Roosters vs Broncos
The quality of this 4th vs 5th clash is solely dependent on which Roosters team turns up. The good Roosters makes for a great match, the bad Roosters makes for a Broncos victory without having to hit top gear. Willie Mason is gone for the season but that has hardly made die-hard Roosters fans,
such as this man, reach for the Kleenex.For whatever reason, Mason has not been nearly involved enough in the Roosters pack this year. So I for one am quite happy to see the younger breed of Roosters getting more playing time. And I'm bitterly disappointed that in keeping Mason, we lose Tupou but that's another story. We know the Broncos will be ready to play but one can't be too confident that the Roosters will. The key for the Broncos will be metres up the guts. Ennis will be dangerous at dummy half, an area which has been troublesome for the Chooks all year long. If Brisbane win the battle for field position, they'll win. The keys for the Roosters are ball control and not conceding dumb penalties. If they can keep those two areas in check, then they will at least be in the game. They'll also need to be ready for Lockyer to run the ball on the last or kick unexpectedly. The head says Broncos but the heart says Roosters.
Manly vs St. George
A very tricky game for Manly. Sometimes 2nd vs 7th is one of those one-sided match-ups that are not worth watching, but this one looks a real contest. Buoyed by Orford's Dally M on the back his team being really good, the Eagles will remember that they went down to the Dragons at Brookvale earlier in the year, in one of the worst quality matches ever. Both teams look to be playing much better footy now so I'm expecting this to be watchable, if not overly exciting. Whichever pack can dominate will be the obvious key to this. The other will be last tackle options. The Dragons have improved finishing their sets throughout the year and will need to do so here. I really think that Soward should be starting this match if fit; Ben Rogers is a ticking time bomb just waiting to blow the Dragons chances away. If they lose, they're gone, so I would have thought Brown would play it safe. Manly should be able to create enough opportunities through field position for Orford's short kicking game, which can be dubious, to go largely unnoticed. Yep, there'll be no highlight reel but it should be a typically tough finals match. Manly in a tight one.
Sharks vs Raiders
It's 3rd vs 6th, structure vs enterprise, Covell in the corner vs Best/Campese/Monaghan/Milne from long range, but ultimately, it's strong defense vs "we'll just score more than them". There are many reasons the Sharks should win this: the strength of their defense, the Raiders injury toll, the fact Canberra have lost two halfbacks this year and now have Glen Buttriss at 7, the fact the Raider's points output is considerably less when they come up against the better defensive teams, and the Raiders away record. But then again, what do the Raiders have to lose? Hopefully we see some Campese magic but the Sharks will be no doubt guarding him closely. I expect the Sharks to win.
Storm vs Warriors
Conceivably, the Warriors at their very best could win this, if the Storm were well below their best. But the fact is, neither of those situations occur too often. Yes, the Warriors beat the Storm a few weeks back but the conditions were awful and it was in played in NZ. This is in Melbourne and conditions couldn't possibly be as miserable. Inconsistent teams don't beat the Storm on their home turf. It will be a contest early but eventually the Storm will grind them down and cruise to a comfortable win. If there is to be a miracle;
Good luck to all the teams...but mostly the Roosters! So if we lose to the Broncos, and the Dragons beat Manly, but the Warriors get knocked out, but then the Raiders.......