Parramatta Eels star Michael Jennings has been provisionally suspended under the NRL's anti-doping policy following a positive drugs test.

The NRL on Saturday announced Jennings returned a positive A-sample for banned substances Ligandrol and Ibutamoren, and three of their metabolites – the day Parramatta are scheduled to meet South Sydney Rabbitohs in the semi-final.

Jennings – a former New South Wales centre and Tonga international who won the NRL premiership with Sydney Roosters in 2013 – now has the opportunity to have his B-sample analysed.

The 32-year-old was tested on September 21 with the result received by Sport Integrity Australia on October 9.

It is a huge blow for the Eels, who are looking to reach their first NRL Grand Final since finishing runners-up in 2009.

"The Parramatta Eels have today been made aware of the provisional suspension handed down to Michael Jennings under the NRL's Anti-Doping Policy," the club's statement read.

"Details of that provisional suspension and alleged breach of the anti-doping policy will be outlined in an NRL Media statement to be distributed today.

"Michael Jennings has been stood down from today's game and ongoing training/playing responsibilities while the process runs its course, which under the policy includes the opportunity to have his B-sample analysed.

"The club has been in contact with Michael and will continue to offer him and his family our full wellbeing support."

Jennings joined the Eels from the Roosters at the end of the 2015 campaign, having previously played for Penrith Panthers.

He signed a new deal with the Eels in July, keeping him at the club through the 2021 season, with an option for 2022.

This season, Jennings has made 20 appearances, scored seven tries and supplied four assists.

Sydney Roosters' hopes of winning three NRL titles in a row are over after Canberra Raiders held on for a 22-18 victory in the semi-finals on Friday. 

Trent Robinson's team were bidding to become the first to three-peat since the Parramatta Eels did so between 1981 and 1983, but they were rocked by the Raiders' rapid start at the Sydney Cricket Ground. 

Josh Papalii, George Williams and Joseph Tapine all went over inside the opening 22 minutes as Canberra raced into a 16-0 lead. 

James Tedesco scored two tries for the Roosters but the Raiders held on, avenging their 2019 Grand Final loss to book a preliminary final against Melbourne Storm next week.

Papalii powered over for the visitors' first try and was then heavily involved as Williams crossed, with Tapine's fine solo effort giving Canberra a comfortable cushion. 

Tedesco finally got the Roosters on the board before the interval and Joseph Manu's converted try then brought them within four. 

However, Tedesco somehow failed to deal with Williams' kick, allowing Jack Wighton to score a fourth Canberra try and that proved pivotal, despite Sydney's full-back going over again.

The South Sydney Rabbitohs were too good for the Newcastle Knights as they pulled off a 46-20 win in an NRL elimination final on Sunday.

The Rabbitohs fell 14-0 behind early at ANZ Stadium before recovering in dominant style to keep their season alive.

Alex Johnston and Tevita Tatola each crossed for two tries for South Sydney in what was their first meeting with the Knights in the finals.

All four of the higher-ranked teams won in week one of the NRL finals, with the Rabbitohs advancing to a meeting with the Parramatta Eels.

The Knights made a flying start and led 14-0 after just 11 minutes.

Hymel Hunt dived over on the right after a Kalyn Ponga pass before Bradman Best scored after Lachlan Fitzgibbon broke the line. Ponga also booted a penalty.

But the end of the half belonged to the Rabbitohs, who scored 20 answered points before the break.

Corey Allan broke through some soft defence before Cody Walker went over.

Johnston then dived over down the left as the Rabbitohs drew level, before Damien Cook sped away down the middle to set up Cameron Murray to give South Sydney a 20-14 half-time lead.

Newcastle made an error-riddled start to the second half and Adam Reynolds' penalty extended the Rabbitohs' lead.

A mistake from Ponga gave South Sydney another opportunity and Tatola reached over to score.

The Rabbitohs added some gloss to the scoreline as Johnston and Tatola crossed to complete their doubles and Cook raced away 80 metres for the sealer, before Hunt scored for the Knights on the siren.

Melbourne Storm marked their 50th NRL finals match with an impressive 36-24 defeat of Parramatta Eels at Suncorp Stadium.

With a 61 per cent win rate from their previous 49 such games, Melbourne were firm favourites to triumph on Saturday as they became the first team to reach a half-century of finals games in the NRL era.

They were made to work by the Eels, though, the visitors scoring two tries in the first 22 minutes through Nathan Brown and Clint Gutherson.

Storm had 61 per cent of the ball in the first half but did not get points on the board until the half-hour mark, when Suliasi Vunivalu went over.

The excellent Ryan Papenhuyzen struck before the interval to level the scores at 12-12, before Josh Addo-Carr's try put them ahead.

Blake Ferguson made it 18 each, touching down from a clever Reed Mahoney kick, but Melbourne promptly seized control as Jesse Bromwich, Brenko Lee and Papenhuyzen all scored in the space of seven minutes to secure a sixth-straight preliminary final.

Shaun Lane got a late consolation as each side now look for good news on the injury front, with Cameron Munster hurting his right knee and the Eels, who face an elimination game next week, losing Ferguson and Maika Sivo.

Canberra Raiders survived a real scare against Cronulla Sharks before surging back to win 32-20 and avoid a shock elimination.

Canberra were firm favourites after dispatching the Sharks 38-28 a week ago but were second best in the first 40 minutes.

The Sharks, the first team in 25 years to reach the finals without a win over a top-eight opponent, were 14-10 to the good at half-time and could have had a more comfortable lead.

Tries from Ronaldo Mulitano and Blayke Brailey, combined with two penalties and a conversion from the boot of Chad Townsend, had Cronulla in a commanding position only for George Williams to intercept and sprint for the line with just two minutes of the half left.

Apparently galvanised, the Raiders assumed control in the second half, Jack Wighton scoring twice in three minutes before further tries from Williams and Elliott Whitehead, whose earlier fumble had allowed Brailey to touch down, ended the contest and set up a rematch with last year's Grand Final victors Sydney Roosters next week.

Sione Katoa's late interception and 90-metre sprint for the line reduced the deficit, but the Sharks' season is over.

Nathan Cleary was the hero with a brilliant hat-trick as minor premiership winners Penrith Panthers beat Sydney Roosters 29-28 to progress in the NRL finals.

A thrilling Qualifying final encounter on Friday saw Penrith reach the Preliminary finals after storming back from going 10 points behind in the early stages.

Cleary scored three tries as well as kicking four conversions and a drop goal, with Josh Mansour and Stephen Crichton also dotting down for the Panthers.

The Roosters, who will now have to face either Canberra Raiders or Cronulla Sharks in the semi-finals, made a fast start and came close to recovering in the latter stages but ultimately fell to a narrow defeat.

Early tries from Josh Morris and Freddy Lussick handed the defending champions the advantage but by the time the match reached the 50-minute mark, the Panthers had scored 28 unanswered points.

James Tedesco and Josh Morris crossed in reply for the Roosters, but Cleary's field goal ensured Penrith prevailed despite Angus Crichton's converted try setting up a tense finish.

Luke Keary tried to level matters with a desperate field goal attempt that fell short from 45 metres, allowing Cleary, the impressive Jarome Luai and the Panthers to celebrate as their fine 2020 season continued.

The NRL's Integrity Unit is investigating "very serious" allegations made against former South Sydney Rabbitohs player Sam Burgess.

A report in The Australian published on Friday accused Burgess of domestic violence and drug use, while claiming the Rabbitohs tried to cover up his actions.

Mark O'Brien, the lawyer acting for Burgess, refuted the claims with a widely released statement reading: "The allegations are false and constitute an indefensible defamation against my client.

"It is apparent sources of the false allegations are those currently in dispute with my client over various issues."

The NRL said its Integrity Unit has been instructed to launch a "comprehensive investigation" into the allegations made against the Rabbitohs and Burgess, who has stood down from his role as a coach at the team.

NRL Chief Executive Andrew Abdo said: "These allegations are very serious and I've instructed the Integrity Unit to investigate the claims as a priority. We will also seek the advice of police and other relevant authorities throughout this process. 

"This is new information for the NRL and it is important we now gather the facts. The allegations have not yet been tested and due process will be followed as we undertake a thorough investigation.

"There is no place in our game for violence, harassment or abuse against women. If anyone is found guilty of these allegations we will take the strongest possible action."

The Rabbitohs said they welcomed the investigation and will cooperate fully.

"The allegations in today's The Australian newspaper are very concerning and the club is treating them with the utmost seriousness," a club statement read. 

"There is no place in our society for violence, harassment or abuse against women. If anyone is found guilty of allegations of this nature, the club will take the strongest possible action.

"The club takes issues of drug use very seriously and has well-established policies and procedures in place around the use of performance enhancing or illicit/recreational/prescription drugs. 

"The club will continue to work closely with ASADA and the NRL which administer testing of the players. The club will also continue to work with the playing group to support their wellbeing and educate them about drug use.

"The Rabbitohs welcome the NRL Integrity Unit's investigation in relation to these allegations and will fully cooperate with the investigation. The club is supportive of Sam Burgess's decision to step down from his role at the club while the NRL Integrity Unit investigation is underway."

Burgess won an NRL Grand Final with the Rabbitohs in 2014 and returned to the Sydney club in November 2015 following a short and unsuccessful stint in rugby union with Bath.

He represented England in the 15-man game at their home Rugby World Cup in which they were eliminated in the group stages.

Wayne Bennett has returned as Queensland head coach for the 2020 State of Origin series, replacing Kevin Walters.

Walters has given up the position to focus on his role as Brisbane Broncos boss following confirmation of his appointment on Wednesday.

Bennett, who is in charge of South Sydney Rabbitohs, has had three previous stints as Maroons coach – in 1986-88, 1998 and 2001-03.

"I love coaching Queensland and I'm extremely humbled to be invited to coach this team again, particularly in light of the challenging circumstances with Kevin moving on to coach the Broncos," the former Australia and England coach said.

"I'm very proud and pleased that I'm still able to do it. State of Origin means so much to the people of Queensland.

"It's been a difficult year for many people and I just want to give something back if I can."

The Maroons are coming off back-to-back series losses to New South Wales, while game one in 2020 is on November 4.

Queensland Rugby League (QRL) managing director Robert Moore said Bennett's experience would be crucial.

"Our people involved in the process to appoint the new coach all viewed Wayne as the right person when we took into consideration the unique circumstances we are now faced with," he said.

"There's no doubt next month's series will present a range of new challenges due to the scheduling change and biosecurity protocols.

"Wayne has the necessary experience and he knows what it takes to win big games at representative level, for both state and country."

Bennett is due to coach the Rabbitohs until the end of 2021, when assistant Jason Demetriou will take his place.

Brisbane Broncos have appointed Kevin Walters as head coach after ending a humiliating NRL season with the wooden spoon.

The Broncos have turned to Walters, who will relinquish his State of Origin coaching duties with Queensland Maroons to replace Anthony Siebold on a two-year deal.

A five-time premiership winner as a player with the Broncos, Walters returns to Brisbane after 20 years following a forgettable 2020 season which saw the club finish bottom.

"I love the Brisbane Broncos – this club is part of who I am and it feels like I am coming home," the 52-year-old said in a statement on Wednesday as he eyes a return to the finals.

"I've put in a lot of work over the past 15 years to learn and gain the experience that's required to succeed in this role, so I feel that I'm ready.

"The success of the Broncos over the years has been built on passion for the jersey, standing by your mates and plain old hard work, and we will strive for nothing less.

"I'm looking forward to getting into the building and starting work on preparations for the 2021 pre-season."

Broncos chairman Karl Morris said: "Kevin has played the game at the highest level and as a coach demonstrates a passion and ability to communicate and connect with his teams.

"He has a track record of getting the best out of his players regardless of age or experience, and the board saw that as a key element for where we are at as a club.

"You don't get any more 'Bronco' than Kevin Walters – we believe he is the right choice at this time in the club's history to lead our team into the future."

Walters succeeded Mal Meninga as Maroons coach at the end of 2015, guiding Queensland to back-to-back series triumphs over New South Wales Blues in his first two years in charge.

The Maroons, however, have since suffered series losses in 2018 and 2019.

Reflecting on his time with the Maroons, Walters added via QRL.com: "It's been an incredible ride and I'm extremely proud of what we've been able to achieve, as well as the foundations we have built for the future.

"I've always felt I've had a responsibility towards rugby league in Queensland after everything the Maroons and the game has given me, and I'll continue to assist with the team's Origin preparations in any way that is possible."

Brisbane great and current South Sydney Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett has been tipped to replace Walters.

An inexperienced Melbourne Storm were downed by a resurgent St George Illawarra Dragons, while Adam Blair said farewell in a classy win for the New Zealand Warriors in Sunday's NRL action.

The Storm had just 547 NRL appearances within the team, the second least in the competition's history, but Paul Momirovski, Sandor Earl, Chris Lewis and Isaac Lumelume all crossed as they led 16-12 at the break at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium.

However, Zac Lomax, who kicked all five conversions, started the comeback just before the hour with Matthew Dufty quickly going over as well.

Nicho Hynes converted his own score to bring the Storm back into the game, only for Tyson Frizell's late try to earn a 30-22 win for the Dragons.

The defeat does not alter Melbourne's place on the ladder or their Finals fate, but Max King and Tui Kamikamica face potential disciplinary action - the former for a 'hip-drop' tackle on Blake Lawrie and the latter for a late hit on Jayden Sullivan.

The Warriors finish their campaign in 10th after defeating the Manly Sea Eagles 40-28 in Blair's final appearance after 331 NRL matches.

In a high-scoring affair, Adam Keighran finished with a hat-trick, while Patrick Herbert and Eliesa Katoa also scored for the Warriors, who saw Kodi Nikorima put them on the board after they had fallen behind 10-0 after seven minutes at Central Coast Stadium.

Parramatta Eels fought back to beat Wests Tigers and seal a top-four finish as Penrith Panthers and Canberra Raiders claimed contrasting victories in Saturday's NRL action. 

Will Smith and Reed Mahoney scored tries in the last 15 minutes at Bankwest Stadium as the Eels rallied for a thrilling 28-24 triumph, lifting them into third place in the ladder to book a qualifying final against Melbourne Storm.

The defeat meant a disappointing end for Tigers duo Benji Marshall and Chris Lawrence in their farewell appearances for the club, with the former's outing painfully cut short by injuries suffered in the first half. 

The Raiders had briefly moved into the top four in the ladder thanks to a 38-28 win over the Cronulla Sharks, aided by 14 points from captain Sam Williams. 

However, there was a setback for much-changed Canberra as prop Ryan Sutton suffered a knee injury that is set to rule him out of the play-offs. 

Meanwhile, minor premiers Penrith made it 15 straight victories as they thrashed Canterbury Bulldogs 42-0 at ANZ Stadium, Kurt Capewell and Brent Naden both crossing twice in the rout. 

Bulldogs prop Luke Thompson was placed on report for a possible eye gouge on James Tamou, though the Panthers captain revealed the pair had discussed the incident after the game. 

"He [Thompson] said after he was just trying to get something to try and get me down, which was fair enough," Tamou said. "In the scheme of things, you're trying your best just to do your job and try and win the tackle. 

"He said there was nothing in it. I've been keeping my eye on Luke and I don't think he's done anything like that throughout the year. From my point of view, I don't think there was much in it." 

Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson was left feeling "embarrassed" after watching his side thrashed 60-8 by Alex Johnston-inspired arch-rivals South Sydney Rabbitohs in Friday's NRL action, while the Gold Coast Titans swept aside the Newcastle Knights 36-6.

The Roosters went into the match third and four places ahead of the Rabbitohs in the table for the final round of the regular season, but they found themselves on the end of a historic battering.

The Bunnies claimed their biggest-ever win over the Roosters to make sure of a home match in the elimination finals, while the omens are not great for the latter – no side has ever won the Grand Final having conceded 50 points or more in a single game that season.

Robinson's side actually began the stronger, getting the match's first try after just three minutes, but they were soon pegged back and ultimately blown away – Johnston was the star of the show as he tapped down five times, including three in the final eight minutes.

"It hurts a lot. It's very embarrassing for us, there's not much more to say to that really," Robinson summarised.

"To go out and perform like that – it was really disappointing, I can imagine you can't feel much worse."

The Knights produced a similarly limp display against the Titans, who were in charge practically from start to finish – Ashley Taylor getting try number one in the second minute in what was a sign of things to come.

He later completed a hat-trick and also kicked three goals, as the Knights head into their finals meeting with the buoyant Rabbitohs in shaky form.

 

Brisbane Broncos were effectively consigned to NRL's wooden spoon for the first time in their history after Kyle Feldt's hat-trick led North Queensland Cowboys to a 32-16 victory.

The Broncos missed a chance to move off the foot of the table at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday and with a points difference almost twice as bad as Canterbury Bulldogs' -180, they are all but guaranteed to finish at the bottom of the standings.

Kotoni Staggs converted Payne Haas' early try for the hosts but was forced off in the 11th minute with what appeared to be a serious knee injury.

In his final match before retiring, Darius Boyd – a premiership winner with the Broncos – extended Brisbane's lead but Jake Clifford, Feldt and Justin O'Neill crossed to send the Cowboys into the break in front.

Corey Oates restored parity before the hour mark but Feldt went over twice in the space of seven minutes, taking his tally for the season to a league-high 19 tries.

Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow touched down with four minutes remaining following a fine break from Valentine Holmes, and Gavin Cooper, making his final appearance before hanging up his boots, added the extras as the Cowboys finished the season on a high.

Newcastle Knights are closing in on a home finals game after storming to a 42-18 win against a poor St. George Illawarra Dragons side.

With their seven-year playoff drought already sure to end, the Knights moved up to sixth in the NRL standings ahead of the final week of the regular season.

They now sit a point ahead of South Sydney Rabbitohs and are in pole position to finish sixth, meaning they would host a finals game for the first time since 2006.

The Knights play Gold Coast Titans next while the Rabbitohs meet the Sydney Roosters.

"It would certainly be great," coach Adam O'Brien said about the prospect of earning a home playoff game.

"We love playing here in front of our home, our supporters, our sponsors, our community.

"I know capacity may only be at 50% but I've been here when the place was rocking. I know how difficult it is coming up the highway to play here.

"So it would be huge. It would be great for everyone but we are not there yet." 

Five of the Knights' seven tries - all of which were converted by Mason Lino - came in the first half at McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday.

Centre Enari Tuala dotted down twice for the home team, while Zac Lomax ended up with 14 of the Dragons' 18 points.

In the day's other game, Canberra Raiders kept their hopes of a top-four finish alive by scoring 20 unanswered points to come from behind and beat New Zealand Warriors 26-14.

Coach Ricky Stuart fumed at a sin binning for Jack Wighton while halfback George Williams exited the game early with a head injury as the Raiders trailed 14-6 at home, Peta Hiku having scored twice for the Warriors.

But Elliott Whitehead shone in an unfamiliar position of stand-off and winger Semi Valemei crossed in both halves as Stuart's side ultimately prevailed.

The Raiders can still finish fourth but to do so they must defeat Cronulla Sharks next week and hope Parramatta Eels lose to Wests Tigers.

Craig Bellamy offered a cheeky response to Cameron Smith going beyond his career try total as Melbourne Storm wrapped up another top-two NRL finish with a 50-22 rout of Wests Tigers.

Smith scored one of nine Storm tries - the 47th of his career - to take him beyond Bellamy's haul from his playing days with Canberra Raiders, a fact he was keen to remind his Melbourne coach of when dotting down in the 71st minute.

Bellamy responded by flipping the bird back in the direction of his Storm players as they pointed up to their coach, who saw Suliasi Vunivalu and Josh Addo-Carr cross for two tries apiece as Melbourne sealed a top-two finish for the fifth successive year.

"The only thing I can feel okay about is it took him 428 games to get there and I got mine in about 140 or something, 150," Bellamy said of Smith afterwards.

Cronulla Sharks had a night to forget as they suffered a 34-18 loss to Sydney Roosters, and lost star playmaker Shaun Johnson to a suspected Achilles injury.

The Sharks are already assured of a finals berth but the absence of Johnson - who has provided an NRL-best 22 try assists - would be a monumental blow.

Mitchell Aubusson marked becoming the Roosters' all-time leader in appearances by scoring a brace of tries on his 303rd outing for Sydney.

Gold Coast Titans' good form continued as they beat Manly Sea Eagles 42-24 for a fourth successive victory, though that game was also overshadowed by a shoulder injury to Tom Trbojevic.

The Manly fullback was only making his return from three months out with a hamstring injury and is now a doubt for the State of Origin series.

 

Penrith Panthers secured their first NRL minor premiership in 17 years thanks to a dominant first-half showing in a 32-12 win over North Queensland Cowboys.

Brian To'o, Stephen Crichton, Josh Mansour and Jarome Luai all crossed as the Panthers racked up 20 unanswered points during the opening 40 minutes en route to the J.J. Giltinan Shield.

Viliame Kikau continued to pile the misery on to his former employers as he leapt to claim Nathan Cleary's kick and score four minutes into the second half.

Brent Nadan touched down in between converted consolation tries for Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and Kyle Feldt, with Penrith able to rest James Tamou, Api Koroisau and Zane Tetevano, casting an eye towards post-season.

Following Canterbury Bulldogs' surprise win over South Sydney Rabbitohs on Thursday, Brisbane Broncos are now the team in bottom spot after a lacklustre 26-12 defeat to the Parramatta Eels, for whom captain Clint Gutherson scored twice.

The Broncos must win the Queensland derby to have any hope of avoiding a first wooden spoon in their history, with Gold Coast Titans-bound David Fifita a major doubt for that match having been helped from the field with an ankle sprain.

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