Finals are all about momentum: The Warriors have it and the Bunnies just snatched it back

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In the pre-salary cap days of the NSWRL and ARL competitions, teams built enormous leads at the top of the table whilst others battled away in the cellar for years on end.

It was undoubtedly a case of the haves and the have-nots as different clubs enjoyed their periods of dominance. It was the Bulldogs and Eels through the 80s and the Raiders and Broncos took the mantle throughout the following decade.

Thankfully things are different these days with an equalised competition in which the ‘cap’ keeps those with deep pockets somewhat under restraint. The result is the most unpredictable and level sporting competition on the planet.

It makes locating and crowning the best team of the season difficult. The top-eight finals structure does present some advantage to the higher placed teams; however, momentum is a more valuable commodity than a home-ground advantage.

South Sydney were in desperate need of a good dose of that momentum after struggling through three consecutive losses and extensive injuries that had a spot in the top four looking questionable.

Bluntly, the Bunnies were well and truly stuck in reverse as they arrived at ANZ Stadium on Thursday night to face the Tigers in the opening match of Round 25.

It was a good old-fashioned ‘men against boys’ rout as a promising start by the Tigers was cancelled out by 43 unanswered points, eight tries and a field goal from the Rabbits.

The cardinal and myrtle were irrepressible, the caveat being the clear question around the performance of the Tigers. How bad were they?

Adam Reynolds

(Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

I thought they stank, yet it wasn’t so much errors or poor play that caught the attention. There were moments during the second half that suggested the Tiger bundle had well and truly been dropped.

It has been a horrid finish to 2018 for the proud club after what was such a promising start to the season. Eight losses from their last 14 matches saw hopes of a finals appearance drift further and further into the distance.

It was the most significant statistical domination of a team this season. With 64 per cent of possession and almost triple the amount of running metres, the Bunnies played a team of witches hats late in the game.

Throw in the fact that Souths brought a finals-like defensive intensity, utterly dominating the Tigers pack, and the factors behind the win were clear to see and simple to calculate.

In reality the loss will mean little to the Tigers other than being somewhat embarrassing.

Teams out of the race for finals can become a little dishevelled late in the season.

However, the Tigers lowered that bar to a new level and in the process gave Souths some of the confidence and momentum they were looking for on the verge of the finals.

The early Friday night clash saw the Warriors make a convincing play for fifth place with a victory on home soil against the Raiders.

The 20-16 scoreline was far from convincing and Canberra had more than enough chances to win the game. Sadly, and somewhat in line with the frustrating season the Raiders have endured, the green machine couldn’t fashion a victory in a tight contest.

It sends the Warriors into the finals with considerable momentum, stemming from four wins from their last five matches, and perhaps the best shot a team from the shaky isles has ever had at an NRL title.

Issac Luke of the Warriors.

(AAP Image/David Rowland)

A depleted Melbourne Storm met the top-four motivated Penrith Panthers at AAMI Park late Saturday and the referees took centre stage in the first half.

After an absurd penalty count saw the Storm take a somewhat questionable lead into the break, the Panthers were by far the better team in the second half.

Tries to Josh Mansour, Christian Crichton and a double to Waqa Blake stretched the Penrith lead to 12 before Cameron Smith produced a magical ball to send Scott Drinkwater over with five minutes remaining in the game.

Unfortunately for the masters of momentum and consistency the Storm struck a resilient hurdle in the form of the Panthers.

The 22-16 result sends Penrith into a convoluted contest for the top four and puts the Storm’s minor premiership aspirations in jeopardy should the Roosters hammer the Eels on Saturday night.

Read more: theroar.com.au