We are treated to another scintillating round of NRL, with a number of the fixtures holding massive finals implications. While these games make for compelling viewing, finding a bet can be notoriously difficult, see below where I think we can score the win.
Thursday 26th August 7:50PM, Sunshine Coast Stadium
The round kicks off on Thursday with one of the marquee clashes, as the seventh placed Knights go up against the ninth placed Titans. They’ve had a relatively weak run of matches, but the Knights still had to win, and are seeking a fifth win in succession this week.
Round 23’s triumph over the Bulldogs saw them climb into seventh and ultimately, put themselves in the best possible position to finish in the top 8. The Titans’ winning run of form came to an end at the hands of the Storm, but they still played some great footy and for a few moments, even looked like winners, however will need more starch in attack from their Origin rep David Fifita. The Titan have won 5 of the past 7 against the Novacastrians, and with Moeaki Foutuaika also slated to return, I’m going with them to topple the Knights winning streak to kick off the round.
We are treated to another clash with serious finals implications, as the Warriors and Raiders do battle in Mackay. In a very simple scenario for the Raiders; win and they’re into the top 8.
Back-to-back losses to the Storm and Sea Eagles has made the finals a big ask for Ricky Stuart’s men, but given the unpredictability amongst the other teams in finals contention, the Raiders are still in with a shot. Having won three straight, New Zealand appeared a good bet to sneak into the eight prior to last week’s loss to the Broncos, but only two wins in the next two rounds and a myriad of results to go their way in other fixtures would see them make the finals. Whilst there was an issue during the year with large blow out score lines, these appear to have subsided in recent weeks and with both sides having gone under the total in 3 out of the past 4 games, I’m going with a similar bet again.
The game’s oldest rivals go head-to-head in Friday night’s main event, For a short while, it appeared as though the Roosters were doing their best to drop out of the top four, but they’ve regathered in the last couple of weeks to record tough wins over an improved Broncos side and the Dragons. This is a real acid test for them, and with Manly snapping on their heels, they absolutely need to win again to secure 4th spot, and the all important ‘second chance ‘come finals time. The Bunnies’ exceptional run of form came to an end at the hands of a very impressive Penrith outfit in Round 23, and they will be eager to get back into winning form on Friday night. I am confident the Bunnies will bounce back and if you think back to the corresponding clash last year, Wayne Bennet’s side handed the tricolours one of their greatest ever defeats, winning 60-8, and though water has passed under the bridge since then, I’m siding with them at the line here.
Despite a strong middle passage of play last round against the Roosters, St George has lost five of those six games by double digits, but they might have one last shot at winning a game on Saturday when they take on the struggling Cowboys at the beautiful Browne Park. North Queensland also extended its losing streak to 10 last week with a 32-16 loss to the Eels, in what is seemingly going unnoticed, and will no doubt be looking forward to the end of the 2020 season. The Dragons won their meeting earlier this year 25-18 and last year only one point separated them in their round 17 clash, so I am expecting another tight contest here, with the Dragons coming out on top once again.
The Sharks sit in 8th spot after comprehensively disposing of the Tigers and will be desperate not to let a finals berth slip against a resurgent Broncos outfit. After an encouraging one-point loss to the Roosters, Kevin Walters’ men picked up where they left off last week with a gutsy two-point win over the Warriors and will want to finish off the season with more positives as they turn around the long term prospects of the club. With the Brisbane side having the favour of a home crowd back behind them on the back of the aforementioned performances and I can happily take them at the line.
You wouldn’t know that both of these clubs will make the finals if match betting was your only indication with the Storm heavy favourites once again. They have now tied the 1975 Roosters’ record of 19 consecutive wins and while they will talk up the Premiership being their only focus, it would surely be nice to own an additional piece of history. On the other hand, the Eels broke their losing streak with a comfortable victory over the Cowboys, but this is obviously a completely different prospect for them. Parramatta prevailed 16-12 when these two sides met back in Round 2, a result that largely kick-started Melbourne’s ongoing 19-game winning streak. The Storm have named arguably their strongest side on paper and the fact they’re winning by an average margin of 25 points, I can’t go past them again.
The Sea Eagles will be eager to get back to business following last week’s come-from-behind win over Canberra. With Tom Trbojevic on the sideline, Manly rallied back from a 12-0 half-time deficit to down the Green Machine by a point, a result that could go a long way to determining where the Sea Eagles finish the season, and shutting down some of the critics their credentials without their star fullback. With the top four still in reach, Manly fans can rest easy knowing Turbo is back in the lineup this week after suffering a facial injury. Trbojevic scored a hat-trick against the Bulldogs in their stunning 66-0 shutout last month, and having won four of their last five games against Canterbury by double digits, sees them heavy favourites. Whilst the line is outrageously long, I can’t back against the Sea Eagles here.
Another mismatch will see the resurgent Panthers taking on the thirteenth-placed Tigers in the final fixture of Round 24. There were a few lean weeks through Origin and without Nathan Cleary but the Panthers look to be near their best again, and they will take enormous confidence into the penultimate round after beating Souths comfortably last weekend. Cleary proved he may have been the Dally M winner had it not been for injury and with metre eater Brian To’o returning from injury also, the Panthers are gearing up nicely for the finals. The Tigers allowed themselves a small chance of sneaking into the eight with a few great performances through July and early August – including a win over the Panthers at Bluebet Stadium – but last weekend’s loss to the Sharks ensures the next episode of Tales from Tiger town will be off season celebrations. I expect Penrith to win this quite comfortably but the Tigers being an ever present bogey side, meant I stuck with them at the line.
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