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NRL: Raiders out to wrap up finals spot

The final two games of the regular NRL season will be wrapped up on Sunday when the Newcastle Knights take on Cronulla Sharks and Wests Tigers entertain the Canberra Raiders.

The big game of the day is at Leichhardt Oval when the Raiders could need to wrap up the win to secure a place in the top eight.

Much will depend on how the Brisbane Broncos go on Saturday. If they lose to the Dragons then the Raiders can rest easy knowing they will be playing finals footy.

However a Broncos win will really put the pressure on and Leichhardt Oval is a tough place to go on a Sunday afternoon even if the Tigers have already picked up the wooden spoon and have nothing but pride to play for.

Earlier in the day the second-placed Cronulla Sharks travel to the Hunter to take on a struggling Newcastle side.

With second spot locked in the Sharks may rest a few but will still be keen to keep some momentum going as they head into finals.

Two cracking games to look forward to as the curtain comes down on the regular season, so let’s take a closer look at all four teams.

What: Newcastle Knights v Cronulla Sharks
Where: McDonald Jones Stadium, Sydney
When: 14:00 (AEST) Sunday 4th September 2022
How to watch: Foxtel, Kayo
Odds: Knights 5/1, Sharks 13/100

Newcastle have had a disappointing season to say the least after managing to win just six games, and they will be keen to give the home fans something to smile about before the campaign is done.

They did beat the Wests Tigers in round 21 but then went on to lose the next three games, with the Gold Coast Titans turning them over 36-26 last week. A fourth straight defeat would be hard to swallow.

Newcastle will have to do without playmaker Anthony Milford who has a rib injury so Phoenix Crossland is set to start at five-eighth.

Kurt Mann and Mitch Barnett again miss out through injury but Mat Croker has earned a place in the starting line-up.

The Sharks on the other hand have had an outstanding season and look set to finish second on the ladder. That will mean a home final against the North Queensland Cowboys.

They have won the last five games on the bounce and will be keen to keep the good times rolling before the first week of finals.

The Sharks beat the Knights 18-0 earlier in the season and will fancy their chances of wrapping up another win at McDonald Jones.

Cronulla are boosted by the return of the influential Dale Finucane following a rib injury, while winger Matt Ikuvalu also returns following a groin strain.

Connor Tracey is suffering from concussion and the Sharks will take no chances with him ahead of the finals campaign. He will be rested with a view to returning next week.

What: Wests Tigers v Canberra Raiders
Where: Leichhardt Oval, Sydney
When: 16:05 (AEST) Sunday 4th September 2022
How to watch: Channel 9, Foxtel, Kayo
Odds: Tigers 57/20, Raiders 27/100

The Raiders will know exactly what they have to do once the Broncos game with the Dragons is done and dusted on Saturday and there is a very good chance they will need to win to play finals.

While the Broncos have been sliding down the ladder, the Raiders have been in great form to give themselves a great chance of staying in the eight.

They have won five out of the last six games and moved into eighth spot last week with an emphatic win over the Manly Sea Eagles.

Even if the game is not must-win they will still be keen to keep the momentum going with a finals showdown against the Melbourne Storm on the horizon in week one.

The Green Machine are one of the form teams in the competition at the moment and could take some stopping if they carry on in the same fashion.

They are also boosted by the return of Nick Cotric who has recovered from a groin injury and will take his place in the side.

Wests Tigers have had a nightmare campaign and are now guaranteed to pick up the wooden spoon for the first time in their history.

They have the worst defensive record in the NRL and on average have missed 33.3 tackles per game.

However they still have pride to play for in front of their home supporters. Some of the current team will also be playing for their futures under the new coaching regime which takes over for 2023.

Captain James Tamou returns from suspension for what could be the last game of his career, while Ken Maumalo also returns from a groin injury.

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