NRL: Cowboys' resurgence could give playoff chasing Warriors a leg up

By Michael Brown

Jerome Ropati played the last of his two games this season. Photo / Greg Bowker
Jerome Ropati played the last of his two games this season. Photo / Greg Bowker

The Cowboys appear to have left their own run too late but could have a major say on who makes the NRL playoffs and it could work in the Warriors' favour.

North Queensland were among the favourites pre-season but won only six of their first 18 games, costing Neil Henry his job as coach. They have won both games since Henry's sacking, including a 30-12 dismantling of the Rabbitohs.

They could still sneak into the top eight if they win their last four games because of their good points differential and three of their games are against playoffs contenders.

Four teams are already assured of finals football (Roosters, Rabbitohs, Manly, Storm) leaving eight teams fighting for the remaining four spots. The Bulldogs and Sharks (both on 26 points) should make it and the Knights are in a handy position.

The Warriors could sneak in with three wins but their poor points differential means they probably need four.

It is imperative they regain the swagger and steel that saw them win seven from eight games recently. Defeats to the Sharks and Sea Eagles were not unexpected but they have lost a lot of the momentum.

They have a good chance to re-find some form on Sunday against a Panthers outfit in freefall. Ivan Cleary's side have lost their last four by a combined score of 148-34 as injuries have taken their toll. The Warriors owe them one after the 62-6 hammering in round 10.

"While they may not have good recent form we, of all teams, know what they're capable of," coach Matt Elliott said.

"We've shown plenty of improvement generally but had a tough day against a very, very good Manly side on Sunday."

Elliott has stuck with the same side that went down 27-12 to Manly but has also included experienced centre Jerome Ropati, who played the last of his two games this season in the 25-24 defeat of the Titans in round eight.

The 28-year-old is off contract at the end of the season after a horror run with injuries but has been performing well for the Vulcans in recent weeks and was 18th man against Manly.

Warriors v Penrith
Mt Smart Stadium, 4pm Sunday

- NZ Herald

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