NRL finals positions take shape - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

NRL finals positions take shape

By Darren Walton 17/08/2003 10:09:26 PM Comments (0)

The top eight and the all-important top four appear settled following some decisive outcomes in the National Rugby League at the weekend.

But the minor premiership remains up for grabs after the rampant Bulldogs climbed to third spot on the back of another awesome attacking performance.

The Dogs piled on 10 tries in trouncing Manly 56-24 at Brookvale Oval, with superboot Hazem El Masri etching his name in the history books with a world-record equalling 35th successive goal.

In an ominous pre-finals warning, the Bulldogs have now won six games straight and amassed an incredible 298 points in the process.

Steve Folkes' Canterbury team is clearly on a mission to collect the premiership they seemed set to claim last season before their sensational disqualification from the playoffs because of massive breaches of the salary cap.

The Bulldogs' season is also taking shape on an individual basis, with New Zealand Test centre Nigel Vagana soaring to the top of the leading tryscorers' list with his 19th four-pointer of the year.

El Masri, with 246 points, is the league's highest pointscorer and he and Vagana are now favoured to complete a Bulldogs double-double after picking up the two scoring awards in 2002.

Vagana's biggest danger for the tryscoring honour is likely to come from his in-form teammate Matt Utai after the blockbusting Bulldogs winger bagged his third hat-trick in as many matches.

And, with the way El Masri has been slotting goals of late, Ivan Cleary's 1998 premiership record of 284 points is not beyond the former Lebanon and Australian Test winger.

The Sydney Roosters remain the competition pacesetters after overcoming the early loss of champion captain Brad Fittler to beat South Sydney 22-12 in the local derby at Aussie Stadium.

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