RUGBY LEAGUE BRONCOS’ TOUGH TROT
THE Broncos have the toughest run to the finals of any top eight side.
While no club plays fewer top- eight teams than the seventh and eighth sides, Parramatta and St George Illawarra, the Broncos play five of the current top- eight sides in the last seven rounds.
The Cowboys and Sydney Roosters, two of the other three sides with 26 points, meet four each.
The Eels and Dragons have to play two each, having al- ready played most of their matches against the best sides, but need to get the job done against lower- placed teams in matches where the fickle nature of the NRL form guide is at play.
Incredibly, given their list of opponents in Round 20- 26, six of the faltering Dragons’ past seven opponents have also been against sides not in this week’s top eight and they won only three games ( against the Warriors, Tigers and Knights).
The red- and- whites are now on the 10th line of premiership betting at $ 34 with UBET. Melbourne are $ 2.65, with the Roosters $ 6, Sharks $ 7.50, Broncos $ 9, Sea Eagles $ 11 and Cowboys $ 15.
The Broncos play Parramatta twice in the last seven rounds, including an away match tomorrow week which comes between a clash against Canterbury tonight and one against Gold Coast away.
From there Brisbane play home matches against Cronulla, the Dragons and the Eels before a last- round assignment in Townsville which will stop every league lover in a lounge room or bar. It could be that for- and- against determines the top- four positions for the third year in succession.
Of the four sides in equal third place on 26 points, the worst for- against is North Queensland’s (+ 56) and the best Manly (+ 68).
The Roosters, two points ahead in second place, have a + 53 for- against only and of their four remaining matches against top- eight contenders three are away from Allianz Stadium.
Last year, North Queensland and Brisbane were fourth and fifth on 34 points apiece, with the Cowboys taking fourth and the double- chance on for- against. Canterbury dropped to fifth in 2015 on foragainst despite their 32 points being the same tally as fourthplaced Melbourne.
In 2014, 34 points were needed for a top- four finish. In 2015, it was 32 and 2012 36.
So it seems those sides on 24 points this week – Manly, Brisbane, Cronulla and North Queensland – would need to win at least four of their last seven games to be a chance of making the top four.
The Broncos are fourth fav- ourites at $ 1.65 to make the top four, with the Cowboys a $ 3 chance for the top four but $ 1.15 to make the finals.
Ninth- placed Penrith are not without a hope of making the finals, having to play three top- eight sides, including the Dragons in round 25. By then, both clubs nor neither might be in finals contention.
Manly play their last four rounds against sides currently outside the eight, with Sunday’s clash against St George Illawarra and the following round’s assignment at AAMI Park carrying much weight.