Round 25 of the season delivered plenty of drama, a whole lot of highlights and perhaps most importantly, the makeup of the 2021 NRL Finals.
Some teams with nothing to play for were on a mission to end their season on a high note and did just that, others were fighting for their seasons and experienced the full range of emotions.
For the sides who knew they had a game next week they wanted to get some momentum going and come through the 80 minutes in one piece.
Manly might have saved their best try of the season until last with this 110m effort to pad their margin of victory over the Cowboys.
It’s time to recap not only the final round of the season but the key numbers ahead of the first round of the NRL Finals.
1 – The Production Line Keeps Rolling
It’s been the story we’ve been waiting to write for the last few weeks and the Melbourne Storm are officially the 2021 NRL Minor Premiers.
After losing two of their first three, the Storm went on a phenomenal run to take 20 of their next 21 and pip the Panthers on points difference.
They were also one of the best bets against the spread all season long, recording an NRL best 18-6 record with a handicap.
It came in a season where the Storm had to relocate, call upon their seemingly endless player production line and uncover new superstars, but the Bellamy machine just kept going.
Now they are three (or four) wins from claiming another NRL Grand Final victory, and would you be willing to back against them taking it all out again?
2 – A Titanic Statement?
Just making the finals this season was a solid achievement for the Gold Coast Titans but they would have enjoyed the way they qualified.
Needing to beat the Warriors by at least 12 points at home on Sunday afternoon, they left no doubt and ran away with a comfortable 44 point victory.
It was a wild ending with a melee reducing the game to a 12 on 10 contest with four players in the bin and the Titans took full advantage of their extra men.
The underdog story is probably going to come to an end this weekend when they take on the Roosters in Townsville but it is still a good sign that the Titans are going in the right direction.
3 – Totally Overboard
They say finals are a different beast to the regular season but we might still be able to use the numbers of the last 25 rounds to get some value in the Manly-Melbourne game this Friday.
These sides had two of the three most potent attacks in the competition and Manly recorded 15 overs from their 24 games.
When you have Tom Trbojevic in your side it is no surprise as he scored his second consecutive hat-trick and fifth since Round 15.
Overall in just 15 games, Turbo scored 25 tries and assisted in a further 27, compared to the Bulldogs who scored 60 in 24 games, seven of which came in Round 25 against a Tigers side that had clearly given up.
He has been complimented nicely by Reuben Garrick who set a record with 304 points on the season.
We could be in for a high scoring encounter to start the finals considering Melbourne averaged almost 34 points per game this season so the over is the way to go there.
4 – Bully Bunnies?
Souths have been a team that has followed the market quite reliably all season, long.
They won 19 of their 20 games as favourites while covering on 14 occasions.
Compare that to their 1-3 record in both categories when entering a game as underdogs.
A heavily rotated side, knowing they were locked into third spot and play the Panthers the following week came away with a four point win over a gallant Dragons opposition.
Having cruised to a 20-0 lead, they took their foot off the pedal and held on for the four point win.
As it stands, Souths are $4.10 underdogs and +11.5 in the early market which is not a good sign for Bunnies fans hoping for a weekend off.
5 – Happy to Play the Underdog Role
Some teams take pride in playing as underdogs and four teams enjoyed a successful season when the market was against them.
Brisbane covered an NRL high 11 times as underdogs and seven of nine times when playing as the “home” team, including Saturday afternoon against the Knights.
Cronulla recorded an 8-4-1 underdog record, the Knights went 7-5 and the Eels finished 6-4 as underdogs.
Newcastle will hope that is a good sign this Sunday when they take on the Eels with the Knights +8 in our early market.
Head to head the Knights went 5-7 as underdogs while the Eels went 10-4 as favourites both head to head and against the spread.