The penultimate round of the NRL home and away season saw a number of huge games take place, with many sides still jostling for spots in the top four and top eight. Though there was minimal movement in the upper echelons of the ladder, a couple of one-sided games saw one significant change in the lower part of the eight. Take a look at how some of the biggest games went down below.
Thursday Night: Brisbane Broncos vs Parramatta Eels
Round 24 started with a game which was always going to have huge repercussions for both teams, and from the outset it appeared that they would be negative for the Broncos. On their home deck and just a week after losing to the Storm there by 48 points, they conceded the first four tries within 26 minutes to go down 24-0, and there was no coming back from there. They stemmed the flow over the next 40 minutes of the game but didn’t manage to bring back the margin, before the floodgates opened for the Eels over the last 15 minutes of the match. Four more tries saw their lead balloon out to 47 points, and when the whistle sounded they led 53-6. It was an embarrassing loss for the Broncos, who have now lost their past two games at Suncorp Stadium by a combined total of 95 points, and with goal difference likely to play a role in their finals bid, the scale of the defeat may well come back to haunt them. In contrast, the Eels’ dominant win meant they have now won their past two by a combined total of 83 points, and with one round to go their top four hopes remain intact.
Next Match for Brisbane: Dragons ($2.25) vs Broncos ($1.65)
A finals spot is on the line for the Broncos in Round 25, and while they’ll head in as favourites with NRL betting sites, they’ll be reliant on other results going their way to finish in the top eight.
Next Match for Parramatta: Eels ($2.35) vs Storm ($1.60)
As far as home and away games go, this one is about as big as it gets. A top four spot is on the line when they welcome the Storm to CommBank Stadium, with the winner guaranteed a double chance and the loser banished to an Elimination Final.
Friday Night: Melbourne Storm vs Sydney Roosters
Though the betting apps had them pegged as favourites, the Storm were never going to have things their own way against the Roosters, even on their home turf. And so it proved. The visitors, on the back of six consecutive wins – the latest of which was a 66-point demolition of the Tigers – were the first to strike, with Sam Walker opening the scoring with a penalty goal in the third minute of the game, before Daniel Tupou managed a try just four minutes later. When Joseph Manu scored a try of his own in the 18th minute they had opened up a 14-0 lead, but by half time the Storm had dwindled that back down to six courtesy of a converted try to Xavier Coates and a penalty goal to Nick Meaney on the stroke of half time. The first 15 minutes of the second half was an arm wrestle, before Joseph Suaalii broke the deadlock in the 57th minute to take the Roosters’ lead back out to ten points. Typical of the see-sawing nature of this game, however, Nick Meaney got one back just eight minutes later and then converted his own try to make it 18-14 to the visitors. Try as they might, however, the Storm couldn’t find another score. The four-point loss means they’ll need to win next week against the Eels to make the top four, while the Roosters won their seventh on the trot to ensure they’ll get a home Elimination Final if they win next week.
Next Match for Melbourne: Eels ($2.35) vs Storm ($1.60)
The equation is simple for the Storm; beat the Eels, and they’ll earn themselves a double chance. Lose, and they’ll finish outside the top four.
Next Match for Sydney: Roosters ($1.65) vs Rabbitohs ($2.25)
The rampaging Roosters are arguably the most in-form team in the league right now, but the Rabbitohs are right there with them in that conversation. This should be an enthralling clash.
Saturday Afternoon: Canberra Raiders vs Manly Sea Eagles
The Broncos’ disastrous loss on Thursday night opened the door for the Raiders – who have been patiently waiting just outside the top eight for weeks in the hope that someone above them slips up – to jump into eighth position. And against the Sea Eagles, they were expected to do just that, entering the game as comfortable favourites with betting sites against a side that had lost its five previous games, many by a significant margin. It didn’t take long for those expectations to prove justified. The Raiders exploded out of the blocks, scoring their first try in the fifth minute through Jordan Rapana and going on to score another four more in the first 30 minutes of the game. By half time they’d established a 28-0 lead, and the second half continued on in a similar vein. The Sea Eagles were, at least, able to get on the board, but four more tries for the Raiders saw them end up with a 48-6 victory. The result drew them level with the Broncos in terms of wins, but courtesy of the dominant nature of both their victory and the Broncos’ loss, the Raiders superior goal difference now sees them sitting in eighth place with a round to go.
Next Match for Canberra: Tigers ($3.30) vs Raiders ($1.34)
All the Raiders need to do in Round 25 to confirm their finals spot is win, and they will be widely expected to do that against the bottom team in the league.
Next Match for Manly: Bulldogs ($1.47) vs Sea Eagles ($2.70)
It’s been an ignominious end to the season for the Sea Eagles, and even against the Bulldogs it’s tough to see them conjuring up a win in Round 25.
Saturday Evening: Cronulla Sharks vs Canterbury Bulldogs
The Sharks were already all but guaranteed a spot in the top four prior to this game, but they headed into this game hoping to remove any doubts and potentially move into the top four. Unsurprisingly they were relatively comfortable favourites on the betting apps, but the Bulldogs have played some decent footy in the back half of the season, even if that hasn’t been the case so much over the past few weeks. Over the course of the 80 minutes, however, they were no match for the Sharks. In a relatively defensive game, just three tries were scored – all of them to the home side. The Sharks have been defensively sound all year, but they took it to a new level on Saturday evening, and try as they might the Bulldogs couldn’t score a solitary point throughout the course of the game. The Sharks, for their part, weren’t exactly at their offensive best, but they were good enough to earn a comfortable 16-0 win. The victory saw them move into second spot on the NRL ladder, and another win next week will guarantee them a home qualifying final.
Next Match for Cronulla: Knights ($5.50) vs Sharks ($1.15)
That game that the Sharks need to win to lock in a top two spot comes against the Knights, a side who they should have no problems in disposing of.
Next Match for Canterbury: Bulldogs ($1.50) vs Sea Eagles ($2.60)
The Bulldogs have dropped the ball in the last few weeks as they head towards season’s end, but they’ll nonetheless be expected to beat the Sea Eagles, who have been even worse over that time.
Saturday Night: South Sydney Rabbitohs vs North Queensland Cowboys
The last of a plethora of consequential games in Round 24 saw the rampaging Rabbitohs come up against the second-placed Cowboys at Accor Stadium. In front of just over 15,000 supporters, the Rabbitohs scored first through a penalty goal in just the sixth minute, but it was the visitors who were the first to score a try just a couple of minutes later. It came through Murray Taulagi and gave them a four-point lead, but that deficit swung into the Bunnies’ favour in the 17th minute when Keaon Koloamatangi responded with a converted try. Try machine Alex Johnston then gave the home side a handy buffer with his 28th of the year – far and away the most in the league – and when the half time whistle blew, the home side had a 14-6 lead. The second half was an arm wrestle throughout, and it took nearly 30 minutes for either side to break the deadlock. In the 68th minute, it was Kyle Feldt who did, bringing the margin back to just four points. In a frantic last ten minutes, the Cowboys’ job was made far more difficult when they lost two players to the sin bin within the space of three minutes, and with a two-man advantage the Rabbitohs were able to score their third try of the match in the dying minutes to assure them of victory. The 20-10 win locked them into the finals, and they could finish as high as fifth if results go their way next week. For the Cowboys, the loss saw them drop to third, but they remain a lock inside the top four.
Next Match for South Sydney: Roosters ($1.65) vs Rabbitohs ($2.25)
There aren’t many teams who the Rabbitohs wouldn’t be favourites with the betting sites against at the moment, but the Roosters are one of them. With plenty on the line in the oldest rivalry in the game, expect fireworks in this one.
Next Match for North Queensland: Cowboys ($1.34) vs Panthers ($3.30)
In an interesting quirk of fixturing, the Cowboys need to beat the Panthers to avoid the Panthers in their Qualifying Final, but with lots more to play for than their opponents and on their home turf they are a good chance of doing so.