League: Storm blow Raiders out

By Peter Jessup

With nine rounds of the NRL to go, the bulk of the likely play-off eight is materialising as the frontrunners show form those on the bottom half of the ladder are not capable of.

The Storm underlined their favouritism for the title with a 30-14 come-from-behind victory over Canberra in Melbourne yesterday, despite having nine players backing up after the mid-week State of Origin.

Melbourne were slow to gel in the first half and had conceded the Raiders a 14-0 start after 30 minutes. But they grabbed the lead with three tries in a five-minute burst around half-time and out-classed their opposition to win.

The Storm enjoy the ability to make the most of the individual brilliance of the likes of Greg Inglis, Israel Folau and Billy Slater by working well as a team.

Conversely, the Eels blew an opportunity to push into finals contention when they failed to execute their chances in a 22-16 loss to Penrith at Parramatta yesterday. Both teams repeated the sort of erratic form they have produced all season.

The Eels were down 16-6 at the break. With a seven-four penalty imbalance in their favour in the first spell and five penalties to none in the second they should have scored more points. But their individual stars like Feleti Mateo and Krisnan Inu did not enjoy the support play of their Storm counterparts and try-scoring opportunities went begging.

The Dragons continued their remarkable turn-around to win their seventh game on the trot. They never gave the Knights a chance in front of the 22,348 home crowd, Newcastle's biggest of the season.

The Dragons led 14-0 at the end of a close first half, the lead flattering after centre Josh Morris scored under the bar in the 39th minute. They were up 24-0 before slipping in intensity to allow the Knights points.

Wendell Sailor returned after the fractured cheekbone that put him out for four weeks and made a mark in his second NRL game after a two-year drugs ban, taking a Jarrod Mullen kick on the Dragons' 30-metre line and getting to within two metres of a try before the much smaller Mullen caught him and threw him to touch.

Manly continued their winning ways, running down the Titans with four unanswered second-half tries in a 34-14 win in front of 21,374 at Skilled Stadium on the Gold Coast.

The Titans magic there has been broken since their run of injuries started a month ago, both co-captains Luke Bailey (ankle) and Scott Prince (broken arm) now sidelined, probably for the season.

And now second rower Mark Minichiello has a suspected broken ankle which will be diagnosed today but could keep him out for six or eight weeks or for the season if surgery is required.

The Bulldogs face resurgent South Sydney tonight without several of their regular first-graders including backs Luke Patten, Matt Utai and Willie Tonga. Arana Taumata from Wellington gets his second NRL game and Auckland-born Tim Winitana continues in the mid-field.

The Roosters, who are first-equal on points, face an injury-ravaged Gold Coast in Sydney next weekend and should win again but only one out of the Eagles and Sharks will stay with them as they face each other in Cronulla.

The Warriors will have to win six of their nine remaining games, and desperately need to beat strugglers North Queensland at home and the Bulldogs away in their next two games to have any chance.

They then face champions Melbourne at Mt Smart, Souths in Sydney, the Broncos then Sharks at Mt Smart, the Dragons in Wollongong then the Panthers at Mt Smart and they end with the Eels at Parramatta.

- NZ Herald

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