Penrith Panthers went top of the NRL standings with a 22-10 win over the depleted North Queensland Cowboys on Sunday.

Nathan Cleary's decisive display at Panthers Stadium helped the hosts see off a Cowboys side granted an exemption on Friday to replace injured props Jordan McLean and John Asista.

Cowboys fans may have feared the worst when Jarome Luai scored just five minutes in, but a superb solo try from teenager Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow levelled the scores before half-time.

Another rookie, 19-year-old Daejarn Asi, put the visitors ahead early in the second half before the Panthers, led by Cleary, began to assume control.

Brent Naden's try helped restore parity and Stephen Crichton went over 10 minutes later to ease the Panthers into the lead, with Cleary adding the extras.

Cleary had the final say, a couple of dummies creating a gap for him to drive through before converting with the last kick.

In the earlier match, Cronulla Sharks put on a ruthless display as they beat New Zealand Warriors 46-10 at Central Coast Stadium.

Three tries in the first 15 minutes from Braden Hamlin-Uele, William Kennedy and Ronaldo Mulitalo set the Sharks on course for victory.

The excellent Shaun Johnson got a fourth against his former team after Ken Maumalo had put the Warriors on the board, before a brilliant Sione Katoa double and a Jesse Ramien try pushed Cronulla further ahead.

Ramien added a second of his own before Wayde Egan grabbed a consolation, as the Sharks moved into ninth, level on points with Wests Tigers and South Sydney Rabbitohs.

Manly Sea Eagles shocked NRL leaders Parramatta Eels with a 22-18 victory on Saturday despite the threat of a late comeback.

Brad Arthur's men trailed 22-4 at half-time after a careless start saw them concede three tries in the opening 16 minutes.

Martin Taupau capitalised on a mistake just two minutes in before Daly Cherry-Evans and Daniel Levi made the most of some slack defending.

Michael Jennings got the visitors on the scoreboard 30 minutes in, but Joel Thompson's try a minute before the break put the Sea Eagles firmly in control.

The Eels then got the benefit of a contentious call, Waqa Blake running nearly the length of the field to score after a reprieve from the bunker, which seemed to put the Lottoland crowd on edge.

Michael Jennings burst through to score his side's third and George Jennings dotted down in the corner after an excellent offload, but there was not enough time for the league leaders to prevent just a second loss of the season.

St George-Illawarra Dragons produced an impressive comeback to beat Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 28-22 and deny interim coach Steve Georgallis a winning start.

Georgallis, who replaced Dean Pay this week, saw his side respond to a try from Matt Dufty 58 seconds in to lead 20-10 at half-time.

Euan Aitken finished from a good move involving Adam Clune and Dufty to extend the Dragons' early advantage, but Jason Marshall-King, Nick Meaney and Raymond Faitala-Mariner all went over to give the visitors the lead.

Jason Saab dragged the Dragons back into the contest after fumbling an earlier chance for a try, and Clune set up Dufty for his second to level the scores before Zac Lomax converted.

Corey Norman got the Dragons' fifth try with two minutes remaining and Lomax added the extras, leaving the Bulldogs four points adrift at the foot of the ladder.

Newcastle Knights survived a late fightback from South Sydney Rabbitohs to claim a 20-18 win at Bankwest Stadium.

The away side led 14-0 at the interval thanks to first-half tries from Enari Tuala, Kurt Mann and Kalyn Ponga, who had come in for criticism for his recent form.

Bradman Best touched down after a clever Ponga kick three minutes into the second half, but the full-back's third missed conversion appeared to give the Rabbitohs some hope.

Mark Nicholls and Damien Cook went over in the space of two minutes and Cook got his second from debutant Jaxson Paulo's kick, but the Knights held firm in the closing stages.

The beleaguered Brisbane Broncos lost Corey Oates to injury as they were hammered 48-0 at Wests Tigers after Melbourne Storm thrashed Gold Coast Titans on Friday.

Broncos coach Anthony Seibold said his side had taken a "step in the right direction" after they ended a six-match NRL losing streak with a victory over Canterbury Bulldogs last weekend.

Yet they were torn apart as the Tigers made a dream return to Leichhardt Oval in the rain, scoring nine tries without reply to move up to seventh in the standings.

The hosts breached a fragile Broncos defence all too easily time and again, breezing into a 26-0 half-time lead with a brace of tries for Luciano Leilua and one apiece for David Nofoaluma, Harry Grant and Benji Marshall.

Nofoaluma and team-mates Josh Aloiai and Zac Cini, as well as two staff members, live in an area of Sydney that has seen a rise in confirmed coronavirus cases and were only cleared to play after testing negative for COVID-19.

The Tigers were relentless, Luke Garner crossing either side of scores from Sam McIntyre and Billy Walters, with Moses Mbye on target with six conversions.

Back-rower Oates suffered a leg injury late on in a punishing outing for the Broncos, who are 14th with just three wins from 10 matches.

The Storm also ran riot, extending their winning run to four matches with a 42-6 thumping of the Titans at Sunshine Coast Stadium.

Josh Addo-Carr and Nelson Asofa-Solomona scored doubles, while Cameron Munster, Brenko Lee and Brandon Smith also crossed as Melbourne rose to second - level on points with leaders Parramatta Eels.


Wests Tigers players and two staff members living in Sydney hotspots have tested negative for coronavirus ahead of Friday's clash against the Brisbane Broncos.

David Nofoaluma, Josh Aloiai and Zac Cini, plus assistant coach Brett Hodgson and video analyst Simon Dwyer, tested negative for COVID-19.

They were required to undertake tests due to living within hotspots in south west Sydney.

"Having returned negative results, both Nofoaluma and Aloiai will be free to play in tonight's round 10 clash against the Brisbane Broncos at Leichhardt Oval," the Tigers said.

Wests Tigers are eighth in the NRL table ahead of their clash with the Broncos.

Canberra Raiders defied a lengthy injury list to defeat reigning premiers Sydney Roosters 24-20 in a repeat of the 2019 NRL Grand Final.

Jarrod Croker scored a try and was on target with all four of his conversion attempts as the depleted Raiders gained a modicum of revenge for last year's 14-8 loss to the same opponents in the title decider.

Forward duo Dunamis Lui and Josh Papalii both touched down during impressive individual displays for a pack missing English pairing Josh Hodgson and John Bateman.

There was also a try for George Williams as the Raiders – who handed a debut to Semi Valemei off the bench – turned around a 12-6 half-time deficit to triumph at Sydney Cricket Ground, a result that lifts them up to seventh on the ladder.

Brett Morris crossed twice for the Roosters in the opening 40 minutes, while Matt Ikuvalu's try just before the hour mark was converted by Kyle Flanagan from out wide to make it 20-18 to the hosts.

However, Papalii waltzed through a large hole in the Sydney defensive line soon after to give the visitors a lead they managed to retain through to the final hooter.

New Zealand Warriors quartet David Fusitu'a, Ken Maumalo, Agnatius Paasi and King Vuniyayawa will fly home later this month.

The Warriors have relocated to Australia for the NRL season amid the coronavirus pandemic.

After Leivaha Pulu returned home two weeks ago, another quartet will depart on July 27 to reunite with their families.

"We can't say enough about the sacrifice they have made being away from their families so long," Warriors chief executive Cameron George said.

"We fully understand the predicament they have been in and we're so appreciative of what they have done in committing to the cause for as long as they have.

"When we travelled to Australia we promised the players everything possible in our control would be done to secure travel exemptions for their families to join them there.

"Ultimately the decision lies with government agencies to approve the applications the NRL made on our behalf. There hasn't been any sign of a favourable result, which we accepted was always a possibility. Given those circumstances David, Ken, Agantius and King are free to go home.

"As well as thanking them for all they've done we would like to thank Peter V’landys and the NRL for all the work they've put in for the players and their families. I would also like to thank the RLPA staff for their support of the players during this time. We're hugely disappointed it hasn't worked out as we would have liked but it was out of our control."

The Warriors are considering how they may replace the quartet in their squad.

New Zealand have won three of their nine games this season to be two points adrift of the eighth-placed Wests Tigers.

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.

Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart said "I don't give a s***" about the doubters after Josh Hodgson was added to their long injury list in Saturday's defeat to Melbourne Storm.

Hooker Hodgson is suspected to have suffered an ACL injury in Canberra's 20-14 loss to the Storm, which also saw them lose Bailey Simonsson to a shoulder injury.

With John Bateman (shoulder), Sia Soliola (facial fractures), Corey Horsburgh (foot) and Emre Guler (ankle) all on the sideline, the scale of the Raiders' injury problems is sure to lead to questions as to whether they can return to the Grand Final, having lost the showpiece to Sydney Roosters last season.

Stuart, though, has little time for any downbeat assessments of his team.

"I don't give a s*** what you think," said Stuart. "We won't put our heads down. That I promise.

"I have never had an injury list like this, but I just asked the boys to keep on turning up with same attitude and desire. I just want that effort that we had tonight."

On the injury to Hodgson, Stuart said: "It doesn't look good. He has gone for scans but yeah it looks like I have now lost four players for a long time."

Charlie Staines hopes to force his way into the regular Penrith Panthers XIII after a spectacular NRL debut on Saturday.

The 19-year-old scored four tries as the Panthers claimed a 56-24 win over Cronulla Sharks to move top of the standings.

Staines became the first player to score four debut tries since Jordan Atkins for the Gold Coast Titans 12 years ago and one of just six to achieve the feat in the game's 112-year history in Australia.

Having only earned a starting spot after Dean Whare suffered an injury on Thursday, Staines wants to keep his place in the team even though his preferred position is full-back.

"Knowing what that feels like now, I want to be doing that every week," he said, as per the NRL website.

"I am just going to keep working hard at training and trying to get that wing spot if I can.

"I was a bit anxious going in because one of the boys got hurt and I didn't know what to expect. I was a bit nervous and I just tried to stay calm.

"I liked Melbourne growing up – Billy Slater and those fellows – but I have got a lot of pride in this jersey and I am very grateful to be playing for this club."

Staines was roared on by a group of friends and family that had travelled from his native Forbes, around five hours east of Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, to watch him make his bow.

"It's unreal that they all travelled up from Forbes," he said.

"Mum and dad always drove me everywhere for footy, wherever I needed to go, and for them to be here was amazing."


Teenager Charlie Staines enjoyed an unforgettable NRL debut as the Penrith Panthers moved top of the standings with a thumping win over the Cronulla Sharks.

Backed by a group of friends who had travelled to Netstrata Jubilee Oval, the 19-year-old scored four tries as the Panthers won 56-24 to move above the Parramatta Eels, having played a game more.

Staines is the first player to score four debut tries since Jordan Atkins for the Gold Coast Titans 12 years ago.

The Panthers dominated from the off and were 16-0 ahead after 20 minutes, Brent Naden, Liam Martin and Stephen Crichton scoring tries and Nathan Cleary twice adding the extras.

Staines' first came after 23 minutes as he finished a slick backline move before he set up Dylan Edwards to add another two minutes later.

The Sharks rallied through Briton Nikora and Blayke Brailey before half-time but Staines and Billy Burns strengthened the Panthers' advantage despite the loss of captain James Tamou to the sin bin.

A Cleary penalty and another Crichton try put paid to any hopes of a comeback after Jesse Ramien went over, and Staines made sure the headlines belonged to him with two further tries in the final seven minutes.

In the late game on Saturday, Melbourne Storm stood firm in the face of late pressure to claim a 20-14 win over the Canberra Raiders, who lost Josh Hodgson to a suspected ACL injury after 28 minutes.

Storm were 12-6 up at half-time at GIO Stadium, Brenko Lee and Josh Addo-Carr going over either side of a Josh Papalii try.

Ryan Papenhuyzen stretched the lead after the interval, gathering a kick and racing 90 yards down the right wing before dotting down, but Nick Cotric reduced the arrears with 13 minutes left.

Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad scored in the final minute but it was not enough for the Raiders, who slip four points behind third-place Storm.

The Brisbane Broncos had an easier time of things against the struggling Canterbury Bulldogs, winning 26-8 at Suncorp Stadium.

Jamayne Isaako scored two of his side's five tries to add to six points with the boot, although a knee injury to captain Alex Glenn soured celebrations.

Dane Gagai plundered a hat-trick as the Rabbitohs saw off Wests Tigers in the NRL, while the Gold Coast Titans halted a wretched losing streak. 

For each of his three tries in South Sydney's 18-10 win at Bankwest Stadium, Gagai dashed in from close range on the right as the Tigers defence proved powerless to deny him the ball. 

Former Wests target Latrell Mitchell also played a starring role for the Rabbitohs, while James Roberts scored a stunning individual effort, crossing in the same corner where Gagai did all his damage. 

Gagai helped the hosts ease out to a 10-0 half-time lead. Roberts snaked his way through soon after half-time, before his team-mate put the Rabbitohs 18-0 in front just before the hour. 

Wests made a fight of the closing stages, tries from Josh Aloiai and Reece Hoffman helping them to reduce the deficit, but they could not claw their way back sufficiently. The Rabbitohs nudged above both their opponents and the Sharks to climb to seventh place. 

The fiery contest saw Mitchell and Wests rival Josh Reynolds, who were at loggerheads early on after a flash point, put on report. 

The Titans scored a 16-12 home win over the New Zealand Warriors, putting a stop to their 10-game run of defeats at Cbus Super Stadium. 

The game looked to be going the Warriors' way after tries from Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Ken Maumalo inside the opening 10 minutes allowed them to open a 12-0 advantage. 

Yet the momentum would turn, Anthony Don soon trimming the Warriors' lead, before Sam Stone and Beau Fermor crossed in the second half, the decisive try from the latter arriving six minutes from time.

Matt Ikuvalu scored five tries as defending NRL premiers Sydney Roosters thrashed North Queensland Cowboys 42-16 on Thursday.

Ikuvalu had not featured since round two but was drafted into the Roosters line-up as a late replacement for Brett Morris, who suffered a groin injury in the warm-up.

The 26-year-old grasped his chance by putting in a sensational display as the Roosters ran riot in the second half in Townsville, with Ikuvalu becoming their first player to score five tries in a match since Brian Allsop against Parramatta Eels in 1955.

It was not plain sailing for the Roosters at first; Reece Robson ran in the opener for the Cowboys before Ikuvalu got his first try nine minutes later.

Sitili Tupouniua put the Roosters 12-6 up by the break, with Ikuvalu scoring twice in two minutes to complete his hat-trick shortly after the restart – the first being a phenomenal finish in the corner.

James Tedesco teed up Luke Keary for the first of a three-minute double, with Ikuvalu sliding in for another before latching onto a Keary kick for his fifth.

Coen Hess and Robson snatched consolations for the Cowboys, who were without Valentine Holmes for the second half, as the Roosters cruised up into third place.

Addin Fonua-Blake was sent off for dissent as Manly Sea Eagles succumbed to a controversial 14-12 loss to Newcastle Knights, while Braidon Burns appeared to suffer a serious knee injury for South Sydney Rabbitohs. 

Prop Fonua-Blake was given his marching orders for verbally abusing referee Grant Atkins after video official Jared Maxwell reviewed the final play and found no infringements, prompting a furious reaction from the Sea Eagles. 

Tevita Funa had put a grubber kick in behind and was taken out by Bradman Best and Tex Hoy as he chased it down, with Andrew McCullough grounding the loose ball in the in-goal area. 

Fonua-Blake could be facing a suspension despite coach Des Hasler saying he apologised to Atkins. 

Despite the early loss of Edrick Lee to a wrist injury, Newcastle led 14-6 at half-time with McCullough and Kurt Mann crossing either side of Daly Cherry-Evans' score upon returning from the sin bin for a professional foul. 

Manly dominated the second half and thought they had taken the lead when Cherry-Evans dotted down after Cade Cust went over. However, the captain's try was chalked off due to a knock-on by Danny Levi. 

The Sea Eagles felt they deserved a penalty try on the last tackle and were incensed after being consigned to a second successive defeat that leaves them outside the top eight. 

In Sunday's other game, the Rabbitohs defeated Canterbury Bulldogs 26-10 in a game that saw Burns sustain a gruesome-looking right knee injury. 

Alex Johnston and Marcelo Montoya traded tries in the first half, with Raymond Faitala-Mariner and Jaydn Su'a going over as the second half remained tight. 

Cody Walker helped make it a two-score game, before Dane Gagai intercepted a Montoya pass and raced the length of the pitch to clinch the victory in the final minute. 

Burns landed awkwardly in a tackle as he tried to put the match beyond doubt beforehand and required medical attention. He was able to get back to his feet and left the field on a cart. 

Brisbane Broncos players were left in tears after Saturday's 26-16 defeat to the New Zealand Warriors consigned them to a sixth successive NRL loss, while the Penrith Panthers moved up to second.

The Broncos were guilty of making numerous rookie errors throughout the contest, with Anthony Milford culpable for one of the biggest in the first half when overplaying and then attempting an offload as he fell to the ground, gifting possession straight back when a try might have been in the offing.

Thomas Flegler then gave the ball away in the second half when the Broncos were in with a chance of retaking the lead – as it was, the Warriors went on to clinch the win with three tries in the final 12 minutes.

The reality of the Broncos' situation was too much for some players at full-time, with Alex Glenn and Brodie Croft seen crying as a sixth defeat on the bounce was confirmed.

There were contrasting emotions for the Panthers, however, as they came out on top 19-12 at Wests Tigers in a tightly contested affair.

A feisty encounter was deadlocked at 12-12 heading into the final stages, but a field goal courtesy of Nathan Cleary in the 71st minute put the pressure back on Tigers and they were unable to rise to the occasion.

Dylan Edwards went over soon after and a Cleary conversion gave the Tigers too much to do, with Penrith going second in the ladder.

The most dominant performance of the day came in Robina, however, as Cronulla Sharks crushed the Gold Coast Titans 40-10 to claim a third consecutive win.

A tight first half saw Cronulla take a slender 12-10 lead into the break, but it was a completely different story in the second period as the Sharks cruised to victory despite having lost full-back Matt Moylan to a hamstring injury, moving them up to seventh.

John Bateman will be back in Super League next year after signing a long-term deal to rejoin Wigan Warriors.

The England international departed Wigan after helping them to Grand Final glory over Warrington Wolves in 2018, opting to continue his career in the NRL as he moved to Canberra Raiders.

Bateman impressed in his debut season Down Under too, becoming a key part of a Raiders squad that lost to Sydney Roosters in the Grand Final as he was named Dally M Second Rower of the Year.

A shoulder injury has prevented him from playing so far this season and Canberra recently confirmed they had agreed to release the 26-year-old from the final year of his contract.

While linked with Canterbury Bulldogs, Bateman is instead heading back to his homeland in 2021. Wigan confirmed his return on Friday, the forward signing a four-year deal with a further option for a fifth season.

"I'm very happy to be returning to Wigan on a long-term contract," Bateman said. 

"On a personal level, some of the best times of my life have been in a Wigan shirt and I can't wait to return, to play and make some more memories. 

"It's been a tough decision but to be back to Wigan, to be at home with my little girl, my mum and the rest of my family is something I can't wait to experience once again.

"I still have plenty of unfinished business with the Raiders and my focus now is to get myself back on the pitch as soon as possible and put myself in the frame for selection."

Wigan had first refusal on Bateman if he decided to move back to Super League - an option they were delighted to take up to secure "one of the best players in the world", according to executive director Kris Radlinski.

"Wigan are thrilled to be bringing John back to the DW Stadium," Radlinski said.

"John is one of the best players in the world. He has the respect of players and coaches in both hemispheres and is a natural born competitor and leader.

"We've been extremely proud to see him take the NRL by storm in 2019 and we've always looked forward to welcoming him back to Wigan when the opportunity presented itself.

"We had an agreement with him that, should he come back to Super League, then we would have first option on him. As he's entering the prime years of his playing career, I think it's a real coup for Super League to have a player of his calibre return to the competition."

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