There is nothing better than the Melbourne Storm vs Penrith Panthers rivalry, which adds another chapter on Saturday.
They were expected to meet in the Grand Final for the second year running, but Penrith’s loss in the opening round of the playoffs changed the landscape.
NRL betting markets have the Storm as heavy favorites to head back to yet another final, but can the Panthers put up a fight?
Panthers Trending South
It looked like the Penrith Panthers were clearly the second best team in the NRL behind Melbourne, but recent results beg to differ.
They lost their first finals game emphatically to the South Sydney Rabbitohs, which meant they had to play against the Parramatta Eels last week.
The 8-6 victory got them into the semifinals, but it was hardly convincing. It turned into a defensive battle, but we thought the Panthers were lucky to get past the Eels, who got taken out off the ball on numerous occasions.
— Penrith Panthers (@PenrithPanthers) September 18, 2021
There have also been issues with the Panthers’ training staff stopping play at crucial times. The NRL handed the trainer a $25,000 fine, but the Panthers have hit back to the cheating claims.
“How can you argue with a medical opinion from someone who was standing there fearing he had just seen a player break his ankle?” Penrith trainer Hayden Knowles told News.com.au.
“Because the play was stopped at such a big moment in a big game, the whole world has turned on the one trainer. He was doing his job.”
It’s an unwanted distraction for a team trying to prepare for the Storm. Bookmakers opened Penrith at +7½, but this latest drama, and also the key loss of Brian To’o has seen the line move to 9½.
It’s a sizable advantage for a semifinal, but the Panthers are trending south and they could implode.
Storm Doing Storm-like Things
The Melbourne Storm have had incredible success in the NRL and it looks set to continue in 2021.
They enjoyed a week off last week due to their stunning win over the Manly Sea Eagles, who they could meet again in the Grand Final.
Melbourne showed how devastating it can be when firing on all cylinders, scoring a 40-12 win over the Sea Eagles, who subsequently defeated Sydney 42-6 last week.
📷 Melbourne Storm players https://t.co/MYyQ9AM0a0
— Footy Players (@Roscoe66tumblr) September 15, 2021
Inspirational hooker Brandon Smith has been cleared of serious injury, so the Storm will have its one-two hooking combination of Smith and Harry Grant. It’s a deadly combination that most teams can’t seem to figure out.
More good news for the Storm is the return of flying winger Josh Addo-Carr. He has missed the last few weeks, so his pure speed could give the Panthers fits. His inclusion is made more important by Brian To’o’s omission for the Panthers.
Bet online markets have taken a tonne of money for the Storm, which isn’t surprising. The -9½ has firmed into -125, so bettors should expect to see the line move to double digits on game day.
Storm vs Panthers Pick
Covering a 9½ spread isn’t easy, but the Storm can pile on the points quickly and we see that happening on Saturday.
Once the Storm gets rolling, there is no slowing them down. Penrith has a good defense, but they looked tired against the Eels last week, which isn’t a good sign.
We have more faith in the Storm to make the Grand Final than the Panthers making a game of it. If Nathan Cleary has a big game, they are a chance, but the Storm rarely produce a poor effort, so they’re the safer pick.
The sportsbook is likely to push the line to double digits, so get in now.