THE final round of the NRL season is upon us and the make up of the top eight remains well and truly up in the air.
Aside from runaway minor premiers Melbourne, just three wins separates second to eighth and with ninth placed St George only a further win behind, heartbreak is potentially on the cards for one of Manly, North Queensland and Penrith this weekend.
Here’s how our NRL experts see the round unfolding. You can bet on every NRL fixture here.
North Queensland Cowboys $2.70 v Brisbane Broncos $1.47
The Cowboys toughed out a win against the Tigers last week and although the Broncos present a tougher test, we don’t rate them as strong a chance as the market here. They defended like turnstiles against Parramatta last week and they won’t get it all their own way in this grudge match. Expect a tight one here.
Betting tip: Cowboys +5.5 @ $1.94
Parramatta Eels $1.21 v South Sydney Rabbitohs $4.50
The Eels showed they’re on track for finals by putting 52 points on the Broncos in Brisbane last week despite missing some key attacking weapons. It was a polar opposite to Souths who put in an abysmal showing against Melbourne, conceding 64 points. One team is playing to secure a top four spots and two bites of the finals cherry, the other is playing for wages.
Betting tip: Parramatta -12.5 @ $1.94
Sydney Roosters $1.08 v Gold Coast Titans $8.10
The Roosters toughed it out to down Cronulla at Shark Park last week and have been handed an easy kill int he final round in front of their home fans. The Titans have lost six straight and already have one foot on the plane to their end of season holiday. This should be a glorified training run for the Chooks – back them to fly out of the blocks and take their foot off the gas late.
Betting tip: Roosters -10.5 half time handicap @ $1.96
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles $1.78 v Penrith Panthers $2.05
As far as finals connotations are concerned, this is the match of the round. Sixth placed Penrith’s winning streak was snapped by St George last week and they are level on points with the eighth placed Sea Eagles. The winner will likely secure a home week one final – but due to their inferior points differential, the loser could final themselves out of the eight altogether if St George gets up on Sunday. Manly is most vulnerable on the ladder, so back them to win a nail biter at home.
Betting tip: Manly 1-12 @ $2.90
Melbourne Storm $1.30 v Canberra Raiders $3.56
Melbourne was showing off last week when piling on 64 against the hapless Rabbitohs and while they are expected to win again, it should be a more subdued effort. The Raiders produced a valiant late season surge towards the top eight but after their finals hopes were squashed, last week’s win over Newcastle was a mere consolation prize. Melbourne will likely rotate their stars in and out of this match and it may pay to take Canberra with a healthy start.
Betting tip: Canberra +9.5 @ $1.96
Newcastle Knights $3.56 v Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks $1.30
Newcastle’s high scoring match against Canberra last week had an exhibition feel to it and its unlikely this week’s contest will be as open. The Sharks are a grinding side and will be out to ensure they wrap up fifth place on the ladder (at worst) and a home elimination final after last week’s disappointing home loss to the Roosters. They were unlucky to be pipped late and the Knights shouldn’t present as many issues.
Betting tip: Sharks -10.5 @ $1.96
St George Illawarra Dragons $1.37 v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs $3.12
It is all or nothing for the Dragons this week and their superior for and against tally will see them play finals football if they can beat the Bulldogs on Sunday (provided Manly and Penrith don’t draw AND North Queensland don’t win/draw). Canterbury, the season’s biggest disappointments, have won two late season fixtures but won’t be able to deny St George here.
Betting tip: Dragons -7.5 @ $1.85
Wests Tigers $1.56 v New Zealand Warriors $2.45
A bit of a fizzer to close out the regular season sees the Tigers farewell their fans for the year at Leichhardt. In particular it signals the last hurrah of Aaron Woods and James Tedesco at the club and they can lead the Tigers to victory against the hapless Warriors, who have inexplicably lost eight straight.
Betting tip: Tigers to win @ $1.56