All the key stats, breakout players and talking points from Round 9 of the National Youth Competition.
Home away from home
You'd think playing in front of friends and family would be a massive advantage in the Holden Cup. Wrong! The first seven games of the round were won by the road team, with the Storm unable to complete the sweep against the high-flying Dragons at WIN Stadium.
The Eels are the real deal
They might have started the year with back-to-back losses, but the Eels have quickly righted their wrongs to shoot up the ladder with a series of impressive wins in the NYC. They caused a stir in Round 4 with a shock win over the Sharks that saw them hold the attacking juggernaut to just 12 points and then flexed their muscles with a huge win over the Tigers three weeks later. Parramatta held their own against the table-topping Panthers in Round 8, falling four points short of causing a monumental upset, and they showed on Friday it was no fluke with a season-defending win in Townville over a Cowboys side that had lost just once in 2017. The blue and golds ran in 11 tries in steamy conditions to announce themselves as a genuine premiership threat.
How didn't they score?!
The Holden Cup is renowned for its breathtaking tries, but a couple of players earned the ire of their teammates for butchering certain four-pointers on the weekend. Knights winger Mitch Andrews got the ball rolling with an inexplicable miss on Saturday when all he had to do was run straight and he would have had his second try in the space of a few minutes. Instead, he stepped off his left straight into the path of two defenders who held him up while his teammates who were backing up on the inside could only watch on in disbelief. However, Dylan Morris takes the cake this week after he bombed what would have been a sublime Dragons try. Halfback Jackson Willis had kicked on the zero tackle from a midfield scrum, and with no one in front of him, Morris just had to wait for the bounce to pick up the ball and score. Instead, he decided to toe it ahead, with the ball beating him over the dead-ball line.
Players of the round
We're tracking the best performances every round this year with a good old-fashioned 3-2-1 points system.
3 – There's a reason why Eels winger Greg Leleisiuao has been named for the Junior Kiwis; he's the most damaging ball-runner in the NYC. He was simply unstoppable against the Cowboys with three tries, six line breaks, 307 metres and 14 tackle breaks in the big win up north.
2 – Tom Starling stamped his authority as one of the form hookers in the competition with another sterling effort in Newcastle's thumping win over the Titans. The No.9 set up four tries, made 35 tackles and ran for 136 metres in a man-of-the-match performance on the Gold Coast.
1 – It's usually pretty easy to identify the top three performers of the week, but there was simply no splitting these two men after they both produced their best matches of 2017. Roosters five-eighth Lachlan Lam lived up to the famous name with three tries and a brilliantly-time short ball for a try assist in his side's win across the ditch, while Dragons halfback Jackson Willis scored a hat-trick and set another one up with a deft kick as the Red V marched on with a big win over the Storm.
Broncos 12 – Panthers 44
Rabbitohs 20 – Sea Eagles 38
Cowboys 12 – Eels 60
Titans 22 – Knights 50
Bulldogs 22 – Raiders 26
Wests Tigers 18 – Sharks 34
Warriors 16 – Roosters 24
Dragons 46 – Storm 24