The race for the NRL’s top four has opened up following Manly’s capitulation to strugglers Wests Tigers on Sunday.
Leading 20-6 at half-time and with a chance to jump into fourth spot on offer, the Sea Eagles wilted in the second half as the Tigers ran in four tries to one.
The bottom two teams on the ladder beat top-four aspirants Manly and Parramatta, while Cronulla, Sydney Roosters and North Queensland also tasted defeat.
Manly appeared to regain confidence and form in their hammering of the Sydney Roosters last week but were brought back to the pack as a desperate Tigers lifted themselves off the bottom of the table.
Sea Eagles coach Trent Barrett admitted it would be devastating if his side missed out on the double-chance top four because of Sunday’s defeat at Leichhardt Oval.
“That hurts, it just makes next week even more important,” Barrett said.
“There’s a quagmire of teams there and thereabouts and every game counts now. But I’m more disappointed in how we lost that second half. Geez, we didn’t manage it at all.”
Meanwhile, Nick Cotric all but sealed the Dally M rookie of the year award with a two-try effort in Canberra’s 36-16 win over the Warriors on Sunday to keep his side’s slim finals chance alive.
Nathan Cleary once again proved he was Penrith’s future as he led his side to a 24-16 win over a brave North Queensland who were hit hard by injury on Saturday.
The Cowboys lost Michael Morgan (concussion) and Justin O’Neill (elbow) to injury and simply ran out of gas in the second half to sink to eighth spot and bring into question their participation in the finals.
Melbourne all but wrapped up the minor premiership with a 16-13 win over the second-placed Roosters in a match marred by a controversial penalty try decision involving Suliasi Vunivalu.
The split between Gold Coast coach Neil Henry and star fullback Jarryd Hayne became public following their 42-16 loss to St George Illawarra.
Matt Gillett starred as Brisbane sent a statement to the rest of the competition with a 32-10 thumping of Cronulla, spoiling Paul Gallen’s 300th game celebrations on Friday night.
The Broncos have done well to string together consecutive wins following the loss of Andrew McCullough to establish themselves as one of the teams to beat.
Newcastle pulled off one of the upsets of the year to beat Parramatta 29-10.
South Sydney’s late-season surge continued with a 28-14 victory over the besieged Canterbury on Thursday night.