Matt Pritchard’s verdict on each of the four sides involved in the NRL semi-finals.
1. Melbourne Storm
Anyone doubting the Storm’s credentials to take out the title were proven wrong last night. They produced the best opening forty minute display in the NRL Finals series to date where they led 22-0 at half-time. That was despite losing Cameron Smith to the sin bin for an incident on Reed Mahoney. Last week this article suggested that it was time for Curtis Scott and Brodie Croft to return. Despite being rusty, Scott got some good game time under his belt ahead of the Storm’s visit to the SCG next Saturday night to take on the Roosters. Will Bellamy retain Scott or play Will Chambers. The other alternative is to drop Justin Olam, which would be unlucky.
2. South Sydney Rabbitohs
South Sydney finished strong thanks to the “controversial” sin bin of Jake Trbojevic which saw John Sutton score in the next set and Cameron Murray give them the lead three minutes later. They allowed Manly back into the game despite leading by ten points early. Murray’s try on half-time was crucial in the wash-up as the game was on level terms heading into the sheds. Canberra will be a difficult task next Friday at GIO Stadium and they won’t be able to afford to concede 26 points and win for a second consecutive week. South Sydney did beat Canberra at GIO Stadium in round 10 by 16-12 where they only allowed the home side in once during the contest. That will give them confidence going into the Grand Final qualifier.
3. Manly Sea Eagles
It was the one that got away. After a slow start, Manly warmed to the task and dominated for a good forty minute period before discipline became their best friend. Brad Parker’s sin bin was a turning point despite coming out better in that ten minute period with scoring through Jack Gosiewski and keeping the Rabbitohs scoreless. It was the Jake Trbojevic sin bin which demonstrated that Manly were under fatigue. That would explain why Daly Cherry-Evans made an error of judgement for a crucial line drop out where he didn’t restart in time. Coming from second last in 2018 and making it to week 2 of this years finals is a testament to Des Hasler’s influence on his return to Brookvale.
4. Parramatta Eels
It was a sorry night for the Eels after showing such promise in the opening weekend of the NRL Finals series. They were never in the contest and the game felt over after twenty minutes with the Storm running at 80% possession and the Eels struggling to complete sets. The petrol used in defence meant the Eels had to play catch-up for the final hour. Melbourne were able to easily repel the Eels attack when Smith was sent for ten minutes to the bin. Just four wins on the road for the Eels in 2019 but an excellent bounce back from the year before where they finished with the wooden spoon.