It seems Round 19 of the NRL has so far seen a massive increase in desperation and focus from nearly all teams.
The Dragons and Bunnies gave us an early taste of what finals footy should be like. Both sides physical, committed and fighting out a close one.
The story up north between the Titans and Broncos wasn’t dissimilar. While the Titans fought strongly, it was an ever-improving Broncos side that beat all the odds to snatch the win. Any victory at Skilled Park is a tough one, let alone a full house and the Gold Coast desperate to find some form.
The trend continued on Saturday night, with the Warriors again rolling up their sleeves to hold out the Storm 13-6. New Zealand have been the real surprise packets this year, a young side with nothing to lose – they truly played beyond their years against Melbourne. Again a closely fought, tough game.
What about the Panthers and Eels? High flying Penrith racing to a 22-0 lead after only 20 minutes in front of a record crowd at CUA Stadium. While many felt the game was over, somehow the Eels rediscovered 2009 form to run down the Panthers in an astounding comeback. It was the biggest ever comeback victory for the Eels club and the 6th all time NRL recovery.
While the Sharks were smashed by the resurgent Sea Eagles, the demolition of the Knights by the Raiders would be even more concerning. Newcastle had won several on the trot and had been on the up, this demoralising loss will set their finals hope back greatly.
The Roosters and Bulldogs gave us another blockbuster today. What better way to celebrate the 200th and 300th games for Braith Anasta and Brett Kimmorley. With a stack of poor calls hampering the Sydney side, they kept plugging away. Anasta leading the way to compete a memorable comeback over the Bulldogs with minutes to go.
With few precious weeks remaining, the big losers on the NRL Ladder this week are really Souths, Newcastle and the Bulldogs.
While Souths remain in the mix for the Top 8, a win for them could have really kept their Top 4 chances alive. While still possible, they do face a tough run home and would have loved to have banked 2 points.
The Rabbitohs have been without luck in terms of referees calls and bounce of the ball in the past fortnight. Despite playing well, they’ve simply been unable to hold out their opponents at the death.
The Knights would really be hurting right now. After several weeks of improving footy and a ladder revival, not only did they not snap up the 2 points on offer – they got crunched on the scoreboard. The loss sends their points difference spiraling. At negative 84, they have one of the worst points differences of the teams shooting for a lower Top 8 spot.
The Bulldogs too have been in-form recently and were unlucky not have held out the Roosters today.Â The loss for the Canterbury side leaves them stranded on 16 points, well adrift of the lower Top 8. While still mathematically a chance to sneaking into the NRL finals, it would really need to be another miracle like the Eels achieved last year – when everything fell their way in a ‘Bradbury’ style way.