SHARKS 18 d. DRAGONS 14 @ UOW Jubilee Oval
Cronulla grinded out an important victory with the help of a couple of controversial non-calls to cement a top-four spot, but depleted St George Illawarra lost few admirers in a gutsy effort.
THE MATCH: Tim Lafai put the Dragons on the board with a 21st-minute penalty after a late shoulder-charge from Sharks prop Matt Prior, but the visitors crossed the stripe first through centre Ricky Leutele.
Wade Graham muffed the kick-off, however, and the Saints – missing key men Gareth Widdop and Josh Dugan through injury – hit straight back with a try to NSW Origin hopeful Paul Vaughan, which saw the hosts head into the break 8-6 in front.
Leutele restored the Sharks’ lead in the 51st minute with a brilliant – but conspicuously forward – pass for winger Sosaia Feki. But the Saints reclaimed the advantage 10 minutes later as Vaughan sent front-row partner Russell Packer over.
The defending premiers found the match-winner in contentious and extraordinary circumstances, with a Wade Graham knock-on at the play-the-ball followed up by a Chad Townsend Hail Mary pass and then a one-handed scoop off the ground from Leutele for Feki to score his second with nine minutes to go.
THE MAN: With a game-high 19 runs for 188 metres, a powerhouse try and a brilliant assist, and 26 tackles, Paul Vaughan put in a compelling Blues audition in a losing effort. The ex-Raider combines tremendous work-rate with a bit of footwork, skill and X-factor – and he would provide far more to the NSW cause than mooted front-row contenders Shannon Boyd, Junior Paulo and Jordan McLean.
— Mark Geyer (@markMGgeyer) May 12, 2017
THE MOMENT: After Leutele’s forward pass wasn’t picked up, the Dragons deserved some rub of the green. But it wasn’t forthcoming, with Wade Graham fumbling at the play-the-ball on the Saints’ line. It went undetected and the Sharks conjured up a bizarre winning try.
— FOX SPORTS NRL (@FOXNRLLive) May 12, 2017
RABBITOHS 28 d. TIGERS 8 @ ANZ Stadium
South Sydney raised hopes of a mid-season revival with a comprehensive win, while the woeful Wests Tigers joined Newcastle as the only sides that look incapable of playing finals football in 2017.
THE MATCH: Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire’s backline reshuffle paid immediate dividends, with five-eighth-turned-fullback Cody Walker slicing through and sending retrenched winger Alex Johnston over in the 12th minute.
Tigers forward Ava Seumanufagai then took a swipe at his former skipper Robbie Farah to earn 10 minutes in the bin, during which time the Rabbitohs added a barnstorming Sam Burgess try.
Souths landed a critical blow just before the break when back-rower Angus Crichton charged 35 metres for a try, giving his side a 16-2 lead.
Elijah Taylor fanned the flames of a potential Tigers comeback in the 45th minute when he scooped up a Farah fumble in front of the Rabbitohs’ posts and dived in for their first try, but the red-and-greens snuffed out the recovery just three minutes later when the Walker-Johnston combination produced the latter’s second try.
Farah helped seal a satisfying win over his former club – and kept his name in the Origin mix – when he put on a short ball for Burgess to complete a double in the 52nd minute.
THE MAN: Sam Burgess was an absolute beast, producing the sort of performance that saw him widely regarded as the game’s best forward prior to his ill-fated code switch. Besides his two tries, the Brit bomber made 226 metres from 27 runs and reeled off 35 tackles in a dominant 69-minute display.
— Sam Burgess (@SamBurgess8) May 12, 2017
THE MOMENT: Seumanufagai’s brain snap proved crucial, but Crichton’s stunning try in the shadows of halftime was a hammer blow to the Tigers’ chances. The ex-rugby union prodigy – making just his 17th NRL appearance – showed remarkable pace and a handy swerve to leave James Tedesco clutching at thin air.
— Hamish Neal (@hamishneal) May 12, 2017