixth in defence (18.7ppg) while since Round 11 they have rated ninth in attack (21.2ppg) and seventh in defence (20.9ppg). Canterbury have won just 1 of their last 6 against Top 8 opposition.
Nathan Cleary v Moses Mbye. Cleary has been ultra-impressive since making a late-season debut and has been central to Penrith’s success with his poise and cool-headedness. Of particular importance has been his outstanding kicking game. It is the opposite story at Canterbury with Mbye, who has regressed with his kicking. Mbye is a great talent but is playing rushed and without intelligence. He needs to improve sharply for this.
Stats That Matter
Penrith are 12-12 ATS with a 13-11 under record while Canterbury finished the season as the worst cover team with an 8-16 ATS to go with a 12-12 total number. The Bulldogs are riding a nine-game non-cover streak while Penrith have covered their last five. Since 2008, Penrith are 1-3 ATS with a 2-2 total record in finals while Canterbury are 5-7 ATS with a 10-2 under number. Since 2008 finals matches have gone under at a rate of 57% with day games a remarkable 8-2 under. Finals teams off a double digit win are 35-37 ATS with a 46-26 under record. Finals favourites off a win of 13-plus are 17-13 ATS with a 17-13 under record. The under is 21-10 in finals when a team conceded single digits the week prior. Finals teams off a double digit loss are 6-11 ATS with a 9-8 under number. The under is 14-7 since 2013 when the Panthers are favoured by 4.5 or more. The Bulldogs have covered just 1 of their last 5 when an outsider of 4.5 or more. The under hits at 59% since 2013 when a team off a win of 20 or more is a small favourite while it hits at 59% when a small outsider lost by 18. The Bulldogs have failed to cover 6 of their last 7 after being held to 10 points or less.
Penrith are 8-1 when ahead at halftime while the Bulldogs are a worrying 11-4.
The angles are plentiful here for the under. Finals games skew under. Canterbury are a big under team in finals. The under is huge when a team conceded just single digits in finals matches. The under hits at 59% when teams come off a big win or a huge loss and the betting is close. On and on they go. Penrith should also be far too good. They are playing in great form while the Bulldogs are going awful and will play without their fullback. Canterbury need a major turnaround to even keep this close and history suggests this rarely happens.
How It’s Shaping Up
Penrith by 12
Under 41.5 ($1.90)
Penrith/Under 41.5 ($2.80)
Best First/Last Tryscorer
James Fisher-Harris ($26.00)
Other Recommended Bets
Penrith -4.5 ($1.85)