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NRL: Five takeaways from the semi-finals

The NRL semi-finals turned out to be one-sided affairs with the Parramatta Eels and South Sydney Rabbitohs booking their place in the Preliminary finals.

The Eels looked set for a tricky encounter against a Canberra Raiders side that were in fine form and had momentum on their side.

However the green machine were sloppy in the early exchanges and a couple of crucial errors allowed Parramatta to get off to a quick start and there was no way back from there.

Brad Arthur’s men ran out comfortable 40-4 winners at CommBank Stadium to move a step closer to the grand final.

In the other semi the Rabbitohs made light work of the Cronulla Sharks when cruising to a 38-12 victory.

It came as something of a surprise as even though the bunnies have been hitting their straps in recent weeks, the Sharks had finished second on the ladder and will be very disappointed with the way they bowed out of finals.

So what did we learn now the semi-finals are done?
 

Preliminary final line up has been confirmed

We are clsoing in on the grand final and by the end of the week we will know which two teams will battle it out for the premiership.

The two preliminary finals have all the ingredients to be classic encounters and hopefully we will get two closely-fought battles.

The first game will take place on Friday night in Townsville, the home of the North Queensland Cowboys who will take on Parramatta.

Then on Saturday we have the repeat of last season’s grand final when the Penrith Panthers take on the Rabbitohs at Accor Stadium.

These two sides clearly don’t like each other so expect some fireworks.

Parramatta’s win was huge

It may be stating the obvious to say that Parramatta’s win over the Raiders was huge, but yet another semi-final exit would have piled more pressure on coach Brad Arthur and the club.

The pressure was on them heading into the game but they came through it with flying colours to make their first preliminary final since 2009.

Dylan Brown and Mitchell Moses were outstanding once again, while Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Junior Paulo won the battle in the forwards.

Now they have to travel to Townsville to take on the Cowboys but should be full of confidence. And after getting the semi-final monkey off the back they should feel less pressure heading into the game.

 They showed against the Raiders they are up for going all the way.


 

Raiders went down fighting

Canberra may have suffered a heavy defeat against Parramatta but they can take plenty of heart from how they rallied to make the semi-finals in the first place.

They had cruel luck on the injury front and looked set to finish in the lower reaches of the ladder until they came with a late run to squeeze into the eight.

If they can carry on with the same kind of form in 2023 then they could be in for a big season.

Coach Ricky Stuart believes they would have made the top four in 2022 had injuries not struck.


 

Rabbitohs need to cut out the errors

South Sydney thrashed the Sharks on Saturday but they will need to improve significantly if they are to have any chance against the reigning premiers Penrith.

Despite the ease of their win they still made 15 errors and had to rely on strong defence at times to keep the Sharks out.

Cronulla failed to capitalise on their chances and the bunnies went through. It is fair to assume that Souths will be heavily punished by Penrith if they put in a repeat performance.

Souths completion rate was only 68percent against the Sharks and that will also need to improve on Saturday night.

But they have the stars to hurt Penrith and could cause an upset if they cut out the mistakes.


 

Cronulla will come back stronger

The Sharks were left bitterly disappointed with the way they crashed out of finals in straight sets following what was an impressive regular season.

However there are plenty of positives to take from the season and the Sharks look certain to come back stronger in 2023.

It was Craig Fitzgibbon’s first season as a head coach and he will only get better with experience, while Nicho Hynes was a revelation after arriving from Melbourne.

They can build a side around the playmaker and the Sharks will be in contention to go one better next season.

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