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NRL Finals match preview: Manly Sea Eagles vs Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs

Date: Saturday 20th September
Venue: Allianz Stadium
Kick-off: 7.55pm

Teams

Sea Eagles: 1. Brett Stewart 2. Jorge Taufua 3. Jamie Lyon (C) 4. Steve Matai 5. Peta Hiku 6. Kieran Foran 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Jason King 9. Jayden Hodges 10. Brenton Lawrence 11. Tom Symonds 12. Justin Horo 13. Dunamis Lui Interchange: 14. Jesse Sene-Lafao 15. Cheyse Blair 16. James Hasson 17. Josh Starling

Bulldogs: 1. Sam Perrett 2. Corey Thompson 3. Josh Morris 4. Tim Lafai 5. Mitch Brown 6. Josh Reynolds 7. Trent Hodkinson 8. Aiden Tolman 9. Michael Ennis (C) 10. James Graham 11. Josh Jackson 12. Tony Williams 13. Greg Eastwood Interchange: 14. Reni Maitua 15. Dale Finucan 16. David Klemmer 17. Frank Pritchard 19. Moses Mbye 20. Harlan Alaalatoa

Form

Home Team

Finals Week 1: Storm (A), W 28-4
Rd 26: Titans (A), L 19-18
Rd 25: Souths (H), L 21-14
Rd 24: Tigers (H), W 30-10
Rd 23: Eels (A), W 18-16

Away Team

Finals Week 1: Souths (H), L 40-24
Rd 26: Cowboys (A), L 30-16
Rd 25: Panthers (H), W 26-25
Rd 24: Eels (A), L 22-12
Rd 23: Titans (A), W 15-12

Preview

The Manly Sea Eagles meet the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs in Week 2 of the NRL Finals at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night.

Both sides enter the game with surprisingly varying fortune and form. Despite the Sea Eagles being one the benchmark teams in the competition this season, their recent run of results has been patchy at best. Last weekends result flattered the boys from Brookvale. After trailing 22-0 at half-time, the Rabbitohs took their foot off the gas in the last 20 minutes and allowed the Eagles to cross for four tries. This week a start like that will see them lose again and this time straight out of the competition.

The visitors, the Bulldogs, reminded fans and their competition that they aren’t going to leave the competition without a fight after a dominating victory against the Melbourne Storm. Despite them being heavy outsiders, from the opening whistle they suffocated their opposition of the ball and when they did have the ball forced them into errors. While centre Tim Lafai recieveded a lot of the praise on the back of three tries, James Graham, Greg Eastwood and the rest of the Dogs pack bullied the Storm and showed why they were one win away from the premiership in 2012.

The home side have been hit with a blow as Anthony Watmough has taken the early guilty plea for a lifting tackle on Greg Inglis and will miss the game against Canterbury. The forced change sees Tom Symonds shift to the second row and Dunamis Lui starts at lock. James Hasson returns from injury onto the interchange bench. Interestingly, Jayden Hodges has been named in the side despite being sent to hospital during the game with a suspected neck injury.

The Bulldogs has named  the same an almost identical team to last weekend with only Reni Maitua, Moses Mbye and Harlan Alaalatoa being added to an extended bench. Pat O’Hanlon is out this week after being a late inclusion last week and suffering a horific leg break.

This game takes on added meaning each year as former coach Des Hasler and halfback Trent Hodkinson line up to take on their old side. Hasler was one of the most successful coaches in the clubs history and has built the Bulldogs up since his arrival in 2012.

Geoff Toovey has done an excellent job in continuing the dominant reign of the Eagles but in recent weeks in-fighting and a lack of depth has alarmingly showed that the dynasty may be coming to an end. Glenn Stewart is off to Souths and his brother Brett, along with Watmough and Steve Matai have been discussed as wanting out in recent weeks. All of this tension has to reach a boiling point and even with the quality in the back line for the Northern Beaches side, their forwards lack the punch as their opposition.

The Bulldogs whole team is brimming with confidence heading into this fixture and the forward pack has rediscovered their punch at the right time of the season. This confidence feeds into form and on the back of a well-balanced side, the visitors will walk into Allianz and walk out with a ticket to the Preliminary final against the Penrith Panthers.

Previous Meetings This Season

These two sides have met already on two occassions throughout the regular season. In the first match between the two sides in horrible conditions, an injured Cherry-Evans put in an outstanding first-half performance to lead the Sea Eagles to a 32-10 victory over the then competition leaders.

However, in the return game four weeks later it was the Bulldogs who had the last laugh. Despite missing their Origin halves, the home side got home 23-16 on the back of a dominating performance from their forwards and Michael Ennis.

Prediction

Bulldogs by 2.

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Jake is a University of Wollongong student and one half of the 4 Pointers.

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