The Melbourne Storm have marched to their 14th win in a row, shrugging off the travel blues to crush Newcastle 48-4 while maintaining top spot on the ladder in Robina.
In the earlier match on the Gold Coast, Canberra defeated Cronulla 34-18, while the Sydney Roosters won by the same scoreline against North Queensland in Townsville.
The Storm’s first home match in 78 days was relocated late this week to Robina due to the COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria, but the competition heavyweights put the disruption aside to continue their red-hot winning streak.
The Knights turned up with the wrong jumpers after leaving their blue strip back in Newcastle, forcing both teams to wear predominantly white, and the error appeared an omen for their night.
The Storm were minus State of Origin stars Josh Addo-Carr and Christian Welch, while the Knights had some big names out through injury, with stars prop Daniel Saifiti and halfback Mitchell Pearce missing.
NSW back rower Dale Finucane was also a first-half casualty for the Storm after suffering a head knock that ended his night after 30 minutes.
But it did the premiers little harm as they raced the clock in the first half.
They were up 18-0 after 18 minutes with Justin Olam, Cameron Munster and George Jennings collecting the early spoils, while fullback Nicho Hynes added the extras.
The Storm were out to a match-winning 30-0 by half-time with crafty half-back Jahrome Hughes and Hynes both showing their class to touch down to add to the tally of eight for the match.
Hughes left the field with a calf twinge after racing 65 metres from the Knights tryline to set up the Storm’s sixth try, scored by Reimis Smith.
Coming off a big win over North Queensland in their last outing, the Knights had high hopes but their disappointing showing put a dent in their top eight ambitions and they now sit 10th with half the round completed.
They were not helped by the loss of Maroons star Kalyn Ponga just before half-time, with the full-back bumped by Melbourne’s Dean Ieremia awkwardly into the shoulder of Tui Kamikamica.
Ponga went to ground but appeared to shrug it off only to leave the field a minute later and fail his HIA. The Knights also lost veteran prop Dave Klemmer to a head knock early on.
Newcastle’s English import Dom Young made amends for two early errors to cross for his team’s sole try, with the winger diving over in the corner after 55 minutes, but there was little else to celebrate for his side.
Roosters overhaul Cowboys
An electric performance by Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow was not enough for North Queensland to get a win in Townsville, as the fast-finishing Sydney Roosters claimed a tense victory.
Tabuai-Fidow continued an unforgettable week, which included making a triumphant State of Origin debut for Queensland, with another superb outing on his home turf.
Filling in for injured star Valentine Holmes at fullback, Tabuai-Fidow lit up the crowd when his breathtaking 90-metre run set up Reece Robson’s try in the 62nd minute to level the score at 18-18.
But it was the Roosters’ own young gun in Sam Walker who delivered the hammer blow, setting up Sitili Tupouniua for the go-ahead try before sealing the contest himself in the closing stages.
Winger Matt Ikuvalu backed up his record five-try haul on his last visit to Townsville by completing his double on the full-time siren.
It was a hard-fought victory for Trent Robinson’s undermanned outfit, who were also without rested captain James Tedesco following Origin III on Wednesday.
Ikuvalu, together with fill-in fullback Joseph Manu and Daniel Tupou, formed a back three that combined for an impressive 557 metres, 20 tackle busts, six line breaks, and three tries.
Walker’s halves partner, Drew Hutchison, set up three tries in the first half before Walker took over in the second period with two of his own.
It was a shattering loss for the Cowboys, who missed 50 tackles and have now dropped a season-high five on the trot, leaving them entrenched in the bottom half of the ladder.
Tabuai-Fidow, playing his first match at fullback this season, finished with a career-high 257 run metres, nine tackle busts, and two line breaks to go with a first-half try.
The home side started brightly, opening with a Javid Bowen try in the fifth minute, before Tabuai-Fidow sent the locals into a frenzy with a 30-metre sprint to breeze past Manu.
They should have had a third try had Tom Dearden found support after breaking into the backfield.
It was an opportunity missed as the Roosters dominated thereafter, with Hutchison almost single-handedly turning a 12-point deficit into a two-point half-time lead.
The back-up playmaker sent Angus Crichton and Billy Smith over in the space of 10 minutes, before finding Manu on the stroke of half-time, all down the Cowboys’ right edge.
Compounding the defeat for the Cowboys was the citing of second-rower Shane Wright for a first-half crusher tackle while Bowen taken from the field in a medicab with a right knee injury.
Savage stars in Raiders’ win
Livewire full-back Xavier Savage has helped the Raiders overcome a Jack Wighton injury and boost their finals hopes with a 34-18 win over Cronulla.
Wighton left the field with 20 minutes to go after suffering an accidental Sione Katoa boot to the sternum in the first half, with the match in the balance.
But Savage and second rower Corey Harawira-Naera stood up for the entire 80 minutes, tormenting Cronulla’s poor edge defence on the Gold Coast.
A month after being handed an illegal NRL debut as an 18th man, Savage bagged his maiden NRL try and bust through eight tackles in a sign of the 19-year-old’s spark.
He also burst through in the lead-up to another try just after half-time, while doing it all with an apparent shoulder injury.
It helped mark the Raiders’ first back-to-back wins since round one and two, as they crept into ninth on the ladder and only behind the Sharks on for-and-against.
But the match was not without drama.
Canberra’s first points came from an eight-point try, when Braydon Trindall clipped Jordan Rapana’s chin as the winger scored from a brilliant Harawira-Naera offload.
The contact was hardly forceful, but was high enough for the bunker to give the Raiders the shot at the extra two points.
The Sharks were also left to rue a crucial penalty on half-time when leading 12-10, after Katoa was penalised for taking Jordan Rapana out of a kick contest.
Katoa had claimed Rapana had in fact taken him out, but his cries fell on deaf ears as Jarrod Croker levelled the scores on the break.
And there was more drama when Cronulla led 18-16 midway through the second half, when Jesse Ramien was pinged for a shoulder charge for a seemingly front-on shot on Rapana.
From the next set Hudson Young capitalised by running past Shaun Johnson to score before further tries to Savage and Semi Valemei.
Regardless though, the Sharks could only blame themselves.
They missed 49 tackles and completed their sets at only 76 per cent, struggling to get any ball in good territory early.
Johnson was the worst offender, missing seven tackles on his own while also having next to no impact in attack.