A number of significant games took place over the course of Round 19, and a handful of upset results have shaken up the ladder in a big way. Just a solitary game separates third place from seventh, while the four teams sitting between eighth and 11th are separated by points difference only. Here is how five of the biggest games of the round went down.
Thursday Night: Parramatta Eels vs Brisbane Broncos
In a season-defining game for both sides, the Eels took just four minutes to get off the mark with a try courtesy of Maika Sivo to take a 4-0 lead. Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there. Parramatta has had a troubling habit of periodically putting in performances that bely their status as a top eight side, and this was one of them. After entering the game as favourites with the betting sites and opening the scoring they went on to concede four tries in the first half and another couple in the second, ultimately going down 36-14 and dropping to seventh spot on the ladder. Conversely, the Broncos were terrific, winning their third game in a row and tenth in 12 weeks to jump into the top four, and the way the team they leapfrogged in the Storm are playing, they are every chance of staying there.
Next Match for Parramatta: Eels ($3.70) vs Panthers ($1.28)
After a dreadful performance the Eels face the toughest test in football against the Panthers; if they repeat what they dished up against the Broncos they’ll be in for a rough night, but at their best they can definitely keep this one close.
Next Match for Brisbane: Broncos ($1.15) vs Tigers ($5.50)
While the Eels head into a clash with the league’s best side, the Broncos do just the opposite, welcoming the cellar-dwelling Tigers to Suncorp Stadium for what should be a comfortable win.
Friday Night: St. George Illawarra Dragons vs Manly Sea Eagles
Heading into this clash, the Dragons appeared to gradually be losing a grip on their finals aspirations while the Sea Eagles were grabbing their own with both hands, but in a season that continues to surprise the home side defied the betting apps which installed them as underdogs, and were far too good from the outset. Consecutive tries to Ben Hunt in the space of six minutes early in the game gave them a 12-0 lead, before a Zac Lomax penalty goal in the dying seconds of the first half saw them enter the break 14 points ahead. The Sea Eagles gave themselves a chance to get back into the game with an early try in the second half, but they were unable to score again and ultimately went down 20-6. The result means both sides find themselves at 9-9, and sitting outside the top eight on points differential alone.
Next Match for St. George Illawarra: Dragons ($2.85) vs Cowboys ($1.43)
The Dragons finals’ hopes remain well and truly alive following their win against the Sea Eagles, but they’ll have to be their best to keep the ball rolling when they welcome the second-placed Cowboys to Netstrata Jubilee Stadium next Sunday.
Next Match for Manly: Sea Eagles ($2.20) vs Roosters ($1.67)
The Sea Eagles have another huge game next week, this time facing the side sitting one spot ahead of them in eighth in the Roosters, who are coming off consecutive big wins.
Saturday Evening: Penrith Panthers vs Cronulla Sharks
Following wins against first the Storm and then the Cowboys over the past fortnight, the Sharks’ credentials as a legitimate Premiership challenger to the Panthers was growing by the week, and this game presented an ideal opportunity to really throw down the gauntlet to the best team in the game. Despite their hot form, the visitors entered the game as comfortable underdogs with betting sites, but when they scored two tries in the first 11 minutes an upset was well and truly on the cards. The Panthers, however, have lost just a solitary game all season for a reason. They fought back with a late try of their own and then a penalty goal late in the first half to enter the break just two points down, before jumping out to a 14-10 lead early in the second. A thrilling next half-an-hour ensued, with neither side able to score, but when Jarome Luai crossed the line in the 77th minute he secured a big 20-10 victory for the Panthers – their 17th of the season.
Next Match for Penrith: Eels ($3.70) vs Panthers ($1.28)
Next up, the Panthers face a somewhat erratic Eels side who, at their best, will pose a threat, but is equally capable of dishing up a performance akin to that of a bottom four side.
Next Match for Cronulla: Sharks ($1.74) vs Rabbitohs ($2.10)
There’s no respite for the Sharks, who face yet another tough challenge next week when they welcome a Rabbitohs side coming off four wins in a row to PointsBet Stadium.
Saturday Night: South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Melbourne Storm
The Storm entered this game as favourites with NRL betting sites despite the fact that they had lost three in a row while the Rabbitohs had won three in a row, testament to the respect that remains for them despite their run of indifferent form. As it turned out, however, perhaps more emphasis should have been placed on the respective recent performances of these two teams. The Rabbitohs scored in the opening minute and didn’t look back, heading into half-time with a 10-6 lead before opening that up to 18 points with three consecutive tries early in the second half – a lead which proved too great for the Storm to recover from. The 24-12 win saw the Rabbitohs jump up to sixth place and just a game behind third, while the Storm dropped out of the top four for the first time since the beginning of the year.
Next Match for South Sydney: Sharks ($1.74) vs Rabbitohs ($2.10)
The Rabbitohs face another tough test next week, heading to Cronulla to take on the Sharks, but the way they are playing they are more than capable of taking this one out.
Next Match for Melbourne: Warriors ($4.10) vs Storm ($1.24)
The Storm are in desperate need of a win following their worst run of performances in close to a decade, and will be confident they can get it against a struggling Warriors side.
Sunday Afternoon: North Queensland Cowboys vs Wests Tigers
With a host of sides breathing down their proverbial neck, the Cowboys needed to win this one to keep their hold on a top two spot, and against the bottom-placed Tigers the betting apps expected them to do just that. As it turned out, however, this was a far tougher challenge than they may have anticipated. After scoring the first try of the game in the opening minute, the Cowboys conceded the next three to enter half-time ten points in arrears. They bounced back with three consecutive tries in the second half and appeared to have the game sewn up with seven minutes to go, but in an unexpected turn of events the Tigers scored two tries in four minutes to grab a one-point lead with just two minutes to go. The Cowboys appeared to have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, but a controversial penalty was awarded to them on the last play of the game. With the clock having ticked over 80 minutes, Valentine Holmes had a chance to steal back the game and duly obliged with a clutch finish, giving them a pivotal 27-26 win.
Next Match for North Queensland: Dragons ($2.85) vs Cowboys ($1.43)
Though they are now a game and points difference clear in second, the Cowboys need to keep winning to stay in second place, and will need to play at near their best to do so on the road against the Dragons next weekend.
Next Match for Wests Tigers: Broncos ($1.15) vs Tigers ($5.50)
The Tigers last couple of performances have been very competitive, but nonetheless they’ll enter their next game against the in-form Broncos as significant underdogs with betting sites once again.