We’ve taken a look at the main talking points from round 18 of the NRL campaign.
Wests Tigers 24-26 South Sydney Rabbitohs
South Sydney Rabbitohs ended Wests Tigers’ finals hopes after surviving a second half fightback on Thursday at Bankwest Stadium.
They had burst into an early 20-0 lead courtesy of Dane Gagai, Corey Allan and Campbell Graham with the latter’s second after the break enough to hold on.
Wests will rue their poor start but roared back with two inspired Benji Marshall try assists for Tommy Taulau and Asu Kepaoa’s maiden NRL try although could not breach Souths again and sit six points behind Cronulla with only four to play for.
In round 19, they travel to face the Storm on Saturday while the Rabbitohs again kick off the round, this time against Canterbury.
Stat of the match: 9 – Wests Tigers have not qualified for the finals in nine years, with Souths’ decade long run from 1991 the longest most recent finals absence.
Canterbury Bulldogs 20-32 Manly Sea Eagles
A four-try blitz saw Manly claim a first win in seven games and effectively condemn Canterbury to the wooden spoon on Friday.
The game was sealed in a 13-minute burst either side of half-time when Curtis Sironen, Brad Parker, Jack Gosiewski and Morgan Harper, against his old club, crossed.
For the Bulldogs, who face the Rabbitohs and Panthers to end the season, it was another disappointing defeat despite Jayden Okunbor’s first try after his lengthy suspension, and confirmed seven consecutive defeats for the first time since 2008.
Next week they open the round against South Sydney on Thursday, with the Sea Eagles hosting the Titans on Saturday.
Stat of the match: 250 – Des Hasler has now coached 250 NRL games for Manly since starting at Brookvale in 2004, only Bob Fulton (305) has coached more for the Sea Eagles.
Penrith Panthers 20-2 Parramatta Eels
Penrith booked a qualifying home final with a comfortable win over Parramatta with one of their most dominant displays of the season.
A record eighth successive victory at Panthers Stadium was given the gloss it deserved with Jarome Luai’s late score after earlier tries from Josh Mansour and Liam Martin, aided by a brilliant Nathan Cleary kicking game.
The Eels looked lacklustre again in attack and although they were kept in the game by a superb defensive display, for the second time in three matches they failed to score a try and have only crossed 10 times since round 13.
On Friday against North Queensland next week the Panthers could seal the Minor Premiership as Parramatta look to bounce back when they play Brisbane the same day.
Stat of the match: 14 – Penrith have not conceded more than 14 points in a match since a 56-24 win over Cronulla in round nine.
St George Illawarra Dragons 8-37 Canberra Raiders
A dream debut for Dragons winger Cody Ramsey was ruined by an impressive Raiders display as they showed their title aspirations.
The St George Illawarra rookie crossed twice in the first half before having a third disallowed, scoring all of his side’s points as he showed incoming coach Anthony Griffin the talent he has to work with.
For Canberra, forward Hudson Young continued his fine form by opening the scoring and assisting John Bateman with Jack Wighton grabbing another brace as they bounced back from defeat to the Sydney Roosters.
St George Illawarra will play Newcastle on Sunday to finish the round while Ricky Stuart’s men host the Warriors beforehand.
Stat of the match: 37 – The last time there was a 37-8 scoreline was when Canberra beat North Sydney in 1999.
Gold Coast Titans 18-6 Brisbane Broncos
Gold Coast Titans claimed consecutive wins over Queensland rivals Brisbane for the first time in their history on Saturday.
They led 12-6 at the break after Mitch Rein and Sam Stone tries before Young Tonumaipea sliced through the Broncos to score a 95-metre stunner ensuring the Titans will finish as the state’s top side in 2020.
Brisbane slumped to a ninth straight defeat with a poor display and the uncertainty lingers off field with Issac Luke among eight off-contract players whose futures will be decided by their next coach.
The Titans will aim to make it four successive wins when they travel to Manly on Saturday as the Broncos face the Eels on Friday.
Stat of the match: 7 – Justin Holbrook has won seven games out of 18 since becoming coach of the Titans.
Sydney Roosters 42-12 Newcastle Knights
Sydney Roosters all but secured a top-four finish with a comprehensive victory over Newcastle at the SCG on Saturday.
Luke Keary and Daniel Tupou, scoring his 100th Roosters try, both scored twice.
Newcastle, who rested Kalyn Ponga, Hymel Hunt and Mitch Barnett, missed a worrying 39 tackles with their only points coming in the first half through Enari Tuala and Gehamat Shibasaki tries with Mason Lino continuing his fine goal kicking.
Next Saturday the reigning premiers host Cronulla as the Knights close off the round as they entertain the Dragons on Sunday.
Stat of the match: 170 – Daniel Tupou’s century of tries for Sydney Roosters have come in just 170 matches since his debut in 2012.
Melbourne Storm 36-20 North Queensland Cowboys
Melbourne all but claimed a top-two finish after seeing off a second half Cowboys fightback.
Cameron Munster crossed twice either side of the break to celebrate his 26th birthday in style while Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Tino Faasuamaleaui and Josh Addo-Carr also scored in a stunning opening period.
The damage for North Queensland was done in the first half as they trailed 24-4 but three tries in 12 second half minutes from Esan Marsters, Kyle Feldt and Valentine Holmes gave the score respectability.
The Storm face Wests Tigers on Saturday while the Cowboys play leaders Penrith on Friday.
Stat of the match: 11 – Melbourne have won their last 11 matches against North Queensland since defeat in the 2015 preliminary final.
Cronulla Sharks 22-14 New Zealand Warriors
Cronulla scored two late tries to end the Warriors finals hopes and secure their own place in the top eight.
Toby Rudolf and Ronaldo Mulitalo, completing his brace, crossed in the last 10 minutes after Sione Katoa had grabbed an early first-half try.
The Warriors had led due to impressive goal kicking from Chanel Harris-Tavita adding to tries from Jack Murchie and Adam Pompey but could not hold on.
In round 19, the Sharks face Sydney Roosters on Saturday while the Warriors play the Raiders in the capital on Sunday.
Stat of the match: 1 – Toby Rudolf, who was wanted by the Warriors, grabbed his first NRL try against Todd Payten’s side.
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