NRL Round 25 Preview

The final round of the NRL regular season is upon us. The minor premiership, top four and top eight are all still yet to be decided. Here is this week’s preview.

Canberra Raiders vs Sydney Roosters

The cavalry have returned for the Roosters. Angus Crichton, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Josh Morris and Matt Ikuvalu are all back to release some of the enormous strain on a club who couldn’t name 21 players last Tuesday. Given their edge defence leaked badly last week as they conceded 54, Morris and Crichton’s returns will add plenty given they are two of the most efficient defenders in the competition.

The Raiders attack though is simply unlikely to be good enough. The green machine have only scored more than 24 points once in the last five weeks. Despite their injuries, the Roosters have done it three times in the same time period.

Roosters by 12

Cronulla Sharks vs Melbourne Storm

The Storm are resting Cameron Munster, Christian Welch, Felise Kaufusi, Jesse Bromwich, Josh Addo-Carr, Kenneath Bromwich, Reimis Smith and Tom Eisenhuth. That is four State of Origin players and two Kiwis. They welcome back Dale Finucane, but even the absences don’t mean they go into this match as outsiders.

Ryan Papenhuyzen, Nicho Hynes and Jahrome Hughes have been responsible for a team leading the competition in line breaks. That is bad news for the Sharks, who miss more tackles than anyone else and have a woeful defensive record. That is all it’ll take this week to end their season prematurely.

Storm by 10

Parramatta Eels vs Penrith Panthers

Parramatta returned to some sort of form last weekend, shocking the Storm. They have responded by resting virtually their entire first grade team. So short on players were they that four players rested are in the reserves list.

There will be no cohesion in defence, not much in attack and any stats you could use have been thrown out the window. A virtually full-strength Penrith though who still defend better than any other team and make more metres than any other should roll right over the Eels in a flogging.

Panthers by 26

Brisbane Broncos vs Newcastle Knights

An absolute dead rubber. The Knights have only played average opposition, but are yet to lose with both Mitchell Pearce and Jake Clifford in the team. It’s hard to see that changing here with the battling Broncos coming in off a loss to the Sharks last week.

It could be an incredibly dour game, with the Knights sitting second-last for attack, and the Broncos third-last. The Knights have put points on at times though, and generally defend to a much higher standard. That should be the difference.

Knights by 6

North Queensland Cowboys vs Manly Sea Eagles

The Sea Eagles are short-priced favourites, and with good reason. They have looked just about unbeatable with Tom Trbojevic who now has a simply ridiculous 22 tries and 25 try assists in 14 games. That’s just a tick under four try involvements per game.

The Cowboys, on the other hand, have the second worst defence in the competition. They had a worse record than even the Bulldogs before last weekend. The chance of them stopping the Turbo express is next to nil as Manly wind up for the finals and confirm a top four spot, something which seemed unthinkable five rounds into the season.

Sea Eagles by 36

South Sydney Rabbitohs vs St George Illawarra Dragons

The Dragons have lost seven straight heading into the final round of the season, giving up points at 35 per game. It’s hard to quantify just how poor they have been, given they gave up 38 to the Cowboys last week. Their attack has barely fired a shot either, although Jayden Sullivan, Talatau Amone and Tyrell Sloan were impressive playing alongside each other last week.

It’s hard to work out what to expect from the Rabbitohs, given Latrell Mitchell’s season-ending suspension and Adam Reynolds, Damien Cook, Dane Gagai, Liam Knight and Thomas Burgess all being rested. They are at virtually reserve grade status, but that’s perfectly acceptable. The Dragons couldn’t beat a reserve grade team anyway.

Rabbitohs by 14

Gold Coast Titans vs New Zealand Warriors

Provided the Sharks and Raiders lose, the Titans are still in with a shot at playing finals footy. This is as important as it gets for them, and desperation alone could be enough to will them over the line.

Their attack has fallen apart in the last three weeks however, and AJ Brimson being out hasn’t helped it. However, there is absolutely nothing between these two teams statistically, and after a brief kick, the Warriors have lost two straight to the Broncos and Raiders. With more pressing issues at mind, like how to get home, the Titans should scrap home in an ordinary contest.

Titans by 4

Wests Tigers vs Canterbury Bulldogs

Hoo-boy. Who on Earth approved this as the final game of the regular season? Two teams out of finals contention. Two teams who can’t defend. Two teams who have been smack bang average all season.

While both defences are incredibly poor (The Bulldogs are last, the Tigers 14th in that metric), the Bulldogs simply can’t attack. They haven’t averaged 15 points per game. The Tigers are over 20 in that stat and scored 28 a month ago when the two sides played. Expect something similar here.

Tigers by 8


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