The following are previews with betting tips for Round 25 of the 2018 NRL season.
Rabbitohs v Tigers
Thu, Aug 30, 7:50pm
Souths will be desperate to wrestle back some momentum heading into the final game of the regular season after conceding three consecutive losses, mostly recently against the Raiders in a poor showing last week. They will face a Tigers outfit who have fallen agonizingly close to a finals berth despite a courageous win against Manly last week.
Rabbitohs will breath a sigh of relief with their club’s starting 17 restored to full-strength. Winger Robert Jennings will join the squad with Dean Britt also making his NRL debut from the bench in an otherwise unchanged squad. The Tigers will replace the injured Russell Packer with Elijah Taylor at lock in their only change.
The return of captain Greg Inglis last week failed to inspire the Rabbitohs to a win and coach Anthony Seibold will be desperate for his troops to rediscover their confidence before the play-offs. Wests will be looking to spoil their plans at a form resurgence but Souths should bounce back to get the win having already secured a vital top-four finish.
Betting Tip: Rabbitohs -8.5 @ $1.96 (Topbetta)
Warriors v Raiders
Fri, Aug 31, 6:00pm
In just his second year at the club, Warriors coach Stephen Kearney has ended a long finals drought and has his outfit firing as one of the form teams of the top-eight. Their last-start win over the struggling Panthers will not deter their opposition in Canberra however, who spoiled the Rabbitohs’ party last week in an impressive display.
The Kiwis will be hoping for Blake Green’s return in week one of the finals as Gerard Beale joins the bench in an otherwise unchanged squad, while the Raiders have named the same 17 that took Souths in round 24.
New Zealand will enter the match as favourites but should be wary of an improved Canberra outfit. Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney will be eager for his squad to maintain their form as they look to bring a psychological advantage to their finals series over their higher-placed opposition. It will be a tough one to call but expect the Warriors to cinch a narrow win after their impressive performance last week.
Betting Tip: Warriors -4.5 @ $1.93 (Bet365)
Storm v Panthers
Fri, Aug 31, 7:50pm
Penrith have the unenviable task of facing the competition leading Storm in the last round of the regular season as the struggling club look to restore their fading confidence. The Panthers will be looking to avoid their third consecutive loss against Melbourne, but the Victorian club face their own obstacles with a number of players out injured and star fullback Billy Slater withdrawing from the match for personal reasons.
After a gritty last-start win over the Titans, Melbourne have named an unchanged squad with no indication as to who will replace Slater. Penrith will welcome James Maloney back into the side in a massive boost as Tyrone Peachey shifts to centre to cover the injured Dean Whare.
Melbourne will enter the match as favourites but missing key players across their pack and back-line and with Penrith welcoming back a key spine player in James Maloney, this match could be closer than the bookies predict. While Penrith should turn out an improved performance, expect the class of the Storm to get them over the line.
Betting Tip: Storm -2.5 @ $2.00 (Palmerbet)
Knights v Dragons
Sat, Sep 1, 3:00pm
St George produced a woeful 38-0 loss to the Bulldogs last week and on the eve of the finals they will be desperate to return to some semblance of form. Their opposition in Newcastle produced a similarly disappointing result against a red-hot Sharks outfit last week without star Kayln Ponga and will be looking to end the year on a positive note.
Jack Cogger will be drafted into the halves for Newcastle with Jacob Lilleyman and Tom Starling joining the bench. St George will bring in Zac Lomax to replace the injured Euan Aitken with Jai Field and Blake Lawrie also joining the interchange.
Newcastle fans should be happy with an improved season from their club under Nathan Brown. Meanwhile, Dragons’ faithful will be unsure after their club has made the finals but a massive form slump has them playing for the premiership from outside the top-four. Could go either way but the desperation in the Dragons’ camp should secure them the win.
Betting Tip: Dragons -1.5 @ $1.92 (Ladbrokes)
Titans v Cowboys
Sat, Sep 1, 5:30pm
Rugby League legend and Cowboys co-captain Jonathan Thurston will play his last match in the NRL competition this week against the struggling Titans on the Gold Coast. The Titans have had a disappointing season in Garth Brennan’s first year as head coach, but the club has a number of rising stars in encouraging signs for the future.
Following their narrow last-start loss to the Storm, the Gold Coast have named an unchanged squad. For the Cowboys, Te Maire Martin will return in the halves as Shaun Fensom also comes onto the bench.
The emotion of Thurston’s last game has seen Cowboys installed as favourites, particularly after they demolished the Eels last week by 44-6. It is fitting his last match is an all-Queensland affair, but the Titans will be fighting hard to make it a loss their opposition remember. Could go either way but expect North Queensland to rally around their retiring skipper to take the win.
Betting Tip: Cowboys 13+ @ $3.00 (Sportsbet)
Eels v Roosters
Sat, Sep 1, 7:30pm
The Roosters were premiership fancies less than a month ago, but disappointing consecutive losses against the Broncos and Raiders has seen them slip from the limelight as they struggle to produce a consistent performance. They will face an Eels outfit who are set to take out the wooden-spoon after a devastating 44-6 loss to the Cowboys last week.
After Dylan Napa was suspended for his controversial last-round hit on Andrew McCullough, the Roosters will draft in Jared Waerea-Hargreaves at prop in an otherwise unchanged squad. The Eels will reshuffle their squad again as Bevan French joins the wing, Jarryd Hayne shifts to fullback and Corey Norman to five-eighth. Reed Mahoney will also take the field at hooker in a big shake-up for the Parramatta club.
Roosters’ coach Trent Robinson will be looking for improvement across the field leading into the finals. The ‘Chooks’ completion rate has been a particular problem with them in recent weeks but fans will be hoping recently returned five-eighth Luke Kearey will fire for the finals. Parramatta shouldn’t stand much chance against a Roosters outfit desperate to improve. ‘Chooks’ to get the win.
Betting Tip: Eels +12.5 @ $1.92 (Ladbrokes)
Bulldogs v Sharks
Sun, Sep 2, 2:00pm
Cronulla’s dominant 38-12 win over the Knights last week saw them break into the top four as they enter the finals as one of the form teams of the competition. They will face a Bulldogs outfit who have rallied late in the season and produced an impressive 38-0 win over St George last week in encouraging signs for the club heading into next year.
Matt Moylan will return for Cronulla in a welcome return to their full-strength spine leading into the finals. Meanwhile, Canterbury have elected to name an unchanged squad.
Cronulla will be looking to build on their recent form with the return of Matt Moylan in the halves as well as retain their vital top-four position with pressure from lower teams. While the Bulldogs have produced some courageous wins in recent weeks, the physicality and class within this Sharks’ outfit should get them the win as the club aims for its second premiership in three years.
Betting Tip: Sharks -5.5 @ $1.92 (Beteasy)
Broncos v Sea Eagles
Sun, Sep 2, 4:10pm
The Broncos last produced an impressive 22-8 victory over the Roosters in a performance that will have their finals opponents nervous to face the Brisbane outfit in the play-offs. Boasting the best record against top-eight teams in the NRL, they now face a massive challenge in the Sea Eagles, who are currently sitting second-last on the competition ladder after a narrow loss to the Tigers last week.
Andrew McCullough’s injury absence will bring Jake Turpin into the Broncos squad at hooker in an otherwise unchanged team. For Manly, Matt Wright will join the wing and Taniela Paseka the bench in their only changes.
Brisbane have struggled against lower-placed teams this year, most likely due to the lack of experience in their roster. The Broncos will be looking to produce a consistent performance after impressing against the Roosters last week as they hope to secure a home-final for retiring veteran Sam Thaiday. Manly will be hoping Brisbane fall asleep at the wheel but expect the Broncos to get the win.
Betting Tip: Sea Eagles +10.5 @ $1.95 (Neds)
Cowboys 13+ @ $3.00 (Sportsbet)