It was a Super Saturday in Round 24 of the Intrust Super Premiership NSW, with all six games played on the same day across Sydney, Newcastle and the Central Coast. With the season’s byes over and all 12 teams back on deck, the weekend delivered with four genuine nailbiters – only the Bulldogs enjoyed a comfortable victory.
The day kicked off with one of the finishes of the season between the Magpies and Knights at McDonald Jones Stadium. A six-point margin cemented Newcastle’s place in the top eight, but it looked extremely unlikely when they trailed by 18 points with just 11 minutes remaining. An incredible comeback then ensued, with four Knights tries sealing the victory. The Magpies had the unusual stat of making the second-most line-breaks of the weekend (six) but the second-fewest metres (1,323), while they also came up with just seven tackles and three penalties conceded. Regardless, it was the Knights who enjoyed the majority of possession (52 per cent) and were forced to make far fewer tackles (265).
After racing out to an early 10-0 lead, Illawarra managed to be edged out by Blacktown for a 24-22 defeat at WIN Stadium. The error count tells the story of a home side which well and truly lost their way with the football: 16 errors was the most of any side this year. Meanwhile, the Sea Eagles were far from perfect in defence with a huge 59 missed tackles, but they managed to win their third consecutive game and put Illawarra in some doubt of playing finals football.
When the table-topping Wyong Roos met the second-placed Warriors in a possible battle for the minor premiership, it had been billed as one of the games of the season, delivering in the best way possible. The lead changed twice before the Roos looked certain to take the two points, but two Warriors tries in the final seven minutes meant they’d have to settle for one. It was still enough to ensure the Roos finish the regular season on top of the ladder, but they will want to improve on the 12 penalties conceded in the game at Morry Breen Reserve.
The fourth tight finish of the day came at Henson Park, in a rare low-scoring affair between Newtown and Mounties. With strong winds making life difficult for kickers at all six games, conversions were ultimately the difference with just one kick from four attempts. Mounties ran further than any other side in Round 24 (1,721), helped by Eddie Aiono’s 208 – the highest individual tally of the round. Special mention must go to the Jets’ Kurt Dillon and Jayden McDonogh for making 50 tackles each, beaten only by Eloni Vunakece’s 51 and Cheyne Whitelaw's 52.
It was the Bulldogs who enjoyed the most dominant victory of the day, continuing their winning ways by demoralising the Wests Tigers 48-4. Only a Ryland Jacobs try in the first half prevented the home side from being held scoreless, while the Bulldogs' Tyrone Phillips and Craig Garvey both got onto the scoresheet before it was confirmed they will be leaving the club in 2018. It was the fourth consecutive win for the Steve Georgallis-coached side, who have lost in just one of the past four outings.
The Panthers opened up a 16-0 lead over the Bears after as many minutes, before a spirited fightback gave them a chance of causing an upset at St Marys. A huge 57 per cent of possession for the home side ultimately ensured the win, with North Sydney subsequently making the fewest tackles (1,008) and most tackles (330) of any side in Round 24. Penrith's eight-point victory wrapped up the penultimate round of the Intrust Super Premiership NSW.
View the full stats reports from each of the games below - and stay tuned for the Round 24 Team of the Week, to be released later today.