We’ve taken a look at the main talking points from round 19 of the NRL season.
South Sydney Rabbitohs 16-26 Canterbury Bulldogs
A stunning early start from Canterbury helped them move off the bottom of the table with a surprise win over South Sydney.
They led 20-0 after 26 minutes with tries from Tim Lafai, Reimis Smith and Raymond Faitala-Mariner before Chris Smith’s first NRL try sealed the points.
Souths narrowed the gap by half-time with scores from Jaxson Paulo and Campbell Graham with Alex Johnston crossing just after the break but they could not complete the turnaround.
Wayne Bennett’s side face Sydney Roosters on Friday, while Canterbury will hope they can avoid the wooden spoon against Penrith on Saturday.
Stat of the match: 6 – Campbell Graham has now scored in six consecutive matches for South Sydney, the first Rabbitohs player to do so for five years.
North Queensland Cowboys 12-32 Penrith Panthers
A blistering Penrith opening against the Cowboys helped them to a third minor premiership on Friday in Townsville.
Just the third team to go through the first 19 rounds of a season with only one loss or less, the Panthers claimed the JJ Giltinan Shield after a first half which saw Brian To’o, Stephen Crichton, Josh Mansour and Jarome Luai all score.
In a disappointing final home match of the season, North Queensland’s only tries came in the second half from Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and top try scorer Kyle Feldt.
The Cowboys finish their season at Brisbane on Friday, with the Panthers travelling to face Canterbury on Saturday.
Stat of the match: 2 – The other times Penrith have claimed the minor premiership (1991 and 2003) they have got onto to win the Grand Final.
Parramatta Eels 26-12 Brisbane Broncos
Parramatta claimed a much needed win over Brisbane at Bankwest Stadium with captain Clint Gutherson leading by example.
The Eels full-back crossed for two first-half tries and set up Blake Ferguson to open the scoring as they bounced back from last week’s defeat to Penrith.
For Brisbane, this result coupled with Canterbury’s earlier win sends them to the bottom of the table meaning they must beat the Cowboys next week and hope Canterbury lose to Penrith to avoid claiming their maiden wooden spoon.
To end the regular season Parramatta face Wests Tigers on Saturday with Brisbane playing North Queensland on Thursday.
Stat of the match: 1,449 – Clint Gutherson has made 1,449 kick return metres in 2020, the most in the NRL.
Manly Sea Eagles 24-42 Gold Coast Titans
The Gold Coast Titans made it four straight wins and equalled their biggest NRL score in a convincing performance against Manly.
AJ Brimson and Young Tonumaipea both grabbed doubles and Treymain Spry scored his first NRL try as the Queensland outfit scored 40 points for just the third time ever.
For Manly, the biggest concern was full-back Tom Trbojevic suffering a shoulder injury in his first appearance since round six, in a match that was made more respectable by late scores by Jack Gosiewski and Daly Cherry-Evans.
The Sea Eagles end their season against the Warriors on Sunday as the Titans face Newcastle on Friday.
Stat of the match: 2014 – Gold Coast last won four straight matches in 2014, in rounds 3 to 6.
Melbourne Storm 50-22 Wests Tigers
A fifth successive top-two finish was claimed by Melbourne after a convincing win over the Wests Tigers.
Suliasi Vunivalu and Josh Addo-Carr, who grabbed two each, Nicho Hynes and Jahrome Hughes all crossed in a dominant opening period, with Cameron Smith surpassing his coach Craig Bellamy with his 47th career try in the second half.
Wests Tigers fought back with Asu Kepaoa completing his brace and Adam Doueihi crossing but were well beaten.
The Storm finish the regular season against St George Illawarra on Sunday while Wests Tigers host Parramatta the previous day.
Stat of the match: 2015 – The last time Melbourne finished outside the top-two was in 2015 when they ended fourth, losing in the preliminary final to North Queensland.
Sydney Roosters 34-18 Cronulla Sharks
Mitch Aubusson marked his record-breaking match for the Roosters with two tries as the reigning premiers eased past Cronulla.
Making his 303rd appearance, his scores bookended a first-half with scores from Daniel Tupou and Luke Keary before the latter and Joseph Manu crossed after the break.
For the Sharks, their race was run when star half-back Shaun Johnson, who has 22 try assists this season, ruptured his Achilles tendon and faces at least five months out.
Sydney Roosters face the Rabbitohs on Friday, with Cronulla hosting Canberra the following day.
Stat of the match: 237 – Of his 303 appearances for Sydney Roosters, Mitch Aubusson has started 267.
Canberra Raiders 26-14 New Zealand Warriors
Canberra secured another impressive win as they came from behind to defeat the Warriors at GIO Stadium on Sunday.
Trailing 14-6, Semi Valemei grabbed a double either side on Hudson Young’s score following great improvisation by Elliott Whitehead.
For the Warriors, inspirational captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s season ended early as he came off with a hamstring injury but Peta Hiku stood out scoring both tries.
The Raiders host Cronulla on Sunday as the Warriors play Manly the same day.
Stat of the match: 5 – Canberra have won five matches at GIO Stadium in 2020, with their only losses coming against the Storm and Roosters.
Newcastle Knights 42-18 St George Illawarra Dragons
Newcastle Knights all but sealed a home finals match with a crushing win over St George Illawarra Dragons.
Kalyn Ponga returned to claim two try assists for Aiden Guerra and Enari Tuala. In a disappointing campaign for the Dragons, they were not on the board until the 35th minute through Zac Lomax’s first, with Corey Norman also scoring.
The Knights face Gold Coast on Friday as St George Illawarra host Melbourne on Sunday.
Stat of the match: 80 – Newcastle have now scored 80 points in their past two home games at McDonald Jones Stadium with this result following a 38-10 victory over Cronulla.
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