It’s been one of the best rivalries in the NRL over the last few years as the 2015 grand finalists meet again for the last regular season match of 2017. Four of the last five matches between the sides have been decided in golden point with the other match decided by just 1 point in regular time. Both the Cowboys and the Broncos line up somewhat differently against each other than they have in the past with the Cowboys’ injurees to their best players well documented and the Broncos reshuffle during the latter part of this year.
The Broncos leaked a massive 52 points last week against the Eels in a match where they didn’t turn up defensively, highlighted by the Eels scoring within the first 11 seconds after kick off. However, they still managed to score 34 points and their attack has been fluent and consistent this year. If they can plug those holes, they should get the job done.
The Cowboys managed to grind out a victory against the Tigers for their first win in the last month. To be fair, all their losses have come against teams in the top 6 but one would think that they need to beat the Broncos here to show they can compete in the finals (not to mention secure their spot which they are yet to do). Their spine (minus JT) is back together which will give them the best possible chance.
The Broncos will be hoping to claim a top 2 spot and a home qualifying final. They should be too strong but the recent history shouldn’t be ignored.
Broncos 1-12 @ 2.90
Eels v Rabbitohs
Two very contrasting teams with the Eels looking to secure a top 4 finish and the Rabbitohs playing purely for pride. The Eels put on 50+ points last week agasint the Broncos while the Rabbitohs conceded 50+ against the minor premiers in Melbourne. While it shapes up like a David v Goliath scenario, these teams met in May this year with the Eels getting up by 6 points.
The Eels have won 8 of their last 9 and will be looking to take form into the finals with a clinical win. They welcome back Manu Ma’u, Kaysa Pritchard and Beau Scott from injury in what will be a good hit out before the playoffs. They will be disappointed that they let the Broncos score points later in last weeks match but their discipline has been solid with 56/69 completed sets in the last fortnight.
The Rabbitohs can be forgiven for getting beaten by a Storm side in the form that they’re in but will be disappointed in the nature of that defeat, especially after coming off a 3 game winning streak. They will be looking to finish the year on a high and play some care-free football. While the line has been set at a conservative 12.5, its the total points where I see the value in what should be free-flowing play. I’m tipping
Over 42.5 @ 1.93
Roosters v Titans
We haven’t seen a line like this all season with the Titans who have lost 6 straight and are missing a host of players (off-season surgery) and the Roosters coming off wins against the defending premiers, won 5 of their last 7, 2nd on the ladder and at full-strength.
While the Roosters still haven’t convinced me of their premiership credentials in 2017, they’re sitting pretty with a top 4 spot guaranteed and playing decent football. This match isn’t an ideal scenario as they would like to play tougher opposition as a tune-up leading into the finals but they’ll see it as an opportunity to show they can put sides away and get their attack purring.
The Titans are known for their ability to perform with their backs to the wall but this is quite a different scenario altogether as they send out possibly their most inexperienced side in their short history. That being said, there is enough talent out there and the younger guys will be hungry enough to make an impact. I might have a nibble of the H2H but can’t go past the line.
Titans +22.5 @ 1.93
Sea Eagles v Panthers
With one game remaining, the Panthers could finish as high as 5th or as low as 9th. Barring a calamity at Lottoland, the mountain men are guaranteed a spot in the 2017 finals series. For Manly, the equation is simple – win this match and they go through; lose and the Dragons could knock them out of the 8 altogether.
Manly’s form is far from convincing with 2 wins from their last 6 and only narrowly defeating the struggling Warriors. They look a long way away from their win over the Roosters 4 weeks ago. They played against the Panthers earlier in July but lost that one by 8 points. They will be hoping that their fortunes will change at home.
The Panthers started their 7-game winning streak the last time they played the Sea Eagles but that came to an end last week against the Dragons. They were missing Matt Moylan last week and will be hoping he can recover in time for the finals, especially after losing fullback Dylan Edwards for the next 3 weeks.. The Panthers will be looking to take some form into the finals but the fitness of Moylan will determine their fortunes.Panthers H2H @ 2.05
Storm v Raiders
The Storm are absolutely red-hot coming into this clash with 6 straight wins with imposing margins, their points for & against in that period being 210-59. The Raiders are on a good streak of their own with a last minute 4-point loss to the Panthers their only blemish in the last 5 weeks. Their previous loss before that was against this week’s opposition.
It’s hard to see where the Storm’s next loss will come from but the last time they played the Raiders, they only won by 6 points. However, their recent matches against the Raiders have produced close games and the Storm won’t be taking this lightly.
For the Raiders, it’s a season of what-ifs as the other results of last weekend officially ended their chance of finals football. One of the more exciting teams in the competition but unable to convert their talent into results. It would be of little surprise if the Raiders turned it on this week with no pressure on them to perform as they can beat anyone on their day. I’m predicting plenty of points despite the recent trend between the teams
Over 40.5 @ 1.93
Knights v Sharks
The Knights will be looking to send off their departing players Gagai, Wardle and Paea on a positive note as well as giving their fans something to cheer about on the 20 year anniversary of their 1997 grand final win. The Sharks still have a top 4 spot to play for but will need the Rabbitohs to cause an upset over the in-form Eels for that to happen.
While another season brings another wooden spoon for the Knights, there is much to be proud of with the performances they’ve put in this year. They will be looking to bring back the form that brought them 3 consecutive wins just a few weeks ago despite the horror fortnight they’ve endured at the hands of the Storm and Raiders.
The Sharks have plenty to play for and their form has been sub-par leading into the finals with the Cowboys their only top 8 scalp in 2 months. To be any chance of shaking up the competition, a big turnaround is required. Both teams have lacked discipline of late which has lead to poor performances. The Knights got within 1 point last time and I’m tipping them to do one better.
Knights 1-12 @ 5.00
Dragons v Bulldogs
The Bulldogs have done what they do best (frustrated fan rant)- finding form when it means nothing. They’ve put in decent performances to knock off Manly and the Titans in consecutive weeks and have the chance to end the season of their rivals with a win on Sunday. Brett Morris is out but the Bulldogs have named Josh Reynolds in the reserves in the hope of providing him a farewell game along with Lichaa and Kasiano.
The Dragons have been inconsistent over the last 6 weeks with a 3-3 record and don’t really deserve a spot in the finals. However with an unexpected win against the Panthers last week and the Cowboys faltering against the Broncos, they have the opportunity in front of them (unless the Panthers and Manly manage a draw). The Dragons welcome back Josh Dugan after being left out for missing the bus last week.
A tough game to pick with these two rivals sure to bring plenty of emotion to this game. The Dragons haven’t beaten the Dogs in their last 5 matches and I think the boys from Belmore are a big chance this week.
Bulldogs +8 @ 1.93
Tigers v Warriors
Probably the most pointless game to end the final round but I guess they have to play at some point. The teams have had largely disappointing seasons, currently sitting at 15th and 13th respectively, and deservedly so.
The Warriors managed to lose the unloseable last week, unable to convert a chance deep in the Manly half in the last few minutes, only to lose in extra time to record their 8th straight loss. While their losing margins haven’t been huge, the fact that they are losing some of their talent next year is worrying.
The Tigers have won the last 3 clashes between the sides and it’s no surprise that all 3 matches were high scoring games with both teams boasting potent attacking players. The Tigers welcome back Luke Brooks and Elijah Taylor for this match and have produced good performances in the last few weeks with little to show for it. This match is their chance.