Sydney Roosters have moved within a win of top spot in the NRL after comprehensively despatching St George-Illawarra 36-18 at Allianz Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Coach Trent Robinson warned before the match pitting third versus fourth that his side “were just getting started” and Latrell Mitchell backed up the rhetoric by powering over the line in the eighth minute.
James Tedesco finished off a neat team try only two minutes later, before halfback Cooper Cronk backed up the star fullback to further extend the buffer to 16 points in the 23rd minute.
A converted try to Ben Hunt just before half-time gave the shell-shocked Dragons a brief glimmer of hope they could retrieve the situation.
But Mitchell snuffed that out within nine minutes of the restart with his second try. A Cooper Cronk kick to the corner was palmed into Mitchell’s path by a Dragons defender for him to pounce on the ball in the in-goal area.
Additional four-pointers by Mitchell, Tedesco and Blake Ferguson compounded the pain of the Dragons, who had to settle for a second Hunt try and a late Tariq Sims try as consolation.
Earlier, New Zealand Warriors missed a chance to nail down its NRL finals spot as Gold Coast Titans ran away 36-12 winners at home.
The Titans turned it on in a five-try second half on Sunday afternoon to get one back against a Warriors side that had won its past seven games at Cbus Super Stadium.
It may have come too late to save their own season but the Titans’ razzle dazzle has at least given Wests Tigers hope that their season is still alive.
The result left the ninth-placed side just two wins adrift of the Warriors, with five home-and-away games remaining.
On Saturday, Melbourne Storm and South Sydney again confirmed their ladder-leading credentials, while Manly Sea Eagles let a large lead slip to be overrun 28-24 by Penrith, which scored four tries in the last 13 minutes.
The Panthers climbed to fifth with its come-from-behind win.
The Rabbitohs (second) edged Parramatta Eels 26-20 at ANZ Stadium and Storm (first) sent Canberra Raiders packing in a 44-10 whitewash at AAMI Park.
Brisbane’s 12-10 victory against Cronulla Sharks on Thursday kicked off Round 20, and North Queensland Cowboys’ 20-18 triumph over Newcastle Knights was overshadowed by Canterbury Bulldogs’ 16-4 show of force against Wests Tigers.
Looking ahead, Friday night’s match between the top two at ANZ Stadium could well decide the minor premiership, while giving the Roosters and St George fresh hope of securing a home final.
The third-placed Dragons take on the eighth-placed Warriors at WIN Stadium in Wollongong in a match that every Wests fan will have one eye upon on Saturday.
But the Tigers must first account for Newcastle Knights at McDonald Jones Stadium on Friday night.