NRL premiers the Sydney Roosters have hit form at just the right time of the season after hammering a dangerous Warriors side 46-12 in Auckland on Sunday.
On a weekend when leaders Manly were shocked by a rejuvenated Parramatta and second-placed South Sydney were stunned at home by North Queensland, the Roosters took full advantage to consolidate third spot on the ladder.
Trent Robinson’s side sit behind Souths on points differential and could potentially knock them out of the top two by beating them in round 26 when the teams meet at Allianz Stadium, should they beat Melbourne at home next week.
Robinson had labelled the Auckland match to play the Warriors, whose finals hopes took a huge dent with the loss, as one of their toughest of the season and was delighted with how his side is shaping up for the finals.
“We’ve built over that period and I knew our first real big test was coming here especially with the position the Warriors were in,” Robinson said.
“We need to play these games and we need to prove ourselves away from home on trips like this and then at home against teams like Melbourne and Souths,” he said.
“We’ll know where we’re at in a couple of weeks.”
St George Illawarra kept their season alive with a crushing 34-6 win over an injury-hit Gold Coast, who are already out of finals contention.
The win marked Paul McGregor’s first game as permanent coach in style and although their destiny is not in their own hands, they can knock the Broncos out of contention with victory over the ninth-placed Queenslanders in Brisbane on Friday.
Anthony Griffin got one over Wayne Bennett, the man who will replace him next season, on Saturday with an impressive 48-6 win over a woeful Newcastle.
It was the sixth time in eight games that Griffin has beaten Bennett with a Ben Barba hat-trick doing most of the damage to the Knights.
The Eels were impressive in beating Manly 22-12 on Friday and registered all of their points in the second half to keep the Sea Eagles scoreless.
They sit on 28 points in eighth spot and will play in the finals for the first time since 2009 if they win their last two games of the season away to Newcastle and Canberra.
Des Hasler’s Canterbury did enough to see off the injury-stricken Wests Tigers 30-10 on Thursday in a low-key encounter at ANZ Stadium.
Fourth-placed Penrith host Melbourne (seventh) on Monday night.