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Updated August 30, 2018 13:26:55

The final round of the NRL season is upon us and although the make-up of the teams in the top eight is secure, the order of those teams is far from settled.

Just four points separate the teams ahead of September’s showdown, meaning there’s still all to play for in round 25.

Find out where your team could end up in what has been the closest NRL minor premiership race of all time.

Melbourne Storm

Current position — 1st, 34 points

Highest possible position — 1st

Lowest possible position — 4th

Round 25 opponent — Penrith Panthers (Friday)

The overwhelming favourites, the Storm are top of the ladder and will need a fairly serious points swing for them to not win their second minor premiership.

Melbourne are two points clear of the field and have a 32-point differential buffer over their nearest challengers.

That difference blows out to 75 points and 95 points for the Rabbitohs and Souths respectively, so even if the Panthers pull off a massive shock, the Storm will likely still finish in the top two.

Sydney Roosters

Current position — 2nd, 32 points

Highest possible position — 1st

Lowest possible position — 8th

Round 25 opponent — Paramatta Eels (Saturday)

The Roosters can still make it into top spot, but will have to hope for a heavy Storm defeat and then secure a big win over the Eels.

Theoretically, the Roosters could fall out on the top four with a heavy defeat, although in order for that to happen the Eels will need to end their season on an unlikely high and help facilitate a points differential swing of nearly 100 points in favour of the Panthers in fifth — who would also have to win big in Melbourne.

That is pretty unlikely, so the Roosters will more likely be keeping an eye on the Rabbitohs and Sharks, who they have a 43 and 63-point differential cushion over respectively.

South Sydney Rabbitohs

Current position – 3rd, 32 points

Highest possible position – 1st

Lowest possible position – 8th

Round 25 opponent – West Tigers (Thursday)

The Rabbitohs could get a jump on their top four rivals with a Thursday night victory over West Tigers at the Olympic Stadium, although to jump into top spot they’ll need to overturn an unlikely points differential of 75 — and the second worst form of any team in the top eight.

A regulation win will see the Rabbitohs jump into second spot, although that will probably only be a temporary arrangement should the Roosters win on Saturday or the Sharks claim the points on Sunday.

Such is their points advantage over the teams from fifth downwards, only a hugely unlikely series of events would see them fall out of the top four.

Cronulla Sharks

Current position — 4th, 32 points

Highest possible position — 1st

Lowest possible position — 8th

Round 25 opponent — Penrith Panthers

The Sharks are the form team heading into the final round, but have a 95-point differential to make up should they wish to overtake the Storm in top spot.

Second is a realistic proposition though for the Sharks, who will know what they need to do to overtake the Rabbitohs and Roosters by the time they take the field against the Bulldogs on Sunday.

If the Sharks lose to the Bulldogs, they may be in danger of slipping out the four — but will need the Panthers to overcome a points differential of 34 points to do so.

Penrith Panthers

Current position — 5th, 30 points

Highest possible position — 2nd

Lowest possible position — 8th

Round 25 opponent — Melbourne Storm (Friday)

Penrith arguably have the most to lose this weekend — and face the toughest test of any of the finalists.

The Panthers play the Storm in the only all-top eight game this weekend, travelling to Melbourne hoping for an unlikely win in order to retain home-field advantage in the first week of the finals.

With their form dropping off a cliff over the past two weeks, losing heavily to the Storm on Friday night would represent a nightmare scenario for the Panthers, who only have a points cushion of 29 over the Warriors in eighth.

Wins for any two of the three sides below them would see the Panthers having to travel in week one.

St George-Illawarra Dragons

Current position — 6th, 30 points

Highest possible position — 2nd

Lowest possible position — 8th

Round 25 opponent — Newcastle Knights (Saturday)

After last week’s capitulation against the Bulldogs, the Dragons need a win to stave off the two teams below them and secure a home elimination final — as well as attempt to placate their angry supporters.

A Saturday afternoon trip to Newcastle could be the tonic that the Dragons need, but a loss to the Knights will see the Dragons plunge further into disarray and enter the finals with just one win in six matches.

A reversal of recent form could see the Dragons leapfrog the Panthers into fifth, although any position in the top four is unlikely due to the 47-point differential between them and the Sharks.

Brisbane Broncos

Current position — 7th, 30 points

Highest possible position — 2nd

Lowest possible position — 8th

Round 25 opponent — Manly Sea Eagles (Sunday)

The Broncos have seen off two of the top three sides in the competition in the past fortnight, and will be full of confidence ahead of taking on the Sea Eagles at Lang Park on Sunday.

There is only a points differential of 13 separating the Broncos from the Dragons in sixth, and 26 to the Panthers in fifth, meaning that if either side loses, the Broncos will be ideally placed to sneak in and secure a home elimination final.

In order to do that, Brisbane will have to get over their Sunday jitters. The Broncos have lost three of the four games they have played on a Sunday this season, and seven of nine since 2015.

New Zealand Warriors

Current position — 8th, 30 points

Highest possible position — 2nd

Lowest possible position — 8th

Round 25 opponent — Canberra Raiders (Friday)

The Warriors host the Raiders at Mount Smart stadium on Friday night, knowing that a win will see them leap into fifth spot and pile the pressure on the Panthers, who take on the Storm immediately afterwards.

Theoretically the Warriors could jump into the top four, although it is unlikely that they will be able to overturn a 63-point differential considering their biggest win so far this season was by 24 points over the Roosters in round four.

Securing a home elimination final in week one will ensure an easier path to the semi-final for the dangerous Warriors.


Topics: sport, rugby-league, nrl, australia, nsw, qld, act, vic

First posted August 30, 2018 13:19:57

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