And we’re here, the final round of the 2017 NRL season and the race for the top eight and top four continues.
Here’s our best picks for round 26.
Sea Eagles v Panthers
Arguably the game of the round, the Panthers and the Sea Eagles will put it all on the line for a place in the coveted 2017 finals series. The Panthers were perhaps lulled into a false sense of security given they beat only one side, Manly, in the top eight during their recently-ended seven-match winning streak. But the loss to the Dragons last week could be the defeat or reality check they needed heading into the finals.
Manly were terrible last week against the Warriors and if not for the New Zealand side’s unique ability to mess up the unlosable game, Trent Barrett’s charges would sit outside the top eight heading into the final round. The big positive for Manly is the fact that they get to play this do or die encounter at home in front of what should be a capacity crowd.
But despite their loss last week to a desperate Dragons side, we confident Penrith will bounce back and with Matt Moylan a chance to return, the men from the mountains be too much for the home side.
Prediction: Panthers @ $2
Dragons v Bulldogs
The Red V aimed up against the odds and produced one of the gutsiest performances of the season last week. Their two-point victory over the panthers effectively means that they control their own finals fate heading into round 26.
The Bulldogs have looked much better of late and head into this one on the back of two straight victories. The Dogs won’t have Brett Morris but should get Josh Reynolds back in what would be his final game for the blue and whites.
Quite frankly, the equation is as simple as it gets for the Dragons – win and you’re in the finals. And so, we can’t go past them here to get the job done, particularly given the steel they showed in the clutch moments last week.
Predicition: Dragons halftime/fulltime @ $1.85
Tigers v Warriors
The Warriors put in a much-improved display against the Sea Eagles last week but somehow it wasn’t enough to snap their eight-game losing streak. The improved performance had a lot to do with the return of playmaker Shaun Johnson, who despite looking a little off the pace at times, provided some much-needed calmness in attack.
The Tigers have been fantastic the past month and should have closed out the game against the desperate Cowboys last Friday night. Departing juniors Aaron Woods and James Tedesco will wear the club colours for the final time on Sunday and a victory to commemorate that final game will be at the forefront of their minds and we can’t go past the home team.
Prediction: Tigers -4.5 @ $1.90
Cowboys v Broncos
The Cowboys are at home and need a win to secure their place in the finals. However, they face the unenviable prospect of clashing with the Broncos a week after the Eels put 52 points on them.
The Broncos should come out all guns blazing in this one and we expect their forwards to really muscle up after a lacklustre display against a more determined Eels pack last week. If the Broncos get a roll on up the middle, this will no doubt create space and time for Anthony Milford and Ben Hunt to create for their dangerous backs. With that in mind we think big and powerful centre Tautau Moga will get plenty opportunities in attack against his former side.
Prediction: Moga to score anytime @ 2.25