The Top 8 for the 2020 NRL season is locked in, but the race for a spot in the top four is still open after the Eels failed to throw a punch in Round 18.

Roosters Shorten Further

The longer the 2020 NRL season goes, the more likely it looks that the Sydney Roosters will win their third premiership in a row. They’ve been up and down by their standards. Injuries and rest have slowed them down at points. However, with Sonny Bill Williams giving us an idea of what he will be able to bring to the team in October and those around him finally fit, the Roosters look to have started to touch the gas as they speed up toward finals footy.

Sure, the Newcastle Knights sent out a deliberately depleted side; that’s something they might come to regret. But the Roosters made light work of the 17 Adam O’Brien did name.

With almost 500 more running metres, eight linebreaks to one, 36 tackle breaks to 18 and seven tries to two, the Roosters thrashed the Knights to win 42-12. Even with the opposition considered, it’s a bit of a statement game.

At $3.50 for the premiership after Round 17, the Roosters are now into $2.80.

Slippery Eels Keep Sliding

The Parramatta Eels slipped from $9 to $12 in the premiership market despite beating the New Zealand Warriors last week. This week, they’ve blown out to $19.

While some blue and gold tinted glasses may have seen a valiant defensive effort in their 20-2 loss to the Penrith Panthers, the Eels were never in it. Their lack of threat in attack played a big part in the defensive pressure they found themselves under.

Now 4th on the NRL ladder, the gap is growing between the Eels and the top three premiership contenders: Melbourne Storm ($4.40), Panthers ($4) and Roosters ($2.80).

Race To 4th

With the Eels falling to the Panthers in Round 18, the Canberra Raiders are just two competition points outside the Top 4 with two rounds to play. Given the respective form of the two sides and the fact the Eels are dealing with a couple of injuries in key play-making positions, their $1.06 to finish 4th is far from certain.

While they face the Brisbane Broncos and Wests Tigers to finish the season, the pressure is on the Eels to win both with the Raiders superior points differential to be the difference should the two teams finish on the same number of competition points.

The Raiders have a friendly schedule, too. The Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks and Warriors both settled their finals hopes in Round 18. The Sharks will play finals football in 2020 and are unlikely to rise high enough on the ladder to earn a home game in Week 1. The Warriors, meanwhile, will play out the final two rounds with no hope of a fairytale. If they’re going to let their minds wander back home at any point this season, it’s now.

At $6 to make the top four, winners of four of their last five and with a second chance in the finals on the line, Canberra’s $6 to make the Top 4 warrants consideration.

Bulldogs Blow It (Again)

The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs don’t seem to want to let go of the wooden spoon.

They blew a lead to the Raiders in Round 16, kept close to the Gold Coast Titans in Round 17, and wasted another strong start against the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles in Round 18 to extend their losing streak to seven games.

While only one win behind the Broncos at 15th and with a far superior points differential, the Bulldogs remain as heavy $1.20 favourites to finish the 2020 NRL season at the bottom of the ladder.