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Soward: Experience gives Storm advantage over Panthers

The two most consistent teams of 2020 have booked their places in the grand final - I can't wait.

Penrith are shooting for 18 straight wins, but the experience of Melbourne will be tough to overcome on the big stage.

South Sydney and Canberra fell just short. They both had ups and downs throughout the year and did well to get so far.

Here are how the Power Rankings after the preliminary finals.

1. Penrith Panthers (Last week: 1)

I wasn't overly convinced as to whether their performance in the preliminary final against South Sydney would be good enough this Sunday. There's a lot of improvement to go.

Penrith have been the best all season, but what I saw from Melbourne on Friday night was very impressive.

They must take their opportunities. Their execution was lacking on Saturday and you can't afford that against the Storm, who might only provide a few chances.

While Penrith were strong in patches, South Sydney exposed some things on their right edge. The Panthers were worried about Brent Naden defensively and benched him before the match. It will be interesting to see what happens there.

The occasion of the prelim may have got to Penrith however they should be fine on the big day. This is going to be a really good grand final. A great match-up.

The key Panthers player is Api Koroisau. When the hooker came off against the Rabbitohs, they became a bit loose defensively and the playmakers probably didn't get the ball in the positions they needed.

Then there were two

2. Melbourne Storm (2)

The Storm could enter the grand final as favourites - and rightly so. They were clinical in what they did against the Raiders.

The "will he, won't he" retirement storyline around Cameron Smith doesn't seem to have bothered them. I think they've known Smith's decision for a while and kept it all in house.

Melbourne boast the experienced forward pack and experienced backs - and experience in the NRL is key at the moment.

Cameron Munster and Smith have been in a plethora of big games. Smith will touch the ball more than anyone on the field at hooker and he understands where to put it and how to turn it over.

And Jahrome Hughes was fantastic the other night. I love watching that halfback play. 

The Storm, who will play their fourth grand final in five years, have got a real advantage of knowing how the week unfolds, what to do, when to prime and prep and all that kind of stuff.

Get Caught Up: Finals Week 3

The Panthers might come out and start fast on Sunday, but I think it's going to be Melbourne who prevail.

3. South Sydney Rabbitohs (4)

The Rabbitohs over-achieved this year. It may not seem like that, but many people didn't even have them in their top eight and then they went on a stunning late-season run. 

Another preliminary final loss would have been hard to take, but with Latrell Mitchell and others back from injury next year alongside a few astute buys, they're going to be back in the premiership talk.

Every try from finals week 3

4. Canberra Raiders (3)

I thought the emotion of their week two finals win over the Roosters really took it out of them. And then they had to play the Storm in Brisbane, travelling up on game-day, and that was probably reflected in their start.

After Canberra settled they looked like the team that we all know and love, but it was hard to watch that first 20 minutes in such a big game.

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