Just eight games remain in the 2021 NRL season and the finals picture remains as murky as ever.
There were talking points aplenty from Round 24 of the NRL season but the biggest surprise was the fact that only two favourites managed to cover the line.
It was also the second straight week where every team scored at least 10 points.
Check out our recap of the weekend’s action here!
1 – Latrell’s Early Holiday
Easily the story of the weekend, Latrell Mitchell saw his season come to an early conclusion on Friday night, following his shoulder to the head of Joseph Manu.
Considering the force of the hit, he was very lucky to stay on the field on Friday night and not be sent off.
We can understand wanting to make an impact against your former team but it probably should have been on the scoreboard instead.
Now he will have to take on the role of full time supporter as Souths will push on for a premiership without him.
It overshadowed what should have been a statement win from the Bunnies, putting 54 on a Roosters side that was at the time, still harbouring top four ambitions.
Mitchell was finding form in the last six weeks, scoring seven tries in those games including a double on Friday night either side of his stint in the sin bin.
That being said it’s not exactly curtains for Souths premiership hopes but it is a blow when they lose one of their big game players.
2 – Normal Service Resumes on Thursdays
Unders backers have had a fill up this season and normal service resumed when the Titans and Knights played out a low scoring affair.
Not that the Knights will mind with that 15-14 victory securing a spot in the Finals this season.
The eight Thursday games prior to Round 23 had all gone under and the 29 points last week was the lowest since the Roosters 28-0 win over the Eels in Round 20.
For the final Thursday night game of the regular season, we have an interesting proposition for punters.
The Roosters have had 13 of their 23 games (thanks in part some very high numbers) go over while the Raiders, while the Raiders have had 15 unders thus far.
Our early market has the total sitting at 46.5 at the time of writing and I’ll be leaning towards another defensive struggle.
3 – Good For Parramatta
The Storm were chasing their 20th straight win.
Parramatta looked like it was on the verge of falling out of the top four.
Few people (including this writer) gave the Eels much hope of doing anything against the minor premiers elect.
They were just too good on the night and it is exactly the sort of confidence booster they needed heading into the final round.
4 – Manly Was Never Going To Cover 30 Points
Our bookies ask a lot of several teams and despite putting 66 on the Bulldogs, starting as -30.5 point favourites was a bridge too far for Manly.
Admittedly they still did it quite easy against a Bulldogs side playing solely for pride.
Before you go crazy thinking they will belt the Cowboys into oblivion on Saturday evening, it is worth remembering their current quote is done on the assumption they will still have something to play for come kickoff.
Even if they do rest some key players they should still get the job done against North Queensland but keep in mind how big of a task covering that line could turn out to be.
5 – It All Comes Down to This Weekend
Let’s run through the final weekend scenarios as the results this weekend set up some tantalising clashes.
Canberra needs to defeat the Roosters (who are still dreaming of a top four finish) on Thursday to keep their finals dreams alive.
Cronulla can end the seasons of the Raiders and Titans with a win (or draw) against the Storm who need to win to secure the minor premiership.
If the Storm blow it (unlikely I know), Penrith can steal it from them if they defeat an Eels side that needs to win and hope Manly loses on Saturday in Townsville after the Broncos play Newcastle.
Following that game, the Bunnies could have a dead rubber against the Dragons or try and steal second spot from Penrith if they can win and turn around a deficit of 40 in the points differential column.
Then comes the Titans taking on the Warriors in a game that could mean everything or nothing for Justin Holbrook’s men.
Got it? Good. Enjoy the build up and the games.