Eels edge Knights to return to NRL summit

By Sports Desk July 12, 2020

Parramatta Eels reclaimed top spot in the NRL with a tight 10-4 win over Newcastle Knights, though one of their players may have committed a breach of the league's COVID-19 protocols.

The Eels held on for victory at McDonald Jones Stadium, where the Knights were playing for the first time since round one in March.

Maika Sivo's 64th-minute try proved the difference, with Tex Hoy's try that looked set to force golden-point extra time ruled out for offside.

However, there is scrutiny on the actions of prop Stefano Utoikamanu, who hugged relatives after making his debut, with players not permitted to touch members of the public at games or training sessions.

The Eels said they are waiting to hear from the league regarding the potential breach of protocols.

In Sunday's later game, St. George-Illawarra Dragons claimed only their third win of the campaign, thumping Manly Sea Eagles 34-4.

The Dragons fell behind to Joel Thompson's eighth-minute try but ran in six tries thereafter at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium.

A searing long-range effort from Matthew Dufty and an interception from Zac Lomax were the pick of the bunch. Josh Kerr and the impressive Mikaele Ravalawa also went over, with Corey Norman and Euan Aitken completing the rout.

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    Penrith Panthers set a new club record with a ninth successive NRL win, though their 18-12 triumph over New Zealand Warriors was overshadowed by alleged racial abuse of Brent Naden. 

    Panthers winger Naden, who is an indigenous Australian, reported comments made from a section of the crowd that led to a small group of supporters being escorted from Central Coast Stadium. 

    The NRL are investigating the incident; acting CEO Andrew Abdo said in a statement that "decisive action" will be taken against anyone found guilty, while the governing body will offer support to those players involved. 

    Naden scored the opening try as Penrith maintained their impressive streak, Apisai Koroisau and Dylan Edwards also touching down as the leaders opened up a 16-6 advantage by half-time. 

    Patrick Herbert converted his own try as the Warriors fought hard in the second half, though the table-topping Panthers held on to make it nine in a row. 

    In Friday's other game, outgoing coach Paul McGregor enjoyed a successful farewell as St George Illawarra Dragons prevailed 14-12 against Parramatta Eels. 

    The Dragons announced this week that McGregor would be stepping down after the game at Bankwest Stadium, despite having over a year left to run on his contract. Dean Young is to take over on an interim basis.  

    His final outing in charge saw a victory secured thanks to a brace of tries from Mikaele Ravalawa, as well as six points from the boot of Zac Lomax.  

    Clinton Gutherson and Kane Evans touched down for the Eels, who missed the chance to go level on points with the second-placed Melbourne Storm in the ladder.

  • NRL investigating alleged racist abuse of Panthers winger Naden NRL investigating alleged racist abuse of Panthers winger Naden

    Penrith Panthers winger Brent Naden was allegedly the subject of racial abuse from members of the crowd during his side's 18-12 victory over New Zealand Warriors at Central Coast Stadium.  

    An Indigenous Australian, Naden reported comments made by a small section of fans to a member of Penrith's training staff, who then passed on the information to police.  

    Footage broadcast by Fox Sports showed a group being spoken to by officials before they were escorted from the venue.  

    The NRL is investigating the incident, with acting CEO Andrew Abdo declaring the governing body will take "decisive action" against anyone found guilty, as well as offering support to those players involved.  

    "Racism and vilification will not be tolerated in our game," he said.  

    "Bringing communities and cultures together is part of rugby league. We pride ourselves on being inclusive and taking a leadership role in driving social change.   

    "Any fan found to have racially abused a player or another fan will not be welcome at our games.   

    "We have shown in the past that we will take the strongest possible action to ensure fans guilty of racial abuse are banned from attending the Telstra Premiership.  

    "We will work closely with NSW Police, stadium authorities and the clubs to determine the facts and take decisive action against anyone guilty of racial abuse." 

    Naden scored the opening try as table-topping Penrith set a new club record by securing a ninth successive victory. 

    "He's okay, it's not the first time he's heard that in his life - but I think in this forum it has been," Penrith coach Ivan Cleary told the media after the game.

    "He certainly took offence to it at the time but he's okay now.

    "It's one of those situations that you can only react how you feel at the time. Whatever was said, it definitely affected him."

    Apisai Koroisau and Dylan Edwards also crossed in the first half for the in-form Panthers, while Nathan Cleary kicked six points to help see off the Warriors.

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    However, his tenure to date has been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, with this year's Ashes series cancelled.

    The Rugby Football League (RFL) is anticipating NRL interest, too, so the 55-year-old's terms have been revisited.

    RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer said: "Shaun has made a great impression within the RFL and across the sport in general, and I am delighted that he will be staying on beyond the 2021 World Cup.

    "He has proved himself to be both energetic and versatile in difficult times and has adapted to what is in front of him.

    "We are well aware that Shaun has recently attracted the attention of several NRL clubs and wanted to ensure that he had enough security that kept him absolutely focused on the job in hand.

    "Like all of us, Shaun is bitterly disappointed not to be facing the Kangaroos this autumn, but he is not letting this short-term setback stand in the way of his long-term aim to make England the number one side in the world.

    "Shaun's passion for England Rugby League is matched by meticulous planning and preparation, and come autumn 2021 there will not be a better-prepared international side at the World Cup."

    Wane won three Super League Grand Finals as Wigan Warriors boss between 2011 and 2018 in his only previous senior rugby league coaching role.

    Prior to taking the England job this year, he had been working as high performance coach for Scottish Rugby.

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