Melbourne beats St. George Illawarra to extend lead in NRL

SYDNEY (AP) Wingers Suliasi Vunivalu and Josh Addo-Carr scored two tries each in the first half and fullback Billy Slater had a double in the second as Melbourne consolidated its lead in Australia’s National Rugby League on Sunday with a 34-22 win over second-placed St. George Illawarra.

Melbourne raced to a 22-0 first half lead before Dragons winger Jason Nightingale put his team on the board with the first of his three tries just before halftime.

Slater’s double in the 45th and 53rd minutes inflated Melbourne’s lead to 34-4 but St. George Illawarra produced a spirited last 20 minutes to steadily close the gap with tries to Nightingale in the 59th and 71st minutes and to Cameron McInnes in the 66th.

Cameron Smith kicked his 943rd career goal to beat Jason Taylor’s record for the most goals by an individual in NRL history.

The Dragons finished with 18 unanswered points, taking advantage of the sin-binning of Cooper Cronk. But Melbourne was able to complete its eighth win from nine games and to increase its lead atop the table to four points after nine rounds.

The Dragons remain in second place at 6-3 but level on 12 championship points with Cronulla, who beat Wests 22-16, Brisbane, who beat Penrith 32-18, and the Sydney Roosters, who were edged 14-13 by the New Zealand Warriors.

Chad Townsend scored a late try to clinch defending champion Cronulla’s 22-16 win over injury-hit Wests.

Wests lost captain Aaron Woods and fullback James Tedesco to serious injuries in the first half and played on bravely with only 15 fit men. Woods was later ruled out of Australia’s test against New Zealand in Canberra on Friday.

Wests still clung to a lead until the 69th minute when Townsend recovered his own kick ahead to score.

”We had a lot of very brave boys out there tonight, playing injured and we lost a few troops,” Wests coach Ivan Cleary said. ”There were positive signs there but in the end the tries we conceded were disappointing and we had every right to stop them.”

Shaun Johnson kicked a 79th minute penalty to give the Warriors a thrilling 14-13 win over the Roosters. Sydney City led 13-12 with a minute to play but the referees penalized an offside play by the Roosters and Johnson kicked the winning goal from close range.

Brisbane led 22-0 at halftime and 28-0 early in the second spell before Penrith flared into life with tries to Trent Merrin, Matt Moylan and Reagan Campbell-Gillard.

A late try to Matt Gillett clinched Brisbane’s win but it came at a price when center James Roberts was stretchered from the field five minutes from fulltime.

In other matches, Akuila Uate scored four tries Manly beat Souths 46-8, Parramatta beat North Queensland 26-6 and Gold Coast beat Newcastle 38-8.