We have reached the final round of the NRL regular season but there is still plenty to play for with the majority of the sides still able to move places in the top eight, whilst the bottom sides are looking to avoid the wooden spoon. Continue reading for NRL Round 26 betting tips and preview.
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Brisbane Broncos vs Melbourne Storm (Thursday 7.45pm AEST)
The Broncos were on fire last week and absolutely demolished the defending premiers the Rabbitohs. They were at their attacking best with Ben Hunt and Anthony Milford looking damaging with the ball in hand as they took the line on and made constant breaks. However, in a massive blow for the Broncos, Hunt will be sidelined with a cork that should rule him out for just the one game. Titans bound Ashley Taylor who is promoted from the Under 20s side to make his NRL Debut will replace him. In a match that will determine the minor premiership, a lot of pressure has been thrown onto the young half but coach Wayne Bennet has over 20 years of experience and will be able to help keep a cool head on Taylor. The Storm are backing up after two 5-day turn around that will see the team tested on its recovery systems and the back end of the second half could be a time for the Broncos to strike. They have plenty to play for as a win could see them finish in the top four and be guaranteed at least two weeks of finals footy whilst a loss could have them drop to 7th and not have a home semi final. Due to hunt being out, I am tipping a narrow upset in this one.
Sydney Roosters vs South Sydney Rabbitohs (Friday 7.45pm AEST)
The Roosters are clearly the team to beat heading into the finals series as they just surpass the Broncos. Whilst the Rabbits are looking awfully vulnerable as they didn’t even look as if they wanted to take part in the contest last week. The side is again without captain Greg Inglis as Alex Johnston slots into fullback as clearly Dylan Walker didn’t have the fitness to play the role in last week’s loss. To make matters worse for the Bunnies, Issac Luke has again been found guilty of a shoulder charge and he will not only miss this weekend but also the first weekend of the finals – he may have played his last game for the Red and Green before heading to the Warriors next season.
The Roosters will come out firing again in attack and be hitting hard in defence. Their forward pack proved it will still be dominant despite the loss of Jarred Warea-Hargreaves and Jackson Hastings proved he was up to the task of filling in for injured halfback Mitchell Pearce.
Penrith Panthers vs Newcastle Knights (Saturday 3pm AEST)
The battle for the wooden spoon! The Panthers and Knights both have plenty to play for on Saturday as they attempt to avoid the unwanted prize of the NRL. The Panthers season has been disastrous as they again have suffered an enormous injury toll, it will be no different for them against Newcastle, as an incredible 13-first team players will be sitting on the sidelines. The Novocastrians however have begun to find some form as they are lifting for interim coach Danny Buderus. Despite a loss last weekend, they were in the match until the end and if it wasn’t for a few costly errors by Uate, they could have caused an upset.
St George Illawarra Dragons vs Wests Tigers (Saturday 5.30pm AEST)
The Tigers put on a spectacle last weekend after a tumultuous week. The announcement by the Tigers to show captain Robbie Farah the door sparked the side to victory and to Farah’s best performance of the season. If they are able to continue that intensity into this weekend the Dragons will be in for a fight to stop their points differential from being damaged too much as they could mathematically miss out on the eight. However, I expect that to fall away this week as the side has little to play for whilst the Red V have their season on the line. Their defence should be better than it was last week where their was two barge over tries and three kicks that weren’t defused that led to the Titans victory.
North Queensland Cowboys vs Gold Coast Titans (Saturday 7.30pm AEST)
The Cowboys are still without the services of Michael Morgan, however there is great news for the side with James Tamou returning to action. The forward and five-eighth were both missed last weekend as the go-forward and attack was lacking for the North Queensland side. They will be looking to get into a rhythm before heading into the finals after losing the last three of four matches.
The Titans will put up a fight and have points in them but they have shown all year that when pressure is mounted they can leak points.
Parramatta Eels vs Canberra Raiders (Sunday 2pm AEST)
These two sides have nothing to play for but pride as they sit in a position where they can’t make the finals or receive the wooden spoon. This match should be highly entertaining as the two teams look to end the season on a high note and will play an attacking brand of footy. Blake Austin has had a remarkable season and could be the buy of the season, however it has been cut short due to a shoulder injury he sustained in the teams Monday night win against the Panthers. His absence should see the Blue and Gold get the victory in this one.
Cronulla Sharks vs Manly Sea Eagles (Sunday 4pm AEST)
Arguably the match of the round as Manly will be looking for a big victory against the Sharks if the Dragons lose on Saturday night. This will see the Sea Eagles throw the footy around, as their season will be over without a big margin victory.
Whilst the Sharks moved into the top four last week for the first time all season and they will be desperate to hold onto their position. A victory would seal it whilst a loss would certainly move them down at least a few positions on the ladder. The forward pack in the Shire is dominating and they should be able to gain an advantage in the metres gained, but whether they will be able to make the most of it up against the star studded back line of the Sea Eagles is another question. It will likely be a close one which won’t be enough for Manly to make the eight but they will come away with a win.
Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs vs New Zealand Warriors (Sunday 6.35pm AEST)
The final game of the regular season will likely be a disappointing one with the Warriors failing to turn up to play for the last six weeks since Shaun Johnson suffered his season ending injury. They have been unable to fill the void left by the New Zealand international and they are a side that is very much looking forward to the summer holiday. The Bulldogs suffered a massive blow last week when they lost their halfback for the season and Trent Hodkinson has now played his last game for the Blue and White before heading to Newcastle next season. Josh Reynolds will replace him in the halves, which will bring added energy, but whether that will be positive or negative for the side remains to be seen.
TIP: No bet
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Take note: Any of the tips in this article are simply the author’s opinion, so bet at your own risk and always gamble responsibly. Also be sure to check out the Before You Bet Twitter Page for all our thoughts in the lead up to bets! Happy punting!
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