Liam Martin scored a memorable leaping effort as Penrith Panthers made a statement of intent by defeating potential Finals rivals Parramatta Eels 20-2 to rack up a 13th straight NRL win.

Table-topping Penrith led 6-2 at the end of a low-scoring first half at Panthers Stadium on Friday, with Josh Mansour diving over from Jarome Luai's pass at the siren.

But the Eels eventually caved under a barrage of attacks, having held up several efforts in the first half, with Martin athletically snaring the ball out of the air to touch down in the 56th minute.

Luai went over in the final stages as well to add gloss to the scoreline and provide the third-place Eels a reminder of the task they could potentially face come Finals time in October.

In Friday's other contest, Manly Sea Eagles triumphed 32-20 at rock-bottom Canterbury Bulldogs with Taniela Paseka, Curtis Sironen, Brad Parker, Jack Gosiewski, Morgan Harper and Martin Taupau all scoring in the six-try effort.

The win was soured slightly by late injuries to Cade Cust (ankle) and Addin Fonua-Blake (knee). The former is expected to miss the final two rounds, while the latter is doubtful to play against Gold Coast Titans next week.

An emphatic NRL victory for Melbourne Storm was marred by a suspected ACL rupture for centre Marion Seve.

Melbourne cruised to a 30-6 triumph over Manly Sea Eagles at Sunshine Coast Stadium on Sunday, scoring six tries and 24 unanswered points to all but end their opponents' finals hopes.

But the joy of victory was tempered as Seve was pummelled by Tevita Funa after an early line break, with his team later confirming that his knee injury was thought to be to his ACL.

Prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona also suffered a calf problem in a contest that saw Justin Olam score a hat-trick for Storm.

Josh Addo-Carr added a double and Asofa-Solomona dotted down for the side sitting second in the NRL ladder, with fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen providing three assists and Jesse Bromwich impressing at prop.

Addin Fonua-Blake scored the Sea Eagles' only try after 14 minutes but they were unable to add to that and now sit six points behind Cronulla Sharks in eighth with just four rounds remaining.

In the other game, Canberra Raiders overcame a scare to boost their hopes of a top-four finish by wiping out an eight-point half-time deficit against Canterbury Bulldogs in an entertaining encounter that produced 10 tries.

A 34-20 home success saw Jack Wighton and Tom Starling score two tries apiece, with the Bulldogs, who remain bottom of the standings, held scoreless in the second half.

Wighton produced two superb runs to finish from close range early in the second half after Starling had been sin-binned, turning the match and giving his side a sixth win from seven.

The Penrith Panthers matched a club record with an eighth straight win as they showed why they belong at the top of the NRL table.

A 28-12 win over the Canberra Raiders on Saturday came thanks to tries from Viliame Kikau, Liam Martin, the prolific Stephen Crichton and Brent Naden that all arrived before half-time.

Canberra trailed 24-0 at the break but cut their deficit after the break thanks to a double from Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad; however, Nathan Cleary's kicking for the Panthers kept them at arm's length.

The Panthers first won eight in a row in the 2003 season, when they went on to win the Grand Final.

The Melbourne Storm had briefly nudged ahead of the Panthers with a 41-10 success against the Canterbury Bulldogs earlier in the day, with Josh Addo-Carr and Kenneath Bromwich both dotting down twice.

Nicho Hynes, Justin Olam and Suliasi Vunivalu also poached tries, with the Storm having posted 22 points in their onslaught before the Bulldogs, who sit at the foot of the ladder, troubled the scoreboard.

The only setback for the Storm was a knee injury sustained by Cameron Munster that could see him miss several weeks of action.

The Storm were not the day's biggest winners, with that honour going to the Newcastle Knights who thumped Wests Tigers 44-4 to climb to sixth place.

Kalyn Ponga grabbed two tries and booted 12 points in a lively display, with Hymel Hunt, Starford To'a, Jacob Saifiti, Herman Ese'ese, Gehamat Shibasaki and Phoenix Crossland also scoring.

Veteran Blake Green made a bright Knights debut after joining in midweek from the New Zealand Warriors, feeding Ponga for the opening try in the ninth minute and winning praise from half-back partner and captain Mitchell Pearce.

"What a super player Greenie is and what a great pick-up for us," Pearce said, quoted on the NRL website. "In the short time I've met him you can tell what a good guy he is.

"I've heard such good raps on him from other players at other clubs and he is really calm, really smart."

Trent Barrett has been confirmed as the Canterbury Bulldogs' head coach on a three-year deal beginning in 2021.

The former NRL star will finish the season with the Penrith Panthers, where he is an assistant coach, before taking over at the struggling Bulldogs.

Canterbury and Dean Pay parted ways earlier this month and the Bulldogs have won just one of 10 games this season.

"I'd like to thank the Canterbury-Bankstown Club for appointing me to the position of head coach and for giving me the opportunity to become part of the Bulldogs family," Barrett said in a statement on Wednesday.

"The club has a long and proud history of success in rugby league and is a club founded on strong work ethics and family values. I look forward to, and am excited by, the challenges ahead in terms of making this club a serious competition force again.  

"I would also like to thank the Panthers for their support and understanding, As my job there is not yet done, and out of respect to the Panthers, I will not be making any further comment until the conclusion of the season."

Barrett, a former St George Illawarra Dragons, Australia and New South Wales star as a player, previously coached the Manly Sea Eagles from 2016 to 2018, winning 29 of 73 NRL matches at the helm.

Bulldogs chief executive Andrew Hill was excited by the appointment of Barrett.

"We have acted swiftly to secure the services of Trent because we believe he is the right man to take our club forward. Having spoken to Trent on a number of occasions we have been impressed with his vision for the future of our football team and how he will look to develop our players on and off the field," he said.

"Trent has been around the game a long time and has a great knowledge of football and how to bring the best out of players. We all look forward to him joining the Bulldogs family at the end of this season."

The Canterbury Bulldogs have signed Canberra Raiders star Nick Cotric on a three-year deal beginning in 2021.

Cotric, an Australia and New South Wales representative, has scored 37 tries in 80 games for the Raiders since making his NRL debut three years ago.

The 21-year-old helped the Raiders reach the Grand Final last year before they fell to the Sydney Roosters.

He will join the struggling Bulldogs from next year after signing a three-year deal.

"Signing a player of Nick's ability and class is a massive boost for our club moving forward and another step in strengthening our squad to lead us into the future," Bulldogs chief executive Andrew Hill said.

"With Luke Thompson having joined us and Nick now bringing some great strike power to our backline I am confident that we are constructing the quality of squad that can produce the results we are looking for in the coming seasons."

While the Raiders are sixth in the NRL, the Bulldogs are bottom after losing nine of their 10 games this season.

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.

Bankwest Stadium will host three games in round eight of the NRL season after an inspection was carried out in response to concerns raised over the state of the field.

Sydney Roosters duo Victor Radley and Sam Verrills both suffered serious knee injuries during the first half of their team's 26-12 victory over St George-Illawarra Dragons last Friday.

However, following an independent examination of the playing surface, the venue has been cleared for use.

"We had two really unfortunate season-ending injuries there and no one ever wants to see that," NRL head of football Graham Annesley said.

"The fact they happened so close together did raise questions and the NRL acted quickly. By close of business that night we had organised an independent inspection of the field the next morning.

"That took place and the detailed report we received was an assessment across the field in many different points.

"They took readings for traction, firmness and any other gauge to determine the quality of a professional sporting field.

"All of those readings came back to an acceptable range. The Rugby League Players Association were in attendance for that and they were satisfied."

Annesley also confirmed that plans to replace the field have been moved forward, adding: "They started that process late last night. By the time we get to round eight this week it will effectively be a brand new surface."

Parramatta Eels against North Queensland Cowboys will kick off the action at the ground on Friday. 

Wests Tigers will then take on table-topping Penrith Panthers the following day, while the trio of fixtures at Bankwest Stadium will be completed on Sunday when the Canterbury Bulldogs meet the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

Meanwhile, a number of clubs have been granted permission to play at their respective homes again.

Canberra Raiders are to host the Dragons at GIO Stadium, Gold Coast Titans will be back at Cbus Super Stadium for their clash with Cronulla Sharks and Manly Sea Eagles return to Lottoland to take on Newcastle Knights.

The Canterbury Bulldogs' players and staff have been given the all-clear after undergoing coronavirus tests.

The Bulldogs' NRL clash with the Sydney Roosters was postponed from Sunday to Monday after a teacher at a school attended by one of prop Aiden Tolman's children tested positive for COVID-19.

Players and staff underwent tests, with Tolman among those testing negative, although the 31-year-old will not face the Roosters.

A statement released by Canterbury on Monday said: "All Bulldogs players and staff within the club 'bubble' have been given clearance after undergoing COVID-19 tests yesterday.

"The results of the tests were relayed to the club this afternoon.

"Aiden Tolman and his family were also cleared after tests and Aiden will now follow isolation protocols until being given permission by the NRL to train with the Bulldogs squad again."

The Bulldogs have lost three of their opening four games of the NRL season ahead of their clash with the Roosters.

Aiden Tolman tested negative for coronavirus after the Canterbury Bulldogs' clash against the Sydney Roosters was postponed.

The Bulldogs-Roosters clash was pushed back to Monday from Sunday after a teacher at a school attended by one of Tolman's children tested positive for COVID-19.

Tolman was put into isolation and underwent a test, which came back negative on Sunday.

"Bulldogs prop Aiden Tolman has been given the all clear after his COVID-19 test came back negative," a Bulldogs statement read.

The Bulldogs have lost three of their opening four games of the season, while the Roosters are 2-2.

State of Origin will be played in November as the NRL released its full revised draw on Thursday.

The NRL is set to resume its season next week amid the coronavirus pandemic, with the marquee series between Queensland and New South Wales moved.

Origin will be played on November 4, 11 and 18, with venues yet to be finalised, it was announced on Thursday.

"The changes to the schedule this year have allowed Origin to be played after the grand final – which is a first for the game, 40 years after the birth of the country's biggest sporting rivalry," NRL interim chief executive Andrew Abdo said in a statement.

The NRL Grand Final is set to be held on October 25, with the season already reduced to a 20-round schedule.

The season restarts on May 28, when Brisbane Broncos will host Parramatta Eels.

 

Best round three Opta facts:

- Broncos v Eels: Parramatta have won four of their past six games against Brisbane.
- Cowboys v Titans: North Queensland are on a nine-match winning streak against Gold Coast.
- Roosters v Rabbitohs: South Sydney's Campbell Graham has crossed for a try in each of his past three NRL games.
- Warriors v Dragons: New Zealand have lost five of their past six NRL games played in Australia, with the defeats coming by an average margin of 20 points.
- Sharks v Tigers: Wests have lost their past six games against Cronulla.
- Storm v Raiders: These two teams are the only sides yet to concede a try in the first half of a game this season.
- Panthers v Knights: Penrith have won nine of their 12 games without Nathan Cleary, who is suspended, since his debut.
- Sea Eagles v Bulldogs: Canterbury have made 30 errors across their opening two NRL games of the season.

The NRL has cancelled the registrations of Canterbury Bulldogs duo Jayden Okunbor and Corey Harawira-Naera for "a very serious breach of the code of conduct".

The move comes after the governing body's show-cause process established significant misconduct by both players ahead of a trial match in Port Macquarie on February 29.

According to a statement from the Bulldogs, who consequently cancelled Okunbor and Harawira-Naera's contracts, the victims of the pair's misconduct were young women.

NRL CEO Todd Greenberg confirmed the sanction in a strongly worded statement on Wednesday. 

"The behaviour of both players was inexcusable and a very serious breach of the code of conduct," he said. 

"The game will not tolerate such conduct and as such both players have had their registrations cancelled. 

"This decision should send a very clear message to all players of our stance on such behaviour."

A Bulldogs statement added: "An important part of the role of being a professional rugby league player is to promote the game and act as an ambassador for your club and the code.

"There can be no tolerance for any abuse of the privileged status the game affords its leading players.

"The consequences of this matter have been serious and far-reaching and protecting the welfare of the young women involved has been a priority for us since we were first alerted to this issue."

 

World sport might still be at the mercy of the coronavirus pandemic, but Thursday still has a solid offering of events.

Regional matches in Brazil are in something of a limbo as authorities decide whether or not to press ahead with games, but the top tier in Belarus gets underway.

It is also a big day for Australia, with the NRL resuming and the 2020 AFL campaign kicking off in Melbourne, albeit both will be behind closed doors.

There is also some golf, where Sweden's Anna Nordqvist is the quality act in the field.

 

Energetik-BGU v BATE - Belarusian Premier League

Probably Belarus' most recognisable club, BATE saw a 13-year title-winning streak ended by Dynamo Brest in 2019.

Kirill Alshevsky, now in charge after stepping up from the reserves, will be keen to start 2020 in commanding fashion against a side they beat twice last season.

Richmond Tigers v Carlton Blues - AFL

Aussie Rules football gets underway at the MCG on Thursday, where fans will not be allowed in to watch due to restrictions on mass gatherings of more than 100 people.

The season begins with 2019 champions Richmond Tigers taking on the Carlton Blues.

 

Bulldogs v Cowboys - NRL

The second round of the NRL begins with the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs facing the North Queensland Cowboys. Both sides are looking for their first points of the new season.

As with the AFL, the competition will be proceeding behind closed doors due to government measures against coronavirus.

Cactus Open - Golf

Much of golf might be shelved for the time being, but the Cactus Open - a feeder tour for professionals in the women's game - gets underway

Anna Nordqvist impressed in a traditionally all-male Moon Valley Classic last week, hitting a bogey-free round of 64, and she is the firm favourite.

 

Pamplemousses v Petite Riviere Noire - Mauritian Premier League

Reigning champions Pamplemousses have not enjoyed the best season, winning only four of 12 league games, but a win on Thursday will move them above Petite Riviere Noire and into fifth.

He may be heading over 15,000 kilometres from home, but Sonny Bill Williams is back where it all began.

The 34-year-old has returned to rugby league after signing a lucrative two-year deal with Super League newcomers Toronto Wolfpack.

It is another fascinating move for the New Zealander, who has represented his country in both codes, holds a 7-0 record in professional boxing and was Googled more often than Kim Kardashian by Kiwis in 2010.

Here, we take a look at Williams' career so far.

BULLDOGS BEGINNINGS

Fifteen years ago Williams, then 18, burst onto the scene with a brilliant display in his NRL debut as Canterbury Bulldogs thrashed Parramatta Eels 48-14.

The teenager scored a try and made 184 metres that night and, one month later, he became New Zealand's youngest ever Test player.

Canterbury went on to win the 2004 NRL Grand Final, with Williams coming off the bench in the victory. A star was born.

TO TOULON

After four seasons with the Bulldogs, Williams controversially switched codes, and countries, joining Top 14 side Toulon, despite having five years left to run on his deal with Canterbury.

A bitter court case followed, and Williams only spent two years in France before turning down an extension that would have reportedly made him the highest-paid player in union.

Williams had other ideas. He wanted to become an All Black.

WORLD CUP WINNER

Williams signed a contract with the New Zealand Rugby Union in 2010 and returned to Canterbury, this time with the region's union team, while representing the Crusaders in Super Rugby.

He made his much-anticipated All Blacks debut in November 2010, starting at outside centre against England, becoming the first man in almost a century to represent the country in both league and union.

New Zealand would end their long wait for a second World Cup title in 2011, with Williams scoring a World Cup record three tries as a substitute.

A HIT AT HEAVYWEIGHT

In 2009, Williams traded passes for punches when he made his debut as a professional boxer, stopping Gary Gurr in the second round.

That was thought to be a one-off but Williams clearly had a taste for the sweet science and he fought four more fights - winning them all - before taking on a title shot against Francois Botha in 2013.

Williams would walk away with the WBA International Heavyweight belt with a points win over a man who had fought Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis previously.

However, there was an element of farce to the bout as it was cut short by two rounds, with the Kiwi clearly struggling by the end of the 10th.

RULING THE ROOST

Five years after his last NRL appearance - and after a stint in Japan - Williams returned to league with the Sydney Roosters, scoring a try on his debut in front of a record crowd.

He would be named the Roosters' player of the year that season and won a second NRL title.

Already a World Cup winner in union, he came close to claiming league's most coveted international prize too but was part of the New Zealand side beaten by Australia in the 2013 final.

Another return to union followed, though, and Williams added another World Cup winners' medal to his collection with the All Blacks in 2015.

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