Brisbane, North Queensland set pace in NRL
Last year's finalists Brisbane and North Queensland continued to set the pace in Australia's National Rugby League with heavy wins in the weekend's eighth round.
Brisbane beat Souths 30-8 to start the round on Friday but paid a heavy price for the win, losing hooker Andrew McCullough to a serious knee injury and ending with two players — Joe Ofahengaue and Adam Blair — on report.
The win kept Brisbane atop the table with 14 points, two points clear of North Queensland who beat Parramatta 32-16 in a see-sawing game.
Cronulla has the chance to draw level with North Queensland when it plays Penrith on Sunday while Melbourne can also improve to 12 points when it hosts the New Zealand Warriors in one of three games played on Monday's ANZAC Day national holiday.
Both Brisbane and North Queensland needed a late flood of points to overwhelm their eighth-round opponents and their ability to produce those strong finishes emphasized their premiership credentials.
Brisbane led Souths 14-0 at halftime and protected their goalline for 53 minutes as they chased a 97-year-old competition record by holding opponents scoreless for three consecutive games.
But England's Sam Burgess rallied Souths who closed to within six points when captain Greg Inglis scored the first points the Broncos have conceded in 213 minutes. Souths closed within six points before Brisbane surged away with a try to Corey Oates — his seventh of the season.
Souths had been forced to make 63 more tackles than Brisbane in the first half and the effort told late in the second as the Broncos padded their lead with tries to Jordan Kahu and Corey Parker.
North Queensland preserved its unbeaten record at home in 2016 but faced a tougher test from Parramatta than the scoreline indicated.
Parramatta led 16-14 in the 66th minute when five-eighth Corey Norman was sin-binned for obstruction. Johnathan Thurston leveled the score with the resulting penalty and North Queensland exploited its numerical advantage with late tries to Antonio Winterstein and a double to Michael Morgan.
Canterbury held onto fifth place with a 21-20 win over Gold Coast, sealed by a Josh Reynolds field goal in golden point extra time.
Canberra crushed Wests 60-6 to move into sixth place. Wests trailed 12-6 after 17 minutes before conceding 48-straight points for their sixth-straight loss and their heaviest-ever defeat by Canberra.
Josh Hodgson was outstanding for Canberra, playing a role in five of their 11 tries, running for 105 meters and making 22 tackles. Jordan Rapana crossed for four tries on the right wing.