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Hulking winger Maumalo signs new long-term Warriors contract

New Zealand Warriors winger Ken Maumalo

Fresh off re-signing David Fusitu’a, the New Zealand Warriors have their wing pairing for the long-term, now securing Ken Maumalo. 

The news for Maumalo is made even better on the back of he and his partner having their first child.

Having initially come into first-grade with some trepidation, the club has nurtured him and he is now a quality winger.

“It’s wonderful for us knowing we have Ken signed for another four seasons after this,” said Vodafone Warriors head coach Stephen Kearney.

“He has shown tremendous progress this season with his consistency and attitude.

Together with David, he gives us so much value at both ends of the field and has plenty of improvement in him.”

With 63 NRL games to his name in total, the recent Kiwi test winger is excited with his new deal.

“I’m so grateful to my family and to everyone at the club for the way they’ve supported me throughout my career so far,” said Maumalo.

“It’s a huge privilege to be able to play for the Vodafone Warriors.

“I owe them so much for giving me the opportunity and showing faith in me.”

Maumalo admits that his footy is better because he is more relaxed.

“I feel a lot better about playing in the NRL now,” the winger continued.

“I’m more relaxed and I am enjoying my footy.

“That’s the most important thing.”

Maumalo leads the Warriors in post-contact metres this season and is seventh overall, as the club are pleased to offer him a new deal.

“Ken is yet another wonderful young player who has come through our system,” Vodafone Warriors General Manager Brian Smith said.

“The coaching staff have worked hard to develop Ken into a valued first grader and he has responded.

He’s having a terrific season and richly deserves the security this long-term contract gives him.”

Second half resolve sees Storm snatch victory from Titans

Gold Coast Titans utility back AJ Brimson

In a tale of two halves, the Melbourne Storm found something extra in the second to record a narrow win over a spirited Gold Coast Titans side.

In what was Billy Slater’s last game in Queensland, it would be his opponents, the Titans, who came out the stronger.

With just 37 percent possession in the first half, the Storm failed to make the most of any chances they had.

The Titans, however, did not. AJ Brimson scored the first try of the match, slicing through off a Kane Elgey pass.

A further penalty goal then put the Titans up 8-0 and they seemed in command of the match.

Chances then ensued as the Storm spilled the ball close to the line before the Titans were denied courtesy of a try-saver from Josh Addo-Carr.

With the weight of possession, the Titans would have been ruing their inability to score further points.

The errors and penalties creeped into the Titans game and the Storm are a team that you do not give such luxury to.

The signs were looking ominous and in true Storm fashion, they pounced via Curtis Scott.

Scott ducked inside Titans centre Konrad Hurrell before beating Will Matthews to score and it was game-on.

Cameron Munster then flipped the game on its head when he went it alone, dummying three times before ducking through a gap.

The Storm took the lead for the first time when Smith slotted the conversion.

The win puts the Storm two points ahead of their nearest rivals with a game to play as they chase a third consecutive minor premiership.

Titans coach Garth Brennan was critical of his side’s inability to control the game and the possession.

“Game management is so important, and the players around Ash (Taylor) and ‘Elg’ [Elgey] need to help them out more,” Brennan admitted.

“There were times in the second half when we defended a set and got the ball back and we were just hanging on instead of showing some tough energy and actually doing something with the ball.

“We need to be finishing our sets better instead of just playing dumb football on the last tackle.”

Despite Brodie Croft playing his part in the Storm win, coach Craig Bellamy admits they are still undecided on who should play the halfback role.

“Brodie did a really good job last week and I thought he did a really good job today (against the Titans),” Bellamy said.

“We’ll have a look at today’s game and have a discussion with a couple of senior players and make a decision from there.

“It’s not an easy one without a doubt but we will do what we think is best for the team.

“The amount of footy those guys have played is not a lot, especially for that position.”

Player of the Game:

3. AJ Brimson

2. Billy Slater

  1. Cameron Munster

Rabbitohs minor premiership hopes take a hit with loss to Raiders

Canberra Raiders utility Blake Austin

It was a match the South Sydney Rabbitohs were expected to win but the Canberra Raiders had other plans. 

In their final home game of the season, departing trio Junior Paulo, Shannon Boyd and Blake Austin capped it off with a win.

The signs are starting to become worrisome for the Bunnies who have now lost three games in a row.

It was the Rabbitohs who started the brighter of the two sides; Cody Walker scoring first, slicing and dicing his way over to score.

The return of Greg Inglis seemed to galvanise the Bunnies troops and the captain would score, brushing off Joey Leilua to dive over.

An Adam Reynolds penalty goal from almost right in front then gifted the cardinal and myrtle faithful a 12-0 lead.

The Raiders would finally get on the board in the 30th minute when Michael Oldfield just reached a Josh Hodgson grubber before it went dead.

The momentum then began to shift in the second half in favour of the Raiders.

First, Jason Clark was sin-binned for the Bunnies for a professional foul.

This was soon followed by a second try to Oldfield, who thundered onto a Josh Hodgson pass and found his way over to score.

It just got worse for the Rabbitohs. Their next try came after a towering Blake Austin bomb left Souths fullback Alex Johnston wrong-footed.

The ensuing play saw Austin and Iosia Soliola combine, with the forward coasting over with ease.

Nick Cotric then made his presence felt, with raw power and nifty feet before planting the ball down to score.

A late penalty goal to Sam Williams and that was all she wrote, giving the Raiders a win in their last home game of 2018.

In the last two weeks, the Raiders have shown that they are capable of playing good footy.

Though if they want to get serious about finals footy, coach Ricky Stuart knows they need this sort of form much earlier.

“I’m very excited about the quality of football and the way we won over the last two weeks,” Stuart said.

“I know as a coach we’ve got that in us and we’ve got to get more of it for our fans and for us.

“But we’ve got to get more resilience and composure, which we showed is in us over the last two games.”

Anthony Seibold slammed his Rabbitohs outfit, particularly their consistent errors that denied them numerous chances to attack.

“The Raiders were outstanding last week, so we were prepared for their best,” Seibold said.

“I thought our effort areas were much improved from last week, I’m really disappointed with our performance today, but our effort areas were really high.

“From our point of view, it is just unacceptable to make continual errors, and then expect to win games at NRL level.”

Player of the Game:

3. Blake Austin

2. Michael Oldfield

  1. Josh Hodgson

Thurston’s Townsville farewell sees Cowboys crush Eels

North Queensland Cowboys half Jake Clifford

In his last game in Townsville, Johnathan Thurston has gone out on a high, with the North Queensland Cowboys crushing a woeful Parramatta Eels outfit.

It would be the last time that Thurston would wear Cowboys colours at 1300 Smiles Stadium and the second last game of his career.

The send-off was fitting for a true Cowboys legend, in a game that the Townsville side thoroughly dominated from start to finish.

Three consecutive penalties eventually saw Thurston kick for goal to give the Cowboys an early lead.

Then it started to get ugly for the Eels. Ben Hampton scored a quick-fire double; slicing through for one and then capitalising on quick hands for his second.

The young apprentice in Jake Clifford then stepped up to the plate, perfectly chipping to the corner for Kyle Feldt to score his first try.

Some trademark Feldt acrobatics then ensued as the winger was again on the receiving end of a Clifford pass for his second try.

It just got worse for the Eels as opposite winger Gideon Gela-Mosby scooted down the sideline to give the Cowboys a 32-0 half-time lead.

A moment to forget for Corey Norman saw the next try scored.

A Clifford grubber trickled across the in-goal and Norman’s indecisiveness led to a third try for Kyle Feldt.

The Cowboys would then go up 44-0 when Gavin Cooper scored, the eighth consecutive game in which he has scored a try, equalling Frank Burge’s record.

This was on the back of Brad Takairangi being sent to the sin-bin.

The Eels would finally get on the board when Jarryd Hayne made a break down the right side and found Michael Jennings who scored.

The Eels, to their credit, dug deep in defence after this and repelled attacks from the Cowboys, desperate to score the 50 points which never came.

With just one game left in his playing career, Thurston wants to pass the mantle and praised Clifford as the man to take over.

“We’ve been into him the last few weeks to step up and play his part, and he did that tonight,” Thurston said.

“The pleasing part about that is that is he’s getting a lot of confidence to call the ball.

“With the players we’ve got coming through and the players we’ve got on the sideline, there’s going to be a lot of success in the future.”

Eels coach Brad Arthur just called it like he saw it; his side were outplayed, out-manned and out-gunned.

“It’s embarrassing the score line, but we’ve got to deal with it, we’ve got to move on,” Arthur said.

“They were just way too good for us tonight.

“With the weight of possession we just couldn’t handle them, they just steamrolled us.”

Player of the Game:

3. Jake Clifford

2. Johnathan Thurston

  1. Kyle Feldt

Warriors clinch finals spot with easy win over Penrith

New Zealand Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson

New Zealand Warriors fans are cheering after a comprehensive win over the Penrith Panthers gifting them their first finals appearance since 2011. 

The Warriors, who have been notoriously poor finishers in the past few seasons have bucked the trend in a big way in 2018.

Led by winger David Fusitu’a who scored a hat-trick – and getting close to Francis Meli’s best season total of 23 tries by a Warriors player, they were in cruise control.

The points flowed early for the Warriors, as Shaun Johnson calmly slotted a penalty goal to put the Warriors up 2-0.

Agnatius Paasi scored a rare try, dummying opposite number Reagan Campbell-Gillard to score from dummy half.

A sweeping back-line play soon followed as Fusitu’a scored his 19th try of the season.

It went from bad to worse for Campbell-Gillard; a crucial miss on Mason Lino saw the replacement half glide past him and over to score for an 18-0 lead.

Some deft soccer skills by Josh Mansour before he eventually regathered for a try gave the Panthers some hope.

That was soon dashed, however, as the sheer weight of possession saw the Warriors score a fourth try.

It was Fusitu’a again for his 20th try of the season, as he crashed over to score.

His 21st and hat-trick came soon after when he was there to receive a pass after an initial Shaun Johnson bust.

Two late consolations to Waqa Blake and Trent Merrin gave the Penrith faithful something to cheer about.

However, it will do little to stem the tide and the worrying concern of poor starts that have littered their 2018 season.

To make matters worse, Penrith will be without centre Dean Whare for up to a month with an arm injury and Wayde Egan will also undergo scans for possible medial damage.

Warriors coach Stephen Kearney has not been afraid to tell his players what he thinks as he had nothing but praise for Shaun Johnson.

“Quite honestly, I thought that was Shaun’s best performance of the year,” said Kearney.

“What pleased me the most was the way he defended to be honest.

They’re not an easy team on that side with [Viliame] Kikau and [Waqa] Blake, they’d put anyone under pressure, but I thought Shaun did really well.

“I think he’s been pretty consistent for most of the year.

“I thought he was good last week [in the one point loss to the Bulldogs] on the attaching side of the game but tonight he really just took charge of what we needed him to do.”

Panthers coach Cameron Ciraldo tried to remain optimistic despite a largely poor performance.

‘We were doing some good things out there,” Ciraldo said.

“You know the scoreline didn’t show that but, it was good to finish the game off like that.”

Player of the Game:

3. Shaun Johnson

2. David Fusitu’a

  1. Agnatius Paasi

NRL Teams Rd 24

NRL Teams Rd 24 will have it all; a battle for the minor premiership, other top eight spots and the wooden spoon. 

Who comes out on top with the glory and who will be down in the dumps with the doldrums?

What a week of action we have ahead of us!

Here are the teams for round 24 of the NRL Telstra Premiership:

Wests Tigers v Manly Sea Eagles (#NRLwstman); Campbelltown Stadium; Thursday, August 23. Kick-off: 7:50 pm. 

Tigers: 1. Moses Mbye 2. David Nofoaluma 3. Esan Marsters 4. Mahe Fonua 5. Kevin Naiqama 6. Benji Marshall (C) 7. Luke Brooks 8. Russell Packer 9. Robbie Farah 10. Ben Matulino 11. Chris Lawrence 12. Michael Chee-Kam 13. Matthew Eisenhuth.

Interchange: 14. Alex Twal 15. Sauaso Sue 16. Luke Garner 17. Josh Aloiai.

Reserves: 18. Jacob Liddle 19. Robbie Rochow 20. Tyson Gamble 21. Malakai Watene-Zelezniak.

Coach: Ivan Cleary

Manly: 1. Tom Trbojevic 2. Jorge Taufua 3. Moses Suli 4. Brian Kelly 5. Brad Parker 6. Dylan Walker 7. Daly Cherry-Evans (C) 8. Addin Fonua-Blake 9. Manase Fainu 10. Martin Taupau 11. Joel Thompson 12. Shaun Lane 13. Jake Trbojevic.

Interchange: 14. Trent Hodkinson 15. Kelepi Tanginoa 16. Jack Gosiewski 17. Lloyd Perrett.

Reserves: 18. Frank Winterstein 19. Matthew Wright 20. Tom Wright 21. Toafofoa Sipley.

Coach: Trent Barrett

New Zealand Warriors v Penrith Panthers (#NRLwarpen); Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland; Friday, August 24. Kick-off: 6 pm. 

Warriors: 1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 2. David Fusitu’a 3. Gerard Beale 4. Solomone Kata 5. Ken Maumalo 6. Mason Lino 7. Shaun Johnson 8. James Gavet 9. Issac Luke 10. Agnatius Paasi 11. Isaiah Papali’i 12. Adam Blair 13. Simon Mannering.

Interchange: 14. Jazz Tevaga 15. Tohu Harris 16. Bunty Afoa 17. Peta Hiku.

Reserves: 18. Leivaha Pulu 20. Anthony Gelling 21. Tevita Satae 22. Chris Lawton.

Coach: Stephen Kearney.

Panthers: 1. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 2. Josh Mansour 3. Waqa Blake 4. Dean Whare 5. Christian Crichton 6. Tyrone Peachey 7. Nathan Cleary 8. Trent Merrin 9. Wayde Egan 10. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Isaah Yeo 13. James Fisher-Harris.

Interchange: 14. Tyrone May 15. Moses Leota 16. Corey Harawira-Naerea 17. James Tamou.

Reserves: 18. Sione Katoa 19. Kaide Ellis 20. Adam Keighran 21. Liam Martin.

Coach: Cameron Ciraldo.

North Queensland Cowboys v Parramatta Eels (#NRLnqlpar); 1300 Smiles Stadium, Townsville; Friday, August 24. Kick-off: 7:55 pm. 

Cowboys: 1. Te Maire Martin 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Justin O’Neill 4. Kane Linnett 5. Gideon Gela-Mosby 6. Jake Clifford 7. Johnathan Thurston (C) 8. Matt Scott (C) 9. Jake Granville 10. Jordan McLean 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Coen Hess 13. Jason Taumalolo.

Interchange: 14. Ben Hampton 15. John Asiata 16. Francis Molo 17. Scott Bolton.

Reserves: 18. Ethan Lowe 19. Javid Bowen 20. Shaun Fensom 21. Corey Jensen.

Coach: Paul Green.

Eels: 1. Corey Norman 2. Jarryd Hayne 3. Michael Jennings 4. Clint Gutherson (C) 5. George Jennings 6. Jaeman Salmon 7. Mitch Moses 8. Kane Evans 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Siosaia Vave 11. Marata Niukore 12. Tepai Moeroa 13. Peni Terepo.

Interchange: 14. Cameron King 15. Tim Mannah (C) 16.  David Gower 17. Brad Takairangi.

Reserves: 18. Ray Stone 19. Oregon Kaufusi 20. Josh Hoffman 21. Bevan French.

Coach: Brad Arthur.

Canberra Raiders v South Sydney Rabbitohs (#NRLcansou); GIO Stadium, Canberra; Saturday, August 25. Kick-off: 3 pm. 

Raiders: 1. Brad Abbey 2. Nick Cotric 3. Michael Oldfield 4. Joey Leilua 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Blake Austin 7. Sam Williams 8. Dunamis Lui 9. Josh Hodgson (C) 10. Shannon Boyd 11. Iosia Soliola 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Josh Papalii.

Interchange: 14. Emre Guler 15. Junior Paulo 16. Siliva Havili 17. Luke Bateman.

Reserves: 18. Jack Murchie 19. Liam Knight 20. Makahesi Makatoa 21. Aidan Sezer.

Coach: Ricky Stuart

Rabbitohs: 1. Alex Johnston 2. Campbell Graham 3. Greg Inglis (C) 4. Dane Gagai 5. Hymel Hunt 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Thomas Burgess 9. Damien Cook 10. George Burgess 11. John Sutton 12. Angus Crichton 13. Sam Burgess.

Interchange: 14. Braidon Burns 15. Cameron Murray 16. Tevita Tatola 17. Jason Clark.

Reserves: 18. Richie Kennar 19. Tyrell Fuimaono 20. Dean Britt 21. Mawene Hiroti.

Coach: Anthony Seibold.

Gold Coast Titans v Melbourne Storm (#NRLgldmel); Cbus Super Stadium, Robina; Saturday, August 25. Kick-off: 5:30 pm. 

Titans: 1. Alexander Brimson 2. Anthony Don 3. Konrad Hurrell 4. Brenko Lee 5. Philip Sami 6. Kane Elgey 7. Ashley Taylor 8. Jarrod Wallace 9. Nathan Peats 10. Ryan James (C) 11. Kevin Proctor 12. Keegan Hipgrave 13. Jai Arrow.

Interchange: 14. Mitch Rein 15. Moeaki Fotuaika 16. Jack Stockwell 17. Will Matthews.

Reserves: 18. Bryce Cartwright 19. Jai Whitbread 20. Leilani Latu 21. Brendan Elliott.

Coach: Garth Brennan.

Storm: 1. Billy Slater 2. Cheyse Blair 3. Justin Olam 4. Curtis Scott 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Ryley Jacks 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith (C) 10. Tim Glasby 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Joe Stimson 13. Dale Finucane.

Interchange: 14. Tui Kamikamica 15. Christian Welch 16. Kenny Bromwich 17. Ryley Jacks.

Reserves: 18. Scott Drinkwater 19. Sam Kasiano 20. Albert Vete 21. Jahrome Hughes.

Coach: Craig Bellamy.

Sydney Roosters v Brisbane Broncos (#NRLsydbri); Allianz Stadium, Moore Park; Saturday, August 25. Kick-off: 7:30 pm. 

Roosters: 1. James Tedesco 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Latrell Mitchell 4. Joseph Manu 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Luke Keary 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Dylan Napa 9. Jake Friend (C) 10. Sio Siua Taukeiaho 11. Boyd Cordner (C) 12. Isaac Liu 13. Victor Radley.

Interchange: 14. Nat Butcher 15. Zane Tetevano 16. Mitch Aubusson 17. Ryan Matterson.

Reserves: 18. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 19. Sean O’Sullivan 20. Paul Momirokski 21. Lindsay Collins.

Coach: Trent Robinson.

Broncos: 1. Darius Boyd (C) 2. Corey Oates 3. James Roberts 4. Jordan Kahu 5. Jamayne Isaako 6. Anthony Milford 7. Kodi Nikorima 8. Matt Lodge 9. Andrew McCullough 10. Sam Thaiday 11. Alex Glenn 12. Tevita Pangai Jr. 13. Josh McGuire.

Interchange: 14. Kotoni Staggs 15. Joe Ofahengaue 16. Korbin Sims 17. David Fifita.

Reserves: 18. Patrick Mago 19. Troy Dargan 20. Gehamat Shibasaki 21. Sam Tagataese.

Coach: Wayne Bennett.

Cronulla Sharks v Newcastle Knights (#NRLcronew); Southern Cross Group Stadium, Cronulla; Sunday, August 26. Kick-off: 2 pm. 

Sharks: 1. Valentine Holmes 2. Sosaia Feki 3. Josh Dugan 4. Kurt Capewell 5. Edrick Lee 6. Matt Moylan 7. Chad Townsend 8. Andrew Fifita 9. Jayden Brailey 10. Matt Prior 11. Luke Lewis 12. Wade Graham 13. Paul Gallen.

Interchange: 14. Scott Sorenson 15. Aaron Woods 16. James Segeyaro 17. Jayson Bukuya.

Reserves: 18. Joseph Paulo 19. Ava Seumanufagai 20. Sione Katoa 21. Kyle Flanagan.

Coach: Shane Flanagan.

Knights: 1. Nick Meaney 2. Ken Sio 3. Sione Mata’utia 4. Cory Denniss 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall 6. Kalyn Ponga 7. Mitch Pearce (C) 8. Herman Ese’ese 9. Danny Levi 10. Daniel Saifiti 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 12. Aidan Guerra 13. Mitch Barnett. 

Interchange: 14. Jamie Buhrer 15. Chris Heighington 16. Pasami Saulo 17. Josh King.

Reserves: 18. Jacob Lillyman 19. JJ Felise 20. Connor Watson 21. Luke Yates.

Coach: Nathan Brown.

St George Illawarra Dragons v Canterbury Bulldogs (#NRLsgicby); WIN Jubilee Oval, Wollongong; Sunday, August 26. Kick-off: 4 pm.

Dragons: 1. Matt Dufty 2. Nene Macdonald 3. Euan Aitken 4. Tim Lafai 5. Jason Nightingale 6. Kurt Mann 7. Ben Hunt 8. James Graham 9. Cam McInnes (C) 10. Leeson Ah Mau 11. Tyson Frizell (C) 12. Tariq Sims 13. Jack de Belin.

Interchange: 14. Jeremy Latimore 15. Jordan Pereira 16. Blake Lawrie 17. Luciano Leilua.

Reserves: 18. Zac Lomax 19. Jai Field 20. Paul Vaughan 21. Jacob Host.

Coach: Paul McGregor.

Bulldogs: 1. Will Hopoate 2. Brett Morris 3. Josh Morris 4. Kerrod Holland 5. Reimis Smith 6. Lachlan Lewis 7. Matt Frawley 8. Aiden Tolman 9. Michael Lichaa 10. David Klemmer 11. Josh Jackson (C) 12. Rhyse Martin 13. Adam Elliott.

Interchange: 14. Jeremy Marshall-King 15. Danny Fualalo 16. Ofahiki Ogden 17. Greg Eastwood.

Reserves: 19. Francis Tualau 20. Fa’amanu Brown 21. Renouf To’Omaga 23. John Olive.

Coach: Dean Pay.


Dragons buck losing trend in win over Tigers

St George Illawarra Dragons back-rower Luciano Leilua

The last few weeks have been anything but smooth sailing for the St George Illawarra Dragons but they scored a much needed win yesterday over the Wests Tigers.

A morale-boosting win, all eyes were again on Dragons halfback Ben Hunt who continues to be criticised for somewhat of a form slump.

The usually vocal Leichhardt crowd were kept rather quiet as the young Dragons forward pack guided the side to victory.

The Tigers can have no-one but themselves to blame, missing numerous opportunities to change the course of the game.

Although they are still a mathematical chance at making the finals, they need to rely on other results.

Errors and penalties galore by the Dragons gave the Tigers ample opportunities but they failed to capitalise.

The first try eventually came and it was the Dragons who would score it.

A length of the field effort started by Luciano Leilua was finished by winger Jordan Pereira.

The low-scoring first-half soon ended as the Dragons went into the break up 6-0.

It was deja vu for Ben Hunt to start the second half; he dropped the kick-off, reminiscent of his 2015 grand final drop.

The Tigers quickly capitalised as veteran and leader Chris Lawrence crashed over to score.

The night went from bad to worse for Hunt; he was the man sent to the sin-bin after the Dragons were pinged for numerous penalties.

Esan Marsters opted to take the two points to level the score up at 6-all.

The Dragons would then have a penalty goal of their own to retake the lead at 8-6.

Much maligned back-rower Leilua then proved his worth; barging over with raw power to score a crucial try for the Dragons.

The Tigers tried to wrestle back control and pick up the pace despite a dwindling clock, but just fell further behind.

Tyson Frizell continued the back-rower scoring success for the Dragons, barging over and getting the ball down.

The Tigers scored a late consolation through Kevin Naiqama as their season now looks over.

Despite the mathematical chances looking slim, Tigers coach Ivan Cleary is not giving up hope of a finals berth.

“The season’s not over,” Cleary said.

“We’ve got two more games to go.

“You can’t control other things but the reality is we are still alive.

“Anything can happen still but really when we started this season, our season wasn’t going to be defined by anyone external, it was going to be defined by what we did.”

Despite a poor game by Ben Hunt, Dragons coach Paul McGregor said he will remain the club’s halfback.

“Ben’s a part of our 17 and he will always be a part of our 17 while I’m coach, he’s our No.7,” McGregor said.

“Benny’s in next door [in the sheds] and he’s not happy with his performance but that’s ok because he’s got next week.

“I said through the week, if criticism was to come to the team, it should come through the coach so leave my players alone.

Player of the Game:

3. Luciano Leilua

2. Tyson Frizell

  1. Tariq Sims

Panthers top four hopes take a hit after loss to Knights

Newcastle Knights forward Aidan Guerra

Wins would help them cement a top four spot but it is not happening for the Penrith Panthers who went down to the Newcastle Knights. 

A result that many deem as an upset, it was a rather tame and uninspiring performance from the Panthers who went down 20-12.

A confidence-boosting win for the Knights, the match will be remembered not for the play but a late brawl that saw four players sin-binned.

Trailing yet again in this contest, there would be no miracle comeback on this occasion.

Neither side was able to find their mojo early as penalties and errors were rife.

Though it was the Knights who eventually took the upper-hand when Aidan Guerra and Cory Denniss both scored.

Nick Meaney then became a villain when his error resulted in a Tyrone May try for Penrith.

However, he soon redeemed himself, setting up a try for Knights centre Sione Mata’utia.

With an eight buffer at the break, the Knights were poised to go on with it and scored the first try of the second half.

Kalyn Ponga and Mitch Pearce both combined to send winger Ken Sio over the in the corner.

In the end, the Panthers completion rate and missed tackle count proved to be their downfall throughout the match.

Try as they might, they were unable to crack the Knights line for much of the second half until a late consolation try to Wayde Egan.

The incident that had everyone talking, however, was a late brawl.

Two Knights players (Danny Levi and Shaun Kenny-Dowall) and two Penrith players (Viliame Kikau and Tyrone May) were all sin-binned.

With clear punches thrown throughout the brawl by some of the players who were sin-binned, Penrith coach Cam Ciraldo awaits the consequences.

“I’m not sure what the consequences will be,” Ciraldo said.

But it would be disappointing if we did lose anyone to suspension.”

With two tough games against the Warriors and Storm left to come, Ciraldo knows his side has to be better.

“We need to turn things around pretty quickly,” the Penrith coach continued.

“We spoke about that in there (in the sheds).

“We’ve got two weeks to turn it around and get our game back on track.”

“They’re two tough away trips but that might be the making of our season if we can go away, be around each other a bit more, rip in, and get two good performances.”

With much conjecture over whether Ponga’s best position is fullback or five-eighth, Nathan Brown left it up to the man himself.

“If he wants to stay at five-eighth, I don’t think Pearcey would be unhappy or the team,” Brown said.

“If he wants to play fullback, he can.

“They are both good little footy players he and Connor so they’re interchangeable in the long run anyway.”

Player of the Game:

3. Aidan Guerra

2. Nathan Cleary

  1. Ken Sio

Manly surrender healthy lead in loss to Titans

Gold Coast Titans utility back AJ Brimson

Up 16 points and seemingly cruising, the Manly Sea Eagles seemed destined to win. The Gold Coast Titans, however, had other ideas.

The Titans celebrated their eighth win of the year in a high-scoring contest, coming back from a 16-point deficit to win 42-34.

It was the Titans who would actually score first; winger Anthony Don drawing level with David Mead for most tries in Titans colours with 67.

From here, though, Manly would dominate the next exchanges.

In what was essentially the Trbojevic show, brothers Tom and Jake put on an exhibition.

Tom Trbojevic powered his way over the line to get things back to level pegging.

Before Jake Trbojevic started and ended the next play that saw swift hands and brother Tom also involved.

Tom then had his second when a swift back-line play to the right saw him feign a pass and glide over himself to score.

A fourth Manly try came when Joel Thompson ran a perfect line and hustled his way over with ease.

Manly could have had two more tries before the break but Frank Winterstein was short and Thompson was guilty of double movement.

From here, Manly, with a seemingly healthy lead, somehow began to slowly implode.

The Titans, to their credit, dug deep and scored on the cusp of half-time.

It was Alexander Brimson, deputising at fullback, who firstly saved a try on the defensive end.

Then followed that up with a solo effort that saw him coast pass lazy Manly defence to score.

Soon after the resumption, Manly did not know what would soon hit them hard in the face.

Manly-bound Kane Elgey split their defence and halves team-mate Ash Taylor was there in support to score.

The Titans would go back-to-back as a slick back-line movement saw Philip Sami score in the left corner.

Providing some lift and energy off the bench, Mitch Rein then dived his way over to give the Titans the lead again at 26-22.

There was then no denying Jack Stockwell who will avoid the dreaded nudie run; he just got the ball down on the line.

Brimson then did it all himself yet again. Facing his own try-line, he swiveled, grubbered ahead, regathered and scored, making it look easy.

Things then got even worse for Manly when Dylan Walker was sin-binned for a professional foul.

Despite the player disadvantage, Manly found a way to score as Tom turned provider for brother Jake to give the Manly lock his second try.

Remarkably, Manly would then score again; another bustling effort by Tom Trbojevic who was in fine form.

The Titans would hold on, however, and get a much needed win to stay well and truly away from the wooden spoon battle.

With plenty of talk surrounding the future of Manly coach Trent Barrett and whether he will leave, that did not affect the players.

“Only a player can answer that and it doesn’t affect you,” Manly captain Daly Cherry-Evans said.

“It honestly doesn’t.

“We’re paid to do a job and at the end of the day when you cross the white line, any player knows it’s business.

“It doesn’t matter what is happening. You go out there and do a job the best your can. Headlines don’t make you miss tackles. That’s just poor footy.”

The selection headaches now exist for Titans coach Garth Brennan after Brimson’s blistering form but he welcomes it.

“It’s nice to have. We’ve probably lacked that over the last 12 months or so – depth,” Brennan said.

“Michael Gordon has been one of our best players all year. He’s Mr. Reliable, ‘Flash’.

“One door opens and it’s another opportunity.

I’ve said publicly that I think AJ’s future going forward is probably at fullback.

“The only thing concerning me about throwing him in so early was understanding defensive structures and getting the numbering [in defence] right.”

Player of the Game:

3. AJ Brimson

2. Tom Trbojevic

  1. Jake Trbojevic

Lomax given new deal Dragons

St George Illawarra Dragons centre Zac Lomax

Already signed on for 2019, Zac Lomax will stick around for a further season after re-signing with the St George Illawarra Dragons.

Making his club debut earlier this year, only a hand injury has prevented him from further selection.

A promising junior in the club ranks, Lomax is pleased to extend his Red V stay.

“It’s definitely a good decision I’ve made to extend my stay at the Dragons,” Lomax said.

“My family and I are very happy to stay at the club.

To come through the junior reps to now with the first grade squad, I can’t thank the Dragons enough.”

For Lomax, earning a regular first-grade spot is the key and he looks forward to making that happen.

“The goal for me is to earn a spot in the first grade side and hopefully I’ll play a few more before the season is out,” the talented junior continued.

“It was a dream come true making my NRL debut so I’m looking forward to what’s ahead.”

The club know how good Lomax is and have made their plans clear to use him.

“Zac is one of the most promising players to come through our ranks in many years. Dragons Director of Rugby League Pathways and List Management Ian Millward.

“He’s a player we look at building this team around in the long-term because we think he has all the attributes to be an outstanding NRL player,”

The Dragons also have a plan to keep Lomax around long-term.

“We do look at him as a long-term centre and we don’t hide that fact at all,” continued Millward.

“Although this is just an extension to 2020, we look at Zac as if he’ll be a 10-year player for the Dragons and challenge for higher representatives.”