There’s just one week remaining in the 2020 NRL regular season and the makeup of the final eight is still up for grabs.
We saw an explosion of scoring this weekend with tries raining down from start to finish as sides look to finish the season with a flourish.
In the penultimate NRL 5 Lessons Learned for this season, we’ve got a lot to sift through so read on to see our takeaways from an eventful, high scoring weekend.
1 – Points Galore a Sign of Things to Come?
We just witnessed what was comfortably the highest scoring round of the season to date, with 412 points scored across the eight games at an average of 51.2 points per game.
A massive Saturday that saw 190 points scored between the Sea Eagles, Titans, Storm, Tigers, Roosters and Sharks certainly helped, but there were tries all over the place in Round 19.
Parramatta’s win over the Broncos was the lowest scoring game of the weekend with 38 total points, higher than the average score from Rounds 1, 3 and 6.
What this is showing is that to be truly elite in 2020, especially with the rule changes designed to speed the game up, you need to be able to score tries.
The top three sides in the competition won by a combined 64 points with minor premiers Penrith scoring the lowest total of them with 32 on Friday night.
Bottom line is that if you face the Panthers, Storm or Roosters in the finals, be ready to get into a shootout.
2 – Souths No-Show is Huge Cause for Concern
For the second straight week, Souths were involved in a game which reminded you why their Premiership credentials are far from solid.
You would hope that they show up and play with more intensity when they take on their first finals opponent, but it does raise a huge questions about their compete level in the coming weeks.
It also says a lot about the character of the Bulldogs how sharp they looked punishing the sin binning of Jaydn Su’A with two tries and holding off Souths rally either side of halftime.
But for the Bunnies, their confidence has to be a cause for concern and with a game against the Roosters this weekend, it’s not like they will have the opportunity for a tune up either.
3 – Cam Smith isn’t Ready to Go Away Yet
A lot has been made of Bellamy and Cam Smith’s interaction after the Storm captain scored a try in their win over the Tigers, but the grizzled veteran looks like he will be playing in 2021, wherever he winds up.
Like just about everything this season, Smith has missed a few games but he’s still clearly enjoying his time as an NRL player.
We wouldn’t recommend backing him to score two weeks in a row but his impact on the Storm come finals time will undoubtedly be immense.
4 – First Round Finals Preview?
Fourth place is not out of the question for the Raiders and a move up to seventh is not out of the question for the Sharks but it seems like we are destined to see those sides face off in back to back weeks.
Which then begs the question, will either side want to go all out knowing their opponent will have a whole lot of game footage on them?
With the Eels kicking off straight after the conclusion of their game, the Raiders will have to go somewhat close to full bore knowing they could leapfrog Parramatta considering they have the advantage in points differential.
Having won five of their last six, the Raiders are in good form and in all honesty, should be able to get by an up and down Sharks side.
5 – Beware the Dead Rubbers
As we head into the final round of the regular season, it’s more important than ever to consider the spot a lot of teams find themselves in.
Of the teams that have made the finals, the Panthers and Storm can’t move up or down so they could opt to rest some players while the teams out of the finals could opt to pack it in and focus on 2021.
In that case those games suddenly become great unders bets if both teams aren’t at full go or if one has nothing to play for we could see a massive blowout or two.
That being said, those “dead rubbers” can sometimes produce the best contests, with both sides just left to play for pride.
The NRL schedule overlords have done us a favour, putting Broncos-Cowboys on Thursday night and while both teams are out of the finals race, the Queensland Derby always delivers.