League legend and TV commentator Jamie Soward believes Penrith and Manly will be too strong in this week’s NRL preliminary finals, and has predicted star turns from Marty Taupau and Viliame Kikau.

The former State of Origin five-eighth, whose career spanned stints at the Roosters, St George, Penrith and the London Broncos, told Central News today that this evening’s Many vs Sydney game would be won or lost by two players.

“Tonight, I am looking forward to watching Marty Taupau vs Jared Waerea-Hargreaves,” he said. “Those two guys are the leaders of their forward pack.

“Last week Manly were exposed by the Storm in terms of roll through the middle which didn’t allow Tom Trbojevic to get into the game.

“The winner of tonight’s game, their forward pack will give their best players the opportunity to win the game.”

His final prediction for the Manly vs Roosters game: “It will be tight early but Manly will go away towards the end and win the game. Man of the Match to Marty Taupau.”

They need to step up on the big stage and help their halves partners out.

The Sea Eagles and Roosters play for a spot in the NRL preliminary finals against the Rabbitohs, with the losing side going home.

Penrith and Parramatta, meanwhile, have an epic ‘Battle of the West’ clash to decide who will play the Melbourne Storm in the other preliminary final.

The Storm and South Sydney have the week off, while Newcastle and Gold Coast are out, after losing close matches last weekend.

In the Panthers vs Eels clash, Soward, who also hosts the Sweet and Soward football podcast, said: “The game will come down to how their halves play, particularly Jahrome Luai and Dylan Brown. They need to step up on the big stage and help their halves partners out.

“Penrith will win the game, but it won’t be as easy as everyone thinks it will be.”

And his prediction for Man of the Match: “Viliame Kikau.”

Central News has cast its eye over the sudden death footy finals and picked three players to keep an eye on…

Manly Sea Eagles, Tom Trbojevic:

The Dally M favourite had a night to forget against the Melbourne Storm being smothered by their aggressive line speed and defensive structures. The Manly Fullback made a mere 118 run metres, almost 100 metres less than his season average of 217 run metres per game.

What stood out the most was the fact that ‘Turbo Tom’ made no line breaks throughout the game, which is in stark contrast to the 30-line breaks that he was able to make in his previous 15 games this season. To make matters worse, Trbojevic made two costly errors with the ball in hand, with an error late in the first half that gave the Storm the field position that enabled them to score.

Despite this performance, I would not be writing off Tom Trbojevic yet. Across his career, he has been able to bounce back after poor individual games and put on match-winning performances.

After Manly’s shock 8-point loss to the Knights in round 12, where Turbo was kept incredibly quiet, he went on to score three tries in his next game for The NSW state of origin side, leading them to a 50-6 victory over the Queensland Maroons.

So as history suggests, keep an eye on Turbo who will be looking to lead his side to a much-needed bounce-back victory against the Sydney Roosters on Friday and continue his career-best form.

Penrith Panthers, Jarome Luai:

The vibrant Penrith five-eighth had a frustrating night on Saturday, contributing to his sides shock 16-10 loss to the resurgent Rabbitohs. Luai who is normally a confident and aggressive competitor had a very quiet night with the ball in hand, running for a shy 23 metres.

Contrasting to his previous season performances where his running game is his main attacking weapon, using elusive footwork to beat tiring inside defenders. Luai also made a crucial error towards the end of the game at dummy-half, all but ending the Panther’s hopes of launching a late-game comeback.

The Panthers five-eighth will be under pressure this weekend to perform at his best and help his side overcome the Eels and set up a mouth-watering preliminary final against rivals Melbourne Storm.

Expect Luai to be playing with lots of energy, combining with his lethal halves partner Nathan Cleary to provide the Panthers outside men with lots of room to run the ball.

Parramatta Eels, Mitchell Moses:

The much-maligned Parramatta halfback had an afternoon to remember, playing a huge part in his sides exhilarating 28-20 win over the Newcastle Knights.

Moses played with great intent, constantly calling for the ball, applying pressure on Knights defenders through his underrated running game and kicking game. His performance was highlighted with a great individual try in the first half, accelerating through the Knights defence and running around fullback, Kalyn Ponga, to score next to the posts.

Moses was also proficient with his goal kicking, slotting four out of five of his shots at goal. He ended the match with an impressive try, 93 running metres, a try assist, and a huge 573 kicking metres.

Across Moses’ career, critics have often questioned his ability to stand up and lead his team to a victory in big games. Following last weekend’s big-game performance, Moses will be looking to back it up and silence his critics with another impressive game.

He will also be looking to avenge his side’s round 16 heartbreaking 13-12 loss against the Panthers, where Mitchell missed the opportunity to kick a penalty goal to win the game on the siren.

Main image courtesy of the NRL.