North Queensland beats Sharks in NRL, ending title defense

SYDNEY (AP) Michael Morgan’s field goal in extra time gave the North Queensland Cowboys a 15-14 win over Cronulla, ending the Sharks’ title defense in Australia’s National Rugby League.

Cronulla led 14-12 with minutes to go in regular time before Matt Prior was penalized for a strip tackle on North Queensland forward Ben Hampton, allowing the Cowboys to level the scores and put the match into extra time.

In the other weekend elimination match, Penrith defeated Manly 22-10.

On Saturday, the Melbourne Storm backed up their first-place credentials from the regular season with an 18-16 win over Parramatta to qualify for the semifinals in two weeks. Melbourne recovered from a six-point halftime deficit after second-half tries four minutes apart to Kenny Bromwich and Billy Slater.

The match marked Melbourne captain Cameron Smith’s record 356th NRL appearance, breaking the previous mark of 355 by Brisbane’s Darren Lockyer. Like Lockyer, Smith has played all of his matches for the same team.

On Friday, the Sydney Roosters also qualified directly for the semis with a 24-22 win over Brisbane, with Latrell Mitchell’s 75th-minute try the winner.

Brisbane will play Penrith in the other second-round match next weekend.

Melbourne and the Roosters will await the winners of the second-round matches for the semifinals on the Sept. 23-24 weekend. Melbourne will play the Brisbane-Penrith winner while the Roosters take on the Parramatta-North Queensland winner.

Under the league’s second-chance playoff system, the top four teams play each other in the first round. The winning teams advance direct to the semifinals.

The grand final is scheduled for Sydney’s Olympic stadium on Oct. 1.