Holden Cup Preliminary Final – Penrith Panthers v North Queensland Cowboys
Friday, September 23 – 2.55pm – Allianz Stadium
Penrith have been the standard this season in NYC with just four losses from their 24 regular season matches, averaging 35.46ppg in attack (1st) and 15.92ppg (1st) in defence. They followed up that outstanding regular season with a comfortable 28-6 win over the Sharks at Allianz in the opening week of the finals.
While North Queensland finished second on the ladder with a 16-7-1 record and had the second rated attack (32.16ppg) and second ranked defence (21.92ppg), they stumbled in the first week of the finals to the Dragons in Queensland before bouncing back with a 32-16 victory last week at home.
The Cowboys certainly go in with a team of more familiar names. Kalyn Ponga made his NRL debut last week and was incredible. Gideon Gela-Mosby lit up the Auckland Nines. Hooker Brandon Smith has been earmarked as the next Cameron Smith. Marcus Jensen topped the tryscoring with 26 four-pointers. Jensen and Smith are the two top line breakers in the NYC this year while Ponga and Smith both rank Top 10 in tackle breaks.
The Panthers have had a fair bit of chopping and changing this year with Nathan Cleary called up to first grade and halfback Jarome Luai suspended for the season. Ratu Tuisese has emerged as a tryscoring sensation with 21 in 17 games while fullback Dylan Edwards has an incredible 123 tackle breaks in 15 games.
The teams met just once this season with Penrith winning 36-10 in Round 6.
The Wolf gives the Cowboys a red-hot shot of winning this one and thinks the line of 8.5 is a big-time bet. North Queensland have plenty of talent and with the disruption to Penrith an upset could be on the cards.
Recommended Bet: North Queensland +8.5 ($1.90)
Holden Cup Preliminary Final – St George Illawarra Dragons v Sydney Roosters
Friday, September 23 – 5.15pm – Allianz Stadium
St George Illawarra and the Sydney Roosters meet in the second NYC preliminary final and another absorbing affair between two well-matched teams is on the cards.
The Dragons finished the season third on the ladder with a 15-8-1 record. The Saints posted the third best attack (30.71ppg) and the fourth ranked defence (22.71ppg). The Roosters landed in fifth position with a 14-9-1 record and record the fourth best attack (29.58ppg) and the eighth ranked attack (26.75ppg).
The Dragons surprised the Cowboys 34-30 in the first week of the finals to advance to the preliminary final while the Roosters hammered Canberra 48-0 before downing Cronulla 28-18 when off the map in betting last week.
The Saints have now won four on the trot.
Both teams have plenty of talent. Matt Dufty is viewed as the Saints’ long-term NRL fullback, Luciana Leilua has played a bit of first grade and centre Patrick Herbert leads the NYC in tackle breaks (Dufty is in second). For the Roosters Nat Butcher, Joseph Manu and Grant Garvey all have top-grade experience with Butcher ranking Top 4 in run metres, offloads and tackles.
The Saints won both matchups this season winning 38-26 in Round 8 and 25-24 in Round 24.
They look set to continue that streak and their current form and look a good bet laying just 2.5 points.
Recommended Bet: St George Illawarra -2.5 ($1.90)