NRL round 25: Key takeouts

Parramatta Eels 22 bt Melbourne Storm 14

Parramatta have fired a warning shot to the NRL’s premiership contenders and set up a qualifying final showdown with Penrith after leaving the Melbourne Storm in unfamiliar territory for week one of the finals.

Only once since 2011 have Melbourne finished outside the top four, and now they will look to do what no team has done during the NRL era by winning a premiership from the bottom half of the eight. They need to lift, given the scoreboard against the Eels flattered the Storm. Mitchell Moses flattened Kenny Bromwich, and Clint Gutherson dished up a perfect cutout pass to send Maika Sivo on a 40-metre path to the line.

The Eels have got plenty of weapons and their style of play has troubled Penrith in the past. They’re a red-hot chance in Penrith this week.
Caden Helmers

Canterbury Bulldogs 21 bt Manly Sea Eagles 20

It was wet and it was ugly, but one of the most meaningless games of the year produced an exciting finish as Matt Burton’s field goal sealed a Canterbury fightback. Again, Manly wilted late in the match and should have had it sewn up when leading 16-0 in the first half. But the Bulldogs found a way to snap their own losing run to give fresh hope for Cameron Ciraldo’s imminent reign.

Max King has been a hidden gem for Phil Gould, while Tevita Pangai jnr responded to his NSW Cup demotion with a spirited display, which included a miraculous pass for Kyle Flanagan’s match-levelling try late on.

The Sea Eagles need the off-season to heal. Kaeo Weekes made the error which might have cost them the game, but he was otherwise outstanding and looks a real prospect. It will be a big week on the beaches.
Adam Pengilly

Sydney Roosters 26 bt South Sydney Rabbitohs 16

This was meant to be the calm before the storm, but the Roosters and Rabbitohs are incapable of playing a conservative brand of football when they face each other.

The Roosters started with intent and lots of pace, with Jared Waerea-Hargreaves’ first tackle on Latrell Mitchell setting the tone. The tricolours were sharp in attack, and it took some Mitchell magic to break their defensive line. Joey Manu is a huge loss, but Joseph Suaalii is to return, as are Daniel Tupou and Victor Radley.

Souths got going late when the game was over, and were not helped by Cam Murray being flattened. They hung in the fight, just as they did against Penrith, but will need to improve a lot more than their neighbours in a week’s time.
Christian Nicolussi

New Zealand Warriors 26 lost to Gold Coast Titans 27

Thank goodness that’s over. That’s how both teams will look back on disappointing campaigns which fell well short of expectations.

The Gold Coast won three of their last four to leapfrog the Warriors on the ladder, but this is nothing to write home about. The hosts blew a 14-point lead late in the game, ultimately going down in golden point. Tanah Boyd was the hero with a late field goal to steal the result.

We’ll get a better gauge of where the Warriors are at under new coach Andrew Webster next year when they get their fair share of matches at home. Justin Holbrook will get the chance to start the season as Titans coach, but whether he gets to end it will depend on early results.
Adrian Proszenko

St George Illawarra Dragons 22 bt Brisbane Broncos 12

Ben Hunt must be re-signed immediately.

The halfback, who is negotiating an extension, set up three tries and proved not only that he is the most important Dragon, but also why he will win the Dally M. Not bad for a 32-year-old. There are no notable signings heading to the club next year, but the Dragons were able to give some of their youngsters vital game time, and they will be better for it. Mat Feagai is an exciting prospect.

The Broncos faded quickly and were shot for confidence. Pat Carrigan is a star, while Adam Reynolds did well to keep Brisbane in the fight most weeks. Reece Walsh will be a big addition, but that final month of football was forgettable.
Christian Nicolussi

North Queensland Cowboys 38 bt Penrith Panthers 8

Was this match the ideal finals preparation for either side? North Queensland picked apart a reggies-strength Penrith outfit in a match in which neither team had much to play for.

Valentine Holmes scored a hat-trick to help run up a big score. The Panthers had the luxury of resting a dozen of their stars, some of whom run the risk of being underdone in their opening finals clash against Parramatta. Jarome Luai has played precious little football and Nathan Cleary will be back; the good news is the mountain men will be healthy and available.

This wasn’t the tough hit-out the Cowboys can expect against Cronulla, but they got the job done. It all starts again this week.
Adrian Proszenko

Newcastle Knights 16 lost to Cronulla Sharks 38

Hardly world-beating stuff from the Sharks, who had one eye on next week during the first 40 minutes.

They cracked on with it after being 12-all at half-time but 15 errors and an ankle injury to Siosifa Talakai are cause for concern. Fullback Lachlan Miller offers a point of difference though and may have played his way into a bench utility role against the Cowboys with Will Kennedy due to return.

Newcastle had a dig and duly pushed Cronulla – the scoreline would’ve been a lot closer if not for a couple of long-range Sharks tries. It’s cold comfort though as a significant roster overhaul looms.
Dan Walsh

Wests Tigers 10 lost to Canberra Raiders 56

Brett Kimmorley conceded it was like a training run at times for the Tigers’ opponents, who made good of a late-season charge to reach the finals.

Canberra piled on 42 points in the first 32 minutes against the hapless Tigers, who at least added respectability after the break with two tries apiece. And that was without Jack Wighton and Elliott Whitehead, both of whom were rested once the Broncos lost to the Dragons on Saturday night. Hudson Young is firming by the day for Mal Meninga’s World Cup squad and Jamal Fogarty is making fools of the Titans with each passing week.

The Tigers? Daine Laurie looked sharp at times, but they were booed off at half-time. Enough said.
Adam Pengilly

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