The NRL wrap: Round 22

Frantic finish
The Brisbane Broncos survived a late scare to see off St George Illawarra Dragons in the driving rain at WIN Stadium on Thursday, as they ground out a 12-8 victory. It was a vital win for Wayne Bennett’s men, as they kept their top four hopes alive and bounced back from back-to-back defeats. The conditions hindered both side’s attacking options, as Corey Parker and Gareth Widdop exchanged penalty goals early on, before Sam Thaiday pounced on Anthony Milford’s grubber. Kurt Mann went agonisingly close for the hosts but he came up with a knock on when attempting to pick up a kick, and Lachlan Maranta made them pay when he crossed in the right corner. Widdop timed his run to perfection to take Benji Marshall’s bomb and cross untouched four minutes from time, with Corey Oates’ knock-on giving the Dragons one last chance in the final minute from 10 metres out. They couldn’t find a way over though, and after five straight losses the Red V’s chances of making the finals have taken a huge blow.

Eels edge Manly
Parramatta Eels may be out of the running for the top eight, however they proved that they can still play a big part in the make-up of the finals after edging Manly Sea Eagles 10-9. The Eels were boosted by the return of Michael Jennings, Manu Ma’u and Beau Scott, however skipped Scott limped off late in the game with an ankle injury. Bevan French is fast becoming an NRL star, and his brilliant solo effort to open the scoring did his reputation no harm, as the Parramatta wide man chased down his own kick to score. Apisai Koroisau levelled the scores with a try from dummy half, before Daly Cherry-Evans sent Manly into the sheds a point ahead with a field goal on the half-time hooter. Michael Gordon and Dylan Walker exchanged penalty goals in the second period before Gordon snatched the win for his side with a two-pointer three minutes from time. The loss brought the Sea Eagles’ four game winning run to an end, and could see them miss out on successive finals for the first time since 2004.

Knights make history
Newcastle Knights rewrote the club’s record books on Saturday for all the wrong reasons as they fell to a 14th straight defeat, making it the longest losing run in their history. Despite that though, they looked nothing like a team void of confidence at the bottom of the ladder as Trent Hodkinson almost carried them to a surprise victory. It was his 40/20 which gave them the field position to send Brendan Elliott over for his first, before his chip over the top caused havoc for the Bulldogs’ backline before finding its way to Elliott for a double. It wasn’t to be though, as Sam Kasiano charged down a Jarrod Mullen kick which was eventually scooped up for Moses Mbye to score, with Sam Perrett’s late try sealing a 28-14 win for Canterbury. It was a crucial win for the Dogs, as they put together back-to-back victories to climb into the top four with only four rounds remaining.

Raiders the real deal

There’s a Pom behind the wheel of the Green Machine, and his name is Josh Hodgson. The England international hooker is carving up the NRL and he came up with one of the plays of the season to lay on a try for Jordan Rapana, as Canberra Raiders defeated Cronulla Sharks 30-14. He dummied through the Sharks defence from inside his own half before reaching the 20 metre line and kicking to the corner, finding the on-rushing Rapana to finish a brilliant move. If the rest of the top eight weren’t already on high alert, Canberra’s performance strengthened their claim as Premiership contenders and all-but secured their place in the top four. They will be sweating on Blake Austin though, as the halfback injured his shoulder after scoring a great solo try to secure the win for his side. For the Sharks, it is a first defeat since round three as they slip from the summit after being unable to bounce back from last week’s stalemate with Gold Coast Titans.

Cam’s the man
Cameron Smith broke South Sydney hearts with an audacious field-goal from dummy-half in golden point extra time, as Melbourne Storm climbed to the top of the ladder with a 15-14 win. The Melbourne skipped sent the game into overtime with a last minute penalty after Damien Cook’s dangerous tackle, before slotting the match-winner four minutes later. Souths looked to have clinched a first NRL win over Storm in Melbourne until Cook’s brain explosion, after Adam Reynolds had laid on tries for Alex Johnston and Angus Crichton with the boot and knocked over a penalty goal. Storm took over 40 minutes to break their deadlock, as Marika Koroibete scored their first before Cheyse Blair snuck over on the same edge. It was a huge win for Craig Bellamy’s men, as they took full advantage of Cronulla Sharks’ defeat, while Madge’s Bunnies have now lost nine in a row and sit third bottom on the ladder.

Hayne Plane stalls
Jarryd Hayne stole all of the headlines in the build up to Round 22 as Gold Coast Titans announced they had captured the former Parramatta Eels star, but he couldn’t help his new club to victory as they were beaten 24-14 by New Zealand Warriors. After the team’s had exchanged two tries each in the first period, Shaun Johnson’s no-look pass sent Simon Mannering over for the first points of the second half. Then Hayne’s dream return turned into a nightmare as he threw an intercept to David Fusitua, and although he was chased down by former Warrior Konrad Hurell, Solomone Kata was on hand to score from the next play. Ash Taylor then threw an intercept of his own on the opposite edge, and this time it was Kata who pounced with the centre swatting away Anthony Don with a big ‘don’t argue’ before crossing for his second. Hayne did lay on a late consolation try for Don with a grubber kick, but it wasn’t enough as they remain outside the top eight by a point. The Kiwi side strengthened their claims for finals footy as they now sit in eighth on points difference.

JT’s hoodoo
Wests Tigers clinched a massive win over reigning Premiers North Queensland Cowboys to temporarily sneak into the top eight, as they ran out 26-14 winners at Leichhardt Oval. Not even the return of Jonathan Thurston could inspire the Cowboys, and their playmaker is still without a win over the Tigers when he has faced them in Sydney, losing on all 12 occasions. Kevin Naiqama and David Nofoaluma crossed either side of a Kane Linnett try to give the hosts a half-time lead, before Sauaso Sue stormed over eight minutes from time to send the Tigers on their way to victory. Ethan Lowe crossed to give the visitors hope five minutes later, before a brilliant individual effort from James Tedesco saw the fullback skip along the line and force his way to the try line to cap a memorable win. Although they are outside the eight on points difference, Wests will be brimming with confidence heading into the final four rounds. As for North Queensland, they have slipped out of the top four after back-to-back wins and will be desperate to make up the two points on Canterbury Bulldogs who have leapfrogged them.

Panthers pounce
With the Tigers and Warriors picking up Round 22 wins, all the pressure was on Penrith Panther on Monday as a win would reclaim their place in the top eight. They did just that, with a dominant 38-18 win over Sydney Roosters keeping their finals plans on track. Young halfback Nathan Cleary was the star of the show, as he opened the scoring giving Tyrone Peachey his second of the evening to him on a plate, breaking the line before finding him with an on-the-money kick. Dale Copley’s ninth minute effort seemed to be the only restbite for the Roosters, until late scores from Daniel Tupou and Boyd Cordner restored some pride. It didn’t influence the final outcome though, as Penrith’s potent attack had wrapped the game up long before they had took their foot off the gas. The hosts face two of their top eight rivals in their run-in as their finals destiny is in their own hands. The Roosters have a chance of catching rivals Souths and moving from second bottom, and have now lost seven of their last eight.

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