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Five teams at top of NRL ladder

By Philip Henderson 21/05/2006 07:04:22 PM Comments (0)

Melbourne's first loss in six games was the catalyst for a five-team pile-up atop the NRL ladder this weekend.

Newcastle, North Queensland, Melbourne, Brisbane and the Bulldogs all sit on 16 points after 11 rounds of the competition, with the Knights claiming top spot on points differential.

It is one of the rare occasions in nearly 100 years of top-flight Australian rugby league that five teams have been joined atop of the ladder so far into the season with leading statisticians unable to recall such congestion in recent history.

The Storm, riding a five-game winning streak but missing four players with State of Origin duties, conceded No.1 billing after losing 34-12 to a Matt Orford-inspired Manly - which was also without three Origin stars - at Brookvale Oval on Saturday night.

The loss allowed Newcastle - which this time last year was dead last and winless - to nab top spot after overcoming a tenacious Canberra 22-12 at EnergyAustralia Stadium.

The 10-point margin improved the Knights for-and-against to plus-97, just one better than North Queensland, which was unable to better its points differential being one of three teams to have the bye this weekend.

Melbourne dropped to third, with the Broncos - who also had a bye - fourth and the Bulldogs fifth.

The Bulldogs claimed their fourth straight win after holding out a fast-finishing Cronulla 32-24 at Telstra Stadium.

Sharks skipper Brett Kimmorley, making his comeback after four weeks out with an ankle injury, and centre Beau Scott were placed on report for a lifting tackle on Reni Maitua in a spiteful clash featuring a punch-up between the Dogs' Sonny Bill Williams and Cronulla's Phil Bailey and three sin-binnings.

Manly jumped to sixth ahead of Cronulla, with Sydney Roosters rounding out the top eight after their 28-26 win over cellar dwellers South Sydney at Aussie Stadium.

Those three teams were joined by St George Illawarra (bye) and Penrith on 12 points after the Panthers continued Parramatta's miserable season with a 30-20 win at CUA Stadium on Friday night.

The Eels endured a forgettable week with Brian Smith quitting as coach and star players Tim Smith and Mark Riddell dumped to Premier League after turning up to training intoxicated.

It got worse for Eels fullback Wade McKinnon, who underwent three hours of surgery on Saturday to repair a jaw injury after being sent reeling from an attempted tackle on Penrith prop Matthew Cross.

Cross is expected to come under scrutiny from the NRL match review committee after replays suggested he collected McKinnon with an elbow while charging over for what proved to be the match-winning try.

New Zealand Warriors prop Ruben Wiki and bench forward Louis Anderson are also expected to have tackles scrutinised following their impressive 34-12 win over reigning premier Wests Tigers in Auckland on Saturday night.

After being docked four points for salary cap breaches before the season, the Warriors' fourth victory of the year promoted the club to 13th place ahead of the Eels.

It also left the Tigers struggling in 11th spot, joined by Canberra on 10 points.

In a miserable night for the Tigers, winger Daniel Fitzhenry (collarbone) and Shannon McDonnell (ribs) also collected injuries.

In other notable weekend injuries, Knights fullback David Seage suffered a hamstring injury with centre George Carmont hurting his achilles.

The Rabbitohs' two-point loss to city rivals the Roosters extended the proud club's winless streak to 10 games to start the season.

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