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.

Sydney Roosters moved into second place in the NRL with a comprehensive 58-6 thrashing of bottom club Gold Coast Titans on Sunday.

With South Sydney Rabbitohs having slipped up against Cronulla Sharks on Saturday, the Roosters made light work of the Titans, who offered few positives for incoming coach Justin Holbrook.

After James Tedesco's early try, Brett Morris - now the 12th player to surpass 150 NRL career tries - helped himself to a 12-minute hat-trick before Daniel Tupou went over, with Latrell Mitchell adding the extras to make it 28-0 at half-time.

Any hopes of the Titans restoring some pride in the second half were ended when Tedesco doubled his tally, with Cooper Cronk racing over four minutes later for his 100th NRL try.

Ryley Jacks snatched a consolation for the Titans in between a pair of Mitchell scores, and the Roosters' Sam Verrills had the final say by touching down for the first time in his NRL career.

In Sunday's other match, Parramatta Eels consolidated their place in the top eight with a battling 12-4 victory away at St George Illawarra Dragons.

The visitors were 10-0 up by the 22nd minute and kept their lead intact heading into the break.

Mikaele Ravalawa's try seven minutes after the restart put the pressure on the Eels' defence, though, and they had to rely on a 70th-minute penalty from Mitchell Moses to halt the Dragons' momentum and hold on for what could prove a vital win in their bid to qualify for the Finals.

Josh Hodgson is set to make a landmark NRL appearance when Canberra Raiders take on New Zealand Warriors on Friday.

The former Hull KR and Hull FC man has played for the Raiders since 2015 and will be looking to propel his side to victory on his 100th league outing in Australia.

A win for the Raiders would see them - temporarily at least - move level with second-placed South Sydney Rabbitohs on 28 points.

We take a look at round 20's key statistics, courtesy of Opta.

Thursday

West Tigers (8-10) v North Queensland Cowboys (7-11)

- The Tigers have won their last six NRL games on the bounce against North Queensland at Leichhardt Oval, including a 20-12 victory when they last met at the venue in 2018.

- The Cowboys have made 12 or more errors in each of their last five NRL matches against the Tigers.

Friday

New Zealand Warriors (7-1-10) v Canberra Raiders (12-6)

- Including a 20-16 win in their last meeting in Auckland, the Warriors have won 10 of their last 13 NRL games against the Raiders on home turf.

- Jarrod Croker has scored 17 tries in 17 games against the Warriors – including five in his last five – making it his best tally against any single opponent in the NRL.

Brisbane Broncos (8-1-9) v Melbourne Storm (15-3)

- Andrew McCullough of the Broncos has played the most minutes (1,068) of any player to have made one error or fewer in the NRL this year.

- The Storm have won 16 of their last 18 NRL meetings with Brisbane and the last six in a row.

Saturday

Manly Sea Eagles (11-7) v Newcastle Knights (8-10)

- The last time Manly conceded 20 points or more in an NRL match against Newcastle was in 2012. They have won seven of the nine games since then.

- Tom Trbojevic has been directly involved in 1.7 tries per game in the NRL this season, the most of any player to have played more than one match.

Canterbury Bulldogs (5-13) v Penrith Panthers (9-9)

- Reimis Smith of the Bulldogs has made 66 quick play-the-balls this NRL season, 12 more than any other player and 23 more than the Panthers' Josh Mansour (43).

- The Panthers have won four of their last five clashes with the Bulldogs, despite having led at half-time only once in that run.

Cronulla Sharks (8-10) v South Sydney Rabbitohs (13-5)

- Only the Storm (9) have scored more tries after forcing a line drop-out in this season than the Sharks (8).

- The Rabbitohs' Damien Cook has made a league-high 21 try assists this year.

Sunday

Sydney Roosters (12-6) v Gold Coast Titans (4-14)

- The Roosters have won their last four straight games - and six of their last seven - against the Titans.

- Michael Gordon may be key if the NRL's bottom club - who have announced Justin Holbrook as their coach for 2020 - are to get anything against the Roosters. He has a goal-kicking success rate of 88 per cent this campaign.

St George Illawarra Dragons (6-12) v Parramatta Eels (10-8)

- The Eels have won eight of their previous nine NRL matches against the Dragons.

- The Dragons are the NRL's top tacklers this season, having made 371 per game, 30 more than the Eels.

Canberra Raiders put an end to Penrith Panthers' winning streak in the NRL on Sunday, while Sydney Roosters continued their recent dominance over Canterbury Bulldogs.

Penrith had won seven on the spin going into the game but found the Raiders too hot to handle at Panthers Stadium, though their cause was not helped by Dean Whare spending 10 minutes in the sin bin.

Canberra capitalised quickly on the numerical advantage with Elliott Whitehead crashing over, helping open up a 12-6 half-time lead.

The contest remained close in the second half and it was not until John Bateman finished off a breakaway try in the 74th minute that the Raiders were certain of victory on their travels.

They sit level on 26 points with the Roosters, who recorded a sixth straight win over the Bulldogs. James Tedesco, Joseph Manu and Brett Morris all scored tries in what was a comfortable victory despite the final 20-12 scoreline.

Latrell Mitchell landed all three of his conversion attempts as well as a first-half penalty as Sydney triumphed at ANZ Stadium, despite Reimis Smith crossing twice after the interval for the Bulldogs.

However, victory may have come at a cost for the reigning champions. Both Siosiua Taukeiaho and Boyd Cordner were forced off with calf injuries, while Jared Waerea-Hargreaves was placed on report for a high shot in the closing stages.

Robbie Farah is expected to join the NRL's 300-appearances club when Wests Tigers face Newcastle Knights this weekend.

The 35-year-old will become the 39th player to reach the milestone if he features for Wests at McDonald Jones Stadium on Friday.

Newcastle start the 19th round in eighth place, but they will be hoping to get back on track after losing three in a row.

We take a look at the week's key statistics, courtesy of Opta.

Thursday

Cronulla Sharks (7-10) v North Queensland Cowboys (7-10)

- The Sharks have won six of their last eight NRL games against the Cowboys and are bidding for a third successive success after scoring 70 points in the past two victories.

- No other forward has made more line breaks than Cronulla's Briton Nikora, who has managed 11 this season.

Friday

Newcastle Knights (8-9) v Wests Tigers (7-10)

- Farah scored a try and provided an assist in his last game against the Knights.

- His team-mate Luke Brooks has been in fine form against the Knights having been directly involved in 10 tries (four tries and six assists) in his previous eight appearances.

South Sydney Rabbitohs (12-5) v St George Illawarra Dragons (6-11)

- After a run of just three wins in 17 against the Dragons, the Rabbitohs have now won 12 of their last 15 meetings.

- South Sydney's Cameron Murray has scored the opening try on four occasions in 2019, the joint-most of any player along with Sydney Roosters star Latrell Mitchell.


Saturday

Parramatta Eels (9-8) v New Zealand Warriors (7-1-9)

- The Warriors are bidding to avoid defeat for a fifth straight game away from home, a sequence they last managed in 2002.

- However, the Eels have won five of their six NRL matches at Bankwest Stadium by an average margin of 22 points per game.

Gold Coast Titans (4-13) v Brisbane Broncos (7-1-9)

- Bryce Cartwright is set to play his 100th NRL game for Gold Coast, who have won two of their last three games against the Broncos.

- Brisbane's Tevita Pangai Junior has made 48 offloads this season, five more than any other player.

Melbourne Storm (15-2) v Manly Sea Eagles (10-7)

- Melbourne claimed a thrilling one-point victory in the last clash between the two in 2018, the fourth time in the past five matches they have been victorious.

- The Storm's back three have made only 36 errors in 2019, five fewer than the back three of any other team in the NRL.


Sunday

Canterbury Bulldogs (5-12) v Sydney Roosters (11-6)

- While the Roosters have scored 11 opening tries this season, the Bulldogs (five) have the fewest in the NRL.

- Sydney are on a five-game winning sequence against the Bulldogs and have won nine of the last 11.

Penrith Panthers (9-8) v Canberra Raiders (11-6)

- Penrith will equal a club record set in 2003 if they can beat Canberra and record an eighth straight win.

- Brent Naden has scored six tries in as many games since making his NRL debut in round 12. Only Josh Dugan and Ken Maumalo (seven each) have touched down more often in that time.

Cronulla Sharks halfback Kyle Flanagan has agreed a two-year deal to join Sydney Roosters from the start of the 2020 NRL season.

The 20-year-old will add to the Roosters' playmaking options in the absence of Cooper Cronk, who will retire at the end of the current campaign.

Cronulla granted permission for Flanagan to be released from the final two years of his contract, allowing him to sign for the title contenders.

"Kyle is a crafty playmaker and an exciting young talent, whose services we are delighted to have secured," Roosters chief executive Joe Kelly said.

"We look forward to welcoming Kyle to the Roosters and to watching his development over the coming seasons."

Flanagan is behind Shaun Johnson and Chad Townsend in the pecking order at Cronulla and he hopes to be given more opportunities when he links up with the Roosters.

"It is disappointing to leave my junior club but I feel that I am ready to play regular NRL," he said.

"The club has been such a big part of my life and it is tough to leave. I will be doing everything I can to get back in the team and finish the year on a positive note."

South Sydney Rabbitohs produced a late onslaught to beat North Queensland Cowboys 30-18 after Sydney Roosters and Canberra Raiders had also secured NRL wins on Saturday.

The Bunnies looked to be heading for a fifth defeat in six matches after stopping the rot against Manly Sea Eagles last weekend, but scored three tries in the last nine minutes to down the Cowboys.

Ethan Lowe's first-half double - either side of scores from Tom Opacic and Kyle Feldt - gave Wayne Bennett's men a 12-10 lead at the break, only for Scott Drinkwater's converted try and a Jake Clifford to put the Cowboys six points in front.

It was the Rabbitohs who finished with a flourish to take the points, though, Dane Gagai, Tevita Tatola and Cameron Murray touching down late on at 1300SMILES Stadium.

Adam Reynolds was on target with all five conversion attempts as Souths moved above the Roosters into second spot - four points adrift of leaders Melbourne Storm.

The Roosters demolished Newcastle Knights in the second half at the SCG, easing to a 48-10 victory which came at a cost as the unfortunate Jake Friend damaged his right forearm and could be out for another month.

Trent Robinson's side scored seven tries after the break, Daniel Tupou going over in his 150th NRL game for the Roosters.

Latrell Mitchell slotted over all eight kicks and grabbed a try, while James Tedesco and Boyd Cordner were among the other Roosters scorers in a rout.

The Raiders have now won five of their last six matches after fending off Wests Tigers 20-12 at GIO Stadium, Dunamis Lui, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and Jordan Rapana all scoring in the opening 20 minutes.

Cronulla Sharks were the victims as Cameron Smith marked his landmark 400th NRL appearance in style last week.

And the Sharks are now in desperate need of a win as they approach a fixture with New Zealand Warriors, who they have a good record against.

Josh Mansour and Penrith Panthers are also facing favourable opponents, while Smith and Melbourne Storm might be able to further improve an outstanding season.

We take a look at the week's key statistics, courtesy of Opta.

 

Thursday

Brisbane Broncos (6-9-1) v Canterbury Bulldogs (5-11)

- Each of the past six NRL games between the Broncos and the Bulldogs have been won by the home team on the day.

- Anthony Milford has had four try involvements (one try, three assists) in his past four NRL matches against the Bulldogs.

Friday

New Zealand Warriors (6-9-1) v Cronulla Sharks (7-9)

- The Sharks have won nine of their past 11 NRL games against the Warriors, including four on the bounce.

- However, Cronulla are on a four-match losing run. The last time they endured more consecutive losses was a 10-match span across the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

Penrith Panthers (8-8) v St George Illawarra Dragons (6-10)

- The Panthers have won four of their past five NRL games against the Dragons at Panthers Stadium, conceding an average of just 11 points per game in that time.

- Mansour has scored a try and produced at least two tackle breaks in each of his previous three NRL matches against the Dragons.

Saturday

Sydney Roosters (10-6) v Newcastle Knights (8-8)

- The Knights are looking to defeat the Roosters twice in a single campaign for the first time in premiership history.

- Kalyn Ponga has had three try involvements (two tries, one assist) in his past two NRL matches against the Roosters.

Canberra Raiders (10-6) v Wests Tigers (7-9)

- The Raiders have won five of their past six NRL matches against Wests, with those victories coming by an average margin of 40 points per game.

- Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad has gained 999 metres returning kicks in NRL 2019, the most of any player this season.

North Queensland Cowboys (7-9) v South Sydney Rabbitohs (11-5)

- The Rabbitohs have won their past three NRL games in succession against the Cowboys – twice by a margin of just one point – after having won only one of their nine prior meetings.

- Cowboys have scored the joint-most tries (11, also Parramatta Eels) in the final 10 minutes of the first half of games this season.

Sunday

Gold Coast Titans (4-12) v Melbourne Storm (14-2)

- The Storm have won six of their previous seven NRL games against the Titans, keeping them scoreless in the second halves of three of their past four meetings.

- Smith has successfully kicked 13 of his past 14 shots at goal against the Titans in the NRL.

Manly Sea Eagles (9-7) v Parramatta Eels (9-7)

- The Eels have won seven of their past eight NRL games against the Sea Eagles, but they were defeated 54-0 when these teams last met at Lottoland.

- The Sea Eagles and the Eels have scored the joint-most tries (10, also Melbourne Storm) from their own half of the field of all the sides in the NRL this year.

Canberra Raiders roared up to third place in the NRL with a seven-try demolition of St George Illawarra Dragons, despite having Nick Cotric sent off.

Ricky Stuart's side powered to a 36-14 victory in Wollongong, where captain Jarrod Croker scored his 121st career try for Canberra to establish a new team record.

The Raiders bolted to a 26-0 lead in just 46 minutes with tries from Cotric, Croker, Joseph Tapine, Bailey Simonsson and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad.

Korbin Sims and Luciano Leilua trimmed the lead before Cotric was red-carded in the 58th minute by referee Ashley Klein for a dangerous tackle on Tim Lafai.

Siliva Havili nudged the Raiders further ahead moments later and Nicoll-Klokstad grabbed his second of the game before Matthew Dufty pulled back four points in the dying moments for the Dragons.

Jake Clifford booted a match-winning drop goal as North Queensland Cowboys came from behind to score a surprise 15-12 victory over Sydney Roosters, who slipped to fourth.

With team-mate Gavin Cooper making a 300th NRL appearance, Clifford made his decisive intervention to break a 12-12 tie, before adding a penalty after the full-time siren.

Sydney were slow starters and trailed 6-0 at the interval after Clifford's 14th-minute try, converted by Jordan Kahu. The hosts, sitting third before the game, found their rhythm early in the second half and surged ahead on the back of tries from Jake Friend and Brett Morris, only to be pegged back level at 12-12 when John Asiata crossed and Clifford added the extras.

Clifford provided the late heroics, bissecting the posts from the 30-metre line with a minute left on the clock, inflicting a fifth defeat in seven on the faltering Roosters.

Brad Takairangi plundered a hat-trick for the Parramatta Eels in their 30-18 win over Wests Tigers at Bankwest Stadium. The powerful centre crossed out wide in the 32nd, 35th and 71st minutes, with his physicality too much for the Tigers to handle.

Blake Ferguson also dotted down for the Eels, with Mitchell Moses booting 14 points. David Nofoaluma scored twice for Wests, Corey Thompson and Robert Jennings also going over.

Just a week after reaching 2,500 NRL points in his illustrious career, Melbourne Storm star Cameron Smith is closing in on yet another milestone.

Cronulla Sharks will be hoping to continue their good form against the Storm – they have won five of their last six NRL meetings – and put a dampener on the celebrations at AAMI Park, though.

Landmarks will also be in the offing for Benji Marshall and Gavin Cooper, respectively, when Wests Tigers take on Parramatta Eels and North Queensland Cowboys face Sydney Roosters.

Ahead of this weekend's NRL action, we look at the stats courtesy of Opta.

 

Friday

Penrith Panthers (7-8) v Gold Coast Titans (4-11)

 - Half of Penrith's NRL tries this season (17 of 34) have been scored by their starting forwards; no other team has a ratio exceeding 35 per cent.

 - The Titans' Anthony Don has scored a try in each of his last four NRL games against the Panthers and has made 12 tackle breaks in his last two meetings with them.

 Newcastle Knights (8-7) v Canterbury Bulldogs (4-11)

 - The Bulldogs have missed fewer than 20 tackles in three of their last five NRL games against the Knights; however, they are yet to miss fewer than 20 against any opponent in 2019.

 - Mitchell Pearce has had four try involvements (two tries, two assists) in his last two NRL games against the Bulldogs, though appearing in State of Origin on Wednesday may stop him being involved heavily.

Saturday

South Sydney Rabbitohs (10-5) v Manly Sea Eagles (9-6)

- The Rabbitohs have scored 24 tries on possession begun with a penalty tap this season, four more than any other team.

- Manly five-eighth Cade Cust has scored three tries and provided three try assists in his last four NRL appearances.

Brisbane Broncos (6-9) v New Zealand Warriors (6-9)

- Corey Oates of the Broncos has made 21 line breaks in NRL this season, three more than any other player despite having played only 13 of a potential 15 games.

- Ken Maumalo has scored seven tries in his last five Warriors games and boasts a tally of 12 in the NRL this season, the joint-most of any player and as many as he had scored in his two previous campaigns combined.

Melbourne Storm (13-2) v Cronulla Sharks (7-8)

- Storm captain Smith is set to become the first player in premiership history to play 400 games.

- The Sharks have scored 13 tries from kicks in NRL this year, more than any other team in the competition.

Sunday

Sydney Roosters (10-5) v North Queensland Cowboys (6-9)

- North Queensland second row Cooper is one appearance away from his 300th in the NRL.

- Jason Taumalolo of the Cowboys has gained 180 metres over the advantage line per game this season, 15m more than any other player.

Wests Tigers (7-8) v Parramatta Eels (8-7)

- Tigers star Marshall is set to play his 300th NRL game.

- The Tigers have missed just 27 tackles per game this season, fewer than any other team in the competition.

St George Illawarra Dragons (6-9) v Canberra Raiders (9-6)

- The Raiders have missed just one shot at goal in their last five NRL games against the Dragons, slotting through 15 of their 16 attempts in that time.

- Mikaele Ravalawa of the Dragons has scored four tries in his last four outings, including one in each of his last two.

Los Angeles is set for a blockbuster NBA rivalry next season after Kawhi Leonard reportedly agree to sign on for the Clippers.

With Paul George also said to be joining from the Oklahoma City Thunder, an exciting Clippers team is set to go head-to-head against a Los Angeles Lakers franchise fronted by NBA icon LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

Leonard, who spearheaded the Toronto Raptors to a maiden championship last season, is a signing who can make the Clippers – who finished eighth in the Western Conference in 2018-19 – a real force to be reckoned with.

In July 2018, it was the Lakers making waves when they drafted in superstar James from the Cleveland Cavaliers.

There is now some real star power across both Los Angeles teams, and inspired by this, we have taken a look at times when cross-city rivalries sent the sporting world into a frenzy.

 

Manchester City v Manchester United

For a long time, Manchester City lived in Manchester United's shadow, suffering multiple relegations while their rivals won a treble and dominated the domestic game under Alex Ferguson's tutelage. Things changed in 2008, however, when City were bought by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, owner of the Abu Dhabi United Group, and they have since gone on to become much more than the "noisy neighbours" that Ferguson dubbed them in 2009.

The pendulum did not swing fully in City's favour until the last day of the 2011-12, when they clinched their first Premier League title in the most dramatic of circumstances. Sergio Aguero's last-gasp goal in a 3-2 win against QPR is the thing of folklore, the Argentina striker scoring after Edin Dzeko had already levelled the scores in stoppage time. It denied Ferguson's United, who thought they had the job done having won at Sunderland until news of City's sensational finale filtered through.

United got their revenge the following season, but since Ferguson left, the Red Devils have hardly come close to keeping pace with City.

Rabbitohs v Roosters

The oldest and fiercest rivalry in the NRL is between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Sydney Roosters.

Their rivalry escalated in the 1990s when the increased financial standing of the Roosters came in stark contrast to the lack of funds available to the Rabbitohs, who broke a 10-year, 13-game losing streak against their nemesis in 2005.

In the last regular-season rounds of 2013 and 2014, the Roosters came out on top against their rivals to claim the Minor Premiership, though the Rabbitohs won in the preliminary final in the latter campaign to reach their first grand final in 43 years. Four years later, the Roosters defeated Souths 12-4 in the preliminary final at Allianz Stadium, in front of a record crowd.

Mets v Yankees 

In 2000, the New York Mets and New York Yankees met in the Major League Baseball World Series - the first time two teams from the Big Apple had met in the showpiece since 1956.

Referred to as the "Subway Series", it was the Yankees who came out on top with a dominant 4-1 series win, despite having lost 15 of their last 18 regular season games.

It was a third successive World Series triumph for the Yankees, who also made it to the same stage in 2001, but lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks. The rivals have not met in a World Series since, and it took the Mets another 15 years to make it back to the big stage.

UCLA v USC

One of the biggest college football rivalries comes in the form of the UCLA Bruins and USC Trojans.

The most famous encounter between the two universities came in 1967, in a match known as "the game of the century." It matched USC - with OJ Simpson - against a UCLA side including Gary Beban, with the Conference Championship on the line, while Simpson and Beban were competing for the Heisman Trophy.

It was USC who ran out victorious in a 21-20 victory and they went on to defeat Indiana in the Rose Bowl and win the National Championship. Beban claimed the Heisman Trophy, despite Simpson's notable performance in the encounter and 1,543 rushing yards over the season.

Boca Juniors v River Plate

One of the most famous and fierce local rivalries in football, or indeed any sport, the Superclasico is an incredible Buenos Aires derby between Argentina's two biggest clubs - Boca Juniors and River Plate.

In 2018, both sides progressed to the final of the Copa Libertadores, making it the first Superclasico final of an international competition. It was a two-legged encounter with one match to be played at each ground.

Tensions were high, and after a 2-2 draw in the first leg at Boca's home Estadio Alberto J. Armando, they boiled over in dramatic and violent fashion prior to the second leg at El Monumental, with the match eventually called off after the Boca coach was attacked en route to the stadium.

After much controversy, the second leg finally took place at Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid, with River winning 3-1 to secure a 5-2 aggregate victory and their fourth Copa Libertadores title.

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