Action from the round 24 NRL match between the Melbourne Storm and the Newcastle Knights at AAMI Park, Melbourne, on Monday. Jesse Bromwich of the Melbourne Storm is tackled. Picture Getty Images.THE battle to avoid the wooden spoon is now a race in five, and Newcastle have slipped to third in betting after their unexpected 20-6 victory over Melbourne at AAMI Park on Monday night.
Entering the game against the Storm, the Knights were last on the ladder and a $2.50 favourite to stay there, but their upset meant they climbed to 14th on 20 points and leap-frogged Gold Coast (20) and Wests Tigers (18).
The Tigers ($1.90) are the new favourites to finish the season with most losses, according to the market issued by TAB杭州夜网m.au on Tuesday, followed by the Titans ($4.25), Knights ($5), Panthers ($9) and Raiders ($13).
Newcastle’s win meant Canberra and Penrith, both on 20 points and sitting 12th and 13th respectively on for-and-against difference, are back in the mix.
They play each other in Canberra on Monday night, so the winner will move to 22 points and out of danger, but the loser will almost certainly face a must-win game in the final round.
The Raiders finish their season away against the Eels on September 6 and the Panthers host Newcastle 23 hours earlier.
The Knights are in better shape than they were before the Storm game but are a long way from being out of the woods as they face the surging Bulldogs (28) at Hunter Stadium on Saturday before heading to Penrith six days later for a game that could determine who collects the spoon.
By beating Melbourne by 14 points, Newcastle improved their differential to -134, which is better than Gold Coast’s (-169) but worse than Canberra’s (-12) and Penrith’s (-80).
Knights coach Danny Buderus has made only one change to the team that stopped the Storm.
Parramatta-bound back-rower Beau Scott, who missed the game because of a sterno-clavicular joint injury, was named to return.
In the reshuffle, Chris Houston was selected on the bench and prop Sam Mataora was omitted.
Who the contenders will play and how much they are paying (details from TAB杭州夜网m.au)
TIGERS (16th, 18 points, -107) Warriors (H), Dragons (A)
The spoon would be a very bad look for coach Jason Taylor in his first year after the controversial exit of Mick Potter.
TITANS (15th, 20 points, -169) Dragons (H), Cowboys (A)
Given their lack of star personnel and significant injury toll, a season without the spoon could be considered almost acceptable.
KNIGHTS (14th, 20 points, -134) Bulldogs (H), Panthers (A)
Couldn’t beat an egg through the middle of the year but have been re-energised by interim coach Danny Buderus after Rick Stone’s sacking.
PANTHERS (13th, 20 points, -80) Raiders (A), Knights (H)
The spoon would be an incredible fall from grace for last year’s preliminary finalists, who have been hit hard by injury.
RAIDERS (12th, 20 points, -12) Panthers (H), Eels (A)
Match premiership front-runners Sydney Roosters for points scored but have the NRL’s third worst defensive record.