The NRL wrap: Round 19

Titans slay Dragons
The Gold Coast Titans picked up a crucial win over St George Illawarra Dragons on Friday night to jump into the top eight and climb to seventh on the ladder. The Red V struggled with the absence of Benji Marshall and Josh Dugan as they managed to cross for just two tries, both courtesy of Kurt Mann. Nene Macdonald also picked up a double for the Titans, his second of which was a sensational 90-metre intercept effort. It was a bad evening for Englishman Gareth Widdop, as he copped a high shot from Greg Bird before Konrad Hurrell charged straight over him, with Anthony Don finishing the break under the sticks.

Cherry on top
The Manly Sea Eagles managed to put together back-to-back wins for only the second time this season, as a left-footed field goal in golden point extra-time from Daly Cherry-Evans clinched a 15-14 victory over New Zealand Warriors. The Kiwi’s miserable form in Perth continued, as they are yet to win a game there, and they spurned a number of chances in the second half to hit the lead before full-time. Sam Lisone’s field-goal attempt saw him take an air-swing in the torrential conditions, before DCE held his nerve in added time to snatch a sixth win of the season for Manly.

Broncos bounce back
Brisbane put South Sydney to the sword with a dominant display at ANZ Stadium, as they recovered from back-to-back defeats to keep their top four hopes alive. At the opposite end of the table the Rabbitohs’ chances of making the eight are slipping away week by week, as they slumped to their sixth straight loss. The Bunnies came up with a number of handling errors and were missing Adam Reynolds who pulled out just before kick-off due to injury. Corey Oates was the star of the show, as he came up with a spectacular diving finish for his first try, before galloping 90 metres after an intercept on his own try-line for his second.

Storm stay in touch
Melbourne Storm rode their luck to edge past Newcastle Knights on Sunday, picking up a 20-16 win which kept them within two points of the league leaders Cronulla. Korbin Sims’ shot early in the contest set the tone for the hosts, but despite having the lion’s share of possession they weren’t prolific enough and fell to an 11th straight loss. The same couldn’t be said for their opponents, who made the most of the ball they were given, mostly down to their Fijian flyers on either edge. Marika Koroibete raced away to score an intercept try before showing great strength to drive his way over, with his double coming either side of a seemingly impossible finish from Suliasi Vunivalu in the opposite corner. Jake Mamo had an impressive afternoon for the Knights, as his second of the game saw him out-jump Cameron Munster with three minutes to go, however it was too little too late for the NRL’s basement club.

Game of two halves

Parramatta Eels’ woes continued on Sunday evening, as they let an 18-6 half-time advantage slip to go down 22-18 to Penrith Panthers at Pepper Stadium. The Eels have been at the centre of a number of controversial incidents off the field, yet they have been performing on it, and were in devastating form in the first 40 as they raced into the lead. The pick of the bunch was Bevan French’s first effort, which saw the winger chase down a grubber and ground the ball just inside the in-goal area. The loss of Michael Jennings to a hamstring injury coincided with the Panthers’ fightback, as it took just 14 minutes for them to claw their way in-front, with Josh Mansour’s try in the corner proving to be the match-winner. The remaining 26 minutes were scoreless as Parramatta were shut-out for the whole second period, and are left to wonder if their chances of making the top eight are now over.

Sharks bite again

Is it their year? Last week the Cronulla Sharks showed their Premiership credentials by winning with five Origin representatives missing from their line-up, and with four of their stars returning in round 19 they battled past a stubborn Sydney Roosters on Monday night. It is now 14 wins in a row for the league leaders, but they didn’t have it all their way as the home side came close before Sosaia Feki raced the length of the field to seal the win in the final minute. Chad Townsend’s 53rd minute try epitomised the Sharks’ meteoric rise to the top, as they ran the ball on the last tackle with a gutsy play before Townsend chased down Gerard Beale’s kick. It has been a fall from grace for the Roosters as they sit second bottom after a fifth straight loss, almost 12 months after they secured back-to-back minor premierships.

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