ISP Top Four still up for grabs in penultimate round
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With two all-exciting rounds to play in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW competition, NSWRL.com.au looks at the top four hopes of each of the current top six outfits.
The stand-out team in 2018, the Penrith Panthers have consistently overcome the raft of challenges thrown their way throughout the season.
Emerging as the leading premiership contender on the back of eight-straight wins, Penrith sealed the minor premiership in Round 21 with an emphatic 38-10 win over top four contenders, the Western Suburbs Magpies.
Jarome Luai is also only a slim hope to play any further part in the Intrust Super Premiership Panthers’ title push, meaning new-look halves pairing Adam Keighran and Liam Coleman will lead the side into, and throughout, the finals series.
A top four berth assured, Penrith will play ‘wait and see’ in the weeks to come, with a host of teams still vying for a place in the all-important top four. Tipped by many to play a prominent role in the finals series, St. George Illawarra have rocketed up the ISP ladder of late having accrued eight competition points in the past five weeks.
Their charge lead by experienced half, 2017 Chairman’s Medallist Darren Nicholls, the Dragons meet Blacktown and Mounties in Rounds 23 and 24, respectively.
But Mat Head’s men will need to lift again – having fallen to both the Sea Eagles (Round 15) and Mounties (Round 1) already in 2018. The Dragons also have the second-worst point differential of sides currently first-to-sixth.
On paper, consecutive matches at Henson Park to round out the regular season holds the Newtown Jets in good stead to finish inside the competition’s top four.
But maybe not so.
The Jets have won just three of eight matches played at the venue this season, including back-to-back, two point losses at the hands of the Panthers and Sea Eagles in rounds 20 and 21.
But boasting the best attack in the competition – scoring an average upwards of 26 points per game – the Jets have the strike power to turn recent form on its head.
Halfback Kyle Flanagan has been a consistent performer for Newtown this season, with he and No.9 Blayke Brailey instrumental in the side’s successes throughout 2018.
Should Newtown fail to beat the Warriors in Round 23 – a task they couldn’t manage when the sides last met in Round 8 – the Jets’ final game of the season versus the Western Suburbs Magpies could prove a top four shoot-out.