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The run home: Each team’s best and worst case ladder finish

The finals fate of all but three teams is confirmed, with one team guaranteeing a top-eight berth and three more officially out of the hunt after round 24.

Losses for the Warriors, Dragons and Wests Tigers ensure they will not play finals this year while the Knights ensured they would finish in seventh, racking up consecutive finals appearances with a hard-fought win.

The fate of Cronulla, Gold Coast and Canberra is yet to be determined, with one of the three to take the final top-eight spot - although the Titans will need a lot to go their way to have a chance from here. 

With just one round remaining, NRL.com has punched in the numbers on the Ladder Predictor to look at how each club is placed and who they face in the lead-up to the finals.

Melbourne Storm

1st. 42 pts. +487 points differential

  • Round 25: Sharks (A)

The Storm's incredible 19-game winning run came to an end at the hands of the Eels, but Craig Bellamy's men are still in the box seat to claim the minor premiership. 

It does leave the door ajar for the Panthers or even Rabbitohs to jump into first place though if the Storm lose to the Sharks and Penrith beat Parramatta, which would push Melbourne to second. 

Match Highlights: Panthers v Wests Tigers

Penrith Panthers

2nd. 42 pts. +356

  • Round 25: Eels (A)

The Panthers eased to a win over Wests Tigers in round 24 to move level with Melbourne on 42 points.

The Storm's huge for-and-against means Penrith would need to beat Parramatta and have the Storm lose to Cronulla to go past them into first.

Penrith can also still drop to third if they lose to the Eels and Souths beat the Dragons by enough to overturn the 38-point differential gap.

Match Highlights: Roosters v Rabbitohs

South Sydney Rabbitohs

3rd. 40 pts. +318

  • Round 25: Dragons (H)

The Bunnies' huge win over the Roosters came at a cost, with star fullback Latrell Mitchell to miss the entire finals campaign suspended. 

Souths can still move up to second if they beat the Dragons and Penrith lose to Parramatta with the two results coming by a margin of at least 39 points. 

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles

4th. 32pts. +224

  • Round 25: Cowboys (A)

Didn't have it all their own way against the last-placed Bulldogs but came away with a win that helped them finish a round inside the top four for the first time in 2021. 

With a huge positive for-and-against, that spot is theirs to lose - beat North Queensland and the team captained by Daly Cherry-Evans will get two bites of the cherry. 

If they lose to the Cowboys, both the Eels and Roosters can move back past them with a round-25 win, meaning Manly can still finish as low as sixth.

Match Highlights: Storm v Eels

Parramatta Eels

5th. 32 pts. +143

  • Round 25: Panthers (H)

Produced one of their best performances of the year with a crucial upset of the Storm in round 24.

The Eels looked all but certain to finish sixth heading into the weekend but finished the round one spot higher than that and can still finish fourth if they beat Penrith next week and Manly lose to the Cowboys. 

They can also drop back to sixth if they lose to Penrith and the Roosters beat the Raiders. 

Sydney Roosters

6th. 32 pts. +117

  • Round 25: Raiders (A)

Trent Robinson's men have fought impressively through a horror injury toll to be in the top-four picture right up to the end of the season but round 24's loss to Souths was a killer blow.

The huge margin of the loss moved their differential to 26 points below Parramatta's and more crucially rubbed strike centre Joey Manu out, probably for the season.

They can't fall lower than sixth but by beating Canberra, they can still theoretically jump both Parramatta and Manly to as high as fourth if those two teams lose in round 25.

Match Highlights: Knights v Titans

Newcastle Knights

7th. 26pts. -130

  • Round 25: Broncos (A)

They did it the hard way in a one-point win over the Titans but it didn't matter how they did it as the Knights guaranteed themselves a seventh-placed finish.

Adam O'Brien's men now cannot finish higher or lower, with a two-game buffer to the teams above and below them.

Match Highlights: Sharks v Broncos

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks

8th. 20pts. -32

  • Round 25: Storm (H)

After a huge win over the Tigers in round 23, the Sharks kept their fate in their own hands with a physical win over the Broncos that kept them in eighth. 

They have to beat Melbourne on Friday to guarantee they stay in eighth and can drop as far as 10th if they lose and the Raiders and Titans both win.

They can also stay in eighth with a loss but would need Canberra to lose and the Titans to either lose, or win but not overturn a 23-point differential gap. 

Match Highlights: Warriors v Raiders

Canberra Raiders

9th. 22pts. -73

  • Round 25: Roosters (H)

Came back from 16-0 down against the Warriors to keep the dream alive in round 24.

They sit level with Cronulla on 22 points heading into the final round but with a significantly worse differential.

The 49-point difference means any Cronulla win against Melbourne basically puts Canberra out of the hunt.

However if the Sharks lose, Canberra only have to beat the Roosters or even jag a draw to claim eighth spot. They can also slip one spot further to 10th if they lose and the Titans win.

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Gold Coast Titans

10th. 20pts. -47

  • Round 25: Warriors (H)

A one-point loss to the Knights, despite having plenty of opportunities, was a killer blow to the Gold Coast's 2021 finals hopes. 

Justin Holbrook's men can't fall any lower than 10th and they can still climb to eighth but it would require them to not only win but for the Raiders and Sharks to both lose.

They'd also have to make up a 23-point differential gap on the Sharks in the process. 

Let's tackle this together

New Zealand Warriors

11th. 18pts. -115

  • Round 25: Titans (A)

Had their hopes effectively ended by Brisbane a week earlier but their mathematical hopes were extinguished as they gave up a 16-0 lead against the Raiders in round 24.

In a tough season there has still been a stack of positives for Nathan Brown's side but as it stands with one round to play they can finish anywhere from 10th to 14th.

St George Illawarra Dragons

12th. 18pts. -138

  • Round 25: Rabbitohs (A)

The same story as the Warriors, with their mathematical hopes ended by a round 24 loss. 

Looked in control in the first half against the Cowboys before being blown away by a four-try blitz early in the second.  Like the Warriors they can finish anywhere from 10th to 14th after round 25.

Wests Tigers

13th. 18pts. -176

  • Round 25: Bulldogs (H)

The third of the three teams to have their mathematical chances ended in round 24, although realistically the huge loss to the Sharks one week earlier was the fatal blow.

Kept things closer against Penrith than many expected but fell to an eventual 14-point loss. Like the two teams above them, can finish anywhere from 10th to 14th.

Match Highlights: Dragons v Cowboys

North Queensland Cowboys

14th. 14pts. -262

  • Round 25: Sea Eagles (H)

Fans might be wondering where round 24's enterprise had been over the previous 10 weeks but Todd Payten's side snapped their losing run in style against the Dragons.

They already couldn't make finals or come last but the important ladder take-out from this one is a move back up against Queensland rivals Brisbane.

A finish anywhere from 11th to 15th remains technically possible based on other results but it would take a huge differential swing to get any higher than their current spot in 14th. A win over Manly would at least guarantee they finish above Brisbane.

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Brisbane Broncos

15th. 14pts. -262

  • Round 25: Knights (H)

Should take plenty of positives from their performance against Cronulla but unfortunately for Kevin Walters's side it was another loss, and one that drops them back below the Cowboys on the ladder. 

They can reverse that order one final time with a round 25 win over Newcastle (assuming the Cowboys go down to Manly), if not they will finish 15th.

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs

16th. 6pts. -408

  • Round 25: Tigers (A)

Fought hard once again without getting a result, leading Manly at half-time in round 24 before a second-half blowout. 

Had already locked in the wooden spoon before that and have only pride to play for in the final round against the Wests Tigers.

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