The Sydney Roosters have consolidated fifth spot on the ladder with a 14-point win over North Queensland Cowboys in the final game of Saturday’s Magic Round action in Brisbane.
The Roosters were given a scare after taking a strong early lead. The Cowboys began to mount a comeback just before half-time, and they closed within two points with a try just after the break.
But Trent Robinson’s men held on in a tough second half to get the points.
Earlier, the Canberra Raiders gave up the lead before hitting the front with a man down to beat the Canterbury Bulldogs 20-18.
In the second match of the day, the Rabbitohs extended Cronulla’s losing streak to six matches, with a 32-22 victory.
Roosters keep in touch with top four
Two more sin-bins took Magic Round’s running total to 12 in five games as the Roosters staved off a North Queensland comeback to win 30-16.
The Roosters shot out of the blocks before the Cowboys scraped back from 18-0 to 18-16, Lachlan Burr’s late sin-binning for a high shot on a falling James Tedesco a nail in the Cowboys’ coffin as the Roosters (7-3) kept in touch with the NRL’s top four.
Rooster Sitili Tupouniua was the other man sin-binned for a first-half high shot that shifted the balance after the Roosters defied some early pressure to carve out four clinical tries.
Lachlan Lam was sharp in his return from a knee injury and Sam Walker probed to set up his own try in his first NRL appearance at Lang Park.
When Angus Crichton strolled over for their fourth try in the 26th minute another bloodbath loomed.
But Tupouniua’s sin-binning proved pivotal, Cowboys hooker Reece Robson sensing the moment to spark his side.
Scott Drinkwater got busy too, setting up Javid Bowen for the first try before he scored himself from a neat Robson line-break.
Valentine Holmes then trampled Walker in the first set of the second half, offloading for Drinkwater to make it an 18-16 game.
With all the momentum they opted to take the penalty kick, after Crichton was reported for a late shot on Drinkwater.
But Holmes’ kick swung wide, shifting momentum back to the Roosters.
Joseph Manu then thought he’d finished a wonderful team try only for Ben Marschke’s knock-on at dummy half to be exposed on review.
James Tedesco ensured they capitalised though, streaming through some broken defence and popping a pass to Crichton for his second.
Burr became the 12th man sin-binned in the fifth game of Magic Round, clipping a falling Tedesco high and Adam Keighran’s ensuing penalty edged them eight clear with 15 minutes to play.
Defending with a man down, the Cowboys scrambled in defence and chanced their arm with the ball until Daniel Tupou’s second try with six minutes to play sealed the result.
Souths sting Sharks with another loss
Cronulla’s horror season has continued after a controversial penalty put pay to a comeback against South Sydney and condemned them to a 32-22 loss.
After they trailed 20-0 after just 31 minutes, the Sharks scored once before the break and twice after to get within four points and a sniff of their first win in six weeks.
But the comeback swung on a bizarre penalty with seven minutes to play, as South Sydney tried to work it out of their own end.
Referee Chris Sutton went back two plays to penalise Chad Townsend for pressure on Cody Walker’s neck, with the force light at best.
Walker then spun and forced his way over off the back of a late Junior Tatola offload, putting off any hopes of a miracle win for the Sharks.
Adding further insult to injury, Jai Arrow then blew the scoreline out further with his first four-pointer in Souths colours before Cronulla Mawene Hiroti got a late consolation try.
The win kept Souths safely inside the top four, but coach Wayne Bennett would not have been pleased with the way his side switched off either side of half-time.
It also wasn’t all good news for Souths with Queensland State of Origin forward Jaydn Su’A sin-binned for dangerous contact on Aaron Woods.
If he was to cop a grade-two dangerous contact charge he would miss State of Origin I and not play again before Game II even with an early guilty plea.
It had earlier looked like another special night for Benji Marshall.
The ageless veteran set up the Bunnies’ first two tries, producing a double-pump to fool Chad Townsend for Keaon Koloamatangi’s first and then putting on a two-man cut-out ball for Alex Johnston.
Cody Walker also crossed for one after Dane Gagai brushed through Josh Dugan, and at that point the match looked over.
But after his poor start Townsend was quick to hit back, putting Will Kennedy over for Cronulla’s first and delivering the kick for their second.
A day after lashing out at former coach John Morris, Andrew Fifita also made an impact by scooping up Townsend’s kick after Adam Reynolds fumbled it and put Aaron Woods over.
The Sharks then looked destined to overtake Souths when Moylan went to the line for Briton Nikora to capitalise with 13 minutes to play, only for the game to fall apart for them from there.
Outnumbered Raiders get the win over Dogs
Canberra Raiders have defied Josh Papalii’s send-off and Jack Wighton’s sin-binning to avoid another second-half fade-out and run down Canterbury 20-18.
The Raiders led 8-0 at half-time but, outnumbered and after a cumulative 93-8 against them in their last five games, looked set to be swallowed up again as the Bulldogs scored twice to hit the lead.
Trent Barrett’s men enjoyed a two-man advantage for three minutes after Wighton had been binned for a cannonball tackle on Adam Elliott and Papalii’s shoulder rocked Tuipuloto Katoa with 19 minutes to play.
Josh Hodgson was also placed on report for twisting the arm of Luke Thompson in a tackle as Ricky Stuart’s men appeared to be unravelling.
But the Raiders rallied while down a man, Curtis Scott scoring in the right corner and George Williams nailing the conversion to reclaim the lead.
Sebastian Kris then streaked through for another — Caleb Aekins assisting for the third time — to push the Raiders eight points clear with eight minutes to play.
Dallin Watene-Zelezniak slid over the line and, two points down after the conversion, gave the Bulldogs 14 seconds to conjure a miracle that never materialised.
Papalii’s send-off — the NRL’s second this season — and Wighton’s sin-bin followed eight sin-bins across two games on Friday to kick-start Magic Round.
Officials had given the order to crackdown on high tackles and repeat ruck infringements, NRL football boss Graham Annesley confirming before play on Saturday it would continue as part of their latest adjustment to clean up the game.
There was a rare sense of calm in a routine first half, Corey Harawira-Naera with the only try as the Raiders’ scrambling defence and some Bulldogs fumbles prevented a reply.
They finally found the line through Nick Cotric, before the Raiders temporarily lost Wighton and conceded again when Nick Meaney hit a gap on the left edge.
They were left ruing a host of half-breaks and near misses though as the Raiders (4-6) snapped a five-game losing streak and the Bulldogs sunk to 1-9.