After a weekend of one-sided games, the Parramatta Eels and the South Sydney Rabbitohs have secured their spots in the preliminary finals with some spectacular statistics ahead of their clashes next week.
Parramatta has not reached the prelim final since 2009 but this 13-year drought has come to an end after their first half proved too good against the Raiders, scoring a whopping four tries in the opening 25 minutes.
Mitchell Moses showed no signs of the head knock he received in last week’s loss to the Panthers as he led the Eels around the park in a true playmaker style.
Junior Paulo’s ability to offload in the middle could not be contained by the Raiders, highlighted by this offload for Moses to score a run-away try in the second half.
This clash was the first time Parramatta had played the Raiders in a finals game and they dominated all aspects of the game, including a superior offload count of 20-9 and 61 per cent of possession.
They had influential players across the field with captain Clint Gutherson, five-eighth Dylan Brown and back-rowers Shaun Lane and Isaiah Papali’i all clocking up run gains of 200 metres or more.
On the other side of the draw, the Rabbitohs are now into the preliminary final for the fifth season in a row with a rematch of last year’s grand final against Penrith.
South Sydney are in great form with outstanding performances week-in, week-out by winger Taane Milne, Latrell Mitchell, Cody Walker and Cameron Murray.
Latrell’s kicking game on Saturday night was flawless, kicking six-from-six.
Alex Johnston suffered a hip flexor injury but despite being taken from the field early, the Rabbitohs are hopeful he’ll be fit for the Penrith clash. Johnston has been pivotal for South Sydney, scoring a record 30 tries for the second season in a row.
Souths also have injury worries with Siliva Havili (calf) and Jai Arrow (groin) also undergoing treatment in the hope of playing next Saturday night.
Mark Nicholls got his first try of the year on Souths’ first attack in the Sharks’ 20. The prop was just one of the Rabbitohs’ starting forwards with run gains of more than 100 metres.
Taane Milne was another star of the night, with 128 running metres, three line breaks and two tries.
Cody Walker has been involved in 10 tries in his last six NRL games with four tries and six assists.
Cameron Murray led from the front on Saturday, consistently showing his strength as captain, even scoring a magnificent try against a quality defender in Dale Finucane.
The Rabbitohs are in form but they haven’t beaten the Panthers the past three times the sides have met.
“We are under no illusions that this is the hardest task in the game at the moment, to beat Penrith in a finals series,” Rabbitohs coach Jason Demitriou said.
Parramatta will head to Townsville to face a well-rested Cowboys to decide who will meet either Penrith or souths in the grand final.
“We’ve got an opportunity next week and we’re going to go after it,” Eels coach Brad Arthur said.