Roosters win NRL minor premiership

SYDNEY (AP) — Brisbane will host St. George Illawarra and Penrith will meet the New Zealand Warriors in next weekend’s first round of playoff matches in Australia’s National Rugby League.

The Broncos beat Manly 48-16 in the last match of the regular season on Sunday to move from eighth to sixth place and to secure home advantage in their elimination final.

The Warriors dropped from sixth to eighth place, despite a 20-16 win over Canberra in their final match. They beat Penrith 36-16 in Auckland two weeks ago to qualify for the playoffs for the first time in seven years but now face a rematch on the Panthers’ home turf.

The Sydney Roosters won the minor premiership when they beat last-placed Parramatta 44-10 on Saturday.

They will host Cronulla in the first qualifying final while the Melbourne Storm, knocked out of first place when they lost 22-16 to Penrith in the final round, will play Souths.

In one of the closest finishes in recent seasons, the top four teams all finished with 16 wins and on 34 points, separated only by points differential.

The next four teams were tied on 15 wins and 32 points, again separated by points for and against.

The Roosters came into their last match needing to beat Parramatta by 27 points to edge defending champion Melbourne.

They were on target to achieve their 27-point winning margin when they led 14-0 after 28 minutes. Parramatta showed a spark of resistance when it cut the lead to 14-6 at halftime and to 20-10 after eight minutes of the second half.

But the Roosters eased away with three second-half tries to Latrell Mitchell and a double on either side of halftime by Blake Ferguson.

The win gave coach Trent Robinson his fourth minor premiership in six years at the Roosters on the night he became the club’s longest-serving coach in his 155th match in charge.

“It’s not an easy thing to win, it’s 24 rounds,” Robinson said. “It’s a tough competition, one of the toughest, physical sports in the world. To finish on top after 24 rounds is a quality moment for the club.”

Meanwhile, Johnathan Thurston, regarded as one of the greatest league players of all time, played his last match for North Queensland, retiring after 14 seasons.