We’ve taken a look at the main talking points from round 16 of the NRL.
Parramatta Eels 0-38 South Sydney Rabbitohs
South Sydney produced an outstanding performance to thrash Parramatta on Thursday and send notice of their premiership threat.
In a devastating opening period, the Rabbitohs piled on 22 points, making it 60 unanswered in their previous two first halves, with Corey Allen and Jaxson Paulo crossing for their first NRL tries and Cody Walker and Jaydn Su’A also scoring.
A second half double from Campbell Graham and an Adam Reynolds score inflicted the Eels’ heaviest loss at Bankwest but their fifth consecutive win did come at a cost with key full-back Latrell Mitchell having ruptured a hamstring tendon which ruled him out for the rest of the season.
It was another disappointing performance from Parramatta, with Dylan Brown suffering a syndesmosis injury which requires surgery, seeing him miss an indefinite period.
Their performance was summed up by missing 53 tackles, the most of a team this season and in a recurring theme this season, Brad Arthur’s men were vulnerable down their right side.
In round 17, Parramatta face an important match against the Warriors on Sunday with the Rabbitohs hosting Melbourne on Friday.
Stat of the match: 2 – This is the second time this season a team has nilled their opposition one week and been nilled the week after (or vice-versa) after the Warriors in round three and four.
St George Illawarra Dragons 10-14 Gold Coast Titans
Gold Coast sealed an impressive comeback against the Dragons with two tries in the last five minutes from Tyrone Peachey and Jamal Fogarty.
The latter, now the Titans captain, has had an impressive first season in NRL having played in the Queensland Cup for Burleigh Bears last year.
AJ Brimson again shone, his form one of many positives that saw coach Justin Holbrook sign a new deal on Wednesday.
For the Dragons it was a poor way to let their finals hopes slip away as they now sit six points behind eighth-placed Cronulla with four matches left.
It a blow for Dean Young’s chances of getting the job on a permanent basis after this season and caps an underwhelming campaign considering their roster which include five Origin players.
On Sunday, they travel to play North Queensland with the Titans facing the Bulldogs the day before.
Stat of the match: 5 – The Titans have now won five matches this season, one more than the whole of last year.
Sydney Roosters 58-12 Brisbane Broncos
For the second time this season Sydney Roosters put a half-century past Brisbane with Sitili Tupouniua, Josh Morris and Daniel Tupou all grabbing doubles.
Having thrashed the Broncos 59-0 in round four, the Roosters became the first team since Canberra in 2016 to score 50 points against the same team in a single season.
James Tedesco was at the heart of one of Sydney’s most comfortable victories with five try assists as Josh Morris grabbed a customary score and Nat Butcher sauntered through for his first of 2020.
If anyone expected a reaction from Brisbane after Anthony Seibold’s departure, they were mistaken as their goal-line defence again failing to stand up.
David Fifita stormed over in the second-half, highlighting what the Broncos will miss next season after he agreed to join the Titans while Kotoni Staggs scored in consecutive matches to further is claim for State of Origin selection.
The Roosters host Canberra on Saturday in an important encounter in the race for the top four while Brisbane’s games do not get any easier as they host Penrith on Thursday.
Stat of the match: 13 – The Broncos have lost 13 games in 2020, the third time in their history (2007, 2010).
New Zealand Warriors 36-6 Newcastle Knights
New Zealand Warriors are still in with a chance of a remarkable finals appearance with a comprehensive victory over Newcastle.
They sit four points behind Cronulla, who they play in round 18 albeit with a much worse points differential but Peta Hiku helped as he twice assisted his winger Adam Pompey and captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck crossed twice to make it four tries in three games.
However, they will have been rocked by the news that coach Todd Payten, who has done a sterling job in the circumstances, winning five of 10 matches, has agreed to become the North Queensland Cowboys coach for 2021.
For the Knights, this result all but ends their top four hopes as they stay seventh, three points behind Sydney Roosters but it has been an outstanding campaign having claimed the wooden spoon as recently as 2017.
Gehamat Shibasaki grabbed their sole try in the first half but they failed to register a point after the break as their three-match winning run was ended.
The Warriors face Parramatta in round 17 on Sunday while Newcastle will look to bounce back against the Sharks on Friday.
Stat of the match: 7 – New Zealand Warriors have won seven matches this season under Stephen Kearney and then Payten.
Cronulla Sharks 28-12 North Queensland Cowboys
Cronulla took a big step to securing their top eight place after a convincing win over the North Queensland Cowboys on Saturday.
Despite Shaun Johnson again missing through injury, the Sharks’ Braydon Trindall had a hand in two of his side’s five tries.
The 21-year-old assisted Briton Nikora and helped Siosifa Talakai score as Sione Katoa, Braden Hamlin-Uele and Connor Tracey also crossed to extend Cronulla’s record against bottom eight teams to nine wins and just two losses.
As for the Cowboys, a surprise season has them languishing in 14th place and their defeat at Netstrata Jubilee Oval saw captain Michael Morgan depart after just 15 minutes with hamstring injury which will keep him out for three weeks.
Both North Queensland tries were scored by veteran winger Kyle Feldt and he is someone Todd Payten can rely on when he takes over next season.
Cronulla next travel to play Newcastle on Friday, with the Cowboys closing the round at home against the Dragons on Sunday.
Stat of the match: 5 – In stark contrast, Cronulla’s record against top-eight sides reads as five played, five lost with three of their remaining against top-eight teams.
Penrith Panthers 30-6 Wests Tigers
Penrith continued their winning run in a scrappy encounter against rivals Wests Tigers at Panthers Stadium on Saturday.
They surprisingly fell behind early through David Nofoaluma’s try, the first time they had conceded points in the opening quarter since round one.
However, they led at the break with tries from elusive half-back Jarome Luai and Liam Martin and extended the lead through the returning Brian To’o before late scores from Stephen Crichton and Josh Mansour.
Wests Tigers were boosted by the return of Harry Grant although with the hooker expected to return to Melbourne for 2021, Jacob Liddle may be given more game time for the rest of the campaign.
Coach Michael Maguire has decided to assess the depth of his squad ahead of the new season with an eight-year finals absence set to continue as they sit six points behind eighth-placed Cronulla Sharks.
The Panthers will expect another win when they travel to face Brisbane on Thursday while Wests Tigers are also on the road against Manly on Saturday.
Stat of the match: 6 – Penrith have now secured a top four finish, their first in six years.
Melbourne Storm 30-6 Manly Sea Eagles
Melbourne consolidated their place in the top four with a comfortable win over a Manly side shorn of confidence.
They were aided by the return of Cameron Smith (shoulder), Cameron Munster (knee) and Jahrome Hughes (groin) and after Justin Olam, Josh Addo-Carr and Nelson Asofa-Solomona scores, they led 14-6 at half-time.
Olam then completed his second career hat-trick, both against Manly, and Addo-Carr added his second but the win saw a suspected ACL rupture to centre Marion Seve and calf injury to prop Asofa-Solomona.
The Sea Eagles look like a side desperate for the season to end and were not helped by a grade-three AC joint damage injury to Reuben Garrick as they suffered their fifth straight defeat.
With a miracle required to reach the top eight, as they are six points off Cronulla, they will hope a fully fit Tom Trbojevic can help them reach their potential in 2021.
A mouth-watering clash with the Rabbitohs is next for Melbourne on Friday, with the Sea Eagles entertaining Wests Tigers on Sunday.
Stat of the match: 16 – The Storm have now won their last 16 matches in Queensland at all venues.
Canberra Raiders 34-20 Canterbury Bulldogs
Canberra completed a second half turnaround against the Bulldogs to extend their impressive form to boost their hopes of a top four finish.
Having trailed 20-12 early at the break and with Tom Starling in the sin-bin, Jack Wighton scored a quick-fire double for the second successive week to put the Raiders in the ascendancy.
Hudson Young pushed the lead out further soon after before Starling grabbed his second to give Canberra their sixth win from their last seven matches, drawing them level with fourth-placed Sydney Roosters.
For Canterbury, it was another infuriating collapse having also blown a 10-point to the Warriors last week as their look set for the dreaded wooden spoon with just four matches remaining.
They can take heart from their first-half, arguably their strongest 40 minutes of the season as the returning Dallin Watene-Zelezniak crossed as well Raymond Faitala-Mariner, Josh Jackson and Kerrod Holland.
Next Canberra face a defining match in the race for the coveted fourth spot against the Roosters on Saturday as Canterbury host the Gold Coast the same day.
Stat of the match: 2012 – The last time the Raiders finished outside the top four but claimed a finals place was in 2012 when they finished sixth.
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