League: Storm step up as favourites after whipping at-home Manly

By Peter Jessup

The Storm have acceded supreme favouritism to take back-to-back NRL titles after beating rival favourites Manly 16-10 on their own ground and hitting the run-up to the finals with a full-strength and injury-free team.

Melbourne also take significant psychological advantage over the Sea Eagles after a fifth straight win, which would suggest the Eagles will struggle if they do make the ultimate game on October 5.

The Sharks also won at the weekend but their battle to subdue Souths was not convincing and suggests they won't foot it with the two favourites.

The Roosters had the chance to end Parramatta's season yesterday but a desperate Eels side won 28-24 with a late try to Kiwis fullback Krisnan Inu.

Penrith dropped 74-12 in Canberra yesterday, the club's second-worst defeat ever, and with victory the Raiders also moved above the Panthers and into eighth spot.

The order of the top four may change but the names aren't likely to. The rest of the top-eight will be determined in the four rounds to come.

Nine teams including the Warriors vie for those four spots and teams in that nine face each other in several games - four-point games.

Of that nine the Eels, Titans and Panthers look shaky and ready to collapse. The Knights, Tigers, Raiders and Warriors appear to be gathering momentum. The Dragons and Broncos' erratic play suggests they'll fall early if they do make the eight.

Only three are out of contention - Souths, the Cowboys and Bulldogs.

The Rabbitohs were beaten 28-14 at Cronulla on Saturday to extinguish their last hopes.

The Cowboys broke their record-setting 13-loss streak with a 36-12 victory over the Bulldogs, who have now scored just 16 points while conceding 122 in the three games since Sonny Bill Williams left.

Titans coach John Cartwright may field the third-youngest player ever in the premiership, 16-year-old halfback Jordan Rankin, against the Knights on the Gold Coast tonight. The two younger than Rankin, also 16, played in 1929 and 1936.

- NZ Herald

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