NRL Finals Week Two Preview

Week 2 of the finals are here. It’s semi-final time, and now there are no second chances. It’s the battle of the birds, and the battle of the west to decide who will advance to within 80 minutes of a grand final appearance.

Manly Sea Eagles vs Sydney Roosters

The Sea Eagles come into this one rattled from a blowout last week. Their loss to the Storm was their worst since the opening weeks of the season, so Manly will be praying it was a one-off. The Roosters meanwhile scrapped past the Titans and now must do things without first-choice hooker Sam Verrills, who has been suspended.

Incredibly, the two sides haven’t met since Round 1. On that occasion, the Roosters handed the Sea Eagles a beatdown, but it counts for little given Tom Trbojevic wasn’t playing. If last week’s effort proved anything, it’s just how important Turbo Tom is to Manly.

His stat line last week read just 151 run metres with two tackle busts and no try involvements. That is compared to a season average of 217 metres per game, more than six tackle busts per game and almost four try involvements per contest. When Trbojevic isn’t there, neither are Manly. This week though, he comes up against James Tedesco who has dragged the Roosters on his back all season, with one and a half try involvements per game, seven tackle busts per contest and 184 metres.

There isn’t much between the two representative superstars, and so it’ll come down to the forward packs and kicking games to put them in the right position, and hand them the lion’s share of the football. Counting against the Roosters is the fact they make the fourth-most missed tackles in the competition, while the Sea Eagles sit sixth for kick metres compared to the Roosters in 15th. That should give Manly the advantage in possession and territory and as a result, enough to get over the line in a shootout.

Sea Eagles by 10 

Penrith Panthers vs Parramatta Eels

The Panthers will be desperate to hit back after something of a shocker last weekend. They weren’t beaten heavily, but they did lose to the Rabbitohs, a side they have already beaten twice this year. They didn’t look themselves at all as the pressure built, and while they still come into this week against the Eels as favourites, improvement is needed. Parramatta sneaked past the Knights in their qualifying final, which raises problems about their defence given Newcastle hold the competition’s second-worst attacking record.

Parramatta’s defence is well below the top two sides in Penrith and Melbourne, and while it’s comparable to those other sides in the top six, they conceded 190 points in the final six weeks of the season. Letting in 20 last week suggests they haven’t recaptured their mojo yet, and it’s something the Panthers could look to rip strips off this weekend.

Penrith’s attack is simply too good for the defence to not be on top of the world. They run for metres than any other team in the competition, which provides more opportunities, and then on top of that, they make more tackle busts than any other team.

They are stats which set them up for victory, and with Nathan Cleary now well and truly back from injury, he could pick the blue and gold defence apart. He didn’t have a great game last time out, but the representative half has class which is apparent in his 29 try involvements and 19 forced dropouts from just 17 games.

You’d think with Parramatta’s defence against Penrith’s attack, this game is only going one way, and, when you throw in the fact Penrith beat Parramatta twice in the regular season, and haven’t lost two games in a row at full strength since 2019, this should be a Penrith win.

Panthers by 14


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