Round 22 of the NRL premiership allowed the top bracket to consolidate their positions, while the next few rungs below stumbled in an upset-laden weekend of footy.
Underdogs bite back
Thursday and Friday went to script with comfortable wins for favourites – though Wests Tigers covered the line in a 32-18 loss to Souths – but the remainder of Round 22 was an unpredictable rollercoaster.
Newcastle ($2.27 underdogs) kicked off the shake-up with a 28-6 rout of Canberra, while St George Illawarra covered in an unlucky 24-18 defeat to desperate Manly.
Both outsiders saluted on Sunday. Canterbury ($2.47) pipped the Dolphins – who were essentially playing for their season – in a 25-24 thriller in Bundaberg, while Gold Coast ($3.07) produced a gritty performance to halt North Queensland’s six-match winning run.
— NRL (@NRL) July 30, 2023
Remarkably, all four teams who went into the weekend placed fifth to eighth suffered losses, opening the door for the Rabbitohs to climb up to sixth spot.
Big guns heat up
The whips are starting to crack in the home straight to the finals and the top premiership contenders were on fire in Round 22.
Brisbane were outstanding on both sides of the ball in a 32-10 beatdown of Sydney Roosters on Thursday, the effervescence of Reece Walsh, Ezra Mam and co. complementing a steely defensive performance.
Pat Carrigan's first-ever NRL try is the fan-voted Try of the Week! 👏 pic.twitter.com/ffBfOeIVUm
— NRL (@NRL) July 31, 2023
Melbourne bounced back from their shock loss in Newcastle a week earlier with an emphatic statement, Jahrome Hughes (185 metres, one try, three line-breaks, four try assists) and Harry Grant (two tries) leading the Storm to a 46-16 defeat of Parramatta.
Competition-leading Penrith always looked in control as they put away a gutsy, but injury-hit and error-prone, Cronulla 28-0 to underline their status as far and away the team to beat – as their season-low $2.20 premiership price would indicate.
The weekend’s result created a distinct break between the top four sides and the rest.
The Panthers and Broncos have been pulled from the Top 4 market, while the Warriors ($1.08) – who had the Round 22 bye and are eyeing off a soft run home – and Storm ($1.40) are expected to bolt in with Souths ($3.00) the only realistic hope of upsetting the current order.
How's your team looking as we get closer to #NRLFinals? 🤔
— NRL (@NRL) July 30, 2023
Eels slipping away
Parramatta is in serious danger of becoming on the second team in the past decade to miss the playoffs a year after featuring in a grand final.
Rocketing back into dark-horse premiership contention courtesy of a five-match winning streak, the Eels have lost three of their last four and were steamrolled 46-16 in Melbourne after having the better of the opening 20 minutes.
The Eels – now 11th on the ladder and $2.90 to squeak into the Top 8 – have the final-round bye but likely need to win at least three of their remaining four matches against the Dragons, Broncos, Roosters and Panthers.
Statement game of NRL Round 22
Newcastle get the nod again after following up a stunning upset of Melbourne with another remarkable – and vital – boilover on the road in Canberra.
The Knights crushed the Raiders 28-6 at GIO Stadium, Kalyn Ponga setting the tone in the opening stages with a searing line-break before eventually backing up to score the first try in the sixth minute.
Wing weapons Greg Marzhew and Dominic Young crossed before halftime and Tyson Gamble dotted down seconds after the break to effectively seal a fourth consecutive win at 26-0.
— NRL (@NRL) July 29, 2023
Ponga (203 metres, one try, one line-break, two line-break assists, six tackle-breaks) stole the show again, while veteran centre Dane Gagai (241 metres, two line-breaks, two try assists, five tackle-breaks) has been reborn since returning from injury. An unheralded pack and spine role-players Gamble, Jackson Hastings and Phoenix Crossland have also played a significant part in keeping the Knights’ seemingly dashed playoffs hopes afloat.
One point outside the Top 8, matches against the Dolphins in Perth and the Bulldogs at home in the next fortnight provides Newcastle with a huge opportunity to stake a finals claim. The Knights’ Top 8 price has been slashed to $1.75.
Trio of big sliders
There was minimal movement among the top six contenders (who all picked up two points with the exception of the Cowboys), but a sizeable gap has now opened up to the next tier of hopefuls. The Eels’ and Sharks’ premiership prices more than doubled and the Raiders spiralled further. The Knights were the big mover of the week.
NRL PREMIERSHIP ODDS
|TEAM||CURRENT PRICE||LAST WEEK’S PRICE|
|South Sydney Rabbitohs||$7.50||$8.00|
|North Queensland Cowboys||$10||$9.00|
|New Zealand Warriors||$11||$11|
|Manly Sea Eagles||$251||$301|
|Gold Coast Titans||$501||$501|
|St George Illawarra Dragons||N/A||N/A|