By the Numbers: NRL Round 26
Melbourne produce the goods, the Roosters' incredible run, Newcastle's unwanted history and the Bulldogs leave it late. The numbers that defined Round 26 of the 2015 NRL Telstra Premiership season.
Tried? Stressed? You'll feel better in fourth. That's what Melbourne will be hoping anyway, as they managed to defeat the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium despite two consecutive five-day turnarounds and a two-to-eight penalty count going the way of the home side. The win moved the Storm into fourth spot, and that's where they remained as the Sharks failed to defeat Manly, ensuring the 2012 premiers will be afforded a second chance should they fail to win in Week 1 of the finals.
The Roosters capped off a stellar regular season on Friday night, finishing minor premiers for the third consecutive year following their 30-0 demolition of the Rabbitohs, their 12th victory in a row. The win marked just the second time this season they've held a side to nil after downing the Warriors 24-0 in Round 19. Both victories came at home at Allianz Stadium, which bodes well for their qualifying final with the Storm, who only managed a penalty goal the last time these two sides met at the same venue in Round 12.
The Knights started the season with four wins in a row, yet find themselves without a permanent head coach and with the dreaded wooden spoon with 20 competition points after 26 rounds. The previous time they finished last was 10 years ago in 2005, when they also ended up on 20 points, the highest tally of any last-placed side in history. It's an unwanted record the Novocastrians will be hoping not to repeat in the future.
Round 26 produced plenty of excitement, with two games going beyond 80 minutes into golden point extra time. The Dragons got the better of Wests Tigers courtesy of a penalty goal to Josh Dugan, while Josh Hodgson managed to fool at least six Parramatta defenders with a dummy and darting run from close to the try line to ensure the Raiders rounded out 2015 on a high note.
In club legend Geoff Toovey's last game in charge of the Sea Eagles, it was perhaps fitting that one of Manly's brightest young prospects, local junior Tom Trbojevic, scored the match-winning try. A late inclusion in jersey No.20 for injured skipper Jamie Lyon, the prolific outside back loomed in support of Justin Horo following the back-rowers' initial intercept and break to help send Toovey out with a win.
Talk about leaving it late. The Warriors seemed destined to end their season with a victory over the Bulldogs, snapping a seven-game losing run in the process. But Canterbury had other ideas, with skipper James Graham crossing next to the posts in the 77th minute for his first four-pointer of the season ensuring the Bulldogs moved to fifth spot, narrowly missing out a place in the top four on for-and-against.