Underdogs plot NRL finals upsets - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Underdogs plot NRL finals upsets

By Todd Balym 06/09/2009 09:51:17 PM Comments (0)

The last team into the finals has declared two competition front runners ripe for the picking as the underdogs plot massive upsets in the first week of the NRL finals.

Newcastle premiership winner Adam MacDougall believes the Bulldogs (second) and Gold Coast (third) are vulnerable next weekend with injuries to key personnel and heavy last-round defeats sapping confidence heading into the playoffs.

Minor premiers St George Illawarra are flying again after a 37-0 win over Parramatta, who they'll meet again on Sunday at WIN Jubilee Oval.

Melbourne will host Manly on Friday, the fourth-and fifth-placed teams clashing at Etihad Stadium.

MacDougall's Knights secured seventh place with a 35-0 flogging of Penrith on Sunday and will play at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night against the Bulldogs.

The Dogs, minus star halfback Brett Kimmorley, surrendered the minor premiership in a 34-12 loss to Wests Tigers while the Titans were steamrolled 38-4 by reigning premiers Manly.

The Knights would have faced the Titans if Brisbane had gone down in the last regular season clash, but the Broncos had a 22-10 win over Canberra on Sunday night to secure sixth place and a meeting with neighbours Gold Coast on Saturday night.

"I think one of our better games this year was when we beat the Bulldogs without four or five of our best players," said MacDougall.

"They've got no Brett Kimmorley and obviously coming off the back of a disappointing loss.

"Out of all the sides in the finals they're probably the ones who are probably going into the finals a little bit down on confidence." Gold Coast fullback Mat Rogers is in a race to recover from a hamstring strain, while utility Luke O'Dwyer will miss the entire finals campaign with a knee injury.

Prop Luke Bailey says the Titans cannot afford a repeat of the "soft" and "embarrassing" performance next Saturday or they will risk becoming the first third-placed team in the history of the NRL eliminated in the opening week.

The current highest ranked team eliminated in the first weekend of the finals is St George Illawarra, ousted after placing fifth in 2004.

"We have had a chat about how soft our forwards went and we have to try and redeem ourselves next week with a stronger performance," Bailey said ahead of the clash with the Broncos.

"It's probably the perfect game for us knowing we got a bit bashed (by Manly) and the Brisbane pack are probably even a little bit bigger.

"That was our worst performance of the year but blokes are not hanging their heads. Everyone is probably embarrassed by the performance we put out there but we all know we're capable of a lot better.

"I've often thought about it, we have beat everyone in the top eight so there is no reason why we should be down on confidence." Last year's grand finalists Manly and Melbourne both enter the finals on the back of impressive wins, the Storm holding the Warriors scoreless at home with a 30-0 win.

While the fourth v fifth clash has typically had little importance in the first week, Sea Eagles centre Steve Matai fears the unpredictability of the 2009 season is almost certain to deliver a finals shock.

"If you lose you're out," he said of their clash with Melbourne.

"You would rather be in control of your own destiny rather than waiting for results to go your way." Hooker Matt Ballin believes that with sides like the in-form Broncos, Knights and mercurial Parramatta below them, a string of upsets is possible.

"They can all easily win so for us it's a win-every-game-from-now-on mentality," he said.

At the other end of the ladder, the Sydney Roosters collected the 2009 wooden spoon with a 32-16 loss to North Queensland on Sunday.

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