Manly Sea Eagles (4th) vs Sydney Roosters (5th) – Friday night – BB Print Stadium (Mackay)
A tantalising match-up that has, I think, the two best players in the game (Trbojevic and Tedesco) facing off against each other for the first time this season. These sides did meet way back in round one when the Roosters won in a landslide, but Trbojevic was recovering from a 'shower injury', and we all know the Sea Eagles are an entirely different proposition when he's on the park. The Storm minimised his impact (again) in the first week of the finals, controlling much of the possession and most of the game. The Roosters were a little lucky to hold on against the Titans last week, but very good teams always seem luckier than the others. I suspect that if the Roosters had the same opportunity the Titans had to win that game in the dying moments they would have nailed it. The Chooks have lost Taukeiaho to injury and Verrills to suspension, which goes a long way toward evening up the forwards battle. Lachlan Croker returns for the Sea Eagles in that all important dummy half role. His late withdrawal last week wouldn't have helped. Few would question the courage the Roosters have shown this season, but at some point you'd think the tank is empty. They were running on fumes against the Titans, and courage only gets you so far when you're out of petrol.
Verdict – Sea Eagles by 8
Result – Sea Eagles 42 defeated Roosters 6
Penrith Panthers (2nd) vs Parramatta Eels (6th) – Saturday night – BB Print Stadium (Mackay)
These sides have already met twice this season, but it's difficult to get a read on either of those results. In round 16 the Panthers were without Nathan Cleary, but still did enough to win 13-12. In round 25 the Eels rested most of their best and brightest and the Panthers won convincingly as expected (40-6). The Panthers have had a pretty good run with injuries and have named what is near enough to their best seventeen. Edwards and Leota have been named in the starting thirteen and seem likely, Sorensen has been named on the bench and is more likely than not, while Tyrone May can probably be rested for another week (although he may not have made the seventeen anyway). A few of the Eels (N Brown, Gutherson, Ferguson) copped some knocks last week but will play. Their line-up would be bolstered if Mahoney and Sivo were fit, but they can still take to the field with a strong squad. In round 24 the Eels proved they can mix it with the best of them when they convincingly beat the Melbourne Storm. The only other team to beat the Storm all year are the Panthers (and they beat them by 2). They're good enough, but they're not good enough all the time. To win a premiership you need to win three or four games in a row against the very best. In that regard, I have more doubts about the Eels than I do the Panthers, a team who have lost just six games in two years.
Verdict – Panthers by 7
Result – Panthers 8 defeated Eels 6
Wally Lewis - finals week two (in bold)
Note: tips from Wally will be published on Wednesday night or Thursday morning
- SEA EAGLES vs Roosters
- PANTHERS vs Eels