Week 1 of the Criterion Hotel TRL finals series sees two quality games with both losers knocked out of the competition.
It’s the week that separates the contenders from the pretenders. Valleys and Dalby have the week off and will meet the winners next weekend.
Highfields Eagles v Wattles Warriors
4v5 Elimination Final
7pm Saturday, August 12
Clive Berghofer Stadium
This is similar to the preparation Gatton and Souths had leading up to Wednesday night’s playoff.
Both teams played each other just two weeks ago.
On that occasion, Wattles sprinted out of the blocks to lead 30-0 at halftime before the Eagles put some respectability in the score to win the second half.
There is no doubt that Highfields will need to improve to remain in the finals.
Can they do it? Yes, as I’ve mentioned above, they can rebound from that game, but it’s all about defence and ball chase for the Eagles as their previous clash with Wattles was an eye-opener.
Their performance against the Cowboys is encouraging, but they are carrying injuries.
Wattles on the other hand were a shadow of themselves against Valleys, especially in the first half.
It was a complete comparison to the previous week, but I saw enough to suggest they have less to work on than Highfields.
Once last week’s game settled down, it was quality stuff and they have a smaller question mark on their injuries than Highfields.
Wattles go into the match as favourites, but Highfields can score from anywhere and seeing Anthony Hooper score three quality tries last week might just be what the Eagles need.
Still, I’m tipping Wattles.
Pittsworth Danes v Southern Suburbs Tigers
3v6 Elimination Final
3pm Sunday, August 13
Clive Berghofer Stadium
The Danes probably got their wish with their opponents playing two games in the last week following the Wednesday playoff, but coach Ian Brackstone is wary of the match-fit Tigers outfit.
They are coming into the game playing their last two games in finals mode and that worries the premiership coach.
Souths are confident coming off a dominant display against the Hawks on Wednesday night.
Coach Daniel Holmes is the envy of the competition with players like Dwayne Duncan, Tyrell McCullough and Tom Landers all on fire at the moment.
Pittsworth are still the sleeping giants in this game and have finals experience, including winning last year’s big dance.
They are coming off a bye and will be as fresh as a daisy.
James Dempsey has an excellent kicking game, as does Souths’ Duncan - but it is the Danes’ chase that goes a long way to help them secure wins.
As we saw on Wednesday night, each teams' star player steps up in finals and I expect Thomas O’Sullivan and Daniel York to get down and dirty with Dempsey. However, the same can be said for Souths with Duncan, McCullough and Jacob Whittaker.
I expect the Tigers to race out of the blocks, as the Danes haven’t been the best starters in games this year.
I think the last 20 minutes will be where the Danes will win the game.
They have always been good at finishing off games when Daniel York takes control.