The Sharks run the risk of overusing Valentine Holmes and becoming too predictable in attack. Picture: Craig Golding/AAP
The Sharks run the risk of overusing Valentine Holmes and becoming too predictable in attack. Picture: Craig Golding/AAP

Fox League's Corey Parker analyses the NRL semi-finalists

AS WE enter week two of the play-offs there's only two things that are certain - the Storm and Roosters are one win away from the grand final, and two more teams will be eliminated this weekend.

The Sharks, Panthers, Rabbitohs and Dragons all impressed in week one of the finals but the dream of September glory will end for two of them on Saturday night.

Let's see what they taught us last week and consider the outcome of their do-or-die semi-final clashes.

 

 

SHARKS V PANTHERS

Allianz Stadium, tonight, 7.40pm

LIVE and ad-break free during on FOX LEAGUE

 

SHARKS

 What we've learnt: There's no doubting the Sharks' toughness. They're one of the grittiest teams in the competition, but when they play against the top teams they need to capitalise on their opportunities and last week against the Roosters they failed to do that. The Sharks gave themselves every opportunity to win the game but managed to bomb three tries, putting themselves that now sees them just 80 minutes away from Mad Monday.

 Strengths: The Sharks have one of the best forward packs in the competition. Any side that can bring a player of the caliber of Aaron Woods' calibre off the bench is doing OK. When Andrew Fifita, Paul Gallen, Luke Lewis and Matt Prior are firing, the Sharks are a formidable outfit.

Weaknesses: The Sharks' biggest strength, Valentine Holmes, can also be their biggest weakness. Holmes is one of the most electric players in the game and looked the most likely to break the Roosters' defensive line last Saturday. The risk for the Sharks is overusing Holmes and becoming a one-trick pony that is too predictable in attack.

Key man: Holmes may be the key man, but Matt Moylan is the man the Sharks need to lift. He was outstanding the last time the Sharks and Panthers met. The Sharks need him to be on his game again on Friday night. 

 

James Maloney can expect a lot of attention in attack and defence.
James Maloney can expect a lot of attention in attack and defence.

PANTHERS

What we've learnt: I haven't had the greatest confidence in Penrith all year. Yes, they started the season year well, but their form during and since Origin has been patchy at best. Last week though the Panthers showed that they are the real deal in this finals series, playing with the type of energy and enthusiasm needed to win the big games in September.

Strengths: The Panthers' strength is their youth and enthusiasm. Players such as Vilame Kikau, Tyronne Peachey and James Maloney play without fear. They take the game to their opponents and challenge them to go with them. The way the Panthers dismantled the Warriors last Saturday night should give them plenty of confidence heading into this weekend.

Weakness: The Panthers' strength can also be their biggest weakness. It's all good to play with youth and enthusiasm, but the Panthers also need to find a way to win when the times are tough. They have been great at blowing teams off the park this year and they've been great at chasing down points when the game looks dead and buried, but they haven't been great in the arm wrestle.

Key man: Maloney showed last week just how important he is to the Panthers. This young Panthers side feeds off his energy and confidence. Players such as Kikau, Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Issah Yeo are at their best when Maloney is at his best. 

Fearless prediction: The Panthers to march on in September. Last week took a lot out of the Sharks both physically and mentally, while the Panthers come in full of confidence.   

 

RABBITOHS V DRAGONS

ANZ Stadium, Saturday, 7.40pm

LIVE and ad-break free during on FOX LEAGUE

 

The mere presence of Greg Inglis will boost the Rabbitohs' morale. Picture: Hamish Blair/AAP
The mere presence of Greg Inglis will boost the Rabbitohs' morale. Picture: Hamish Blair/AAP

RABBITOHS

What we've learnt: The Bunnies lost to the Storm in an absolute epic last Friday night, but showed in the process they're the real deal. The Bunnies will take a lot out of that loss against the Storm and they'll be a better side because of it. Sam Burgess came up with three errors in that match but was still one of Souths' best players. He just needs to take a deep breath, relax and not always look for the big play.

Strengths: The Bunnies have a full list, they're reasonably fit and in good form. They haven't limped into the finals and they played their best against the best team in the competition. Souths have plenty of points in them and can attack you from anywhere. If the Burgess boys lay a good platform and give their outside backs room to move, they're capable of blowing any team off the park.

Weakness: Their left-side defence needs some work. The Bunnies leaked three tries down their left against the Storm. You can guarantee Anthony Seibold would have gone over the game tape with his players during the week and addressed the issue.

Key man: Greg Inglis for the same reason as above. The Bunnies need to fix that left side up if they're to deliver on their premiership potential this season. Everyone knows the attacking threat that GI possesses with the ball in hand, but the Bunnies need him to be the leader on that left side in defence.

 

James Graham leads from the front for the Dragons.
James Graham leads from the front for the Dragons.

DRAGONS

What we've learnt: The Dragons showed us there's still plenty of fire left in the belly. No one gave them much hope against the Broncos last weekend, but the Dragons dug deep and put in one of their best performances of the season. They went into the match with a game plan and executed it with precision. They ran hard, defended hard and bashed the Broncos out of the game.

Strengths: The Dragons' back row ripped the Broncos apart last weekend. Tariq Sims, Tyson Frizell and Jack de Belin found the form that got them picked for the Blues this season. The Dragons will need their representative trio to step up to the plate again this week to have any chance of keeping their finals dream alive.

Weakness: To go deep into September you need two things. A clean bill of health and a touch of luck. Unfortunately for the Dragons they're struggling in both departments. The return of Gareth Widdop last weekend was a godsend, but his absence this week could be critical. It's clear for all to see that de Belin is also struggling. Dragons fans would have had their hearts in their mouths when he limped off Suncorp Stadium last week, but it will take more than an ankle injury to keep him down.

Key man: James Graham holds the key to the Dragons' fortunes. His opening stint against the Broncos set the tone for the rest of the afternoon. Graham leads from the front and sets the standard for his teammates to follow. If the Dragons are to continue their fairytale run in September they'll need another inspirational performance from Graham.

Fearless prediction: Souths to win and win well. The Bunnies come in with a side that's fit and firing, while the Dragons are battered and bruised.

 

LIVE and ad-break free during on FOX LEAGUE

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