NRL Round 6 Team of the Week & Talking Points
THE GRAND FINAL REMATCH LIVES UP TO THE HYPE
It was first vs second in this 2018 Grand Final rematch and the match quickly became a match of the year candidate. The Storm – entering this game unbeaten – and the Roosters – winning their last four – have built quite the rivalry and just like in the Grand Final, the Chooks were on fire early on, quickly building a 20-0 lead. Melbourne though through their master hooker Cameron Smith turned the tide and ran up their own 20 unanswered points in 16 minutes to level the game. The match then evolved into a gripping arm-wrestle. Melbourne with all of the momentum yet unable to find the final blow against a desperate Roosters side now without key playmaker Luke Keary. Brodie Croft twice attempted field goals but both were out of comfortable range, while Ryan Papenhuyzen made a crucial error late on when the Storm were camped inside the Roosters 10m area. In the end it wasn’t to be for the home side, as Latrell Mitchell landed an incredible 40m field goal in golden point’s opening set. Both sides would have left AAMI Park knowing this a game in April played at a September level of intensity and quality. Souths in particular – the only side to have beaten the Roosters in 2019 and with the game’s most successful coach in Wayne Bennett- will have something to say come the finals but $6.75 from Bet Easy on the 2019 Grand Final to be another Storm-Roosters encounter is intriguing value.
Up next – both these sides host traditional ANZAC Day fixtures – the Roosters ($1.36 – Bet365) face the Dragons ($3.30 – Unibet) at the SCG while the Storm ($1.25 – Sportsbet) welcome the Warriors ($5 – TAB) to AAMI Park.
SOUTHS OVERCOME DOUR DOGS
Canterbury’s best chance at causing a monumental upset against Souths was to take to the Bunnies out of their comfort one – and they were successful to a degree, eventually losing 1406.. The Bulldogs identified their former hooker Damien Cook as Souths’ biggest attacking weapon and so had a gameplan to bring the game’s speed to a grinding halt by slowing the ruck. The Dogs were prepared to give away penalties in order to do so and while Souths won the penalty count 12-8, they gladly would have seen fewer penalties called if it meant a Dogs dismissal for repeated infringements. Wayne Bennett post-game was furious at the NRL for not doing more to protect the ruck and while he had a valid point with the match being a slog to watch, it may also have been Bennett’s way of ensuring other teams do not get any ideas. Canterbury’s defence remains the worst in the league but they did a decent job in containing a Souths attack capable of racking up a score on anyone. It’ll be interesting to see whether there is any change in ruck interpretations for Souths next round.
Up next – Souths ($1.70 – Bet365) go in as favourites away to a Penrith ($2.30 – TAB) side who are seemingly collapsing.
DRAGONS RIDE THEIR LUCK
What a difference a month makes. The Dragons started 0-2 and were a Jamayne Isaako field goal attempt away from becoming 0-3. All this while they were suffering a horror injury toll, losing inspirational captain Gareth Widdop, coach Paul McGregor not knowing if this would be his final season in charge and a struggle to balance their attack.
Four weeks later though and the 4-2 Dragons are on a roll, McGregor has a new contract and the side look a different beast compared to the confidence-ravaged side entering 2019. Not only does St George have momentum on their side, they also enjoyed a crucial piece of luck in beating Manly 12-10. With time running out fast, the Dragons were down by 2 points but Ben Hunt’s ugly kick someone found a way past everyone to the NRL equivalent of Steven Bradbury in winger Mikaele Ravalawa who was the last man standing and gleefully scored to give his side its own 2 point lead with two minutes remaining. Manly weren’t done though and in their final set they found their way inside the Dragons 10m line when their final play of a Daly Cherry-Evans bomb saw Manly centre Reuben Garrick interfered with by Tim Lafai, but no penalty was called as the siren rang. It wasn’t a glamourous Dragons victory – their pack in particular didn’t quite play to their recent form – and Lafai’s goalkicking was among the worst seen at NRL level, but they rode their new-found luck and extended their winning streak. The Dragons may well point to Manly’s Brad Parker not getting binned for a deliberate trip late on as bad luck yet they still found a way to get the job done.
Up next – the Dragons get their biggest test of the season - a mouth-watering ANZAC Day Cup game against the Roosters.
NEWCASTLE HIT ROCK BOTTOM
For a club who underwent a lengthy rebuild and endured plenty of heartache in three consecutive wooden spoons, it’s a big call to make but the Newcastle Knights may have hit their rock bottom. A 38-14 thrashing by a suddenly resurgent Gold Coast Titans marks five straight defeats and now a long way back towards a top eight they were expected to crack in 2019. The Knights had a brief revival in the second half to briefly concern Gold Coast but when your best spell starts when you’re 28-0 down, it’s not saying a lot. The Knights looked ordinary in attack – the first two Titans tries directly coming from Newcastle errors – but defensively at times they had more holes than Swiss Cheese. It’s not just the tries being conceded which is an alarming sign – their defensive effort in general is not there. Too many times the Titans – who were missing forward leaders in Jarrod Wallace, Kevin Proctor and Ryan James (the last two they lost just before and after kickoff) – simply outmuscled Newcastle, whether it was fighting for an offload or earning extra metres when a tackle should have been completed. This game presented an opportunity for the Knights to put a horror month behind them. Instead things just got even worse and the pressure on coach Nathan Brown surely has to pick up now.
Up next – when you hit rock bottom there’s only one way up – can the Knights ($2.15 – TAB) break their drought at home against a white hot Parra ($1.75 – Sportsbet) ?
EELS HIT TOP GEAR
If you’re going to inaugurate your shiny new stadium, a 51-6 demolition against a local rival isn’t the worst way to do so. We’ve seen Parramatta show increasing signs of confidence throughout 2019 but nobody could have seen the Eels’ avalanche coming quite like this. Parramatta last played with this much momentum and general brilliance a decade ago when Jarryd Hayne finished the 2009 season unlike any other player in the modern era. The dreadful Tigers copped an 80 minute public humiliation by a Mitchell Moses-inspired Eels. Before patrons had the chance to familiarise themselves with Bankwest Stadium’s bars the Eels were already 30-0 up and impressively they didn’t taper off. It’s almost easier to list the Eels who didn’t impress – Daniel Alvaro suffered concussion off the kickoff. The list ends there. Youngsters like Jaemen Salmon and Reed Mahoney thrived under the spotlight and capacity crowd. Michael Jennings played like it was 2013 while Junior Paulo and Tim Mannah gave the Tigers pack a clinic in front row play. Crucially the Eels’ for-and-against got an almighty boost which will only help their finals’ hopes. But this was the Mitchell Moses show. The former Tiger turned the game into his ultimate revenge party. A try, three try assists, a line break assist, 7/9 conversions and a kicking game on a string was a full display of the potential he’s always had yet not always shown. The challenge for him is to show this isn’t a one-off and against the lowly Knights he’s got a perfect chance to build.
Up next – Parramatta could re-enter the top four with a win against the struggling Knights in Newcastle.
ODDSCHECKER TEAM OF THE WEEK
1 – Clint Gutherson (Eels)
2 – Phil Sami (Titans)
3 – Latrell Mitchell (Roosters)
4 – Michael Jennings (Eels)
5 – Nick Cotric (Raiders)
6 – Tyrone Roberts (Titans)
7 – Mitchell Moses (Eels) ©
8 – Josh Papalii (Raiders)
9 – Damien Cook (Rabbitohs)
10 – Andrew Fifita (Sharks)
11 – John Bateman (Raiders)
12 – Shaun Lane (Eels)
13 – Jai Arrow (Titans)
ODDSCHECKER PLAYER OF THE WEEK
It’s round six but already Parramatta’s Mitchell Moses has his second Oddschecker Player of the Week nod! Moses loved every second dissecting his former side and had the type of game which saw him as a NSW candidate in his earlier career before his confidence dipped. He had the type of game worthy of a ten rating in the old Rugby League Week. A try, three try assists, a line break assist, 7/9 conversions plus a masterful kicking game – Moses did it all. His postgame comments of the new Bankwest Stadium “not being the Tigers’ jungle” shows just where the mercurial half’s confidence is at.