The Intrust Super Premiership NSW regular season wrapped up in fine fashion for teams competing in the finals series, with every favourite winning except for the Bulldogs, whose last-minute draw with Illawarra gave the defending premiers a place in the top eight. The Roos, Mounties, Bears, Warriors and Panthers all enjoyed wins to end the home-and-away rounds, however, setting up a highly-anticipated finals series.
In a scenario scene all too often for the Roos, a slow start provided a minor scare for Rip Taylor’s men. Down 18-12 at half-time, Wyong managed to run in three second-half tries to Newcastle’s one, leaving them undefeated from the final two rounds of regular competition. The Roos muscled up for 331 tackles – a tally matched by the Panthers and marginally beaten by the Jets (333) and Bears (337) in Round 25.
The Bulldogs’ draw will be one that they will hope to put behind them as soon as possible; leading 22-6 at the break, three Illawarra tries in the final 13 minutes – and a missed conversion from Jai Field after the buzzer – sealed the stalemate. Canterbury-Bankstown finished with slightly more possession (52 per cent) and two more line-breaks, but it mattered for little as the sides split the two points heading into September.
The most dominant win of the Round went the way of Mounties, who came up a Sea Eagles side which may have had one eye on Mad Monday. Blacktown had fought valiantly in the back end of the season to win three in a row but with finals officially out of reach, Mounties got the job done with the most metres (1,695) and fewest tackles (229) of the weekend. Steve Antonelli’s side will hope to concede fewer penalties (11) next week against Illawarra, while the Sea Eagles finished their season with a round-high error count (13).
At Henson Park on Saturday, Newtown and North Sydney contested the Frank Hyde Shield – an accolade determined based on aggregate scores from the side’s two regular-season fixtures each year. After the Jets won 16-12 in Round 10, there was not much between the two sides, but Round 25 saw the exact same scoreline reversed to result in a draw. The Bears won with less possession (47 per cent), while Lock of the Year Cheyne Whitelaw once again made more tackles than any other player in the round (53). The biggest metre-eaters of the weekend also featured two Team of the Year selections: the Jets’ Kurt Dillon (223) joined the Warriors’ Bureta Faraimo (229), while Mounties’ Eddie Aiono took the cake with 235 metres.
Sunday morning saw the Warriors dismantle a Wests Tigers side which finished at the bottom of the table in 2017. The Tigers had just 45 per cent of the ball and ran the fewest metres of any team (1,172), while the Warriors were clinical to make just eight errors and concede five penalties.
A third convincing win of Round 25 wrapped up the regular season when the Panthers sustained a long period of pressure from the Magpies in the first half to finish 44-14 winners. Despite the 30-point victory, Penrith players were not happy with their performance; they made more line-breaks than any other side (10) but also missed the most tackles (37) and came up with 11 errors. The win came despite just 46 per cent of possession, but improvement will be needed if they’re to overcome the Warriors on Sunday afternoon.
View the full stats reports from each of the games below - and recap the 2017 Team of the Year, selected with the backing of statistical data.