NRL finals fixtures: Semi-final, prelim final match-ups

Upsets in week one of the NRL finals have caused turmoil with Cronulla missing their chance of directly qualifying for the preliminary final and the Storm and Roosters the first teams eliminated.

Penrith, after thumping Parramatta 27-8, and North Queensland, by virtue of their 32-30 extra-time epic over the Sharks will skip week two and await their opponents for the Preliminary Final.

Parramatta host Canberra at CommBank Stadium on Friday in their Semi-Final at 7.50pm with the Sharks vs Rabbitohs clash to be played on Saturday at Allianz Stadium at 8pm.

The Panthers will play their match at Accor Stadium on Friday, September 23 at 7.50pm with the Cowboys hosting their game at Townsville’s Queensland Country Bank Stadium on Saturday, September 24 at 7.50pm.

North Queensland will play the winner of next week’s Eels vs Raiders clash while the Panthers will face the winner of Cronulla’s semi-final against the Rabbitohs after their Elimination Final triumph over the Roosters on Sunday afternoon.

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NRL finals draw Week 2

Semi-Final: Friday, September 16 at 7.50pm (AEST), CommBank Stadium
Parramatta Eels (4) v Canberra Raiders (8)

Semi-Final: Saturday, September 17 at 8pm (AEST), Allianz Stadium
Cronulla Sharks (2) v South Sydney Rabbitohs (7)

Tickets will be on sale for Week Two matches to the competing clubs’ ticketed members at 10am on Monday (September 12), while tickets for the competing clubs’ non-ticketed members and NRL Account Holders will be on sale at 1pm on Monday. Tickets will be on sale to General Public at 10am on Tuesday (September 13).

NRL finals draw Week 3

Preliminary Final: Friday, September 23 at 7.50pm (AEST), Accor Stadium
Penrith Panthers (1) v Sharks/Rabbitohs

Preliminary Final: Saturday, September 24 at 7.50pm (AEST), QCB Stadium
North Queensland Cowboys (3) v Eels/Raiders

Tickets for Preliminary Finals will be on sale from next Monday (September 19).

Taylan May will miss Penrith’s NRL preliminary final after pleading guilty to a careless high tackle charge following the Panthers’ 27-8 defeat of Parramatta.

The winger was sin-binned for his hit on Eels centre Will Penisini during the first half of Friday night’s game and was handed a category two charge.

May risked missing both the preliminary and grand final by unsuccessfully pleading his case at the judiciary and has accepted a one-match ban.

Charlie Staines and Sunia Turuva are the two most likely replacements for May.

May’s availability for the finals series had been the subject of debate after the NRL suspended him for two weeks following the guilty verdict in an assault trial but delayed the suspension until 2023.

Cronulla co-captain Dale Finucane was charged with a grade one crusher tackle in the aftermath of the Sharks’ qualifying final loss to North Queensland.

Finucane can escape suspension with a $3000 fine for his hit on Luciano Leilua if he accepts an early guilty plea but will miss two games should he make an unsuccessful challenge to the charge.

Canberra prop Joe Tapine and Cowboys winger Kyle Feldt have escaped scrutiny from the match review committee despite being placed on report for a high tackle and a crusher tackle respectively on Saturday.

Canberra Raiders (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

On-field chaos in South Sydney’s elimination final win over the Sydney Roosters could cost the Rabbitohs dearly as Thomas Burgess, Junior Tatola and Taane Milne sweat on NRL match review committee findings.

In the first half, prop Burgess and winger Milne were given 10-minute spells in the sin bin for high tackles that came within a minute of each other.

Burgess was sin-binned after committing two high shots in the space of 30 seconds, the first leaving Roosters captain James Tedesco with a game-ending concussion. The second hit on Matthew Lodge left referee Ashley Klein with little option but to give Burgess a spell.

Milne wore a punch from Victory Radley that left the Roosters lock sin-binned but was ordered from the field himself after hitting Joseph Suaalii high.

At the hour-mark, Tatola became the fifth player of the night to spend time in the sin bin when he slammed Egan Butcher’s head into the ground, sparking a melee.

A high shot on Connor Watson resulted in Milne spending another 10 minutes in the bin, only four minutes after Tatola left the field.

While they have depth in the outside backs to cover Milne, the Rabbitohs can ill-afford to lose Burgess or Tatola for next week’s sudden-death semi-final against the Sharks, who finished the season second on the ladder.

NRL finals draw Week 1

Qualifying Final: Friday, September 9 at 7.50pm (AEST), BlueBet Stadium
Penrith Panthers (1) v Parramatta Eels (4)

Elimination Final: Saturday, September 10 at 5.40pm (AEST), AAMI Park
Melbourne Storm (5) v Canberra Raiders (8)

Qualifying Final: Saturday, September 10 at 7.50pm (AEST), PointsBet Stadium
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks (2) v North Queensland Cowboys (3)

Elimination Final: Sunday, September 11 at 4.05pm (EST), Allianz Stadium
Sydney Roosters (6) v South Sydney Rabbitohs (7)

How the finals work

The eight teams are divided into two groups of four, the top four (1-4) and the bottom four (5-8), who play games among themselves in the first week of finals.

In the top four, first play fourth and second play third in qualifying finals. The higher-placed teams, first and second, have the right to host these finals in their home state.

One of the advantages given to teams in the top four is that they cannot be eliminated if they lose in the first week.

However, the winners of these finals have a bye in the second week and host a preliminary final in their home state in the third week.

Meanwhile, the losers of these finals must play again in the second week and, if they survive that, may have to travel interstate to play their opponent in the third week. So winning a qualifying final is a significant advantage.

First Qualifying Final: first ranked team hosts fourth ranked team
Second Qualifying Final: second ranked team hosts third ranked team

In the bottom four, fifth play eighth and sixth play seventh in elimination finals. Again, the higher-placed teams, fifth and sixth, have the right to host these finals in their home state.

As the name suggests, the loser of these finals will be eliminated from the finals series. The winners go on to play the losers of the qualifying finals in semi-finals in the second week.

First Elimination Final: fifth ranked team hosts eighth ranked team
Second Elimination Final: sixth ranked team hosts seventh ranked team

These four games are played across four time-slots: Friday night, Saturday afternoon, Saturday night, and Sunday afternoon.

(Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

The second week

In the second week of the finals series two semi-finals are played between the two teams that lost the qualifying finals and the two teams that won the elimination finals.

The teams that won the qualifying finals have a week off, while the teams that lost the elimination finals are out of the running.

The teams that lose these semi-finals will also be eliminated, while the teams that win will go through to face the qualifying final winners in preliminary finals in week three.

The finals series is organised so that the loser of first versus fourth will play the winner of fifth versus eighth, and the loser of second versus third will play the winner of sixth versus seventh.

The losing qualifying final teams are given the right to host these matches in their home state. These games are played across two time-slots: Friday night and Saturday night.

First Semi-final: loser of First Qualifying Final hosts winner of First Elimination Final
Second Semi-final: loser of Second Qualifying Final hosts winner of Second Elimination Final

James Tedesco.

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

The third week

In the third week the winners of the qualifying finals from the first week play the winners of the semi-finals from the second weeks in preliminary finals.

These preliminary finals determine who enters the grand final. The teams who win preliminary finals are through to the grand final, the teams who lose them are eliminated from the finals series.

There are a wide variety of potential preliminary final combinations available depending on how the first two weeks of the finals series pan out.

The winner of the first qualifying final plays the winner of the second semi-final, and the winner of the second qualifying final plays the winner of the first semi-final. This guarantees that it is not possible for any two teams to meet twice in the first three weeks of finals.

The qualifying final winners not only have had a week off as a bye, but also get to host these games in their home state, giving them a significant advantage. These games are played across two time-slots: Friday night and Saturday night.

First Preliminary Final: winner of First Qualifying Final hosts winner of Second Semi-Final
Second Preliminary Final: winner of Second Qualifying Final hosts winner of First Semi-Final

Nathan Cleary in the NRL grand final

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

The fourth week

In the fourth week of finals, the two teams that won the preliminary finals play each other in the grand final. The winner of this match is declared the year’s premiership team.

The grand final could theoretically be between any two teams in the finals series, except for those that play elimination finals against each other in the first week and cannot possibly both progress.

Although one team will be listed first as the ‘home’ team, this fixture does not change venue regardless of the home state of the teams involved.

It has been played every year at ANZ Stadium since it was constructed in 1999, but is being played in Brisbane in 2021. It is currently played on a Sunday evening time-slot.

Grand Final: winner of First Preliminary Final meets winner of Second Preliminary Final

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