Preview of NRL preliminary Final matches (all times NZT):
Melbourne v Manly Sea Eagles at AAMI Park 9.45pm
Head to Head: Melbourne 12 Sea Eagles 10
Last clash: Round 15 2012 - Storm 26 bt Sea Eagles 22 at Brookvale Oval
TAB: Storm $1.60 Sea Eagles $2.30
The ineptitude of video referees overshadowed an excellent display by Manly in their 22-12 win over North Queensland last Friday to set up this clash with their bitter rivals. There isn't too much love lost between these sides, who inflicted grand final defeats on one another in 2007 and 2008. The Sea Eagles are still filthy that their loss came at the hands of a Storm side that were found to be cheating the salary cap, and tensions boiled over in a brawl during the infamous Battle of Brookvale last year. Both sides have been at pains to put that incident behind them, but another full-blooded encounter is expected at AAMI Park.
Key: Manly co-captain Jamie Lyon was magnificent against the Cowboys last week and rookie winger Jorge Taufua has been brilliant in the latter stages of the season. The Storm lost to the Warriors in this corresponding game last year and are desperate to make amends. Their breathtaking first-half performance against South Sydney two weeks ago showed they'll take some stopping in front of their home fans.
Canterbury Bulldogs v South Sydney Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium
Head to Head: Bulldogs 76 Souths 64 Drawn 4
Last clash: Round 13 2012 - Bulldogs 23 bt Rabbitohs 18 at ANZ Stadium
TAB: Bulldogs $1.45 Souths $2.65
Canterbury have done everything they can to avoid the spotlight this week, getting injured and out of favour players to front the media - and the lack of headlines will delight coach Des Hasler. He won two grand finals with Manly by 'flying under the radar'. No-one will be more be pleased to see the spotlight on Souths' quest for a first grand final appearance in 41 years instead of him becoming the first coach to win successive grand finals with two different clubs. The Rabbitohs did enough to comfortably see off Canberra last week, but will need to step up their game if they are to deny a Bulldogs side that have won 14 of their past 15 games.
Key: A crowd of over 70,000 is expected in what is Souths' biggest game in over four decades. They froze in Melbourne two weeks ago, 24 hours after Canterbury flexed their muscles in a brutal win over Manly. Josh Morris was magnificent that night and will be a huge test of Dylan Farrell's defensive abilities.