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Fittler as cool as Roosters' form

By Steve Jancetic and Peter Veness 20/07/2008 07:11:32 PM Comments (0)

Ever cool Sydney Roosters coach Brad Fittler has refused to get worked up over the mini-slump that's threatening his side's NRL top-four berth.

The Roosters made it back-to-back losses for just the second time this year as they went down to Canberra, leaving what looked an almost guaranteed home semi-final just a few weeks ago suddenly under threat ahead of Sunday's clash with top of the table Manly.

But as he has done through the golden start to his coaching career, Fittler remained unflustered, claiming the 34-12 loss in the nation's capital wasn't cause for the panic button to be pushed.

"The result doesn't really matter," Fittler said.

"What it means is that we did a good job earlier in the year that puts us in a position to lose a couple.

"No one likes losing ... we came here at about 70 per cent, 80 per cent and it was nowhere near good enough."

The same effort against Manly could see them blown off the park, though the Sea Eagles will be sweating on the return of skipper and playmaker Matt Orford given five-eighth Jamie Lyon is likely to be ruled out for six weeks on Monday with a media ligament tear.

Manly's win over Parramatta on Friday night saw them maintain their two-point gap at the head of the ladder, while Melbourne will move into second if - as expected - they beat St George Illawarra at Olympic Park on Monday night.

Given the Roosters' struggles and Cronulla's patchy form, last year's grand finalists look headed for a return bout on that first Sunday in October.

Wests Tigers coach Tim Sheens, who watched his side rebound from last week's loss to Melbourne to beat South Sydney, admitted there was a gulf in class between the top two and the chasing pack.

"There are two levels in this competition, we played one level last week and them (Melbourne) and Manly, they're setting a different line for the rest of us," he said.

"I'm not saying we're any better than Souths, I'm just saying there's a level and we've got to come up to that level."

The Tigers showed they could challenge anyone on their day as they rediscovered their mojo to crush the Rabbitohs 36-12 at ANZ Stadium, the victory ending a run of four straight losses and leaving them one place behind eighth-placed Penrith.

What shaped as a weekend where the top eight could break free from the pack ended with the finals picture being just as murky as it was last week.

Canberra and the New Zealand Warriors have joined the Tigers on the cusp of the top eight, while Newcastle and Parramatta did their finals hopes no favour with losses.

"That win was massive for us today, if we didn't win that we would have been three points out of the eight and you don't want to lose touch with them," Tigers five-eighth Benji Marshall said.

"We play Penrith next week, they're one point ahead of us, so it's going to be another big game for us."

The loss broke South Sydney's fairytale run of five straight wins, and while they remain a mathematical hope of playing in the finals, six wins from their last seven games looks at little beyond them.

"The first half of the season we weren't winning any and just to win games was good enough for us," skipper Roy Asotasi said.

"You guys (the media) were the ones talking about finals, not us."

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