The 2020 NRL Grand Final is fast approaching so we’ve asked and answered the 5 burning questions before the Penrith Panthers take on the Melbourne Storm.
Can Penrith overcome their lack of experience?
There is one difference between the two teams that Penrith can’t train for during the week: Experience.
The Storm have it in spades. Not only in the number of first-grade games they’ve played, but the number of finals matches they’ve featured in. The sustained success at the club breeds players ready to play finals football.
This week, Cameron Smith has more games to his name than Penrith’s 1-7 combined. His 42nd finals match is more games than many of the Panthers players have managed in their whole first-grade career so far.
But while Penrith lack the big-game experience, they’ve jumped every hurdle put in front of them throughout the 2020 NRL Finals. Many thought the lack of experience would hurt them in Week 1 against the Roosters. Instead, the Panthers came out firing and looked in control for all but the final five minutes. By then they had clawed their way far enough in front to hold on.
They’re saying all of the right things this week. Penrith know they can’t replicate Grand Final experience. They will instead trust the process that have seen them win 17 games on the bounce and rely on youthful exuberance to get the job done.
Will the points keep piling up?
The 2020 NRL Finals series has seen more points scored than any other heading into the Grand Final.
Points are up in the competition overall. Will that trend continue, though?
With the Points Total set at 36.5 points and the Under already into $1.80, the expectation is for a low-scoring affair. That isn’t a huge surprise considering we have the two best defensive teams in the NRL going head-to-head on Sunday. Melbourne have conceded just 14.1 points per game while Penrith have allowed just 12.8 points through them per game this season.
Historically, only two of the last nine Grand Finals have gone over 36 points while just three of the last 18 have ticked over 40 points.
Squads have been named and the stage is set for the #NRLGF!
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— Palmerbet (@PalmerbetAU) October 20, 2020
Where will Melbourne win it?
This is the last game Suliasi Vunivalu and Josh Addo-Carr will play for the Storm. One of the most prolific try-scoring wing combinations in NRL history, there is a good chance that the Storm look to go around the Panthers rather than through them to win this one.
Only Wendell Sailor and Lote Tuqiri have scored at a better rate than Addo-Carr and Vunivalu’s 1.45 tries per game. With the ball-playing Melbourne have in the middle of the field and their spine in position to get the ball from one side of the field to the other as quickly as possible, the two flyers on the flanks are sure to see a few try-scoring opportunities.
Vunivalu scored a beauty last week with his dummy to grubber stumping Jarrod Croker while Addo-Carr’s speed on the outside set up Jesse Bromwich to score Melbourne’s first and Papenhuyzen to score their second.
Where will Penrith win it?
The Panthers left edge attack is the best in the NRL. Every player on that side – Jarome Luai, Viliame Kikau, Stephen Crichton and Josh Mansour – is in superb form with the left edge accounting for half of Penrith’s total tries in 2020. Mansour ($2.50) and Crichton ($2.75), in particular, are short prices to add another try or two to the tally this week.
However, it’s Nathan Cleary that holds the keys to victory for the Panthers. It’s his control of the side and direction he provides when the going gets tough – because it will – that will determine the outcome. We know the left edge can pile up points. Isaah Yeo and Api Koroisau can cause havoc around the ruck in good ball areas as well. But it’s in the centre-third of the field, when the Panthers have absorbed a wave of attacking Storm sets, or as the game hangs in the balance that Cleary will need to rise.
He touches the ball more than any other half in the NRL for a reason. Cleary steers the Panthers around the field with his hands rather than his fingers. If he can pick a part the Storm defence and pounce on any chances they’re given, the Panthers can pull off an upset.
Cleary’s $5 to win the Clive Churchill Medal by leading the Panthers to a 1-12 win is worth a look.
Who will win the Clive Churchill Medal?
Cameron Smith’s name has already been given to the engraver, hasn’t it?
Billy Slater won the Clive Churchill Medal in the final game of his career despite not being the best player on the field in the 2017 NRL Grand Final. If the Storm takes the chocolates on Sunday, they’ll look for any reason to hang it around Smith’s neck. There is a good chance Smith is the best on the ground on this occasion, though. He’s the favourite at $4.25.
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* Odds correct at 4:45pm, 20/10/20.
— Palmerbet (@PalmerbetAU) October 20, 2020
Nathan Cleary isn’t far behind at $4.50 after missing out on the Dally M Medal already this week. Penrith needs a top tier individual performance if they’re to cause an upset and Cleary is expected to be the catalyst should it happen. Api Koroisau is the next Panther available way out at $15.