NRL talking points: Panthers are flying, Townsend’s sending off & Sonny Bill’s Roosters return

We discuss the main talking points from round 17 of the NRL.

Brisbane Broncos 12-25 Penrith Panthers 

Penrith Panthers made it 12 consecutive victories in a hard-fought clash with Brisbane on Thursday at Suncorp Stadium. 

Jarome Luai scooted over to extend their lead after first half tries from Josh Mansour, where the half-back grabbed his 14th try assist and Kurt Capewell before the returning Brian To’o made sure. 

For Brisbane, Jordan Rikki scored an impressive maiden NRL try and Kotoni Staggs claimed his 10th try in 11 matches but it was not enough to prevent them becoming the first Broncos side lose eight regular season matches in a row.

Next week Brisbane face Queensland rivals Gold Coast on Saturday, with Penrith playing Parramatta on Friday.

Stat of the match: 2015 – The last time a team won 12 matches in a row was Sydney Roosters in 2015. 

Newcastle Knights 38-10 Cronulla Sharks

Chad Townsend was sent off for Cronulla as they slumped to a comprehensive defeat against Newcastle. 

The half-back was dismissed in the second-half for a late hit on Kalyn Ponga, who starred with a hat-trick as Starford To’a also grabbed a double. 

In a disappointing night for the Sharks, a rare positive was centre Will Kennedy who claimed his 11th try assist of an impressive campaign as Ronaldo Mulitalo and Connor Tracey scored their only tries. 

Newcastle will travel to the Roosters on Saturday while Cronulla host the Warriors on Sunday.

Stat of the match: 2013 – With their victory and other results going their way, the Knights have reached their first finals series since 2013. 

South Sydney Rabbitohs 16-22 Melbourne Storm

Melbourne claimed an outstanding second-half comeback victory against the Rabbitohs on Friday at ANZ Stadium. 

Despite Ryan Papenhuyzen, who also set up two others, and Justin Olam’s first half tries, they trailed 16-10 before scores from Tino Faasuamaleaui and Cameron Munster completed the turnaround. 

Unforced errors were the downfall for Wayne Bennett’s men, with an Adam Reynolds penalty their only second half score after Campbell Graham and Cody Walker had continued their good form with tries in the opening period. 

Round 18 sees South Sydney open against Wests Tigers on Thursday and Melbourne play North Queensland on Sunday.

Stat of the match: 200 – Adam Reynolds became just the seventh Rabbitohs player to play 200 matches for the club in Friday’s defeat. 

Canterbury Bulldogs 14-18 Gold Coast Titans

Canterbury Bulldogs look set for the wooden spoon after a dispiriting loss against the Gold Coast on Saturday. 

They remain two points behind Brisbane and face Manly, South Sydney and Penrith and will be without Kieran Foran after the influential half-back was forced off injured which is surely the last game for the club as they have not offered him a new deal. 

For the Gold Coast, this marked their first back-to-back wins in 16 months, after tries from Corey Thompson, Beau Fermor, Jamal Fogarty and Anthony Don. 

The Bulldogs host the Sea Eagles on Friday, with the Titans entertaining Brisbane the following day.

Stat of the match: 39 – Kieran Foran has played 39 matches since joining Canterbury in 2018. 

Manly Sea Eagles 32-34 Wests Tigers

Wests Tigers produced a remarkable comeback with three tries in the final 10 minutes to shock Manly. 

Two Adam Doueihi tries, either side of David Nofoaluma’s hat-trick try which took him to 17 and top of the try-scoring charts, completed the turnaround despite having 32 percent possession. 

In a disappointing season this was the nadir for Des Hasler’s men who summed it up neatly saying: “We had that game won 10 times over but we found 11 ways to lose it.”

Manly face Canterbury in round 18 on Friday, with Wests Tigers starting the round against South Sydney on Thursday.

Stat of the match: 22 – Pat Richards was the last Wests Tigers player to finish as the top try scorer (including finals) when he scored 22 times in 2005. 

Canberra Raiders 6-18 Sydney Roosters 

Sydney Roosters celebrated Josh Morris’ 300th NRL match with a win over Canberra in the Grand Final rematch. 

The centre, who has agreed to stay at the Roosters for another year, saw James Tedesco put in a stunning performance with two tries and Sonny Bill Williams return to the NRL for the first time since 2014. 

Canberra competed valiantly but again came up short and could be without prop Josh Papalii for a while after he departed with a shoulder injury. 

The Raiders face the Dragons next on Sunday as the Roosters host Newcastle Knights the following day.

Stat of the match: 328 – The outside-back with the most NRL appearances is former Cronulla centre Andrew Ettingshausen with 328 matches. 

New Zealand Warriors 18-24 Parramatta Eels

The Warriors slim finals hopes appear to be over after a close but entertaining defeat to Parramatta Eels on Sunday.

They scored a try of the year contender through Chanel Harris-Tavita after the ball passed through nine sets of hands and he grabbed a second after a brilliant run by Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. 

However, they sit four points behind eighth-placed Crounlla with three games left, but in contrast the Eels now sit third and saw Blake Ferguson score his first try of the season. 

Intriguingly, the Warriors face the Sharks to close the round on Sunday and Parramatta play leaders Penrith on Friday.

Stat of the match: 10 – Parramatta winger Blake Ferguson scored 10 tries for the Bankwest side last season.

North Queensland Cowboys 23-22 St George Illawarra Dragons 

Valentine Holmes’ drop goal gave North Queensland a golden point victory over St George Illawarra Dragons.

The full-back’s try and Kyle Feldt’s 14th of the season had forced extra-time in a match which saw Scott Drinkwater grab two assists. 

Todd Payten was confirmed as the Cowboys from 2021 on a three-year deal on Friday and the Dragons announced former Penrith coach Anthony Griffin would lead them next year. 

Euan Aitken scored a try against North Queensland for the third consecutive match before Mikaele Ravalawa and Jacob Host crossed either side of the break. 

The Dragons host Canberra on Saturday, with the Cowboys facing Melbourne the day after.

Stat of the match: 250 – The match was Dragons’ hooker Ben Hunt’s 250th in the NRL – 187 for Brisbane and 87 for St George Illawarra.

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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