NRL Finals 2021

Panthers stun Storm to earn grand final date with Souths

Ivan Cleary's men will go in search of the club's first premiership since 2003 when they tackle Souths in Brisbane next Sunday after a committed defensive effort restricted the Storm to their lowest score of the season.

The Panthers took the early advantage when Nathan Cleary laid on a try for Stephen Crichton in the third minute with a pinpoint cross field kick out of dummy half.

The Storm lost Christian Welch and Brandon Smith to failed HIAs early in the game and committed 10 errors in a poor opening stanza as Penrith seized control.

Renouf: Centre battles could decide grand final combatants

Centres are always crucial and even more so in big games where defence comes to the fore because those in the No.3 and No.4 jerseys control a lot defensively.

You control that line. If you want to push up and tighten things up in defence it always ends with you. As a centre, you get to make that call. It's been known as one of the toughest positions to defend and decision-making is a big part of that.

You have to be alert to what's around you. There's a lot of decisions to make in attack too if you have a two-on-one or there's any type of overlap.

Panthers issued breach notice over trainer incident

The Eels were on the attack in the dying minutes of the semi-final when the incident took place.

The NRL has issued the Panthers with a breach notice proposing the penalties against the club and their orange shirt trainer Pete Green, who would be banned from accessing the field of play and sideline for the remainder of the 2021 season after an alleged breach of the game’s operations manual.

The manual makes it clear that a head trainer can only stop play after making an initial assessment that a doctor is required to enter the field of play.

Storm v Panthers: Foxx, Smith cleared; Penrith trio doubtful

The grinding 8-6 win over Parramatta on Saturday in Mackay was an energy-sapping encounter and the Panthers haven't got the luxury the Storm have enjoyed - virtually 14 days of rest to soothe some of their aches and pains. 

Then again, revenge is a hungry beast and the Panthers appetite is still there to knock the team, that beat them last year, out of this year's finals.

These are the best two teams from the 2021 NRL club competition - 21 wins each from 24 matches.

Rabbitohs v Sea Eagles: Old foes square off

The Rabbitohs turned the finals series on its head with a shock win over Penrith in the opening week of the finals, ending the chances of another Panthers-Storm premiership decider.

Instead, South Sydney or Manly will advance from this Friday's clash at Suncorp Stadium following two sensational attacking performances from these clubs.

Earlier this season the Rabbitohs became the first team in premiership history to score 30 points in eight consecutive matches.

'Big challenge': Cleary prepares to rally troops after brutal battle

The Panthers have only scored one try in each of their two finals matches but a 40th minute Nathan Cleary penalty goal proved the difference in a gripping contest that left the shattered Eels preparing to return home after exiting in the second week of the play-offs for the fourth time since 2017.

Cleary’s men must now face the Storm next Saturday at Suncorp Stadium, after losing to South Sydney last weekend, for the right to face the winner of Friday night’s Rabbitohs-Sea Eagles clash in the premiership decider.

Stat Attack: Manly boast speed edge but Roosters have experience

As the teams prepare to meet in Friday night's sudden-death semi-final, Telstra Tracker data has provided some key statistical insights.

While none of the Roosters back five have been clocked at more than 33.8km/h this season (with centre Adam Keighran the quickest of the lot), the star Sea Eagles trio have routinely surpassed 35km/h.

In Saab's case, that's merely a cruising speed given the 20-year-old winger has reached a personal best of 38km/h in 2021. Only Melbourne Storm flyer Josh Addo-Carr (38.1km/h) has gone quicker.

Johnston feeling 2014 vibes with Rabbitohs belief sky-high

Johnston starred on the wing for the Bunnies in his rookie season in 2014 and seven years later he's now a leader at the club looking to send off Wayne Bennett and several of his teammates on the right note.

Last week's 16-10 upset win over the Panthers was a breakthrough effort from Bennett's side and earned them their first week off in a finals series since their last grand final appearance.

The Rabbitohs will play either the Sea Eagles or Roosters in week three as they eye their second grand final in 50 years.

Storm preliminary final switched to afternoon kick-off

The NRL announced on Monday that the clash between the Storm and the winner of this Saturday's Panthers v Eels semi-final in Mackay would be moved based on a unique opportunity to create a more fan friendly schedule.

"Rugby league is about the fans who have made it clear across the weekend that they are disappointed about having to choose between the preliminary final and the AFL grand final which is scheduled to play at a similar time," NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said.

Panthers v Eels: Battle of Sydney's west in Queensland's north

Mackay will be the venue for their week-two semi-final on Saturday night with the Panthers coming off an upset loss to Souths and the Eels building momentum after a gutsy win over Newcastle.

The Panthers have had a smooth run throughout most of the season but they were brought undone by the Rabbitohs in week one of the finals.

Parramatta have been much more inconsistent throughout the season and have a recent history of finals fade-outs counting against them.​