Penrith Panthers: 32 premiership points, final ladder position, fifth.
New Zealand Warriors: 32 premiership points, final ladder position eighth.
Both teams won 15 games and lost 9. The Panthers finished three rungs higher by dint of a 31-point advantage in point differential.
Small wonder, then, that the point spread on offer by Ladbrokes is a scant 2.5 in favour of the Panthers.
But for a couple tries or a couple kicks, the finishing order for the Telstra 2018 NRL Premiership competition could have easily flipped the order of the final four to make the final eight.
The Warriors were higher at earlier stages of the season, but playing finals is something they have not done for years, so they will be fired up when they take the ground at ANZ Stadium.
Many of the prognosticators like the Warriors’ chances, even though the Panthers embarrassed the Warriors 36 – 4 in Round 17, but the Warriors flipped the script in Round 24 with a 36 – 16 win.
The combination of Blake Green and Shaun Johnson could prove instrumental if the Warriors want to move on. The skill sets of the two are different, with Johnson’s flash tempered by Green’s patience.
Green’s willingness to allow Johnson the freedom to create, while Green is content to wait for his moments, makes the pair a formidable combination.
The rest of course, need to be prepared, but with Green and Johnson supplying one of the most balanced attack in the finals, the Warriors are the danger club of the NRL finals.
We often opine that Thoroughbred racing punting is difficult due to the number of competitors in a race field, but on paper, we would rather have a racing punt than anything on offer for the NRL finals.
The only thing that looks reasonably certain is the match between the Brisbane Broncos and the St. George Illawarra Dragons, but the line on that one is only 10.5 points, the sort of margin that can evaporate with a missed tackle or a poorly directed offload.