Cronulla is set to be without Shaun Johnson for its NRL finals campaign amid fears the star halfback snapped his Achilles tendon in a tough 34-18 loss to the Sydney Roosters at the SCG.
- The Sharks lost Shaun Johnson, Royce Hart and Josh Dugan all to injury in the loss to the Roosters
- The Storm scored nine tries in a 50-22 victory over the Wests Tigers
- The Titans beat the Sea Eagles 42-24 to win their fourth straight match
Johnson went down untouched clutching his lower right leg in the 48th minute and was soon after carted from the field.
He gave the thumbs up to the crowd from the back of the medicab before reports emerged of the season-ending injury.
Adding to the Sharks’ injury woes, prop Royce Hunt dislocated his right knee cap in the second half and Josh Dugan was taken off late with a knee ailment.
With just one match left before the finals, losing Johnson — who leads the NRL with 22 try-assists this season — is a disaster for the Sharks who will not have a second chance in week one.
And while the Sharks’ injury crisis dominated the second half, the opening 40 minutes was all about the Roosters.
It was a magical night for Mitch Aubusson, who scored a brace in his 303rd NRL match for the club to become their most-capped player.
The first was a short ball from Joseph Manu to crash over just five minutes after Aubusson led the team out as captain through a guard of honour.
But the second was more dubious.
Chasing through a grubber from Angus Crichton, Aubusson appeared to knock the ball on but replays showed he trapped it between his leg and hand.
The stroke of luck landed the milestone man his double and put the Roosters ahead 24-6 before they conceded late in the half.
After seven first-half errors the Sharks still managed to score twice with just 42 per cent possession, as they were steered around by Johnson before he went down.
Ronaldo Mulitalo and Siosifa Talakai scored in the first half but a third try to Braden Hamlin-Uele further punished the disjointed Roosters’ defence.
The premiers had enough class to polish off the win, even while missing some of their biggest stars.
James Tedesco, Jake Friend and Boyd Cordner all watched from the stands as the Roosters ran in six tries, including a double to Luke Keary.
All are set to return to play South Sydney on Friday night.
Storm post half-century
Melbourne has sealed a top-two berth ahead of the NRL finals after claiming a comfortable 50-22 win over the Wests Tigers on the Sunshine Coast.
The Storm ran in nine tries against the Wests Tigers, with wingers Suliasi Vunivalu and Josh Addo-Carr each chipping in with doubles.
Captain Cameron Smith, Nicho Hynes, Jahrome Hughes, Justin Olam and Tino Faasuamaleaui also crossed for Storm tries.
The comfortable victory featured a comical moment between Smith and Storm coach Craig Bellamy.
The Storm were leading by 16 points late in the match when Smith kicked ahead for himself to claim the 47th try of his career.
Smith’s tally surpassed the total achieved Bellamy during his 150-match career with Canberra between 1982 and 1992.
Smith instantly directed his celebration towards the coach’s box on the Sunshine Coast, before Bellamy responded by giving Smith the finger in jest.
It was a vintage performance from Smith, who finished the night with a try assist, seven conversions from nine attempts, and 30 tackles.
Rookie Asu Kepaoa scored two of the Wests Tigers’ four tries.
The Storm will finish second on the ladder to Penrith, who wrapped up the minor premiership with a victory over the Cowboys on Friday night.
Trbojevic injured in loss to Gold Coast
Tom Trbojevic sustained a shoulder injury in his long-awaited return for Manly, who went down to Gold Coast in a crushing 42-24 defeat at Brookvale Oval.
Playing his first match since June after being sidelined with a troublesome hamstring injury, Trbojevic was hurt attempting to make a tackle on Titans fullback AJ Brimson during the second half.
Brimson crossed for a try, with Trbojevic left with his right arm dangling by his side before he later departed the field.
Manly officials were initially hopeful the injury was only a stinger, but it comes at the worst possible time for Trbojevic.
Including Saturday’s loss, he had just two matches to impress New South Wales coach Brad Fittler before the end-of-season State of Origin series.
Trbojevic looked particularly rusty at the back on Saturday afternoon in both attack and defence, with two of his four errors coming after the shoulder injury.
His presence in attack helped Manly score one try as he drew in two defenders off the ball, while he also helped chase down Titans flyer Treymain Spry Sprei to deny him a 90-metre intercept try.
But on other occasions his injury lay-off showed, such as his failure to shadow a grubber dead that allowed Kevin Proctor to score and his fumbling of a poor Tevita Funa pass in the lead-up to another Titans try.
Regardless, the Sea Eagles were completely outplayed by the Titans, who posted their equal-highest score in their 14-year history.
The Titans have now won four straight matches for the first time since 2014. They are ninth on the ladder after being tipped by a number of commentators to collect the wooden spoon.
Brimson scored two tries, including an 80-metre effort that left referee Matt Noyen with an injured hamstring after Young Tonumaipea found his teammate from a 20-metre tap.
Tonumaipea also claimed a brace, making the most of a 60-metre intercept from Corey Thompson for his second.
Thompson finished the match off with a hamstring injury after earlier scoring a try, while Sam Stone and Spry scored the Titans’ other tries.
The result means Manly will finish the season with just one win from seven matches at its home ground Brookvale Oval.