Life got worse for Manly on Friday night.
Life got worse for Manly on Friday night.

‘Disrespectful’ footy star sprays coach

JOHNATHAN Thurston farewelled Sydney with yet another disappointing defeat for the Cowboys in what has been a bittersweet end to his glittering career.

The tourists looked to have the Sharks by the throat early in the second half but eventually capitulated to a 28-16 loss.

Sharks skipper Paul Gallen presented Thurston with a Sharks jersey and sent off the renowned halfback in style with a classy address, thanking him for his time in the game and their fiery rivalry over the years.

"You've done it all, mate," Gallen said before the pair hugged.

It followed a big win for the Dragons over the Tigers in Leichhardt, sending the home side's finals hopes spiralling before the Panthers went down to the Knights.


Fifita blows up after try

Andrew Fifita eased some pressure off the Sharks' shoulders after the Cowboys threatened to steal a shock win.

The towering forward charged over the line with 10 minutes to go in the final clash of the night, setting up Valentine Holmes for his third successful kick of the night.

Fifita gestured angrily towards the box after the try in a spray most believed was directed at coach Shane Flanagan, who slammed him publicly after their 12-10 loss to Brisbane earlier in the season.

"He said I wasn't running hard enough so I thought I had a point to prove," Fifita said after the game.

The Sharks prop, who was put on the spot after the match to answer for his blow up, hastily denied the spray was directed at coach Flanagan and rather assistant coach Jim Dymock, who apparently told Fifita he wasn't running hard enough at halftime.

"I love his passion, he got told he wasn't running hard enough and he went out hard and scored a try," Flanagan told FOX Sports in the post-match wrap. "It's not a problem, he came back in the second half and did a good job."


Bunker denies magic Moylan try

Matt Moylan completely embarrassed North Queensland's defence with a smooth dummy pass, opening up a gap for him to run through for a try under the posts to put the Sharks on the board.

But the Bunker had other ideas.

A quick look upstairs deemed Cronulla skipper to be obstructing the Cowboys' line. Officials denied the Sharks the try, baffling the commentators.

"There's more chance of me getting a date with Elle Macpherson than John Asiata making that tackle," a bemused Andrew Voss said.

The half eventually wrapped up at 6-6 after Luke Lewis bit back and scored for the Sharks through a massive gap on the line.

The Cowboys responded with a try from Coen Hess in similar fashion in the 18th minute, but a bungled conversion kick from Johnathan Thurston - who is playing his final NRL game in Sydney - held them from balancing the score.

The North Queensland skipper eventually sunk a penalty goal after an off-side call went the visitors' way.


Dragons pile it on

St George Illawarra have recovered from a Ben Hunt horror show to jump into the NRL top four with a 20-10 win over Wests Tigers.

In a night of contrasting fortunes for the Dragons, Hunt turned in a shocker before Paul McGregor's side released the pressure valve with an ugly yet tense Leichhardt Oval win.

After losing five of their previous six, the Dragons remarkably re-entered the top four after Penrith lost earlier on Saturday.

Even with the motivation of the game possibly marking Robbie Farah and Benji Marshall's last at the Tigers' spiritual home, they couldn't get it done in front of a fervent crowd of 18,837.

It leaves Ivan Cleary's side four points outside the eight with two games remaining, effectively killing their season.

With playmaking partner Gareth Widdop (shoulder) out until the finals, the pressure was on Hunt to steady the ship after a poor post-Origin period. The Queensland and Australian representative had old wounds prised open when he spilt the ball from the kick-off for the second-half.

The incident was shades of his infamous drop in the 2015 grand final and he had salt rubbed into his wounds when he missed an inside shoulder tackle for Chris Lawrence's try which made it 6-4 the next set.

After a first-half in which he also kicked out on the full and dropped the ball over the line, he was sin-binned in the 53rd minute, allowing Esan Marsters to even the scores.

Yet the Tigers' couldn't capitalise in the 10 minutes Hunt was off, with the Dragons regaining the lead through a Lafai penalty.

And when Robbie Farah copped a very dubious knock-on call 10 metres from his own line, St George pushed the lead out to eight with Luciano Leilua crashing over. Stand-in captain Tyson Frizell put the icing on the cake when he barged across the line with four minutes remaining before Kevin Naiqama grabbed a consolation Tigers try in the dying moments.

The Tigers' first half was one of missed chances as they dropped the ball five times inside the Dragons' red zone.

The visitors were just as ill-disciplined - giving away six penalties in 25 minutes.

They did finally strike first when Leilua - who was a standout - ran it down the short side and Jordan Pereira finished off the movement.



Dragons finally break through

After a dry 27 minutes to open the night's second clash, St George finally saw a hole in the Tigers' defence to score the first try.

A huge break from Dragons big man Luciano Leilua opened up a huge piece of turf for winger Jordan Pereria to dash through and score near the left post.

Tim Lafai successfully converted the try and left the visitors with a 6-0 lead going into halftime.


Hurt Panthers feel Newcastle's wrath

Penrith's luck has finally dried up with an upset 20-12 loss to Newcastle at Panthers Stadium.

Trailing by eight early in the second half, the stage was set for the Panthers to produce a fourth straight dramatic finish in their final home game of the season.

However a 70th-minute try to Ken Sio and his sideline conversion into a fierce wind ended any thought of another fightback.

Penrith's frustrations boiled over in the closing stages, with Viliame Kikau and Tyrone May sin-binned for throwing punches.

Knights pair Danny Levi and Shaun Kenny-Dowall joined them, while a fan was tossed for throwing the match ball at the Newcastle bench after a touch kick landed in the crowd.

Panthers hooker Wayde Egan nabbed a consolation try but it wasn't enough and questions surrounding the team's ability to contend for the premiership are sure to multiply.

The loss for Penrith - caretaker coach Cameron Ciraldo's first since taking over last week - opens the door for St George Illawarra or Cronulla to steal a crucial top-four spot.

The Panthers were disappointing from the outset in front of a strong 14,125 crowd, appearing disjointed in attack without injured veteran James Maloney. In contrast, the Knights were led by strong performances from their spine, highlighted by a classy effort from Kalyn Ponga in his first appearance at five- eighth.

Fullback Nick Meaney and co-captain Mitchell Pearce also stood tall. Playing into a fierce southerly in the first half, the Panthers' afternoon went south early.

Tries to Aidan Guerra and Cory Denniss inside the opening 20 minutes gave the Knights an 8-0 advantage and it appeared the Panthers were destined to chase a big lead again.

However a long play-three kick from Nathan Cleary paid off when Corey Harawira- Naera forced an error from Meaney that gave Tyrone May an easy passage to the line.



Storm gutted by Chambers tackle

Melbourne star Will Chambers is facing a maximum five-game NRL ban for a dangerous tackle on Parramatta winger Jarryd Hayne.

Chambers was on Saturday hit with a grade three dangerous contact charge for what appeared to be a crusher tackle on Hayne in the first half of their Friday night game in Melbourne.

The Storm centre can cop a three-game suspension should he take the early guilty plea, ruling him out until the first week of the NRL finals. However should Chambers contest the charge and lose, the Kangaroos and Queensland State of Origin representative could be sidelined for the year. That could include a possible grand final, should the Storm finish in the top four as expected, win their qualifying final and advance straight to the preliminary final.

It is the third time the 30-year-old has been suspended this season, having missed a total three matches.

He was banned for two games after a dangerous contact tackle on Cronulla captain in round four and outed for a match for dangerous contact in State of Origin I.

Chambers' latest charge comes on the same day as news that teammates Suliasi Vunivalu (hamstring), Nelson Asofa-Solomona (ankle) and Brandon Smith (knee) will likely be out until the finals with injury.

All three will have scans on Monday, as is skipper Cameron Smith, who failed to finish the victory over the Eels due to a back spasm but is considered a chance to face Gold Coast.



Smith could be back next week

Cameron Smith receives medical help during yesterday’s game.
Cameron Smith receives medical help during yesterday’s game.

It was a sight no NRL fan wants to see - unless your team is playing Melbourne next week - as Cameron Smith went off with an injury in last night's game against Parramatta.

But the Storm is confident its inspirational captain should be back for next week's game against the Gold Coast Titans.

Smith was jammed in a tackle between Tepai Moeroa and Nathan Brown and went off with back spasms.

The Storm revealed on its website this morning Smith was "a chance of playing next Saturday" but will be monitored during the week by medical staff.

It's not as positive news for Suliasi Vunivalu (hamstring), Nelson Asofa-Solomona (high ankle sprain) and Brandon Smith (knee), who all limped off the field last night. The trio is set to have scans on Monday.

It is expected all three will miss the final two rounds of the season and potentially finals matches.


Angry DCE can't hide his feelings

Daly Cherry-Evans and Trent Barrett were filthy in yesterday’s post-match press conference.
Daly Cherry-Evans and Trent Barrett were filthy in yesterday’s post-match press conference.

The chasm at Manly appears to be widening after skipper Daly Cherry-Evans hinted at his displeasure with the under-siege NRL club.

Cherry-Evans took a veiled swipe at Sea Eagles hierarchy following their embarrassing 42-34 loss to the Gold Coast on Friday.

The Titans rubbed salt into Manly's wounds after a disastrous season marked by speculation coach Trent Barrett is about to walk out on the final two years of his contract.

He's reportedly set to resign over a lack of resources and funding for the football department.

When asked how the club can solve the mess it finds itself in, Cherry-Evans suggested all was not well behind the scenes.

"I've got some pretty strong opinions on what's happening," the Sea Eagles skipper said.

"But now's not the right time to talk about it. Certainly when it's a lot clearer, I'm more than happy to speak about it."

Just 6382 fans turned up to Brookvale for the club's final home game of the season on Friday night.

Manly fans have voted with their feet this year with the club's average attendance at the ground just 8630 - the lowest since 1966.

As well as having to deal with the expected impending departure of Barrett, the club should in the coming weeks learn its fate over its salary cap appeal.

The club has taken its case to the NRL appeals tribunal after being fined $750,000 and being slugged with a $660,000 salary cap penalty. The club has also being forced to endure negative headlines over Jackson Hastings' messy exit after his infamous Gladstone bust up with Cherry-Evans.

It all paints a worrying picture for the northern beaches club and chief executive Lyall Gorman once again refused to address the media after the game.

"You're going to have to ask the administration about that," Barrett said when he was queried on what had to be done to address the club's many problems.

"From a coaching point of view, I'll keep doing everything I can to ensure the players keep turning up and that's my responsibility to them.

"We are in a difficult spot at the moment, no doubting that, but it's not one bloke that can get you out of it, there's a lot of things have to be going right.

"A lot of departments have to be ticking along well and everyone has to be on the same page."

- Steve Zemek, AAP