Almanac Rugby League – 2021 NRL Finals, Week 2: Can the battered Roosters crow again?

 

Week 1 of the NRL finals was an absolute cracker with one significant upset and three of the four games in doubt until the final seconds. The major outcome, Penrith’s loss to South Sydney, means that the Grand Final we were all expecting, Melbourne Storm v Penrith Panthers, can’t happen. At best, they’ll confront each other in a Qualifying Final.

 

Although they lost on the scoreboard, Gold Coast Titans emerged as the surprise packet of the weekend, grittily refusing to concede to the Roosters, even having one last opportunity to steal the chocolates on the bell but, alas, a poor decision cost them the game and one of the biggest wins in the club’s history. Instead, the match story is today fish’n’chips wrapper.

 

Melbourne Storm confirmed their favouritism for the title with a contemptuous dismissal of an out-of-touch Manly. The Storm’s first 20 minutes were a blitzkrieg of irresistible attack with odd flashes of brilliance thereafter combined with relentless, suffocating defence that negated anything the Sea Eagles tried to throw at them. South Sydney were the big winners, overcoming underdog status against Penrith and showing great heart in defence to hold on. The Roosters were plucky and a tad lucky with a few rub-of-the-green calls but, hey, they’ve been plugging away against the odds for most of the season, so good luck to them. The Eels always looked the better side against Newcastle and now earn a bout with the Panthers to survive. The Panthers were the biggest losers with a hard road ahead of them now if they are to take the title.

 

Tomorrow night it’s the Sea Eagles against the Roosters – a match between a team badly beaten last week against a badly beaten up team who scraped a win last time out. It’s a case of ‘can the Roosters continue to find enough to survive yet again’? Will the suspension of Verrills be one too many hurdles to overcome? Did we see their last, desperate crow last weekend? On the other hand, they still have a ton of experience on board and a willing pack, with Teddy, Tupou and JMoz sniffing out opportunities out the back and Sam Walker all too ready to pull out a miracle play. To win, they have to play smarter and more disciplined footy – and that means JWH and Radley playing football rather than trying to prove what tough guys they are.

 

No team would have beaten Melbourne last weekend, so the Sea Eagles just need to listen to coach Des Hasler, go back to their basic game and play with the joi de vivre of recent months and they’re into the Qualifiers. Manly’s chastened forwards will be out to redeem themselves and give their electric backs a chance to run wide and free. Can you imagine Tom Turbo having two quiet ones in a row? Foran might be the magic man – tough, skilful and ultra-competitive. I’m loathe to go against the seasoned Roosters but I think this might be Manly’s opportunity to win by less than 6 points and progress to the last four.

 

On Saturday night it’s the battle of western Sydney as the Panthers take on the Eels. The battle of the forwards should be enormous with the starting sixes and their respective benches packed with big, talented, skilful goers! The locals in Mackey will love it. That’s where the game will be won and lost. If the Panthers get on top up front, it will be a massacre; if the Panthers even hold the middle they’ll win because of a better set of backs. If the Eels get on top in the forwards, it should be enough for them to scape home – just! Anything less and they’re gone. It will be interesting to see if the Panthers can overcome last week’s hesitant defence of Cleary’s last tackle kicking game. Overall, it seems to me that the Panthers have too many scoring options while the Eels might find it difficult to muster enough points to win. Panthers by 13+.

 

So my winners this week are the Sea Eagles and the Panthers.

 

Friday September 17

Sea Eagles v Roosters, BB Print Stadium, Mackey,  7.50pm

Saturday September 18

Panthers v Eels, BB Print Stadium, Mackay, 7.50pm

 

Times and venues correct at the time of publication but please check for late changes.

 

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About Ian Hauser

A relaxed, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A Queenslander through and through, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. I enjoy travel, good coffee and cake, reading, and have been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. As well as being one of Footy Almanac's online editors, I moonlight as an editor for hire - check me out at www.writerightediting.com.au

Comments

  1. Brian The Ruminator says

    Your tips proved to be spot on, Ian. Panthers will have to lift considerably to trouble the Storm and I see the mind games between Hasler and Bennett started pretty much as soon as the siren went on Manly’s demolition job. As much as I hate Manly (I’m only human after all) I do like to see Bennett getting brought down a peg or two.

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