BANG BANG BANG, NRL Finals Week Two is here!
Both Penrith and Melbourne, the best two teams in the entire League. Each now sits 80 minutes away from a Grand Final appearance. The Panthers claimed their 19th victory of the season overall, as they escaped the Roosters clutches, in a 29-28 thriller, at Panthers Stadium, on Friday night. And for the Storm, they collected their 17th overall win of the campaign, as they toppled the Eels, 36-24, in Brisbane, on Saturday evening.
And whilst those two hard-working, jubilant sides, will take a well-earned rest, the same cannot be said for Cronulla and Newcastle. Both these sides head back home with their tails between their legs, reflecting on the season. A 14-6 lead wasn’t enough for the Sharks, as they lost by 12. And a 14-0 lead wasn’t enough for Newcastle, as they got hammered 46-20.
This all equates to two very exciting Semi Final’s to be played this week. Let’s dive right in shall we?
Sydney Roosters vs Canberra Raiders – FRI 9TH OCT @ 7:50 PM
The last RD – In Penrith, the Roosters couldn’t quite complete the miracle comeback. At one stage during the match, they were down 28-10. And they ended up losing 29-28! They let Nathan Cleary tear them to shreds. And inevitably he was the one who kicked the match-winning FG in the 77th min. Whilst a last-ditch FG attempt from Kyle Flanagan didn’t quite make it, as he attempted to send his side into ET. Hurting Sydney badly was their 25 missed tackles and 11 errors. Especially poor when you consider the Panthers made just 4 errors.
In Canberra, their fortress home-ground, they were stung early and hard by Cronulla, but eventually, they found their way into the game and were the better side. This all happening within their 32-20 victory. They scored 6 tries to Cronulla’s 3, quite an impressive stat when you consider that the possession was split evenly at 50% each. There was a critical three-minute period that won the Raiders the game when Jack Wighton evened the game up with a try in the 47th minute and then scored another one just 2 minutes later. Hurting the Raiders though was their 16 missed tackles and 14 errors.
Key SYD Player
James Tedesco. The former Tiger turned Rooster, scored a try against the Panthers and will be a crucial piece to the Eastern Suburbs boys push to break through a stoic Canberra defence. According to the League Live App, from 18 matches this season, he’s scored 9 times and has 15 try assists. While his average of 230m’s per game is insane! His speed and innate ability to create something out of nothing will be massive when he’s faced up against some of the Raiders slower Forwards, including both Soliola and Papalii. He’s a big game player and this is a big game. Expect him to turn up big time in this one.
Key CAN Player
The previously mentioned Josh Papalii. The 200+ game veteran for Canberra is a leader within the team and arguably their key Forward. They need him to be at his bruising best in order to stop a freakish Roosters side (attack-wise). According to the League Live App, he’s successfully completed 98% of his tackle attempts for this campaign! That’s good for 620/630! He should be one of the first out of the line, hit in and hit out, attacking Sydney with a huge vigour and intent. He’s the type of player who can still run at you softly and hurt you. He’s just that good! And Ricky Stuart will without a doubt need one of his main men to be on point in this one.
What Should Happen
A Sydney victory. The Raiders while strong, ultimately this is where their time will end. The Roosters are the back-to-back Premiers for a reason and there’s no way in hell that they’ll lose two finals games in a row. With a home-crowd in front of them, that’ll give them the extra motivation they need and will be a nice change of pace having played in front of a raucous Western Sydney based crowd last round.
Sydney’s attack is just too good to stay down for long. Out of their back five who played against Penrith, Tedesco has 9 tries and 15 try assists (all players stats mentioned are for this season). Tupou has scored double-digit tries (11) and has a try assist. The two Morris brothers have 23 combined tries and 13 combined try assists! Whilst Manu has 8 tries and 5 try assists. This attack is bound to catch fire at some point during the Canberra encounter and when they do, the Raiders need to heed with caution! Otherwise, they’ll be burned badly.
My Tip: Sydney by 8 points.
Parramatta Eels vs South Sydney Rabbitohs – SAT 10TH OCT @ 7:50 PM
The last RD – At Suncorp Stadium, the Eels were just ok it showed in their 12-point defeat to the ever-energetic Storm. The Eels led 12-0 courtesy of an opening 2nd-minute Brown try and one again to Gutherson in the 21st. Whilst they also produced tries via Ferguson in the 49th min and Lane in the 67th. Having only 43% of the ball didn’t help. And neither did Melbourne’s 429 extra running m’s (1929 vs 1500m’s). These two factors worked against the Eels throughout the match. And they missed an almost impressive 34 tackles. Melbourne in comparison missed just 18. It wasn’t a bad game from the Eels, but they have a lot more work to do if they want to beat the Rabbitohs this round.
Conversely, South Sydney was all class as they cruised to a 46 – 20 won over the Knights.
Down 14-0? No worries! Souths came back in astonishing fashion scoring tries through Allan in the 16th minute, Walker in the 19th and Johnston in the 24th, to really take a lead and eventually blow the game wide open. The final tally was 8 tries to 3! OUCH! They also kicked 6/8 conversions for good measure.
Whether right or wrong, a massive benefiting factor to them during the game was the fact that they conceded just the one penalty throughout the match. The Knights meanwhile in comparison were at four. There’ll be a lot more people singing Glory glory to South Sydney if they can somehow do what they did in the last game, to Parramatta.
Key PAR Player
Shaun Lane. The ex-Sea Eagle turned Eel has been a massive part of Parramatta’s forward pack this season. According to the League Live App, he has a fairly decent 93% success rate with his tackles for this campaign. Something that’s good for 644/695. He’s also averaging 124m’s per game, 1.9 tackle busts and he has 3 tries, + 3 try assists. It seems like he can do most things pretty well. However, he and his side are coming up against a Rabbitohs side that collectively has scored 106 points over their last two clashes. His brute skills as a Forward is what his Blue & Gold side will need most on Saturday night. He doesn’t always get the appreciation he deserves, but that doesn’t matter! He should rightfully claim his own in this match.
Key SOU Player
It’s really impossible to go past Cody Walker, isn’t it? The guy has played over 100+ games for Souths has been a beast all season long and that was strongly on display in his sides most recent 26-point thrashing of the hapless Knights. He scored a try, had a try assist, made 3 tackle breaks and 1 line break assist, ran for 101m’s, completed 24/24 tackles, and kicked for 93m’s! Whilst on the season he has 9 tries and 18 try assists (this is all according to the League Live App). Adam Reynolds struggled a bit against the Knights, whilst Damien Cook might be a bit cautious given the knock or two, he picked up at ANZ Stadium. So, Walker will shoulder a lot of responsibility in this encounter. And as he has done all season long, expect him to tear it up!
What Should Happen
A South Sydney victory. 106 points over their last two games! Whilst conceding just 34! Who can possibly stop that sort of momentum? The Eels as good as they are, simply put will not be able to. The Eels are just too inconsistent to rely upon to win this match. Looking back, they went down to the Storm 36-24 in the opening week of the finals. Prior to that, they beat the Tigers by just 4 points and Brisbane as well. While before that, Penrith hammered them in an 18-point win. They just scraped by the Warriors before that and prior to the NZ game, Souths destroyed them, 38-0! That combined with the free-flowing attack of a rejuvenated South’s side, should just ever so be enough to see them through in this clash!
My Tip: South Sydney by 7 points.
Four incredibly amazing teams. However, only two can advance on to the next stage. With 160 absolutely scintillating minutes of Footy ahead of us, I wish all sides the best of luck. These are guaranteed to be absolute beauties!