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This weekend, we've got two sudden-death showdowns on our plate.
Tom Trbojevic's Manly Sea Eagles take on the injury-ravaged Sydney Roosters, while the Premiership-hungry Penrith Panthers lock horns with the surprise package Parramatta Eels.
For the winning sides, they face the prospect of playing the Melbourne Storm or South Sydney Rabbitohs next weekend for a place in the NRL Grand Final in October.
As for the losing teams, they'll be boarding the first airplane out of Queensland and heading home to watch the remainder of the season from the comfort of their living rooms.
Here's everything you need to know ahead of Week 2 in the NRL Finals...
SEMI FINAL: MANLY SEA EAGLES vs SYDNEY ROOSTERS (odds correct as of 16/09/21)
For all your latest TAB odds on the Sea Eagles vs Roosters, CLICK HERE.
H2H: Sea Eagles ($1.26) vs Roosters ($3.90)
Line: Sea Eagles (-11.5 @ $1.85) vs Roosters (+11.5 @ $1.95)
Date: Friday, 17 September
Venue: BB Print Stadium, Mackay
Last five meetings:
Round 1, 2021 - SYD 46-4 MAN
Round 2, 2020 - MAN 9-8 SYD
Round 2, 2019 - SYD 26-18 MAN
Round 19, 2018 - SYD 56-24 MAN
Round 9, 2018 - SYD 22-20 MAN
Best bets (odds correct as of 16/09/21):
First try scorer
Tom Trbojevic (MAN) - $7.50
Jason Saab (MAN) - $7.50
Reuben Garrick (MAN) - $8
Daniel Tupou (SYD) - $13
Matt Ikuvalu (SYD) - $13
James Tedesco (SYD) - $18
Anytime try scorer:
Tom Trbojevic (MAN) - $1.60
Jason Saab (MAN) - $1.60
Reuben Garrick (MAN) - $1.65
Daniel Tupou (SYD) - $2.50
Matt Ikuvalu (SYD) - $2.15
James Tedesco (SYD) - $3
Last weekend against the Melbourne Storm, it didn't exactly go to plan for the Manly Sea Eagles. Despite finishing the regular season in arguably the best form out of any team, with one of the deadliest players in the competition at their disposal, the boys from Brookvale were simply outclassed and outsmarted by Craig Bellamy's Storm in every facet of the game. Every blade of grass Tom Trbojevic touched, there was a Melbourne player breathing down his neck. The star fullback, who produced perhaps the greatest individual season by a fullback we've ever seen, was unable to take the match by the scruff of the neck like he usually does. Looking at the numbers, Turbo touched the ball just 17 times throughout the 40-12 defeat compared to his season average of 35. On top of that, it meant his star-studded wingers Jason Saab and Reuben Garrick were virtually anonymous. Why? Melbourne's resolute defence, that's your simple answer. Completely nullifying Trbojevic had an immediate ripple effect on the rest of the team. Manly's halves pairing were forced into having way more of the ball than they're used to, while the side's forwards were also called upon to produce more gut-busting runs. In retrospect, every single cog which normally makes the Manly machine tick was slightly out of sync because Turbo had a target on his back. To put it simply, the Sea Eagles couldn't hit full throttle - in fact, they barely got out of first gear. Just a bad day in the office, right? Well, the bookies certainly think so with Des Hassler's side still the favourites to beat the Sydney Roosters - quite comfortably too, it seems. The injury-riddled Roosters are fresh off the back of an agonisingly close victory over the Gold Coast Titans. Which, if we're being brutally honest, they should have lost had Patrick Herbert passed to wide-open Titans winger Corey Thompson in the dying embers of the game. But forget about all that, to their credit the Roosters held on for a gritty win. James Tedesco was at his brilliant best yet again, while the addition of tough-tackling lock Victor Radley and veteran Jared Waerea-Hargreaves gave the Chooks their bite back. Granted, they'll be without hooker Sam Verrills after he failed to have his one-match suspension downgraded at the NRL judiciary as well as Siosiua Taukeiaho, which could spark a huge reshuffle within the Roosters. Given the amount of players who have visited the physio's treatment table this season, the Chooks are used to chopping and changing their line-up by now. That said, Verrills' absence means the ever-reliable Ben Marschke could come into the team. There has also been plenty of talk as to whether Sam Walker deserves a place in the starting line-up after he produced a clutch game-winning field goal as well as a last-ditch try-saving tackle last weekend. Either way, he's certainly not a bad option coming off your bench.
SEMI FINAL: PENRITH PANTHERS vs PARRAMATTA EELS (odds correct as of 16/09/21)
For all your latest TAB odds on the Panthers vs Eels, CLICK HERE.
H2H: Panthers ($1.22) vs Eels ($4.30)
Line: Panthers (-12.5 @ $1.90) vs Eels (+12.5 @ $1.90)
Date: Saturday, 18 September
Venue: BB Print Stadium, Mackay
Last five meetings:
Round 25, 2021 - PEN 40-6 PAR
Round 19, 2021 - PEN 13-12 PAR
Round 18, 2020 - PEN 20-2 PAR
Round 5, 2020 - PAR 16-10 PEN
Round 11, 2019 - PEN 16-10 PAR
Best Bets (odds correct as of 16/09/21):
First try scorer:
Brian To'o (PEN) - $7
Stephen Crichton (PEN) - $8
Matt Burton (PEN) - $11
Blake Ferguson (PAR) - $13
Haze Dunster (PAR) - $15
Waqa Blake (PAR) - $19
Anytime try scorer:
Brian To'o (PEN) - $1.65
Stephen Crichton (PEN) - $1.72
Matt Burton (PEN) - $2.30
Blake Ferguson (PAR) - $2.50
Haze Dunster (PAR) - $2.60
Waqa Blake (PAR) - $3.30
For the first time in almost 12 months, the Penrith Panthers are probably feeling the pressure a bit. After their devastating Grand Final defeat last year, the Panthers have boasted the sort of talent that made their regular season, shall we say, smooth sailing. But after a damning defeat at the hands of South Sydney in their qualifying final, it's suddenly do-or-die once again for Penrith. Win or go home. Their players, who looked a million dollars while playing against the likes of the Canterbury Bulldogs and Wests Tigers in the regular campaign, now need to step and prove that this team is genuinely as good as it says it is. At its core, the Panthers have perhaps the most dynamic halves partnership at its disposal. However, both Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai were nowhere near their glittering best against the Bunnies. That creative spark that they're often on hand to supply was nowhere to be seen. On top of that, Penrith's stacked forward line-up consisting of Isaah Yeo, Kurt Capewell, Liam Martin, Viliame Kikau, James Fisher-Harris, Matt Eisenhuth and Tevita Pangai jnr - all of which are either Origin or international representatives - failed to fire both offensively and defensively. It was hard to look past stand-in fullback Stephen Crichton as the one shining light last weekend. The makeshift No.1 stilling donning the No.2 jumper finished the game with 293 metres and even got on the scoresheet against the Rabbitohs. But this weekend the Panthers field arguably their strongest side with Dylan Edwards back at fullback and Kikau restored to the starting edge where he belongs. Moses Leota, who just inked a new deal to stay in Sydney's far west for another two years, has also been recalled to the starting 13. And it could be the Panthers' forwards that prove to be the deciding factor in winning them the game against the Parramatta Eels this Saturday. Reagan Campbell-Gillard was a huge boost for the Eels against Newcastle, wasting no time in raking up the run metres and tackles following his return from an injury layoff. Seeing bulldozing prop Junior Paulo escape a charge from the match review committee would have undoubtedly put a smile on the faces of Parramatta fans too. But much like Penrith last weekend, when it came to making stuff happen in the final 10 metres, the Eels' attacking threat was heavily reliant upon one bloke pulling the strings. Halfback Mitchell Moses ended the game with 93 run metres, four tackle busts, a linebreak, a linebreak assist, a try assist and a superb solo try of his own. His commanding presence meant the Eels could afford to let some of the other offensive weapons in their arsenal have a quiet day - Clint Gutherson wasn't one of those people, though. With 200 run metres and a try-assist under his belt, his security at the back under the high ball resulted in plenty of possession for the Eels and therefore gave Moses the freedom to strike at the heart of Newcastle's defence. Even by his standards, talismanic leader Gutho knows he's probably got more in the tank - and his performance alone could be enough to earn Parra an upset victory.