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NRL Tips & Preview – Grand Final

Sports writer, JASON OLIVER, looks both teams and previews this weekend’s Rugby League action with his NRL Grand Final tips.

Penrith Panthers v Parramatta Eels @ Accor Stadium
Sunday 2nd October, 7:30pm

PanthersEels
Dylan Edwards1Clint Gutherson
Charlie Staines2Maika Sivo
Izack Tago3Will Penisini
Stephen Crichton4Bailey Simonsson
Brian To’o5Waqa Blake
Jarome Luai6Dylan Brown
Nathan Cleary7Mitchell Moses
Moses Leota8Reagan Campbell-Gillard
Apisai Koroisau9Reed Mahoney
James Fisher-Harris10Junior Paulo
Viliame Kikau11Shaun Lane
Liam Martin12Isaiah Papali’i
Isaah Yeo13Ryan Matterson
Mitch Kenny14Nathan Brown
Scott Sorensen15Jake Arthur
Spencer Leniu16Oregon Kaufusi
Jaeman Salmon17Marata Niukore


History:
Played 48, Panthers 25, Eels 23

Last Meeting: NRL Finals, Week 1: Panthers 27 def. Eels 8

Form & Team News

Few gave them a chance in the heat of North Queensland and against a strong Cowboys side but the Parramatta Eels produced one of the best wins in their NRL finals history to win 24-20. While it didn’t quite go to plan after finding themselves down 12-0, the Penrith Panthers looked comfortable in mounting their 32-12 comeback victory over the Rabbitohs.

Taylan May has failed to recover from his hamstring injury and will miss the decider for the Panthers. Charlie Staines retains his place in an unchanged side. Meanwhile, Brad Arthur has come from nowhere to name Nathan Brown to come off the bench to play his first game since Round 17. He takes Bryce Cartwright’s spot on the pine.

Where are the points coming from?

Like most NRL Grand Finals, points are expected to be at a premium. While both ticked over 20 points last week, the Total for this one is set at 38.5 points.

With the Panthers scoring 50% of their tries down the left edge throughout the 2022 NRL season and the Eels just behind at 47%, we’re looking left in the first try scorer market.

Brian To’o leads the way at $8 ($1.82 anytime) with Izack Tago at $11.50 ($2.45). Charlie Staines is sandwiched between the two left-sided Panthers at $9.50 ($1.95). For the Eels, Maika Sivo has scored 13 tries in 15 games this season with his $11.50 ($2.35) appealing early. Tom Opacic is on the reserves list but it is expected that Bailey Simonsson keeps his spot at left centre ($23/$4.60). Waqa Blake ($14/$2.95), Clint Gutherson ($16/$3.20) and Will Penisini ($23/$4.30) are all ahead of the makeshift centre on the list of potential Parramatta try scorers.

Reagan Campbell-Gillard bagged a double last week but is at $101 to repeat the feat. More likely, it’s Sivo or To’o that cross the line twice at $8.50 and $5.20 respectively.

The Panthers ran a lot of shapes centred around Viliame Kikau in Week 1 of the NRL Finals. Despite looking clunky in that one, we’ve seen them come off repeatedly over the last two years. Unlike the Prelim, expect him to feature heavily on the left edge throughout NRL Grand Final.

Tip: Anytime Tryscorer – Viliame Kikau @ $2.75

NRL Grand Final Thoughts

The Penrith Panthers are deserving favourites but the Parramatta Eels appeal as potential spoilers.

Parramatta has beaten Penrith twice already this season. They’ve proven capable of hanging with a super Panthers pack and having the points in them to break through the best defence in the NRL. While they weren’t close in Week 1 of the Finals, we can expect a better performance in this one. The Eels have won their last two by playing to their strengths: Hitting the edges, offloading the football, plugging down short sides. They moved away from that the last time these two met and tried to be the Panthers at their own game – near impossible.

The concern for the Eels is how easily the Panthers were able to mount a comeback last week. They didn’t panic 12-0 down. Instead, Ivan Cleary’s side stuck to the processes and trusted they would come out on top in the end.

Nathan Cleary’s boot will be key on Sunday. He has the ability to not only control his side by pointing and passing players into position, but the ability to control the game with how well he kicks. Waqa Blake, in particular, can expect regular attention. The way to reduce the influence of Cleary’s kicking game is to pin Penrith in their own end and Parramatta have the pack to do it. They’re strong in the middle, excellent in yardage, and have defended better through the centre-third in recent weeks.

Only the heartiest of blue and gold supporters will be truly confident in an Eels win. The Panthers are heavy favourites for a reason. They lead the competition in yardage and concede the fewest points – two key indicators for NRL Grand Final winners. However, there is enough in this side to at least keep it close and be in with a sniff of winning it late.

Tip: Tri Bet (10.5) – Either Team by 10 or Less @ $2.08

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