It’s taken a few twists and turns along the way but the 2020 NRL season wraps up this week with the Panthers to play the Storm in the Grand Final.
Penrith Panthers v Melbourne Storm @ ANZ Stadium
|Dylan Edwards||1||Ryan Papenhuyzen|
|Josh Mansour||2||Suliasi Vunivalu|
|Brent Naden||3||Brenko Lee|
|Stephen Crichton||4||Justin Olam|
|Brian To’o||5||Josh Addo-Carr|
|Jarome Luai||6||Cameron Munster|
|Nathan Cleary||7||Jahrome Hughes|
|James Tamou||8||Jesse Bromwich|
|Apisai Koroisau||9||Cameron Smith|
|James Fisher-Harris||10||Christian Welch|
|Viliame Kikau||11||Felise Kaufusi|
|Liam Martin||12||Kenneath Bromwich|
|Isaah Yeo||13||Nelson Asofa-Solomona|
|Tyrone May||14||Brandon Smith|
|Kurt Capewell||15||Tino Fa’asuamaleaui|
|Moses Leota||16||Dale Finucane|
|Zane Tetevano||17||Nicho Hynes|
History: Played 35, Panthers 9, Storm 26
Last Meeting: Round 6, Panthers 21 def. Storm 14
Final Thoughts: Despite coming into the NRL Grand Final searching for an 18th consecutive win, the Penrith Panthers are underdogs to Cameron Smith’s Melbourne Storm this week.
Melbourne did it fairly easy to beat the Canberra Raiders 30-10 last week. Three early tries set the tone and they didn’t relinquish the pressure from there. Penrith, on the other hand, gave the South Sydney Rabbitohs as many chances as they could ask for before finally winning 20-16. A whopping 13 errors for 45% possession almost saw the Panthers throw it away. However, the Rabbitohs couldn’t take their chances and left too many points on the field.
Both clubs have named their expected 17’s for this one. Penrith welcome back Viliame Kikau following his suspension, and unless Ivan Cleary makes another late change, Brent Naden reclaims his spot in the centres with Tyrone May dropping to the bench. Melbourne have named their same 17 again this week. Although, a wet track may inspire a change to the bench with Tui Kamikamica or Tom Eisenhuth a chance at replacing Nicho Hynes.
The two teams come into the NRL Grand Final as attacking powerhouses. The Storm leads the NRL in points scored at 27.3 per game while the Panthers aren’t even a point behind at 26.6. Neither side has struggled with finding the line all season with the likes of Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai, Jahrome Hughes and Ryan Papenhuyzen producing career-best campaigns. As far as try-scorers go, Josh Addo-Carr is the favourite to have his name go on the scoresheet first at $8.50 while at $1.91 anytime. His wing partner Suliasi Vunivalu ($10/$2.20) along with Penrith’s flanks in Brian To’o ($11/$2.37) and Josh Mansour ($12/$2.50) make up the next three lines of betting. The two left centres will demand attention too. Justin Olam ($15/$3.40) and Stephen Crichton ($13/$2.75) have combined for 26 tries across the 2020 NRL season.
While the tries scored will make the highlights reel, it’s those saved that will crown the 2020 premiers. Defence wins premierships, and we’ve got the two best defensive teams in the NRL going head-to-head in the decider. Penrith’s 12.8 points conceded per game is the best mark in the competition while Melbourne just trail at 14.1 points. The intensity of a Grand Final and form of these two teams has the Total Score market set at 36.5 points with the Under already into $1.85.
Penrith have the winning streak in 2020, but Melbourne have a long history of success to fall back on. Cameron Smith alone adds an element to the Storm side that nobody else in the competition can emulate. He’s been here and done it all before. It possibly being his last ever game will only inspire those around him. As the Panthers struggled last week, the Storm put together a master gameplan before executing it to perfection. They hit the Raiders out wide, picked apart any deficiency they could and never looked like losing. The Panthers are a different challenge this week, but one Bellamy will be prepared for.
Matched up well across the park, it’s going to come down to finer details on Sunday. Melbourne are the side better positioned on the field and in the coaches box to capitalise. Although, the Panthers have shown they’re good enough to keep it close if not steal it at the death. They’re worth considering as the underdog at $2.15 when paired with the Game Saver token.