Harold Matthews Preview - Finals Week One

South Sydney Rabbitohs (5) Vs Sydney Roosters (8)
Erskineville Oval, Saturday, April 19
Kick-off: 10.00am
Referee: Matthew Treneman

Summary:
Its sudden death for the Rabbitohs and Roosters as they go head-to-head at Erskineville Oval this weekend. South Sydney will enter the game on the back of a three match winning streak after accounting for the Magpies, Dragons and Raiders in the lead up to the finals. The Rabbitohs last loss was back in round six when they were beaten 34-16 by Minor Premiers Newcastle. The Roosters will be looking to lift their intensity after winning only one of their last five games. It hasn’t been all bad for the Roosters with two draws amongst those results, but they will need to improve on their ability to win close games if they are to beat the Bunnies on their home soil. Both teams have similar for and against results from the regular season and victory may need to come on the back of some individual brilliance from one of the many high quality players in both teams.

Prediction: South Sydney’s ability to stay in the game for long periods of time looks set to be the defining factor in the outcome of this final. Rabbitohs by 6.

 

Manly Warringah Sea Eagles (6) Vs Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs (7)
Leichhardt Oval, Saturday, April 19
Kick-off: 10.15am
Referee: Taylor Deland-Cleveland
Broadcast:
NSWRL Match Centre coverage available via NSWRL.com.au

Summary:
The Sea Eagles and Bulldogs have blitzed all before them in recent weeks with combined score lines of 58-8 and 124-0 respectively in the last two weeks. If the Sea Eagles thought they were doing well in disposing of the Roosters and Storm, then the Bulldogs sent out a massive warning to the rest of the competition with punishing performances against North Sydney and the Central Coast. Both teams have the ability to beat any side on their day, but it will be the team who can focus on their defence that will pass into week two of the finals. Brydon Ramien has been a powerhouse for the Sea Eagles in 2014 and his clash with opposing front-rower Giordan Patea will go a long way to deciding the outcome. Also look to the battle of the fullbacks in Luke Polselli and Alvin Maungatti as another highlight.

Prediction: Both teams have had similar seasons and shown similar form, but the Dogs performances against the leading teams in the competition have been slightly more impressive. Bulldogs by 6. 

 

Balmain Tigers (2) Vs Penrith Panthers (3)
Leichhardt Oval, Saturday, April 19
Kick-off: 11.45am
Referee: Damien Simes
Broadcast:
NSWRL Match Centre coverage available via NSWRL.com.au

Summary: A mouthwatering matchup between two of the competitions heavyweights is set to take place at Leichhardt Oval this weekend when Balmain battle with Penrith. The Tigers have been a defensive powerhouse in 2014, conceding only 70 points over the regular season. Amazingly, 32 of those points were conceded over the course of two matches; leaving the Tigers with an average of only 5.4 points conceded per game in their other seven fixtures. The Panthers have done it tough over the last two weeks; sneaking home against the Sharks last weekend and being hammered 40-0 by the Knights at home in round eight. Despite their indifferent form leading into the finals, the Panthers may have just taken their foot off the pedal in the lead up to the big end of season games and it would be foolish to write them off. Both teams have dominant forward packs with the likes of Suli, Leonard and Amone for the Tigers going up against Kafusi, Kerr and Smith from the Panthers.

Prediction: When you consider the Tigers defensive record with the fact that they are also the second best attacking team in the competition, it’s hard to go past a victory for the Black and Gold’s. However, Penrith are more than capable of breaking open the best defence in the Harold Matts. Tigers by 8.

Newcastle Knights (1) Vs Canberra Raiders (4)
Campbelltown Sports Stadium, Saturday, April 19
Kick-off: 1.00pm 
Referee: Anthony Grady

Summary:
The competitions best attacking team comes up against the second-best defensive team when the Knights and Raiders go head-to-head at Campbelltown Sports Stadium. Newcastle finished the year as the Minor Premiers and barring a slip up in round one where they were defeated by Western Suburbs, the Knights have been the dominant team of the competition running up a combined score of 182-4 scoreline in the last three weeks of the regular season. Newcastle’s performance in round eight against the Panthers, where they won 40-0 against the team that eventually finished third, was possibly the best team performance of the year and will be burnt into the minds of all opposing Coaches’ in the competition. The Raiders have won two of their last four matches, but have been highly competitive in every game this year. Canberra will be aware of the effort it will take to beat the Knights in this game, and the men in green have been at their best this year when written off by the critics. If the Raiders can knock-off the Knights in this game, it might just propel them to go all the way.

Prediction: The Knights have been the dominant side this year for a reason, and we’re leaning towards them to advance to Week Three in this one. Knights by 10.

Make sure you are following @NSWRL on twitter and monitoring the #HMATTS hashtag for all the latest news and scores.

Click here to view the team lists for week one of the Harold Matthews finals