BY CURTIS WOODWARD
Penrith Panthers vs Sydney Roosters
Friday night 7.50pm, Panthers Stadium
This will be one of the games of the season as the minor premiers host the defending, back-to-back champions. It will be brutal. No side hunts together like the Panthers and they come up against a team licking their wounds after being destroyed 60-8 by rivals South Sydney.
Yes we do need to talk about that score…60-8.
While the Panthers celebrated at ANZ Stadium with the J. J. Giltinan Shield, the Tricolours finished their season on the wrong end of one of the great ambushes in rugby league history.
The Roosters were way off their game and the Rabbitohs were at their best.
But nobody beats the Roosters by 60.
Now Trent Robinson’s men have to dust themselves off and go again.
The key for the Roosters, as always, starts with Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Siosiua Taukeiaho. Penrith’s engine room has an opportunity to make a statement in the opening minutes if they can win the battle of the middle.
Jake Friend’s absence can’t be understated either.
If anyone can come back from a 60-point drubbing it’s the Roosters but the Panthers are on such a roll that it’s impossible not to back them at home.
Penrith need little motivation to keep winning.
But if they did, they should look no further than some comments from Roosters fans online after the Souths loss who said they’d prefer to play Penrith at Panthers Stadium than Melbourne at Suncorp Stadium.
Tip: Panthers by 6
Previous meeting 2020: Panthers won 20-14
Last Finals clash: 2014 Qualifying Final, Panthers won 19-18
- Dylan Edwards, 2. Josh Mansour, 3. Brent Naden, 4. Stephen Crichton, 5. Brian To’o, 6. Jarome Luai, 7. Nathan Cleary, 8. James Tamou, 9. Apisai Koroisau, 10. James Fisher-Harris, 11. Villame Kikau, 12. Liam Martin, 13. Isaah Yeo
Bench: 14. Tyrone May, 15. Kurt Capewell, 16. Moses Leota, 17. Zane Tetevano, 18. Mitch Kenny, 19. Dean Whare, 20. Matt Burton, 21. Spencer Leniu
- James Tedesco, 2. Daniel Tupou, 3. Josh Morris, 4. Joseph Manu, 5. Brett Morris, 6. Luke Keary, 7. Kyle Flanagan, 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, 9. Freddy Lussick, 10. Sio Siua Taukeiaho, 11. Boyd Cordner, 12. Sitili Tupouniua, 13. Isaac Liu
Bench/Reserves: 14. Lachlan Lam, 15. Lindsay Collins, 16. Angus Crichton, 17. Sonny Bill Williams, 18. Nat Butcher, 19. Mitchell Aubusson, 20. Poasa Faamausili, 21. Matt Ikuvalu
Canberra Raiders vs Cronulla Sharks
Saturday night 5.40pm, GIO Stadium
Ricky Stuart copped a little bit of ‘stick’ last week for resting so many of his players with a possible top four finish on the line. It didn’t matter in the end with Parramatta beating Wests Tigers (Raiders also won).
You sense Canberra are ready to attempt something special from fifth place.
The Sharks have done a tremendous job to get to the finals but they will need a minor miracle to get close to Canberra at GIO Stadium.
Canberra has size, speed and class right across the field and will be far too good for the Sharkies.
Quized about his decision to rest so many players ahead of the final round game at Kogarah, Stuart hit back saying that if the Raiders were good enough they would be there at the end, anyway.
Do not write the Raiders off from outside the top four.
Tip: Raiders by 20
Last Finals clash: 2016 Qualifying Final, Sharks won 16-14
Previous meeting 2020: Raiders won 38-28
- Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, 2. Semi Valemei, 3. Jarrod Croker, 4. Jordan Rapana, 5. Nick Cotric, 6. Jack Wighton, 7. George Williams, 8. Josh Papalii, 9. Tom Starling, 10. Dunamis Lui, 11. John Bateman, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. Joseph Tapine
Bench/: 14. Siliva Havili, 15. Iosia Soliola, 16. Hudson Young, 17. Corey Harawira-Naera, 18. Sam Williams, 19. Kai O’Donnell, 20. Michael Oldfield, 21. Matthew Timoko
- Will Kennedy, 2. Sione Katoa, 3. Josh Dugan, 4. Jesse Ramien, 5. Ronaldo Mulitalo, 6. Connor Tracey, 7. Chad Townsend, 8. Braden Hamlin-Uele, 9. Blayke Brailey, 10. Aaron Woods, 11. Briton Nikora, 12. Wade Graham, 13. Toby Rudolf
Bench/Reserves: 14. Siosifa Talakai, 15. Scott Sorensen, 16. Andrew Fifita, 17. Jack Williams, 18. Teig Wilton, 19. Braydon Trindall, 20. Mawene Hiroti, 21. Bryson Goodwin
Melbourne Storm vs Parramatta Eels
Saturday night, 7.50pm, Suncorp Stadium
The Eels have failed to convince anyone they can actually win the premiership this year despite finishing 3rd at the completion of the regular season.
And of all the teams they get first-up, Melbourne probably trouble them the most – going on recent history.
Melbourne knocked the Eels out of contention in last season’s finals with a 32-0 smacking. They suffered the same fate at AAMI Park in 2017. This time they clash at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane where the Storm smashed Parramatta last year 64-10.
The weight of the world is on the Eels and so it should be.
It will be there until they break through and win the competition.
Tip: Storm by 18
Last Finals clash: 2019 Semi Final, Storm won 32-0
Previous meeting 2020: Eels won 14-0
- Ryan Papenhuyzen, 2. Suliasi Vunivalu, 3. Brenko Lee, 4. Justin Olam, 5. Josh Addo-Carr, 6. Cameron Munster, 7. Jahrome Hughes, 8. Jesse Bromwich, 9. Cameron Smith, 10. Christian Welch, 11. Felise Kaufusi, 12. Kenny Bromwich, 13. Nelson Asofa-Solomona
Bench: 14. Brandon Smith, 15. Tino Faasuamaleaui, 16. Tom Eisenhuth, 17. Nicho Hynes, 18. Darryn Schonig, 19. Isaac Lumelume, 20. Albert Vete, 21. Ryley Jacks
- Clint Gutherson, 2. Maika Sivo, 3. Michael Jennings, 4. Waqa Blake, 5. Blake Ferguson, 6. Dylan Brown, 7. Mitchell Moses, 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard, 9. Reed Mahoney, 10. Junior Paulo, 11. Shaun Lane, 12. Ryan Matterson, 13. Nathan Brown
Bench: 14. Will Smith, 15. Andrew Davey, 16. Kane Evans, 17. Marata Niukore, 18. Ray Stone, 19. Brad Takairangi, 20. Oregon Kaufusi, 21. Daniel Alvaro
South Sydney vs Newcastle Knights
Sunday afternoon, 4.05pm, ANZ Stadium
This will be a lot closer than people think. Souths were incredible last weekend against the Roosters while the Knights were trounced by the Titans on the Gold Coast.
But this is a new competition and Newcastle are better than what they tossed up last week.
The Knights have some big seasons ahead of them but they are way too inconsistent to be taken seriously in 2020.
South Sydney’s Adam Reynolds and Cody Walker are in irresistible touch so expect them to take advantage of a weary Knights team at the back-end of both halves.
Tip: Rabbitohs by 10
Last Finals clash: First match
Previous meeting 2020: Knights won 20-18
- Corey Allan, 2. Alex Johnston, 3. Campbell Graham, 4. Dane Gagai, 5. Jaxson Paulo, 6. Cody Walker, 7. Adam Reynolds, 8. Tevita Tavola, 9. Damien Cook, 10. Tom Burgess, 11. Jaydn Su’A, 12. Bayley Sironen, 13. Cameron Murray
Bench: 14. Mark Nicholls, 15. Liam Knight, 16. Jed Cartwright, 17. Keaon Koloamatangi, 18. Steven Marsters, 19. Hame Sele, 20. Troy Dargan, 21. Patrick Mago
- Kalyn Ponga, 2. Edrick Lee, 3. Enari Tuala, 4. Bradman Best, 5. Hymel Hunt, 6. Mason Lino, 7. Mitchell Pearce, 8. David Klemmer, 9. Kurt Mann, 10. Daniel Saifiti, 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12. Aidan Guerra, 13. Mitchell Barnett
Bench: 14. Chris Randall, 15. Jacob Saifiti, 16. Herman Ese’se, 17. Sione Mata’utia, 18. Josh King, 19. Gehamat Shibasaki, 20. Tex Hoy, 21. Brodie Jones