Melbourne Storm, Sydney Roosters advance to NRL semifinals

SYDNEY — The Melbourne Storm backed up their first-place credentials from the regular season with an 18-16 win over Parramatta on Saturday to advance to the semifinals in the National Rugby League playoffs.

Melbourne recovered from a six-point halftime deficit after second-half tries four minutes apart to Kenny Bromwich and Billy Slater.

The match marked Melbourne captain Cameron Smith's record 356th NRL appearance, breaking the previous mark of 355 by Brisbane's Darren Lockyer. Like Lockyer, Smith has played all of his matches for the same team.

On Friday, the Sydney Roosters also qualified directly for the semifinals in two weeks with a 24-22 win over Brisbane, with Latrell Mitchell's 75th-minute try the winner.

Brisbane will play the Manly-Penrith winner in the second round next weekend, while Parramatta plays the winner of Sunday's elimination match between defending champions Cronulla and North Queensland.

Melbourne and the Roosters will await the winners of those second-round matches.

Under the league's second-chance playoff system, the top four teams play each other in the first round. The winning teams advance direct to the semifinals.

The grand final is scheduled for Sydney's Olympic stadium on Oct. 1.

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