This weekend round 2 of the NRL finals will be played, to determine who will face the Roosters and Storm next week in the grand final playoff. Both matches are Sydney derbies, with Friday night seeing the Cronulla Sharks face the Penrith Panthers while the South Sydney Rabbitohs will play the St George Illawarra Dragons on Saturday night.
Both matches will be extremely unpredictable; with all four teams having won the same amount of matches this season (following the Panthers and Dragons wins last weekend and the Sharks and Rabbitohs losses). Round 2 of the NRL finals will be sure to be a crowd pleaser, particularly the Sydney crowds expected to turn out.
The first match up sees the Sharks, who are kings of the grind, come up against the unpredictable Panthers. Penrith have won three out the five matches since they sacked coach Anthony Griffin, with only last week’s win looking convincing. The Sharks, meanwhile, have kept rolling and building form in the second half of the season – although they have shown that they can be exposed by a flashy backline.
With the Panthers at something close to full strength for virtually the first time this season they will be a handful , and will have the edge in the backline – particularly in the halves. The Sharks, on the other hand, have the most formidable forward pack in the competition, and combine this with some outstanding outside backs. The Sharks will probably edge this one to progress past round 2 of the NRL finals.
The Dragons-Rabbitohs game is even harder to predict. St George have been serving up rubbish for most of the second half of the season, but last week they returned to form in a spectacular fashion to blitz the Broncos in Brisbane. In that game, however, they lost key playmaker Gareth Widdop. Souths have been more consistent in the run to round 2 of the NRL finals, and a team featuring the Burgii and Greg Inglis is always going to be a physical threat.
In the second game of round 2 of the NRL finals Souths will probably get over the line – as long as they can contain Ben Hunt. This would set them up for a trip to Melbourne next week to face the Storm for a grand final spot, while the winner of Panthers vs Sharks will stay in Sydney to play the Roosters.