The final round of the home and away season begins and one of the highlights will be the Sydney Roosters against the South Sydney Rabbitohs in NRL Round 25 action.
We preview all eight games below:
South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Sydney Roosters
Neither the Roosters or Rabbitohs will want to head into the finals on the back of a loss, especially when there’s a solid chance they could square off once again in September. Since a shock loss to the Cowboys, the Roosters have won their last seven matches and racked up some enormous scores in the process. They are the form team in the competition and appear to be timing their run perfectly as they look to capture back-to-back premierships. Meanwhile, the Rabbitohs are back on track after a series of sub-par performances after the Origin period, defeating the Broncos and Warriors to reclaim a place in the top four. The Roosters beat Souths 12-4 in last year’s preliminary final, but the Rabbitohs claimed a 10-point win in the opening round of the season. It should be another close game and I don’t see much separating the sides, but the Roosters have done a lot of winning lately and I can see them – consciously or not – taking their foot off the pedal in this one, especially with second spot locked in. I’m backing the Rabbitohs home in a tight one.
Prediction: Rabbitohs win ($2.36 TopBetta)
Parramatta Eels vs Manly Sea Eagles
Parramatta and Manly will both be aiming to bring winning momentum into the finals when the square off on Friday night at Bankwest. The Eels went on a four-match winning streak and were hopeful of surging into a top four spot, but their progress was halted over the last fortnight with close losses to the Bulldogs and Eels. However, it’s far from panic stations for Brad Arthur, with the Eels unlucky not to come out on top in both games, especially last week’s golden point thriller at Suncorp. The Sea Eagles lost six out of 10 games when Trbojevic was missing earlier in the season with a hamstring injury, illustrating just how important he is to the side. And with their top four hopes all but over, the Sea Eagles could all of a sudden be facing an immediate exit from the finals. Manly won their previous clash 36-24 back in Round 18, but with Trbojevic, I don’t think they can repeat that effort, especially at Bankwest. Eels to bounce back and edge this one.
Prediction: Eels win ($1.52 TopBetta)
Melbourne Storm vs North Queensland Cowboys
Fresh off securing the minor premiership with their 30-point win over Manly last week, Melbourne look to register their 10th consecutive victory over the Cowboys as they prepare for the upcoming finals series. It’s been another hugely impressive season from Melbourne, especially after the retirement of Billy Slater, with the team losing just four of their 24 games heading into the last round. Meanwhile, the Cowboys are aiming to win three straight games for just the second time this season after victories over the Panthers and Bulldogs over the last fortnight. It’s been a season to forget for the Cowboys, but at least they are giving their fans something to cheer about at the end of the campaign, most recently edging the Bulldogs in the club’s last ever game at 1300SMILES Stadium last week. But they have traditionally struggled against Melbourne and even if the Storm are resting some of their big guns, I don’t see Bellamy and his team having a slip up one week before the finals.
Prediction: Storm 1-12 ($3.25 TopBetta)
Canberra Raiders vs New Zealand Warriors
After cementing a top four finish last week, the Raiders will be determined to maintain their positive form before heading into next week’s finals when they face the struggling Warriors on Saturday. The Raiders stepped up and scored a solid win over the Sharks last week, but Ricky Stuart is playing it safe and resting some of his star players for this clash. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Jordan Rapana, Iosia Soliola and John Bateman are all out for this one. The Warriors kept themselves in the finals race with an upset win over Manly in Round 21, but they’ve since lost their last three matches, conceding 115 points in that period and scoring just 32. Throw in a Round 20 loss to Canberra at home where they leaked 46 points, and the Warriors will do well to keep this scoreline close on Saturday. Even though they are resting four of their best players, Canberra will want to keep their foot on the pedal in this one, especially in front of their home fans, and I expect them to run out comfortable winners.
Prediction: Raiders 13+ ($2.15 TopBetta)
Canterbury Bulldogs vs Brisbane Broncos
Brisbane will be out to take some winning form into the finals series when they face the improving Bulldogs on Saturday. The Broncos are all but assured of finals football after edging Parramatta in a thrilling golden point showdown last week, with Jamayne Isaako slotting home the winning field goal. Canterbury have done a fantastic job of propelling themselves into finals contention over the last month or so, but their brave run came to an end last week as they were pipped in a close one by the Cowboys. But now that the Bulldogs are out of the finals race and don’t have anything to play for but pride, I do wonder if they will have much left in the tank for this game. Brisbane eased to a 28-6 win back in Round 18 and I think they can rack up another big scoreline on Saturday night.
Prediction: Broncos win ($1.58 TopBetta)
Gold Coast Titans vs St George Illawarra Dragons
It’s amazing to think this time last year, the Dragons were on the verge of making the preliminary finals, only to fall in a close game to the Rabbitohs. Fast forward to the present, and Paul McGregor’s side have won just seven of 23 games and are second-last on the ladder. Meanwhile, the Titans are the only team having a worse season than the Dragons, with the club about to pick up the wooden spoon as they come into this clash six points behind their opponents. Gold Coast have only won four out of their 23 matches this season and it’s been another harsh reality check when it comes to the team simply not having an NRL standard roster. The Dragons have won their last three games, scoring 40+ points in all of them. Anything could happen in this clash with two poor sides that have nothing to play for, but if the Dragons turn up with the right attitude, they should be winning this one.
Prediction: Dragons win ($1.75 TopBetta)
Wests Tigers vs Cronulla Sharks
It’s a straight 80-minute shootout to decide the eighth and last team to book a place in the finals series as the Tigers and Sharks square off in the penultimate game of the regular season on Sunday. The Tigers bring superb form into this encounter, scoring a combined 96 points in crushing victories over the Knights and Dragons, while the Sharks missed a chance to all but wrap up finals football last week as they were beaten 15-14 by the Raiders. Cronulla’s season has been a strange one, with stats coming out this week that they would currently be in third spot if not for some of the worst goal kicking in the league. In what is surely set to be a close game, will that come back to hurt them again? The Sharks have won their last five meetings, but I’m leaning on the side of the Tigers in this one. Cronulla have had a poor season by their standards and don’t really look like a team who’s enjoying their football right now – the Tigers have been on fire over the last two weeks, and at their spiritual home, they should have enough firepower to get the job done.
Prediction: Tigers win ($1.97 TopBetta)
Penrith Panthers vs Newcastle Knights
It’s been a disappointing season for both of these teams as the Knights and Panthers prepare for one last game before turning their attention to the off-season. Both teams at one stage seemed destined to play finals footy – the Panthers started the year horribly but then went on a big winning streak to surge into the eight, only to relinquish momentum and never get it back. Newcastle meanwhile stormed into the top four with seven wins from nine games midway through the season, but they’ve stumbled dramatically and have since seen coach Nathan Brown leave before getting the official sack. The Panthers have won six of their last seven meetings and because of the Maloney factor, I think they will extend that record. Newcastle had a big win over the Titans last week, but at the time they still had a slim shot of making the finals. With nothing on the line, I can see a flat performance from them on Sunday. Penrith to send Maloney out a winner.
Prediction: Panthers win ($1.68 TopBetta)