Game-on in minor premiership battle - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Game-on in minor premiership battle

By David Beniuk 06/08/2010 04:31:49 PM Comments (0)

It's game-on for the NRL minor premiership and the battle for the double chance with four clubs a chance of sitting on top of the ladder after the weekend's matches.

A loss by ladder-leaders St George Illawarra to the red-hot Sydney Roosters and wins to the Wests Tigers and Penrith would leave the Dragons, Panthers, Roosters and Tigers all on 30 points.

Wayne Bennett's side would almost certainly retain top spot with a current points differential of 184 courtesy of their suffocating defence.

The second-placed Panthers' differential is 105, the Roosters' 45 and the Tigers' just two.

But with four games remaining after this week, St George Illawarra's superior balance sheet could be eroded by the Panthers and Roosters, who both average a league-best 25 points per game.

Four sides all sitting on 30 points late on Monday night is far from a remote possibility.

Brian Smith's Roosters have been in scintillating form winning five straight and they will meet a Dragons side at the SCG on Sunday which has lost three of their past four.

The Tigers are favourites to beat a depleted South Sydney outfit at ANZ Stadium on Saturday, while Penrith will also be expected to beat Canberra in the national capital on Monday night.

Of the four prime contenders for the JJ Giltinan Shield and $100,000 in prize money, the Tigers have the toughest run home, coming up against three current top eight sides.

The Roosters face two, while the Dragons and Panthers meet just one each.

The top two sides at the end of the regular season are guaranteed a second chance in the finals, while the top four host home finals in week one.

The Dragons won the minor premiership last year, Penrith last won it in 2003, when they went on to win the grand final, and the Roosters in 2004, while the Tigers joint venture is yet to claim a first-place finish.

Former Penrith forward Scott Sattler was a member of the club's victorious 2003 side.

"A lot of people say there's not much difference in finishing first or second because you're guaranteed two bites of the cherry," Sattler told AAP.

"But financially it's great for a club to finish first because you have those added dollars in your pocket.

"I think it made it easier for our playing complement because we had such a young squad.

"It was always going to be better for them to play two games rather than three to make a grand final so it really did help us."

Sattler, who pulled off one of the most famous tackles in grand final history to help the Panthers home in the `03 decider, said a Roosters win in Sunday's blockbuster was on the cards.

But he still thinks the Dragons will finish first.

"I think purely for the fact of the man that they answer to every day in Wayne Bennett," he said of the six-time premiership-winning supercoach.

"He'll finally tweak whatever needs to be finally tweaked for them to get through the next few games.

"I think he holds the balance of power over the position they're holding at the moment and I think that's the reason why they'll probably hold on."

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