Manly v Bunnies Ė Friday 12th September 7.55pm Allianz Stadium
Manly have been in patchy form winning just 2 of their past 5 games.
The Bunnies have only been marginally better winning 3 of their past 5 games.
This season they have split the games one win a piece with the Bunnies winning the more recent encounter 23-4 in round 22 at the SCG.
Manly were the form side of the competition about 7 weeks ago, then the Bunnies were about a month ago. Itís fair to say that the Roosters have now taken over as premiership favourites.
Where it will be won
For many weeks now the Manly forward pack have been under intense scrutiny. This game will be no different. Itís no secret that Manly simply do not have the size up front that other teams in the Finals possess, and thatís an area that will be targeted by opposition teams for as long as Manly are still alive in the Premiership.
The Bunnies have been guilty at times in recent years for being a bit too one dimensional, or failing to come up with a plan B when games are not going to script. But in 2014, I rate the Bunnies a better side more capable of adapting. Apart from having huge forwards like the Burgess Brothers, they also have added strike power in Walker, Johnson and Auva, and the skills of Keary to set things up. Add to this what they always had in Inglis, Sutton and Reynolds and it makes them a formidable opponent.
The biggest challenge for them will be a mental one. Itís always well documented in recent years when the Bunnies lose in a Finals game, so the pressure they are under could be a telling factor.
Then there is Manly. This is a team that has proven itself time and time again for 10 years to be one of the toughest and most resilient teams of the modern era. †Manly are often at their most dangerous when they have their backs to the wall or are written off, like right now. You would be a fool to think they are gone when they have players like Stewart, Taufua, Lyon, Matai, Foran, Cherry-Evans, Watmough and King.
All signs are pointing towards a Bunnies win in this game. But if Manly can be level at the 20 minute mark when George Burgess generally gets replaced, then I give them a massive chance.
The key to Manly is getting 50% of possession and territory. If Manly play the game from their own end, or drop too much ball like they have been of late, then the Bunnies will win.
But if Manly can somehow find their mojo, this could be one of the games of the season.
Some key mouth-watering battles include -
Stewart v Inglis
Lyon v Auva
Walker v Matai
Foran v Keary
Cherry-Evans v Reynolds
Watmough v Sam Burgess
King v George Burgess
I predict Manly 22-18 (Man of the match Cherry-Evans, first try Hiku)
Can Manly turn around their recent form slump?
Predict the man of the match and score?