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NRL Finals week two preview: Sudden death

After an entertaining first week of finals, we are left with the best six teams and just five sudden death matches to go.

The Panthers and Storm finished top two on the ladder and both earned the week off after winning their qualifying finals, while the remaining four sides will play off in two blockbuster semi-finals.

We are treated to a 2019 grand final rematch on Friday night with the Roosters to host the Raiders at the SCG, while the Rabbitohs are highly fancied to make it back to back wins against the Eels on Saturday night.

Sydney Roosters vs Canberra Raiders Friday 9 October 7.50pm @SCG

Last year’s grand finalists will do battle two weeks earlier this season, with the Roosters coming off a one-point loss to the Panthers while the Raiders used a strong second half to account for the Sharks.

The Roosters started on fire against the Panthers to race to a 10-0 lead before the Panthers hit top gear and scored five straight tries.

The Roosters strong point in recent seasons has been their defence, but there have been signs in recent weeks that their once watertight defence may be starting to leak.

They only conceded just 20 points in their three finals last year as opposed to 29 already this year. That may be due to rule changes and some more free flowing football being played, but it is not what we’ve become accustomed to seeing from the two-time defending premiers.

Jake Friend is a huge inclusion for the Roosters after missing last week and should bolster their middle defence, while Sonny Bill Williams returns to the bench after also missing last week.

The Raiders have named an unchanged team for this do or die semi-final clash against their modern-day rivals.

The Raiders first half against the Sharks last week was incredibly poor by their lofty standards, with several errors and poor discipline costing them.

They managed to regain their composure with a superb second half led by their halves Jack Wighton and George Williams, but they cannot afford to start slowly this week against much better opposition.

With the Roosters quality pack, the Raiders big men will have to be on from the start with plenty of pressure on the shoulders of their pack leader Josh Papalii.

With a preliminary final against the Storm on the line, a host of stars all over the park for both sides, this semi-final promises to be an absolute beauty.

Click here for the full Raiders preview.

James Tedesco of the Roosters being tackled by the Raiders
The Raiders will need to do a good job of locking up the Roosters danger man James Tedesco. Getty

Parramatta Eels vs South Sydney Rabbitohs Saturday 10 October 7.50pm @Bankwest Stadium

The Eels may have been the higher ranked side at the end of the home and away season, but the Rabbitohs come into this game in much better form and deserve to be the favourites.

The Eels started well against the Storm last week but their defence was exposed with the Storm forcing 11 line breaks and scored six of the last eight tries.

Maika Sivo has been ruled out for this match after picking up an injury, while the other winger Blake Ferguson has been named but is in some doubt after he left the field early last week with a leg injury.

The Eels dished up their worst performance of the season when last met the Rabbitohs, losing 38-0 in a game that highlighted how far they have dropped off since their blistering start to the season.

They were exposed all over the park in that game with the Rabbitohs making a ton of metres through the middle of the field and scoring plenty of tries on the edges.

Waqa Blake was clearly a target for the Rabbitohs, with his questionable defence exposed on numerous occasions and no doubt they will look to target him again.

The Eels best chance of victory against this high-powered Rabbitohs attack is to try and slow the game down and turn it into an old-fashioned grind.

They have the forwards to match it with the Rabbitohs, but the pressure is on their halfback Mitchell Moses to deliver the right kicks at the right time to slow down the game so they don’t get into a shootout.

The Rabbitohs have found a penchant for scoring points and if the finals continue to be fast-paced try-fests, they can match it with anyone.

They’ve averaged 34.9 points per game over their past ten matches, with scores of 60, 56, 46 and 38 in that period, including 106 points in the last two weeks.

Last week, they started slowly against the Knights to find themselves 14-0 down early until they found their groove and reeled off 46 straight points in a dominant display.

Damien Cook and Cody Walker thrived off the fast-paced game and wreaked havoc on the Knights defence with their combination of skill and pace. Those two are the key men for the Rabbitohs, but the question mark on them is if they can still deliver in a slow tempo game.

Wayne Bennett has a way of getting his team up for big games and the Rabbitohs will fancy their chances of booking their spot against the Panthers in a preliminary final.

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