AAP Rugby

Manly fire but NRL top four state claims

By AAP Newswire

Has the NRL become a four-horse race?

After Melbourne, South Sydney, the Sydney Roosters and Canberra all took big steps in round 18 towards securing two bites at the cherry, it certainly appears that way.

All of the top-four sides have come out of a difficult representative period to be well placed.

And Parramatta legend Peter Sterling declared on Sunday: "I think this is another competition that is won from the top four".

But Storm coach Craig Bellamy cautioned against writing off anyone in spots five to eight after his team disposed of Gold Coast 38-18.

The Storm remain six points clear on top of the ladder after shaking off a rusty first half against an inspired Gold Coast outfit, spurred into action after coach Garth Brennan's sacking seven days earlier.

Bellamy was ropeable his side trailed 12-0 early but they eventually ran away with a seven-tries-to-three win.

"This competition, anyone can beat anyone," Bellamy said.

"When you get closer towards the end of the season, there's things that can go with you and things that can go against you.

"There will come a day where eighth will come up and win it.

"It obviously gives you great advantage being in the top four, even greater being in the top two.

"But you're still in the race if you're fifth to eighth and I'm sure, at some stage in our history, that will happen."

Manly are two points adrift of the fourth-placed Raiders after Tom Trbojevic had returned to spark them to a 36-24 defeat of Parramatta.

And on Saturday, they will face a litmus test of their title credentials against the Storm.

"It's always a tough task to go down and play Melbourne," Manly coach Des Hasler said.

"It'll be a game that we need to generate that 80-minute performance.

Asked about his side's premiership hopes, Hasler quipped: "Mate, there's only three sides in this competition - Melbourne, the Roosters and Souths.

"I don't know if we've been under the radar."

The Roosters are premiership favourites after turning on a second-half masterclass to rout Newcastle 48-10 on Saturday at the SCG.

The Rabbitohs scored three tries in the final eight minutes to run over the top of North Queensland 30-18.

Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire declared his side needed to "harden up" after their 20-12 defeat to the Raiders.

Penrith made it seven wins in a row after ending St George Illawarra's faint finals hope with a 40-18 win.

An Andrew Fifita brain fade gave the Warriors a one-man advantage before Blake Green kicked the winning field goal in his side's 19-18 win over Cronulla.

On Thursday, Brisbane moved to be one point outside the top eight with a 28-6 victory over Canterbury.