NRL Round 5 Team of the Week & Talking Points
Broncos officially in crisis, Cowboys are suffering, are the Roosters read for the Storm?, Canberra keep flying under the radar.
BRONCOS OFFICIALLY IN CRISIS
If alarm bells were ringing for Brisbane after their capitulation against the Roosters, they’re now deafening after a disastrous 22-16 loss at home to Wests Tigers. This was a must-win game on so many levels for Brisbane, a side entering 2019 expecting a serious Premiership push under new coach Anthony Siebold.
Instead just five rounds into the season they’re 1-4 and never mind a top four finish, history shows they’re going to need an almighty turnaround just to make it to the finals. Canterbury in 2013 were 1-5 and made the finals – an exception to the rule. Brisbane have had terrible starts like this season yet made the finals twice (in 2007 – as defending premiers – and 1999 when they started 0-5) so it’s not unheard of but based on their current context, it’s a long way back.
The Tigers were professional and competed for the 80 minutes. Brisbane wildly fluctuated – looking their most dangerous when desperately coming back from a 16-8 second-half deficit. But two different approaches to breaking the 16-all deadlock summed up where these two sides’ heads are at. Brisbane had a scrum on halfway with five minutes to go – the perfect chance to build for a field goal. Instead pass after pass after pass hit the ground, their structure was non-existent and key spine members Anthony Milford, Kodi Nikorima and Andrew McCullough played panicked to result in a set making twenty metres and not even close to a field goal attempt.
Meanwhile, the Tigers’ final set comprised of five one-out runs making over 50 metres, a genuine field goal setup (a pass to Reynolds before a switch pass to Brooks to stretch the oncoming chasers) and when it was clear to Brooks a shot wasn’t on, he instead went to fullback Moses Mbye, who also kept play alive with Michael Chee Kam, who proceeded to have the run of his life to beat seemingly nine possible overall defenders to score the winning try. It was a night and day difference in confident football and meant another spirit breaking defeat for the Broncos.
Make no mistake - Brisbane are now in crisis and Siebold has a monumental task on his hands to turn things around immediately.
COWBOYS ARE SUFFERING
Things aren’t looking any better for the Broncos’ Queensland rivals either – North Queensland joined them in the 1-4 club with an 18-12 loss at home to Melbourne likely ending the Cowboys’ season already. The fourth straight loss was a dagger into North Queensland’s hearts and painfully was their best performance in this run.
After two embarrassing losses to Cronulla and Canberra, this time Paul Green’s side were up for the fight and lead by Michael Morgan they got out to an 8-0 lead where they almost made it to halftime until Will Chambers scored in the 39th minute and from there Melbourne inched their way back to momentum and eventually the winning lead. Nene Macdonald’s serious ankle injury means yet another backline shuffle is needed for the Cowboys and instead of aiming for the finals, it appears they’re instead aiming to climb off last spot.
Up next – without a win from three straight home games, the Cowboys ($2.68 – Sportsbet) cross the Tasman desperately trying to lift their spirits against the Warriors ($1.47 – Sportsbet).
ARE THE ROOSTERS READY FOR A STORM?
Sometimes all it takes to turn a match around is thirty seconds. The Roosters were seemingly trading error for error with Cronulla for the first half with a 6-0 lead they perhaps didn’t deserve as they entered the 40th minute. Lindsay Collins then made the game’s lengthy blooper reel with a stone cold drop from a simple pass – his second error in two sets - and Cronulla rushed to pack the scrum with 18 seconds left in decent attacking territory.
Instead, Sharks five-eighth Shaun Johnson kicked off the scrum to a grateful Roosters fullback James Tedesco and it seemed that would be that. Luke Keary had other ideas though – the man who surely will be NSW’s five-eighth chipped inch perfectly to a wide open Latrell Mitchell who ran 60 metres with the half-time siren echoing to stun the Sharks and open the floodgates for a second-half ambush.
The Roosters at one stage were up 30-0 and looking a chance at a record win at Cronulla but an Angus Crichton blunder of failing to ground a Keary grubber for a try saw the tide turn and Cronulla ran in the game’s final 16 points unanswered. It’s an interesting situation to review the Premiers in. Their first 39 minutes and 50 seconds combined with their final 20 minutes were error-riddled and showed like against Souths and Manly, they’re vulnerable to conceding multiple tries consecutively.
The interim time though between their start and finish was arguably the most impressive attacking spree of 2019. Never mind the depleted Sharks, any NRL side would have struggled to contain the attacking masterclass lead by Keary. The Roosters have arguably the game’s best fullback (Tedesco), centre (Mitchell), five-eighth (Keary) and most clutch halfback (Cooper Cronk). Their forward pack has missed leaders Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Jake Friend but is still loaded with representative class and gamebreakers. Even when the Roosters are not at their best – like against Cronulla – they are capable of playing a team off a park if they get on a roll.
CANBERRA KEEP FLYING UNDER THE RADAR
The Raiders’ 19-0 win over the Eels was notable for two main reasons. The first being this was the second time Canberra have shutout an opposition in 2019, an impressive effort considering no other side has achieved a single shutout so far. The second being the victory establishes the Raiders inside the top four and crucially now two wins clear of the ninth place Sharks.
Ricky Stuart’s men seem to have their blueprint in place. They have an efficient pack loaded with strong runners and the uncanny guile of hooker Josh Hodgson. Case in point – six Raiders forwards overall surpassed 100 running metres against the Eels. This momentum is laying the platform for their playmakers to enjoy more time to decide their best form of attack.
Aidan Sezer is still an absentee through injury but the halfback’s unavailability hasn’t been a hurdle – Sam Williams has kept the Raiders progressing nicely while five-eighth Jack Wighton is getting the benefit of learning how to play in this position behind the league’s most under-rated pack. Canberra aren’t getting plaudits but they need to be taken seriously. Their defence is watertight – easily NRL’s tightest thus far and they’ve coped with injuries to key players like Sezer and Joseph Tapine.
Crucially for a side with finals aspirations they’re unlikely to be impacted greatly by Origin – a bonus benefit from a pack featuring four Englishmen. The Raiders are sitting pretty at 4-1 and with the besieged Broncos visiting next Sunday, Canberra to reach the finals at $1.60 (TAB) is looking solid value.
Up next – These two sides couldn’t be more opposite in their confidence. The Raiders ($1.73 – Sportsbet) are riding high in the top four while the visiting Broncos ($2.10 – Sportsbet) are already playing for their season.
ODDSCHECKER TEAM OF THE WEEK
- Michael Gordon (Titans)
- Josh Addo-Carr (Storm)
- Michael Chee Kam (Tigers)
- Latrell Mitchell (Roosters)
- Jorge Taufua (Sea Eagles)
- Cody Walker © (Rabbitohs)
- Ben Hunt (Dragons)
- Addin Fonua-Blake (Sea Eagles)
- Damien Cook (Rabbitohs)
- Josh Papalii (Raiders)
- Boyd Cordner (Roosters)
- Elliott Whitehead (Raiders)
- Jake Trbojevic (Sea Eagles)
ODDSCHECKER PLAYER OF THE WEEK – Cody Walker
When you play out of your skin, seize a game your side looks like losing with ten minutes to go and score your 3rd and 4th tries of the afternoon to guide your team home, you get the Oddschecker Player of the Week. Cody Walker was at his scheming best in the Bunnies’ 28-24 win against the Warriors.
Missing key strike weapons in Greg Inglis and Braidon Burns, Souths instead relied on Walker’s run game to spark their attack and it paid high dividends. Walker made his most runs and metres of the season so far – and his four try effort was his first such achievement since his time in Queensland’s Intrust Super Cup. It was a superb solo effort from Walker and one Souths fans will remember for a long time.