Here we are, one week out from the NRL 2014 Grand Final with two more teams to be knocked out of the competition with the week three preliminary finals starting tonight.
Last weekend’s semi-finals saw the Sydney Roosters secure an eleventh hour win over the North Queensland Cowboys to keep their dream of becoming back-to-back Grand Final winners alive, while the Bulldogs also won by just one point knocking out the Manly Sea Eagles.
NRL Week 2 – Semi Finals Results
Sydney Roosters 31 v 30 North Queensland Cowboys
Friday September 19, 2014 @ Allianz Stadium
Last year’s Premiers looked to have this one in the bag early storming out of the gates to score 30 unanswered points with the Cowboys left behind. However things quickly turned with the North Queensland crew getting on the board before half-time and then building on that momentum in the second half as they too scored 30 unanswered points! It all came down to a field goal then and the Chooks got the final point and moved. Johnathan Thurston’s conspiracy theories were reignited too however as he scored a late try that was disallowed with the video refs finding a knock-on in earlier play to leave the skipper speechless.
Manly Sea Eagles 17 v 18 Canterbury Bulldogs
Saturday September 20, 2014 @ Allianz Stadium
It was an eerily similar script in the second semi with the Bulldogs the first on the board and quick to score 16 points before Manly could get on the board. But like the previous night’s game things turned and once the Sea Eagles scored their first four pointer they held the advantage and evened things up. A field goal each before the 80 minutes then saw things evened out 17 all before things went into golden point extra time with Canterbury getting the field advantage and keeping the cooler head to secure the win.
That leaves us with two cracking games to decide who plays in the 2014 NRL Grand Final Sunday week with markets going off at Ladbrokes.com.au – home of the NRL Footy Freaks markets plus an exclusive Preliminary Finals Cash Refund up to $50 if your team loses by six points or less!
2014 NRL Preliminary Finals Draw & Tips
South Sydney Rabbitohs ($1.70) v Sydney Roosters ($2.20)
Friday September 26, 2014 (7:55pm) @ ANZ Stadium
Tip: Roosters by 6 points @ Ladbrokes.com.au
The clash of the foundation teams is a long standing rivalry that is reignited tonight with a do-or-die decider between the code’s two oldest clubs.
Sydney held on by a point, the second time this finals after going down by one to Penrith in the opening week, in an incredibly entertaining semi win over the Cowboys, on which they’ll have to improve their second half defense if they are going to keep the advantage over a well-rested Rabbitohs outfit.
Momentum is often key at this time of year however so whether the week of works for or against the Bunnies after their week one win over Manly will be decided in Friday night footy.
Their stars however are likely to have enjoyed the freshen up after switching off in the second 40 of that game to let the Sea Eagles back into the game, as has been the standard with all games this finals season.
South Sydney has the hoodoo to overcome with 43 years Premiership free and get a third time in as many years to make it to Grand Final Day.
They’ve played each other more than any other two premiership teams in the game but it is the Roosters who boast two Premiership wins from six Grand Final appearances since the start of this century.
Souths get Ben Te’o back on the bench after a four-week suspension, while the five-man bench for the Roosters will feature Dylan Napa who comes off a two-week suspension for a shoulder charge.
The Tri-Colours like to be leading having won 14 of their 18 games where they’ve lead after the opening quarter this season so expect them to come out firing on all cylinders looking for that coveted early head start.
Expecting it to go down to the wire and the Bunnies are the favourites but our gut says the Roosters can hold them out with Sonny Bill Williams ready to peak and veteran fullback Anthony Minichiello not ready to play his last game just yet.
Penrith Panthers ($2.12) v Canterbury Bulldogs ($1.75)
Saturday September 27, 2014 (7:55pm) @ ANZ Stadium
Tip: Panthers by 2 points @ Ladbrokes.com.au
The week three finals action returns to Sydney’s Olympic Park on Saturday night with the turn-around-team of the season Penrith playing Des Hasler’s Bulldogs.
The Ivan Cleary-coached Panthers held on thanks to a Jamie Soward four-pointer and then a field goal by the same form player in the dying minutes over the reigning premiers in week one to earn a week off.
Canterbury, who finished seventh on the ladder at the end of the regular season, meanwhile won by a point after more than 80 minutes played against Manly in a tough semi that followed their 28 – 4 victory over Melbourne in week one.
Penrith has suffered setbacks galore this year but continue to come out on top in a truly remarkable lead-up to this all important game for a spot in the NRL Grand Final.
The week off historically works to their advantage, especially as they nurse plenty of injuries, and no team since the Broncos back in 2006 has played all four weeks of the finals and won the Premiership.
Canterbury are lucky to have Josh Jackson and Michael Ennis still in the line-up after the duo escaped a ban for some suspect moves last week.
Penrith meanwhile get back-rower Adam Docker back off a two-match suspension.
This is going to come down to the more creative of the two sides, who handles the pressure and who makes the most of opportunities both created and gifted.
Trent Hodkinson is the Bulldogs’ go-to man for a winning field goal as he’s kicked four this year, but Soward also handles pressure well so will it come down to a cool headed move from one of these two again?
Statistically the Panthers have the upper hande with five wins form the past seven played against these two, but the Bulldogs are no underdogs and are favourites to win.
It’ll be close, Canterbury building while Penrith have air back in their lungs.
But while the Bulldogs forward pack is imposing, think that Soward and co. can hang on by a couple of points.
Back your favourites online now at Ladbrokes.com.au and enjoy money back up to $50 if your team loses by six points or less in both NRL week three finals this weekend!