How the Warriors can still make the final eight

By Alex McLeod

The Warriors have to win their last two matches and hope the Titans lose their final two matches if they are to make the NRL play-offs this season. Photo / Photosport
The Warriors have to win their last two matches and hope the Titans lose their final two matches if they are to make the NRL play-offs this season. Photo / Photosport

In the wake of the Warriors' dismantling at the hands of the North Queensland Cowboys last night, the Auckland-based franchise have a monumental task if they are to make the NRL's top eight and qualify for the play-offs.

Following their 34-6 loss, the Warriors sit in ninth on the ladder with 24 points, three points behind the Gold Coast Titans - who currently occupy the final play-off spot - and four points behind the seventh-placed Penrith Panthers.

With two rounds remaining, the Warriors cannot afford to lose their final two matches, with their opponents being the tenth-placed Wests Tigers - who are also looking to keep their play-off aspirations alive - and the Parramatta Eels.

A loss to either of their upcoming opponents would result in the New Zealand side being mathematically unable to qualify for the top eight.

If the Warriors do defeat both of their Sydney-based opponents, then their fate lies in the hands of the Penrith Panthers and the Gold Coast Titans.

Intriguingly, these two franchises face off against each other next week at Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast, with both sides looking to confirm their places in the NRL finals.

For Warriors supporters, the best possible outcome during next week's round would be a victory to the Panthers over the Titans, as well as a Warriors win.

This would mean the Warriors would be still be sitting in ninth spot, but would be just one point behind Gold Coast heading into the final round robin match of the season, while the Panthers would have secured their ticket to the play-offs.

Warriors fans would then need to hope that their side beat the Eels, and that the Cowboys can redeem themselves after last night's thumping and deliver a similar performance against the Titans in Townsville.

If this dream scenario were to play out, the Warriors would sneak into the top eight on 28 points, while the Titans would drop out with 27 points.

Going into next weekend's set of fixtures, a Titans victory over the Panthers would not mathematically disqualify the Warriors from finals football - providing they get the job done against the Tigers - as the Penrith side would only be two points ahead, while the Titans would be safely in the top eight.

However, a Titans win over the Panthers may mean it is not mathematically impossible for the Warriors to make the finals, but it would mean some miracle, near-impossible results would need to come off in the Warriors vs Tigers, Warriors vs Eels and Panthers vs Sea Eagles matches, all thanks to the Panthers' far superior points differential.

The Penrith side currently have a points difference of 69, while the Warriors' is -54, meaning that if the Panthers were to lose to the Titans, the Warriors would have to score, at the very least, 123 points across their final two games.

In order to qualify if the Panthers were to lose to the Titans, the Warriors would have to average, at the bare minimum, 62 points across back-to-back weekends.

The only time they've ever scored more than 60 points was in their 66-0 victory over the Rabbitohs a decade ago, while the most points they have scored this season was 50 in their 50-14 win over the last-placed Newcastle Knights.

The Warriors quest for the finals will be eased by the fact that their matches against the Tigers and the Eels will be played at home at Mt Smart Stadium, where they will be hoping a boisterous home crowd will help push them into a play-offs spot.

Should the current top seven remain the same as it currently is at the end of the regular season, and the Warriors take eighth spot ahead of the Titans, they would have to travel back to 1300 Smiles Stadium, the ground they got walloped on last night, to face the fifth-placed Cowboys in a do-or-die qualifying final in the first round of play-offs.

The Warriors vs Tigers match kicks off at 4pm at Mt Smart Stadium on Sunday next weekend.

- NZ Herald

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