Finals aspirants face new benchmark - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Finals aspirants face new benchmark

By Steve Jancetic and David Beniuk 27/07/2010 06:15:37 PM Comments (0)

A combination of Melbourne's expulsion from the title race and an even spread of talent has served to raise the bar for 2010's top eight hopefuls.

It has even opened up the possibility that for the first time a team finishing on 30 points could miss out.

That scenario would already rule the likes of Canterbury and Newcastle out of the hunt, with Bulldogs coach Kevin Moore resigned to the fact his side may have left its run too late.

"It's a very tough (equation), it's as simple as that," Moore said of the Bulldogs' finals hopes.

"There's even no guarantee that 28 points will get you into the finals but we're aware of that and we've put ourselves into that situation.

"We've got another challenge this week against Souths who are playing really well so we need to turn up and we're going out there to win, we need a win."

Another team coming home fast is Parramatta but even four wins from their last six games - all of which are against sides above them on the ladder - may not be enough.

A Queensland road double against Gold Coast and Brisbane in round 22 and 23 holds the key to their finals quest, with the very real possibility they could need to win five from six to guarantee a slice of September action.

A 50 per cent record over the closing rounds will be enough to see Penrith, Wests Tigers and the Sydney Roosters sneak home, the Roosters' thrilling win over Brisbane on Monday night looming as vital in the final wash-up.

But coach Brian Smith said it was too early to think about finals.

"I think probably the competition table tells us that things can change mighty fast," Smith told Sky Sports Radio on Tuesday.

"I think if we'd have lost last night we'd have been down to sixth or seventh.

"We've won a few in a row there and we've gone from outside the eight to third but if we lost the next two or three we'd probably find ourselves back outside it again, that's how close it all is."

Teams currently fifth through seventh - Manly, Warriors and Gold Coast - all need four more wins to be assured a finals spot, with Sunday's Mt Smart Stadium clash between the Warriors and Titans to give one side some breathing room.

Then it comes down to the sides on the bubble, with South Sydney in eighth joined by Brisbane and the Eels on 22 competition points and Canberra a further two back on 20.

While the Eels will again hop aboard the 'Hayne Plane' as they go in search of their fourth win against the Roosters on Saturday night, the Broncos will look to make amends against a familiar face when they host Wayne Bennett's Dragons side on Sunday.

While the Dragons are chasing successive minor premierships, there is little doubt the Broncos need this one more after dropping out of the top eight on Monday night.

"They're a team that needs to start winning to make the eight and we're a team that everyone wants to try and knock off," Dragons five-eighth Jamie Soward said.

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