War to launch hos­til­i­ties

Arch-en­e­mies first to do finals bat­tle

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - SUNDAY SPORT - DAVID RIC­CIO CHIEF SPORTS WRITER

THE fiercest ri­valry in the NRL will kick off the finals se­ries in a block­buster that re­turns to the hal­lowed turf of the SCG for the first time in 32 years.

Staunch ri­vals the Syd­ney Roost­ers and South Syd­ney are poised to clash on Fri­day night for the sec­ond time in eight days.

Welcome to the first week of the NRL finals.

Af­ter six months and 25 rounds, only 80 min­utes remains in the NRL sea­son proper, with ninth-placed Wests Tigers need­ing to beat eighth-placed Cronulla for the final top-eight spot at a sold-out Leichhardt Oval this afternoon.

The showdown in the sub­urbs is the final piece for the NRL to lock in ahead of the 2019 finals se­ries.

The NRL held meet­ings yes­ter­day with broad­cast­ers Fox Sports and Chan­nel 9 to de­ter­mine who plays who — and where.

The Sun­day Tele­graph can re­veal:

The Raiders’ shock loss to the War­riors yes­ter­day was mas­sive, leav­ing them to face a trip south to tackle mi­nor pre­miers Mel­bourne at AAMI Park on Satur­day;

De­spite fears their home ground may be deemed un­fit for finals foot­ball, a bruised and bat­tered Manly will host the Sharks or Tigers on Satur­day night at Brook­vale’s Lot­toland;

Bris­bane’s 30-14 flop against Canterbury last night left them need­ing to pre­pare to play Par­ra­matta in a his­toric first semi-final in front of a sold-out 30,000 crowd at the newly built Bankwest Sta­dium on Sun­day afternoon;

The Bron­cos can still miss the top eight if the Tigers and Sharks are drawn at the end of golden point ex­tra time at Leichhardt Oval today. In that case, both the Tigers and Sharks would ad­vance;

The NRL will re­turn finals footy to sub­ur­ban grounds due to the un­avail­abil­ity of Al­lianz Sta­dium.

De­spite yes­ter­day’s up­set de­feat, the “Green Ma­chine” travel to Mel­bourne with confidence, hav­ing beaten the Storm just four weeks ago.

On a fa­mous night for the club, Can­berra ral­lied from be­hind on the score­board to beat the Storm on their home turf, 22-18.

How­ever, coach Ricky Stu­art faces a ner­vous wait to learn if gun for­ward Hud­son Young faces scru­tiny af­ter mak­ing con­tact with Adam Pompey’s eye dur­ing the match yes­ter­day.

Young has al­ready served a five-game suspension for eye goug­ing ear­lier this year.

In the wake of Mel­bourne’s pro­fes­sional fi­nal­round win over North Queens­land on Fri­day night, Bel­lamy said the Storm would need to be bet­ter — par­tic­u­larly his plethora of young tal­ent who are untested in finals footy.

But with­out doubt, the build-up to the Roost­ers-Rab­bitohs semi-final on Fri­day will dom­i­nate the Syd­ney me­dia.

Un­de­ni­ably, Roost­ers coach Trent Robinson will have his side men­tally charged for the re­match af­ter they went down 16-10 on Thurs­day night.

The NRL will meet again today be­fore con­firm­ing the final top-eight fix­tures at the con­clu­sion of the Tigers versus Sharks clash.

Tick­ets for mem­bers go on sale to­mor­row, with the gen­eral pub­lic getting their chance to buy them for as lit­tle as $25 on Tues­day.

Pic­ture: Getty Images

Canterbury winger Nick Meaney dives over in the cor­ner to score one of his three tries in the win over the Bron­cos last night.

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