Mon, Sep 19, 11:10am by Jake Equid
The NRL semi-finals have been run and won and we are left with only four combatants remaining for the ultimate prize – the Provan-Summons Trophy. The top four qualifiers from the regular season have won through to the penultimate weekend.
On Friday night, we saw history made once again between the two original Queensland clubs. The Cowboys got an extra-time win over the Brisbane Broncos, just as they did in last year’s Grand Final but it was the first match in the history of the NRL to use the new extra time format rather than golden point. It didn’t disappoint with Michael Morgan crossing for the winning try in the first period of extra-time after 80 minutes of high-paced, frantic action.
The following day, the Raiders led their knockout semi-final against the Panthers from start to finish and for the most part, dominated the match, booking a place in the Preliminary Final for the first time in the NRL era. A full house in the nation’s capital made plenty of noise with the home side holding of a fast-finishing Panthers side largely thanks to the boot of Jarrod Croker.
The Raiders now face the Storm in Melbourne while the Cowboys also head south, to Sydney to face the Sharks.
Here’s a look at the early odds for the preliminary-finals:
Second Preliminary Final –Cronulla Sharks v North Queensland Cowboys
Allianz Stadium – 7:55pm Friday 23 September
The Cowboys survived an epic semi-final against the Broncos on Friday night to face the Sharks who had their feet up watching from the comfort of the couch. These clubs met in the elimination final last year, a match that the Cowboys dominated at home, winning 39-0.
In a boost for the Sharks, they will welcome back their inspirational State of Origin skipper, Paul Gallen. ‘Gal’ missed the first final with a back injury but declared himself fit for the Grand Final Qualifier, where he’ll be pitted against one of the most frightening ball-runners in the league, Jason Taumalolo. Gal will need to be at his best as the Cowboys flyer is coming off a Man of the Match performance.
The Sharks will be well rested after the week off and the big question will be how much fuel the Cowboys have left in the tank after their overtime win against the Broncos. Should the Cowboys get the job done they’ll give themselves a chance at becoming the first back-to-back premiers since the Broncos in 1993.
First Preliminary Final –Melbourne Storm v Canberra Raiders
AAMI Park – 7:40pm Saturday 24 September
The minor-premiers are well rested after a week off but face a side who not only found their mojo on Saturday in defeating the Panthers but also won this fixture just five weeks ago.
There is no chance of complacency from the Storm here as they were bundled out of last year’s finals at this stage, also at home, against the Cowboys. This Storm side has stars all over the park but they have managed to uncover yet another one this season, Suliasi Vunivalu.
The Storm winger broke Israel Folau’s rookie try record in the final match of the regular season then went on to score his 23rd major of the season in the qualifying final win over the Cowboys. The 20-year-old Fijian has been scintillating this season and will be a headache for Raiders coach Ricky Stuart.
The Raiders bounced back from their first-week defeat to the Sharks by accounting for the Panthers at home. Things looked good for the Raiders as they raced out to an 18-0 lead before the Panthers showed their fighting spirit to close to within six points, only to have their hopes of a comeback cruelled by two late Jarrod Croker penalty goals.
NRL Preliminary Final odds:
Stay tuned to australiangambling.com.au over the coming days for betting previews including best bets and video previews and as we continue to preview the NRL finals.
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