Top eight on NRL ladder reshuffles again - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Top eight on NRL ladder reshuffles again

By Ben Horne 25/07/2010 06:50:09 PM Comments (0)

Just as the NRL finals picture was beginning to take shape, four of the top five sides lost at the weekend, leaving the playoff race as open as it's ever been.

South Sydney and Manly won on Sunday and the Gold Coast on Friday to dismiss fears they were on the slide, while the top three sides St George Illawarra, Penrith and Wests Tigers all lost and had weaknesses exposed.

The Dragons lost to the Titans by a field goal in golden-point extra time so it's hardly panic stations for them, but their recent inability to score points is eerily similar to how they bumbled meekly out of last year's finals series.

Penrith are officially in strife after suffering their third straight defeat, this time to a Melbourne team who have little to play for.

The Panthers have attacking deficiencies of their own to deal with and will now be looking over their shoulder at the Tigers, Sydney Roosters, Sea Eagles, Warriors, Titans and possibly Brisbane - who are all closing in on their top-two spot.

The Tigers shouldn't be alarmed at their loss to Manly but must snap back into form after a run of flat performances.

"Fortunately we've got enough points on the board at the moment to not impact us too much, other than it's pretty crowded at the moment, where we are on the ladder," said coach, Tim Sheens.

"We're not in the playoffs yet, we've got to work hard over the next month."

Brisbane can move into the top eight with a win over the Roosters on Monday night at Suncorp, while a fourth-straight victory for Brian Smith's tri-colours would see them move into third.

While plenty of teams have worries to address, wins for clubs like Manly, Souths and Parramatta relieved some headaches.

The Hayne plane continues to soar, and Parramatta's win over Canterbury has them powering towards another 11th hour top-eight qualification like they did last year.

A third straight loss for Souths wouldn't have ended their hopes, but the damage it would have done to their confidence - on top of the broken collar-bone suffered by Dave Taylor and injuries to Issac Luke and Luke Stuart - might have meant it was almost curtains.

Second-rower Sam Burgess admitted his side was desperate for their win over the Warriors, which acted as a wake-up call to the well-positioned New Zealand side.

"It wouldn't have helped at all, especially because it's so compressed," Burgess said.

"Once you drop four points away, it's difficult to climb back."

Manly coach Des Hasler said his side's win over Wests means they can now re-focus on a top-four finish.

"Where we were at two weeks ago, it was just about us getting on a bit of a momentum run," he said.

"We just need to maintain and continue that momentum and let the eight and the table take care of itself.

"But I think if we keep up that momentum and keep winning obviously we've got a bit of a shot."

Eleventh-placed Canberra are still in the frame after beating Cronulla for their third straight win.

Only North Queensland, Cronulla and the out-of-play Storm are completely out of the finals race - with the Bulldogs and Newcastle still hopeful of a late surge despite weekend losses.

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