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The equations got a little simpler in round 15, with almost every result falling the way of the higher-placed team and the finals piece taking shape, according to the NRL.com Ladder Predictor.

Penrith's win over Cronulla has realistically ended the minor premiership hopes of anyone outside the top five (and probably the top three), although any of the top seven can mathematically still get there.

Big losses for the Wests Tigers and Sea Eagles mean the top eight looks settled, although wins to the Dragons and Warriors mean there is now a four-way tie for ninth between those four clubs, with each mathematically still in the hunt for anything up to fifth.

Parramatta's win over the under-strength Storm keeps their minor premiership hopes alive and shores up their top-four billing, with a two-win buffer over the Roosters and Raiders in equal fourth.

Losses to all four of the bottom sides, combined with wins to the Warriors and Dragons, ends the finals hopes of three clubs and means the wooden spoon is effectively a race in four – although mathematically any side in the bottom eight can still drop to 16th.

In working out the best- and worst-case scenario for each team, NRL.com has applied a methodology of all games being decided by a 12-point margin.

This allows a streak of upsets to have a real effect on the ladder, but a ladder move requiring a differential swing of hundreds of points over the final four rounds has not been taken into account.

The scenarios for all 16 teams

Panthers (currently 1st, 27 points)

Best/worst case: 1st to 6th

Their win over the Sharks mathematically removes any chance of them finishing below sixth, with top four all but locked up and a minor premiership looking very likely.

Match Highlights: Panthers v Sharks

Storm (2nd, 24 points)

Best/worst case: 1st to 8th

Their overall picture hasn't really changed from last week aside from their task to chase a minor premiership getting tougher. Despite losing to the Eels, they can no longer mathematically drop out of the top eight (which already would have required huge differential swings) thanks to the Tigers and Sea Eagles losing.

Eels (3rd, 24 points)

Best/worst case: 1st to 8th

A crucial win over the Storm eliminates the chance of the Eels missing the finals, keeps them in the hunt for top spot and takes them a huge step closer to a top-four finish.

Roosters (4th, 20 points)

Best/worst case: 1st to 10th

Still two wins behind third and still ahead of fifth only on differential, although their worst-case scenario has improved from 12th to 10th.

Match Highlights: Wests Tigers v Roosters

Raiders (5th, 20 points)

Best/worst case: 1st to 11th

Were expected to beat the Titans and did. It keeps them in touch with the four teams above them. Finals aren't yet a mathematical guarantee, with their worst-case result improving slightly from 12th to 11th.

Knights (6th, 19 points)

Best/worst case: 1st to 12th

An unconvincing win over the Cowboys came at a huge cost with the injury to Blake Green but their ladder scenario is almost unchanged. Mathematical worst-case improves from 14th to 12th but realistically finals are now all but guaranteed.

Match Highlights: Knights v Cowboys

Rabbitohs (7th, 18 points)

Best/worst case: 1st to 12th

A huge win over Manly takes them ahead of Cronulla on the ladder and ups their worst possible outcome from 14th to 12th. Still just a win off the Roosters in fourth and very unlikely to miss finals now.

Sharks (8th, 16 points)

Best/worst case: 2nd to 13th

Tough loss to ladder-leading Panthers leaves them in the most precarious spot of the current top eight and rules out any remaining mathematical chance of a minor premiership, but they benefit from losses to the Tigers and Sea Eagles. Worst-case scenario improves slightly from 14th to 13th.

Wests Tigers (9th, 12 points)

Best/worst case: 5th to 16th

Horror loss to the Roosters keeps them two wins out of the eight and reduces a best possible finish from third to fifth. Can still mathematically come last and need a lot to go right to have any chance of finals.

Match Highlights: Broncos v Dragons

Dragons (10th, 12 points)

Best/worst case: 5th to 16th

Did enough to beat the Broncos and join a crop of four teams level on 12 points. Can no longer finish top four due to Roosters and Raiders winning but not mathematically safe from the spoon yet either.

Sea Eagles (11th, 12 points)

Best/worst case: 5th to 16th

Thumping loss to Souths leaves their season hanging by a thread. Best-case finish drops from third to fifth but realistically even eighth looks a long way off.

Warriors (12th, 12 points)

Best/worst case: 5th to 16th

The fourth of four sides level on 12 points, drawing even with the Tigers and Sea Eagles thanks to a gritty win over the last-placed Bulldogs. A top-four finish became mathematically impossible after round 15, otherwise the picture didn't change – they just need to keep winning.

Match Highlights: Bulldogs v Warriors

Titans (13th, 8 points)

Best/worst case: 9th to 16th

The loss to the Raiders officially ended their 2020 finals hopes, with their best-case scenario dropping from fifth to ninth. Four points adrift of the cluster of sides on 12 points and need at least one more win to be comfortable the spoon isn't headed their way.

Cowboys (14th, 6 points)

Best/worst case: 9th to 16th

A horror year draws closer to its end after a dire loss to the Knights that saw star lock Jason Taumalolo limp off with a calf injury. Mathematically ends their already dim finals chances but they should be more worried they are just a win in front of the last-placed Bulldogs.

Taumalolo forced from field

Broncos (15th, 6 points)

Best/worst case: 9th to 16th

Showed some improved signs but still lost to the Dragons – a result that formally rules out finals this year. It's only Canterbury's continued struggles to land a killer blow keeping them above 16th.

Bulldogs (16th, 4 points)

Best/worst case: 11th to 16th

Near enough wasn't good enough against the Warriors in round 15 and they remain anchored to the foot of the ladder. Best possible finish drops from 10th to 11th but realistically they have it all to do to try and hand the Broncos the spoon.

 

The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARL Commission, NRL clubs or state associations.