The Wests Tigers’ finals hopes are still well and truly alive with just one win separating them and the out-of-form Brisbane Broncos in eighth place.
The Tigers closed the gap on Brisbane with a 22-20 win over the Raiders in Canberra on Sunday, with the Broncos slipping up in the past fortnight with losses to bottom-eight sides Canterbury and North Queensland. In the meantime Wests have won four of their past five matches to stay in the hunt for a top-eight finish and they are the early favourites to topple the Dragons this week, after St George Illawarra were crushed 40-4 by Parramatta to extend their losing streak to three.
After the crucial Dragons clash the Tigers face the 12th-placed Sea Eagles before a round 25 match against the second-placed Rabbitohs a week out from the finals. The Broncos meanwhile take on the league’s top two sides Souths and the Roosters in the next two weeks before hosting Manly in round 25.
Meanwhile Cronulla’s hopes of cracking the top four received a significant boost with Sunday’s win over the Storm in Melbourne, with all three of their remaining matches coming against bottom-eight sides including home games against the Cowboys and Knights in the next fortnight.
To do so they’d need to leapfrog the fifth-placed Dragons, who also face three bottom-eight teams in the run home but have lost five of their past six matches, and Penrith, who have a brutal couple of away games coming up against the Warriors and Melbourne after this week’s match against Newcastle.
The Sharks have the easiest run home of all teams according to NRL Stats, who have assessed each team’s draw based on the competition points of their remaining opponents. Away games are given extra loading based on the home record of that week’s opponent.
The Newcastle Knights have the toughest finish to the season with three matches against finals-bound sides, including two away from home.