NRL rivals face early finals series

It’s the mini-playoff series that will determine the final two teams in the NRL top eight.

During the final four weeks of the season, the teams sitting seventh to 10th on the ladder will largely battle it out among themselves to decide who will reach the finals.

Penrith, the Warriors and Wests Tigers are on 24 points each heading into this weekend’s clashes, with Gold Coast a further point behind in 10th.

If that wasn’t tight enough, all four teams will face each other across the next three weeks in a series of pivotal clashes.

The action starts this Saturday with the Titans taking on the in-form Tigers at Campbelltown.

In round 24, it’s the Tigers again facing a finals-chasing rival when they travel to Penrith to take on the Panthers.

If the picture isn’t any clearer by then, round 25 the following week will pit all four teams against each other, with the Warriors hosting the Tigers and the Titans welcoming the Panthers to Robina.

Titans hooker Nathan Peats has labelled this weekend’s clash with the Tigers as “defining” and is only too aware of the games that await in the coming weeks.

“Everyone’s playing each other, those four sides competing for those two spots,” Peats said.

“If you’re good enough to make it, you deserve to be there because you’ve got to play everyone.

“It’s going to be a tough couple of weeks for all four sides. The two best sides will obviously make it.”

Nothing better illustrates the tightness of the contest than the Titans, who entered last weekend in seventh but had all three of their rivals leapfrog them after a 24-14 loss to the Warriors at Robina.

“We’ve still got four big games to go and we’ll see at the end of round 26 if we deserve to be there,” Peats said.

RACE TO THE EIGHT – The run home for the last four finals hopefuls

Penrith (7th, 24 pts) – Knights (A), Tigers (H), Titans (A), Manly (H)

Warriors (8th, 24 pts) – Rabbitohs (H), Cowboys (A), Tigers (H), Eels (H)

Tigers (9th, 24 pts) – Titans (H), Panthers (A), Warriors (A), Raiders (H)

Titans (10th, 23 pts) – Tigers (A), Knights (A), Panthers (H), Cowboys (A)

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