2013 NRL Finals: Complete guide to Week 3

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Just four teams remain in the hunt for the 2013 NRL Premiership this season, and if the finals season so far is anything to go by, this weekend promises to be an absolute cracking bout of games.

We’ve broken down all the action scheduled for this weekend in our complete guide to the weekend’s action – complete with all the important details, viewing information, analysis and predictions.

The Roar will also be providing live blogs for both games.

Read on to see how the weekend ahead could unfold.

[2] South Sydney Rabbitohs vs. [4] Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
Date and Time: Friday, September 27, 7:45pm AEST (ANZ Stadium)
TV Coverage: Live via Channel 9

Having narrowly gone down against the Sydney Roosters two weeks ago and simply fallen over the line against Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks last weekend (albeit in controversial circumstances), the biggest question heading into this one is as to how fatigued the Sea Eagles are.

A number of their stars will be carrying injuries into this one, with Jamie Lyon, Anthony Watmough and Jamie Buhrer all expected to play with some niggling concerns, and the elephant in the room is seemingly whether Manly are worn down or simply battle-hardened.

Their supporters will desperately be hoping it’s the latter of the two, with a monstrous Souths back awaiting them this weekend.

The Burgess boys will be reading to rip into Manly’s pack, but the key for Souths could very well be their marquee man at the back—Greg Inglis—whose troublesome knee will certainly be better after two weeks off.

Just what type of impact he’ll have – in returning kicks as well as in an around the ruck – still remains to be seen, but it’s hard to see him from not finding open space at some point in this one.

Manly will remember being in this position last year, and will certainly remember the masterclass they were given by the Melbourne Storm—unable to match the Victorians’ clinical attack or defence.

Geoff Toovey’s side will be much stronger from that encounter (and everything else that they’ve gone through in the past two weeks), but it doesn’t seem likely that they’ll be able to match the boys from the CBD this weekend.

Souths’ squad is simply too big and too strong, and will be far too fresh for Manly after two weeks off.

They rank second in the league for tackle busts this season and will likely repeat that again here, especially in the second half as tiredness starts to kick in.

Michael Maguire’s side won both encounters against Manly this year, and it’s hard to see anything changing in this one.

Prediction: Souths by 13 points.

[1] Sydney Roosters vs. [7] Newcastle Knights
Date and Time: Saturday, September 29, 7:30pm AEST (Allianz Stadium)
TV Coverage: Live via Channel 9

Few expected that the Knights would get the better against the Brisbane Bulldogs in their first elimination final.

Even fewer predicted that they would repeat the process against Melbourne, in Melbourne, one week later. And yet Wayne Bennett’s side produced the goods.

They’ll come into their semi-final against the Roosters as the underdogs and outsiders, and while that’s for good reason, it’s certainly no reason to rule out the Knights pulling off a staggering upset.

After all, they’ve done just that in the past two weeks.

The minor premiers will no doubt have relished the week off and the chance to rest up, and will welcome back star forward Jared Waerea-Hargreaves following his suspension.

The Roosters’ giant pack featuring Sonny Bill Williams will once again be looking for the chance to rip in and gain an advantage over their opponents as they have done to most teams this season, and will be keen to dispel the doubters that emerged after their shock loss to the Sharks.

However, they’ll certainly find their match in the Knights’ hungry forwards as well, who have seemingly found a new lease of life under Bennett.

Trent Robinson’s men have been the best defensive team in the competition this season, but it’s their attack that needs to thrive if they’re going to get over the line here.

Newcastle are riding a wave of momentum and have genuine game-breakers right across the field, and will be more than happy to grind it out in the trenches for 80 minutes.

They’ve done that in back-to-back games now against highly-skilled attacks and have won, and must be considered a serious threat in this one.

The key for the Knights will be whether they can get halfback Tyrone Roberts on the field this weekend or not. He sustained a key injury last week but has been named to play, and his inclusion (or omission) stands to have a huge impact on this one.

Robinson’s men thumped the Knights just eight weeks earlier, but Newcastle are a different team now.

They’re playing with a new sense of belief and enthusiasm, and are making tackles right across the field that they were missing two months ago.

If they can get their playmakers with the chance to drive it down field and put the Roosters’ attack on the back foot, then the battle-hardened Knights stand a real chance at pulling off the upset.

They have the best mind in rugby league in their coaching booth, and having done it twice already this finals series, will ride the underdog title into the 2013 NRL Grand Final.

Prediction: Knights by four points.

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