Tigers, Eels wins intensify finals scrap
August 9, 2009 - 7:00PM
The Wests Tigers stepped into the top eight for the first time in three months as the fight for the NRL finals became even tighter on Sunday.
Eight clubs are separated by just three competition points with four rounds remaining after another round of upsets and it is almost certain only four of those teams will reach the NRL finals in September.
St George Illawarra (36pts), the Bulldogs (32pts), Gold Coast (30pts) and Melbourne (29pts) are virtually assured top four finishes and a home final after wins over the weekend, the Titans sealing the club’s finals debut with a 30-10 victory over the Warriors in New Zealand.
The Storm have a four-point buffer over the chasers, with Penrith fifth on 25 competition points and Brisbane, who play Cronulla on Monday, in 12th place with 22 points to bookend the intense race for the finals.
The Tigers were the big movers of the weekend, their 17-10 victory over the Sydney Roosters on Sunday putting them into the eight for the first time since round nine.
It was the club’s fifth straight win and, while they’re now in a position to decide their own finals fate, coach Tim Sheens insists they’re not looking at the overall picture just yet.
“(Fate) has always been in our own hands,” he said. "We’re not worrying about who is winning around us or who is losing, it’s just a matter of if we keep winning then we look up at the end of the season (and) maybe we’re in a good position.
"We can’t afford to start counting who is losing and hoping that someone wins or someone loses or whatever.
“We know if we keep going we can have a shot at it.”
Newcastle were the biggest losers of round 22.
Their 40-8 loss to Parramatta was the Knights’ third straight defeat and saw them drop to ninth, their first time out of the top eight since round three.
Parramatta’s fourth straight win keeps the Eels in the tight battle for the finals, sitting just one point outside the top eight with 23 competition points in 11th.
“We’re still running 11th. We’ve got a sniff, it’s a bit bigger than last week but it’s still just a sniff,” said Eels coach Daniel Anderson.
"There’s four games to go and we’ve got some confidence.
"Our for and against (-46 points) is still in the negative and we’ve got the Panthers (+7) and the Rabbitohs (+18) who are on odd points like we are and they’ve both got positive differentials.
“We just have to keep working really hard and doing our best.”
The Rabbitohs are equal with Parramatta on 23 points, but ahead in 10th place with their superior for and against record after upsetting premiers Manly 36-22 at Brookvale Oval on Saturday night.
It was Souths’ fourth win from their last five games, but came at a serious cost with captain Roy Asotasi ruled out for the rest of 2009 with a knee injury.
“Losing him, it’s going to be tough for us each week but I think the boys are going to have to dig deeper and we can keep winning,” said Rabbitohs star John Sutton.
"It was a bit of a shock, but we’re all just going to have to train harder.
“It gives us even more to play for now because we can do it for him.”