Two teams dropped out of the running in NRL Round 25, but the minor premiership, Top 4 and Top 8 scrambles all remain up in the air with two weeks of the regular season left.
Finals race shrinks to 10 teams
Only a couple of games went down to the wire in Round 25, but five outsiders covered the line and two clubs – Cronulla and Newcastle – saluted as underdogs in high-stakes matches.
Two sides’ finals flame fizzled out: Manly’s valiant 29-22 road loss to the Warriors (as a 12.5-point underdog) and Parramatta’s dismal 34-12 defeat to Sydney Roosters (as a 3.5-point outsider) means the high-profile rivals’ up-and-down campaigns will finish in September oblivion. The Eels are still the slimmest of hopes – but they’d need to beat the Panthers by a hefty margin this week ahead of their Round 27 bye and hope a string of other results fell their way.
Only Penrith, Brisbane, the Warriors and Melbourne are mathematically guaranteed to feature in the playoffs at this stage, though Cronulla, Newcastle and Canberra are considered as good as over line for the Top 8.
Despite falling behind the Roosters ($26) in the premiership market after a heavy loss in Newcastle, Souths ($36) are rated a $1.67 chance to snare what is likely to be eighth spot while the Roosters are $2.37 to make the finals. Given the Rabbitohs have the Round 26 bye and the Roosters – who are level on points by have an irretrievably poorer for-and-against – face the last-placed Wests Tigers, it seems almost certain to come down to a straight shootout between the bitter rivals when they meet on Friday night of Round 27.
The wheels have fallen off for North Queensland, crashing 32-12 to Cronulla at home. Where there’s life, there’s hope, however, and the Cowboys are still a $6.50 chance to squeak into the Top 8. They need wins in their remaining matches against the Dolphins and Panthers, as well as requiring either the Knights to lose their last two games (to the Sharks and Dragons), the Raiders to lose their last two (to the Broncos and Sharks) or the Rabbitohs to go down to the Roosters.
Unfortunately for the Cowboys, the least likely of all the aforementioned results is them winning at Penrith in Round 27. With the minor premiership race going down to the wire, it’s unlikely the Panthers will rest players.
Just two rounds left to secure a spot in #NRLFinals! 🤯
— NRL (@NRL) August 20, 2023
You’re my No.1
It’s no secret that fullbacks are among the most influential players for every team in the NRL, but that reality was especially pronounced over the weekend.
Sharks deputy No.1 Connor Tracey got the ball rolling by winning the inaugural Paul Green Medal in his team’s critical victory over the Cowboys.
— Cronulla Sharks (@cronullasharks) August 17, 2023
The Warriors-Sea Eagles match ultimately came down to a controversial mid-air clash between rival custodians Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, who produced a big play to charge down a Daly Cherry-Evans field goal attempt, and Reuben Garrick in the latter stages. Injured in the incident, Garrick was helpless to stop a rampaging Marata Niukore as he went over for the go-ahead try.
James Tedesco scored two tries and laid on another against Parramatta to keep the Roosters in the finals frame, though a concussion is set to rule him out this week. Dylan Edwards bagged a double and ran for an incredible 303 metres as the Panthers overran the Titans.
— NRL (@NRL) August 19, 2023
In was a tale of two fullbacks in Newcastle as Knights wizard Kalyn Ponga continued his electric run of form to inspire a crunch win over the Rabbitohs, who marquee man Latrell Mitchell struggled to ignite – and could have ruled himself out of a do-or-die Round 27 encounter with Tedesco and the Roosters thanks to an errant elbow.
Saving perhaps the best for last, Jordan Rapana – in just his third game since assuming the role – was sensational with a try, three line-breaks, three try assists, 187 metres and nine tackle-breaks to lead the Raiders to a typically patchy, but nevertheless vital, 36-24 defeat of the Bulldogs.
— NRL (@NRL) August 20, 2023
In the Clive Churchill Medal market, fullbacks are five teams’ shortest-priced contender, second shortest for two clubs, and third shortest for two more.
Statement game of NRL Round 25
Newcastle have featured in this section a number of times during what is now a seven-match winning streak, but a 29-10 victory over wobbling big guns South Sydney genuinely elevated the Knights from finals bolter to premiership smoky.
Greg Marzhew had a first-half mortgage on the scoreboard with a hat-trick, while the Knights went up a gear after the Rabbitohs struck early in the second half through Damien Cook, pushing back out to 22-4 with Daniel Saifiti and Adam Clune going over.
Bradman Best’s runaway effort in the 69th minute effectively sealed the deal, before halfback Clune – standing in for Jackson Hastings – iced it with a field goal.
Match Highlights 🎥 – #NRLKnightsSouths
The Knights made it seven wins on the trot with a victory over the Rabbitohs in front of a sell-out home crowd! pic.twitter.com/02UNJvx1MB
— NRL (@NRL) August 20, 2023
With Kalyn Ponga and a blockbusting three-quarter line terrorising opponents, the Knights have scored 26-plus points in seven straight games. But the Knights’ effort in defence – leaking more than 18 points only once during their streak – and the grit of a relatively unheralded pack deserve attention.
Wallowing in the bottom four in late-June, Newcastle now look more than capable of doing significant damage in September. The Knights are into $23 for the title and will be in the box-seat for a home elimination final if they knock over Cronulla at home this Sunday.
Roosters’ price slashed in massive shake-up
It was steady as she goes among the top four premiership contenders, but the price for the remaining six teams in the frame all changed by a minimum of $11 after a frantic weekend. The Roosters were the big movers, in from $151 to the seventh line at $26, while the Sharks and Knights both shortened to be level on the fifth line at $23.
The embattled Rabbitohs ballooned out to more than double last week’s price, but the biggest sliders were the Cowboys – out from $19 (sixth) to $101 longshots (equal-ninth).
NRL PREMIERSHIP ODDS
|TEAM||CURRENT PRICE||LAST WEEK’S PRICE|
|New Zealand Warriors||$12||$11|
|South Sydney Rabbitohs||$36||$15|
|North Queensland Cowboys||$101||$19|
|Manly Sea Eagles||N/A||N/A|
|Gold Coast Titans||N/A||N/A|
|St George Illawarra Dragons||N/A||N/A|