Melbourne all but clinches 1st place in Australia's NRL

SYDNEY — Second rower Joe Stimson scored a 77th-minute try to give Melbourne a 16-13 win over the Sydney Roosters, all but clinching first place in Australia's National Rugby League.

The win gave the first-place Storm a six-point lead over the Roosters and the Brisbane Broncos with three matches to play, and a superior points differential over the chasing teams.

In another night match Saturday, Nathan Cleary scored a pair of tries and Penrith beat North Queensland 24-16, moving the Panthers into sixth place and leaving the Cowboys in the eighth and final playoff place.

Earlier Saturday, St. George Illawarra moved into ninth place with a seven-try, 42-16 win over the Gold Coast Titans.

Winger Jason Nightingale, playmaker Kurt Mann and hooker Cameron McInnes scored two tries each and Joel Thompson the other as the Dragons won for just the third time in their last nine matches. It was the fourth loss in a row for the Titans.

St. George Illawarra led 22-0 at halftime.

"I thought our first half was probably our best of the year, to be honest, defensively and attack-wise," Dragons coach Paul McGregor said.

Tautau Moga scored a pair of tries to lead the Broncos to a 32-10 over the defending champion and fourth-place Cronulla Sharks on Friday. The 23-year-old center ran over one player to cross in the 44th minute, then brushed aside another for his second try in the 60th to make the score 26-6.

Due to salary cap restraints, the Broncos will lose Moga next season. He has already signed a three-year deal with Newcastle beginning in 2018.

"Every time you tell us about someone we are losing I keep telling you about the salary cap," Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett said.

"There's not one player on that team I want to lose. But we are going to lose two or three of them because everyone wants more, not less."

Also on Friday, the Newcastle Knights dented fifth-place Parramatta's chances of a top-four finish with a 29-10 win over the Eels. Ken Sio scored a pair of tries as the Knights won their third match in a row.

Fullback Alex Johnston scored two tries to lead South Sydney to a 28-14 win over Canterbury, handing the Bulldogs their 10th loss in 12 matches.

The 23rd round concludes Sunday when the New Zealand Warriors host Canberra in Auckland and the Wests Tigers take on Manly in Sydney.

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