NRL Rd 16 Talking Points & Team of the Week
Melbourne's old guard do it again, the Chooks are warming up, Warriors continue their away momentum, Cronulla in crisis?
MELBOURNE’S OLD GUARD DO IT AGAIN
The list of Origin-enforced absentees from Melbourne and St George Illawarra was lengthy and ensured a tight contest between two highly revamped teams in Wollongong. Yet it was two Storm veterans who ensured the Storm recorded a seventh straight win in their 16-14 nailbiter over the Dragons.
In NRL game 399 captain Cameron Smith provided the difference, becoming even more hands-on in his game management to get the most out of the challenging wet conditions. Smith ‘s late penalty goal was the difference on the scoreboard but it was his class in easing the pressure off young halves Brodie Croft and rookie Billy Walters which provided the biggest difference.
The win delivered coach Craig Bellamy his 300th NRL victory and “Bellyache” deserves praise for successfully guiding Melbourne through a taxing representative season. The wins they’ve banked will allow the Storm to rest key players before the finals and in turn leave them in the best position to go one better than their disappointing 2018 Grand Final performance.
THE CHOOKS ARE WARMING UP
With the Storm winning and Souths on a bye, the Roosters couldn’t afford to slip up against the dangerous Tigers even if they were impacted by Origin and injuries. When the Tigers edged ahead 16-12 early in the second half it looked like the Chooks might have been in danger of a fifth defeat in six matches.
That was until the brilliance of Latrell Mitchell and Luke Keary came into play. The Premiership winners would have been considered certainties for NSW game three selection pre-rep season but through a combination of a controversial axing (Mitchell) and coming back from a concussion-enforced layoff (Keary), the Roosters lucked out in having them available.
That the Roosters were able to change the match’s entire momentum through a simple shift from Keary to Mitchell is extremely ominous. Mitchell broke through the line, found Keary again who then teed up Victor Radley to seal a 70m try and take the lead. Mitchell then sealed the result when he bulldozed through the Tigers from 10m out – again off a Keary ball.
You get the feeling the Roosters know when to time their Premiership run, and having their Clive Churchill Medallist Keary back will be raising serious alarm for opposition defences.
WARRIORS CONTINUE THEIR AWAY MOMENTUM
It was a bizarre night in Newcastle. The Warriors – who are inept at home but far better away – faced a Newcastle side decimated by Origin callups and together produced a match high on drama, just not necessarily quality.
You can take your pick on the strangest passage of play. Was it Sione Mata’utia’s first try which came despite a knock-on in the build up? Lachlan Fitzgibbon scoring a try on half time involving a crazy Shaun Kenny-Dowall offload to nobody before a grubber was not defused by Warrior winger David Fusi’tua and somehow squirmed its way underneath SKD’s frame?
Or perhaps it was the Bunker having an all-time blunder in denying Ken Maumalo’s spectacular and legal putdown? But a bizarre night fits the Warriors’ 2019. They’ve now won four straight away matches and keep their season alive. They deserve credit for staging a comeback in a hostile atmosphere but they’ll know they need a significant improvement compared to what they showed to a weakened Knights side who could well have won.
CRONULLA IN CRISIS?
Cronulla have made history – scoring more tries than their opponents three weeks straight for three losses straight takes some doing. If alarm bells were ringing after their shock loss to lowly Canterbury, the alarms must now be on the floor with an inexplicable 24-22 defeat to the most inexperienced Broncos outfit for a generation.
You can’t accuse rookie coach John Morris of sitting on his hands – such was his frustration at his side conceding a crucial try to gift Brisbane the lead with five minutes left, he substituted star five-eighth Shaun Johnson after another disappointing performance. Halfback Chad Townsend was lucky to escape the hook, including a horror 0/4 with the boot.
An inability to close out matches they should be winning may be a fatal flaw for any ambitions the Sharks have in 2019. Cronulla’s goalkicking record in their last three matches is a woeful 3/12 and suddenly the Sharks have gone from a potential top four challenge to now only two points clear of the 14th placed Broncos.
ODDSCHECKER TEAM OF THE WEEK
- 1. Jahrome Hughes (Storm)
- 2. Josh Morris (Sharks)
- 3. Latrell Mitchell (Roosters)
- 4. Sione Mata’utia (Knights)
- 5. Ken Maumalo (Warriors)
- 6. Luke Keary (Roosters)
- 7. Cooper Cronk (Roosters)
- 8. Payne Haas © (Broncos)
- 9. Cameron Smith (Storm)
- 10. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Roosters)
- 11. Ryan Matterson (Tigers)
- 12. Nat Butcher (Roosters)
- 13. Brandon Smith (Storm)
ODDSCHECKER PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Here comes the Payne! The Broncos showed the future may indeed be bright out of Red Hill and their crown jewel could be their brilliant 19-year-old enforcer Payne Haas. Already a leader in his side, Haas had a monster game against the heavily-backed Sharks.
While NSW selection talk has understandably revolved around Mitchell Pearce and David Klemmer, perhaps the story going under the radar is Haas not being given a chance to reclaim his bench spot after his injury sidelined him for game 2. Regardless, Haas took his frustrations out on Cronulla with 178 running metres, 5 tackle breaks, 33 tackles without a miss and a critical try to help the Baby Broncos secure their massive 24-22 upset.