Guide to week one of NRL finals

NRL FINALS FIRST WEEKEND MATCH-UPS

1st Elimination Final

5-Brisbane Broncos v 8-Gold Coast Titans – Friday September 9, 7:50pm AEST (6:10pm local) at Suncorp Stadium

Meetings in 2016 – Brisbane Broncos won only game

R5: Brisbane Broncos 24 def Gold Coast Titans 16 at Cbus Super Stadium

Brisbane Broncos:

Season record 15-9 – Last 5 WWWWW – Against top 8 sides: Won 5, Lost 6

One of the form teams of the competition, the Broncos have bounced back from their State of Origin hangover with a vengeance.

They’ve won their past five games and in two of their past three have humbled fellow finalists the Bulldogs and Storm.

In a major boost not only have the team hit form but so have playmakers Ben Hunt and Anthony Milford and the latter is vital.

Gold Coast Titans: 11-1-12 – Last 5 LLWWL – Against top 8 sides: Won 2, Drawn 1, Lost 8

The Titans have squeaked into the finals with back-to-back losses and haven’t beaten a fellow top-eight side since Penrith in round 11, they’re also still waiting for Jarryd Hayne to do something amazing. They might just be waiting until the 2017 season for that.

1st Qualifying Final

2-Canberra Raiders v 3-Cronulla Sharks – Saturday September 9, 5.30pm AEST at GIO Stadium

Meetings in 2016 – Cronulla won one game, Canberra won one game

R7: Cronulla 40 def Canberra 16 at GIO Stadium

R22: Canberra 30 def Cronulla 14 at Remondis Stadium

Canberra – 17-1-6 – Last 5 WWWWW – Against top 8 sides: Won 7, Lost 4

Canberra are red hot.

The Raiders are the in-form team of the NRL and as we enter the finals series they’ve won their past 10.

Scalps in that run include Gold Coast, North Queensland, Cronulla and Melbourne.

In the same 10 matches they’ve not once failed to score more than 22 points.

Cronulla – 17-1-6 – Last 5 LWLLL – Against top 8 sides: Won 8, Drawn 1, Lost 3

If Canberra are peaking at the right time the Sharks might have peaked too soon.

The pressure of chasing a maiden premiership could be getting to the boys in the black, white and blue, who have coughed up losses to also-rans Souths and St George in the past month.

2nd Qualifying Final

1-Melbourne Storm v 4-North Queensland Cowboys, Saturday September 10, AAMI Park, 8pm

Meetings in 2016 – The Storm have won both

R21: Storm 16 def Cowboys 8 at 1300 Smiles Stadium

R10: Storm 15 def Cowboys 14 at Suncorp Stadium

Melbourne – 19-5 – Last 5 WLWLW – Against top 8 sides: Won 7, Lost 4

Craig Bellamy’s men carry mixed form into the finals. The last time they put together back-to-back wins was round 22. While they downed minor premiership rivals Cronulla 26-6 on Saturday they’ve also been well beaten by fellow contenders the Broncos (26-16) and the Raiders (22-8) in the past month.

North Queensland – 15-9 – WWWLL – Against top 8 sides: Won 6, Lost 5

The Cowboys are warming to their title defence. Three wins in three weeks over the Warriors (34-6), the Bulldogs (24-16) and the Titans (32-16) gives them some strong momentum even if they haven’t really been tested by anyone in form.

2nd Elimination Final

6-Penrith Panthers v 7-Canterbury Bulldogs, Sunday September 11, ANZ Stadium, 4pm

Meetings in 2016 – The Bulldogs won their only encounter

R2: Bulldogs 18 def Panthers 16 Pepper Stadium

Penrith – 14-10 – Last 5 WWWWW – Against top 8 sides: Won 4, Lost 7

The Panthers are on the prowl. While the Raiders have taken the NRL by storm the Panthers have quietly gone about their business, marching to the finals on the back of a five-match winning streak. They put an exclamation mark on that by humiliating Manly 36-6 in round 26 but the only top eight side they’ve faced since mid July are the Titans and they got away with a 15-14 win there.

Canterbury – 14-10 – Last 5 LLLWW – Against top 8 sides: Won 4, Lost 6

The Dogs are struggling. They’ve been rolled by Souths (28-10), the Cowboys (24-16) and the Broncos (20-10) over the past three weeks and haven’t beat a top eight side since mid June.

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