8 Sep 2008

The eight finalists found for the National Rugby League competition

10:38 am on 8 September 2008

The top two free passage to the National Rugby League preliminary finals will be seriously tested this year with minor premiers Melbourne and Manly dealt horror first week finals opponents.

Melbourne conjured a remarkable 42-4 win over South Sydney last night to claim their third successive minor premiership and set up an intriguing clash with the New Zealand Warriors at Olympic Park next Sunday.

The 38-point win was enough to snatch top spot from the Sea Eagles while third-placed Cronulla also finished tied on 38 competition points at the end of the regular season.

The Sharks enter the playoffs with the belief they can finally end the club's 41-year premiership drought.

They'll host sixth-placed Canberra at Toyota Stadium next Saturday.

Manly have drawn NRL bogey team St George Illawarra, their clash set for Brookvale Oval on Saturday night.