Andrew Bryan, NRL.com
They are the mouth-watering clashes that will define a season, two Sydney clubs steeped in tradition clash for a place on Rugby League’s grandest stage. It is an exciting clash of contrasting styles and individual match-ups across the park.
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Ben Barba v Greg Inglis
Arguably the two most destructive players in the game at the moment come head-to-head. Their battle alone is worth the price of admission. Is there a better sight on a Rugby League field than these two in full-flight? The anticipation from the crowd when they are near the ball is palpable. Ben Barba has been an irresistible force in 2012, the ball is bouncing his way and he is capitalizing on every opportunity with blistering speed and footwork. Put simply; he is a human show-reel. Inglis is the immovable object, he is one of the purest athletes to grace the great game of Rugby League, power and strength, combined with soft hands make him one of the best players in the modern game. Can either of these two players be stopped – or is it just about limiting their opportunity to wreak havoc? Both of these two players are capable of producing the seemingly impossible and changing the game in an instant. Get to the game and witness it in the flesh, there is nothing quite like it.
Michael Ennis v Issac Luke
What a match-up! Two fiercely competitive players who don’t mind a bit of niggle, confrontation and dabble in their fair-share of gamesmanship. Ennis will feed his forwards all game and look to utilise the run-around during different stages of the contest. Luke will be conniving from dummy-half and looking to explode out of the ruck to expose any lazy defenders in the middle of the field. Whoever can get their forwards rolling over the advantage line will give his team the best chance of winning. This contest is the key to the Preliminary Final. Both players need to focus on the job at hand and not let the other get to them. It is the control and guile of Ennis versus the up tempo frantic running from Luke, what an intriguing contest.
Frank Pritchard v David Taylor
On their day they are two of the most devastating players in the competition, both have the ability to break the game open in one dynamic play. They are big and strong, but it is their ability to offload and promote the ball in traffic that makes them so dangerous. The key for these two is not overplaying their hand. They don’t need to create try-scoring opportunities with every touch, they just need to pick their moment. The player who does this best without looking to achieve the impossible every play will give his team the best chance of advancing to the Grand Final. Composure and discipline, but who will do it better when the game is on the line?
James Graham v Sam Burgess
The two English imports have a long history dating back to their days playing for St Helens and Bradford. The pair met six times in England, with Graham claiming bragging rights on four occasions. They were also involved in a heated incident earlier this year when Burgess failed to hear a whistle and charged into Graham. It was quite the sight. They are both big and strong competitors who are comfortable charging at the line, playing in the line or even before it. Both are instrumental in their respective packs and get through a mountain of work. They will attract numerous defenders every time they get the ball and this will create space on the edges. Don’t be surprised if either of the Englishmen cross the white line during the final.
Follow Andrew Bryan on twitter: @AndrewBryan321.