Panthers vs. Souths
Both sides headed into the shortened round relatively unaffected by Origin, with the only player missing being Greg Inglis for the Rabbitohs. Both sides lost players before kick of however, with Souths losing Tim Grant and Panthers missing Josh Mansour, forcing some reshuffled line-ups with Jason Clark and Sika Manu coming into the 17 for Rabbitohs and Panthers respectively.
Dallin Watene-Zelezniak or DWZ opened up the scoring early in the encounter after he picked up an offload from Waqa Blake and ducked over to put the ball down. Video Refs looked at it for a while however, with a possible knock on from Sika Manu making them unsure, but declared that there was insufficient evidence to turn down the on-field decision of try.
Panthers extended their lead after scoring a brilliant team try set up by Bryce Cartwright, who was been involved heavily in the Panthers attack for the whole night. After running himself through a hole, Cartwright provided a brilliant backwards flick pass before the ball went through the hands to Dean Whare to score in the corner.
Bizarrely, the statistics favoured the Rabbitohs, who despite being down by 8 at half time, had more possession, a better competition rate and had received the better rub of the green from the referees, earning more penalties. However their attack was flailing with some poor 5th tackle options up against some strong Panthers defence. Johnston was also having a night to forget while replacing Greg Inglis at the back, coming up with several errors and missed tackles, while Dylan Walker, who looked one of the most likely to score for the bunnies, received much too little ball.
Panthers kept their momentum going in the second half and with more possession were able to convert this to more points, with Peter Wallace scoring a try after a Jamie Soward kick into the in-goal. Panthers scored again not long after with some passing through the hands going to winger Waqa Blake, who did well to get the ball down while keeping his feet over the sideline.
Souths attack was struggling, especially after ball playing back rower John Sutton left the field with a suspected ruptured bicep. While David Tyrell leaving the field after being knocked out after a head knock with Panthers enforcer Nigel Plum. But they finally clicked together in the dying minutes of the game, with fill-in winger Joel Reddy coming up with a contender for try of the year so far, after pouncing on a ball that looked to be going dead for all money.
Apisai Koroisau who was having a shocker with the boot, kicked a penalty from right in front to make it 2 from 5 kicks for the night and putting the game well beyond reach for South Sydney. Peter Wallace was named man of the match after putting in a great performance, having a hand in stopping a few Rabbitohs tries and scoring a try of his own.
Penrith Panthers 20 (Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Dean Whare, Peter Wallace, Waqa Blake tries; Apisai Koroisau 2 Goals) defeated South Sydney Rabbitohs 6 (Joel Reddy Try; Adam Reynolds Goal) at Pepper Stadium. Crowd: 14,068. On Report: Isaac Luke.
Dragons v Cowboys
Dragons headed into this top of the table encounter, looking to snap a three game losing streak after a strong run this season so far. Cowboys on the other hand had almost forgotten what losing had felt like, winning 11 in a row until their loss to the Sharks last week.
Not only were both sides heavily hit by origin, but there was also a host of changes hitting the sides pre-game, particularly for the Dragons who had a debutant in Yaw Kitty Glymin and Justin Hunt, Luke Page and Mark Ioane making their club debuts, crazy considering the latter two had only been at the club for one week.
The game was incredibly even with both sides putting in incredible defensive performances. In what was a very tough and gritty game, both sides completed close to 100% throughout the game which made for some great footy to watch.
Cowboys started off strong, firing out of the blocks with Kane Linnett scoring in just the 3rd minute of play, after he dived on a ball that was stripped out of Gavin Cooper’s hands by Nathan Green.
It took the Dragons over 20 minutes to hit back in a great try for Euan Aitken thanks to some Benji Marshall Magic. The set started to look very ordinary after Benji ran across the whole field without making any ground, but he accelerated when he saw numbers out wide and passed off to Aitken who did well to get it down, busting a few tackles in the process.
Not long after this, a contest in the scrum from the Dragons was a sight for sore eyes! Despite the Dragons failing to capitalise on this rare occurrence it was great to see none-the-less.
After the recovering from the lost scrum, the Cowboys managed to work their way up field and Kane Linnett scored his second for the night from a pinpoint accurate kick from Robert Lui.
Cowboys started the second half strong, with Jake Granville scooting over to score a try from dummy half, Dragons however hit back spectacularly, with club debutant Mark Ionne cleaning up the scraps off a high kick to score in the corner.
Dragons spent the rest of the game trying to even up the scores and got close with a few minutes to go again with some more Marshall magic! Benji put stand in fullback Justin Hunt through a hole and backed up, receiving it again and would have scored if not for a try saving tackle from Jake Granville.
Although their club record of 11 consecutive wins had finished, the Cowboys left WIN Stadium with another impressive record of 7 consecutive wins away from home.
Cowboys 18 (Linnett 2, Granville tries; Lowe 3 goals) defeated Dragons 12 (Aitken, Ioanne tries; Widdop 2 goals) at WIN Stadium. Crowd: 11,813.
Manly vs. Sharks
Sharks head into this game on a three game winning streak and were looking to extend it on Wade Graham’s 100th game for them, against a Manly side at Brookvale oval that had beaten them in 10 out of their last 11 games.
Sharks were without skipper Paul Gallen and hooker Michael Ennis from Origin camp and suspension respectively, while Manly was boosted by the return of their captain, Jamie Lyon from a hamstring injury.
The Sea Eagles came out of the sheds firing, putting on one of their best opening 20-minute performances of the season. Jorge Taufua scored the opening try after a great pass from Brett Stewart and scored again not too long after when he tapped the ball back, picked it up himself and strolled over.
After both sides started to utilise their benches, Sharks seemed to get back into the game a bit more and managed to score just before half time through Sosaia Feki, who left the game through injury early in the second half.
The first half of footy was actually very even, with both sides completing their sets equally, having an even share of the penalties. Sharks however had slightly more possession and would have been disappointed to not be ahead at half time.
Manly came out of the sheds again firing, when Taufua picked up a pinpoint accurate kick from Brett Stewart and passed for Steve Matai to score. Not long after Daly Cherry-Evans kicked a ball that had knocked on and almost scored but overran the ball, however, he made up from it later in the set by scoring after a magic pass from Tom Symmonds.
Brett Stewart got close to scoring his own try when he reached out and almost dislocated his shoulder, however he was controversially denied when video referees didn’t have enough evidence to overturn the on-field decision of no try.
If they were any chance of a comeback, as they had in several games recently, the Sharks left it way too late with Andrew Fifita crossing over with 10 minutes to go. Their dreams of another comeback were shattered when Brett Stewart put the nail in the coffin by putting Jorge Taufua over for his third try of the game.
The Sharks scored a consolation try in the dying moments, again through Andrew Fifita, but by that stage the game was already over. Brett Stewart was named man of the match for his great performance, coming up with 2 try assists and having a hand in a few more, as well as making several try saving tackles.
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 28 (Taufua 3, Matai, Cherry-Evans tries; Lyon 4 goals) defeated Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 16 (A Fifita 2, Feki tries; Gordon 2 goals) at Brookvale Oval. Crowd: 14,881. On Report: Chris Heighington.
Tigers vs. Eels
The Wests Tigers headed to ANZ Stadium to play Parramatta and would have been looking for a win after finding themselves on the bottom of the ladder and losing their last 2 games. They would have been confident, as they have won 6 out of their last 7 against Parramatta, however the loss of halfback Luke Brooks with a shoulder injury was a big blow to their chances.
Eels started the game with Isaac de Gois having an absolute brain explosion, chucking the ball backwards while in his in goal, which was pounced on by James Tedesco. However the video refs ruled that Tedesco had knocked it on after Corey Norman dislodged the ball from his hand, preventing Tedesco from grounding properly.
Parramatta made up for their sloppy start scoring twice in quick succession thanks to some sloppy Tigers defence down the left side. Firstly, Tim Mannah strolled over untouched to score the 3rd try of his career and the first since 2012. Minutes later Eels made a break and after some desperate defence slapped the ball out of the air, Luke Kelly regathered and strolled over to score again.
After this however, Eels really dropped their intensity thinking they were in for an easy game. They started giving away a few penalties and making stacks of errors, keeping them stuck down their end of the field. Parramatta became frustrated and Brad Takairangi was put on report for a shoulder charge on Tigers fullback James Tedesco. Tigers relished their opportunities and Kevin Naiqama was having a blinder, scoring two quick tries before Pat Richards scored to take the lead heading into half time.
The second half started off almost as sloppy as the first with both sides coughing up possession several times and giving away lots of penalties, with referee Gavin Badger having to give the Tigers a formal warning and Martin Taupau finding himself on report.
While the Eels had more possession in the first half, they really made the most of their chances down in the Tigers end of the field and it wasn’t long before the floodgates started to open.
Eels scored first through Semi Radradra who won the contest for the ball against Kevin Naiqama and ran under the posts relatively untouched. Semi was starting to have an absolute blinder and after a great run, offloaded to Chris Sandow to score. It didn’t take long for Chris to pay Semi back by giving him a quality cut out pass for Semi to score his second of the night.
This turned out to be a record-breaking effort from Semi Radradra, who became the first player since 1954 to score multiple tries in 5 consecutive games. His 2 try haul also level him up with Curtis Rona as the leading try scorer in the NRL so far and for Semi, the sky is the limit.
Parramatta 28 (Radradra 2, Kelly, Mannah, Sandow tries and Sandow 4 goals) beat Wests Tigers 16 (Naiqama 2, Richards tries and Richards 2 goals) at ANZ Stadium. Crowd: 15,347. On Report: Brad Takairangi, Martin Taupau.