NRL Magic Round Talking Points & Team of the Week
Titans self-destruct again, Super Storm lay the smackdown on woeful Eels and the Roosters go eight straight
TITANS SELF DESTRUCT AGAIN
Entering 2019, not a lot was expected of Gold Coast – aside from staffer Mal Meninga predicting they’d win the Premiership from seventh place – but their 26-18 defeat to Cronulla might have been their most disappointing loss of the season. Cronulla’s reputation of playing competitively for 80 minutes despite a ridiculous injury toll grew further as they lost props Andrew Fifita and Matt Prior within the first 20 minutes and Titans will be ruing throwing away a golden chance to climb the table through their ill-discipline and panicked attack. In a crazy first half of end-to-end attack and momentum swings, the Titans built an 18-10 halftime lead but couldn’t capitalise second half, with Tyrone Peachey becoming the villain with a nightmare final five minutes. With the scores locked 18-all, Peachey gave away an inexplicable penalty in striking Sharks half Kyle Flanagan, allowing Flanagan to calmly nail a penalty goal to give the Sharks a priceless lead. “The Peach” then impulsively kicked dead early in a tackle count to throw away possession before a final minute penalty finished off his side for good. Titans coach Garth Brennan summed it up post-game in saying “that second half was poor, we’re just dumb.” With the 14th placed Titans only above the 16th place Bulldogs on points difference, if you’re fancying Gold Coast to lose next start then $4.50 (Bet Easy) for the Titans to end 2019 with the most losses might be the best value you’ll get this season.
Up next – it’s a potential Spoon Bowl as the Titans ($1.65 – Sportsbet) host the Bulldogs ($2.20 – Sportsbet) with the losing side to be anchored in last spot.
BRISBANE FINDING THEIR GROOVE?
It may need to be taken with a grain of salt but Brisbane’s 26-10 win over Manly did feel like a side very slowly turning a corner after a miserable 2019 start. Coach Anthony Seibold had rang the selection changes midweek, notably dropping James Roberts and Jamayne Isaako, benching Tevita Pangai Junior and ending the Kodi Nikorima era with his immediate release to the Warriors. It was a bold stance to kickstart their flagging season but paid off handsomely, with the likes of fullback Darius Boyd and five-eighth Anthony Milford relishing their increased responsibility. Boyd has been stuck with the dreaded “maligned” tag with a string of performances below his high standards but he had his best performance of 2019 capped off with a try while Milford also scored and set up two more. Pangai Junior has long been billed as the Broncos’ future pack cornerstone but in 20 year old Payne Haas, perhaps a rethink is in order. Haas had a monster performance, running for 191 metres and making 31 tackles – it’s no wonder Haas is being thought of as a future NSW star. There are some caveats with the Broncos win – they’ve cruelly lost centre Jack Bird for the season with an ACL injury while Manly were injury-ravaged themselves – but a turnaround must start somewhere and the Broncos have responded to Seibold’s shakeup.
Up next – Brisbane ($2.70 – Sportsbet) aim for consecutive wins for the first time in 2019 against the Roosters ($1.47 – Sportsbet) at Suncorp Stadium.
SUPER STORM LAY THE SMACKDOWN ON WOEFUL EELS
The wonders a Craig Bellamy spray can do. The master Storm coach laid into his players post-game after their Cronulla loss, calling them “crap” and threatening changes – and that’s just what he revealed in public. With a 64-10 humiliation of Parramatta the next week, it appears the Melbourne squad responded rather positively to their blast. Such was the Storm domination, more Melbourne players finished the game as try-scorers than those who didn’t. Cameron Munster had made Suncorp his own – perfect timing with Origin around the corner with the Queenslander scoring twice and having three further try assists. The Storm were back to their ruthless best, giving Parra’s spine nightmares. Such was Melbourne’s efficiency in exploiting defensive vulnerabilities of Clint Gutherson, Jaemen Salmon and Mitch Moses, the trio combined missed more tackles (23) than the Storm’s entire 17 all up (21). The Storm also ran for 950 metres more than Parra, a discrepancy almost unheard of. And in perhaps the most ominous sign for the competition, Melbourne did not put their cue in the rack with the game won in the early second half stages – they instead increased their intensity and in turn points difference. After an indifferent month the Storm might well have played themselves back into form.
Up next – Melbourne ($1.27 – Sportsbet) return home against the unpredictable Tigers ($3.70 – Sportsbet)
ROOSTERS GO EIGHT STRAIGHT
It was a roller coaster ride for Roosters punters, the 30-24 win against the Raiders looking far more impressive in context. We know how impressive their left edge attacking combination of Boyd Cordner, Latrell Mitchell and Daniel Tupou is – but the Roosters’ injury curse struck in devastating fashion with the trio all leaving the field in a horror first half. Mitchell’s groin complaint had NSW fans sweating bullets with the superstar’s Origin chances flashing before their eyes before he made a late return to alleviate the worries. Eyebrows may have been raised at the sight of the Roosters willing to risk Mitchell to return him but considering they were down to a one man bench for over half the match, they needed all the interchange help they could muster. The Premiers raced to a 30-6 lead on the back of a possession glut and some attacking brilliance from James Tedesco before the tide turned and the Raiders fought back. Three straight converted tries gave the Raiders hope but in the end they ran out of time and the Roosters sealed their eighth straight win. Sooner or later the Roosters’ winning streak will end but the Premiers continue to bank precious Premiership points to give their depleted squad breathing space ahead of Origin season.
Up next – The Roosters ($1.47 – Sportsbet) face a five day turnaround before their second-straight Suncorp match, this time against the Broncos ($2.70 – Sportsbet).
ODDSCHECKER TEAM OF THE WEEK
1- James Tedesco (Roosters)
2- Josh Addo-Carr (Storm)
3- Curtis Scott (Storm)
4- Josh Morris (Sharks)
5- Corey Thompson (Tigers)
6- Cameron Munster © (Storm)
7- Luke Brooks (Tigers)
8- Payne Haas (Broncos)
9- Damien Cook (Rabbitohs)
10- Nelson Asofa-Solomona (Storm)
11- Ryan Matterson (Tigers)
12- Sam Burgess (Rabbitohs)
13- Paul Gallen (Sharks)
ODDSCHECKER PLAYER OF THE WEEK
For someone being considered as Queensland captain, having your best game of the season at Suncorp Stadium is perfect timing – just ask Cameron Munster. The Storm five-eighth was the conductor of his side’s 64-10 beatdown of the shellshocked Eels, the fiery Queenslander stealing the show at Magic Round. Two tries, two try assists, three line break assists and 142 running metres saw Munster blow Parra away in front of a watching Maroons coach Kevin Walters. Don’t be surprised for him to be named Queensland’s skipper.