NRL Finals Competition Heats Up

NRl 2009 Finals Top 8 SeriesWho would have thought it could get any hotter? The race for the 2009 NRL finals at the completion of Round 23 still sees plenty of teams that can make the grade in the final three weeks.

The Bulldogs flexed their muscle despite having several key players missing through injury, the Dogs handling an early Cowboys onslaught to grind out a tough win in enemy territory. The victory over the Cowboys will give the Canterbury side plenty of confidence leading into the finals.

The Titans too showed plenty of character and class away from home. Usually a little flakey away from Titan-ville, the Gold Coast men trumped the fancied Rabbitohs side and have probably sent Jason Taylor’s men spiralling out of finals contention – now left on 23 points.

The Roosters again played without luck, losing on Saturday night and probably playing the out of sorts Manly side back into form at the right time. David Williams who was deadset gone a week ago, suddenly remembered how to catch a ball, run a hitup and take a hit. Surprisingly coach Des Hasler continued to play Williams when many would have put him back in reserves a la Tony Williams.

The Parramatta side continued on their roll, notching up 5 successive wins in stellar fashion over a young and in-experienced Warriors side. Playing in front of a strong home crowd, the Eels were too good for the Warriors who were minus Price, Tate, Reopati and others. Jarryd Hayne continued his almost ‘Harlem Globe Trotter’ like form behind a solid Eels pack.

There were fireworks galore down in the ACT, with the Raiders knuckling down – literally to surprise the cocky Dragons. St George Illawarra have probably been a touch arrogant of late and this loss will probably be appreciated by Wayne Bennett who will want his troops razor sharp for the finals. The Raiders through their young brigade played tough, grinding footy to throw the Dragons off their game. The Saints really didn’t react well to some 50/50 calls and went right off their game, this will have opponents licking their lips.

The Wests Tigers remain the form team of the NRL, notching up a massive 6th consecutive win – this time over the hapless Cronulla Sharks. The Sharks deadset look like a reserve grade team and are lucky to be still competiting in the NRL on current form. Sure, they have some injuries – but past mistakes in terms of recruitment have hurt them badly. Hard to see them improving anytime in the next 18 months.

The Penrith Panthers hit a major snag up in Brisbane, falling victim to a resurgent Broncos outfit. The Panthers started well, with the sides engaged in touch football – however, as the Panthers counted the cost of injury – with Lewis struggling badly and Matt Bell feeling the effects of a massive Nick Kenny hit, things were fading bad. The second half saw the Broncos lift a gear and totally blow the visitors away, 40-0.

That only leaves the coachless Knights to host the controversy rattled Storm in Newcastle. The departure of Brian Smith has been a sad end to a strong tenure in Newcastle. Smith divides opinion, but he has been targeted by the press and others within the Knights camp since Day 1 and has done brilliantly to rebuild the outfit after Andrew Johns. If you look at the stats, teams that change coaches generally get a first up win and their chances against the out of sorts Storm could be good tonight.

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