NRL Round 25 Recap
The final round of the NRL home and away season saw a number of closely matched teams face off; in fact, the first five games were between teams side by side on the ladder, while the next was a top-of-the-table clash between the Cowboys and Panthers. Unsurprisingly there were plenty of entertaining games as a result, while elsewhere a couple of significant results played a major role in the final make-up of the top eight. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest games which took place over the course of Round 25.
Thursday Night: Parramatta Eels vs Melbourne Storm
With the winner of this game set to earn a spot in the top four and the double chance that comes with it, the first game of Round 25 was always going to attract plenty of interest. And while the travelling Storm went in as favourites with the betting sites, it was the home side who got off to the start they wanted with a try in the 12th minute. A tight tussle ensued over the remainder of the first half, with the only other score a penalty goal to the Eels, giving them an 8-0 lead at the main break. They extended that lead shortly after half time to 14 points, and when Maiko Sivo scored again in the 60th minute, Parramatta had a virtually unassailable, and somewhat surprising, 20-0 lead. The Storm went on to score three tries in the last 15 minutes of the game to make the final score a more respectable 22-14, but realistically that flattered them in what was a hugely disappointing game for the Storm with so much on the line. The Eels, in contrast, stood up when it mattered most in what has been an at times erratic season for them, and have now put themselves right in the Premiership hunt with a top four finish.
Next Match for Parramatta
The Eels’ face the toughest test in the NRL for their second qualifying final in three years, heading to Penrith to take on the best side in the league in the Panthers.
Next Match for Melbourne
It’s do or die for the Storm now following their loss on Thursday night, and though they’ll be expected to get the job done, the Raiders are riding a wave of momentum.
Friday Night: Sydney Roosters vs South Sydney Rabbitohs
The Roosters and the Rabbitohs marked the third consecutive game to kick off the round being played between sides next to one another on the ladder, and though neither of them was ever likely to move from sixth and seventh, a victory to the Bunnies would have seen them leapfrog their old rivals. That meant that while these two sides were always destined to face off again in week one of the finals, where it would be played would be determined by the winner of this game. The betting apps had the Roosters pegged as favourites on their home deck, and they took just six minutes to justify that with a try to Angus Crichton. They would score two more in the first half to the Rabbitohs one, and with a penalty goal to the home side as well they entered the main break leading 20-6. Egan Butcher took that lead to 20 just the other wide of half time, but consecutive tries to Taane Milne in a 20-minute period brought the Rabbitohs back to within ten points with ten minutes remaining – a tough but not impossible task. The Roosters, however, dug their heels in with a home final on the line, and kept the Bunnies at bay to record an important win in a fiery game – and one which will be replicated next week.
Next Match for Sydney
The Roosters are probably the most in-form side in the league, and will be confident they can repeat last Friday’s result and advance to a semi-final in the process.
Next Match for South Sydney
Last year’s grand finalists will have their work cut out to turn things around after last week’s result, but they have been in fantastic form too so certainly can’t be written off.
Saturday Evening: St. George Illawarra Dragons vs Brisbane Broncos
After a shocking couple of weeks the Broncos had gone from a top four contender to outside the top eight with a game to go, but with a win against the Dragons they could still give themselves a chance to play finals – and the betting sites expected them to do just that. As it turned out, however, that motivation wasn’t enough to turn around their shocking form. Jack Bird opened the scoring for the home side in just the fifth minutes before Delouise Hoeter responded 20 minutes later, but a try late in the first half to the Dragons saw them leading 10-6 at the break. They extended that lead in the 44th minute, but Billy Walters returned serve and kept the Broncos in it 15 minutes later. The Dragons hung onto their four-point lead until deep in the game, but with their season on the line the Broncos just couldn’t break through. A Mathew Feagai try in the 75th minute was the nail in the coffin, giving St. George Illawarra a 22-12 lead with just a couple of minutes to go and resigning the Broncos to a missed finals opportunity that they will rue all off-season long.
Next Match for St. George
The Dragons’ season has come to an end, but they demonstrated significant improvement and rarely put in a showing that wasn’t at least very competitive.
Next Match for Brisbane
While the Broncos end the year a win ahead of the Dragons, their inauspicious last few weeks means they will enter the off-season frustrated rather than buoyed by their improvement.
Saturday Night: North Queensland Cowboys vs Penrith Panthers
A top of the table clash between the third placed Cowboys and top of the table Panthers headlined Saturday night’s action, but with top spot already well and truly sewn up for Penrith there was little for them to play for. As a result, the Cowboys headed in as relatively comfortable favourites with NRL betting sites – a rarity for any side against Penrith – and from the outset it was clear why. The side they fielded was a shell of their best team, and they couldn’t compete with an impressive Cowboys side, which managed four tries in the first half alone to open up a 20-0 lead. The Panthers pegged a couple back in the second half but the home side continued on their merry way offensively, scoring three more tries to ultimately run out 38-8 winners. With the Sharks winning their game the Cowboys weren’t able to jump back into second spot despite the victory, but nonetheless it gives them a solid base of momentum heading into the finals. The Panthers, meanwhile, won’t be too concerned about the defeat, and will be fully expecting to bounce back to their irrepressible best next week.
Next Match for North Queensland
Two of the most improved teams of the season will face off in the second qualifying final, with the Cowboys heading to Cronulla to take on a talented and in-form Sharks outfit.
Next Match for Penrith
The Panthers will regain a host of stars for their first final as they attempt to defend last year’s flag, and will head back to their home turf where they have lost just two games all year.
Sunday Afternoon: Wests Tigers vs Canberra Raiders
The final game of the home and away season would have been to decide eighth position had the Broncos won, but their loss meant that the Raiders were all but guaranteed the spot – barring a catastrophic loss of over 50 points. Against the Wests Tigers that was unlikely, but nonetheless a confidence-boosting win heading into a qualifying final against the Storm was always going to be welcome. And almost immediately, it was clear that they had no plans to rest on their laurels following the Broncos loss; by the 32-minute mark, they’d scored seven tries and Jamal Fogarty had converted them all, giving them a huge 42-0 lead at half-time. Unsurprisingly things slowed up a little in the second half, but nonetheless their 56-10 victory was a fitting way to end what has been an impressive back half of the year, and one which has seen them jump into the top eight just in time. For the Tigers, meanwhile, the loss was also fitting; though they’ve had periods of competitiveness, their year has not been a good one, and they end it two games clear on the bottom of the ladder.
Next Match for Wests Tigers
The Tigers will head into the off-season with plenty of soul-searching to do, having won just four games for the season.
Next Match for Canberra
The Raiders’ reward for their barnstorming end to the year is an elimination final at AAMI Park against the Storm, and unsurprisingly they’ll enter the game as underdogs with the betting sites.