NRL – SEMI FINALS WEEK 3 PLAYS
Welcome to Week 3 of the NRL Final series where we are down to the final 4 teams for the season. Which team will make the Grand Final?
Finals Week 3: Friday, September 23rd, 7.55pm, ALLIANZ Stadium
CRONULLA SUTHERLAND SHARKS v NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS
BETTING: SHARKS $2.00 – COWBOYS $1.85
And then there were four. The last remaining Sydney team hosts last year’s premiers in the first of two preliminary finals this weekend.
The Sharks enter this one on the back of a much-needed weekend off courtesy of a gritty 16-14 qualifying final win in Canberra a fortnight ago.
Having gone into that game with just one win from their previous six starts (including a loss to Canberra who themselves were on an 11-game winning run going into the finals) few tipped the Sharks to spring an upset, particularly after skipper Paul Gallen was ruled out with a back complaint.
Their situation became even more dire when stand-in skipper Wade Graham was concussed early on but Shane Flanagan’s men managed to eke out a crucial win. That week off allowed Gallen to get his back right and Graham to get in a full week of training after passing a follow-up cognitive test.
It also allowed key prop Sam Tagataese to overcome a shoulder injury; the Samoa international’s absence keenly felt in Cronulla’s late-season slump and this side on paper is a much stronger one than that which edged the Raiders.
For now, Tagataese has been named in jersey 18 with rookie Kurt Capewell holding a bench spot following his strong outing against the Raiders. Gallen’s return at lock pushes Jason Bukuya to the bench and Jesse Sene-Lefao out of the team.
We could never do justice to the heaving, frantic, ebbing, epic 90-minute thriller played out by Cronulla’s opponents North Queensland last week in Townsville over old rivals Brisbane but suffice to say the boys from the Shire will have been pleased to see that one run for 90 minutes in sapping heat and humidity.
Cowboys coach Paul Green and his support staff though are used to managing the demands of heat and travel and the seven days since will hopefully allow him to get his troops back in tip top condition for the trip to Sydney.
The only change for Green is the return of Kane Linnett from injury in the centres, pushing Javid Bowen to the wing and impressive teenager Kalyn Ponga out of the team following a great debut last week in what was his first but certainly not last NRL appearance.
Played 40; Sharks 24, Cowboys 16. If you discount the 90s and early 2000s when North Queensland weren’t the powerhouse they are today, they have a 15 from 26 winning record against the Sharks from 2004 to now. The last eight meetings are split four apiece. Allianz has not been a happy hunting ground for the northerners, who are on a five-match losing run (against the Sharks, Sea Eagles and Roosters) at the venue having not won there since 2010. They have just six wins from 21 starts there overall. No such worries exist for the hosts, who have won their past four (against the Roosters and Rabbitohs) at Allianz. The only previous meeting between these two teams at Moore Park was won 20-18 by Cronulla in the 2013 finals in what was the controversial ‘seventh-tackle try’ match.
Round 1: 1300SMILES Stadium – North Queensland Cowboys 20 def. Cronulla Sutherland sharks 14
Round 14: Southern Cross Group Stadium – Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 13 def. North Queensland Cowboys 10
OUR TIP: SHARKS by 4pts
Finals Week 3: Saturday, September 24th, 7.45pm, AAMI Park
MELBOURNE STORM v CANBERRA RAIDERS
BETTING: STORM $1.45 – RAIDERS $2.85
80 minutes. That’s all that separates the Melbourne Storm and the Canberra Raiders from a spot in the 2016 NRL Grand Final.
These sides were the two best teams after 26 Rounds this season, but only one will be playing for the chance to lift the Provan-Summons trophy next Sunday night.
Melbourne enjoyed a week off last week after defeating the Cowboys 16-10 in the qualifying final.
The rest was an important one for the Storm given that lock Dale Finucane wouldn’t have played last weekend considering he’s only now just getting over an ankle injury.
Despite going down at home in the qualifying final to Cronulla, Canberra bounced back quickly to record a 22-12 win over Penrith in the semi-final to book their spot in the final four.
The Raiders have won 11 of their past 12 matches and have been in almost unstoppable form since that run began.
They enter this game with the same 17 from last weekend, although the Storm have made one change.
Nelson Asofa-Solomona will miss the rest of the season with an elbow injury in a massive blow for Melbourne, with Christian Welch, Felise Kaufusi and Matt White all brought in to fight it out for the remaining interchange spot.
Played 37; Storm 26, Raiders 11. Despite the Storm have a much better overall record, the past six meetings between these sides have been evenly split. Only one of those fixtures will be on the minds of these players though, as Canberra beat Melbourne 22-8 in Round 23 just six weeks ago.
Round 23: GIO Stadium – Canberra Raiders 22 def. Melbourne Storm 8
OUR TIP: STORM by 6pts
*** HEAD 2 HEAD SELECTIONS ***
H2H MULTI: $2.90
Here are our best plays for Week 3 for the 2016 NRL Semi Final Series.
Friday: Cronulla Sutherland Sharks v North Queensland Cowboy
(ALLIANZ Stadium: 7.55pm)
OUR SELECTION: SHARKS (H2H) ($2.00)
Saturday: Melbourne Storm v Canberra Raiders
(AAMI Park – 7.40pm)
SELECTION: STORM (Pick Your Own Line: -5.5pts) ($1.70)
TWO LEG MULTI PAYING: $3.40
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