Melbourne Storm get the chance to wrap up the minor premiership when they meet Manly Sea Eagles one of the games of NRL Round 24.
The two sides clash on Saturday in what is the penultimate round of the regular season, and the race to the finals remains firmly on for several teams.
We preview all eight games below:
North Queensland Cowboys vs Canterbury Bulldogs
One month ago, this showdown didn’t warrant much interest, with both clubs struggling near the bottom of the ladder. However, with the Bulldogs surging into finals contention on the back of six wins from their last eight games and the Cowboys coming off an upset over Penrith as they prepare to play their last ever match at 1300SMILES Stadium, this fixture is all of a sudden significant. The Bulldogs need to win this game to have any shot to make the top eight, but also need six other results to go their way, including the Broncos, Panthers and Tigers losing all of their remaining games. The Cowboys did Canterbury a favour by beating Penrith at home last week, and the Cowboys have nothing to lose again and will be up for a big night for their last game at 1300SMILES Stadium.
Prediction: Cowboys win ($1.69 TopBetta)
New Zealand Warriors vs South Sydney Rabbitohs
It’s been a tough couple of months since the Origin period for the Rabbitohs, but they’ve set themselves up for a positive end to the regular season after their performance against Brisbane last week. Souths were staring down the barrel of another close defeat and slipping further outside the top four, but they raised their level considerably midway through the second half and held on for a 22-20 victory at Suncorp – and it could very well prove to be the turning point of their season. Now they must win their final two games to finish in the top four. The Warriors appear to have called it a day for their 2019 season, with the club conceding 130 points in defeats over the last month to the Raiders, Roosters and Sharks. It should be a routine Rabbitohs win on Friday.
Prediction: Rabbitohs by 13+ ($2.72 TopBetta)
Brisbane Broncos vs Parramatta Eels
It’s a crunch game for the Broncos and Eels as both sides aim to cement their spots in different parts of the top eight. If the Eels are to sneak into the top four, they must win their remaining two games and hope other results go their way. Meanwhile, it’s almost do-or-die for the Broncos after they went down by two points against the Rabbitohs last week. Brisbane are clinging on to eighth spot on the ladder, but if they lose this one they might not have their finals destiny in their own hands. The Broncos were thrashed 38-10 by the Eels back in Round 14 and need significant improvement if they are to reverse that result.
Prediction: Eels win ($2.24 TopBetta)
Newcastle Knights vs Gold Coast Titans
It’s been a dramatic last couple of weeks in the Hunter with Nathan Brown officially departing the club this week – can Newcastle regain their focus in time for Saturday’s do-or-die clash at home against the Titans? It’s incredible to think the Knights were flying high in the top four a couple of months ago, but they’ve crumbled dramatically and will see their season come to an end if they slip up again on Saturday. Despite everything, the Knights will field the same 17 players that were demolished 46-4 by the Tigers last week. It’s been a dreadful year for the Titans, who have won just four of their 22 games, but they should be determined to potentially ruin the finals chances of another side on Saturday. And with their recent record against the Knights – winning five of their last seven meetings – and Newcastle’s current situation, I wouldn’t put it past them to cause the upset.
Prediction: Titans win ($3.85 TopBetta)
Manly Sea Eagles vs Melbourne Storm
After their thrilling showdown at AAMI Park last month, Manly and Melbourne collide again in another blockbuster encounter at Lottoland on Saturday night. Manly came out on top in golden point that night and have further enhanced their premiership credentials in their games since, most recently beating Canberra in the nation’s capital last week to reclaim a place in the top four. Melbourne are trucking along nicely heading into the finals, but they will want to improve from their 24-8 win over the Titans last week after falling behind 8-0 early. The two sides have split their last four matches at two wins each and their last two encounters have been one-point triumphs for both teams. We can expect another close game on Saturday, but I’m leaning on the side of Manly at home to get the job done and further cement themselves as premiership contenders.
Prediction: Sea Eagles win ($2.12 TopBetta)
Sydney Roosters vs Penrith Panthers
Despite a mid-season resurgence, the Panthers don’t have their finals destiny in their own hands with two rounds to go – and now they have to beat the in-form Roosters to give themselves a chance of making the top eight. Ivan Cleary’s side missed a golden chance to head into this weekend in eighth spot after losing to the Cowboys last week, with that result meaning they’ve got a massive uphill mountain to climb to qualify for the finals. Meanwhile, the Roosters are firing on all cylinders at the moment and are positioning themselves nicely to become the first team in almost three decades to win back-to-back Grand Finals. Since a shock loss to the Cowboys, the Roosters have won their last six matches, scoring more than 32 points in four of them, along with dismantling the in-form Raiders. Penrith actually beat the Roosters back in Round 13 during their resurgent period, but they need considerable improvement to do it again. The Roosters won’t want to lose any momentum before the finals, and if they play like they have over the last six weeks, they should be coming out on top.
Prediction: Roosters 13+ ($1.75 TopBetta)
Cronulla Sharks vs Canberra Raiders
Paul Gallen plays his last game at PointsBet Stadium as the Sharks attempt to secure a position in the top eight on Sunday against Canberra. Coming off a big 42-16 win over the Warriors last week, Cronulla are timing their run nicely – and another win over a top four side will do wonders for their confidence heading into the finals. Meanwhile, the Raiders are coming off a tough loss to Manly last week, but they are still flying high in third spot as they look to lock down a top four finish. Cronulla have won two of their last three meetings, but the Raiders prevailed 22-20 back in Round 14. I’m liking the Sharks in this one though – as mentioned, Canberra have had some very tough matches over the last fortnight, while the Sharks will be wanting to send Gallen off his home turf as a winner and claim a top eight ticket. Cronulla in a close one.
Prediction: Sharks win ($2.02 TopBetta)
St George Illawarra Dragons vs Wests Tigers
Starting the round outside the top eight isn’t exactly ideal for the Tigers, but Michael Maguire’s team could find themselves in a finals position by the end of the weekend if they beat the Dragons and other results go their way. It’s been another roller-coaster season for the inconsistent Tigers, but they bring good form into this one after crushing the embattled Knights 46-4 last week. It’s been a disappointing campaign for the Dragons, who have never really got going at any stage and are looking like to finish in second-last spot unless they win their final two games. The Dragons have won three of their last four meetings with the Tigers, but this is a game that the Tigers simply have to win to keep their finals chances alive. With so much on the line, they should be able to edge this.
Prediction: Tigers win ($1.72 TopBetta)