TWL’S TAB STATS TALK: DO THE MATH

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It’s that all-too-familiar time of the season. The Warriors’ finals hopes are still alive, but their fate is largely out their hands.

Here’s the multi-faceted equation over the last two rounds that can deliver a Top 8 finish for the Warriors.

So Warriors fans will be cheering on Newcastle ($1.92) to beat Gold Coast ($1.83) on Thursday night – otherwise Friday’s showdown with Canberra becomes a dead-rubber (though still vital for the Raiders).

The seventh-placed Knights – two wins clear of the chasing pack of desperados on 24 points – are just $1.02 for a Top 8 Finish. But with a shocking for-and-against, they could be highly vulnerable ahead of their final-round date against the improved Broncos if they go down to the Titans.

Cronulla ($2.19 to make the Top 8), Gold Coast ($2.42) and Canberra ($4.30) are all on 20 points. The Warriors ($21), St George Illawarra ($61) and Wests Tigers ($61) are rated longshots to squeeze into the finals.

As accustomed as we are to doing the math as the regular season draws to a close, there’s very few examples of the Warriors walking the Top 8 tightrope and making it to the finals platform on the other side. Of the eight times the Warriors have made the finals, only once was their berth not sealed heading into the last round.

In 2008, the Warriors were ninth with one round to go – tied with the seventh-placed Raiders (who were to face the wooden spoon Bulldogs in their last game) and eighth-placed Knights, but with an irretrievably inferior for-and-against. The heavyweight Broncos accounted for the Knights on the Friday night to leave the door ajar for the Warriors, who obliged by thumping the Eels 28-6 on the back of a Manu Vatuvei hat-trick 24 hours later. The Warriors then went on a historic, unforgettable run to the preliminary final from eighth.

The tales of heartache that made fans wish they’d thrown their calculator out the window are far more prevalent:

1995: The Warriors were sixth with two rounds of their inaugural season to go, but a tough loss to defending premiers Canberra saw them drop to eighth – a point ahead of North Sydney. The Warriors were pumped 44-6 by a red-hot, Steve Renouf-inspired Broncos outfit in the final round, while the Bears scraped into eighth on for-and-against with a jammy 14-all draw against lowly Gold Coast Seagulls. The Roosters also inched ahead of the Warriors into ninth with a big win over the Tigers, but the newcomers were ultimately left ruing two points they had stripped for using an illegal replacement earlier in the season.

2013: A spectacular mid-season revival kept Matt Elliott’s side in the finals frame. Going into the last round, the Warriors needed to win their game and for two of the Knights, Cowboys and Titans to lose theirs. The Warriors were up first – and took themselves out of contention with an insipid 19-10 loss to a Dragons side that had lost their last seven games. As it happened, the Knights and Cowboys still won, but it was nevertheless frustrating the Warriors couldn’t hold up their end of the bargain as warm favourites.

2014: This one was a real kick to the groin. After Andrew McFadden took the coaching reins from Elliott mid-season, the Warriors put themselves in a strong position for a late run at the Top 8. But they were made to pay for putting their cue in the rack in the second-last round against the Titans, storming to a 42-0 lead after 48 minutes but failing to add to their tally thereafter. They went into the final round tied for eighth with the Broncos, who were seven points better off for-and-against-wise. The Broncos limited the damage with a 22-12 loss to the Storm, which meant the Warriors needed to beat the fourth-placed Panthers or lose by three points or less. The Panthers won 22-6, the Warriors becoming just the fourth team ever to miss the finals on for-and-against (they were also the first, alongside the Roosters, in 1995) – a fate that has not befallen any team since.

2016: Heading into the last two rounds, the Warriors needed to win both of their remaining games (both at Mt Smart) and the Titans to lose both of theirs (which they did) to grab eighth. The Warriors conceded three tries in the last 10 minutes of a 36-24 loss to the Tigers in the penultimate round, before promptly phoning it in via a 40-18 loss to the Eels.

Despite three straight wins followed by an agonising two-point defeat to the Broncos, the Warriors find themselves $2.75 underdogs to topple the Raiders, who have won just one of their last four.

The Warriors have won four of their last seven against the Raiders, with each victory coming by four points or less. The Green Machine’s three wins during that time were by 12-plus margins.

The teams’ Round 3 clash in Canberra was one of the more remarkable contests of the NRL era. The Warriors took advantage of the hosts’ shocking injury toll, fighting back from a 21-point deficit with 30 minutes left to win 34-31 – the biggest comeback in the club’s history – as the Raiders finished with an empty bench.

Matt Lodge’s return from suspension provides the Warriors with a timely boost, making the underdogs well worth considering with a 6.5-point start. Expect the desperation of the situation to keep the Total Match Points under the 47.5-point line; just one of the Warriors’ last nine games have produced more than 46 points, while only one of the Raiders’ last five have witnessed a total tally of more than 42.

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