Melbourne Storm v North Queensland Cowboys
Saturday, September 10, 7.35pm (AEST), AAMI Park, Melbourne
|Best Bet: Under 35.5 ($1.90)
Other: Melbourne ($1.84)
Melbourne/Under 35.5 ($3.40)
The two premiership favourites square off in a monster battle to win a preliminary final berth when the Storm host the Cowboys in a match pundits believe we will be seeing again on the first Sunday in October. Both teams are in fantastic form and always play well against each other.
Melbourne are unchanged though Cheyse Blair is in some doubt. Matt Scott has been named for the Cowboys though will need to pass a fitness test to play. He replaces Patrick Kaufusi.
Melbourne have won 22 of 32 all-time against North Queensland including 15-14 and 16-8 wins this season. The Storm and Cowboys have split the last 10 evenly with 5 of the last 6 tallying less than 35 points. The teams have met four times at AAMI with the Storm winning two and the Cowboys two. The teams have met twice in finals with the Cowboys winning 24-16 in 2005 and 32-12 last season. The Storm have not scored more than 17 against the Cowboys in six meetings since 2014. North Queensland have former Storm star Justin O’Neill and Rory Kostjasyn playing. Michael Morgan has scored four tries in six games against Melbourne.
Melbourne won the minor premiership and were the standard-bearers all season with a 19-5 record and a +261 differential. The Storm have again topped the defensive rankings conceding only 12.6ppg while they rank fourth in attack with 23.5ppg. Since Round 11, the Storm rank third in attack with 24.3ppg while they were the top defensive team conceding 12.7ppg. They have dropped 2 of their last 4 but had won six on end prior. North Queensland finished fourth on the ladder with a 15-9 record and a +229 differential. They have won three straight after losing three on end prior. They finished the year ranked second in attack (24.3ppg) and defence (14.8ppg). Since Round 11 though the Cowboys have ranked seventh in attack (21.8ppg) and second in defence (15.4ppg). Melbourne are 9-3 at home this year while North Queensland are 4-8 on the road.
Cooper Cronk v Johnathan Thurston. The two best playmakers in the NRL, it is always a delight when these two square off. Cronk is the favourite to win the Dally M Medal this year following Thurston’s win in 2015. Thurston is the greatest playmaker of a generation. The way these two get their teams around the park will be decisive.
Stats That Matter
Melbourne are 14-10 ATS with a 16-8 under record while North Queensland are 13-11 ATS with a 14-10 under number. The Storm have gone under in 6 of their last 8 while the Cowboys have gone over in their last two. Melbourne are 8-9 ATS with a 12-5 under record in finals since 2008 while the Cowboys are 7-3 ATS with a 5-5 total number. Since 2008 finals matches have gone under at a rate of 57%. Finals teams off a double digit win are 35-37 ATS with a 46-26 under record. Home teams in week one of the finals are 18-14 ATS with home favourites off less than a converted try 8-4 ATS. Finals home favourites off a win of 13-plus are 16-12 ATS with a 16-12 under record. Road teams off a win of 13-plus are 12-16 ATS with a 20-8 under record. The under is 21-10 in finals when a team conceded single digits the week prior. The under is 9-5 when the Storm are small home favourites. The Cowboys are 16-11 ATS as a road outsider since 2013. Road outsiders since 2013 off a 13-plus win are 46-60 ATS. The under is 22-11 in night matches where Melbourne are home favourites.
A good start is critical in this one with the Storm 16-1 when up at halftime and the Cowboys a perfect 14-0.
The under in this one shapes as the best bet of the first week of the finals with under angles everywhere. The Storm are a huge under team, particularly at night when a home favourite, the under hits at 20-8 in finals when the road team comes in off a big win and the under is big in finals football. The history between these two is also of low-scoring matches. Melbourne’s home-field advantage should get them home in this one though the Cowboys have won both all-time finals between the teams.
How It’s Shaping Up
Melbourne by 6
Under 35.5 ($1.90)
Melbourne/Under 35.5 ($3.40)
Best First/Last Tryscorer
Tohu Harris ($21.00)
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