The NRL playoffs kicked off this weekend with two tightly contested matches and two comfortable victories, the ‘home’ sides prevailing in all four matches.
On Friday night the Minor Premiers faced the reigning Premiers, with the Bulldogs and the Sea Eagles playing out a torrid encounter. In a feisty match it was Des Hasler’s Bulldogs who started strongest, before Manly wrested the lead from them, only for the Doggies to finish over the top, eventually running out 16-10 winners.
The Storm overwhelmed the Rabbitohs in Melbourne on Saturday night, leading 18-0 at halftime and cruising for the duration of the second spell, the 24-6 scoreline flattering the Sydeny-siders, who will now play sudden-death football next weekend.
The Cowboys were similarly dominant over the Broncos, who failed to give veteran prop Petero Civoniceva the send-off he was hoping for. With Johnathan Thurston, Matt Bowen and Brent Taite all firing the North Queenslanders simply had too much x-factor, and deserved their 33-16 win.
The final match of the round saw the Sharks travel to Canberra. Trailing at the break the gutsy Sharks started the second stanza strongly, and were in contention until late in the match, when the Raiders took their opportunities and extended the score-line to 34-16, a tally which doesn’t completely reflect the tenseness of the encounter.
The Bulldogs and the Storm get next weekend off now, while Manly host the Cowboys and Souths meet the Raiders in the knock-out games.