Storm vulnerable, says Bennett - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Storm vulnerable, says Bennett

By Steve Jancetic And Phil Henderson 31/08/2008 07:05:19 PM Comments (0)

Veteran Brisbane mentor Wayne Bennett claims premiers Melbourne are more vulnerable than they have been in years after a weekend which left just nine sides in the race for the NRL top eight heading into the final round of the regular season.

Only the New Zealand Warriors, who crushed fellow finals hopefuls Penrith 42-20 in Auckland on Sunday - can realistically sneak into the top eight with a win over Parramatta on Saturday night but they need Newcastle to go down to the Broncos or Canberra to the Bulldogs.

The Knights would be fancying their chances of causing an upset at Suncorp Stadium however after disposing of the Storm on Saturday night with a win Bennett believes may have exposed the premiers.

"The Storm haven't been as vulnerable the last two seasons as they have the last month - the Warriors got them over there and Newcastle got them last night," Bennett said.

"It's just not a one horse race (but) they're still the favourites.

"We're all capable of beating each other and I think that happened with the Storm last night."

While rival coaches and experts have recently claimed the best way to beat the Storm was to try and unsettle them physically, former Knights great Andrew Johns claimed Newcastle coach Brian Smith may have uncovered the true blueprint.

"I think Brian Smith has shown the gameplan to beat Melbourne, you've got to move the ball around, you can't just hit it up through the forwards because they get defenders in," Johns said on the Nine Network.

"Last night Newcastle played a high intensity game, they moved the ball, moved (the Storm) around, they kicked away from Billy Slater and took him out of the game. And their gameplan worked to perfection."

The loss left the Storm in a dogfight as they look to make it three straight minor premierships. While Melbourne are level with Cronulla on 36 competition points, their vastly superior points differential to the Sharks means it is Manly who are their greatest rivals for top spot.

The Sea Eagles head into Monday's contest with Gold Coast just two points behind the Storm, but a win by more than 10 points over the Titans would see Manly leapfrog Melbourne and put them into pole position to claim the minor premiership.

Should both enter the final round locked on top, Melbourne would be left with the advantage of knowing what they need to do to secure the minor premiership given their match against South Sydney is the last game played on Sunday night.

"It's going to be a bit of a struggle now I'd imagine," Bellamy said of the minor premiership.

"Obviously it's a thing we've tried to put out of our minds and just concentrate on playing each week.

"But obviously our concentration wasn't great this week given our performance, so we'll just worry about our performance and hopefully get it right next week."

No place in the top eight is locked in, though Melbourne, Cronulla and Manly will fill the top three places.

The Sydney Roosters need to beat St George Illawarra on Friday night to secure fourth spot and the last remaining home final, but a loss there would open the door for either the Dragons or the Broncos to move up to fourth.

Canberra can finish as high as sixth or as low as ninth, with their 22-10 loss to North Queensland on Saturday night costing them any hope of a top four finish.

A win for the Raiders on Sunday would also consign their opponents the Bulldogs to the wooden spoon.

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