Almanac Rugby League: NRL 2020 Round 17 wrap: Cronulla to pay for indiscretions

A send-off for a shoulder charge, a come-from-behind win against all odds, the return of Sonny Bill Williams, and a golden point cliffhanger were among the standout features in Round 17 of the NRL.


The second-last Broncos were far from disgraced against ladder leaders the Penrith Panthers, but there was only ever going to be one winner. The Broncos scored first and were able to stay within striking distance for much of the time before the Panthers triumphed 25-12. Without dominating, Penrith rolled along as part of its journey towards the minor premiership. Although the Broncos were much better compared with many of their other defeats, there was no evidence to suggest the club would have anything to salvage from the remainder of this season.


The two matches on Friday resulted in the Newcastle Knights returning to sixth spot while the South Sydney Rabbitohs reverted to seventh. The Knights potentially turned a corner as they beat the eighth-placed Sharks 38-10 before the Rabbitohs went down 22-16 to the second-placed Melbourne Storm. The Sharks opened the scoring but subsequently found themselves trailing 22-4 at half-time, as Kalyn Ponga and Mitchell Pearce were in fine fettle for Newcastle. The second-half dismissal of Chad Townsend for a shoulder charge on Ponga was soon followed by Cronulla bridging the gap to 12 points, but from then on it was all Newcastle. The Sharks were in further trouble due to likely suspensions for Wade Graham and Townsend.


The next match was intriguing as the Rabbitohs had the better of the first stanza but lost their way afterwards. Souths missed Latrell Mitchell but looked the goods for a while in the wake of two strong wins in succession. But the Storm – still missing a few key players – showed their ability to hang in there and jag a try unexpectedly to turn the game around. Twice in the first half, Souths moved to an eight-point lead before Melbourne clawed back. Justin Olam’s try on the stroke of half-time was critical as the Rabbitohs were left with a tenuous 14-10 lead at the break. With rain getting heavier in the second half, Souths increased its lead to a converted try but Melbourne gained the ascendancy. The Storm nabbed two converted tries in the space of 10 minutes before keeping the Rabbitohs at bay.


The Bulldogs took another step towards securing the unwanted wooden spoon as they went down 18-14 to fellow strugglers the Gold Coast Titans on Saturday. Gold Coast scored four tries to three while the teams managed only one goal each. The Titans led 10-0 at one stage before taking a 14-6 lead into the second half. The teams went tit-for-tat in the second half as the margin was either four points or eight points, with the last try setting up a tense final seven minutes which ultimately yielded no score. Canterbury’s woes worsened as Kieran Foran and Dylan Napa sustained injuries.


In a match involving two teams unlikely to feature in the play-offs, the Wests Tigers produced a remarkable comeback to edge out the Manly Sea Eagles. The Sea Eagles appeared to have the game in the bag as they led 32-18 with 11 minutes remaining, only for the Tigers to race in three quick tries to steal a 34-32 victory. Check the reaction, with someone even suggesting it looked like the Sea Eagles were deliberately tanking:


Reigning two-time premiers the Roosters momentarily grabbed third spot as they accounted for the fifth-placed Canberra Raiders 18-6. Sonny Bill Williams made a 13-minute cameo in his comeback for the Roosters, as last year’s Grand Final clubs squared off. The first half was worthy of a finals spectacle with the teams notching a converted try each before the Roosters moved ahead 10-6. The first points in the second half came via a penalty goal before James Tedesco proved a thorn in Canberra’s side yet again. Having scored the winning try in last year’s Grand Final, the gun fullback also scored the first try in the rematch, as well as the clutch try which stretched the margin to 12 points. Check the highlights here:


The Parramatta Eels reclaimed third spot as they returned to the winners’ circle on Sunday. At the same time, the Warriors squandered the chance to edge closer to the top-eight, ensuring the Sharks remained four points clear of the New Zealand team. In a lively contest featuring many tries from kicks, the Eels shot to a 16-0 lead and also bombed a couple of tries before the Warriors scored two electrifying tries to be just four points behind at half-time. The Eels crucially scored their second and third tries while New Zealand’s Jazz Tevaga was in the sin bin: a dubious decision to say the least. After both teams had a try disallowed in the second half, Parramatta moved 10 points clear before the Warriors again slashed the margin to four points, only for the Eels to triumph 24-18 after landing a late penalty goal. Check the highlights here:


The final match of the round went to golden point, with North Queensland moving four points clear of the wooden spoon while St George Illawarra’s finals hopes were also dead and buried. The Dragons led 12-6 following missed chances from both teams in the first half, before the scoring pattern went back and forth in the second half. Zac Lomax nailed a penalty goal to level the scores in the dying minutes of regulation time, before each team missed a field goal attempt. As the game went into golden point, the Dragons were unsuccessful with another attempt at a one-pointer, before North Queensland’s Valentine Holmes’s field goal attempt was charged down. Moments later he made no mistake, as his successful kick gave the Cowboys a thrilling 23-22 triumph. North Queensland finally ended a nine-match losing streak, while Josh Hannay finally had a win as interim coach. By contrast, check the reaction from Dragons coach Dean Young:


Stay tuned for Round 18. Just a few weeks to go until the finals start.


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Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


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About Liam Hauser

A Queenslander through and through, Liam went out of his comfort zone as he had a thoroughly worthwhile time in Tumut and Gundagai from 2008 to 2016 before enjoying a year in Gunnedah. His strongest sporting interests are State of Origin, Sheffield Shield, Test cricket and the NRL. His sporting CV doesn’t have many highlights, although he once top-scored in a warehouse cricket match with 54 not out at number 10, and shared in an unbroken last wicket stand of 83 with the number 11 who scored an undefeated 52. Liam has written books including State of Origin 40 Years, A Century of Cricket Tests, A History of Test Cricket, The Immortals of Australian Cricket, The Immortals of Australian Rugby League, and The Great Grand Finals: Rugby League's Greatest Contests. Also a huge fan of Electric Light Orchestra.

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