Parramatta created a stunning upset, ending South Sydney’s six-game winning streak with a 36-16 win over the Rabbitohs in the Indigenous Round.
On Friday night, St George Illawarra – who only played three days after head coach Anthony Griffin was fired – scored a try within the final 20 seconds to defeat the Sydney Roosters 24-22.
Dylan Brown and Mitch Moses desperately needed a win to reignite their NRL season and starred for the Eels as they celebrated their biggest triumph of the year.
The result means Penrith enters the State of Origin period at the top of the rankings for the third consecutive season, securing first place ahead of the Rabbitohs.
In their first home game at the redesigned Sydney Football Stadium, the Rabbitohs seemed to have almost everything set up.
The Rabbitohs haven’t been beaten in the Indigenous Round since 2015, while they’ve also failed the Eels in recent years, winning all six games since 2020.
And just after half-time the Eels were reduced to a two-man bench, with Andrew Davey suffering an early concussion and Ryan Matterson suffering a calf injury.
But ultimately it took the Eels more to get within four points of the top eight from 14th on the leaderboard.
They led the game to five minutes into the second half, regaining momentum from Cody Walker, Latrell Mitchell and Alex Johnston.
The Eels dominated the middle, with Wiremu Greig a total of 200 yards and Junior Paulo 198 yards to create the platform for their halves.
Brown in particular was impressive.
He tried it in the first half, going to the line from his own half and dumping the ball for Matterson before Bailey Simonsson crossed.
He was influential again on Simonsson’s second try after half-time, sinking a low kick across the field from Clint Gutherson to hit back and help Paulo get the center over the goal.
Moses also had great moments returning from a concussion.
He sent Sean Russell to try the game’s opening and later drew the numbers to also put Will Penisni and Bryce Cartwright on the right side.
The two halves also combined in the second half when Brown used a Moses grubber kick to land the ball inches from the dead-ball line.
Half of the Rabbitohs, on the other hand, couldn’t make it in the crucial moments.
Walker was electrifying as he and Mitchell combined both of Johnston’s first-half attempts before also sending Campbell Graham on for a try after the break.
But Lachlan Ilias fired twice in the second half under intense pressure from the Eels forwards.
The Eels scored a goal in each of the next two sets, which allowed them to take the lead and extend their lead later in the second half.
Dragons beat roosters
A final stroke of genius from full-back Tyrell Sloan helped St George Illawarra usher in the post-Anthony Griffin era with a surprise win over the Sydney Roosters.
The win came on Ryan Carr’s debut as interim coach of the Dragons, ending a six-game losing streak that cost Griffin his job on Tuesday and eased the pressure off the field that had been building on the Dragons.
The Dragons gave up a 14-0 lead in the second half as James Tedesco and Luke Keary started shooting and the home side threatened to falter in a close encounter, just like the first five losses of their 2023 crisis.
But with many on the left side of the field in the final 20 seconds, Sloan unleashed a cross-field kick that sent Mathew Feagai to equalize.
It was a conversion of the scolded Zac Lomax, who played his first match after a two-week stint in the reserves that halted the Dragons’ decline and sealed a famous win at Kogarah.
The Roosters upped their game in a hard-fought second half but have now lost their last three games 92-32 overall and have not scored any first-half points during that streak.
It was a worrying crash for Premier League hopes, which are set to suffer even more unrest with the impending State of Origin nominations of Tedesco and Lindsay Collins.
The Roosters are also likely to lose Brandon Smith to a thumb injury and Victor Radley to a suspension after he was reported for a headbutt on Dragons supporter Blake Lawrie during a first-half argument.
Tedesco was the best of a beaten team and put an end to recent speculation about his home state qualification by getting the Roosters back in contention after an error-prone and wasteful first half.
The full-back jumped up to intercept an erratic Smith pass and rolled over for a try in the 50th minute.
Three minutes later, he took Nathan Brown’s short pass, sped down the middle and finally fired the ball to a flying Keary.
Dragons talisman Ben Hunt put his side back on top with a short ball from the dummy half that sent Jaydn Su’A over the goal, but Tedesco returned the serve to his opposing captain.
Moses Suli lunged to intercept Keary’s kick within his own 10 yards but was pocketed by Tedesco, who fell to the ground.
The Roosters appeared to be closing in on the win, but that wasn’t until the Dragons knocked out the defense and Sloan secured the win.