Parramatta has catapulted back into top-four contention after ending the Melbourne Storm’s chance of setting a new record for consecutive wins with a 22-10 victory at Lang Park.
In the earlier match in Brisbane, Cronulla beat the Broncos 24-16, while North Queensland triumphed 38-26 over St George Illawarra in Rockhampton.
On the night most tipped the Storm to become the first team in history to register 20 straight wins, the reigning premiers ended up recording their first loss in Queensland since 2017.
Star winger Josh Addo-Carr finished the night on the sideline with a hamstring injury, while Harry Grant, Brandon Smith and Jesse Bromwich all found themselves on report.
Each of the trio could face bans, with Bromwich in the most trouble for a crusher tackle on Isaiah Papali’i in the first half.
Grant could find himself in strife for making dangerous contact on Dylan Brown’s legs in a tackle, while Smith collected Marata Niukore high.
The loss left the Storm stuck on 19 straight victories, equal with the Eastern Suburbs side of 1975 for the greatest winning streak of all time.
But it was not all good news for the Eels, with Clint Gutherson limping off the field late with a leg injury and Nathan Brown on report for a high shot.
Still, the win momentarily moved them into fourth place on the ladder and in with a shot at a double chance in the finals if they beat Penrith next week and Manly drop one of their last two matches.
The Eels played with far better intent than they have in the past five weeks, while their defence was also significantly improved from when they lost four straight.
Gutherson and Mitch Moses in particular stood up, after the duo’s poor form coincided with the team’s slump and prompted questions over their leadership.
Moses kicked superbly with one exception in the first half, and set up the Eels’ first try by Blake Ferguson with a perfect, lofted cut-out ball.
In a seesawing match, the Storm went level through Reimis Smith before they took a 10-6 lead when Isaac Lumelume scored.
But Gutherson ensured the Eels would go to half-time level when he put Haze Dunster over on the left wing.
Gutherson also gifted Ferguson his second on return after the break, getting on the outside of the defence before allowing his winger to go over.
Joey Lussick too scored one late after some smart work from Brown in the lead-up, capping Parramatta’s best night in months.
Meanwhile, the Eels’ win also opens up the race for the minor premiership, after the Storm appeared to have it wrapped up.
Penrith will draw level with the Storm on 42 points if they beat Wests Tigers on Sunday, and while the Storm have a superior for-and-against, both teams could rest players next week.
Sharks beat Broncos
Brisbane had two men sin-binned as Cronulla came from behind to win and scrape back into the top eight with one round to play.
Tom Flegler’s high shot on Jack Williams earnt him 10 minutes in the sin-bin in the first half, with the Sharks scoring twice to reclaim the lead after Brisbane had held a 10-6 advantage.
The Broncos’ second-half surge then stuttered when Brendan Piakura was sin-binned and reported just six minutes into his debut for a late hit on Sharks halfback Braydon Trindall.
Cronulla was not able to put Brisbane away though, with Anthony Milford showing signs of his best as he prepares to leave for South Sydney and fullback Tesi Nui scoring twice for the hosts.
Still down a player, emerging centre Selwyn Cobbo was narrowly put into touch before a flying Herbie Farnworth’s pass to Corey Oates missed the target as the Broncos looked to make it a two-point game in the final six minutes.
Try scorers Trindall, Jesse Ramien and Sione Katoa were all standouts for the Sharks, while Matt Moylan hung tough in defence to defy Brisbane’s last-gasp efforts.
The win puts the Sharks two points clear of the Gold Coast and ahead of Canberra on differential in the battle for eighth spot on the ladder ahead of their last-round date with the Melbourne Storm.
Brisbane, meanwhile, stay stuck on just seven wins despite some encouraging late-season form.
Milford was electric for Brisbane, setting up Niu’s second try with a trademark line break.
Niu had earlier side-stepped his way to the line as Brisbane set up an early lead.
But Ramien scrambled to ground the ball immediately after Flegler was sin-binned, then Connor Tracey finished off a zig-zagging run from Katoa, who had scored the game’s first try after just three minutes.
Trindall then created a buffer, barging over early in the second half before the Sharks hung on to secure a 10th win this season.
Cowboys snap losing streak
North Queensland has shown a glimmer of what the future holds after ending a 10-match losing streak with a win against St George Illawarra.
Down by six points until the final minute, the desperate Dragons were in the hunt before speedsters Murray Tualagi and Hamisao Tabuai-Fidow combined for a length-of-the-field try to seal the Cowboys’ win.
Halfback Tom Dearden’s best game in North Queensland colours included a try, one try assist, two line breaks and three tackle breaks to snap a losing streak of his own.
The 20-year-old has played 16 NRL games this season, including five for Brisbane, but has not had a win since round three for the Broncos.
But he showed confidence that has evaded him this year in his first win for the Cowboys since joining the club mid-season.
Fellow youngster Heilum Luki, 20, scored his third try of the season as the Cowboys kicked into gear early in the second half after being down 20-10 at the break.
Four tries in nine minutes got them out to a 32-20 lead as they ripped the young Dragons side to shreds with pace through the middle.
A length-of-the-field intercept try from Ben Hampton started the roll in the 46th minute, before Dearden and Luki piled on the points, while Kyle Feldt’s double extended the lead.
Similarly, the Dragons showed signs of life for 2022, with their young spine lighting up their attack.
Fullback Tyrell Sloan, 19, scored his fourth try in as many NRL games and set up winger Mikaele Ravalawa for the second of his double.
Teenage half Talatau Amone put up a perfect kick for Sloan’s stunner, while 19-year-old Jayden Sullivan dived over from dummy-half for his second try of the year.