Another topsy turvy weekend in the NRL, with the underdogs getting up in the first five matches of Round 15 and just three of eight home sides getting the W.

Meanwhile, Origin selections for game two provided an ongoing subplot.

Madge puts faith in Moses, Mitchell

It wasn’t a great week out Cronulla way, with the Sharks’ 30-28 loss at home to the Dolphins on Thursday compounded by the axing of their two NSW reps, Nicho Hynes and Cameron McInnes, for game two.

The Sharks clawed back from 22-0 down to hit the lead, fell behind again and then had a chance at golden point after a stunning last-gasp try to Sione Katoa…but Hynes sprayed the sideline conversion attempt.

Hynes needed a big game to have a hope of retaining the Blues’ No.7 jumper after an underwhelming display in the series opener (albeit in difficult 12-man circumstances), but Mitchell Moses ultimately received a recall despite a modest display in Parramatta’s 28-18 loss to Sydney Roosters.

Meanwhile, McInnes and Hudson Young have made way for Cameron Murray, who returned from injury on the weekend, and debutant utility Connor Watson. In-form Warrior Mitch Barnett can count himself unlucky not get a spot in the 17 after another great showing in a loss to Melbourne.

The most clear-cut call for NSW coach Michael Maguire was bringing in game-breaker Latrell Mitchell at centre for the suspended Joseph Sua’ali’i – though Bradman Best produced a compelling audition in his first appearance in a month as Newcastle went down to Penrith 26-18 on Sunday.

There’s good and bad news for Queensland ahead of next week’s MCG showdown, with Reece Walsh cleared to return from concussion but bench duo Selwyn Cobbo and J’Maine Hopgood out injured, replaced by veterans Felise Kaufusi and Kurt Capewell.

Scene set for Souths surge

In the space of three weeks South Sydney has emerged from wooden spoon contender to the wildcard in the Top 8 race.

The Rabbitohs earned a third straight victory by putting away Brisbane 22-12 on Friday night, conceding just two tries for the second week in a row after haemorrhaging over 33 points a game from their first 11 outings.

Experienced big guns Damien Cook, Cody Walker and Jack Wighton are helping lead the way – but if Souths are to perform a Parramatta 2009-esque rally to reach the NRL finals, Latrell Mitchell will fulfil the Hayne-like talismanic match-winner role.

Outstanding again versus the Broncos, the enigmatic Mitchell has piled on five tries, 10 try assists and 25 tackle-breaks in five matches back from suspension.

Souths get a bye after this weekend’s home clash with similarly Origin-affected Manly, before a run of games against the Eels, Dolphins, Tigers and Raiders that will provide an opportunity to make further inroads on the congested NRL ladder.

Warriors blow bogey-busting chance

It’s a case of two steps forward, one step back for the Warriors – following up three rousing, campaign-rescuing victories with an excruciating 38-24 home loss to the under-strength Melbourne Storm.

For the third time this season, the Warriors coughed up an early double-digit lead at their Mt Smart Stadium fortress. The Storm – missing four members of their first-choice backline – barely touched the ball in the opening quarter as the hosts powered out to 14-0.

But ill-timed errors and poor discipline invited the ladder leaders back into the contest with three tries in nine minutes before halftime.

The tide turned back the Warriors’ way through the inspirational Mitch Barnett, but the dual brain-snap sin-binnings of wing pair Marcelo Montoya and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak cruelled the comeback.

With Jahrome Hughes pulling the strings and livewire fullback stand-in Sualauvi Faalogo grabbing a second-half brace, the Storm became only the second visiting team to score more than 36 points at Mt Smart since 2016.

The loss was the Warriors’ 16th in succession against Melbourne, the equal-eighth longest in premiership history and two clear as the longest of the NRL era. The most recent streak higher on the list is St George’s 21 straight wins over Newtown from 1962-72.

Sitting in 12th but only two points outside the Top 8, the Warriors have slipped to the seventh line of premiership betting at $26 and face a crunch trip to the Gold Coast this Saturday. The Storm have moved to second in the title market ($5.50) and open Round 16 in Brisbane against the Dolphins.

Guts galore from shorthanded Sea Eagles

Manly grafted out one of its more memorable wins of recent times to grab outright eighth spot, defeating St George Illawarra 30-14 after trailing at halftime and with an empty bench.

With Reuben Garrick and Taniela Paseka rubbed out by injury in the first half, and Corey Wadell and Toafofoa Sipley severely restricted, it shaped as a tall order to pull off a win against the in-form Dragons.

But the Sea Eagles scored four tries to one after the break to salute in front of another bumper crowd at 4 Pines Park, where they now boast an impressive 5-1 record in 2024.

Individually, 19-year-old fullback Lehi Hopoate (178 metres, two line-breaks, eight tackle-breaks, one try, one try assist) stole the show in just his third NRL game – to the extent that coach Anthony Seibold is considering play Tom Trbojevic in the centres upon his return from the casualty ward.

Meanwhile, NSW captain Jake Trbojevic responded to some post-Origin criticism with a big 80-minute performance in a depleted middle forward contingent.

On the eighth line in the premiership stakes at $29, the Sea Eagles are eyeing off another crucial two points against the resurgent Rabbitohs this week without Origin trio Jake Trbojevic, Daly Cherry-Evans and Haumole Olakau’atu.

Leichhardt factor revives wooden spoon battle

At the end of a week getting battered from pillar to post by the rugby league media, Wests Tigers’ gritty 18-10 win over Gold Coast was one of the more remarkable results of Round 15.

Trailing at halftime, the embattled Tigers scored the only two tries of the second stanza to snap a nine-match losing streak.

Api Koroisau starred in the unfamiliar fullback role, front-row Stefano Utoikamanu let his footy do the talking amid speculation around his next contract with a 200-metre performance, and Justin Olam bagged a double – including a gem set up by young back-rower Samuela Fainu.

The result lifted the Tigers level with the Titans and Parramatta on 10 competition points, boosting Benji Marhsall’s side’s hopes of avoiding a third straight wooden spoon.

The Tigers are two-from-two at Leichhardt Oval in 2024 and have another three matches at their spiritual home to come.

But finding some form at Campbelltown – where they are on a 10-game losing run and host Canberra this week in the first of three remaining fixtures at the venue – could be the difference between a promising finish to the campaign and again landing the NRL’s most unwanted prize.