Round 17 was a significant one in the NRL, with a number of matchups between sides jostling for spots in both the top eight and the top four. And for the most part, those games delivered, with three of them decided by eight points or less. Let’s take a look at how five of the biggest matches of the round played out.
Thursday Night: Manly Sea Eagles vs Melbourne Storm
The Sea Eagles were in desperate need for a win entering Thursday night’s blockbuster, but it was never going to be easy up against the Storm, who betting sites installed as a comfortable favourite.. They started brilliantly, however, scoring four tries to one in the first half to enter the break ahead 18-6 – the only disappointment of the half being the fact that just one of those tries ended with a conversion. Three tries in the first 20 minutes of the second half, however, saw them jump out to what looked like an unassailable 36-12 lead. Incredibly, the Storm flicked a switch in the final stages of the game to score four tries in just six minutes, but fortunately for the home side, only one of those was converted. Had all four been six-point plays the game would have been tied, but with the Storm repaying the favour given to them by the Sea Eagles in the first half and missing the extra points on multiple occasions, Manly was able to run out a 36-30 winner.
Next Match for Manly: Bye
The Sea Eagles will head into their break satisfied with what was a massive victory, even if it didn’t end exactly as planned.
Next Match for Melbourne: Sharks ($2.15) vs Storm ($1.71)
The Storm are now just hanging onto second spot by the skin of their teeth, and they face another tough battle this Thursday night when they head to Cronulla to face the Sharks.
Friday Night: Penrith Panthers vs Sydney Roosters
The Panthers entered this clash having won 14 of their 15 games in 2022, and were justifiably heavy favourites with the betting apps as a result. Rarely has an opponent even been able to get close to them, but the Roosters were able to buck that trend and put in a highly competitive performance. After Brian To’o scored the first try of the game for Penrith in the 11th minute, Sydney went on to score three of the next four to take an 18-14 lead with under 20 minutes left in the game. The reigning Premiers, however, have lost just one game for the season for a reason. With their backs against the wall, they were able to cross the line courtesy of Izack Tago in the 64th minute and take the lead with a Nathan Cleary conversion, before they repeated the dose a few minutes later with a 71st minute try to Apisai Koroisau. The 26-18 win saw them extend their lead at the top of the table, while the Roosters fell a game out of the eight.
Next Match for Penrith: Bye
The Panthers will rest easy over the course of the next fortnight, having won 15 of their 16 games before the bye to establish a virtually unassailable lead atop the NRL ladder.
Next Match for Sydney: Bye
The Roosters also have a week off, but will enter it far less satisfied having lost their last four games over a tough month of footy to fall out of the eight and put their finals’ hopes in jeopardy.
Saturday Evening: North Queensland Cowboys vs Brisbane Broncos
A top-of-the-table clash between intrastate rivals in the Cowboys and the Broncos headlined Saturday evening’s NRL action, and the tight, contested nature of the first half certainly reached the high expectations which surrounded this game. The home side led 10-8 at the break, and when they scored twice in the first seven minutes of the second half they had established a 22-8 lead over the visiting Broncos. Brisbane bounced back courtesy of a Corey Oates try to stay in the hunt, but their defence couldn’t keep the relentless Cowboys’ attack at bay thereafter, conceding a couple more quick tries to go down 34-14 with less than ten minutes to go. Corey Oates scored a second try of the game before Selwyn Cobbo scored his first just a couple of minutes later to give the Broncos an outside chance of snatching an unlikely victory with the clock winding down, but instead Murray Taulagi scored a second try of his own to help the Cowboys run out 40-26 winners.
Next Match for North Queensland: Bye
Having secured their 12th win of the season, the Cowboys will take a hard-earned break this week; and if the Storm lose, they will jump from third spot up into the top two.
Next Match for Brisbane: Broncos ($1.54) vs Dragons ($2.50)
The Broncos will enter their upcoming home game as favourites with the betting sites, but they won’t have it all their own way against a plucky Dragons team seeking an unlikely finals’ berth.
Saturday Night: South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Parramatta Eels
With the Rabbitohs mired in a five-way battle for the bottom couple of spots in the eight and the Eels a couple of wins ahead fighting for a spot in the four, there was plenty on the line in this one. And from the outset, the home side had clearly come to play. Alex Johnston crossed the line in just the third minute to get the Bunnies on the board, before a Jai Arrow try 13 minutes later saw them establish a 12-0 lead. They maintained that lead to half-time, before two consecutive quick tries gave them a 24-point advantage. The Eels managed to peg one back, but it was all too late in what was a disappointing performance for the visitors in a significant game. This was a proverbial four-point game in every sense of the word, and with the result the Rabbitohs move to within just one win of Parramatta and with a super points differential.
Next Match for South Sydney: Knights ($2.75) vs Rabbitohs ($1.45)
The Bunnies get a great chance to continue their winning ways this Friday night in a game they will enter as solid favourites with NRL betting sites.
Next Match for Parramatta : Tigers ($4.00) vs Eels ($1.25)
Parramatta, too, have a good chance to record a win against the struggling Tigers, though the frustrating penchant for inconsistency they have displayed this year means they are no certainty.
St. George Illawarra Dragons vs Canberra Raiders
A big round of NRL ended with an appropriately big game between two teams sitting side-by-side on the ladder, fighting for the same spots at the top of the eight – and it delivered. In slippery conditions, this was a hard-fought slog which saw just four tries scored in 80 minutes of play. After the Dragons opened their account the Raiders responded a little over ten minutes later, but a Moses Suli try just before the half-time whistle saw the home side open up a 12-4 lead at the break. In the 53rd minute, a converted Hudson Young try got the Raiders to within two points, and with nearly half an hour to go there appeared plenty of time left for them to get ahead. As it turned out, however, the defences of both sides locked down and no more scores were recorded for the game, giving the Dragons a massive 12-10 win over a side they are competing with for a spot in the finals.
Next Match for St. George: Broncos ($1.54) vs Dragons ($2.50)
The Dragons have a tough game coming up at Suncorp Stadium, but though they are underdogs with the betting apps, the way they are playing they are capable of winning this game.
Next Match for Canberra: Bye
The Raiders will have a couple of weeks to think about a loss which may well come back to bite them later in the year, with a bye this week before they tackle the Storm in Round 18.