NRL Finals Week Two Previews
Photo Credit: Getty Images/Cover Art
We have now reached the second week of the NRL Finals, after Week One saw two more sides added to Rugby League’s red elimination list in the form of Newcastle and the Gold Coast, respectively. Those clubs going down by just eight and one point each. As for Penrith and Manly, they each get a second crack here courtesy of their Top Four placings after they were taught a lesson by the Rabbitohs and Storm last week.
The Panthers made 12 errors and missed 28 tackle attempts vs South Sydney, while the Sea Eagles gave away nine penalties + conceded nine errors vs Melbourne. In contrast, it’s Parramatta and Sydney who carry in all the momentum here after their previous final’s triumphs. So, the unpredictable may well occur, but that’s the brilliant thing about the NRL; you just never know what’s going to happen!
Sea Eagles vs Sydney Roosters @ BB Print Stadium Mackay – FRI 17TH SEPT, 7:50 PM
The Sea Eagles head into this clash after they were touched up by the Storm 40-12. RD1 of this season wasn’t very pretty either, as they got smashed by the Roosters 46-4. As for Sydney themselves, they’ve won eight of their last 10 games, including most recently where they beat the Titans 25-24 via a 77th minute Sam Walker FG.
Manly could make the argument that they were missing Tommy ‘Turbo’ for that Roosters encounter, yet against Melbourne, he was made to look pretty ordinary. He had zero tries/try assists, ran for only 46m’s, and he gave away a penalty too. Manly won’t have it all their own way here, so he’ll have to be fairly influential to give his side a decent shot at advancing through to next week.
The ‘Chook’s will look to counteract what ‘Turbo’ brings to the table in the form of their own NSW superstar, James Tedesco. ‘Teddy’, as he’s affectionately nicknamed, absolutely blitzed the Gold Coast last time out with a try, a try assist, five tackle-breaks, one line-break, one line-break assist and 184 running m’s. He will look to capitalise upon Manly’s errors by bursting out of the lines with his raw speed and high Footy IQ. So, when he’s lurking around, the Sea Eagles will have to be extremely careful. These two players are arguably the best in the world at the moment, and the overall outcome of the game will be heavily predicated on how they each perform.
Ultimately, Manly will win here because of their attack. ‘Turbo’ has 25 tries on the season, as does Jason Saab, who scored twice vs Melbourne + there’s also Reuben Garrick with 21 tries. In contrast, all of Brad Parker, Daly Cherry-Evans and Haumole Olakau’atu have eight each. That sort of relentless, spirited and talent-filled offence is unlikely to be kept chained down two weeks running, especially when the stakes are so high. That should help play a large part in a tense Manly triumph.
My Tip: Manly by 8-14 points
Anytime Try Scorer: Jason Saab
Penrith Panthers vs Parramatta Eels @BB Print Stadium Mackay – SAT 18TH SEPT, 7:50 PM
The Panthers latest affair was a shock 16-10 defeat to South Sydney, while Parramatta lived to see another week courtesy of their controversial 28-20 victory over Newcastle. Penrith was lethargic and looked disinterested at times, while the Eels were spritely and led by reformed veteran Blake Ferguson, with the reportedly Japanese Rugby bound Centre bagging a double. A late penalty try sealed the result.
However, working heavily in the Panthers’ favour is that just two games ago, when these clubs last met, they toppled Parramatta with ease 40-6! They scored seven tries to one while also causing the opposition to miss 52 attempted tackles! Penrith was forceful in that matchup and forced the Eels to play how they (Penrith) wanted them to play, controlling the overall tempo of the encounter. That’s exactly what they need to do here. If they don’t, there’s the potential for them to be burned by Clint Gutherson and Ferguson, two players with strong points to prove and a hulking 98KG Fijian backline teammate, aka Waqa Blake (six tries this campaign + 215/245 tackles completed).
On the flip side, Brian To’o could be the key piece to the puzzle for the Panthers. The ex-Samoa/Samoa 9’s representative is on a tear this season, with the 23-year-old averaging an insane 247.7 running m’s per game. This is brilliant news for last season’s Grand Finalists because it gives them a different threat to rely upon against the Eels instead of just Nathan Cleary’s kicking game or just Jerome Luai’s ability to lay tries out on a silver platter for his teammates. To’o can help get his club to the other side of the field rather quickly, and in turn, help create dangerous attacking opportunities for them.
The Panthers got my vote to win, but it wasn’t an easy choice. Parramatta possesses numerous threats across the park who can quite easily win them a game of Footy off their own back, but the Panthers are a different kind of beast, especially when they’re mad. And they’ll be mad after the uninspiring performance they put in vs Wayne Bennett’s men. Ivan Cleary will have them set up well to go deep into the finals once again.
My Tip: Penrith by 8-14 points
Anytime Try Scorer: Brian To’o
Four teams and two simply scintillating games of Rugby League. Bring on the weekend already!