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Roosters and Knights in potential grand final preview; Eels and Titans battle to avoid wooden spoon

With only two rounds remaining before the finals, the clash between the Sydney Roosters and Newcastle Knights shapes as a potential grand final preview, with the winner set to assume outright favouritism for this year’s premiership.

It will be a huge afternoon for the Bondi-based club, with that match serving as the curtain raiser to the men’s elimination final which pits the Roosters up against the Rabbitohs at the new Allianz Stadium, that match kicking off at 4:05pm.

Meanwhile, down at the wrong end of the ladder, the Parramatta Eels and Gold Coast Titans will battle to avoid the wooden spoon, while the other match sees St George Illawarra attempt to bounce back against a resurgent Brisbane Broncos side.

The latter two matches will be played at AAMI Park in Melbourne, forming a triple-header of rugby league which will culminate in the men’s elimination final between the Melbourne Storm and Canberra Raiders, which kicks off at 5:40pm.

Having two NRL Women’s matches played in Melbourne will give Victorian league fans the opportunity to witness some top-flight women’s rugby league while the Storm build towards gaining a licence to enter the competition as early as 2024.

Here is your preview to round four.

Titans vs Eels

With no wins between them after three rounds, whichever of the Titans and Eels loses on Saturday will face a monumental task to avoid the wooden spoon in next weekend’s final-round triple-header on the Central Coast.

The Titans crashed to their third straight loss last weekend, going down to the Brisbane Broncos by 22-4, while the Eels suffered the same fate though narrowly went down to the home side the Newcastle Knights by 18-16.

On a disappointing afternoon for the ladies from the holiday strip, their only try was scored by international winger Madison Bartlett in the second half as they dropped to the bottom of the ladder on points differential.

Meantime, the Eels were very unlucky to lose to the Knights on the road, going down to the Novocastrians after conceding a try with two minutes remaining, the loss leaving Dean Widders’s side needing two wins from their final two matches if they are to break into the top four.

The loss came despite the best efforts of Tayla Preston, who set up her side’s two second-half tries which were scored by Tess Staines and ex-Dragon Rikeya Horne.

With both sides desperate to keep their finals hopes alive and avoid the wooden spoon, expect both sides to come out firing, and while the Eels have failed to live up to expectations this season, I think they can claim the win on neutral territory.

Prediction: Eels by six points.

Broncos vs Dragons

After two straight losses to start the new season, many feared for the end of the Brisbane Broncos as an NRLW powerhouse.

However, the northerners proved last week that they are not yet a spent force, thrashing the Titans by 22-4 with centre Jaime Chapman scoring a hat-trick of tries, though the margin could’ve been bigger if not for tricky weather conditions that made goalkicking a challenge.

It was the perfect response to two rather uncharacteristic defeats in which they lost to the Knights in Newcastle in the opening round, followed by a heavy loss to the Roosters in the preliminary final rematch, which saw them sit in last place after round two.

Next for Kelvin Wright’s side are the St George Illawarra Dragons, who after two impressive wins to start the season were brought crashing back down to earth last Friday night, hammered 34-6 by the Sydney Roosters in the NRLW grand final rematch.

Monalisa Soliola went into the record books as the first-ever try scorer at the redeveloped Allianz Stadium, but that was the only highlight for Jamie Soward’s side as the gulf between them and the Chooks only widened.

Coach Jamie Soward blamed the defeat on the five-day turnaround his side faced going into the match, the Dragons having had to come from behind to beat the Parramatta Eels at Commbank Stadium just five days earlier.

The Red V are yet to beat the Broncos in an NRLW match, but while Saturday’s second match presents them the opportunity to break their duck, I think the Broncos can continue their resurgence as they look to reclaim their crown at the business end of the year.

Prediction: Broncos by 12 points.

Chelsea Lenarduzzi of the Broncos (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

Roosters vs Knights

Sunday’s match between the top-placed Roosters and second-placed Knights shapes as a potential grand final preview, with both sides having been the clear standout sides of the competition so far.

The Chooks have picked up where they left off last season, winning their first three matches by sizable margins to officially become the team to beat in NRL Women’s.

Last Friday night they became the first team to win at the reopened Allianz Stadium when they put the Dragons to the sword by 34-6 in the NRLW grand final replay; after conceding the first try, the Tricolours ran riot in the second half to maintain top spot on the ladder.

It eclipsed their 26-0 win over the Dragons in 2018 as their biggest win over the Red V and was also their biggest win against any team in the competition, eclipsing that said result from four years ago.

Their premiership-winning captain Corban Baxter might be sitting out the season due to pregnancy, but it’s another super-mum, Sam Bremner, who has more than impressed in her own return from maternity leave, seamlessly slotting back into the game she loves playing.

On the other hand, the Knights cheated disaster against the Eels but eventually came away with an 18-16 win thanks to a last-gasp try to hooker Olivia Higgins with less than three minutes remaining.

The successful conversion by Kirra Dibb saw the Novocastrians notch up their third win from as many matches; it means they cannot be dislodged from the top four even if they lose their final two matches of the season.

Facing the Roosters is as tough as they come, but if the Knights can come away with a win, then they will be the team to watch as they look to deliver the Steel City its first piece of silverware since their men’s side, led by Andrew Johns, claimed its most recent title in 2001.

However, with the star power in its side, the Roosters should prove too strong.

Prediction: Roosters by 14 points.

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