Just two rounds to go in the NRL season and the battle for the final two spots in the top eight is heated! We have a full preview and tips for all eight games in Round 24, kicking off with the Cowboys and Bulldogs on Thursday night below.
After four wins on the trot, the Bulldogs have given themselves every opportunity to reach the top 8. So they must beat the Cowboys this Thursday night. It will be an emotional game for the Cowboys as they bid farewell to 1300SMILES Stadium before moving to their new stadium in 2020. They'll come into this game after beating the Panthers here last week and they'll be unchanged, in a rare sight after a season of lineup changes. Defensively, the Bulldogs are on fire and that should see this turn into a low scoring affair. In their last 2 games alone, they've conceded just 6 points against both the Eels and Rabbitohs. So we like the chances of the Under, which is 10-0 in the Bulldogs last 10 night games.
Souths are back in contention for a top-four finish after a close win over the Broncos and they'll look to continue the pain for NZ. The Warriors have looked awful in back to back heavy defeats in Australia, losing 42-16 (Sharks) and 42-6 (Roosters). Overall, the Warriors have been poor at Mt Smart this season as well and it doesn't bode well for them here. Motivation looks low as their season is over. In contrast, the Rabbitohs will be more desperate as they aim to finish top 4. Souths have also won the last 3 meetings at this venue and the last 2 have been via 13+. NZ is just 4-7 ATS as a home underdog so we can't see them getting close.
Friday night football is back at Suncorp Stadium with an intriguing clash between the Broncos and Eels. Brisbane lost a nail-biter here last week against Souths and will be out for revenge. They're just hanging onto 8th position at the moment so a win could seal a finals spot. Meanwhile, the Eels ran into the in-form Bulldogs last Thursday and couldn't get their attack going. It looks like they'll finish 6th so this will be a good finals warmup. In the end, the numbers are stacked against the Eels considering the home team is 4-1 in this matchup. They also haven't played a top 8 side for a while and the Broncos have the advantage after almost upsetting Souths last week. There's also extra motivation for Brisbane as they were crushed 38-10 in Sydney during the last meeting. Broncos to win as the safe bet and the line is good value as well.
This figures to be a high scoring affair as the Knights and Titans clash in Newcastle on Saturday afternoon. We have the Knights coming off a 46-4 crushing loss against the Tigers and the Titans who've lost 9 straight games. They're easily the worst defensive team in the NRL and this could get ugly if the Knights team of 2 weeks ago shows up as they put up 42 points on the Cowboys. So we're loving the Overs after the last 3 meetings have all totalled 50+ points.
The game of the round comes to Brookvale Oval on Saturday as the Sea Eagles face the Storm. This has been a great modern-day rivalry and hopefully, we see a repeat of the last encounter. In Melbourne, the two sides went into golden point as the Sea Eagles outlasted Melbourne for a famous victory. The last 2 meetings have resulted in a 1 point margin so we like the chances of another close one. Since that win over the Storm, Manly find themselves in the top 4 after 3 wins in their last 4. Including a great win over the Raiders in Canberra last week. Meanwhile, the Storm have been a bit off over the last 2 weeks and it's prompted a change at halfback with Croft out of favour once again. Ultimately, this should be another close contest between two sides that pride themselves on defence. We'll be backing either team by under 10 for good value.
The NRL action returns to the SCG on Saturday night as the Roosters look to continue their red-hot form here. They're undefeated in their last 7 games at the SCG since Round 1 and that includes scoring 40+ in the last 3. So if the Panthers don't show up defensively, this could get really ugly. Latrell Mitchell is also back in the Roosters lineup this week. With a top 8 spot on the line last week, the Panthers were awful against the Cowboys. In the end, the Overs trend is nice at the SCG (7-1). But a Saturday night game can buck the trend sometimes. So this a game that weren't not 100% sure on and thus it will be no bet.
Another fantastic matchup in Round 24 will be the Cronulla Sharks taking on the Raiders on Sunday. For the Sharks, they looked back to their best last week as they thumped the Warriors. So they just need one more win and they'll shore up a top 8 position. Meanwhile, the Raiders have played three straight games against top 4 sides, they beat the Storm in Melbourne and lost close contests against Manly/Sydney. So they're getting well equipped to dealing with top 8 sides. Considering the last meeting between these two sides ended in a 2 point margin, this clash looks like a similar result with the stakes on the line. Cronulla will be desperate to seal a top 8 spot and the Raiders are getting heat from sides around them for a top 4 spot. So we'll be taking either team by under 10.5, which has saluted in the last 3 meetings.
Footy is back at the SCG on Sunday afternoon as the Dragons face the Tigers. St. George are playing for pride at the moment and the 9th placed Tigers have everything to play for. They need to win their last 2 games and hope the Broncos or Sharks slip up. Wests made the poor Knights pay last week as they cruised to a 46-4 victory, which snapped a 2 game losing streak. Meanwhile, the Dragons couldn't stop the Roosters in a 34-12 defeat. While the Tigers don't have a great record against the Dragons lately (1-3 SU). Wests just have more to play for in terms of finals and that should be the major difference between the two sides.
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