Sydney Roosters vs Canberra Raiders – Friday night – Sydney Cricket Ground
Four teams lost in week one of the finals, and of those losing teams the Roosters scored the most points and conceded the least points. They started well and they finished strong, scoring the first two tries and the last three tries, but the game was won and lost during a 15 minute period in the first half when the Panthers grew wings and Nathan Cleary scored 18 points. It was an impressive bounce back by the Chooks after the showing against the Bunnies the week prior. That 15 minute period when Cleary put on a show however, reminded me of their showing against the Bunnies the week prior. Fix that, and they are a finals force again. If they can't fix that, the Raiders have the firepower to put on a show like Cleary. Jake Friend and Sonny Bill Williams return, and both should improve the Chooks in defence. The Raiders did enough to win against the Sharks last week, but their 12 point victory was less impressive than their 10 point victory against the same side a week earlier when they rested most of their first grade side. The Raiders had a fairly soft run into the finals, and their last outing against a genuine top eight side was in round seventeen against the Roosters. That night saw the return of SBW to the NRL, and the Chooks prevailed 18-6 in Canberra. The team lists that night were almost identical to our team lists for this game - the only additions on Friday night are Jake Friend for the Chooks and Iosia Soliola for the Raiders. That wasn't the first time the 2019 grand finalists played each other this season. They met back in round ten at this venue, when the Raiders surprised most with a 24-20 victory on a five day turnaround. If they won on Friday night it would be less surprising, but I'm convinced a 1 point loss to the Panthers at Penrith is better form than a 10 point over the Sharks in Canberra. A tremendous game beckons...whatever the outcome.
Verdict – Roosters by 4
Result – Raiders 22 defeated Roosters 18
Parramatta Eels vs South Sydney Rabbitohs – Saturday night – Bankwest Stadium
For some time I have felt the Rabbitohs were the team outside the top four that could win the premiership, and in the last two weeks they have well and truly delivered. This is an attack that is firing on all cylinders, taking on a team that has spluttered through the second half of the season. To their credit, the Eels performance against the Storm was much improved, and a repeat of that effort puts them in this game. That said, I doubt they have enough points in them to keep up with the Bunnies, particularly now they have lost their best finisher in Sivo and a huge cloud hangs over Ferguson as he tries to get his leg functioning prior to kick-off. No such problems for the Bunnies who have named the same seventeen that have scored against 106 points in two weeks against top eight sides. And it's hard to forget when these sides met in round 16, where the Rabbitohs won 38-0. The Eels are better than that, but I don't think they're good enough to win.
Verdict – Rabbitohs by 19
Result – Rabbitohs 38 defeated Eels 24
Wally Lewis - finals week two selections (in bold)
Note: tips from Wally will be published on Wednesday night or Thursday morning
- ROOSTERS vs Raiders
- Eels s RABBITOHS