NRL finals race heats up amid new upsets - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

NRL finals race heats up amid new upsets

By Liam FitzGibbon 27/07/2008 08:44:09 PM Comments (0)

The race for the last four NRL finals spots is becoming increasingly desperate with only two competition points separating the seventh and 13th-placed teams after another round of weekend madness.

Surprise defeats for Melbourne and Manly failed to bump the competition heavyweights out of the top two spots, but left a mid-table logjam below them heading into the final six regular-season rounds.

The Sydney Roosters emerged from a mini slump to take third spot with a storming 34-12 win over Manly, while the New Zealand Warriors shocked Melbourne 8-6 to join fellow top-eight fringe sides Canberra, Newcastle and Parramatta in scoring crucial wins to keep the pressure on for lower-end finals berths.

Penrith's gutsy 24-10 win over Wests Tigers moved the Panthers into outright sixth spot on 23 points, but they sit only a point ahead of four teams on 22 points.

St George Illawarra, who play the troubled Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium in the final match of the round on Monday night, are in seventh on percentages ahead of Canberra following the Raiders' 46-4 thrashing of the Gold Coast.

The slipping Titans are just outside the top eight with the Warriors joining them on 22 points following a big win in Auckland, their fourth straight victory.

The Knights kept their hopes alive with a 39-12 win over South Sydney to sit on 20 points alongside the Tigers and Parramatta, who beat North Queensland 16-4 on Friday.

Roosters coach Brad Fittler said the weekend's results proved just how open the competition was.

"When we were getting ready we saw the New Zealand game against Melbourne," Fittler said.

"It's good. Everyone's having a crack. You can see sides are getting rewarded for effort. It makes it interesting.

"You look at Penrith, they're big and look how fast they are. Canberra are the same.

"The footy they're playing down there in wet weather and slippery conditions is just ridiculous. They can beat anyone."

The Sea Eagles were presented with an opportunity to lay an early claim to the minor premiership after learning of the Storm's loss to the Warriors in the earlier match.

But the Roosters took advantage of a stunning start in which they scored 18 points in the opening 12 minutes to run out six-tries-to-two winners.

Manly still lead the competition on 30 points, two ahead of the Storm, Roosters and Cronulla, who make up the all-important top four.

The leading pack have a three-point break on fifth-placed Brisbane, who scored an 18-12 win over the Sharks on Friday, but Fittler said none of the top sides could expect an easy run to the finals.

"One, two three and four, however it goes, I don't think you're going to cruise in as easily as expected," he said.

"They're putting up good fights."

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