Nathan Cleary of the Panthers celebrates after the qualifying final win over the Sea Eagles.
Nathan Cleary of the Panthers celebrates after the qualifying final win over the Sea Eagles. CRAIG GOLDING

NRL previews for week two of finals



First semi-final

Suncorp Stadium (7.55pm)

Played 51, Broncos 31, Panthers 19, drawn 1

At Suncorp: Played 17, Broncos 11, Panthers 6

Last met: Broncos 32-18, round 9, 2017

BRONCOS' players, officials and fans will remain on tenterhooks until an hour before tomorrow night's kick-off waiting for confirmation on whether Darius Boyd takes the field. If not, the final make-up of the side remains a mystery with rookie Jamayne Isaako also named on an extended bench. The consensus is that without the immense influence of their captain, the home side will struggle to beat the resurgent Panthers who produced arguably their best form of the season last weekend. But while the Broncos were mistake riddled and tardy in defence, their courageous comeback to lead within five minutes of fulltime was encouraging. To win this the Broncos will need to control a hard-running Panthers pack and apply 80-minute pressure to baby-faced halfback Nathan Cleary. For the Panthers it will be much of the same from last weekend - explosive running, in-your-face defence and a pinpoint kicking game. With an 11-6 winning advantage at home, the Suncorp Stadium crowd may just give the Broncos the edge.

TIP: Broncos


Michael Morgan, Captain of the Cowboys, gets a kick away during the Round 24 NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Cronulla Sutherland Sharks, at 1300SMILES Stadium in Townsville, Saturday, August 19, 2017. (AAP Image/Michael Chambers) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Cowboys captain Michael Morgan prepares to get a kick away. MICHAEL CHAMBERS



Second semi-final

ANZ Stadium (7.40pm)

Played 37, Eels 19, Cowboys 17, drawn 1

At ANZ: Played 1, Cowboys 1, Eels 0

Last met: Cowboys 32-6, round 14, 2017

FAIRYTALES may not have a use-by date, but surely the incredible journey of the Cowboys in 2017 must soon end. Busted, bruised, below-strength and travel weary, the Cowboys face a red-hot Eels team that almost pulled off the near-impossible last week. And while not wanting to undermine the Cowboys' gallant win over the defending premiers, the Sharks did miss 34 tackles, concede 11 penalties and make 17 handling errors against them last Sunday. But while Michael Morgan, Jason Taumalolo, Gavin Cooper and Coen Hess can again be expected to give their all and rep centre Justin O'Neill is earmarked for a return, even that reassurance is unlikely to be enough against an Eels outfit that has found its mojo at season's end, is chock full of confidence and bravado, and means business. The only foreseeable negative about the resurgent Eels is if their aggression - overtly apparent against the Storm - transcends to penalties. The clash between Queensland playmakers Morgan and Corey Norman will be pivotal.

TIP: Eels