Northern Suburbs v Eastwood: Where it will be won
Northern Suburbs and Eastwood have won the last two Shute Shield premierships and they reminded fans of that fact with impressive upset wins on the opening weekend of the 2017 playoffs.
With two near perfect displays of finals footy, sixth seed Eastwood upstaged minor premiers Manly and fifth seed Norths destroyed second placed Southern Districts, ending the Rebels nine match winning streak and their 2017 season.
While neither side has been perfect this year, they’re both now just one win away from the grand final and will meet in an intriguing preliminary final at North Sydney Oval on Sunday.
Both Norths and Eastwood scored a handful of opportunistic tries last weekend, but they were far from lucky. Points came on the back of intense pressure and that’s something that wins matches at this point of the season.
For the first time in a few months, Norths looked like the side that won last year’s premiership. They were brutal in defence, brilliant at the breakdown and lightning quick out wide.
For Eastwood to match the Shoreman, they will need a similar start to last weekend. The Woodies led 20-0 after 20 minutes against Manly and will need Tom Hill to keep the scoreboard ticking over again this weekend.
The key though, will be the breakdown. Norths captain Will Miller had a field day against the Rebels last weekend and the Eastwood backrow will need to work far harder than the Rebels did to secure their own ball.
If Eastwood can slow the pace of the game down and get Norths into an arm wrestle, it could go either way but if Norths dictate, they will be tough to stop at home.