The NRL wrap: Round 17

Canterbury’s dogged display
The Bulldogs fought from 12-0 down to defeat rivals Sydney Roosters 24-20 at Allianz Arena on Thursday night, effectively ending their hopes of making the eight. Mitchell Pearce returned and was the best on field, however his two try assists weren’t enough for the Roosters, who need to win all of their remaining fixtures to stand a chance of extending their season past the regular rounds. Canterbury’s fightback was led by the impact of Tony Williams and Sam Kasiano from the bench, as they are eyeing a top four finish. The Doggies are flying under the radar and looking good.

Melbourne masterclass
Suliasi Vunivalu had a field day on Friday evening, as he ran in a spectacular hat-trick in Melbourne Storm’s 48-6 win over Brisbane Broncos at Suncorp Stadium. The visitors were in devastating form, posting 30 points in an 18-minute period during the first half, as the brilliant Cooper Cronk pulled the strings throughout. Last year’s grand finalists capitulated during that spell, and are looking dejected following a fifth defeat in their last six. Vunivalu may well be the new Semi Radradra.

Magic Johnson
If you haven’t already seen Shaun Johnson’s spectacular solo effort from Saturday, then what have you been doing with your weekend? The halfback’s dazzling footwork and trademark dummy saw him race 60 metres to score an incredible try, which paved the way for his side to brush off a stubborn Gold Coast Titans. Up until a late flurry from the Warriors the game was in the balance, however they saw out a 27-18 win which moved them to eighth place on the ladder. The Warriors are hitting some form at the right time, led by the brilliant Johnson.

Teddy the Tiger
James Tedesco confirmed his Origin III spot with an outstanding performance in Wests Tigers’ 34-26 win over Penrith Panthers, which sees him take the number one jersey from Matt Moylan. Wests are just two points off the top eight and produced some brilliant attacking football to see off the Panthers, who handed Zak Hardaker his debut. The former Leeds Rhinos fullback got half an hour under his belt in a steady performance following his switch from Super League.

Record breakers
Cronulla Sharks made club history in their 34-24 win over Parramatta Eels, making it 12 straight wins for the league leaders as they claimed the record for most consecutive wins. All of the talk pre-game was about Semi Radradra after his latest disappearing act, however it was his team mate Bevan French who stole the headlines with a hat-trick. It wasn’t enough for the Eels though, as a half hour period either side of the break saw the Sharks post 28 points and grab the game by the scruff of the neck. The Sharks started slow but finished with intent, continuing the sensational year in the Shire.

Slice of luck
A stunning comeback from 22-0 down saw Canberra Raiders claim a 29-25 golden point win over Newcastle Knights in dramatic fashion. Talk about a heart-breaker for the Knights. Blake Austin and Trent Hodkinson had exchanged field goals to send the game into extra time, before Austin’s shanked attempt at a one-pointer was chased down by Jordan Rapana who touched down for the game winning score. It’s now 10 straight defeats for the basement club, while the Raiders remain in touching distance of the top four. You’ve got to feel a little bit for Nathan Brown and his men.

Souths shut-out
John Sutton won’t look back on his 250th Rabbitohs appearance with fond memories, as Souths were kept to nil by the reigning premiers on Sunday. It was a performance which summed up the Bunnies’ dismal season, with their chances of making the eight hanging in the balance following the 20-0 defeat. Jonathan Thurston took the game to the Sydney club with a typically brilliant display, and the Cowboys’ middle unit were dominant throughout as they lay down the perfect platform. All but two of the game’s points were scored in the first period, with Thurston responsible for 12 of those. The Bunnies need a miracle now.

Sea Eagles soar
Manly snapped their eight game losing streak in dominant fashion, as they breezed past St George Illawarra Dragons 36-6. Dylan Walker gave the perfect response to Laurie Daley’s decision to snub him for Origin III, as he picked up a brace of tries in the first period. The Dragons missed a perfect opportunity to leapfrog their way into the top eight, as a victory at Brookvale would have lifted them above the Warriors. Josh Dugan, who takes Walker’s place in the NSW side scored his side’s only try. This was easily Manly’s best performance of 2016, though Sea Eagles fans will wonder where this display was earlier in the season.

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