NRL Betting Preview: Melbourne Storm can overcome Handicap against Canberra Raiders

Melbourne Storm face Canberra Raiders in the second of the NRL Premiership Preliminary Finals at AAMI Park on Saturday evening.

Recommended bet: Melbourne Storm – 5.5 handicap @ 79/100 (1.79) with William Hill

Melbourne Storm, the minor premiers, face Canberra Raiders in the second of the NRL Premiership Preliminary Finals at AAMI Park on Saturday evening.

The two teams met as recently as mid-August in round 23 of the regular NRL Premiership, with the Raiders running out 22-8 victors at the Canberra Stadium.

With regards to team news, both Storm and Raiders are set to name unchanged starting sides for the Preliminary Final. 

The Melbourne Storm defence held firm in their thoroughly deserved 16-10 victory over the North Queensland Cowboys in the Qualifying Finals, enabling them to have a week off and the added benefit of playing the Preliminary Final on home turf.

Having been pipped 16-14 at home by Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks in the Qualifying Finals, the Canberra Raiders hosted a second finals game in beating the Penrith Panthers 22-12 in the Semi-finals.  That narrow defeat to the Sharks is the Raiders only loss in a dozen matches, so they certainly shouldn’t be lacking in self-belief going to Melbourne.

In both their finals matches to date, the Raiders started strongly before fading after the break.  One suspects that they will need points on the board early on at AAMI Park and to build a healthy cushion if they are to have any hope of withstanding a late onslaught from Melbourne.  That’s an incredibly tough ask against the much-vaunted Melbourne defence (they conceded at an average of just 12.5 points per game in the regular season) .

In their favour is the fact that the Canberra Raiders were by some distance the highest points scorers in the regular season, racking up an impressive 688 points at an average of 28.8 points per game.  The problem is at the other end, where they leaked a total of 456 points at an average rate of 19.0 points per game.  That was only the seventh best over the course of the season.

This looks the more clear cut of the two Preliminary Finals and it’s difficult to see anything other than Melbourne Storm prevailing under the circumstances.  It’s unlikely to be all one-way traffic though and it would be a surprise were the margin of victory to go into double digits.