Tigers in tightest of tight spots as race for places goes to wire
Brad Walter | August 26, 2009
EVEN if they win both their remaining games, against the Titans and Bulldogs, the Wests Tigers could still miss out on the final eight.
That is one of the stunning range of possibilities in a finals race so tight that seven teams are still in contention for the last spot in the top four.
The injury-hit Tigers would not only have to beat the third-placed Titans and second-placed Bulldogs but rely on the Storm losing to the Sydney Roosters and Warriors and Manly, Newcastle, Brisbane, Penrith and Parramatta winning no more than one game each.
Of more concern to the joint-venture club is securing a place in the play-offs after dropping from fifth place to 10th following last Friday night’s 26-18 loss to the Eels in a match hailed as the game of the season. Despite their sixth consecutive win, Parramatta are also out of the top eight and must beat the Panthers at home on Friday night or else rely on overcoming the top-of-the-table Dragons at Kogarah next week to have any chance of qualifying for the finals.
With a match against the sixth-placed Knights the following weekend, Penrith hold the key to not only their own destiny but that of several other clubs. Should the Panthers win both their matches, it would assure the Tigers of a finals berth provided they won their two games.
That is because the Tigers would be on 30 points - and even if Newcastle were to beat Canberra next Monday night, they would finish on the same points but with an inferior for-and-against, while the best Parramatta could manage would be 29 points.
The Tigers’ positive for-and-against also makes it possible for them to make the final eight even if they won only one match and finished on 28 points, provided the Eels and Knights either each lost their other games, against St George Illawarra and the Raiders respectively, or two of the Sea Eagles, Broncos and Storm didn’t register another win this season.
North Queensland are also relying on teams above them to lose as well as needing to win both their games, against Brisbane and the Roosters. Of the seven teams outside the top four, the Cowboys have the best for-and-against but with the winner of Friday night’s Parramatta-Penrith local derby advancing to 29 points, they need the Tigers to win no more than one match and at least two other sides to lose both of their games.
North Queensland could still finish as high as sixth place if Manly, Newcastle, Brisbane and the loser of Friday night’s match at Parramatta Stadium fail to win again before the finals.
At the other end of the ladder, the Dragons, Bulldogs and Titans are all guaranteed top-three places but can finish in any order.
Next Friday night’s matches between the Dragons and Eels at Kogarah and the Tigers and Bulldogs at the SFS could see the minor premiership on the line for the top two teams and their rivals needing to win to secure play-off berths.