NRL finalists all but settled - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

NRL finalists all but settled

By Steve Jancetic 13/08/2006 06:38:59 PM Comments (0)

The eight NRL finalists appear all but settled after Canberra's dramatic late win over premiers Wests Tigers, but just where they will all finish remains anyone's guess as the top eight logjam intensified over the weekend.

Five sides, Parramatta, Brisbane, Newcastle, St George Illawarra and the Raiders are now all locked on 26 competition points with only points differential separating fourth through eighth position.

The Raiders put a gap between themselves and the chasing pack out of the eight courtesy of a 40m drop goal from halfback Todd Carney with seven seconds remaining against the Tigers.

Wests coach Tim Sheens was left lamenting two missed drop goal attempts from Scott Prince in which he appeared to be hampered by offside defenders.

Sheens later admitted the race for finals spots appeared run and won.

"They (Canberra) go into the bye next week, that's just about tied up the eight," Sheens said.

"Heaven and earth would have to open up for something to change that at this point."

Melbourne's 18-12 win over the Broncos on Sunday in front of over 40,000 fans at Suncorp Stadium has seemingly guaranteed the Victorian club its first ever minor premiership, the Storm needing to lose all of their remaining matches and the Bulldogs win theirs for that equation to change.

The chances of that happening appear remote after the Storm battled back from 10-0 down to secure their 11th straight win, in stark contrast to the Broncos who slumped to their fifth consecutive loss.

The Dragons could sympathise with Brisbane after they themselves slumped to a 26-10 loss to the Bulldogs, the fifth straight defeat equalling the worst ever run in the joint-venture club's short history.

Despite the barren stretch Dragons coach Nathan Brown said a top four finish was well within his side's capabilities.

"For us it's just worrying about us winning, we can't really control what anyone else does, we can only control ourselves," Brown said.

"When we best do that we'll probably get ourselves back on the right track.

"They're (the Bulldogs) definitely a bit ahead of us, they're playing pretty good."

The Bulldogs, premiership favourites with the bookmakers, now appear locked in second place, six points ahead of Manly who leapfrogged the Knights into third spot courtesy of Friday night's 16-14 win in Newcastle.

While the Dragons and the Broncos appear likely to at least play finals football despite indifferent form, the same can't be said for Cronulla, North Queensland and Penrith who all failed to take advantage of opportunities to stay in touch with the eight.

Cronulla was unable to capitalise on a 12-8 halftime lead, going down to a rampant Eels side 34-14, while the Cowboys recorded their 12th loss from their last 15 matches with a 26-0 defeat at the hands of the Warriors.

Just a week after going down to wooden spooners Souths the Panthers just about kissed their 2006 hopes goodbye with a 40-20 loss to second last Sydney Roosters.

The Sharks, Cowboys and Panthers now sit four points behind the eighth placed Raiders and given the current form of all three sides with only three rounds remaining, a late charge at the top eight seems unlikely.

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