NRL title race the tightest in history, top eight separated by four points

Suliasi Vunivalu scores in the corner for the Storm against the Knights Photo: The Storm are on top, but only just in what has been the tightest race to the premiership in history. (AAP: Darren Pateman)
Related Story: Roosters stumble against Raiders as Bulldogs pip Warriors

The NRL is headed for its most open finish to a regular season in premiership history after a weekend of upsets.

One win separates first from sixth with two rounds to play, the biggest jam at the top since the competition’s inception in 1908.

Top eight run-in

  1. Storm – Titans (a), Panthers (h)
  2. Roosters – Broncos (h), Eels (a)
  3. Rabbitohs – Canberra (h), Tigers (h)
  4. Dragons – Bulldogs (h), Knights (a)
  5. Panthers – Warriors (a), Storm (a)
  6. Sharks – Knights (h), Bulldogs (a)
  7. Broncos – Roosters (a), Sea Eagles (h)
  8. Warriors – Panthers (h), Raiders (h)

Melbourne, the Sydney Roosters and South Sydney are equal on 32 points, while Penrith, St George Illawarra and Cronulla are a win back and mathematically a shot at the minor premiership.

Brisbane and the Warriors — who fell to lowly Canterbury on Sunday — are a win further back in seventh and eighth, leaving four points separating all eight finalists.

Wests Tigers are all but out of contention. They need to win their last two games and hope either the Warriors or Broncos drop theirs with a for-and-against swing following Saturday night’s loss to the Dragons.

External Link: NRL 2018 ladder

The only season that has come close in recent memory is 1999, when three points separated first from sixth with two rounds to play and the next two chasers were three points back.

Yet it’s been a month where more eyes have been on the coaching merry-go-round than the field.

“Thank God we’ve got the salary cap to keep the competition equal,” Roosters coach Trent Robinson said on Sunday.

“It’s been a circus and luckily we’ve got a highly talented group of rugby league players that get put under a salary cap and they keep producing each weekend.”

Robinson’s comments came after his Roosters blew a chance to go alone at the top of the ladder with their 14-12 loss to Canberra.

They scored two tries to one but gave up four penalty goals in the loss, leaving the Storm first on for-and-against and with a better run home.

Blake Ferguson is held up in a tackle by three Raiders players. Photo: The Roosters came up against a wall of green defenders on Sunday afternoon in Canberra. (AAP: Lukas Coch)

“I see less a missed opportunity than to finish it off and play some of the footy we want to play,” Robinson said.

“It’s obvious you want to finish in a top position but I would’ve liked to have seen a little more to start the game from us.”

Meanwhile Canterbury’s win over the Warriors helped move them a step away from an also close wooden spoon battle.

Two points separate the bottom four teams, with next week’s clash between North Queensland (16th) and Parramatta (15th) to go a long way to deciding last place.

However Manly or the Bulldogs could also still finish bottom if they lose twice.


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