NRL Round 13 Talking Points & Team of the Week
Raiders turn on the style in taming the Tigers, Manly find a way to get back on track, are alarm bells ringing for the premiers?, Dragons welcome back stormin' Norman
RAIDERS TURN ON THE STYLE IN TAMING THE TIGERS
In a match which was meant to be a toss-up, the Raiders rolled back the clock to their glorious 2016 campaign with their 28-0 demolition of the Tigers highlighted with spectacular attack. Brushing aside any concerns of how they’d handle a rapid Origin turnaround, Canberra were superb with Josh Papalii and Nick Cotric making light work of their second game in 48 hours.
But as is so often the case with the Raiders, it was their British contingent who stole the show. Showcasing foot skills not out of place in the Premier League, Elliott Whitehead and John Bateman each created tries with the boot, with Cotric following suit in between with his own unlikely kick to set up another try. Fellow British forward Ryan Sutton meanwhile created his own carnage on foot – racking up 149 running metres to go with 43 tackles in an iron man effort.
Aidan Sezer made the most of coach Ricky Stuart sticking with him by taking an intercept for an 80 metre try and nailing his kicks in a dewy Bankwest Stadium. When the Raiders are on song they’re compelling viewing and it’s clear their tails are up with a top-four chance well and truly alive.
Up next – Canberra ($1.75* – Sportsbet) set their sights for three wins on the trot when they host Cronulla ($2.05* - Sportsbet).
MANLY FIND A WAY TO GET BACK ON TRACK
A run of three losses in four starts threatened to derail Manly’s promising season start but their gutsy 22-20 win over North Queensland could be the impetus to build their top eight charge in the season’s back half. Welcoming back Daly Cherry-Evans and Tom Trbojevic from their leg injuries was a massive boost for coach Des Hasler.
He earlier made a bold call in dropping the more experienced Kane Elgey instead of rookie Cade Cust to accommodate DCE, and Cust justified the call with another impressive performance. Manly have been at their best in 2019 when their starting props deliver and fortunately for them, Addin Fonua-Blake and Martin Taupau delivered against an in-form Cowboys pack. They combined for 291 running metres and 57 tackles for only one miss and laid the platform for Manly’s creativity to shine.
“Turbo Tom” looked rusty in handling kicks – making several errors in the second half – but in attack it was like he hadn’t missed a beat with two try assists and 108 run metres. All the ingredients are there for Manly to play finals footy – they just need to keep their star acts healthy.
Up next – Back at Lottoland, Manly ($1.50* - Sportsbet) are favoured to get the win over the St George Illawarra Dragons ($2.50* - Sportsbet)
ARE ALARM BELLS RINGING FOR THE PREMIERS?
When is a club officially in a slump? If your barometer is three straight defeats then the Roosters are in that dreaded category after their 18-10 loss to Penrith. The Premiers were out-enthused by a hungry Panthers side who themselves now have three straight wins and relished having James Maloney back in form.
The Roosters meanwhile are paying a heavy price for injuries and Origin season taking their tolls. Their attack never clicked with Cooper Cronk copping a battering from the aggressive Panthers defence. James Tedesco tried his heart out but the NSW fullback couldn’t do it alone and when he took his eye off the ball to allow Brent Naden to swoop on a grubber to score the game-sealing try, it capped a game to forget for the Chooks.
No doubt missing – for various reasons – the likes of Latrell Mitchell, Luke Keary, Jake Friend, Brett Morris, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Angus Crichton is thwarting the Chooks but they can’t afford to let their losing streak last much longer if they want to maintain a top four spot coming out of rep season.
Up next – the Roosters ($1.21* - Sportsbet) look to bounce back at home against the lowly Bulldogs ($4.35* - Sportsbet)
DRAGONS WELCOME BACK STORMIN’ NORMAN
Corey Norman made his return from a fractured cheekbone and in no coincidence the Dragons looked their most settled in weeks, their 36-12 win over Canterbury ending a dreadful five game losing streak. Norman was the Dragons’ marquee off-season signing and it was clear to see the balance having the star five-eighth in the lineup brings.
Norman had an outstanding personal performance with a try and try assist, but it was also the freedom his playmaking presence brought to the other spine members which brought huge dividends. Backing up from Origin, Ben Hunt had a fine performance in the halves while dynamic fullback Matt Dufty thrived in his first grade return, free to play his own game with his halves controlling the match.
Zac Lomax also looked comfortable as a centre instead of a makeshift fullback and perhaps coach Paul McGregor has found his best backline. St George Illawarra will face much tougher tests coming up than the Bulldogs but at their 5-7 record they remain in the finals hunt.
Up next – a tricky challenge for the Dragons ($2.50* - Sportsbet) when they face Manly ($1.50* - Sportsbet) at Lottoland.
ODDSCHECKER TEAM OF THE WEEK
- Tom Trbojevic (Sea Eagles)
- Josh Addo-Carr (Storm)
- Bronson Xerri (Sharks)
- Jarrod Croker (Raiders)
- Mikaele Ravalawa (Dragons)
- James Maloney (Panthers)
- Mitchell Pearce (Knights)
- Ryan Sutton (Raiders)
- Cameron Smith © (Storm)
- Reagan Campbell-Gillard (Panthers)
- Viliame Kikau (Panthers)
- John Bateman (Raiders)
- Jason Taumalolo (Cowboys)
ODDSCHECKER PLAYER OF THE WEEK
When Cameron Smith retired from rep footy, it was for performances like he executed against the Warriors which both the Storm and he had in mind. Smith was at his scheming best in New Zealand, helping his side overcome a slow start with a masterclass in game management.
Smith pulled the strings for his side in attack as he shifted the game’s balance in Melbourne’s favour, eventually creating two tries to go with 6/7 off the boot. At 35 Smith is defying rugby league logic in what to expect from a veteran hooker – and if he continues to pull off displays like this, he’s got plenty of legs left before he pulls the pin.