by Shane Saroya – EM TV Sports, Port Moresby
An unexpected loss for the minor premiers last win in the Sydney Roosters, and a scratchy win for Des Hasler’s Bulldogs: that is the equation that now leads to an enticing semi-final clash at Allianz Stadium tomorrow.
The two sides will lock horns in Friday Night Football, with Roosters co-captain Mitchell Pearce, back from a hamstring injury for a must-win clash against a side that seems to bring their best into the finals series.
The Roosters would have much preferred a week off to rest up and get everything right, but they’re now left with having to do things the hard way.
Pearce has been named at halfback and will need to pass a fitness test on his hamstring later in the week.
It pushes Jackson Hastings, who was one of his side’s best last week – to the bench along with Suaia Matagi.
If Pearce is ruled out, expect Hastings to start and Matagi to play.
Bulldogs coach Des Hasler is something of a September specialist – it has been proven that sides coached by him have never missed out on a grand final appearance after winning in the first week of the finals.
It has happened five times so far with Manly in 2007 to 2008 and 2011, and with Canterbury in 2012 and 2014, for a 2/5 strike rate on the big day.
Hasler has named an unchanged side; Lloyd Perrett was added to an extended bench, presumably as cover for Frank Pritchard, but with Pritchard successful at arguing his case against a dangerous contact charge at the judiciary on Tuesday night, expect an unchanged side on Friday night.