NRL Round 24 Preview

There are just two weeks to go in the regular season, and with 13 teams still a mathematical chance of figuring in the finals, there is plenty riding on every game this weekend.

Newcastle Knights vs Gold Coast Titans

The Knights have a horrific for and against, meaning they still could need a win to make the finals. That for and against has been caused by the competition’s second-worst attack, only ahead of the Bulldogs. Newcastle played the Bulldogs last week and only managed to run on 22 points, which speaks volumes of their season.

That is a major problem when you’re playing a side like the Titans. Justin Holbrook’s side love a shootout, and have gone past 28 in ten out of thirteen games against teams outside the top six. Their attack is good enough to get the job done here.

Titans by 14

New Zealand Warriors vs Canberra Raiders

This is a game of pure desperation. The loser is as good as out of the finals race. The Warriors, in the face of an injury crisis, have been playing a real grinding style of football, which has seen three of their last four decided by two points, and the other by 14. They have won three of those contests, their defence only letting in 64 points in the last four weeks.

In saying that, Canberra pushed the Storm and have defended well enough themselves, while they scored 31 in a losing effort last time these teams met. Their attack should get them over the line.

Raiders by 6

Sydney Roosters vs South Sydney Rabbitohs

This shapes as the game of the week, but there is a major problem for the Roosters, who can’t even name 21. With more injuries in the outside backs, untested defensive combinations going up against South Sydney’s dangerous attack will create headaches. The tri-colours have let in more than 20 points in each of the last three weeks, with the last two against the Broncos and Dragons.

It won’t be quite so easy to score that many against the Rabbitohs, but it’s South Sydney’s attack which poses the biggest threat. Averaging almost 32 points per game, this is a side with the second-best attack in the competition, and they will make the Roosters suffer.

Rabbitohs by 12

St George Illawarra Dragons vs North Queensland Cowboys

From the game of the week, the NRL presents potentially the biggest bludger of the week. This could be anything, with neither team seeming to know the first thing about consistency. The Dragons are on a six-match losing streak, having lost every game since barbecue-gate and let in an average of 34.7 points per game in that time.

The Cowboys have still won only a single game away from Townsville though, and given their last four weeks, where they have let in 129 points at 32.25 per game, but haven’t managed to cross 20 in a single performance despite playing some very poor opposition, you’d have to assume that run will continue.

Dragons by 8

Cronulla Sharks vs Brisbane Broncos

The Sharks will be desperate here. They must win, and then hope to either beat the Storm in the last round or have results go their way to make the finals. They miss the most tackles in the competition, but Josh Hannay’s side also scored 50 points against the Tigers last week. The Broncos miss the fourth-most tackles in the competition, and the Sharks’ attack should put some points on.

The Broncos were solid last week against the Warriors, but haven’t won two straight since Round 1 and 2 of the 2020 season.

Sharks by 20

Melbourne Storm vs Parramatta Eels

The Eels managed to pick up a confidence-restoring victory against the North Queensland Cowboys last week, but their return to the winners’ circle will likely be short-lived. While the Eels managed a shock win over the Storm in Round 2, they have lost five of their last seven between the clubs.

More concerningly though, their current form is atrocious having let in 124 points in the three weeks leading into the Cowboys’ clash. The Storm have won a staggering 19 straight, and while they are due for a loss, it certainly won’t be coming this week after a second half last week which saw them run on 22 second half points to four.

Storm by 14

Manly Sea Eagles vs Canterbury Bulldogs

In nine games against top-six opposition this season, the Bulldogs have lost all nine, and let in 336 points while scoring just 82. If you needed a reason to steer clear of picking them, that’s it. To make matters worse, the Manly Sea Eagles belted them a staggering 66-0 in the last clash between the sides.

Going even further than that, Tom Trbojevic, who is averaging more than three try involvements per game this year returns this week. Manly are a team on fire, and will win heavily here.

Sea Eagles by 36

Penrith Panthers vs Wests Tigers

The Tigers actually managed to beat the Panthers last time out, but that was during the Origin period. Since then, Michael Maguire’s side have won just three out of nine, letting in 30 points or more on five occasions. More concerningly, scores against sides in the top six have been 40-12, 66-16, 38-22 and 44-24, while they also let in 50 last week against Cronulla.

That is bad news against a Panthers’ side starting to rediscover their mojo. The game’s best winger Brian To’o is back, and with Nathan Cleary’s incredible try involvement count back on the park, this could be a cricket score.

Panthers by 28


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