Israel Folau is no longer wanted by St George Illawarra Dragons after the NRL club confirmed it had ceased discussions to sign the former Australia international.

Folau, whose Rugby Australia contract was terminated in 2019 for a "high-level breach" after the 31-year-old posted hell awaits "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters" on Instagram, plies his trade with Super League outfit Catalans Dragons.

But St George Illawarra had been looking to lure him back to his home country, with the club having approached the NRL over the matter.

However, a brief statement released by the club on Wednesday revealed the chase was now at an end.

"While the Dragons did enquire about signing Folau, the club can confirm that such discussions have now ceased," it read.

Folau's move to Catalans in January last year prompted widespread criticism, with head coach Steve McNamara confessing: "We knew it would be controversial."

 

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.

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.

North Queensland Cowboys' Valentine Holmes scored a golden point as his side edged out St George Illawarra Dragons 23-22 to all but end the visitors' NRL Finals hopes.

Having come into Saturday's clash on the back of a nine-game losing streak, the Cowboys lifted themselves two points clear of the foot of the table in dramatic fashion.

Francis Molo had put the hosts ahead in Townsville, but tries from Euan Aitken and Mikaele Ravalawa turned things around by half-time.

Jake Clifford and the Dragons' Jacob Host exchanged tries early in the second half, before Holmes and Kyle Feldt swung the momentum back in the Cowboys' favour.

Zac Lomax's penalty levelled things up, with Corey Norman then sending a drop-goal attempt wide in added time, setting the stage for Holmes to clinch the victory.

The defeat leaves the Dragons in 11th place, six points behind the top eight.

In Sunday's earlier clash, Chanel Harris-Tavita's fine individual display was not enough for New Zealand Warriors as they went down 24-18 to Parramatta Eels.

It was a gritty performance from the Eels, who responded well to a 38-0 defeat to South Syndey Rabbitohs last time out.

Harris-Tavita scored two tries and converted six points, yet a late penalty from Mitchell Moses ensured a six-point win for the third-placed Eels.

Sydney Roosters ran in 10 tries as the miserable Brisbane Broncos began life without head coach Anthony Seibold with a 58-12 defeat at the SCG.

Seibold departed this week following a sixth successive loss and Peter Gentle, who will be at the helm for the rest of the season, was unable to pull off an upset against the reigning premiers.

Sitili Tupouniua powered through for the opening score in the fifth minute and he played a crucial role in a try for James Tedesco, who went over after Isaac Liu.

Tupouniua doubled his tally in the 27th minute but Kotoni Staggs ensured the Broncos did not go into half-time scoreless with his ninth try in 10 games this year.

The onslaught from the Roosters continued soon after the restart, though, with Josh Morris and Daniel Tupou touching down by the 46th minute.

A fine individual effort from David Fifita reduced the arrears, but Nat Butcher streaked clear before Morris and Tupou bagged braces.

The impressive Kyle Flanagan slotted through a ninth successful conversion after Brett Morris capped a resounding victory that closed the gap to the third-placed Parramatta Eels, who were thumped by South Sydney Rabbitohs on Thursday, to two points.

Jamal Fogarty was the hero as Gold Coast Titans rallied from 10-4 down in the final five minutes to beat St George Illawarra Dragons 14-10.

Tyron Peachey touched down after Fogarty's grubber bounced kindly off the padding around the post, and the Titans half-back successfully converted to restore parity.

Fogarty ensure there was no need for golden point extra time, finding a way over after an excellent line break from Alex Brimson to seal a second win in seven games and hurt the Dragons' finals hopes.

Head coach Ivan Cleary hailed a "really cool" performance from Liam Martin that drove the Panthers to a 38-12 win over the Sharks, a 10th successive victory for the team. 

The back-rower was outstanding and grabbed the fifth of seven tries for the leaders, with Josh Mansour crossing for a double on his 150th NRL appearance. 

Martin signed a new two-year contract this week and showed his worth to Cleary with an all-action display. 

"That's really cool," Cleary told a post-game news conference. "For that performance it just shows the character of him and he had a huge impact in our performance tonight." 

Viliame Kikau set the Panthers on the way to a comfortable win with a third-minute opening try, with Mansour and Brent Naden dotting down before the 20-minute mark. 

Stephen Crichton went over before the break, with Martin, Jarome Luai and Mansour adding second-half scores. Jesse Ramien and Connor Tracey grabbed the Sharks' consolation tries. 

Cleary said of the team's performance: "It was very good, but there's still things that we need to fix. 

"I don't mean to be arrogant or disrespectful to the Sharks or anything. We're confident we're doing a lot of things right, but there's little lessons again tonight, little things again in our game from week to week, that whether individual or from a team we can still improve on and the boys know that." 

Dean Young made a winning start to his coaching career as St George Illawarra Dragons landed a 28-24 win over Brisbane Broncos. 

Two tries from Mikaele Ravalawa and one each for Josh Kerr and Corey Norman, who both crossed in the opening five minutes, were supplemented by 12 points from the boot of Zac Lomax. 

Young, a former star forward for the Dragons, took over following the departure of Paul McGregor, seizing the chance to guide the team through the rest of their season. 

The Broncos trailed by just two points when Kotoni Staggs added the extras to Tom Dearden's 69th-minute try, but the Dragons held out, with Lomax's third penalty at the death putting the seal on their success.

Mitchell Aubusson scored a try in his 300th NRL appearance as the in-form Sydney Roosters beat St George Illawarra Dragons 24-16 on Thursday.

Aubusson became only the 40th player to reach the landmark and the one-club man marked the occasion in style, scoring the second of five Roosters tries at WIN Stadium.

Joseph Manu crossed in the first minute in Wollongong and Aubusson crashed over to put the two-time defending premiers 10-0 up after 13 minutes.

The Dragons, reeling from back-to-back defeats, hit back and were level at the break following a double from Zac Lomax, who converted one of his scores.

Luke Keary starred in the second half, laying on a try for Sitili Tupouniua and scoring one of his own after Manu dotted down for his second of the night.

Matt Dufty scored a third Dragons try in the closing stages, but the Roosters had a third consecutive win in a row in the bag by then to sit three points behind leaders Penrith Panthers, in fourth place.

South Sydney Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett and St George Illawarra Dragons prop Paul Vaughan will go into self-isolation amid coronavirus concerns.

Bennett and Vaughan breached NRL biosecurity protocols by dining separately at restaurants.

The pair have been placed in a 14-day "COVID Hold" and they will isolate for two weeks and must test negative for coronavirus before returning.

"We are living in extraordinary times and we must do everything in our power to ensure the health and safety of our players, staff and the general community," NRL acting chief executive Andrew Abdo said.

"This is a regrettable decision but today's actions will operate as an important reminder to our players and staff about the importance of strict adherence to the protocols.

"Our players and staff have made significant sacrifices to ensure the season can proceed. I have sympathy for the liberties they have had to give up and I am proud of how well the overwhelming majority have complied with our protocols.

"We have worked closely with governments, biosecurity experts and our clubs to ensure a successful and entertaining season and today's enforcement of protocols will ensure no risk to the playing groups or the general community."

The Rabbitohs and Dragons are battling to finish in the top eight and face the Brisbane Broncos and Sydney Roosters respectively in round 13.

Warrington Wolves coach Steve Price says he was "blindsided" by reports that Gareth Widdop could return to St George Illawarra Dragons.

News Corp this week reported that Widdop wanted to head back to the NRL for personal reasons just seven months after signing a three-year deal with Warrington.

It was claimed Corey Norman had been offered to the Wolves in exchange for Widdop after the Dragons five-eighth was dropped for the clash with Sydney Roosters.

Price has ruled out the possibility of half-back Widdop leaving the Super League club as they prepare to return to action against Hull KR on Saturday following a hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.

He told reporters on Wednesday: "I was totally blindsided by that. Gareth is really happy at our club.

"He's really enjoyed his time here at Warrington Wolves. He is contracted here for a number of years now and the player that has been linked to us – that will definitely not be happening. He would not even come into my thought process."

Dragons coach Paul McGregor was also surprised by talk of Widdop and Norman swapping clubs.

He said earlier in the day: "The first time [Norman] hasn't been picked in 18 months at the club and we're talking about Gareth coming back already.

"That's too unfair at this raw stage to even talk about it. And it hasn't been mentioned to me with the recruitment either.

"I have not been told anything about that and it's just so unfair to the player, in Corey, that's here. We want Corey to play well this year."

Alex Johnston scored a hat-trick as South Sydney Rabbitohs overcame a 16-point deficit to defeat St George-Illawarra Dragons 32-24 in Thursday's NRL clash.

The Rabbitohs were 16-0 down when Matthew Dufty ran in his second try of the game after 16 minutes either side of Euan Aitken's score at the Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, but Wayne Bennett's side came back in style.

Four unanswered tries from Cody Walker, Johnston and Latrell Mitchell levelled the scores by half-time.

Johnston's second score continued the Rabbitohs' momentum after the restart, though Tyson Frizell latched onto a grubber to restore parity with 25 minutes remaining.

Yet the Rabbitohs had the bit between their teeth – Walker helping himself to a second before Johnston raced over to complete his hat-trick after intercepting Tristan Sailor's sloppy pass.

Mikaele Ravalawa snatched a late consolation for the Dragons, but the visitors ultimately won with ease as they moved into the top eight.

Canberra Raiders rallied impressively to beat South Sydney Rabbitohs on Saturday, while there were also wins for Cronulla Sharks and Sydney Roosters.

The Rabbitohs led 12-10 midway through the contest at a rain-soaked GIO Stadium, Dane Gagai and Adam Reynolds crossing for tries that the latter also converted.

However, the depleted Raiders - who lost Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad to a finger injury - shut out their opponents in the second half, allowing them to overturn the narrow deficit and claim an 18-12 victory.

After Nick Cotric and Jarrod Croker had grabbed tries in the opening half, Semi Valemei touched down in the NRL for the first time just before the hour mark. Ricky Stuart's side then stood firm in difficult conditions to prevail, meaning they move to fifth in the standings.

The Roosters are just above them after they triumphed 18-10 against the New Zealand Warriors, though the reigning champions made hard work of it at Central Coast Stadium.

Ken Maumalo and Eliesa Katoa scored tries as the Warriors led 10-6 at the break. However, Luke Keary and Joseph Manu went over to help the Roosters rally.

Cronulla sit seventh in the ladder after Shaun Johnson inspired the Sharks to a 28-24 triumph over the St George Illawarra Dragons.

The New Zealand half-back scored a try and kicked four conversions as the Sharks overcame injuries to Jesse Ramien and Chad Townsend, while Zac Lomax had 16 points for the beaten Dragons.

Following an incident in the game, the NRL announced bunker officials Steve Clark and Ben Galea had been dropped after incorrectly awarding a try to Cronulla's Jack Williams, who was ruled to have touched the ball down despite Matthew Dufty appearing to ground it first.

Maika Sivo scored four tries as NRL leaders Parramatta Eels hammered North Queensland Cowboys 42-4 and there was a happy homecoming for Canberra Raiders on Friday.

The Eels showed they can cope without the injured Mitchell Moses at Bankwest Stadium, where Sivo starred and Clinton Gutherson also tormented the sorry Cowboys.

Tries from Michael Jennings, Sivo and Waqa Blake put Brad Arthur's side in command before Tom Opacic crossed to put the Cowboys on the board late in the first half.

North Queensland were unable to contain the leaders after the break, Jai Field touching down and Gutherson providing a third assist for Sivo with a pinpoint cutout pass before the wing completed his treble in the corner.

Sivo was handed a fourth try on a plate with eight minutes to play and full-back Gutherson took his tally with the boot to 14 points with a late penalty as the Eels moved two points clear at the summit.

Canberra responded to back-to-back defeats with a 22-16 defeat of St George-Illawarra Dragon in their first match at GIO Stadium since the resumption.

The Raiders, who this week confirmed John Bateman will leave at the end of the season, scored 22 points - 10 coming from Jarrod Croker - without reply but had to withstand a Dragons fightback to move up to fifth.

George Williams was among the four Raiders try-scorers, but their victory came at a cost as Iosia Soliola, Elliott Whitehead and Emre Guler joined the injury list.

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.

Melbourne Storm and Sydney Roosters overcame injuries to star players to record NRL wins over New Zealand Warriors and St George Illawarra Dragons.

The Storm ran in nine tries - three of which were scored by Suliasi Vunivalu - in a 50-6 thrashing of the Warriors.

However, they lost Cameron Munster to a knee ligament injury that is expected to keep him out for at least the next four weeks.

Meanwhile, the Roosters, who were already without James Tedesco and Josh Morris, had Victor Radley and Sam Verrills go off with suspected anterior cruciate ligament injuries in a battling 26-12 triumph over the Dragons.

Munster sustained his knee injury four minutes into the Storm's contest but continued until half-time before calling it a night, with Melbourne already 22-0 up.

As well as Vunivalu's treble, Paul Momirovski and Ryan Papenhuyzen both crossed twice while Brandon Smith and Josh Addo-Carr scored late tries to go along with Cameron Smith's 14 points from the boot.

Melbourne face the Roosters next, and they could meet a Sydney team depleted by injuries after Radley and Verrills both suffered possibly serious knee problems in the first half against the Dragons.

Sydney went 10-0 up through tries from Brett Morris and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves - the second coming after Tedesco's stand-in Joey Manu had collected his own kick and flicked a brilliant no-look pass to the try-scorer.

The Dragons fought back, though, courtesy of scores from Mikaele Ravalawa and Zac Lomax, who then slotted over a 46th-minute penalty to put them ahead.

Yet Brett Morris - the brother of Josh - completed a second-half hat-trick either side of a score from Luke Keary to move the Roosters up to second.

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.

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