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

Then there were four. The NRL playoffs are down to the the final four clubs after South Sydney and Parramatta progressed to the preliminary finals.

The Eels will head to Townsville for a Friday night fixture against North Queensland while the Rabbitohs will tackle Penrith in the other grand final qualifier on Saturday night at Accor Stadium.

Souths will be aiming to exact revenge for last year’s two-point Grand Final loss to the Panthers while the Eels are aiming to make their first premiership decider since 2009.

The Cowboys, who qualified via a 32-30 extra-time win over Cronulla in week one of the finals, are looking to become just the fourth team in premiership history to rise from the bottom two to lifting the trophy in the space of a year.

Parramatta smashed Canberra 40-4 at CommBank Stadium on Friday in their Semi-Final before the Rabbitohs proved too strong, 38-12, in the other semi on Saturday at Allianz Stadium.

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

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.

South Sydney prop Tom Burgess is also banned after the fiery NRL elimination final defeat of the Sydney Roosters for his high shot on James Tedeco. Both players will be available if their team makes the Grand Finals.

NRL finals draw Week 3

Preliminary Final: Saturday, September 24 at 7.50pm (AEST), Accor Stadium
Penrith Panthers (1) v (7) South Sydney Rabbitohs

Preliminary Final: Friday, September 23 at 7.50pm (AEST), QCB Stadium
North Queensland Cowboys (3) v (4) Parramatta Eels

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

NRL finals Week 2

Semi-Final: Friday, September 16 at 7.50pm (AEST), CommBank Stadium
(4) Parramatta Eels 40 def (8) Canberra Raiders 4

Semi-Final: Saturday, September 17 at 8pm (AEST), Allianz Stadium
(7) South Sydney Rabbitohs 38 def (2) Cronulla 12

NRL finals Week 1

Qualifying Final: Friday, September 9 at 7.50pm (AEST), BlueBet Stadium
(1) Penrith Panthers 27 def (4) Parramatta Eels 8

Elimination Final: Saturday, September 10 at 5.40pm (AEST), AAMI Park
(8) Canberra Raiders 28 def (5) Melbourne Storm 20

Qualifying Final: Saturday, September 10 at 7.50pm (AEST), PointsBet Stadium
(3) North Queensland Cowboys 32 def Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 30

Elimination Final: Sunday, September 11 at 4.05pm (EST), Allianz Stadium
(7) South Sydney Rabbitohs 30 def (6) Sydney Roosters 14

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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