Cronulla, Melbourne in showdown for minor premiers

BY foxsports • August 28, 2016

SYDNEY (AP) Cronulla rallied from 12-0 down to beat the Sydney Roosters 37-12 on Saturday, snapping a four-match losing streak and setting up a showdown with Melbourne for the minor premiership in next weekend's last round of the National Rugby League regular season.

Matt Prior's try midway through the first half began the Sharks' comeback, and they piled on 37 successive points in 55 minutes to clinch their 17th win of the season, moving within a point of Melbourne atop the championship table.

Melbourne went down 26-16 to Brisbane to miss out on a chance to clinch the minor premiership with a match remaining. They will host Cronulla next Saturday.

Canberra beat Manly 44-30 to make safe third place and a home final. They are two points behind Cronulla but five points clear of reigning premiers North Queensland, Brisbane, and the Canterbury Bulldogs, who will fight for fourth place next weekend.

Brisbane faces the Sydney Roosters, the Bulldogs play Souths, and the Cowboys meet Gold Coast in their final regular-season matches.

Eight teams advance to the playoffs and the top four teams take home advantage. The contest for fifth to eighth places remains tight with a round remaining: Brisbane is fifth, the Bulldogs sixth, Penrith seventh and safe.

But Gold Coast's 15-14 loss to Penrith left it still vulnerable in eighth place, one point ahead of Wests who beat the New Zealand Warriors 36-24, knocking the Warriors out of playoffs contention.

The return of captain Paul Gallen helped spark Cronulla out of a month-long winless streak which threatened their premiership ambitions. Gallen missed the Sharks' last two matches with a calf injury but made a huge impact on his return, scoring a try, running for 212 meters, and making 26 tackles in 60 minutes.

After trailing 12-0, Prior's try and another to Ben Barba leveled the scores, then James Maloney kicked a 40 meter field goal to send Cronulla to halftime with a 13-12 lead. Cronulla then ran away with second half tries to Gallen, Gerard Beale, Jayson Bukuya and Valentine Holmes.

''I don't care about the minor premiership. I don't really,'' Gallen said. ''I'd rather be in the grand final.

''I realize if we go down there (to Melbourne) and lose we could finish third. It's a big game.''

Brisbane upset Melbourne 26-16 in Melbourne. Brisbane lost 48-6 to the Storm in round 17 but thoroughly turned around that performance to revive their own playoffs campaign.

Jordan Rapana grabbed a hat trick as Canberra beat injury-hit Manly 44-30. Canberra led 18-10 at halftime and appeared to make the game safe with a double to Joey Leilua, plus tries to Edrick Lee and Jack Wighton.

Manly rallied strongly with tries to Tom Trobejevic, who also bagged a hat trick, and Daly Cherry-Evans before Rapana's third sealed the result.