NRL talking points: Mitchell inspires Rabbitohs, Melbourne nilled & Morris brothers run riot

We’ve taken a look at the main talking points from the latest round of NRL action.

Parramatta Eels 14-0 Melbourne Storm

Parramatta produced a resolute defensive display to shut out Melbourne and record an important victory in the race for the top four. 

Waqa Blake crossed before Maika Sivo grabbed his customary try at Bankwest to give the Eels a 12-point lead at the break, with Mitchell Moses adding a penalty in the second-half. 

The win ensured Brad Arthur’s side stay four points ahead of fourth-placed Sydney Roosters with five matches remaining as they look to book themselves a home semi-final, something the NRL betting tips in Australia are suggesting has a high possibility of happening.

For Melbourne, they suffered another injury to a key player with hooker Brandon Smith forced off with a broken jaw, which will see him miss four to six weeks.  

Being without their first choice halves pairing, with Cooper Johns making his debut, the Storm will not be too downbeat about the defeat despite being held scoreless for the first time since losing 22-0 to North Queensland in 2014. 

Parramatta will again open the round next week against South Sydney on Thursday, with the Storm entertaining Manly on Sunday.

Stat of the match: 6 – this shutout was just the sixth time in Melbourne’s 23-year history they have been held scoreless. 

Penrith Panthers 38-12 Cronulla Sharks

Penrith continued their winning run as Josh Mansour grabbed a double in his 150th NRL game as they eased past the Sharks. 

Another blistering start from the league leaders, who are now three points clear at the top and look all but assured of their first Minor Premiership since 2003, did the damage as tries from Viliame Kikau, Mansour, Brent Naden and Stephen Crichton gave them a 22-6 half-time lead. 

Mansour dived over for his second after the interval to cap a quick-fire treble of tries for the Panthers with Liam Martin and Jarome Luai also crossing for a convincing win. 

Cronulla, who were without main half-back pairing Shaun Johnson and Chad Townsend through injury, looked bereft of ideas at times with their only tries coming from Jesse Ramien and a late Connor Tracey consolation. 

Unsurprisingly, they found it tough to get through Penrith as they could not become the first team since round one to score in the opening quarter against them and are without a win against a top eight side this season. 

In round 16, the Panthers will face Wests Tigers on Saturday while Cronulla host the Cowboys on the same day.

Stat of the match: 94 – After demolishing the Sharks 56-24 in round nine, Penrith have now scored 94 points against Cronulla, the most they have scored against one team in the regular season.

Brisbane Broncos 24-28 St George Illawarra Dragons

St George Illawarra edged out Brisbane at Suncorp on Friday to keep their slim finals hopes alive in Dean Young’s first match in interim charge.

They looked set for a comfortable win as Josh Kerr and Corey Norman tries gave them 12-0 lead after just five minutes but the Broncos levelled before Mikaele Ravalawa saw the Dragons lead at the break. 

After being pegged back again, Ravalawa stormed over again for his second double in consecutive weeks who notched a brace against the Eels the previous week and they held out to stay 10th, four points off a finals berth. 

For Brisbane they showed impressive resolve following their horror start with tries from Richard Kennar and a maiden first-grade score for Cory Paix and they twice bounced back again with Kotoni Staggs and Tom Dearden crossing but it was not enough. 

Staggs’ try was surely a career best, running 80m past three Dragons players while young half-back Dearden capped a impressive performance with his first NRL try and post-match coach Peter Gentles called him a ‘shining light’; and tipped him as the long-term future of the club. 

The Broncos next face the Roosters on Friday as St George Illawarra play beforehand against Gold Coast Titans.

Stat of the match: 350 – Brisbane’s Jordan Kahu had not played for 350 days since appearing for the Cowboys in round 25 last year after shoulder surgery and three muscle tears.  

Gold Coast Titans 16-36 Canberra Raiders

Canberra closed in on the top four with a commanding display against the Gold Coast Titans on Saturday with Jack Wighton in inspired form. 

The half-back crossed for two tries in four first-half minutes as the Raiders recovered from falling behind early to effectively seal their fifth win in the last six outings by half-time. 

Tom Starling, who has shone sharing the dummy-half duties with Siliva Havili since captain Josh Hodgson was ruled out for the season in round nine dived over for his first NRL try before Hudson Young and Nick Cotric’s second completed the win. 

For the Titans, full-back AJ Brimson stood out with a try and an impressive running game with four line breaks making him a threat throughout. 

Either side of his try, Phillip Sami had opened the scoring with Keegan Hipgrave’s late score a mere consultation and Jamal Fogarty was denied a sublime score himself as his run was stopped by Canberra prop Josh Papalii sprinting 60 metres. 

The Gold Coast host the Dragons on Saturday and the Raiders close out round 16 at home against the Bulldogs on Sunday.

Stat of the match: 211 – Making his debut in 2011 for Canberra, Josh Papalii has made 211 appearances for the club, including their first Grand Final in 25 years last term. 

Wests Tigers 16-38 Sydney Roosters

The Morris brothers returned from injury by scoring two tries apiece as Sydney Roosters celebrated Trent Robinson’s 200th NRL match as coach in style. 

After Matt Ikavalu opened the scoring, Brett Morris grabbed his double to become the fifth highest try-scorer in premiership history with 164 tries, either side of his brother opening his account in a 10-minute opening period blast that helped the Roosters to a 20-0 lead at the break.

Wests Tigers fought back but tries from Drew Hutchinson and Joseph Manu sealed the points before Josh Morris ensured both brothers scored a double in the same game for the first time and he moved past former Brisbane great Steve Renouf into 18th place with 143 tries. 

Following a disappointing first half, tries from Jacob Liddle, a year on from a serious knee injury wrecking his club debut, and Adam Doueihi narrowed the deficit to eight points before the premiers pulled away. 

Michael Maguire, who watched the game from the Leichhardt Oval touchline for the first time in the second half can be pleased with his side’s response and having star hooker Harry Grant next week will aid their chances. 

They will need Grant back as they face the red-hot Panthers on Saturday while the Roosters host Brisbane on Friday.

Stat of the match: 0 – No current NRL players have scored more tries than Brett Morris with Parramatta centre Michael Jennings the closest with 154 tries in joint 10th.  

South Sydney Rabbitohs 56-16 Manly Sea Eagles 

South Sydney produced a record-breaking opening period to hammer Manly at ANZ Stadium on Saturday

They led 38-0 at the break with Steven Marsters grabbing his first try for the club, Alex Johnston becoming the NRL’s top-try scorer this season with a double taking him to 14 and Campbell Graham scoring a brace himself before Latrell Mitchell got in on the act. 

This eclipsed previous 37-0 leads against Wests and Penrith in 1910 and 1980 and further tries in the second half from Tevita Tatola, Mitchell and Cameron Murray confirmed South’s biggest ever win over the Sea Eagles. 

Manly attempted to restore some respectability to the scoreline with tries from Jack Gosiewski and a Reuben Garrick double but they still suffered their biggest loss since a 68-6 thrashing by Cronulla in 2005. 

This defeat realistically ends Des Hasler’s side’s finals hopes as they stay 11th, four points behind Cronulla in the coveted eighth spot. 

South Sydney face Parramatta in the opening match of round 16 on Thursday, with Manly travelling to play Melbourne on Sunday (7:05am). 

Stat of the match: 4 – It’s now just the fourth time that Souths have scored 44 points or more in a game against Manly and the first since a 44-6 victory in 2005. 

Canterbury Bulldogs 14-20 New Zealand Warriors 

A second half comeback from New Zealand Warriors kept their finals berth a possibility as they overcame Canterbury on Sunday. 

With Jack Murchie’s converted try their only points in the first-half, Todd Payten’s men found themselves 14-4 behind before tries from Adam Pompey, Murchie and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck completed the turnaround. 

They sit four competition points behind the eighth placed Sharks and first finals appearance since 2018 would be a remarkable achievement given their eventful season, living away from their families first in Tamworth then the Central Coast and seeing coach Stephen Kearney being sacked. 

In contrast, the Bulldogs look set for their first wooden spoon since 2008 as they remain two points behind Brisbane, albeit with a better points differential, with five matches left. 

They were aided by the return of centre Will Hopoate after a long-term ankle injury and he crossed shortly after half-time but face an interesting close season with the likes of Kieran Foran, Aiden Tolman, Jack Cogger and Kerrod Holland still without contracts for 2021. 

In round 16, the Warriors entertain Newcastle on Saturday and the Bulldogs journey to the capital to play the Raiders on Sunday.

Stat of the match: 9 – Canterbury have been in 16th place for the past nine weeks since losing to Wests Tigers in round seven.  

Newcastle Knights 12-0 North Queensland Cowboys 

In a scrappy affair, Newcastle Knights all but assured a top-eight finish as they edged past the Cowboys on Sunday. 

Their only tries were both set up by full-back Kalyn Ponga for Hymel Hunt in the first-half and for Enari Tuala late on to confirm the win. 

However, in the only blemish they lost half-back Blake Green to a suspected ACL in the opening period, in just his third game for the club having signed a deal to play for the remainder of the 2020 season. 

After setting an Australian rugby league record two weeks ago for consecutive first-grade games (220) where they’ve scored at least one try, the Cowboys were try-less for the first time since round one in 2012 when they lost 12-0 against the Titans. 

It was a poor afternoon for North Queensland who saw rampaging lock Jason Taumalolo depart with a calf tear which will see him miss up to four weeks. 

Next up for Newcastle is a trip to the Warriors on Saturday while North Queensland follow them when they face Cronulla.

Stat of the match: 4 – Newcastle have now seen four players suffer ACL injuries in 2020 after Connor Watson, Andrew McCullough and Jayden Brailey.

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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