The NRL wrap: Round 23

Grub’s golden effort
Everyone loves to hate Josh Reynolds, but his determination dragged Canterbury home to a crucial golden-point win over the Manly Sea Eagles, as they edged the contest 20-16 in extra-time. After being denied a try in the second minute of added time for a push on Daly Cherry-Evans, the Bulldogs halfback chased down Sam Perrett’s 89th minute grubber, which evaded Tom Trbojevic and fell into the path of Reynolds for the game-winning score. Cherry-Evans had given the visitors the lead, before a quick double from Brett Morris, the first of which came off the head of brother Josh, sent the Dogs into the break ahead. Matthew Wright and Jorge Taufua crossed on opposite edges for the Sea Eagles either side of a score from Perrett, before Reynolds clinched the victory in the dying stages. It was a win which cemented the Doggies’ place in the top four, while Manly are looking at back-to-back years without finals footy.

Milford Magic
Anthony Milford inspired the Brisbane Broncos to a crucial win over Parramatta on Friday, as they secured their place in the finals and kept their chances of a top four finish alive. The Broncos number six was at his electrifying best, as he bamboozled the defensive line all too often. He scored a great individual effort after his brilliant break laid on one of Corey Oates’ three tries, with his best moment coming just before the hooter. He managed to evade the defence and break the line while running backwards, before finding the supporting Tevita Pengai Junior to round-off the comprehensive 38-16 victory. Semi Radradra was rumoured to be returning for the Eels, however he watched on from the side lines as his team failed to make a great impression on last year’s grand finalists. Bevan French is a shining light for Parramatta though as he continued his fine try scoring form, but with nothing to play for after a season littered with off-field problems, they will be looking forward to Round 26 when their year comes to an end.

This is my house
A cool, calm and collected Jarryd Hayne slotted a 79th minute field goal to snatch a crucial 19-18 victory for Gold Coast over Wests Tigers. After making his return from the bench last week, the former Parramatta Eels star started at 6 and played a pivotal role in lifting the Titans’ into the top eight. It started well for the hosts, as Kevin Naiqama raced over inside the first minute before a Hayne break laid the platform for Anthony Don to cross in the corner. Josh Hoffman levelled the scores and the visitors hit the lead when Don benefitted from Hayne’s towering bomb to grab a second. Nene Macdonald’s intercept try from his own 10 metre line opened up an eight point cushion, before James Tedesco left the field with a suspected broken jaw, David Nofoaluma launched his side back into the game with a five minute try double to level the scores. With only 15 seconds left on the clock Hayne came up with the game winning play, to break the Tigers’ hearts and leave them outside the eight by a point. The Campbelltown local celebrating with the comment ‘This is my house’ after the drop goal.

Souths stun Warriors
South Sydney ended their horror run of nine straight defeats with a comfortable 41-22 victory over New Zealand Warriors at Mt Smart Stadium. It was a win which will mean little to their overall ladder position come the end of the season, however it will lift the club for the remaining two rounds as they look to end a poor year on a high. Adam Reynolds led Souths around the field and was the architect of the victory, with former Wigan Warriors winger Joe Burgess picking up a first half brace to write his name in the history books. After his mid-season switch from Sydney Roosters he became the first person to score for two different NRL clubs in his debut season. The Warriors will be kicking themselves, as a win would have lifted them into the eight with only three games remaining. Their lack of consistency could come back to haunt them.

Dragons derby delight
Cronulla’s hopes of a minor premiership have faded after they were condemned to a second straight defeat, with St George Illawarra coming out on top in their derby match-up. Valentine Holmes struck early on for the visitors as he was gifted a simple try, before Benji Marshall’s kick sent over Euan Aitken in reply. Sosaia Feki raced down the left wing from deep in his own half before Ben Barba finished the move, and a James Maloney penalty goal put Cronulla six points ahead at the break. St George came up with a second half onslaught to race into the lead, as Mitch Rein crossed before a Tariq Sims quick-fire double. Barba sent Ricky Leutele over to close the gap, however Gareth Widdop posted a further eight points in the final nine minutes to seal the win for the Dragons, who are still mathematically in the race for the eight but would need a miracle to make the finals.

Panthers pounce
Penrith picked up their biggest ever win over Newcastle Knights, running out 42-6 winners to go two points clear of the chasing pack inside the top eight. For the second week in a row the Panthers have played after their finals rivals, and once again picked up a win under pressure to give themselves a great chance of making the play-offs. They weren’t at their best though, coming up with a number of unforced errors as they were held to 6-all at the break. A second half blitz saw the visitors post 36 unanswered points though as they cruised to victory, with wide men Dallin Watene Zelezniak and Josh Mansour picking up a brace each. For the NRL’s basement club, it is now 15 straight defeats as they extended their unwanted club record for the longest losing run. With boos echoing around Hunter Stadium it seems the supporters have finally lost their patience.

Cowboys choke
If North Queensland Cowboys are to defend their Premiership crown it seems they will have to do so from outside the top four, as they suffered a third straight defeat after going down to Sydney Roosters. The Roosters were tipped to have a big say in the make-up of the top eight during the run-in, and with wins over the Cowboys and the Broncos in recent weeks they are living up to that billing. The Queensland side opened and closed the scoring through Ethan Lowe and Kane Linnett, but it was a prolific period either side of the break which saw the hosts run in four tries and secure the victory. Shaun Kenny-Dowall scored a brilliant individual effort from close range as he stepped past the defence, however it was Latrell Mitchell’s runaway effort from distance which was the pick of the bunch. Although the Roosters have nothing to play for they will be looking to carry their recent form into the final three fixtures, while the Cowboys will need a turnaround in fortunes if they are to make up a four point deficit on the Bulldogs.

Red hot Raiders

Canberra Raiders put together a seventh straight win to defeat the ladder leaders Melbourne Storm 22-8 at GIO Stadium on Monday night. The Green Machine now have the best current record in the NRL, after ending their opponents six game winning run. Blake Austin passed a late fitness test and played a vital part in Joseph Leilua’s try in the opening set of the game. Cooper Cronk took on the line to pick up a six pointer and level the scores, before a 17th minute penalty goal from Cameron Smith edged Storm ahead. Canberra shut their opponents out for the remainder of the contest though, as Leulua’s strength saw his cross for a second in reply. Jarrod Croker added five goals with Shannon Boyd barging over for the only try of the second period. The Raiders muscled up in defence to secure their place in the top four, while Melbourne missed a golden opportunity to open up a three point gap over the Sharks in the race for the Minor Premiership.

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