Top Eight
Battle Heats Up

The semi final race continues to heat up in NSW Premier League, with 11 teams still in contention.

After falling into a patch of bad form, North Sydney have managed to stay in touch with the top eight after recording a 14 all draw with arch-rivals Manly on Saturday, while the Raiders toppled the Knights to stay well entrenched in the top eight.

After dropping to a couple of losses, Balmain have bounced back in recent weeks, flogging Norths and then venture buddy the Magpies, 50-12 at Campbelltown on the weekend. The Tigers now sit comfortably within the eight on 14 points.

So, after 11 rounds of the competition, who?s hot and who?s not? Here?s my round 11 rankings.

1. Newtown Jets ? The Jets haven?t lost a game since their round 5 thumping at the hands of the Sharks. Impressive against quality opposition on the weekend in Souths, the Jets are building their season nicely.

2. St Mary?s Penrith Cougars ? The Cougars bounced back well after their disappointing performance against the Bunnies in round 10, knocking over the top of the table Eels 25-18.

3. Parramatta Eels ? Losses to the Eagles in round 8 and the Cougars in round 11 have proven the Eels are not unbeatable. With coach Jason Taylor moving up to coach the NRL, the distraction at the club may prove to be too much.

4. Canberra Raiders ? The ever consistent Raiders are always hard to go past. Never far behind in a loss and always in control when they?re winning, the 2003 Premiers may prove to be the dark horse of this seasons competition.

5. Cronulla Sharks ? On their day they can beat anyone, but inconsistency has become a problem in recent weeks. The Sharks murdered the Dragons three weeks ago, but then followed up this strong performance by getting smashed by the Raiders the week after. A narrow win over the Bulldogs on the weekend gives the Sharks an opportunity to string some wins together.

6. Balmain Ryde Eastwood Tigers ? The Tigers started the season in astonishing fashion, winning their first four matches. The purple patch finished in sensational style, when the Tigers dropped their next four matches. Bouncing back against the Bears in round 10, the Tigers seem to be back on track.

7. Manly Warringah Sea Eagles ? One of only two teams to knock over Parramatta this season, the Eagles have found stringing consistent performances together to be tough going. With a couple of NRL players out with Origin duty over the next couple of months, the Premier League boys may struggle.

8. St George-Illawarra Dragons ? Two losses and a bye in the last three weeks has the Dragons looking shaky. Need to bounce back against the Knights in Newcastle this weekend.

9. South Sydney Rabbitohs ? Unable to kick on after three straight wins, which included a thrashing of the highly fancied Cougars. The Rabbits clash against the Tigers this weekend should be useful for the form guide.

10. Newcastle Knights ? Still capable of making the top eight. The Knights need to win this weekend against the Dragons. Were competitive against the Raiders in a tight match.

11. North Sydney Bears ? If anyone can work out the form of the Mighty Bears, come and see me. Thrashed in consecutive weeks by the Knights and Tigers, the Bears lifted against Manly this weekend for a draw. Started the season with real promise, with a top performance against the Sharks, the Bears have faltered ever since. Periodic inclusion of some Storm players may be proving to be too disruptive to the squad.

12. Canterbury Bulldogs ? The Bulldogs are the biggest underachievers of this seasons competition. Possessing a quality squad, the Bulldogs should be challenging for top spot. Are in danger of losing touch with the eight.

13. Western Suburbs Magpies ? One win from 11 rounds says enough. The battlers from the West could never be accused of not trying, but good results have been hard to come by. A tough year for Magpies fans.



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