Sports writer, JASON OLIVER, previews this weekend’s Rugby League action with his NRL tips for all Week 2 Finals matches, including his Game Saver play earmarked for Saturday.

Sydney Roosters v Canberra Raiders @ Sydney Cricket Ground
Friday 9th October, 7:50pm

James Tedesco1Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad
Daniel Tupou2Semi Valemei
Josh Morris3Jarrod Croker
Joseph Manu4Jordan Rapana
Brett Morris5Nick Cotric
Luke Keary6Jack Wighton
Kyle Flanagan7George Williams
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves8Josh Papalii
Jake Friend9Tom Starling
Siosiua Taukeiaho10Iosia Soliola
Boyd Cordner11John Bateman
Angus Crichton12Elliott Whitehead
Isaac Liu13Joseph Tapine
Lindsay Collins14Siliva Havili
Sitili Tupouniua15Dunamis Lui
Mitchell Aubusson16Hudson Young
Sonny Bill Williams17Corey Harawira-Naera

Played 39, Roosters 26, Raiders 13

Last Meeting: Round 17, 2020: Roosters 18 def. Raiders 6

Final Thoughts: The Sydney Roosters flew out to an early lead against the Penrith Panthers before taking their foot off the gas and conceding five unanswered tries in the 29-28 Week 1 loss. The positive: They looked incredible to start. A rolling pack dominated the middle of the field and Sydney’s playmakers created points behind it. The negative: A week after conceding 60 points, the Roosters defence fell to pieces again. Meanwhile, the Canberra Raiders bounced back after a slow start to handle the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks with relative ease. Jack Wighton found his feet to score two tries and lead the side to a 32-20 win. Canberra won’t be happy with the start defensively, but as mentioned last week, they keep finding ways to win.

Jake Friend and Sonny Bill Williams are big inclusions for the Roosters. Forced to play Mitchell Aubusson at hooker for periods, the Roosters struggled for good service. They’ll welcome the big body of Williams on Friday, too. While they’ve not displayed it quite so consistently throughout the 2020 NRL season, Trent Robinson’s men are still the most dangerous side in the competition on their day. We saw as much with how easily they got past the Panthers to start in Week 1. If they can sustain that level for even 60 minutes on Friday night, the Raiders will struggle to keep up.

While dangerous themselves, the Raiders don’t have the number of weapons the Roosters do. Wighton will be a major feature of their attack, but he will also be talked about plenty during defensive discussions at Roosters training this week. So too will George Williams who has played his best football behind a surging Wighton.

The Raiders have done exceptionally well to get this far given the injuries they’ve faced. Reaching Week 2 of the NRL finals can be considered a success. However, making it through to another week looks a step too far when faced with the back-to-back premiers.

Tip: Tri Bet (10.5) – Either Team by 10 or Less @ $2

Parramatta Eels v South Sydney Rabbitohs @ Bankwest Stadium
Saturday 10th October, 7:50pm

Clinton Gutherson1Corey Allan
George Jennings2Alex Johnston
Michael Jennings3Campbell Graham
Waqa Blake4Dane Gagai
Blake Ferguson5Jaxson Paulo
Dylan Brown6Cody Walker
Mitchell Moses7Adam Reynolds
Reagan Campbell-Gillard8Tevita Tatola
Reed Mahoney9Damien Cook
Junior Paulo10Thomas Burgess
Shaun Lane11Jaydn Su’a
Ryan Matterson12Bayley Sironen
Nathan Brown13Cameron Murray
Will Smith14Mark Nicholls
Andrew Davey15Liam Knight
Kane Evans16Jed Cartwright
Ray Stone17Keaon Koloamatangi

Played 33, Eels 17, Rabbitohs 15

Last Meeting: Round 16, 2020: Rabbitohs 38 def. Eels 0

Final Thoughts: We’ve not seen the early-season Parramatta Eels for a long time now. Even when scoring a pair of early tries in their 36-24 loss to the Melbourne Storm last week, the lead never felt sustainable with how the tries came about. They’re still struggling in good ball areas. Creating tries through full sets once seemed so easy for this group. Now, not so much. The South Sydney Rabbitohs, on the other hand, have scored 106 points over the last fortnight. They’re scoring points at will to enter Week 2 of the NRL Finals as favourites despite finishing at 6th on the ladder.

Cody Walker is playing outrageous footy, Adam Reynolds has adopted more of a running game with Latrell Mitchell out, and Damien Cook produced one of his best performances of the season last week. The key Souths playmakers are making it look easy behind a pack finally getting the recognition it deserves. Thomas Burgess and Tevita Tatola have been excellent all year while Cameron Murray has come into form. The Souths bench continues to overperform with Keaon Koloamatangi, in particular, one of the best bench players in the NRL right now.

There was a time this season when the Eels pack would have pegged them as favourites against the Rabbitohs. They ran riot throughout the first 11 rounds. However, the tables have turned. It’s South Sydney that have peaked at the right time and Parramatta don’t appear to have the answers. While we’ve seen enough from them that ruling them out is a mistake, the Eels simply haven’t been able to recapture that same form over the last three months. Will they find it this week? It’s unlikely.

The Rabbitohs have had their moments this season – see: capitulation v Tigers and loss v Bulldogs. Head-to-head punters will want to apply their Game Saver token to this one just to be sure. But with their season peaking at the right time and Wayne Bennett reminding everybody what he can get out of an embattled group, the Rabbitohs deserve to be favourites and their attack should get the job done.

Tip: Handicap – Rabbitohs -5.5 @ $1.85