Melbourne have delivered a fitting celebration for skipper Cameron Smith’s 400-game milestone with a thumping 40-16 NRL win over Cronulla at AAMI Park.
It’s weeks like last week that make you question why you would ever sign up for tipping in the first place. While there were four cracking games of footy and a major upset on Sunday, the only ones upset once the numbers were run were our expert tipping panel.
The action on-field was thrilling from start to finish, but with everyone getting one except AJ (who got the dreaded bagel), it wasn’t a great week for the tipsters – and that includes The Crowd, who also got one.
While Tim has closed the gap to AJ by a point at the top, he still finds himself three tips behind with just five games left in season 2018. The Crowd are the more immediate threat, sitting just a point by AJ after last week’s shemozzle.
Out on the field, it was the Storm and Rabbitohs kicking things off by playing one of the games of the season. I thought Melbourne would keep their incredible record against Souths alive, and for some reason, I was the only one.
Of course, that was where my success ended for the week. Tim saw through all of the Warriors’ hype and got the Panthers game right, while The Crowd were the only ones to tip the Roosters – and only by about two per cent, I might add!
Then, on Sunday, it was Tom pulling off the heist of the tipping season by somehow (okay, I’m going to say it was a guess) tipping the Dragons to beat the Broncos at Suncorp, which they not only did, but did convincingly.
It means the Warriors and Broncos are done, while the Panthers kick on to play Cronulla and the Dragons head to Homebush for a clash with the Bunnies.
After last week, there are absolutely no certainties, but it’d be a shock if the two top four sides don’t receive a majority of the vote from Roarers.
Should they win, the preliminary finals for a spot in the grand final will read Melbourne against Cronulla and the Roosters against South Sydney.
Don’t forget to submit your tips on the form below by 5pm (AEST) to be part of The Crowd as you take on the experts.
Tips: Panthers, Rabbitohs
As I write this I have yet to complete my forensic statistical exploration of the week two finals games so these tips will be done on gut feel.
Playing the Sharks versus Panthers at Allianz sort of benefits the Sharks as their fans will find getting there by kick-off on Friday slightly easier.
Jimmy Maloney will want to show Paul Gallen just how much he should be missed. Matt Moylan would love to rub his brilliance in the Panthers’ faces, but no Wade Graham blunts the Sharks attack.
This one is a 50/50, although I’m going with the Panthers. Maloney knows how to win finals games.
Looking at the other game and gee the Rabbitohs played well last week for no result.
They’ll have had nine days off between games, the Dragons will only have had six to recover.
The Dragons have rediscovered their mojo. They are going to play attacking and unpredictable footy and that’s something the Rabbitohs don’t like.
However, the Burgii weren’t great last week and the Cardinal and Myrtle only just lost. The chances of the brothers three having a second poor game in a row is low.
I’m going the Rabbits.
Tips: Sharks, Rabbitohs
Week 1 of the finals was exactly what the game needed – a phenomenal weekend of rugby league that had people talking about the action on the field. Not since the Hoodoo Gurus butchered one of their classic tunes has the NRL had such an effective advertisement for the game.
To kick off Week 2, the Cronulla Sharks host the Penrith Panthers in a contest of contrasting styles. The Sharks are built on a rugged defence and a hard-nosed attitude, while the Panthers more closely resemble a collection of fragile-minded millennials – brilliant when their mind is on the job, but only able to concentrate for minutes at a time.
The loss of Wade Graham is massive for the Sharks. He brings a combination of intimidation and ball-playing skills which is nearly impossible to replace. Graham is also used to pressure a team’s primary playmaker, a job he has performed successfully on the likes of Cooper Cronk in the past.
But even without Graham, I don’t think the Panthers have enough substance to their game to trouble Cronulla. Since Origin, Penrith have become overly reliant on James Maloney, as Nathan Cleary’s game has retreated into its shell like a scared turtle. I’m predicting the Sharks send constant traffic at Maloney, tiring him out and limiting his playmaking. Sharks by four.
In the other game, the Rabbitohs host the Dragons in a finals stonker. Rusty is excited. Scott Pryde is excited. Hell, even Paul Kent is excited! And he should be, as this promises to be one of the games of the season.
South Sydney were unbelievable in defeat last weekend. No other team but Melbourne could have absorbed what the Bunnies threw at them and still come away with the victory. The Rabbitohs were tough, aggressive and clinical, and if they can replicate a performance of that quality against St George Illawarra, they will be near impossible to beat.
Contrary to recent opinion, the Dragons will be no easybeats in September. Their 80 minutes against the Broncos was poetry in motion. It was particularly enjoyable to watch their forwards regain some of their early season venom and stick it to the over-hyped young Brisbane pack.
But the loss of Gareth Widdop may prove too much for the Red V to overcome. Ben Hunt has proven incapable of doing it all himself, and I fear the pressure of the occasion may stifle his attack. So I’m going with a bruising South Sydney win by a comfortable 12 points.
Tips: Sharks, Rabbitohs
The second week of the finals is always filled with hope – hope that the teams who lose Week 1 will right the ship, hope that the lower teams can keep the fairytale rolling. This week is the end of the road for two sides and it’ll be the Dragons and Panthers heading home.
Cronulla should have beaten the Roosters. They butchered chance after chance and have only themselves to blame that they’re not putting their feet up this week. Wade Graham out is a blow to the defence but there are able replacements in the squad to pick up his work.
They’ll have their hands full with a Penrith side who got themselves together against the Warriors and looked pretty good. If Cronulla relax for even five minutes there’s a huge chance they’ll get done, but I think they’ll get the win.
The Dragons showed us all up last week with some joyful rugby league. The only problem is that they’re banged up like nobodies business. Kurt Mann is a proven replacement for Gareth Widdop at five-eighth, but Jack De Belin’s injury could be decisive. Maybe he should have been rested during Origin, but what do I know.
Souths will be banged up as well and frustrated after blowing it against the Storm. Sam Burgess needs to channel his anger into holding the ball and keeping his elbows down. If St George can keep it close, Souths might run out of legs just like Parramatta did last year after a bruising, exhausting week one against the Storm. There’s no room for error for either Souths or Cronulla, but they’ll advance.
Tips: Panthers, Rabbitohs
After last week, absolutely anything is possible. My Dragons were supposed to be gone. Out the back door without even making the Broncos a little bit nervous in front of 50,000. Instead, they came out of the gates firing and ran away with a big win.
So I have absolutely no confidence in the following tips.
Cronulla’s season will end on Friday night. There, I said it.
As strange as it seems to be tipping against the Sharks after they battled the Roosters and could well have won that game if a few decisions went their way and a few tries weren’t botched, you feel like it’s going to be tough for them to get back up from the loss.
While most of the stats will point the way of Cronulla, Penrith have James Maloney, who is a wizard when it comes to taking teams through the finals, and a pack who, at their best, have the potential to be one of the top groups in the competition.
Reagan Campbell-Gillard is the key. He needs to have a big game, but with the injury to Wade Graham, the Sharks are there for the taking.
In the other game, there are a multitude of reasons I’m picking South Sydney, despite the Dragons’ victory over the Broncos in the most surprising of circumstances last Sunday.
The only thing working in their favour coming into this game is that they have their backs to the wall and Souths are returning from a loss in Melbourne, which is always hard to back up from.
But the Dragons have injuries to contend with. Gareth Widdop will be missing and there are still question marks over both James Graham and Jack de Belin, while the club have had fewer days to prepare.
Yet, last week was a return to the world-beating team we saw during the opening months of the season.
If they can play like that again up in the forwards and match the Burgess brothers, they do have a chance.
Of course, it’s just not going to happen. The Bunnies are a good side on their bad days and almost beat the Storm despite a mountain of errors and the Burgess brothers not playing all that well.
So long as they get back to their best and that left edge continues to be lethal, they win.
|Finals Week 1||Tim||Tom||AJ||Scott||The Crowd|
|SHA v PAN||PAN||SHA||SHA||PAN||SHA|
|RAB v DRA||RAB||RAB||RAB||RAB||RAB|
Crowd tipping will close at 5pm (AEST) on Thursday evening. Be sure to submit your tips on the form below before then to make your opinion count as part of The Crowd.