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NRL: A look back at week one of finals

Week one of the NRL finals is done and you will never get a better advert for the sport of rugby league down under following four thrilling encounters.

If the second week is half as good then all NRL fans are in for a real treat and we have two semi-finals to look forward to.

Minor premiers Penrith booked their place in the preliminary final and earned a week off after they overcame the Parramatta Eels with relative ease on Friday night.

North Queensland Cowboys also continued their impressive season with a thrilling golden-point win over Cronulla Sharks and will also go straight through to the preliminary final.

Fortunately for the Sharks and Eels, they both get a second bite of the cherry and will be in semi-final action in the week ahead.

Melbourne Storm saw their season come to an end as they were beaten on home soil by the Canberra Raiders, while the game of the week was saved until last.

The South Sydney Rabbitohs overcame their arch rivals the Sydney Roosters to book a semi-final spot and end the Bondi outfit’s season.

So what can we take away from a gripping week of action?

The semi-finals have been decided

It is the Penrith Panthers and North Queensland who have booked their place in the preliminary finals and have earned a week off.

They can now sit back and watch the semi-finals to see who they will play in the prelim.

The Canberra Raiders’ reward for defeating Melbourne Storm is a trip to CommBank Stadium to take on the Parramatta Eels.

South Sydney will also make the short trip to take on Cronulla, who will have been delighted to see the bunnies involved in a tough, bruising encounter against the Roosters.

Souths will need to recover quickly, dust themselves down and get ready to go again against the Sharks.

We are all set for two cracking semi-finals.

End of an era for Melbourne?

Melbourne crashed out of finals when losing on home soil to the Raiders on Saturday and coach Craig Bellamy looked close to tears in the press conference after the game.

Not only because the season is over, but because a number of players have now played their last game for the club and it was a super disappointing way to bow out.

The future is still a bright one for the Storm who will no doubt bounce back next year but they will be without the Bromwich brothers, Kenny and Jesse, while Brandon Smith also heads to the Roosters.

Penrith ready to go all the way

The Panthers had the minor premiership wrapped up some time ago and were in cruise control as they saw the regular season out.

There was a question mark over how they would play in finals and they answered it emphatically when smashing the Eels 27-8.

The Eels had beaten them on two occasions already this season but the Panthers were fired up to ensure it would not happen a third time.

Star playmaker Nathan Cleary looked sharp after his break due to suspension and the Panthers will take some stopping as they target back-to-back premierships.


Raiders can cause another upset

Nobody outside of the Raiders camp expected the green machine to turn over Melbourne on their own patch on Saturday, but they did just that.

They will be the underdogs once again when they take on Parramatta but Ricky Stuart’s men are on fire and can cause another upset.

The Raiders have now won eight of the last nine games and momentum is crucial. The Eels go into the game on the back of a loss and have been turned over by so-called lesser opposition on a number of occasions in 2022.


Roosters can hold heads up high

The Roosters may have crashed out of finals when losing a bruising and fierce encounter against arch rivals South Sydney on Sunday but they can hold their heads high.

Already without star centre Joey Manu, they lost the influential James Tedesco to concussion early in the game and were then hit by a number of other blows as Angus Crichton (concussion) and Daniel Tupou (groin) were also ruled out.

However they battled on gamely and took the bunnies to the wire in arguably the game of the season so far.

In the Rabbitohs camp, huge credit also has to be given to Latrell Mitchell who had to deal with a barrage of boos from the Roosters fans but took it all in his stride to put in a man-of-the-match performance.

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