South Sydney produced a historic first-half performance to all but lock up a finals spot and virtually slam the door shut on Manly’s season with a 56-16 humiliation on Saturday evening.
- South Sydney scored nine tries for the match, while also recording the biggest half-time lead in the club’s history
- James Tedesco starred in the Roosters’ 38-16 defeat of the Wests Tigers
- The Raiders registered a 36-16 win over the Titans
In a 38-0 first-half demolition job at Sydney’s Olympic stadium, the sixth-placed Rabbitohs scored 26 points in 11 minutes to destroy a sorry Sea Eagles and chalk up their biggest lead at half-time in the club’s 112-year history.
The result leaves the NRL’s top eight virtually set in stone with five rounds to play, with four points now separating Cronulla in eighth place from Wests Tigers in ninth.
The Sea Eagles are also four points out of the eight but back in 11th place due to for-and-against, and they would need to win all their remaining matches to have any hope of playing finals.
Their nightmare was summed up in one play just before half-time when Tevita Funa fielded a kick and passed inside only for Latrell Mitchell to charge onto it and score.
Funa had a horror night playing fullback for the first time. He was sin-binned for hitting Alex Johnston high and giving away an eight-point try in one first-half play.
Johnston was left concussed and did not return, touching the ball down for his second try in just four minutes before being taken from the field.
Mitchell also starred, setting up three first-half tries before crossing for two of his own by intercepting the Funa ball before the break and running onto a Mark Nicholls offload late.
Adam Reynolds nailed five conversions in a row from the sideline, while Tom Burgess was powerful in the middle.
The Rabbitohs could now finish the round as high as sixth but crucially sit three wins clear of ninth place with a run home that includes clashes with Parramatta, Melbourne and the Sydney Roosters.
Manly meanwhile are in a complete tailspin.
The loss was their seventh in nine matches since Tom Trbojevic and Dylan Walker were injured, falling from title contenders to strugglers.
Saturday’s drubbing was their biggest loss since 2005, as they had just 38 per cent of the ball and had to make 86 tackles in their own half.
After Jake Trbojevic dropped a poor pass from Danny Levi early, Manly watched the score go from 0-0 to 20-0 before their next touch of the ball.
The Rabbitohs’ nine tries included one to debutant Steven Marsters with just his third touch, while Campbell Graham also got a double on Johnston’s left wing after he went off.
It was not until the match was well up that Manly got on the board, with two second-half tries to Rueben Garrick and one to Jack Gosiewski.
Tedesco stars as Roosters hammer Tigers
James Tedesco has had the last laugh after helping the Sydney Roosters drive the final nail in Wests Tigers’ finals hopes with a 38-16 hammering at Leichhardt Oval.
The win keeps the Roosters in fourth spot on the ladder and one place above Canberra, who defeated Gold Coast 36-16 earlier on Saturday.
In his first appearance at Leichhardt Oval since defecting from the Tigers at the end of the 2017 season, Tedesco was jeered with his every touch of the ball.
But he was still among the most influential players on the field, with two clean breaks from the superstar fullback leading to the Roosters’ opening two tries for wingers Matt Ikuvalu and Brett Morris.
There was no way back for the Tigers, with Morris bagging a first-half double and his brother Josh also crossing as the Roosters took a match-winning 20-0 lead to the break.
Tries to Jacob Liddle and Adam Doueihi briefly reduced the deficit to eight points before Tedesco typically intervened to put the result to bed.
He broke Tigers hearts with a flat inside pass that led to Roosters five-eighth Drew Hutchinson crashing over under the sticks to restore the premiers’ 14-point advantage.
Joey Manu and a second try for Josh Morris completed the drubbing.
Still four points adrift of the top eight, the Tigers must win their remaining five matches to have any chance of scraping into the finals for the first time since 2011.
But given they face top-eight rivals in every outing, including the pace-setting Panthers next Saturday night at Penrith, that looks a forlorn proposition for Michael Maguire’s men.
While the league’s longest finals drought seems certain to continue, Tedesco and the Roosters remain firmly in the hunt for an historic third straight title after preserving their place in the all-important top four in style.
Coach Trent Robinson is expecting several more big-name troops back from injury in coming weeks, including co-captain Boyd Cordner and playmaker Luke Keary, not to mention Sonny Bill Williams’s looming return almost six years after leaving the Roosters for a second stint in rugby union.
Raiders cruise to comfortable win
A two-try effort from Canberra five-eighth Jack Wighton has helped the Raiders secure a convincing win over an undermanned Gold Coast in Robina.
Wighton dominated the opening half as the Raiders — coming off a thrashing of the Brisbane Broncos last weekend — were once again too good for Queensland opposition, scoring six tries to three.
Winger Nick Cotric picked up tries in both halves against the Titans to add to the double he scored against the Broncos last week.
Tom Starling and Hudson Young scored the Raiders’ other two tries on the Gold Coast.
The Titans — already missing captain Kevin Proctor due to a four-week suspension for biting, and Jai Arrow (shoulder) and Dale Copley (pec) to injury — were hit with a blow before kick-off when Ash Taylor was ruled out due to a quad injury.
Taylor’s scratching brought Tanah Boyd back into the team and the youngster had an immediate impact with his grubber setting up Phillip Sami for the opening try of the match.
But the Titans’ lead did not last long as the Raiders ran in four unanswered tries, including Wighton’s double, to open up a 22-4 lead at the break.
Stand-in Titans captain Jamal Fogarty tried to spark a comeback when he surged clear after taking a quick tap on the 20-metre line 10 minutes into the second half.
The halfback looked destined to go the length of the field but was brought down by an ankle tap from Canberra prop Josh Papalii.
Papalii was later put on report for a high tackle on Jaimin Jolliffe, while Titans’ forward Moeaki Fotuaika was also placed on report for a crusher tackle.
The Titans did open the scoring in the second half when Fogarty set up dynamic fullback AJ Brimson but the home side was immediately pegged back when Young crashed over for the Raiders.
Keegan Hipgrave scored a late consolation for the Titans, who ended the match without hooker Nathan Peats (calf injury).