St George Illawarra Dragons 32 bt South Sydney Rabbitohs 12
Jason Demetriou bristled at the suggestion but you have to wonder what kind of impact being benched inside 30 minutes will have on rookie halfback Lachlan Ilias. South Sydney were blown away in St George Illawarra’s best first-half performance in 21 years, and they trailed 32-0 when Demetriou pulled Ilias out of the game. The Rabbitohs coach says it wouldn’t be fair to expect the 22-year-old to pull Souths out of that hole, but even Immortal Andrew Johns was left wondering how Ilias’ confidence levels would be after being hooked. On the other side of the coin, young Dragons playmaker Talatau Amone had the best game of his NRL career and now enters Tongan camp for a taste of Test football.
Manly Sea Eagles 26 lost to North Queensland Cowboys 28
Ohhhhh, Manly. They had this one in the bag and blew it. Three tries in as many minutes and the Cowboys somehow snatched a late victory. Will the Sea Eagles ever bag a top-eight scalp this season? They started with plenty of enthusiasm, a few of their trick plays worked, including kicking early in the tackle count, and Lachie Croker burst to life with a couple of tries in the second half. But North Queensland refused to roll over. Much has been made about their fitness, and they ran over the top of the home side. Even the last play before half-time featured Peta Hiku roaring out of the line to smash Morgan Harper into touch. Fitness, tick. Class, tick. As for Manly, still waiting on a heavyweight scalp? Tick.
Melbourne Storm 32 bt Brisbane Broncos 20
Two things stood out for the Melbourne Storm in their comeback win over the Broncos. The first is that signing Nick Meaney has saved their campaign given he has filled in on the wing, five-eighth and, most recently, fullback. Storm coach Craig Bellamy described Meaney as similar to Jahrome Hughes in his early years at Storm and he said he is gaining more confidence by the week. The second is Justin Olam is carrying an enormous load both on the field and off it as replacements fill all the other spots in the team’s outside backs at present. Despite his COVID-19 diagnosis last week, Ryan Papenhuyzen is due to come back with Meaney likely sliding back to the wing. The Storm have 12 players on rep duty, Bellamy is hoping and praying they all avoid any injuries given Xavier Coates, Christian Welch, George Jennings and Reimis Smith are already out of the side.
Cronulla Sharks 18 bt Gold Coast Titans 10
Cronulla rolled out the welcome mat with 16 errors that allowed the Gold Coast to get far closer than they ever should have, yet Justin Holbrook’s side now finds itself stone motherless last and two points adrift of their competitors. It’s been a truly stunning slide from last year’s breakthrough finals appearance. Far too much money has been spent up front at the expense of a promising but youthful playmaking contingent. Captain Tino Fa’asuamaleaui and Beau Fermor are among the few Titans that can hold their heads up each week;elsewhere the roster needs turning over. The Sharks, meanwhile, are back in the top four with their first back-to-back wins since early April, but it wasn’t pretty.
New Zealand Warriors 6 lost to Penrith Panthers 40
You have to feel for the Warriors, who have given more than any other club to keep the NRL rolling along during the pandemic. Alas, that hasn’t equated to any generosity from their on-field opponents and Penrith were no different when they rolled into Redcliffe on Saturday night. It really was a regulation shift for the Panthers, who did what they do and then saw seven players picked in the second Origin squad. The Warriors really did try hard – Reece Walsh emptied the tank and had great moments again – but they are a mile off the best clubs. A long-overdue return to Mt Smart Stadium after the representative round will do wonders for their spirit and that of new coach Stacey Jones.
Parramatta Eels 26 bt Sydney Roosters 16
This was one of the most entertaining games of the year. It will come as little comfort to the Roosters, who currently sit outside the top eight. This from a team that many tipped to take out the title. Parramatta’s win was based on the platform laid by Junior Paulo and Reagan Campbell-Gillard, who ran for more than 400 metres combined. It was also a night out for back-rowers Isaiah Papali’i and Shaun Lane, the latter turning in the best performance of his career. The Roosters were without Luke Keary, Victor Radley and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and then both the Butcher boys, Nat and Egan, were forced off with concussion. Trent Robinson desperately needs troops back because their season is slipping away. Their next assignment is Penrith.
Canberra Raiders 20 bt Newcastle Knights 18
This was so nearly one for Newcastle folklore. Trailing by 14 points with an ill captain who “hasn’t eaten for days”, the Kalyn Ponga-inspired Knights almost pulled this one out of the fire down in Canberra. Then Raiders enforcer Hudson Young decided to tear up that script and bring his side to within one win of eighth place by swooping on his own grubber to score the match-winner and send the home crowd ballistic. Young never says die. We saw it in Canberra’s season-opening win over Cronulla and we saw it again this weekend. Joe Tapine was brilliant again. The Raiders front-rower tends to fly under the radar given he plays in Canberra alongside another man widely-regarded as one of the best props in the game in Josh Papalii, but Tapine is clearly one of the NRL’s best. The Raiders’ finals hopes are alive, but Newcastle are now three wins outside the eight and will need a miracle to be there in September.
Canterbury Bulldogs 36 bt Wests Tigers 12
Mick Potter might have started at very long odds to win the Bulldogs coaching job on a full-time basis, but what about now? The interim boss is making a splendid fist of turning the club around, this time with a thumping win over the similarly on-the-hunt Tigers. Everything about the Bulldogs has changed: they’re playing with energy and purpose, flair in attack and the smiles are back. Starting props Max King and Paul Vaughan were immense, and Jake Averillo looks to have finally found a home at fullback. The Tigers are in dire straits. Apart from Adam Doueihi making a successful comeback from an ACL injury, there was barely a positive to take out of the game. It could be a long last 10 weeks.
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