Time to look ahead to Sunday's decider! Rob Crosby has a full look at both teams and what to expect ...
24 hours ago
It's every footy fan's nightmare - your team just lost on the weekend, and everyone is giving it to you about how rubbish you are. What you need is a solid excuse. What we've done is collected the best excuses for each losing team's performance, and chucked them into this easy guide.
And even if you're not a footy fan, this is the column for you. Maybe, just maybe, you'll pick up enough about the games to hold your own in casual pub conversation.
Manly Sea Eagles defeated Sydney Roosters
Penalties were the difference between the two teams in this clash. The Sydney Roosters were penalised out of the game, with most of the penalties being blown for obstruction, high tackles and general ill-discipline. The penalty count ended up 11-2, which is almost impossible to overcome.
The Roosters' biggest excuse seemed to be that they were happy to concede penalties, as opposed to gifting points. They trust their defence, and like to have the opposition attacking a set defensive line, instead of attacking broken play.
This week, the Roosters will be working on their discipline, if they know what's good for them. The Roosters have denied that their game plan is to concede penalties, so if that's the case they have a lot of work to do.
The key performance in this game, despite the loss, is the Roosters' defence. Considering the massive weight of possession against them, and the fact that they were forced to defend their own line for such long periods, to only concede 8 points is quite an effort.
Brisbane Broncos defeated St George Illawarra Dragons
This game was primarily a benchmarking for the Dragons. So far in 2014 they had had some impressive wins, but none against quality opposition. The difference between these two teams was simply experience at winning games. The Broncos have a number of old heads who have experience in not only close games, but also in putting teams to the sword when it's a high scoring contest.
For the Dragons, their excuse will be much along the same lines. In terms of the number of games played together, and combinations, the Dragons are a very young side. They will have learnt a lot out of this game, and will be a better team for it.
The Dragons will be working on their defence this week. Josh Dugan will hopefully be back for them next week, which will add some starch to their cover defence, and also bring another level of attack to the team.
One key performance in this game was Jason Nightingale - superb in the air, and penetrating in attack.
The difference between these two sides was simply the second half. The teams at half time were practically even, however the Warriors ran away with the game in the second half.
A massive injury toll against the Wests Tigers was the excuse, as they were solidly defeated by the New Zealand Warriors. Both James Tedesco and Corey Paterson were both ruled out of the rest of the game just prior to half time, and it's difficult to effectively interchange players with only two reserves.
The Tigers will be looking to steel up their defence this week. The Warriors made almost 45 tackle busts during the game, and it was this that enabled them to score so many points.
Konrad Hurrell was a beast for the Warriors, breaking 11 tackles and running for almost 200 metres. Ironically, if not for the injury to Jerome Ropati, Hurrell would likely not have had so much game time off the interchange bench.
The Panthers' performance was characterised by weak defence. Almost every player missed at least one tackle, with Isaac John almost making it to double figures. It will be in this area that the Panthers will be looking to improve before next weekend's clash with the Canberra Raiders.
Jarryd Hayne was the key performance from this game. He was almost unstoppable for the Eels, breaking 13 tackles, and setting up tries and line breaks seemingly at will. He was rewarded with a try for his efforts, as well as obviously the win.
Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs defeated Melbourne Storm
The loss of Cameron Smith characterised the performance of the Storm. It was a very un-Storm-like performance, one in which they never looked part of the game.
The Storm will use the excuse that they obviously didn't have their mind on the game, due to all the off-field dramas during the week. In addition, losing Cameron Smith before kickoff didn't help their cause. The Storm's winning percentage without Smith is bad enough to rival even the Knights' performance without Andrew Johns.
The Storm's focus this week will mainly focus around attempting to redirect the players' attentions back to the task at hand. It would be easy for the team to drift off course, caught up in the drama of the Jordan McClean judiciary hearing and suspension, and it will be on coach Bellamy to ensure his players stay focused.
For the Bulldogs, Tim Lafai terrorised the Storm defence. He broke tackles, made line breaks, and set up a try. On top of that, he made 130 metres and picked up a try.
The South Sydney Rabbitohs pretty much got shocked out of this game. The Raiders proved that they wanted the win, while the Rabbitohs put in probably their worst performance in a few years.
Souths' excuses in this game are limited - they were simply outplayed and outmatched. They have a lot to work on this week.
The Rabbitohs have made massive changes to their team for next weekend, in an attempt to shuffle their attack awake. The halves experiment from the first few rounds is over, with John Sutton being moved back to five-eight. Lote Tuquiri has also been dropped, with the coach showing he won't sit on his hands.
Anthony Milford tore the Bunnies apart almost single handedly - he broke tackles, set up tries and created second phase play.
Newcastle Knights defeated Cronulla Sharks
The difference in this game was simple. Hunger. The Knights came out in front of a vocal home crowd with one goal - to win for Alex McKinnon. And win they did. The Sharks were woeful in defence at times, while for the Knights, every player went above and beyond.
The Sharks are almost certainly running out of excuses in 2014 - even the injury excuse is starting to wear thin. Sure, they still have Paul Gallen to come back, but he is only one man. He can't tackle for everyone on the field.
This week, the Sharks will be looking at improving their man-to-man defence. They had 7 players who missed 3 or more tackles - with the Knights capitalising on pretty much all of the half-chances.
Joey Leilua was the standout for the Knights. The Sharks couldn't seem to put him to ground, and he ran amuck, setting up tries, breaking tackles and making line breaks.
In case you didn't notice by the one point margin, there wasn't a lot between these two teams. While the Titans did look in control for a lot of the game, the Cowboys managed to stay in touch. In the end, the Titans made the most of their opportunities, while the Cowboys left their run slightly too late.
The Cowboys biggest issue was their inability to control possession. A number of times during the game they chained together unforced errors, effectively scrubbing themselves out of the game. The pouring rain probably didn't help, nor did the brown snake chilling on the sideline.
The Cowboys will probably be working on their handling this week. The coach will probably have given each of the players their own football, and told them to not put it down all week - see if they can get used to not dropping it.
The Titans' key performance was definitely Aidan Sezer - he controlled not only the tempo of the game, but also the ball. Several times he put in grubbers that looked as if he had the ball on a string, and was credited with two try assists.