The NRL wrap: Round 20

Tom Trbojevic is the one to watch for the Kangaroos

Cowboys cage Dogs
North Queensland Cowboys showed the form which led them to their 2015 Premiership as they ran riot over Canterbury Bulldogs on Thursday night. Jonathan Thurston’s kicking game was on the money, as he came up with a number of brilliant plays with the boot. Even when he limped off in the second period with a hamstring injury his side remained on top, running in a further 16 points under the marshalling of Michael Morgan and Jake Granville. Antonio Winterstein scored a seven-minute double at the start of the contest, and rounded off a 36-0 triumph with a hat-trick try on the hooter. The Bulldogs seemed to have put their inconsistency behind them with four straight wins, however they will have to cut out performances like this one if they are to make the top four.

Panthers pounce
Penrith Panthers strengthened their claims for a top eight finish while also denting the Broncos chances of making the top four, with a 31-12 win at the Suncorp. Skipper Matt Moylan was instrumental in the win, crossing for a try double and also knocking over a field goal. Waqa Blake scored the try of game when he raced the length of the field to open the scoring, moments after knocking on with the try-line begging. Former Leeds Rhinos fullback Zak Hardaker picked up his first NRL try since his move down under, as he sent his side into the break 18-0 up. Trent Merrin rounded off the scoring, marking his 150th appearance with a victory and a four-pointer. Brisbane had looked to have put their post Origin slump behind them, however they couldn’t back up last week’s win over the Rabbitohs and now sit in sixth. James Roberts breakaway try was the only highlight in a poor performance from last year’s finalists.

Croker clinches it
The Green Machine just keep churning out wins, as they snatched a dramatic win over New Zealand Warriors in golden point extra-time to climb into the top four. Led by skipper Jarrod Croker, who crossed for a hat-trick which included the extra-time winner, Canberra avoided a late raid from the Warriors to pick up a fourth straight win. The Kiwis have suffered three golden point defeats in their last four games, with this the toughest to take after clawing their way back into the contest in the last 10 minutes. They were 22-4 down before Thomas Leuluai grabbed a quick-fire double, before David Fusitua came up with a freakish finish in the corner to give Isaac Luke a touchline conversion attempt to level the scores. The ball sailed over the black dot as the hooter sounded, only for the Raiders skipper to break the visitors’ hearts with his third try of the game. The Warriors are in a tight contest to make the eight now, meanwhile the Raiders look certain to be competing in the Finals come September.

Parra punished

Gold Coast Titans ended Parramatta Eels’ hopes of finals footy with a ruthless performance on Saturday evening, cruising to a 34-14 victory. In stark contrast the Titans secured their place inside the top eight, and their form of late could see them extend their season beyond Round 26 to the surprise of most. Chris McQueen grabbed a double for the hosts with young halfback Ashley Taylor impressing, as he rounded off the win with a last minute intercept try. Parramatta have been brilliant in the face of adversity but will now play out the rest of the season for pride, and will be hoping to avoid any more turmoil off the field.

Storm rumble Roosters

After pushing the ladder leaders all the way last week, Sydney Roosters lacked penetration in attack as they were brushed aside by Melbourne Storm 26-10 at AAMI Park. The Roosters are capable of a lot better than their second bottom position indicates, however results don’t lie in this business and it is now six straight losses for the Chooks. The Storm ooze class, and led by the deft touches of Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk they strolled to victory. Blake Ferguson had opened the scoring after just three minutes, but any chance of a shock victory was soon put to bed. Smith came up with two try assists with the boot, firstly for Dale Finucane before Cronk pounced. Kevin Proctor and Tohu Harris scored in the second period, with Shaun Kenny-Dowall picking up a late consolation. Melbourne are on the coattails of Cronulla Sharks after securing a fourth straight win, and their finals experience could prove vital at the business end of the season.

Classy Cronulla
The ladder leaders are flying, and they put the basement club Newcastle Knights to the sword with a prolific display to make it 15 wins in a row. Valentine Holmes was denied an 80 metre breakaway try in the opening exchanges for a double movement, before Jack Bird grabbed the game’s first try. Ben Barba was at his best once again, and was controversially denied a sensational effort for an obstruction call on Michael Ennis, but there was no denying his a second time as Bird sent the fullback racing to the try line. A late consolation from Nathan Ross couldn’t prevent his side from crashing to their 12th straight loss, before fittingly Barba wrapped up the scoring off the back of brilliant play from Sosaia Feki and Gerard Beale. The 36-4 score line was routine given the ladder positions of the two sides, however the class shown by the Sharks signalled to the rest of the competition that they are the real deal and could go all the way.

Farah not needed
Wests Tigers claimed a crucial victory in the race for the top eight, overcoming St George Illawarra Dragons 25-12 to go within two points of the play-off places and leapfrog their opponents. They had to do it without captain Robbie Farah, who was left out by coach Jason Taylor and sent to play reserve grade. It wasn’t a great start for the visitors, as Kurt Mann opened the scoring, but David Nofoaluma replied soon after off the back of a great sweeping move. Tim Grant left the field on a stretcher after copping a shoulder to the head, however his team managed to take control in his absence. James Tedesco showed his frightening pace to finish off Nofoaluma’s break, in between scores from Luke Brooks and Josh Aloiai, with Adam Quinlan hitting back for the hosts. It wasn’t enough to spark a comeback though as Moses M’bye knocked over a field goal to round off the scoring.

Manly on the charge
The Sea Eagles kept their slender hopes of making the eight alive with a third straight win, while also condemning South Sydney Rabbitohs to a seventh straight loss and all but ending their season. It didn’t come without controversy though, as Joe Burgess looked to have scored a try which would have made it 18-all before the Bunker ruled knock-on. Jamie Lyon opened the scoring when he scored under the posts, and rounded it off with a penalty goal to give the Rabbitohs no hope of a late comeback. Adam Reynolds returned from injury and did his best to overturn the 18-0 half-time deficit with a try and try assist for Cody Walker in the second period. It wasn’t enough though, as the Sea Eagles saw out the win as they refuse to give up on finals footy. Souths have to come to terms with a season which won’t be extended past round 26, leaving fans to question whether Madge’s time is up as coach.

 

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