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2017 NRL Round 26 preview and expert tips

Posted on 01/09 by Joe Gann

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Nth Queensland Cowboys v Brisbane Broncos betting
Team Odds
Nth Queensland Cowboys $1.28 Bet Now
Brisbane Broncos $3.70 Bet Now
The final round of the season sees the Cowboys take on Queensland rivals the Cowboys in a rematch of the 2015 Grand Final. These two sides always seem to generate something special and this week’s match-up has all the ingredients to be another classic.

The home side has a fight on their hands to claim a finals spot with a St George team boasting a superior points differential ready to pounce on any slip-up by the Cowboys this week. A tough win over the Tigers has set them up nicely for a game they simply must win to guarantee the continuation of their season beyond this round.

After a week in which they were left to reflect on a devastating loss to the Eels, the Broncos face the prospect of conceding second place to the Roosters. In a remarkable match at Suncorp, Parramatta dismantled a Brisbane side that was in good shape going into the game. The 52 points scored against them should act as a wake-up call to Wayne Bennett’s men ahead of the blockbuster clash at 1300 Smiles Stadium this week.

The alarming manner in which the Eels piled on the points – just the second time that the Broncos have leaked 50 points at their home venue – has prompted Bennett to bring in ACT Brumbies defensive coach Peter Ryan to drill his players this week.

The Broncos will be helped in their attempt to bounce back on Thursday with the return of Tevita Pangai Junior, Joe Ofahengaue and Jordan Kahu – the trio have all commenced full training ahead of their trip north.

Selection: Broncos to win

Parramatta Eels v South Sydney Rabbitohs betting
Team Odds
Parramatta Eels $1.22 Bet Now
South Sydney Rabbitohs $4.35 Bet Now
The Eels are flying high following a run of eight wins from nine, culminating in last Thursday’s magnificent 34-52 victory at the home of the Broncos.

Having already confirmed their first finals appearance since 2009, they are hoping to go one better and claim what would be their first top four finish in twelve years. They are overwhelming favourites to book that spot against a Rabbitohs side who are coming into this on the back of a hiding by the Storm last time out; a win for the Eels combined with defeats for both the Roosters and Broncos would lift the club into second place and home advantage in the play-off stage.

An excellent run of form came to an abrupt end in Melbourne last week as the Rabbitohs were torn apart by the irresistible Minor Premiers. The 64-6 defeat saw the Bunnies outscored by eleven tries to one, and although the Storm delivered an almost perfect team performance, South Sydney was compliant in their own downfall with a total of 52 missed tackles.

The match also witnessed the Bunnies suffer a spate of injuries with Adam Reynolds, Kyle Turner and Aaron Gray all picking up knocks that may keep them on the sidelines this round. With very little left to play for, and facing highly motivated opponents this week, it would be a huge upset if the Rabbitohs were to take anything away from this one.

Selection: Eels to win

Sydney Roosters v Gold Coast Titans betting
Team Odds
Sydney Roosters $1.08 Bet Now
Gold Coast Titans $8.00 Bet Now
The Roosters will fancy their chances of hanging on to second place against a Titans side that is currently in disarray.

The precious 16-14 victory over the Sharks last week was built on solid defensive work in the face of 68% possession for their opponents in the second half, with a controversial penalty handing Michael Gordon the opportunity to snatch the late win. They could not have hand-picked a more inviting fixture for the final round, one that should seal home advantage in the qualifying final the following week.

Despite the conclusion to the bitter public feud that led to coach Neil Henry leaving the club, the outcome seems to have done nothing to improve the fortunes of the team. Jarryd Hayne was once again the target of criticism; his involvement in Henry’s sacking and struggle to live up to his $1m salary has not gone down well with fans on the Gold Coast.

Injuries to Nathan Peats and Dale Copley, in addition to the three-week suspension handed down to prop Jarrod Wallace for a shoulder charge, severely hamper any slim chances they may have to cause an upset this week.

Selection: Roosters to win

Manly Sea Eagles v Penrith Panthers betting
Team Odds
Manly Sea Eagles $1.79 Bet Now
Penrith Panthers $2.03 Bet Now
A grandstand finish to the season awaits in one of the stand-out fixtures of the last round at Pepper Stadium.

With both sides vying for a coveted top eight place, a win for the Dragons, who boast a superior points advantage, will see one of these vanquished teams miss out in what would be a heartbreaking end to the campaign. The dramatic 21-20 golden point win over the Warriors could have enormous repercussions on the Sea Eagles’ season over the next week; the narrow victory helped maintain their tenuous grip on a finals place.

By somehow snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, Trent Barrett’s side ensured that they go into their final fixture with their destiny in their own hands.
The Panthers saw their excellent run of seven consecutive wins come to an end against a desperate Dragons side on Sunday, missing the opportunity to guarantee their finals place in the process.

Despite sitting comfortably in sixth place, if results conspire against them this weekend, it is plausible that they could finish the year out of the top eight. Dylan Edwards is a major doubt for the showdown at Lottoland, the full-back currently has his leg in a brace following a knee injury and is expected to miss out.

Selection: Sea Eagles to win

Melbourne Storm v Canberra Raiders betting
Team Odds
Melbourne Storm $1.28 Bet Now
Canberra Raiders $3.70 Bet Now
The Storm is showing no signs of easing up despite sealing the Minor Premiership with two rounds to spare - crushing the Rabbitohs in merciless fashion last time out.

Storm skipper Cameron Smith, who ended the game with a personal haul of 22 points, revealed that his side had smelt ‘blood in the water’ as the title favourites shifted ominously into top gear. It was a performance that reaffirmed their reputation as the benchmark for the competition.

This week will be coach Craig Bellamy’s last chance to give a week’s rest to any players who may need it, but it is more likely that he will opt to maintain the momentum that is building at the ideal time by keeping his first-choice line-up in place.

The Raiders saw their season come to an unsatisfactory conclusion at the weekend, with their 46-28 victory over the Knights rendered irrelevant after wins for the Sea Eagles and the Cowboys. A disastrous mid-season period in which the Green Machine lost eight games by six points or less played a huge role in the plight of the Raiders this year; a year that has ended in a substantial failure given the pre-season hype surrounding the side.

A late season rally wasn’t enough to save the Vikings, who left the improved performances too late to launch a successful finals bid. With nothing of importance riding on this game, save for the Storm’s finals preparations, it is difficult to predict what frame of mind the Raiders’ players will be in; a lack of focus and intensity is a distinct possibility.

Selection: Storm to win

Newcastle Knights v Cronulla Sharks betting
Team Odds
Newcastle Knights $3.30 Bet Now
Cronulla Sharks $1.28 Bet Now
It is somewhat surprising that the battle to avoid the wooden spoon is still unresolved going into the final game of the season.

The hat-trick of wins by the Knights during the period of Rounds 21–23 has enabled the Novocastrians to prolong the fight with the Tigers. They go into Saturday’s game with a fighting chance of finishing off the foot of the ladder for the first time since 2014; although the likelihood of overturning an inferior differential of 42 points seems extremely unlikely. 2018 is set to herald a new era at the club with a series comings and goings in the off-season aimed at strengthening the side going forward.

It’s Old Boys Day at the Hunter this week, as the club celebrate the 20th anniversary of the ARL Grand Final win against Manly. They will be hoping the atmosphere of nostalgia will provide inspiration to the team as they look to wreck the Sharks’ top four quest.

For the Sharks, last week’s loss to the Roosters has perhaps caused irreparable damage to their ambitions of a top four finish; the prospect of sudden death football puts their hopes of defending the crown in severe jeopardy. In a tight encounter, the Premiers failed to capitalise on the numerical advantage offered by Luke Keary’s sin-binning and eventually went down to a late Michael Gordon penalty. They will be sweating on the fitness of Wade Graham this week; the back-rower left the field with a serious looking leg injury on his landmark 200th NRL appearance.

In the unlikely event of the Sharks making the top four, they will face a short turnaround; being the only side who have qualified for the finals playing on the last day of the regular season, they have asked the NRL for special dispensation to play the first finals game on the following Sunday.

Selection: Sharks to win

St George Illawarra Dragons v Canterbury Bulldogs betting
Team Odds
St George Illawarra Dragons $1.36 Bet Now
Canterbury Bulldogs $3.25 Bet Now
The Dragons produced a thrilling one-point win on Sunday to set up a nail biting final weekend.

The precious victory over Penrith has kept their season alive and due to the fortunate nature of the fixtures, with the Sea Eagles and Panthers facing each other, a win for the Dragons will more than likely see them climb back into the eight. The entire season is on the line this week, but a points difference surpassing the three teams immediately above them could prove crucial. Josh Dugan was left out of the starting line-up after missing the team bus, and his breach of discipline may cost him his place again this week.

The Bulldogs are enjoying a renaissance of sorts following their recent back-to back successes. A dominant first half display, a complete anomaly for the Bulldogs in 2017, helped pave the way for a superb 24-16 win. The 20 points that Des Hasler’s side managed to amass in the opening half was the first time they had done so in 38 games.

With the pressure reduced at this stage of a difficult campaign, it seems the shackles are off as the Dogs reintroduce a level of flair into their play that has been sorely lacking far too often. They may prove to be unpredictable and dangerous opponents for the Dragons who will need to cope with the tension of the occasion this week.

Selection: Dragons to win

Wests Tigers v New Zealand Warriors betting
Team Odds
Wests Tigers $1.55 Bet Now
New Zealand Warriors $2.50 Bet Now
The club announced this week that Elijah Taylor has extended his contract with the Tigers until 2020, joining Josh Reynolds, Ben Matulino, Russell Packer, Chris Mc Queen and Taane Milne at Concord in what will be a far more competitive roster for 2018.

Ivan Cleary’s side will be confident of going out on a high in front the Tigers’ faithful at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday; the fixture will be an emotional one for star duo Aaron Woods and James Tedesco who play their last match for the club before moving on to pastures new next year.

With eight consecutive defeats under their belt, the Warriors’ woeful form has ensured that they have equalled an unwanted club record, one that they may well exceed this week with a loss to the Tigers. The club has suffered a streak of eleven defeats in a row on two separate occasions in their history, but both times they were stretched over two different campaigns; Sunday could potentially see the team hit a historic new low.

Despite coming agonisingly close to victory against the Sea Eagles, the manner of the loss – throwing away a seven-point lead with just four minutes remaining on the clock- was yet another example of the brittleness of this side.

Selection: Tigers to win

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