Though Round 17 was another shortened one, there was still plenty of movement on the NRL ladder, with each of the four results having a significant impact on the shape of the top four and the top eight. Take a look below at how each of the games over the course of the weekend played out.
Thursday Night: Cronulla Sharks vs Melbourne Storm
Thursday night’s top four clash was always going to be a great litmus test for the Sharks, and they passed it with flying colours. Coming off a disappointing loss to the Sea Eagles, it seemed likely that the Storm would come out breathing fire, but as it turned out they were no match for the home side in the first half. Cronulla raced out to a 20-0 half-time lead courtesy of two tries to Jesse Ramien and one each to Blayke Brailey and Ronaldo Mulitalo, and extended their lead in the second half with Sione Katoa crossing the line for the first time, and Ramien rounding out a dominant performance with a third try. The Storm managed six consolation points with a couple of minutes to go, but it was far too little and far too late. The loss saw them drop to third place, where they are now only ahead of the Sharks on points differential.
Next Match for Melbourne: Storm ($1.31) vs Raiders ($3.50)
Following two consecutive losses the Storm need a win next week, but the Raiders will make them work for it, even at AAMI Park. The home side is, however, a relatively comfortable favourite with betting sites.
Next Match for Cronulla: Cowboys ($1.55) vs Sharks ($2.45)
The tests continue for the Sharks next week as they head to Townsville to face the Cowboys, but with just a game separating the two sides on the ladder this is a great chance for Cronulla to climb even closer to the top.
Friday Night: Newcastle Knights vs South Sydney Rabbitohs
Following a strong win against the Eels the week prior, this game was an opportunity for the Rabbitohs to entrench themselves in the top eight, but it didn’t start exactly as planned. After the Bunnies opened the scoring, the home side scored three tries in the space of 11 minutes to open up a 16-6 lead. Thereafter, however, the floodgates opened for the Rabbitohs. They squeezed three tries of their own into the final ten minutes of the half before scoring again within two minutes of the second stanza, before the two sides traded tries, managing a couple apiece, over the remainder of the game. At the final whistle the Rabbitohs had won a high-scoring affair 40-28, moving a game clear in the top eight in the process.
Next Match for Newcastle: Sea Eagles ($1.37) vs Knights ($3.10)
The Sea Eagles have hit form over the past month, and it will be a tough ask for the Knights to come away from Manly with a win.
Next Match for South Sydney: Bulldogs ($3.50) vs Rabbitohs ($1.31)
The Bulldogs have been playing reasonable footy of late, but nonetheless the betting apps are expecting the Rabbitohs to continue their winning ways in this one.
Saturday Night: Wests Tigers vs Parramatta Eels
The Eels’ apparent penchant for erratic results this year meant that while they headed into this game as comfortable favourites with NRL betting sites, Parramatta fans would have been nervous about their ability to get what was a very important win. Those nerves wouldn’t exactly have been allayed by the first 25 minutes of the game, which saw the visitors go down 12-0 to the 15th-placed Tigers. Fortunately, the Eels were able to switch out of first gear nearing the main break, scoring three tries in the last ten minutes of the first half to take a 16-12 lead. They would go on to extend that lead to 16 points, and though they conceded a couple of tries late they were able to hold on to a win which kept them in touch with the top four. It wasn’t the most convincing performance of the season, but they did what they needed to do.
Next Match for Wests Tigers: Tigers ($4.00) vs Panthers ($1.25)
Ordinarily this matchup would be a recipe for a bloodbath, but with a large portion of the Panthers side having to back up after Origin duties, the Tigers might be able to at least keep it somewhat competitive.
Next Match for Parramatta: Eels ($1.18) vs Warriors ($5.00)
The Eels get what should be another easy kill this weekend, and with a tough few weeks coming up afterwards, this is a must-win.
Sunday Afternoon: Brisbane Broncos vs St. George Illawarra Dragons
With both of these sides having improved significantly this year and now in contention for top eight and, in the Broncos case, even top four, this was a far more important clash than it might have looked like being at the start of the year. And, in the first half at least, it lived up to expectations. The two sides traded tries over the course of the first 40 minutes, with the Broncos heading holding a slender 16-12 lead courtesy of a late try to Kotoni Staggs at half-time. In the second half, however, the home team began to flex their collective muscle. Three tries in the first 20 minutes saw them jump out to an unassailable 32-12 lead, and though Cody Ramsey would score his second try for the Dragons soon after, they weren’t able to get back into the game. As a result, they slipped back out of the top eight, while the Broncos remained just a game outside the top four.
Next Match for Brisbane: Titans ($3.10) vs Broncos ($1.37)
The Titans have won just one game in 11 weeks and so should present an easy win for the Broncos, though a couple of players having played in Origin a few days earlier may make it a little bit less of a sure thing.
Next Match for St. George: Roosters ($1.45) vs Dragons ($2.75)
This is a huge game for the Dragons up against another team fighting for the same couple of spots at the bottom of the top eight, and they may present some value with betting apps up against a Roosters team low on confidence after a string of close losses to quality teams.