Holden Cup wrap: Round 26

All the key stats and talking points from Round 26 of the National Youth Competition.

Staggs the hero for baby Broncos

The Broncos started the round knowing that a win would secure a finals berth while a loss would leave them in the lap of the gods. Things didn't look good early in the second half when they trailed the Cowboys 22-8 but a three-try burst turned the game on its head to put Brisbane up by two points. A penalty goal with five minutes remaining saw the Cowboys level the scores, and while a draw would have been enough for them to seal a spot in the eight the Broncos made sure of the result when Kotoni Staggs nailed a penalty goal of his own after the siren to seal the win that also cost the Cowboys a place in the top four. 

Youngsters shine on Old Boys Day 

A last-gasp field goal to Jack Johns last week kept Newcastle's finals hopes alive but even their most loyal fans would have been nervous heading into the final game of the season. Needing results to go their way, the Knights were handed a lifeline when the Rabbitohs slipped up against the Eels and Manly lost at home to Penrith. That left Newcastle needing to beat the table-topping Sharks to make the eight; wishful thinking, right? They trailed for most of the afternoon and then had a try disallowed late in the game with the scores locked at 24-all but the Knights refused to give in and rode the support of the raucous crowd to run in two late tries to Eddy Tuilotolava and Matt Cooper to sneak into the top eight.  

Warriors claim unwanted record

They used to be the envy of the NYC but the Warriors had a year to forget with the three-time champions finishing 2017 with just three wins to claim the wooden spoon. They finished the year having conceded the most points in a single season (892) while they also ended 2017 with the worst points differential in competition history (-496). 

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 – It's safe to say the Rabbitohs won't be sending any Christmas cards to Eels back-rower Ray Stone after he scored four tries, ran for 183 metres and broke eight tackles to effectively knock the Bunnies out of the finals race. 

2 – When the Knights needed someone to step up they turned to halfback Hayden Loughrey who tormented Cronulla's defence with a try, two assists and plenty of tackle breaks around the middle of the ruck. 

1 – Attack was always going to dominate defence at Leichhardt Oval and Wests Tigers fullback Jai Doolan took advantage of the open expanses with two tries, 244 running metres and 12 tackle busts in his side's big win over the Warriors. 

Results
Cowboys 24 – Broncos 26
Eels 40 – Rabbitohs 26
Roosters 60 – Titans 24
Sea Eagles 10 – Panthers 29
Storm 22 – Raiders 24
Knights 36 – Sharks 24
Dragons 34 – Bulldogs 34
Wests Tigers 54 – Warriors 16