St George Illawarra became the latest team to suffer under the expectation that comes with being premiership favourites as Paul McGregor’s side slumped to its second defeat of the season on Sunday.
In a topsy-turvy NRL season that has seen the Sydney Roosters, Melbourne Storm and the Dragons all fancied by bookies at different stages, it seems that no judge is any the wiser after 10 rounds that sees just two wins separating the table-topping St George and the eighth-placed Cronulla.
South Sydney proved too good for the Dragons on Sunday, winning 24-10 at ANZ Stadium thanks to terrific performances from big men Angus Crichton and Sam Burgess.
Just a week after the thrashing of the Storm that saw them tipped for the title, the Dragons were off-colour and caught napping.
Tries in the first six minutes by Hymel Hunt and Crichton gave the Rabbitohs a lead it would never relinquish, despite Tyson Frizell’s late double for the Dragons.
“We’ve been winning games through forcing errors on the opposition and they turned that around today … full credit to them,” McGregor said.
South Sydney sit fifth after that victory, stuck in the middle of a logjam that sees five sides on six wins.
Included in that bunch are the Cronulla Sharks, who were inspired by Valentine Holmes in a 24-16 win in Canberra on Sunday evening.
Holmes went from villain to hero after his error led to Nick Cotric’s seventh-minute opener for the Raiders. He responded in style, running three quarters of the field after catching a Blake Austin kick to help the Sharks draw level.
— NRL (@NRL) May 13, 2018
Austin hit back with a try of his own but he was forced off with an ankle injury before the break and Canberra lost its way in the second half as tries for Jack Williams, Sosaia Feki and another for Holmes helped Cronulla to victory.
The Sharks, who had captain Paul Gallen pull out on the eve of the match, have now won four in a row.
Warriors thrashed, Manly bounce back
With seven wins in nine matches to start the season, the New Zealand Warriors have been the surprise packet of 2018.
But injuries to key playmakers Shaun Johnson (ankle) and Isaac Luke (shoulder) left the Warriors undermanned for a clash against the Roosters and Trent Robinson’s side coasted to a 32-0 victory.
That result – and Penrith’s 29-18 win over Newcastle on Friday night – saw the Panthers go second on the ladder.
Manly ended a five-game losing streak with an excellent 38-24 win over Brisbane in game two of a Suncorp Stadium double header.
The Sea Eagles, beset by injuries and stories of player unrest in a difficult 2018, came from behind to win thanks to doubles from forward pair Jake Trbojevic and Joel Thompson.
Daly Cherry-Evans was back to his outstanding best for Manly ahead of a clash against old rivals Melbourne next week.
The result will heap the pressure on Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett, given the Broncos sit ninth, and followed Melbourne’s 28-14 win over the Gold Coast as the NRL’s leading try-scorer Josh Addo-Carr crossed again.
Elsewhere in Round 10, the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs claimed a rare win, toppling the rock-bottom Parramatta Eels 20-12.
And the North Queensland Cowboys, last season’s grand finalists, are now three games out of the top eight after a 20-12 loss to Wests Tigers on Thursday.