The Brisbane Broncos have temporarily moved up to second place with an emphatic win over defending premier Cronulla, after the Newcastle Knights secured a third successive win, beating the top-four-chasing Eels 29-10.
Broncos rampant against mistake-addled Sharks
Brisbane has spoiled Paul Gallen’s 300th-game celebrations, crushing defending premier Cronulla 32-10 in their NRL clash at Lang Park.
Centre Tautau Moga bagged a double on Friday night as the Broncos strengthened their top-four position in Wayne Bennett’s 600th game as Broncos coach.
But there was no champagne popping for Gallen, who was booed every time he touched the ball by the 34,552-strong crowd.
The Sharks were expected to lift for Gallen, whose 300th game as a one-club player puts him behind only Cronulla legend Andrew Ettingshausen (328).
The visitors had been desperate to get their top-four campaign back on track after last round’s loss to Canberra.
But nothing could inspire a flat Sharks who could slip as far as sixth on the ladder after their second-straight defeat.
It snapped Cronulla’s three-game winning run at Lang Park, marking the Broncos’ first victory over the Sharks since 2011 in Brisbane.
Brisbane is on track for a premiership tilt after winning six of its past eight games plus nine of 11 home matches this year.
Brisbane moved to a 14-0 lead on 35 minutes after returning Cronulla five-eighth James Maloney was repeatedly exposed in defence.
Maloney — back from two weeks out with a broken hand — appeared to struggle, missing 10 tackles but managed to see out the game.
Cronulla’s Luke Lewis stepped around Anthony Milford in the 39th minute to cut the halftime deficit to 14-6.
Moga put the result beyond doubt when he steamrolled opponents to score in the 44th and 60th minutes.
Bennett has won 20 of his past 25 games against Cronulla.
Knights’ wonder run continues as Eels slip up
Mitchell Barnett of the Knights celebrates with teammates after scoring against the Eels. (AAP: Dan Himbrechts)
Parramatta’s chances of a NRL top-four finish have suffered a setback after a controversial 29-10 defeat to an improving Newcastle at Sydney’s Olympic stadium.
The Knights were holding onto an eight-point lead when Ken Sio passed off the ground, and one minute later Brock Lamb crashed over to seal a third-straight win.
“The ball never touched the ground,” the referee told Eels five-eighth Corey Norman.
The decision came five minutes after Eels full-back Will Smith was sin-binned for a professional foul despite appearing to have tackled the dummy-half from an onside position.
Newcastle second-rower Lachlan Fitzgibbon then took a short ball from Lamb to stretch their two-point half-time lead to eight.
Knights winger Ken Sio completed his brace with an acrobatic try in the 67th minute, snapping the Eels’ six-game winning streak and silencing the 13,141-crowd.
Lamb, one of the Knights’ best, slotted a field goal in the dying minutes to give Newcastle their biggest win since a 30-2 victory over Gold Coast in mid-2015.
It momentarily lifts Newcastle past the Wests Tigers on the NRL premiership ladder.
The Tigers face Manly on Saturday.
The officials’ calls overshadowed a gritty performance from Newcastle who completed 18 from 18 sets of tackles in the second half.
Lamb finished the night with a try, four tackle breaks, two line breaks and two try assists, while fullback Dane Gagai carried the ball for a game-high 207m to go with two try assists.
The Knights shot out of the blocks with two tries in the opening 10 minutes.
Sio claimed the first when he finished off a quick left-side shift in the sixth minute, before a Lamb 70m line break in the ensuing set was finished off by Mitchell Barnett.
The Eels momentarily stemmed the flow with their own long-range try through Michael Jennings who produced a 55m run in the 18th minute.