We started the weekend with 6 teams, and now it’s down to 4 as we bid farewell to both Elimination Final winners, with the Eels copping the short end of the stick in that Saturday night deathmatch in Mackay, and the good news was I got both games right and moved past 150 correct picks for the year!
So first up next Friday, Souths and Manly play in the Friday night Preliminary Final, which will come 70 years after Manly played in their maiden First Grade Grand Final a mere 5 years after entering the competition, although Souths whipped them 42-18 to become the first team to win the J.J. Giltinan Shield, and John Graves became the first and only player to score 4 tries in a Grand Final.
And on Saturday afternoon, it’ll be the Grand Final rematch between Melbourne and Penrith one week earlier than scheduled, in a totally different state, and with a good chunk of the country cheering for the Storm, because this Panthers team is as likeable as hearing a nail scraping a chalkboard.
What a universe we live in.
Manly Sea Eagles 42 defeated Sydney Roosters 6 – Correct
Absolutely no surprises with the outcome of the game, as the Sea Eagles looked like a team that was absolutely overjoyed at not having to play the Storm, and the Roosters looked like a team that had played their Grand Final the week before, and it showed in the opening minutes when the Chooks put a kickoff out on the full, gave away a few penalties, 7 tackle sets, pissweak defence that would’ve had Trent Robinson vomiting in the box, and the end result was Manly ensured Easts never had a realistic chance of winning, going up 18-0 by the 20 minute mark, and by the time the final bell rang, Tommy Turbo, Jason Saab, DCE and friends had brought about a brutal end to Josh Morris’ playing career.
I read that was the seventh (And final) time this season that the Chooks have lost by double figures to a team ranked above them, and that’s arguably a by-product of the sheer number of injuries and self-inflicted suspensions (Speaking of which, good to see Victor Radley went down swearing and swinging) that pretty much finished off their premiership hopes by the end of March, when Jake Friend and Boyd Cordner were doomed to concussion retirements and Luke Keary had torn his ACL.
Still, the fact the Chooks even got to the second week of the finals with the worst injury toll in the league, better than at least 10 teams, is a testament to Robbo and his brains trust, and on the other hand, I haven’t even mentioned Des Hasler up to this point, but well done to Manly on making it to the final four, given you could’ve pencilled them in to finish in the Bottom 4 back in April.
Once again, what a universe we live in.
Penrith Panthers 8 defeated Parramatta Eels 6 – Correct
Oh, it was a classic knockout final between two local rivals that was decided by 2 points?
Well, instead of talking about how great both defenses were, let’s start highlighting crucial missed refereeing decisions…. like Mitch Moses being held back without the ball by Jarome Luai for 20 metres while the Eels had a linebreak, and the Eels not even getting a penalty, let alone Luai being marched for the final 10 minutes of the game:
Then there was Nathan Cleary holding down Clint Gutherson’s legs with 7 minutes to go after a line break, which coulda would shoulda been a professional foul and 10 in the bin, Kurt Capewell kicking the ball away from the scrum while the clock was running, the Mitch Kenny ankle injury that resulted in a HIA, Blake Ferguson milking a crusher penalty because that’s what Parramatta needed to do to get any sympathy calls from Ashley Klein, both teams apparently getting a 9th interchange in the final 10 minutes when they’d used up all 8…
It all helped build the atmosphere of what was a classic final that harked back to those low scoring wars of attrition between Canterbury and Parramatta in the 1980s… 8-6, no points in the 2nd Half, brilliant desperation defense all night long, and it goes to show you don’t need to astroturf the rulebook to make the game exciting.
Case in point, that intercept by Stephen Crichton on the last tackle 10 metres out from his own line, when the Eels had numbers in behind ready to score and take the lead, was something to admire:
Unfortunately for the Eels, who played out of their skins against the Panthers for the second time this year, there just had to be a loser, and in what is a constant theme for the Blue & Golds since 1986, they were on the wrong side of a close final, while the Panthers do get a shot at the Storm a week earlier than expected.
Still, if the Panthers play like they have done for the last 2 weeks…. All I’ll say is good luck.