Dragons fall short in National Rugby League playoff attempt

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Canterbury Bulldogs.

Canterbury Bulldogs. (Photo: photosport.nz)

SYDNEY (AP) — The Canterbury Bulldogs beat St. George Illawarra 26-20 on Sunday, preventing the Dragons from moving into the eighth and final playoff spot in the National Rugby League.

The Dragons, in ninth place entering the match, needed a win to move past two other teams. But the Bulldogs helped the North Queensland Cowboys, who lost five of their last six games, remain in eighth place and advance to the finals.

The top four playoff teams were determined Saturday when the Sydney Roosters came from 10 points behind with 20 minutes remaining to beat the Gold Coast Titans 20-16. Michael Gordon's 70th-minute try led the comeback as the Roosters finished in second place and gained home-field advantage next weekend against third-place Brisbane in the first round.

Melbourne, which clinched first place and the minor premiership two weeks ago, will host fourth-place Parramatta in the first round.

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 two weeks later, the losers to a second-round match against the winning teams from elimination games involving the fifth through eighth-place finishers.

Those elimination games will feature fifth-place and defending champions Cronulla hosting North Queensland and sixth-place Manly playing Penrith.

In other final-round matches, Cronulla beat Newcastle 26-18, Melbourne defeated Canberra 32-6, Manly defeated Penrith 28-12, Parramatta beat South Sydney 22-16 and Brisbane scored three unanswered first-half tries to defeat North Queensland 20-10.

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