It is here, the last week of the regular 26 Round NRL Telstra Premiership, and it is a tense fight for the Minor Premiership title played out in the opening two games.
Round 26 kicks off with a Thursday night blockbuster, the second-ranked Brisbane Broncos hosting the fifth-placed Storm at Lang Park.
Then in Friday night footy the current ladder leaders Sydney will take on the Bunnies who Brisbane smashed the previous week, the Roosters needing to win to secure their third Minor Premiership title in as many years.
This week, at the end of which we will say goodbye to half the teams and the Top 8 finals contenders are known, we are offering our promo on the Roosters v Rabbitohs clash – double your winnings if your first try scorer scores in the first 10 minutes!
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See below for our full NRL Round 26 preview and odds.
Brisbane Broncos vs Melbourne Storm
Thursday, September 3 – 7:45pm (AEST) – Suncorp Stadium
Brisbane are firing on all cylinders and get a full week between games after travelling to Sydney and smashing Souths 47 – 12 last week. It was an ace effort from the team who can still finish top of the table if they win this and the Chooks loose to the Bunnies on Friday night. Broncos get the home game advantage here and Lang Park will be packed to the rafters for Justin Hodges’s final standard-season game, his 189th for the club. They have the momentum, the Suncorp factor and take on a hit-and-miss Melbourne outfit so are the ones to beat.
Sydney Roosters vs South Sydney Rabbitohs
Friday, September 4 – 7:45pm (AEST) – Allianz Stadium
The Roosters are fighting for a win in this Sydney Friday Night Derby to wrap-up their third straight Minor Premiership, and based on what they pulled out of the hat last weekend, they are a top chance to do just that. A huge chunk of their salary cap sat out the game against Manly including Michael Jennings, Mitchell Pearce and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves. Turns out the depth of their squad is so good that even without them they could beat Manly 46 – 10. The Bunnies meanwhile were thrashed by Brisbane without big GI on the field. While Souths will be fighting for atonement, the Roosters still look your best shot.
Penrith Panthers vs Newcastle Knights
Saturday, September 5 – 3:00pm (AEST) – Pepper Stadium
This clash will determine who finishes bottom of the barrel and is left with the Wooden Spoon tag at the end of the 2015 season, the 15th placed Panthers taking on the 16th ranked Knights who have fallen such a long way after dominating in the No. 1 position at the very start of the season. Penrith are depleted and their squad looks like a reserve grade line-up, explaining their Monday night loss to the Raiders last round. They are on the short turnaround here, while Newcastle played and lost to the Bulldogs last Saturday night but went down by only two points. Think the Knights could score an upset here, which is why are markets are so tight.
St George Illawarra Dragons vs Wests Tigers
Saturday, September 5 – 5:30pm (AEST) – ANZ Stadium
The Dragons are desperate to win this Saturday evening showdown and hang onto their spot in the finals currently sitting eighth after a shock two point loss to the Gold Coast on the Glitter Strip last Sunday. St George were defensively the best team in the comp mid-season, but something has gone amiss of late. They will need to find out what and why very quickly to be a shot in the semis, especially playing the Tigers who posted 50 points on the Warriors last week despite their lowly position on the ladder and the off-field dramas re: Robbie Farah.
North Queensland Cowboys vs Gold Coast Titans
Saturday, September 5 – 7:30pm (AEST) – 1300 Smiles Stadium
Win or lose, the Cowboys will finish their season in third spot after overcoming one of their worst ever starts to secure a dozen wins on the trot and climb all the way to second before being forced to settle for one lower after a couple of brain-snaps in recent games. Last week was one of those when they were held out 14 – 6 by the Storm in Melbourne. This round they return up to North Queensland HQ and the fans are sure to turn out in droves for this Queensland Derby against the Titans who scored the two point upset over the Dragons last week.
Parramatta Eels vs Canberra Raiders
Sunday, September 6 – 2:00pm (AEST) – Pirtek Stadium
The Eels host the Raiders at Pirtek on Sunday arvo and are looking to atone for a 28 – 35 loss to the Sharks last Saturday. There were plenty of points posted that match, as well as in the Green Machine’s 34 – 18 win over Penrith on Monday night. Expect another high-scoring affair here then between the two with 11th playing 10th in a nothing match that is being played for pride alone in Parramatta.
Cronulla Sutherland Sharks vs Manly Warringah Sea Eagles
Sunday, September 6 – 4:00pm (AEST) – Remondis Stadium
Cronulla are sitting fourth on the ladder and have been a genuine surprise team this season. They are looking for the advantage heading into the finals and so will want to be beating the Sea Eagles to stay inside the Top 4. Manly are still a longshot chance mathematically of making the eight, but it looks unlikely. Still, they won’t go down without trying after being utterly embarrassed by the Roosters last week beaten 46 – 10. Could be value in the visitors to Shark Park then with our markets favouring the home squad.
Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs vs New Zealand Warriors
Sunday, September 6 – 6:30pm (AEST) – ANZ Stadium
The last match of the last round has the Bulldogs (6th) hosting the down and out Warriors (12th) who have suffered loss after loss following the season-ending injury of Shaun Johnson a few weeks back. Canterbury are in the finals and could move up as high as fourth with a big enough win and other results going their way. They only just held off Newcastle by two points last week, but the Warriors away from home on the back of their 50 – 16 loss to the Tigers shouldn’t present too much in the way of competition.