NRL Rd 19 Talking Points & Team of the Week

It's never dull in the Shire, Shoulder charge interpretations as clear as mud, Jurbo gets away with it, Canberra make a September statement.

James Baxter
Mon, 29 Jul, 12:00 AM


ScoMo busted a hand on an esky post-game, Matt Moylan swore on national tv and the Sharks pulled off a great escape – it was an eventful night in the Shire. Cronulla’s 16-14 win ended their horror five-game losing run to keep their finals chances alive.

Like so often in 2019 Cronulla relied on a comeback and rapid-fire late tries to Josh Dugan and rookie of the year contender Bronson Xerri finally snapped the depleted Cowboys’ resistance. Cronulla enjoyed monumental possession and territorial advantages in the second half which finally led to points, a change from their flat first half.

The early lowlight were two tries go begging due to inexplicably not passing to wide-open winger Sosaia Feki. Shaun Johnson has seemingly inherited NRL’s “maligned half” mantle in 2019 from Mitch Moses but the ex-Warrior enjoyed some redemption after a rough recent trot. His work to set up Josh Dugan’s try in the second-half kickstarted Cronulla’s successful comeback.

Johnson’s ability to flip the switch and create magic from nothing is equally inspiring and frustrating – the Sharks need plenty more of it to make the finals but they’ll be delighted their marquee playmaker may just have turned the corner at their most needed time.

While North Queensland were the walking wounded, the Sharks themselves weren’t full-strength with Andrew Fifita, Wade Graham and Moylan all watching from the stands. It was hardly a stellar performance but give Cronulla some credit for salvaging a result they looked certain to throw away.


Up next – The Sharks ($2.15* - Bet365) have a tough ask for consecutive wins when they face Souths ($1.80* - TAB)


With the Tigers up 28-26 with time ticking away, Benji Marshall grubbered into the Knights’ in-goal looking for Michael Chee-Kam to score his latest game-sealing try but instead we found an extremely controversial talking point.

Knights back Hymel Hunt oh-so-slightly nudged Chee-Kam as they chased the ball while Newcastle Kalyn Ponga swept back. The spit-second change of direction saw Ponga brace himself for impact shoulder-to-shoulder but instead Ponga’s shoulder met Chee-Kam flush in the head, knocking him out before he even went close to hitting the ground.

There was a significant delay while Chee-Kam received medical attention and allowed the Bunker time to review the contact from all angles. The final call was Ponga copped a sin bin and the Tigers held on for a massive win. The debate on whether it was a shoulder charge or simply a fullback attempting to do his job intensified when Ponga avoided any charges from the Match Review Committee.

The problem we now face with the finals close is do we have faith in the NRL determining what is a shoulder charge? There’s no question Ponga’s contact with Chee-Kam’s head was accidental but with NRL cracking down on head injuries, it makes not even a charge on Ponga a head-scratcher.



Manly ambushed rivals Melbourne 11-10 in a golden point instant classic, but much like Newcastle-Wests, this nail biter was also shrouded in controversy over foul play. As Melbourne fullback Jahrome Hughes took a hitup in the 83rd minute to get into field goal-range, Manly lock Jake Trbojevic upended him in a frightening dangerous throw tackle.

With Hughes taken off the field the officials determined a penalty and placing the Australian star on report was enough. The match review committee then deemed the tackle worthy of a grade once charge meaning with an early guilty plea, Trbojevic will not miss a game.

The problem is just two rounds ago Canberra’s Nick Cotric copped a send off for his own spear tackle and duly accepted a three match suspension. Trbojevic – and far more importantly Hughes himself – was lucky the Storm fullback rolled through before hitting the ground to avoid a potentially-catastrophic outcome.

But Melbourne­­­­ and Canberra punters might be confused how Trbojevic managed to stay on the field both this week and next.



Manly wasn’t the only side to earn a season-defining win this round. Fourth-placed Canberra faced a Panthers side with seven straight wins and an increasingly-strong top four chance. But the Panthers even with home advantage hit a lime green brick wall with Canberra winning 30-18 courtesy of some brilliant defensive effort.

Penrith had long spells of attacking pressure but remarkably Canberra’s goal-line defence held firm and a second-half burst of three tries turned the game upside down. The Raiders have been on a mission in 2019 to redefine themselves after earning a reputation as the “faders” after so many tight losses.

Canberra’s win all but eliminates Penrith from the top four chase and keeps them two competition points ahead of fifth-placed Manly plus a 67 point superior for-and-against record. Penrith’s win streak saw them defeat other top four sides Souths and the Roosters but Canberra’s superb effort shows they’re a worthy top four side with genuine hopes of a long run come finals time.


Up next – a dreaded five day turnaround for Canberra ($1.83* - BetEasy) is compounded by a trans-Tasman trip to the Warriors ($2.10* - TAB).




  1. 1. Anthony Milford (Broncos)
  2. 2. Maika Sivo (Eels)
  3. 3. Kotoni Staggs (Broncos)
  4. 4. Joseph Manu (Roosters)
  5. 5. Jason Saab (Dragons)
  6. 6. Benji Marshall (Tigers)
  7. 7. Daly Cherry-Evans © (Sea Eagles)
  8. 8. Payne Haas (Broncos)
  9. 9. Manase Fainu (Sea Eagles)
  10. 10. Addin Fonua-Blake (Sea Eagles)
  11. 11. John Bateman (Raiders)
  12. 12. David Fifita (Broncos)
  13. 13. Jake Trbojevic (Sea Eagles)




DCE is money. Manly’s marquee playmaker delivered the goods in their Melbourne ambush, his golden point-winning field goal the final touch on an outstanding performance in a hostile environment. Cherry-Evans is relishing the pressure of being Manly’s undisputed organiser – not even the constant rotation of five-eighths is impacting his game under Des Hasler.

The Queensland skipper would have enjoyed getting one over former rep teammate Cameron Smith, the man hailed as NRL’s best game manager. Cherry-Evans controlled the Saturday showdown expertly and showed while the Trbojevic brothers might get the most plaudits, the wily halfback remains the brains behind Manly’s top four surge.


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