The NRL wrap: Round 25

Cowboys close in
North Queensland jumped into the top four with a 24-16 win over Canterbury on Thursday, as another Jonathan Thurston masterclass saw the visitors home. Playing against his former club at Belmore, JT forced four back-to-back goal line drop-outs at the end of the first period as the Cowboys mounted pressure but couldn’t find a way over. They had a 6-4 advantage at the break as Ethan Lowe’s try cancelled out Greg Eastwood’s breakaway effort, with the back-rower intercepting Michael Morgan’s pass. Thurston dummied his way through the defence to send Lowe over for another, before the impressive Coen Hess powered over for another. Curtis Rona and Eastwood scored either side of Jason Taumalolo’s effort but it didn’t affect the outcome, as the Bulldogs slipped down to sixth with the defeat and face a must win clash in the final round.

Broncos stun Storm

With Melbourne losing just once in their last 11 home meetings with Brisbane, it looked certain that they would be crowned minor premiers at AAMI Park on Friday night. It wasn’t to be though as the Broncos kept their top four hopes alive, showing the form we had seen prior to the State of Origin series. Sam Thaiday’s brilliant offload sent Tom Opacic over for the opener before Ben Hunt found Jordan Kahu on the opposite edge for their second. Tohu Harris replied by reaching out and finding the line but Opacic grabbed a second late in the first period. Darius Boyd and Ben Hampton exchanged tries before Cooper Cronk failed to deal with Kahu’s last tackle kick, only for Jai Arrow to pounce. Cameron Smith crossed for a late consolation however it was too little too late, as Brisbane join the Cowboys and Bulldogs on 32 points. 

Nine in a row

Canberra Raiders survived a late comeback to spoil Jamie Lyon’s farewell party at Brookvale Oval, as they were on top in a free-scoring encounter with Manly Sea Eagles. The Raiders right edge has been potent in attack, as Jordan Rapana grabbed a hat-trick and his centre Joseph Leilua was over for back-to-back tries in the second period. Their defence was soft though, as Tom Trbojevic scored a hat-trick of his own as he caused havoc for Leilua throughout. Daly Cherry-Evans sparked a comeback late in the game as he finished off a break in support, with Trbojevic and Frank Winterstein putting the hosts within eight points. Rapana’s third try of the afternoon three minutes from time sealed a 44-30 win for the Raiders though, as they have a chance to sneak into the top two in the final round of the regular season. If you’ve loving the Raiders season, we’re sure you will love to Ruck and Roll on Rugby Star at Royal Vegas Casino.

Moylan’s match winner

Penrith secured finals footy with a one-point win over Gold Coast Titans on Saturday, with Matt Moylan the star of the show. All the pre-game talk was about Jarryd Hayne returning to fullback, but he was left in the shadow of his opposite number, as Moylan opened the scoring with great footwork. Waqa Blake managed to find the line with an extended arm, as Nathan Cleary’s penalty gave the visitors a 14-0 advantage at the break. Leivaha Pulu grabbed his first NRL try to break the Titans’ deadlock, before Greg Bird somehow reached over the line to score. Tyrone Roberts converted both tries and levelled the scores five minutes from time with a penalty goal. The only Penrith point of the second half was decisive, as Moylan sent over a field goal to secure the win for his side, with Gold Coast heading into the final round inside the top eight by just a point.

Sharks still alive
Cronulla ran in 37 unanswered points to see off Sydney Roosters and keep their minor premiership hopes alive, as they head into a winner takes all clash with Melbourne Storm in Round 26. The visiting Roosters started the brightest, and young stars Connor Watson and Latrell Mitchell opened up a 12-0 lead. They wouldn’t trouble the scoreboard for the remainder of the game though, as a double knock on saw Matt Prior pounce for Cronulla. Ben Barba brought the scores level as he raced over, before James Maloney landed a field goal on the half-time hooter. Four second half tries saw the Sharks home, as skipper Paul Gallen managed to find his way over after ducking out of a tackle to find the line. Michael Ennis added a late penalty goal in his farewell game to round off the scoring, as they visit Melbourne next week with top spot up for grabs.

Tigers pounce
Wests Tigers kept their finals hopes alive, while ending New Zealand Warriors’ season in a 36-24 victory at Mt Smart. The game was in the balance until Mitchell Moses managed to find the line four minutes from time, before Kevin Naiqama sealed the win two minutes later. Aaron Woods was influential for the visitors, sending Sauaso Sue over for the first of his brace before crashing over himself immediately after. Solomone Kata could have had a hat-trick, however he was denied by the Bunker for obstruction shortly after a brilliant try-saver from Naiqama dislodged the ball as he dove over the try-line. Simon Mannering crossed on his 30th birthday, and Shaun Johnson was also denied a try by the Bunker. Not long after that decision three tries in the last ten minutes sealed a vital win for Wests. The Tigers must travel to Canberra and snap their nine-game winning streak and hope that the Titans slip up in Queensland the night before if they are to make the finals.

Knights beaten again
South Sydney eased past Newcastle Knights 34-12 to record a third straight Royal Casino Vegas win, condemning their opponents to a 17th straight defeat. Their end of season form has frustrated fans, as Souths could have been in with a shot of finals football had they turned it around sooner. Greg Inglis opened the scoring as he grounded the ball inches inside the dead ball line, with Adam Reynolds becoming the third highest points scorer in the club’s history with the conversion. Alex Johnston then crossed before Reynolds’ ‘no-look’ kick back inside sent Cody Walker in for a clever try. Aaron Gray scored before debutant Dylan Phythian broke Newcastle’s deadlock, with Sam Burgess and Johnston securing the win with further tries. Jake Mamo scored a brilliant consolation try as he broke from an offload and chased down his own kick, giving the retiring Jeremy Smith a simple conversion to round-off the scoring.

Perfect Pirtek farewell
In a game where it seemed nothing but pride was to play for, Parramatta gave Pirtek Stadium a winning Royal Vegas Casino farewell as it undergoes a three-year redevelopment. They outclassed St George Illawarra Dragons 30-18 as both side’s chances of making the finals are long gone. Bevan French was brilliant once again, as he crossed for a hat-trick to make it 16 tries in 12 games. The Dragons will be kicking themselves with the try they conceded to Kenny Edwards, as his quick tap caught the defence napping. Drew Hutchison, replacing Benji Marshall in the halves, scored on debut but it was French’s third which lit up Pirtek as Brad Takairangi found him with a pinpoint kick back inside. Michael Gordon also crossed from a Takairangi kick, but this time it was a simple grubber to send his wing partner over. A late Kurt Mann double restored some pride for the visitors, but it was too little too late for the Dragons.

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