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NRL Grand Final betting preview – South Sydney Rabbitohs v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs; ANZ Stadium, Sydney, NSW; Sunday, September 27, 7.20pm (odds: Rabbitohs $1.40, Bulldogs $3.05 – line 8, game total 37.5)
Gates have opened at ANZ Stadium and the first of the 83,000-plus sell out crowd for this evening’s NRL Grand Final between South Sydney and Canterbury are filing into the ground. Souths remain hot favourites to finally end their 43-year premiership drought against an injury-hit Canterbury side who are missing captain and hooker Michael Ennis with a foot injury. The Rabbitohs are 80 minutes away from a 21st premiership and victory over Canterbury would cap off a tumultuous four decades for the self-appointed Pride of the League. Long-time Rabbitohs patriarch George Piggins will attend his first game in eight years at this year’s decider, after vowing never to attend a game while Russell Crowe and Peter Holmes a Court owned the club.
But in their way stand a teak-tough Canterbury side coached by one of the modern-day greats in Des Hasler who is saddling up for his fifth grand final in eight years. Both teams look set to be without their starting hookers with Issac Luke suspended for Souths and Michael Ennis ruled out due to a broken foot for the Bulldogs. Penrith-bound back-up rake Api Koroisau filled in capably for Luke earlier this year when the 27-year-old suffered a shoulder injury. Moses Mbye and Reni Maitua are more likely options at hooker to replace Ennis while youngster Damien Cook filled in at hooker during Origin this season when Ennis shifted to half-back.
But it’s in the forwards where this game could be won. The last time these sides met the Rabbitohs scraped home 21-14, but they were not impressive and James Graham and Co really tested their fearsome pack. Souths are well-equipped to get the job done and better served in attack with Greg Inglis, Dylan Walker, Adam Reynolds and Lote Tuquiri all in good form. But it would be folly to write off a Hasler side. The last time a team was fancied so highly to win a grand final was Parramatta in 2001 but their red-hot run of 10 straight wins was ended cruelly by Newcastle. Souths coach Michael Maguire keeps playing down the significance of history, but the pressure of expectation will be massive.
The Bunnies backed up their 40-24 qualifying final win over Manly with a convincing 32-22 victory over reigning champs the Sydney Roosters to qualify for their first Grand Final since 1971. They trailed 12-0 early but piled on 32-unanswered points before the Chooks scored two late consolation tries. Hasler’s Dogs lost six of their last eight regular season games and were given little hope of doing anything in the finals by most pundits. But they thumped the Storm 28-4 in the elimination final, edged Manly 18-17 in golden point and held off Penrith 18-12 to make their second grand final appearance in three years. The Bulldogs are missing Sam Kasiano (ankle), Pat O’Hanlon (ankle), Chase Stanley (shoulder), Jacob Loko (knee) and Lloyd Perrett (ankle).
The Bulldogs showed last week against Penrith that you don’t have to score too many second-half points if you prevent the opposition from scoring more than you but statistics show they will need a big half-time buffer to hold out South Sydney. In the 26 matches they have played this season South Sydney have only lost the last 20 minutes on six occasions and are similarly effective in the 20 minutes after half-time. Over the course of the season the Rabbitohs are +188 points tagainst their opponents in the second half compared to the Bulldogs’ -46 and in the final 10 minutes while they are on the wrong side of the ledger to the tune of 60 points.
South Sydney Rabbitohs -8 v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs (one unit @ $1.92) – the Dogs have the edge in experience having played in the 2012 decider but the toll of three brutal finals fixtures in a row could hurt them here. Michael Maguire’s men won’t have things all their own way but they it’s hard to envisage a better chance or them to end their title drought than this. Nothing has happened to change our suggested bet from earlier in the week with the Rabbitohs remaining rock solid as eight-point favourites.
• Selections are listed in three categories – 1) Suggested (likely bet but yet to be finalised); 2) Confirmed (locked in at the price listed); and 3) Leans (tips, but not recommended bets); all times quoted are Australian Eastern Daylight Time (AET); prices with thanks to BetEasy (except where markets are not available), correct at time of publication. Results/comments on today’s games/races will follow in the next post.