NRL round 20: Key takeouts

Manly Sea Eagles 10 lost to Sydney Roosters 20

The Roosters age-old Achilles heel – hanging onto the ball – cruelled their second half once again, with their completion rate hovering at little more than 50 per cent after the break.

But a win’s a win at this time of year, and Joey Manu’s involvement as a Tom Trbojevic-style roving centre was rolled gold as he repeatedly came infield to spark their attack. Manly were always going to be up against it without seven NRL regulars but punched well above their weight – to the point you’d have backed them in at near-full strength.

Ensuring those “coulda, shoulda, woulda” thoughts don’t derail his playing group now shapes as one of the bigger challenges of Des Hasler’s coaching career.
Dan Walsh

New Zealand Warriors 12 lost to Melbourne Storm 24

Not exactly a performance for the pool room but Craig Bellamy will certainly take it as Melbourne grafted out their first win in a month.

Things could have easily gone sideways, both before and after the fact too, considering the Storm conceded six penalties in the opening 20 minutes, then had Nelson Asofa-Solomona (elbow to Wayde Egan’s face) and Josh King (eye-gouge allegation) avoid charges that many expected. Things looked a lot rosier out wide too, but their leaky edge defence still won’t contain the best sides come finals time.

Nice to see Warriors winger Ed Kosi bag a hat-trick after an Anzac Day nightmare the last time these two teams went around.
Dan Walsh

Parramatta Eels 34 bt Penrith Panthers 10

Penrith proved they are still a handy side without Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai.

Sure, Parramatta took the foot off the throat when they kicked out to a big lead and Cleary was sent off, but the premiers did well to win the second half. Sean O’Sullivan will be entrusted to steer the team around, and is lucky to have Isaah Yeo helping him run the attack, and Cleary himself as a sounding board the next five weeks.

The Eels were excellent in the first half, but will be without their main attacking threat in Mitchell Moses. They should have won by 50 but didn’t.
Christian Nicolussi

Gold Coast Titans 24 lost to Canberra Raiders 36

Plenty coming together at the right time of year for the Raiders – and Hudson Young and Adam Elliott can lay claim to being among the NRL’s form forwards.

Joe Tapine’s stocks have risen even further – he’s been the best prop bar none in 2022. All ensured the Titans never truly had a sniff as halves Jack Wighton and Jamal Fogarty looked better once more for another 80 minutes together, but Saturday’s clash with Penrith is the true litmus test of their finals push.

For the Gold Coast, unwanted cutlery looms. The off-season can’t come soon enough.
Dan Walsh

Cronulla Sharks 21 bt South Sydney Rabbitohs 20

If there is a team to topple the Panthers, might it be the Sharks? Craig Fitzgibbon’s side fought back from an early deficit and iced the game when it mattered thanks to Nicho Hynes’ field goal in golden point.

Andrew Fifita wound back the clock with a crucial second-half try and Cronulla fans are daring to dream.

South Sydney? Their winning run came to a halt, and Jason Demetriou was that short for outside backs he switched Latrell Mitchell to the centres in the second half. It might have been out of necessity, but it was also a strange call. They’ll need more firepower up front after Tom Burgess was suspended for a high shot on Ronaldo Mulitalo, which saw him sent off.
Adam Pengilly

Brisbane Broncos 18 lost to Wests Tigers 32

The breakthrough win the Tigers should have had last week finally came, but such is their lot, it came at a brutal cost with Jackson Hastings facing a three-month recovery from a fractured ankle.

As a result, Pat Carrigan could be in for a lengthy suspension that stretches into the finals amid calls for the NRL to make a genuine example of his ugly hip-drop tackle. Payne Haas already shoulders so much in the middle for Brisbane and it’s hard to see his 50-straight minutes against the Tigers, and 70 all-up for the match, being maintained leading into the finals in Carrigan’s absence. Adding to the potential wear and tear, the Broncos face the surging Roosters on a five-day turnaround.

For the Tigers, build your next five years around Adam Doueihi – there’s your marquee playmaker.
Dan Walsh

Newcastle Knights 10 lost to Canterbury Bulldogs 24

Canterbury have officially entered nuisance value territory: a team that won’t make the finals but play with the type of energy and spirit that will cause headaches for rivals still in the top eight mix.

If the Knights’ week, month – heck, season – hasn’t already been bad enough, the sight of one of their former players, Jacob Kiraz, bagging his first NRL hat-trick certainly didn’t help.

Adam O’Brien’s team is devoid of any flair or fight at the moment, and the season can’t end quick enough for the also-rans. The coach will do well to see it out.
Adam Pengilly

St George Illawarra Dragons 8 lost to North Queensland Cowboys 34

St George Illawarra had the Cowboys in second gear and an arm wrestle for almost an hour, though a couple of blown chances by North Queensland helped to that point.

Some lovely sleight of hand from Jason Taumalolo – a fine addition to an already imposing skill set – changed that quick smart. Scott Drinkwater and Jeremiah Nanai did the rest.

What the Dragons would give for a similar spread of firepower. Not enough thrown in attack and too much left to skipper Ben Hunt, theirs is not a formula capable of winning four or even five of their remaining games, as required, to sneak into the top eight.
Dan Walsh

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