Round 23 of the NRL season saw playoff contenders the Panthers, Dragons and Raiders all pick-up vital wins in their pursuit of sneaking into the finals while some of the teams in front fell over. The Cowboys will count the injury cost of their loss to Penrith while the Sea Eagles, Eels and the Sharks all missed a chance to improve their finals seeding aspirations.

Kiwi Watch
Power house Cowboys lock Jason Taumalolo was at his destructive best in a losing cause but also came up with some crucial defensive plays as the injury-plagued side tried to stay in the match. The Watene-Zelezniak brothers both had strong performances for their respective sides while Ata Hingano's standout play for the Warriors will give their fans optimism ahead of his likely starting spot in 2018. Veteran wingers Jason Nightingale and Gerard Beale racked up plenty of run metres as well.

The Knights made it three wins in a row. Photo / Getty Images
The Knights made it three wins in a row. Photo / Getty Images

Best Performance

The Storm v Roosters game was the pick of the eight games but the Knights third win in a row was the best all-round effort as they dismantled the previously high-flying Eels. With some handy pick-ups that will join the roster next season and some improved showing by their young core in recent weeks there is finally a reason to be excited in the Hunter.

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Standout Player
It was just another day at the office for 18-year-old Raiders winger Nick Cotric. The Rookie of the Year favourite has been tremendous all season for the Green Machine and took that to another level against the Warriors. He rarely makes and error, is as good as anyone in the air and is deceptively quick, strong and agile.

Key Moment
It proved to be the pivotal moment in the match and came with 90 seconds or so remaining when Storm back-rower Joe Stimson crashed over to score the match-winning try for Melbourne in their win over the Roosters. The match had gone back and forth to that point and it looked like the visitors would have the two points until Stimson's match-winner.

The Titans are imploding with Jarryd Hayne not speaking to Neil Henry. Photo / Getty Images
The Titans are imploding with Jarryd Hayne not speaking to Neil Henry. Photo / Getty Images

Controversy

What on earth is going on at the Titans? This time last season the over-achieving young side was heading for the playoffs yet now they are at the bottom end of the ladder and self-imploding with coach Neil Henry and star player Jarryd Hayne quite clearly at odds.

Comments from the pair post-match would indicate it is untenable and it is likely one or other won't be around next season.

Team of the Week
1.Dane Gagai (Knights)
2.Nick Cotric (Raiders)
3.Will Chambers (Storm)
4.Tautau Moga (Broncos)
5.Malakai Watene-Zelezniak (Tigers)
6.Brock Lamb (Knights)
7.Nathan Cleary (Panthers)
8.Daniel Saifiti (Knights)
9.Cameron McInnes (Dragons)
10.Reagan Campbell-Gillard (Panthers)
11.Boyd Cordner (Roosters)
12.Angus Crichton (Rabbitohs)
13.Jack de Belin (Dragons)
14.Jason Taumalolo (Cowboys)
15.David Nofoaluma (Tigers)
16.Nathan Brown (Eels)
17.Ata Hingano (Warriors)

Nick Cotric had a huge game against the Warriors. Photo / Getty Images
Nick Cotric had a huge game against the Warriors. Photo / Getty Images

Power Rankings

1.Storm (0)

2.Broncos (+1)

3.Roosters (-1)

4.Sharks (0)

5.Eels (0)

6.Panthers (+2)

7.Sea Eagles (-1)

8.Cowboys (-2)

9.Raiders (0)

10.Dragons (0)

11.Rabbitohs (0)

12.Bulldogs (0)

13.Warriors (0)

14.Titans (0)

15.Tigers (0)

16.Knights (0)