The NRL's top eight appears locked in with two rounds to play after Manly's finals charge fell apart with an error-riddled effort against a gusty Parramatta at Brookvale Oval on Sunday.
Heading into round
24 on the back of six wins in their last seven games, the Sea Eagles
were likely going to need three more to be a chance of qualifying for an
11th successive finals campaign.
But the 20-16 loss to the Eels leaves them very much up against it.
winger Semi Radradra again scored a double to record his 21st try of
the year, moving to the top of the season's tryscorers list in the
It was a performance from Manly that captain Jamie Lyon found hard to believe, given what was on the line.
"We were just not real good across the park in anything. We were very average, it is very disappointing," Lyon said.
had a good run there but tonight was our worst performance in a long
time, probably the season. There were too many soft tries and we just
kept dropping the ball."
Manly, who sit on 24 points, will have to
win their final matches and rely on seventh-placed Canterbury (28
points) or eighth-placed St George (26 points) falling over if they are
to play finals football.
Both the Bulldogs and the Dragons have a
relatively easy run home compared to Manly's matches against premiership
frontrunners Sydney Roosters and fifth-placed Cronulla.
Dragons beat Penrith 19-12 in another dour encounter on Thursday night
at Wollongong and face cellar dwellers Gold Coast (away) and Wests
Tigers (home) over the final two rounds.
Canterbury, who beat South Sydney 32-18 on Friday, play last-placed Newcastle (away) and the 10th-placed Warriors.
the fight for the minor premiership, and the crucial top two spots,
remains on after the Roosters' gritty 12-10 win over Brisbane on
The Roosters, Broncos and Cowboys, who smashed the
Warriors 50-16 in Auckland on Saturday, all sit on 36 points. The
Tricolours sit top on percentages, with Brisbane second.
teams will make the top four, but who host games in the first week of
the finals may not be decided until after round 26.
will be without Jared Waerea-Hargreaves for the remainder of 2015
because of a knee injury while captain Mitchell Pearce won't play again
until the finals due to a hamstring tear.
The Cowboys could be without James Tamou (neck) and Michael Morgan (ankle) for the rest of the year.
play Souths in a crucial match at Allianz Stadium on Thursday. North
Queensland travel to Melbourne to play the Storm on Saturday.
bounced back from their thrashing at the hands of Melbourne to beat
Wests Tigers 40-18 at Remondis Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Coast lifted themselves off the bottom of the NRL ladder on the back of
a man-of-the-match effort from youngster Kane Elgey in the 28-12 win
Melbourne can leapfrog Souths into fourth with a
win over the Knights at AAMI Stadium on Monday night in the concluding
match of round 24.