Tweed Coast lock Jamie Donaldson in NRRRL against Kyogle earlier this season.
Tweed Coast lock Jamie Donaldson in NRRRL against Kyogle earlier this season. Ursula Bentley@CapturedAys

Defending champs have a tough road to the NRRRL semi finals

THERE are three weeks left in the Northern River Regional Rugby League season and the defending premiers have a tough road to the semi finals.

The Tweed Coast Raiders will play three title contender to round out the season, including a block-buster game against the premiership favourites.

The Raiders sit third on the NRRRL Premiership table, level on points with the fourth placed Casino Cougars.

A top three finish guarantees a trip to the second week of the semi finals, which makes the final three weeks for the year vital for the Raiders.

Round 16: Byron Bay (Home)

It is a battle of two sides in the top five when the Raiders and Red Devils face off on July 28.

These two sides played each other in the third weekend of the season, with Byron Bay announcing themselves as a contender with an upset win.

The 18-12 win sounded a warning shot to rivals, but it did not derail the defending premiers.

The Raiders have remained relatively consistent since then, with the exception of heavy losses to Ballina and Murwillumbah.

A win for the Red Devils would almost assure themselves a semi final berth.

A win for the Raiders give them confidence heading into a block-buster against Ballina.

Prediction: Raiders win

Round 17: Ballina (Away)

The stern and reliable Raiders defence was exposed in a blistering second half in round seven against the Seagulls.

Led by captain-coach Jamie Lyon, the top of the table Seagulls established themselves as premiership favourites with a 38-6 win.

These two sides played in last year's grand final and they could be on track to face-off in the decider again.

Tweed Coast will need a better performance than they dished-out in week seven to rebuild their confidence against the flying Seagulls.

Prediction: Raiders loss

Round 18: Cudgen (Home)

This could be a local-derby with plenty on the line.

With the way the previous rounds go, Tweed Coast will most likely need a win to crack into the top three, while the Hornets may need to win to make the finals.

These two sides faced off in a tough affair in round eight, with the Raiders taking the win 25-14. The Hornets have clawed their way into a position to sneak into the finals and will be very keen to knock off their rivals on the way.

Prediction: Raiders win