NRL Round 26 Betting Preview: Game Odds, Trends and Analysis for Week Ahead

OddsShark.com@@OddsSharkFeatured ColumnistAugust 30, 2017

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 25: Ava Seumanufagai  of the Tigers is tackled during the round 25 NRL match between the Wests Tigers and the North Queensland Cowboys at Campbelltown Sports Stadium on August 25, 2017 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

The final round of the NRL season is here, and with four teams vying for the final three spots in the top eight and a further two clubs trying to break into the coveted top four, the stage is set for a brilliant closing weekend before the finals.

The action kicks off Thursday night in Townsville when the North Queensland Cowboys host the Brisbane Broncos. The seventh-place Cowboys are a $2.60 AUD outsider for the win they need to ensure they qualify for the finals for a seventh year in a row.

The Broncos ($1.50) are sitting in third place on the table, but they can move as high as secondmeaning they host a qualifying final the following weekendshould they win and the Sydney Roosters lose to the Gold Coast Titans on Saturday.

That is highly unlikely, though, given that the Titans haven't won since Round 17 and have slid all the way down to 14th position in the process. The Roosters are $1.09, according to AustralianGambling.com.au, while the Titans are way out at $7.50.

Another club who can finish second on the ladder if results go their way is the Parramatta Eels, who are heavily favoured to beat the South Sydney Rabbitohs on Friday night at the Olympic Stadium in Sydney.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 24:  Nathan Brown of the Eels is wrapped up by the defence during the round 25 NRL match between the Brisbane Broncos and the Parramatta Eels at Suncorp Stadium on August 24, 2017 in Brisbane, Australia.  (Photo by Bradley Kan
Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

Parra are at $1.22 to win their ninth game from their last 10 starts against a Souths side that cannot wait for the season to end.

Another fascinating clash takes place in the northern beaches of Sydney on Saturday afternoon, when the Manly Sea Eagles ($1.77) host the Penrith Panthers ($2.05).

The hosts are in eighth place, so the pressure is on them to perform. But despite last weekend's shock loss to the St George Illawarra Dragons, the Panthers are the league's in-form team, having won their previous seven games in a row.

Penrith are sitting in sixth spot, but they can go up to fifth if the Cronulla Sharks are upset by the Newcastle Knights.

The reigning Premiers are $1.30 to win that crucial contest in the Hunter Valley on Sunday afternoon, with the Knights, who are in a battle with the Wests Tigers to avoid the wooden spoon, way out at $3.55.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 03:  The Melbourne Storm pose with the JJ Giltinan Shield after winning the minor premiers during the round 26 NRL match between the Melbourne Storm and the Cronulla Sharks at AAMI Park on September 3, 2016 in Melbourne, A
Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

The Tigers sit just one win ahead of the Knights but can ensure they escape winning the unwanted piece of kitchenware with a win over the New Zealand Warriors on Sunday night. That win is priced at $1.57, with the Kiwis out at $2.40.

Should Manly lose, then the ninth-place Dragons can into sneak into the eight with a win over the Canterbury Bulldogs on Sunday. St George have been an incredibly tough team to follow this season, having won two games in a row just twice.

The Melbourne Storm's last hit out before the finals comes at home on Saturday night against the Raiders, whose season ended two weeks ago when they were beaten in a nail-biter against the Panthers.

Melbourne's form has been red hot: They dismantled Souths 64-6 last week and are $1.33 to enter their seventh straight finals campaign with a win.

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