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Preview of NRL week three finals

Preview of NRL preliminary finals (all times AEST):
Preview of NRL week three finals
by AAP

By Ed Jackson

GOLD COAST, Sept 26 AAP - Preview of NRL preliminary finals (all times AEST):

FRIDAY, September 27

South Sydney v Manly at ANZ Stadium, 7.45pm

Head to Head: Rabbitohs 59, Sea Eagles 71.

Last clash: Rabbitohs 22 bt Sea Eagles 10 at Bluetongue Stadium, Rd 23 2013

Tab Sportsbet: Rabbitohs $1.40, Sea Eagles $3.00

FootyTAB: Sea Eagles +6.5

Manly looked out on their feet towards the end of their clash with Cronulla and only a John Morris brain snap prevented Sharks skipper Paul Gallen being awarded a potential match-winning try. How the Sea Eagles respond against a rested Souths line-up will be the main issue here. Having nullfied Melbourne so brilliantly in week one of the finals, the Rabbitohs will be desperate to go one better than last year and earn a grand final berth. Injury clouds hover over several Manly players including Jamie Lyon, Anthony Watmough and Jamie Buhrer while fullback Brett Stewart is again in doubt as he tries to overcome a hamstring complaint. Souths have no such dramas and their giant pack will be out to test the Sea Eagles' stamina right from the kickoff.

Key: The first 20 minutes. If the Sea Eagles can withstand a likely barrage from the Burgess brothers and the rest of the Rabbitohs pack and keep the game tight, they'll be hoping nerves might creep into the Souths' players and fans.

Tip: South Sydney

SATURDAY, September 28

Sydney Roosters v Newcastle at Allianz Stadium, 7.45pm

Head to head: Roosters 23, Knights 18, Drawn 2.

Last clash: Roosters 28 bt Knights 12 at Hunter Stadium, Rd 20 2013

Tab Sportsbet: Roosters $1.33, Knights $3.40

FootyTAB: Knights +8.5

They're the ugly ducklings of the NRL finals but Newcastle have put in arguably the two most complete performances to reach the grand final qualifier. Confident and classy displays against Canterbury and Melbourne have shown Wayne Bennett's "Dad's Army" must be counted as serious contenders. The Knights have also avoided serious injury dramas. Halfback Tyrone Roberts appeared to be in agony after crumpling to the turf late against the Storm but is expected to play against the Roosters while NSW Origin winger James McManus will return in place of Kevin Naiqama. The Roosters will be rested after their week off and welcome back prop Jared Warea-Hargreaves from suspension. A visit from ASADA in the middle of the week and reports the club sacked a sports nutrition company last year after some players recorded elevated levels of human growth hormone might also prove an unwanted off-field distraction.

Key: Wayne Bennett's gameplan. Last week, the Knights comfortably beat the Storm despite being behind in several key statistics. If the super coach has found a way of unlocking the Roosters' miserly defence, it'll be a crucial factor for the Knights.

Tip: Knights

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