Sydney Roosters will return to the NRL Grand Final to defend their title after beating minor premiers Melbourne Storm 14-6 in a fierce contest on Saturday.

In a rematch of last year's final, the tone was set after just seconds with a pair of yellow cards for an early confrontation at Sydney Cricket Ground.

But the Roosters quickly got in front and never let their lead slip, scoring crucial tries through Boyd Cordner and James Tedesco and battling bravely at the other end.

Sydney will chase a 15th title against a man who took them to three Grand Finals, with Ricky Stuart back in the season decider with the Canberra Raiders for the first time since losing with the Roosters in 2004.

And this year's final match will come 17 years to the day since Stuart and Sydney won together in 2002.

For the Storm, attention will now turn to the future of the great Cameron Smith, who is said to be undecided amid talk of retirement.

A fast and furious start incredibly saw a player from either side sent to the sin bin within the opening minute.

Nelson Asofa-Solomona appeared to twice swing at Siosiua Taukeiaho, prompting an understandably furious reaction that saw both props shown yellow cards as Latrell Mitchell's boot supplied the first points.

The Roosters came under intense pressure but responded superbly, with Daniel Tupou towering over his opponent to claim a high kick and then holding off three Melbourne players to offload to Cordner to touch down.

Jahrome Hughes then appeared to be guilty of a professional foul when he stopped Tedesco scoring late in the half, but Sydney settled for a penalty, dispatched by Mitchell.

Asofa-Solomona made a rather more positive impact at the start of the second period, though, powering through to score after an extended spell of Storm pressure.

The Roosters were clinging on and their hopes were hit further when Tedesco was controversially deemed to have knocked on to Joseph Manu, whose score was therefore disallowed.

But Tedesco made amends and scored himself with 12 minutes remaining, with Mitchell's conversion crucially moving Sydney eight points in front to seal victory.

Sydney Roosters will be aiming to extend an impressive run at the Sydney Cricket Ground when they face Melbourne Storm in the NRL preliminary finals on Saturday.

However, the minor premiers have been difficult to beat away from AAMI Park and will be out to avenge their Grand Final defeat to the Roosters last year and reach the showpiece for the fourth straight year.

The victors will take on either Canberra Raiders or South Sydney Rabbitohs, who meet at GIO Stadium on Friday.

The Raiders have not won in Canberra since a 20-12 win over the Wests Tigers in July, and the Bunnies have been impressive on the road.

Ahead of the penultimate weekend of the NRL season, we look at the best Opta facts.

 

Canberra Raiders v South Sydney Rabbitohs

- This will be the fourth time the Raiders and the Rabbitohs have met in the NRL finals – and the first time in the nation's capital – with Ricky Stuart's men having won two of their previous three such encounters.
- Canberra will be vying to reach their first NRL Grand Final since 1994 – the longest drought of any active team to have made at least one appearance in the title decider.
- Souths have won all six of their matches outside New South Wales this year, their most in a single season in the NRL era.
- Cody Walker has been directly involved in seven tries in his last four NRL games against the Raiders (four tries, three assists); he has also crossed for the opening score of the match in each of their last two meetings.
- Jarrod Croker is just 16 shy of becoming the seventh player in premiership history to score 2,000 points.

Sydney Roosters v Melbourne Storm

- Five of the past six NRL games between the Roosters and the Storm have been decided by a margin of three points or fewer, with each team picking up three wins in that span.
- The Roosters have won their last nine NRL outings at the SCG and by an average margin of 29 points per game, not once conceding more than 12 points in that run.
- Melbourne have won eight straight away matches in the NRL; the last time they enjoyed a longer winning streak on the road within a single season was a nine-game stretch in 2011.
- The Storm have won nine of their past 11 preliminary finals, including their last three on the bounce across which they have conceded a total of just 18 points.
- Melbourne have averaged 6.5 line breaks per game this season, more than any other team in the NRL.

Reigning NRL champions Sydney Roosters are one win away from returning to the Grand Final after humiliating rivals South Sydney Rabbitohs with an emphatic 30-6 victory.

The Roosters suffered a 16-10 defeat against the Bunnies at ANZ Stadium in the last week of the regular season, but it was a very different story at the SCG on Friday.

Trent Robinson's men ran riot and will now enjoy a week off ahead of their preliminary final, while the Rabbitohs must regroup ahead of a semi-final against Manly Sea Eagles or Cronulla Sharks.

Joseph Manu's third-minute score set the tone for a dominant first-half showing from the Roosters, who soon pulled further ahead with four-pointers from Mitchell Aubusson, Boyd Cordner and Sio Siua Taukeiaho.

The pick of the first-half tries was still to come as a slick move culminated in Brett Morris producing a magnificent offload to put James Tedesco over.

Latrell Mitchell kicked three goals before the interval and the centre crossed the whitewash in the second period following excellent work from Luke Keary, who provided an assist after his 40-20 kick had set up a great attacking platform.

The Bunnies, who welcomed back George Burgess from his nine-week suspension for eye gouging, at least avoided the indignity of being kept scoreless when Adam Reynolds danced over for a 64th-minute try he also converted.

However, the Roosters had easily wrapped up victory by that stage and look as though they will take some stopping as they aim to defend their crown.

Brett Morris is set to make a landmark appearance as the NRL Finals kick-off with a heavyweight clash between Sydney Roosters and South Sydney Rabbitohs.

Friday's match between the sides, who finished second and third respectively in the regular season, will be the first Finals game to be played at the Sydney Cricket Ground since the 1983 Grand Final.

Parramatta Eels won on that occasion and they round off the first round of Finals fixtures against the Brisbane Broncos on Sunday.

Minor premiers Melbourne Storm are in action on Saturday, taking on Canberra Raiders, before Manly Sea Eagles host Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks.

Here, we take a look at the best Opta facts for the first round of Finals matches.

Friday

Sydney Roosters (17-7) v South Sydney Rabbitohs (16-8)

- Defending premiers Roosters - who beat the Storm in last season's grand final - have won their past two games against the Rabbitohs, though they have not won three or more in succession against their city rivals since 1988.

- Roosters' Morris is set to play in his 250th NRL fixture. The 33-year-old has not scored a try against the Rabbitohs since 2015.

Saturday 

Melbourne Storm (20-4) v Canberra Raiders (15-9)

- After cruising to the minor premiers title, Melbourne host the Raiders, who have won four of their past eight away matches against the Storm, including a 22-18 victory in their last meeting.

- Suliasi Vunivalu could be the Storm's biggest weapon, with the winger having scored six tries in his last four NRL appearances against the Raiders.

Manly Sea Eagles (14-10) v Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks (12-12)

- The Sea Eagles have won 16 of their past 18 games against the Sharks, including the three most recent fixtures.

- Dylan Walker will be relishing this match, having crossed for a try in each of his previous three NRL meetings with Cronulla.

Sunday

Parramatta Eels (14-10) v Brisbane Broncos (11-12)

- Each of the past four NRL Finals matches played between the Eels and the Broncos have been won by the home side on the day.

- Matt Gillett of the Broncos is set to play his 200th NRL match, while the Eels' Reed Mahoney has made 1,150 tackles in 2019 - more than any other player.

South Sydney Rabbitohs clinched their top-four spot in NRL with a superb second-half fightback against fierce rivals Sydney Roosters at ANZ Stadium.

The Roosters led by eight at the break thanks to Cooper Cronk's converted score and a try from Billy Smith, but the Rabbitohs ran in 14 unanswered points in the second half.

It marks the first time the Rabbitohs have beaten the Roosters twice in the regular season since 2009 and strikes a potential psychological blow ahead of the NRL Finals.

However, the Rabbitohs will be nervous to find out the extent of an injury to Dane Gagai (hamstring), while Tevita Tatola, Liam Knight, John Sutton and Adam Reynolds all needed to undergo concussion tests during the game.

Defending premiers Roosters started on the back foot and trailed to Reynolds' early penalty, but good work down the right saw Cronk cross, before Smith – playing just his second game – went over in the 24th minute.

The Roosters were made to pay for failing to take the opportunities they had to add to their total, though, as Campbell Graham took advantage of some lax defending from Latrell Mitchell seven minutes after the restart.

Cody Walker completed a fine team move just two minutes later and a late Reynolds penalty stretched the lead for the Rabbitohs.

The win means the Rabbitohs go third, at least temporarily, and they could face off against the Roosters again next week if Canberra Raiders fail to beat New Zealand Warriors.

 

The last spot in the NRL finals will be determined on Sunday when Cronulla Sharks visit Wests Tigers hoping to hang on to a top-eight berth.

Both the Tigers and the Sharks have 24 points each after 23 rounds, but the latter's greater points differential means they are in pole position to reach the finals.

The sixth-placed Parramatta Eels will look to leapfrog Manly Sea Eagles into fifth while Melbourne Storm, already confirmed as the minor premiership champions, will hope to round off the regular season in style when they host the North Queensland Cowboys.

We take a look at the Opta facts for the last round of NRL fixtures.

 

Thursday

South Sydney Rabbitohs (15-8) v Sydney Roosters (17-6)

- Souths are bidding to beat Sydney twice in the regular season for the first time in a decade following their triumph earlier in the campaign.

- Cody Walker (14 tries, 16 try assists) leads the way with the most try involvements in the NRL and Roosters team-mate Latrell Mitchell will also hope to reach the 30 mark, having crossed 18 times and provided 11 assists so far.

Friday

Parramatta Eels (13-10) v Manly Sea Eagles (14-9)

- This fixture has been a one-sided affair in recent years, with the Eels winning their past four home games in a row against the Eagles by an average margin of 19 points per contest.

- Kane Evans will bring up a landmark 100th appearance for Parramatta.

 

Melbourne Storm (19-4) v North Queensland Cowboys (9-14)

- Though Melbourne have won their past nine successive games against the Cowboys, six of those wins have come by a margin of eight points or fewer.

- The Storm have missed just 27 tackles per game in this year's NRL, fewer than any other team in the competition.

Saturday

Canberra Raiders (15-8) v New Zealand Warriors (8-1-14)

- Canberra beat the Warriors 46-12 earlier in the season and have been victorious in five of their previous seven meetings.

- The Warriors have conceded 40-plus points in three of their past five NRL games having done so only once in their previous 35 games. 

 

Canterbury Bulldogs (9-14) v Brisbane Broncos (11-1-11)

- The home team has won the past seven times the Bulldogs have met the Broncos.

- Brisbane players have made 901 tackle breaks this season, 83 more than any other team and 287 more than the Bulldogs.

Gold Coast Titans (4-19) v St George-Illawarra Dragons (7-16)

- Dragons star Gareth Widdop needs just five more points to reach 1,000 in the NRL.

- Each of the past three meetings between these two have been won by the Dragons, who have outscored the Titans 136-52 in that time.

 

Sunday

Wests Tigers (11-12) v Cronulla Sharks (11-12)

- The Sharks are on a five-match winning streak against the Tigers, their longest run of victories against them.

- Benji Marshall is one of just three players to average more than one assist per game having set up 19 tries in 18 appearances.

 

Penrith Panthers (10-13) v Newcastle Knights (10-13)

- Though they have only led in four of their past 10 NRL games against the Knights, the Panthers have won on eight occasions.

- However, Newcastle have scored 12 tries in the opening 10 minutes of NRL games this season, the second-most of any team in the competition (behind the Sydney Roosters).

Newcastle Knights have appointed Sydney Roosters assistant Adam O'Brien as their coach for next season following Nathan Brown's departure.

Brown left the Knights on Tuesday after a 46-4 defeat to Wests Tigers, with the NRL club having announced the coach would leave at the end of the 2019 campaign the previous week.

The Knights have moved quickly to bring in a replacement, with O'Brien agreeing a three-year contract which will run from 2020. 

O'Brien joined the Roosters - where he will remain until the end of their NRL finals campaign as they aim to defend their crown - last year after spending 11 seasons with Melbourne Storm.

Kristian Woolf will take temporary charge of the Knights, who cannot make the finals and face Penrith Panthers in their last match of the season.

"We are very excited to have Adam coming in as head coach," Knights chief executive Philip Gardner told the club's website.

"Aside from quality coaching, we want quality people within the organisation and Adam ticks all of those boxes."

O'Brien said: "The Knights are a strong club with a significant and passionate supporter base.

"I have been patient throughout my coaching career, but the time is right to make this move and all of these attributes made the move to Newcastle an easy decision.

"I am excited about what is around the corner, but my sole focus over the next five weeks remains with the Roosters and our finals campaign. That isn't something I take lightly.

"Once the 2019 season has concluded, I will turn my attention to Newcastle."

Craig Bellamy hailed Melbourne Storm's third minor premiership in the space of four years as their best yet.

Storm romped to a 36-6 victory over Many Sea Eagles at Lottoland on Saturday, with Justin Olam scoring a hat-trick.

The triumph meant they were crowned minor premiers for ending the regular season as table-toppers, an achievement they also managed in 2016 and 2017.

Bellamy, though, believes his side's consistency makes this success stand out from the rest.

"I reckon this one [minor premiership] is a little more special than the others we have won," said Bellamy.

"We have only been beaten four times this year and the biggest [losing margin] is four points. That's pretty consistent and I'm really proud of this group because of that."

Storm will hope history is on their side going into the finals. In each of the last two seasons, the minor premiers have gone on to win the NRL Grand Final - Sydney Roosters achieving the feat last term after Melbourne in 2017.

It was a miserable day for the Sea Eagles, who are battling to remain inside the top four. As well as being outscored six tries to one, they believe full-back Tom Trbojevic will not be able to play again this season after suffering a pectoral injury in the defeat.

"It doesn't look good for Tom - it looks like it's a ruptured pec," coach Des Hasler said of the problem, which was sustained as Trbojevic attempted to tackle Josh Addo-Carr.

"You'd think that kind of injury would be season [ending] given the time we've got left. We'll go through the usual procedures but it's a ruptured pec.

"Given the time of the year it's disappointing, he's such a classy player. It's been one of those years for him."

Trbojevic's team-mate Morgan Boyle (shoulder) could also be out for the rest of the campaign.

There were two other games on Saturday, with the second-placed Roosters easing to a 22-6 win at the SCG that all but ended Penrith Panthers' hopes of reaching the finals, even without Cooper Cronk.

Viliame Kikau scored early on for the visitors but they did not strike again as four tries from Sydney, including one from Latrell Mitchell – who scored 10 points – settled the contest.

Newcastle Knights thumped Gold Coast Titans 38-4 to keep their faint finals hopes alive under Kristian Woolf, who has replaced Nathan Brown on an interim basis.

The Titans, who are bottom of the table, scored after three minutes through Ryley Jacks but suffered their 10th consecutive loss as they had no answer to the Knights, who ran in seven unanswered tries in impressive fashion.

Despite the win, Newcastle still need to beat Penrith next week and may even be out of contention before that match as they need other results to go their way to stand any chance of progression.

High-flying Melbourne Storm look set for a test as they travel to Manly Sea Eagles in the latest round of NRL fixtures.

The Storm sit at the top of the ladder and have a good record at Manly, but the Sea Eagles are fourth themselves and have pushed Melbourne close in previous meetings.

We take a look at that match and more – including a Sydney Cricket Ground double-header – with these Opta facts.

 

Thursday

North Queensland Cowboys (8-14) v Canterbury Bulldogs (9-13)

- The Bulldogs have won four of their past six NRL games against the Cowboys at 1300SMILES Stadium, including a 27-10 victory in their most recent game there.

- Canterbury have conceded 19 penalties for stealing the ball in NRL 2019, more than any other team in the competition.

Friday

New Zealand Warriors (8-1-13) v South Sydney Rabbitohs (14-8)

- The Rabbitohs have won eight of their past nine NRL games against the Warriors, including their last two on the bounce.

- The New Zealand outfit have conceded 40 or more points in a game on four occasions in NRL 2019 – including three times in their past four games – while the last time they did so more in a single season was 2004 (seven times).

Brisbane Broncos (10-1-11) v Parramatta Eels (13-9)

- Each of the past eight NRL games between the Broncos and the Eels at Suncorp Stadium has been won by the team holding the half-time lead on the day, with each side winning four times in that span.

- Mitchell Moses has made 82 kicks in play that have been retained by a team-mate in this NRL campaign, more than any other player in the competition.

Saturday

Newcastle Knights (9-13) v Gold Coast Titans (4-18)

- The Titans have won five of their last seven NRL games against the Newcastle Knights; however, their two defeats in that span have come in their most recent two clashes at McDonald Jones Stadium.

- Gold Coast have been awarded 168 penalties in NRL 2019, more than any other team in the competition and 16 more than the Newcastle Knights.

Manly Sea Eagles (14-8) v Melbourne Storm (18-4)

- The Storm have won four of their past five NRL games against the Sea Eagles at Lottoland; two of those wins coming by a margin of just one point on the day.

- Martin Taupau (350 carries, 620 tackles) is the only player thus far in NRL 2019 to have made 350 carries and 350 tackles.

Sydney Roosters (16-6) v Penrith Panthers (10-12)

- This will be the Panthers' first NRL game at the Sydney Cricket Ground since a 2010 loss to the Wests Tigers; it is a venue where the Roosters have won their past seven NRL games in a row by an average margin of 32 points.

- The Panthers are one of only three teams (also Sea Eagles, Storm) to have had more than one forward start in every one of their 22 games so far this season (James Fisher-Harris, James Tamou).

Sunday

Cronulla Sharks (11-11) v Canberra Raiders (14-8)

- Ten of the past 12 NRL games between the Sharks and the Raiders have been won by the away team on the day.

- Josh Morris has scored seven tries in his past seven NRL games and has a season tally of 13 – his most in a season since 2012 (17).

St George Illawarra Dragons (7-15) v Wests Tigers (10-12)

- The Dragons have won three of their past four NRL games against Wests, as well as having won the only previous meeting between the two teams at the Sydney Cricket Ground (13-12 in 2013).

- St George have made 40 or more tackle breaks in each of their past two NRL games against the Tigers, a mark they have managed to hit just three times so far in NRL 2019.

Sydney Roosters remained on course to finish in the NRL top four by beating St George Illawarra Dragons, while Wests Tigers kept their finals hopes alive and dented those of Newcastle Knights.

The second-placed Roosters scored five unanswered tries in the first half at Kogarah Oval on Saturday and did not look back in a 34-12 triumph.

Victory moved them four points clear of Canberra Raiders – who face fifth-placed Manly Sea Eagles on Sunday – and South Sydney Rabbitohs in third and fourth respectively.

Joseph Manu barrelled his way through for the opener and Isaac Liu dabbed down a grubber kick before debutant Billy Smith finished off a fine move in the 15th minute.

Victor Radley and Daniel Tupou got in on the act ahead of half-time, the latter crossing in the left corner following an incredible switch of play from the boot of Cooper Cronk.

James Tedesco added a try of his own to a pair of assists from the first half, with scores from debutant Tristan Sailor – son of former Australia international and Queensland Maroons wing Wendell Sailor – and Luciano Leilua providing scant consolation for the Dragons.

Benji Marshall assisted four tries and David Nofoaluma grabbed his first NRL hat-trick as the Tigers thrashed the Knights 46-4 at Campbelltown Stadium.

Ryan Matterson touched down the opener after Marshall's grubber looped into the in-goal area and Robert Jennings crossed before Esan Marsters went through after a tremendous offload from Corey Thompson.

A brilliant no-look pass from Luke Brooks sent Luke Garner in and Nofoaluma got his first try following a lovely kick to the corner from Marshall, making it 30-0 at the break.

Nofoaluma chased down his own grubber to double his tally and completed his hat-trick after more sensational work from Brooks, with Michael Chee-Kam and Newcastle's Aidan Guerra exchanging scores late on.

The Tigers moved one point away from the playoffs, while the Knights are three adrift in 11th with two games remaining.

elbourne Storm can seal the minor premiership this week as the NRL season heads towards its conclusion.

The Storm are four points clear with three games to play and face bottom side Gold Coast Titans on Sunday.

A win in that game and defeat for Sydney Roosters at St George Illawarra Dragons will see Melbourne clinch top spot, while third-placed Canberra Raiders take on fourth-placed Manly Sea Eagles in a crucial clash between two teams out to ensure they cannot be eliminated in the first round of the Finals.

Here we look at the best Opta facts for this round of fixtures.

Thursday

Parramatta Eels (13-8) v Canterbury Bulldogs (8-13)

- The Bulldogs have made the most offloads (287) of any NRL team this year, 21 more than the Eels (266).

- Mitchell Moses (Parramatta Eels) has made the most try assists (20) of any half-back this season.

Friday

North Queensland Cowboys (7-14) v Penrith Panthers (10-11)

- The Panthers have retained the most kicks (145) of any team, 29 more than the Cowboys (116).

- Michael Morgan has had six try involvements (two tries, four assists) from his last four NRL matches against the Panthers.

Brisbane Broncos (10-1-10) v South Sydney Rabbitohs (13-8)   

- The Broncos have made the most tackle breaks (822) of any team this season, 146 more than the Rabbitohs (676).

- South Sydney are one of two teams – along with the Storm – to have more than one player inside the top 13 for try assists this season (Damien Cook on 22 and Cody Walker on 14).

Saturday

Cronulla Sharks (10-11) v New Zealand Warriors (8-1-12)   

- Six of the last seven NRL games between Cronulla and the Warriors have been decided by a margin of four points or fewer, including a 19-18 win for the New Zealanders in their last meeting.

- The Sharks have won six of their last eight NRL matches on home soil (L2), despite leading at half time only three times in that span.

Wests Tigers (9-12) v Newcastle Knights (9-12)  

- The Knights have scored 37 tries through the middle-third of the field, only the Storm (45) have got more through that corridor this term. 

- Luke Brooks (Tigers) has had eight try involvements (three tries, five try assists) from his last six NRL matches against the Knights. 

St George Illawarra Dragons (7-14) v Sydney Roosters (15-6)   

- The Dragons have made the most tackles per game (369) of any team in NRL this year, 30 more than the Roosters (339).

- The Roosters' trio of James Tedesco (11), Latrell Mitchell (8) and Victor Radley (7) have made the most supported breaks of all players this season.

Sunday

Melbourne Storm (17-4) v Gold Coast Titans (4-17)  

- The Titans have scored the joint-most tries (five, also Manly Sea Eagles) on the zero tackle in a set of any NRL team in 2019.

- Cameron Munster (Storm) has had 10 try involvements (six tries, four assists) from his six NRL matches against the Titans.


Canberra Raiders (14-7) v Manly Sea Eagles (13-8)   

- The Raiders have scored the joint-most tries (21, also the Roosters) in the first 20 minutes of matches of any team this season.

- Daly Cherry-Evans (Manly) has had 12 try involvements (five tries, seven assists) from his last eight NRL matches against Canberra.

Bronson Xerri's contentious late try proved decisive as Cronulla Sharks boosted their NRL finals hopes with an 18-12 victory over St George-Illawarra Dragons.

Xerri charged over with five minutes remaining on Sunday after latching onto a high kick from Shaun Johnson.

The try was awarded, though Cronulla had to wait for confirmation it would stand as the video referee checked for a touch from Sharks' second-rower Wade Graham.

Cronulla's luck was in, however, with Johnson adding the extras to wrap up a win that moves the Sharks into the top eight, while the Dragons' have no realistic hope of making the finals.

Aaron Woods had got things started for the Sharks in the 17th minute, with Sosaia Feki swiftly doubling the home side's lead, but tries from Jackson Ford and Luciano Leilua either side of half-time had restored parity.

There was less drama at the SCG as second-place Sydney Roosters cruised to a 42-6 victory over New Zealand Warriors.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck's second-minute effort put the Warriors ahead, but Latrell Mitchell and Joseph Manu put 2018 premiers Roosters in front by half-time.

Luke Keary's try had Sydney in complete control shortly after the interval and the hosts did not look back from there - James Tedesco, Brett Morris and Mitchell Aubusson all crossing over in the space of seven minutes.

Mitchell - who only kicked four of eight attempted conversions - helped himself to a second try soon after, before Daniel Tupou added further gloss late on.

The SCG has proven to be a happy hunting ground for Sydney Roosters.

The reigning champions will face a team that has caused them problems though, with New Zealand Warriors their opponents.

Melbourne Storm, six points clear of the Roosters at the top of the table, could potentially wrap up the minor premiership this weekend and they face Canberra Raiders.

We take a look at the key statistics, courtesy of Opta, ahead of round 22.

Thursday

Manly Sea Eagles (12-8) v Wests Tigers (9-11)

- Wests are on a four-game winning streak against Manly, even though they have only led once at half-time across those victories.

- Manly have missed just 27 tackles per game in this season's NRL, the fewest of any team in the competition.

Friday

Gold Coast Titans (4-16) v Parramatta Eels (12-8)

- The Titans have not lost a home game to the Eels since 2014, with each of the past half a dozen matches between the two won by the team hosting the fixture.

- No team has gained more metres per restart than the Eels, who have accrued 12.3m.

Brisbane Broncos (9-1-10) v Penrith Panthers (10-10)

- Brisbane wing Corey Oates has made five successful interceptions in 2019, two more than any other player.

- The Broncos have only suffered only two regular-time defeats to Penrith in their previous 13 meetings.

Saturday

Newcastle Knights (8-12) v North Queensland Cowboys (7-13)

- The Cowboys are on their longest winning streak against the Knights having won four in a row.

- They will need to be mindful of Shaun Kenny-Dowall, though, given he has scored five tries in his past seven NRL appearances.

Melbourne Storm (17-3) v Canberra Raiders (13-7)

- Melbourne will win the minor premiership if they beat Canberra and the Roosters lose to the Warriors on Sunday.

- The Storm have won their last five successive NRL games against the Raiders, conceding an average of just 10 points per match in that span.

South Sydney Rabbitohs (13-7) v Canterbury Bulldogs (7-13)

- Souths are on a four-game winning streak against the Bulldogs, their longest sequence since an eight-match run between 1967 and 1969.

- After scoring a hat-trick for the Rabbitohs last time out, Campbell Graham took his tally to six scores in his previous five appearances.

Sunday

Sydney Roosters (14-6) v New Zealand Warriors (8-1-11)

- The Warriors have lost only three of their past 10 NRL games against the Roosters in New South Wales, yet they have lost nine of their previous 10 contests played on a Sunday.

- Trent Robinson's Roosters have won six on the bounce at the SCG, scoring an average of 40 points per game in that span.

Cronulla Sharks (9-11) v St George-Illawarra Dragons (7-13)

- Only the Raiders (16) have scored more tries from kicks this year than the Sharks (14).

- Cronulla's Shaun Johnson needs 11 more points to reach 1,000 in NRL, a milestone that only six active players have reached.

Melbourne Storm took another step towards the NRL minor premiership and dented South Sydney Rabbitohs' top-four hopes with a 26-16 win despite a hat-trick from Campbell Graham.

The Souths winger accounted for all of their tries in a contest played north of Sydney at Central Coast Stadium in Gosford, but the Rabbitohs were always playing catch up as the Storm cemented their grip on top spot.

Jesse Bromwich and Justin Olam crossed for the Storm inside the first 11 minutes, Cameron Smith converting one of those tries and adding a penalty as the visitors opened up a 12-0 lead.

Kyle Turner's offload set Graham up for his first and Adam Reynolds' penalty made it 12-6 at the break.

The Rabbitohs were level four minutes after the restart when Graham latched on to a wonderful pass from Cody Walker moments after the stand-off had been knocked into the post by Felise Kaufusi, who was sin-binned.

But Cameron Munster jinked his way through the Souths defence to restore Melbourne's advantage on the hour and Smith made it an eight-point game with the boot.

Graham cut the gap to four with his third after Suliasi Vunivalu had a try chalked off by the video referee at the other end but Brodie Croft secured the points five minutes from time.

Melbourne hold a six-point lead over Sydney Roosters at the top while the Rabbitohs are just two points clear of fifth-placed Manly Sea Eagles after a second straight defeat.

The Roosters took command in the battle for second as they defeated third-placed Canberra Raiders 22-18 to go two points ahead of the capital club.

Five tries were scored in the first half, Latrell Mitchell and Daniel Tupou giving the Roosters an 18-12 lead at the break after Jordan Rapana and Jarrod Croker had turned things around for the Raiders following Sydney loose forward Victor Radley's opening score.

Tupou spectacularly collected a high kick for his first try and powered on to a sensational cut-out pass from James Tedesco 12 minutes into the second half to make it 22-12 with what proved the decisive blow.

Elliott Whitehead gave Canberra hope and Croker converted his try but the Canberra captain went off injured late into his 250th NRL game as the Roosters held firm.

An exciting week of NRL action sees the top four teams face off on Sunday.

Round 21 concludes with Melbourne Storm travelling to South Sydney Rabbitohs, who sit in fourth, with their clash following on from third-placed Canberra Raiders taking on second-placed Sydney Roosters.

The Storm may face a tricky test but history weighs heavily in their favour.

We bring you all the best Opta facts from those two fixtures and the rest of the NRL games coming up.

Thursday

North Queensland Cowboys (7-12) v Brisbane Broncos (8-1-10)

- The Broncos have won their past three NRL matches against the Cowboys, their best run in this fixture since a seven-match streak from July 2007 to August 2010.

- The Cowboys have scored 12 tries in the final 10 minutes of the first half of NRL matches in 2019, the most of any team.

Friday

New Zealand Warriors (7-1-11) v Manly Sea Eagles (12-7)

- Six of the Warriors' past seven matches have been decided by four points or fewer, though they have recorded three victories in those close encounters.

- Manly have scored six tries starting from a kick-off in 2019, the most of any team. They also have the forward with the most carries in the competition, with Martin Taupau registering 299 so far.

Penrith Panthers (9-10) v Cronulla Sharks (9-10)

- The Sharks have won 12 of their past 14 NRL matches against the Penrith Panthers, including the previous seven on the bounce.

- Penrith's Nathan Cleary has scored two tries, provided an assist and not missed a single goal attempt (nine from nine) in his past three NRL matches against the Sharks.

Saturday

St George Illawarra Dragons (6-13) v Gold Coast Titans (4-15)

- The Titans have scored 16 tries in NRL 2019 after the opposition has made an error, the second most of any team in this campaign when starting a set in the same fashion.

- Dragons hooker Cameron McInnes has made the most tackles (932) of any player in 2019.

Parramatta Eels (11-8) v Newcastle Knights (8-11)

- The Knights have won 11 of their past 13 NRL matches against the Eels, including the most recent four games in that span.

- Parramatta have scored 13 tries in 2019 from their own half of the field, the second most of all teams this term from that range. Sydney Roosters top the list with 14.

Canterbury Bulldogs (6-13) v Wests Tigers (9-10)

- The Bulldogs have kept Wests scoreless in the first half of their past two meetings, winning on both occasions. Canterbury have triumphed in four of their past six clashes.

- The Tigers have scored 21 tries on the sixth tackle, the most of any team this year.

Sunday

Canberra Raiders (13-6) v Sydney Roosters (13-6)

- The Roosters have scored the most tries (84) of any team in 2019, 11 more than the Raiders (73) who have scored the third most.

- Canberra’s Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad (1193) and James Tedesco of the Roosters (975) have made the most metres from kick returns of all players.

South Sydney Rabbitohs (13-6) v Melbourne Storm (16-3)

- The Storm have won 20 of their past 23 NRL matches against the Rabbitohs, including their most recent encounter last September by a single point (29-28).

- The Rabbitohs' Damien Cook has made the most try assists (22) of any player, seven more than Cameron Munster for Melbourne.

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