Broncos, Manly losers in NRL's big five - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Broncos, Manly losers in NRL's big five

David Beniuk 28/07/2011 06:07:51 PM Comments (0)

Brisbane and Manly are the biggest losers when it comes to results in games between the big five widely considered to be in the hunt for the NRL premiership.

The top five sides on the ladder - Melbourne, Manly, St George Illawarra, North Queensland and Brisbane - have opened a four-point buffer to the pursuing pack chasing the scraps at the bottom of the eight.

For weeks now, it has been assumed the 2011 premiers will come from one of the breakaway group - but any certainty ends there.

In games played against the other heavyweights, Brisbane and Manly have fared surprisingly poorly.

The Broncos have won just one of five games and the Sea Eagles two of five.

Melbourne justify the growing belief they can bounce back from last year's devastating salary cap breach penalties with three wins from four games against their fellow big guns.

The Storm, who eased into equal favouritism for the title with the Dragons this week, would sit top of a mini-table of the top five based on results among themselves.

St George Illawarra have won two from three and, in a quirk of the draw, will only play a total of four games against the other high-flyers.

Each of the other sides plays six or seven matches against the top five.

The Cowboys have won three from five and would sit third on the mini-table.

Fans will need to wait until round 23 for any of the top five to meet again, but from then the competition will head to the playoffs with a blockbuster a week.

Brisbane will play the Cowboys in round 23, before the highly anticipated Dragons-Storm clash a week later.

Manly play Melbourne in round 25 and then back up against Brisbane a week before the finals get underway.

"We'll get some good hit-outs even earlier than that but we're assured of a couple there," Manly prop Brent Kite said.

"I'm sure that will hold us in good stead."

Early season glitches and State of Origin were factors in some results and, as North Queensland found out when they lost champion halfback Johnathan Thurston to injury, plenty can change quickly.

The Cowboys might also believe anything is possible with the Test No.7 due back in the coming weeks.

To the best performers will go the spoils - the prestige and prizemoney of the minor premiership, a guaranteed second chance for the top two, a home city final for the top four.

The Dragons have won the past two minor premierships but now sit five points behind the Storm in third place.

"It's a prestigious thing to win and it's something that this club's very proud of over the past two years," centre Mark Gasnier said.

"But you can't treat it like a premiership, you don't want to peak too early.

"Who knows? The way the competition is, anything can happen.

"Now there's an excitement there because you realise what you're playing for."

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