The NRL wrap: Round 18

Clutch Corey
Corey Norman inspired the Parramatta Eels to a dramatic comeback win at home to Sydney Roosters on Friday night, moments after Kieran Foran asked for a release from his contract due to personal problems. Norman spotted Latrell Mitchell out of position in defence on three occasions to come up with a hat-trick of try assists with the boot, including Clint Gutherson’s winner five minutes from time. He also came up with a try-saving tacke on Joesph Manu in the final minute to deny the Roosters a chance to steal the win, although Manu came up with a sensational try-saver of his own on Bevan French earlier in the half. The Chooks’ season looks to be over now as they are 10 points behind eighth place in the ladder. Despite the win, Parramatta were hit hard on the injury front with Semi Radradra limping from the field and Isaac De Gois picking up a concussion. The win was over shadowed by the Eels being stripped of 12 competition points for salary cap breaches, as their top eight hopes were severely dented.

Dogs tame Tigers
Canterbury Bulldogs boosted their top four hopes with a late raid on Wests Tigers, as three tries in the final quarter of the contest sealed a 32-22 victory. Despite missing influential stars James Tedesco, Robbie Farah and Aaron Woods, Wests led up until the 64th minute before Curtis Rona’s try put the hosts in front and they never looked back. Brett Morris is in devastating form since his return from injury, as his try double made it seven four-pointers in just three games. The physicality of the Bulldogs’ huge forward pack was too much for the Tigers to deal with, as Aiden Tolman led the way in an impressive 80 minute display. Wests will take a lot of positives from the defeat though, and are just two points off the top eight.

Lucky 13
Ben Barba’s first half brace inspired Cronulla Sharks to their 13th straight win, as they consolidated their place at the top of the ladder. Zak Hardaker made his full NRL debut for Penrith in place of Matt Moylan who is on Origin duty, but was turned inside out by his opposite number on his way to try number two. It was an impressive win for the Sharks as they were missing no fewer than five first team players due to Wednesday’s dead rubber Origin finale. Will Smith will want to forget his clanger which led to Joseph Paulo’s try, as he spilled possession on his own try-line to gift the back rower a simple score. Back-to-back losses have taken some momentum out of Penrith’s top eight challenge, however they are only two points adrift of the Warriors after their bye this weekend.

Canberra closing in
With North Queensland Cowboys missing the influential Jonathan Thurston through Origin duty, the Canberra Raiders took full advantage and posted a crucial win to move within a point of their opponents and the top four. Jack Wighton led the way for the Green Machine, however his try double wasn’t the only talking point as his defence at the back stopped the Cowboys in their tracks. The fullback came up with a number of solid hits including one on Jake Granville, as he levelled the hooker to halt his break. The reigning Premiers were far from their best, as they turned over possession cheaply and struggled to create in attack without JT, slipping to eight points off the pace with the loss. Ricky Stuart’s men have a real chance of challenging at the top, as the 26-12 triumph made it three wins in a row. Josh Hodgson and Elliot Whitehead continue their great season in the Aussie capital.


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