The race for the NRL Top 8 finals continues to heat up with some interesting results over Round 22. Crucial losses to Manly and Newcastle keep the lower half of the Top 8 wide open, while outsiders Souths, Wests and Parramatta shoot for an unlikely finals birth with wins over the weekend.
Panthers 6 Dragons 25
Despite being at CUA Stadium, the Dragons juggernaut rolled out with the usual suspects doing the damage. Jamie Soward was highly involved and continues to lift on a weekly basis. Dragons playing more as a squad under Bennett with every player having a hand in things at some stage. Good return for Jeremy Smith and every thing going nicely for the resurgent Red Vee.
Penrith was always up against it, facing the might of the St George side that has been the form outfit for 2009. Luke Lewis made a good return, but it seems without warhorse Petero Civoniceva, the Panthers don’t have the legs to trouble the top sides. Regardless, their draw last week against the Warriors looks to have them a spot in the Top 8 somewhere come seasons end. Probably only need to win one more game.
Storm 20 Cowboys 8
The inconsistency and problems with away games continued for the Cowboys, this time going down to the stuttering Storm in Melbourne. While the Storm boys haven’t been at their best in 2009, they still have a Top 4 spot virtually sewn up and will enjoy a lower profile come the finals series. Given the likes of Cam Smith, Billy Slater and Greg Inglis are fresh enough – they will do fine come the big games.
Cowboys still struggle to win away games, this will again prove their downfall come the finals. Their forwards have plenty of size and can dominate when they are motivated, but they pay for this in speed and when targeted around the ruck they can be badly exposed.
Manly 22 Souths 36
Manly off the short turnaround were again rolled by an outsider. The Bunnies pounced at the former fortress Brookvale to really leave the Sea Eagles stunned only weeks out from the finals. David Williams minus the wolf beard has hit rock bottom, since Origin this guy has lost every ounce of confidence. Can’t catch a ball, spilling on the hitup and generally making ‘brainsnap’ decisions. Des needs to sort this immediately or risk bowing out of the Top 8.
Souths when ‘on’ can pretty much destroy any opposing team. Their forward pack is lucky to have the benefit of physical aggression but also some good footspeed. The loss of Asotasi is a cruel blow, but providing confidence can remain high – the Bunnies aren’t done with yet. Face Titans in Sydney this week followed by Penrith at CUA.
Bulldogs 23 Raiders 20
The Bulldogs showed snippets of class in this win, but were probably guilty of taking the Raiders too lightly and clocking off a bit early. Kimmorley continues to guide this team around well and things remain on track at this stage for the Belmore clan. The Raiders surged home well in this match off the back of Campese, the pressure and final moments probably giving the Bulldogs the test they needed as opposed to just running away with this game.
Warriors 10 Titans 30
The horror year for the Kiwis continues, with the Warriors rolled at home again this Round. Coach Ivan Cleary declaring that his opponents the Titans were simply too impressive and outclassed his side in virtually every department. The exciting part of this win for Titans fans is the young side is now dominating matches and controlling the tempo so very well. Mat Rogers had a man of the match performance and when ever the Gold Coast side got a sniff in enemy territory, they generally took away points. Sitting ideally to make an assault on the NRL Premiership and have their first ever finals appearance sewn up.
Wests Tigers 17 Roosters 10
Would have been a concerning game for Wests Tigers coach Tim Sheens; his side already on a 4 game winning streak – how would they ‘get up’ for a game against the lowly Roosters? Fears soon compounded with the Roosters starting well and posting points; however after the Tigers settled – they eventually began to dominate and started building pressure and eventually points. An injury to in-form fullback Shannon Gallant will be a concern, losing the little man they call mighty mouse could have an effect – as since he has entered the side and Moltzen shifted to halfback – things have gone ideally.
The Roosters did compete well for a good majority of this match, using Mini at five-eighth seemed to have some merit and the former Australian fullback had some good touches. The Sydney side is really missing Braith Anasta and they simply cannot wait for 2009 to end.
Eels 40 Knights 8
The nightmare for out of sorts Newcastle continued today at Parramatta Stadium. A good turnout of 18,000 locals cheered the reinvented Eels home in a 38 point romp. Early aggression and smart kicking had the Eels well placed, with rookie Daniel Mortimer again showing ability beyond his years. Fui Fui Moi Moi remains possibly the most hard running forward in the comp.
The Knights didn’t look interested, for a side fighting for finals security – they simply just didn’t show enough urgency. Forget the rubbish about Brian Smith leaving, this side simply needs to ‘aim up’. With their forward back getting pushed backwards, the likes of Mullen and Rogers had no chance of creating anything today. The decision to kick for goal at 6 points all 20 minutes into the match, shows exactly how bad this mob are going.