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Mounties host the Newcastle Knights in Round 23 of the Intrust Super Premiership NSW. Image: David Napper.

The Intrust Super Premiership NSW returned with five games in Round 23, defining a clearer picture of the 2017 finals series. Illawarra kicked things off with a comfortable win over the Bears, before the Knights narrowly held on in the most controversial of finishes against Mounties and the Panthers cruised past the Jets at Henson Park. On Sunday, the Warriors secured the two points with the bulk of possession at Mt Smart Stadium and in a bottom-of-the-table clash, the Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles proved far too good for the Wests Tigers.

Illawarra were in desperate need of a win to stay in touch with the top eight on Saturday afternoon and despite marginally less possession in the end, they ran in five tries to the Bears’ three at UOW Jubilee Oval. North Sydney will once again need to work on their discipline with 11 penalties conceded – the most of any side – while Illawarra were relatively error and penalty-free to finish the round in seventh place.

A heated finish involving the penalising, sin-binning and eventual send-off of Mounties’ Brent Naden hurt his side as they fell just two points short of the Knights at Aubrey Keech Reserve. Despite being down to 12 men and 12 points down at the time, the home side mounted a tremendous late charge to get close to Newcastle, but in the end the penalty goal resulting from Naden’s brain snap would prove the difference. Mounties enjoyed more possession in that game and were forced to make just 241 tackles, while the Knights came up with a round-high 13 errors (alongside the Panthers and Magpies). Interestingly, Newcastle now sit just one competition point away from Mounties and the two teams are some chance of meeting in the finals.

In the most dominant display of Round 23, Penrith put away Newtown to bounce back into the winners’ circle. The Jets scored first in each half but it was all the Panthers for the rest of the game as wingers Christian Crichton and Maika Sivo both notched up doubles, with the former running further than any other player (187 metres). Penrith ran in the most line-breaks of any side (10), while the Jets made the fewest (1) and missed the most tackles (42). Jaimin Jolliffe was the biggest contributor in defence, who alongside the Bears’ Jason Clark topped the round’s tackle count (42).

The Warriors turned around a half-time deficit to defeat the Magpies on their home turf and it appeared a relatively even contest for the duration, but in the end the home side came away with the biggest share of possession of Round 23 (58%). As a result, Wentworthville made the round’s most tackles (336) and also missed 41, allowing their opposition back into the game. For their part, the Warriors were the best-disciplined side of the weekend with regards to penalties and errors, registering three and six respectively.

View the full stats reports from each of the games below - and stay tuned for the Round 23 Team of the Week, to be released later today.