NRL Contenders for Grand Final Glory

June 21, 2018 by Posted in Articles

NRL Cooper CronkWe are now midway through the 2018 National Rugby League campaign and the battle to reach the finals is starting to heat up. The St. George Illawarra Dragons are still holding their own at the top of the table but the chasing pack are closing in and we could see a shift in the balance of power in the near future.

The Penrith Panthers ran out 28-2 winners against the Dragons at the start of June and that result sent shockwaves across the league. Paul McGregor’s side have responded well since that defeat, though, and plenty of punters will fancy the league leaders to hold off their rivals in the coming months. We looked at a few of the leading contenders for NRL glory this year.

St. George Illawarra Dragons

McGregor’s men have been leading the way for most of the 2018 season and it would take a brave man to back against the Dragons on current form in your NRL tips. The Melbourne Storm are the only team to concede fewer points than St. George Illawarra this year and their solid defence will give the Dragons a fighting chance of glory – especially during the finals.

Gareth Widdop has been simply sublime in 2018 and he will be looking to guide his team to the NRL’s showpiece fixture. Widdop has scored more points (147) and more goals (67) than anyone else in Australia’s top flight. He will be key to their chances of a second Premiership title.

Sydney Roosters

Cooper Cronk’s decision to leave Melbourne Storm for Sydney ahead of the 2018 campaign sent shockwaves across Australia but the Roosters have benefited directly from his arrival. A true legend of rugby league, Cronk has racked up more kick metres than his peers as well as making the highest number of open-play kicks in the NRL this year.

Sydney have now won six of their previous seven games and they are the NRL’s form side. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see the Roosters hit top spot in the coming weeks.

Penrith Panthers

The Panthers were building momentum prior to the brief mid-season break; Penrith have won four of their last five league games. A heavy defeat against the Sydney Roosters could damage confidence going into the second half of the campaign but the Panthers are looking very strong indeed and they are one of the NRL’s most dangerous teams.

Anthony Griffin’s men were expected to finish mid-table this year but Penrith can exceed all expectations in the coming months. The two-time Premiership champions have not tasted victory in the NRL’s showpiece event since 2003 and a return to the big stage beckons if they can hold everything together until the finals.

New Zealand Warriors

The Warriors went through a slight blip in April but that run is now over – confidence and belief is starting to return. Stephen Kearney’s side were in the mix in 2018 but crumbled at the pivotal moment; the New Zealand outfit cannot afford a similar slip up this year.

With the best away record in the NRL, the Warriors must be regarded as primary contenders to win the Grand Final this year. That kind of form should prove beneficial in the postseason and New Zealand fans will be dreaming of a deep playoff run. It would be foolish to write them off on their league form so far in 2018.

South Sydney Rabbitohs

Last but not least, we have the Rabbitohs. Now up to second in the NRL table, South Sydney have won five on the spin and plenty of punters will be backing the Rabbitohs to go on and lift the title. With the best offensive record in the division, they will take some stopping in their pursuit of NRL glory.

One negative at this stage of the season is that the Dragons have a game in hand on South Sydney and the Rabbitohs could find themselves trailing by four points soon enough. A win against their closest rivals at the top of the table could be the difference between success and failure; victory over the Dragons may spur South Sydney on.

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