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I doubted Slater comeback: Bellamy

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 30/04/2017 Scott Bailey and Matt Encarnacion

Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy had admitted doubting the comeback of Billy Slater, but now believes the champion fullback is a whisker away from his best NRL football.

Slater responded to his Kangaroos omission this week by claiming man-of-the-match honours in the Storm's top-of-the-table rout of St George Illawarra on Sunday.

The veteran No.1 also set up two more tries in a vintage performance at the back, continuing his successful return from double shoulder surgery.

"I thought the break he had, at his age, it could've went either way," Bellamy admitted.

"It might help come back fresh or, that long out of the game at that age - the game had changed in the two years he had out - it could've went the other way.

"It might've went past him a bit. I never said that to him but that's what I was thinking."

The win put the Storm four points clear at the top of the ladder, the largest lead of any team at the top of the ladder after nine rounds since their own undefeated start to the season in 2012.

Fellow early-season pace setters Sydney Roosters also suffered their third loss in five weeks on Sunday afternoon in New Zealand.

After Mitchell Pearce slotted his second field goal in as many weeks to give them a 13-12 lead, the halfback was penalised for offside to gift the Warriors a 14-13 win.

The Cowboys are out of top eight for the first time in 54 rounds, following their 26-6 loss to Parramatta on Friday night, as they continue to battle without the injured Johnathan Thurston.

Parramatta meanwhile returned to the top half of the ladder, as did Canterbury with their 16-10 win over Canberra on Saturday.

Cronulla also rejoined to the winners' list, but their 22-16 defeat of the Wests Tigers was overshadowed by the serious calf injury to Aaron Woods.

The Tigers captain's immediate future remains unclear as he awaits more medical advice, but he confirmed on Sunday he would join Canterbury at the end of the season.

The Gold Coast had a rare injury-free win over Newcastle on Saturday afternoon, as Jarryd Hayne pushed his cause for a State of Origin recall with a double in the centres.

But fellow NSW centres contender, James Roberts, was injured in Brisbane's round-opening 32-18 win over Penrith at Suncorp Stadium.

Meanwhile Manly were round nine's other winners, flogging South Sydney 46-8 to go an unlikely sixth headed into the representative round.

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