NRL talking points & highlights: Wonderful Williams, clinical Cleary & terrific Walker

We’ve taken a look at the main talking points from the first week of the NRL finals.

Penrith Panthers 29-28 Sydney Roosters 

Penrith survived a late Sydney Roosters fightback to book their place in the preliminary final after an entertaining clash at Panthers Stadium. 

The Minor Premiers recovered from an early 10-0 deficit to score 28 unanswered points through Josh Mansour and Stephen Crichton tries either side of a Nathan Cleary hat-trick, the latter later sealing the game with a drop-goal. 

For the Roosters they looked in command with tries from Josh Morris and Freddy Lussick but tries from James Tedesco, Morris’ second and Angus Crichton were not enough. 

Ivan Cleary’s men will have a week off before they play either the Eels or Rabbitohs while the Roosters face Canberra in the semi-final on Friday.

Stat of the match: 94 – Having lost 60-8 to South Sydney last week, the Roosters have conceded 94 points in back-to-back matches, their most ever. 

Canberra Raiders 32-20 Cronulla Sharks 

An impressive second half performance from Canberra saw them overcome Cronulla and advance to the semi-finals. 

After opening the scoring through Joe Tapine, the Raiders were losing until a George Williams intercept try shortly before the break sparked four tries in 20 minutes either side of half-time, with the Englishman and half-back partner Jack Wighton grabbing doubles. 

The Sharks had shown up well in the opening period with scores from Ronaldo Mulitalo and Blayke Brailey but were blown away in the second half, having lost Brailey to ankle injury, but Sione Katoa did cap off an outstanding season with his 16th try. 

Canberra face a Grand Final rematch with Sydney Roosters on Friday while Cronulla’s season has come to an end. 

Stat of the match: 2 – The Sharks have now lost in week one of the finals for the second consecutive year having lost to Manly in 2019. 

Melbourne Storm 36-24 Parramatta Eels

Melbourne marched to a sixth straight preliminary final with a thrilling victory over Parramatta at Suncorp Stadium. 

Full-back Ryan Papenhuyzen was the star with two tries and two try assists and the Storm came back from 10-0 down to effectively seal the match with three second half tries in seven minutes through Jesse Bromwich, Brenko Lee and the former Eels junior. 

Parramatta can take heart from a display more in keeping with their early season form as Nathan Brown and Clint Gutherson but could be without both first choice wingers as Maika Sivo (ACL) and Blake Ferguson (leg) both left the field injured. 

The Storm will not play until they meet either the Roosters or Raiders in the preliminary final as the Eels face South Sydney in the semi-final on Saturday.

Stat of the match: 7 – Melbourne have now beaten the Eels in seven consecutive finals meetings with two victories in Week 1, one victory in Week 2, two victories in preliminary finals and one win in a Grand Final. 

South Sydney Rabbitohs 46-20 Newcastle Knights 

Another smart Rabbitohs saw them ease to a comprehensive victory over the Newcastle Knights at ANZ Stadium on Sunday. 

Cody Walker scored a try and assisted another, with Tevita Tatola and Alex Johnston both crossing twice with full-back Corey Allan also impressing. 

Newcastle, who began with Kurt Mann at five-eighth and Chris Randall at hooker, started brightly with Hymel Hunt and Bradman Best scoring with seven minutes but could not cope with the fast-paced game of the Rabbitohs with the only other positive seeing the retiring Aidan Guerra to kick the sideline goal as his final act as an NRL player.

South Sydney will now play Parramatta on Saturday in the semi-final but for Newcastle it is the end of their season. 

Stat of the match: 106 – Following their 60-8 win against Sydney Roosters last week, the Rabbitohs have now scored 106 points in their last two matches.  

Watch NRL and live stream every NRL game to keep up with how Tom Burgess, John Bateman, Ryan Sutton, Elliott Whitehead, Luke Thompson and George Williams and all the others are getting on Down Under.

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