Warriors fans threw their calculators and abacuses out the window last Friday night as their team’s mathematical finals hopes were officially erased in a familiar freefall against Canberra.
The 28-16 loss came after the Warriors shot out to a 16-0 lead, representing the club’s equal-fifth-biggest collapse to lose a game. With the scores locked, the Raiders ran in two tries in the last two minutes. It was the sixth time in 2021 the Warriors have lost after being ahead or level inside the final five minutes.
But the Warriors get the opportunity to potentially play the spoiler role in Round 25, taking on a Gold Coast Titans side still clinging to a sliver of Top 8 hope.
Three teams are fighting it out for eighth spot; here’s how the fascinating picture looks:
- Cronulla Sharks ($2.04 for a Top 8 Finish) are currently eighth on 22 points with a -24 points differential. They are $3.05 underdogs on Friday night against a ladder-leading Melbourne Storm outfit that has opted to rest four Origin stars and two Kiwi internationals. Essentially, win and they’re in; lose, and they’re still a decent chance.
- Canberra Raiders ($2.70 for a Top 8 Finish) sit ninth on 22 points with a -73 points differential. They are $2.11 underdogs on Thursday night against a Sydney Roosters side who are still a Top 4 chance ($20). A win or a draw piles the pressure on the Sharks; a loss would leave the Raiders needing a for-and-against miracle.
- Gold Coast Titans ($4.35 for a Top 8 Finish) are 10th on 20 points with a -47 points differential. They are $1.28 favourites to beat the Warriors at home. The Titans firstly need the Sharks and Raiders to lose to still be alive heading into Sunday afternoon’s clash. If that happens, there’s still the matter of a 23-point for-and-against deficit to wipe out to edge the Sharks; the Titans would be hoping the Storm do a solid chunk of the work for them.
So what’s in it for the Warriors? They are 11th on the ladder but could end up in 12th or 13th if St George Illawarra Dragons beat a barely recognisable South Sydney Rabbitohs line-up (or lose by 12-plus points less than the Warriors do) and Wests Tigers account for last-placed Canterbury Bulldogs. The Saints are slight $2.05 outsiders, while the Tigers are warm $1.43 favourites.
The Warriors would need to beat the Titans by 41 points to climb up to 10th.
Regrettably, 13th is the Warriors’ most common finishing position, landing there in five of their previous 26 campaigns – including in 2015, 2017 and 2019.
A loss to the Titans would see Nathan Brown’s side finish with an 8-16 record. Win percentage-wise, that would be superior to just two other seasons in Warriors history. A 9-15 record would edge the class of 2021 up to equal-18th in terms of season win percentage. Not pretty either way you look at it.
One try on Sunday would give the Warriors their most tries in a season since 2016. On the other hand, conceding one try will hand the Warriors their most four-pointers leaked in a season since 2012. If the Titans run in six tries or more, it would represent the most tries the Warriors have conceded in a season since their worst-ever 2004 campaign.
The Warriors have a 13-13 all-time record in final-round matches. From 2012-17, they lost six straight in their last match of the regular season and in fact did not win any games after mathematically falling out of the finals race during that period.
But the club is currently on a three-match final-round winning streak – including a stunning last-gasp upset of the Raiders in Canberra in 2019 and a convincing 40-28 defeat of Manly last year, both of which snapped three-game losing streaks and were achieved despite the Warriors being out of finals contention.
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That recent trend highlights the Warriors’ value as $3.55 underdogs this weekend – particularly if a Raiders or Sharks win earlier in the weekend prematurely snuffs out the Titans’ slender Top 8 chances.
The Titans are also the Warriors’ bunnies historically. The Warriors’ 19-9 record (67.85% win) in the rivalry is easily their best against any of the current NRL clubs. After winning only two of their first eight against the 2007 premiership debutants, the Warriors have won 17 of their last 20 over the Titans.
The natural inclination is to back a high-scoring contest between these flighty teams – and the Total Match Points line is set at a whopping 52.5. But only two of their 28 encounters (and none of the last 11) have produced a total exceeding 50 points, while four of the last six – including the Warriors’ gritty 19-6 victory in Gosford in Round 1 – have seen 36 points or less scored.
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