Five things we learnt from NRL round 15
What did we learn from round 15 of the 2012 NRL season? Here’s the five big points, starting with the Sharks halves pairing of Carney and Robson.
Cronulla’s perfect match
Cronulla halves Todd Carney and Jeff Robson have proved to be a perfect match this season as the Sharks continued to silence their doubters with a 20-19 come from behind win against the New Zealand Warriors on Saturday night. The pair arguably possess the best combined halves kicking game in the NRL. Coming into the game against the Warriors, Robson and Carney had each forced 15 drop outs in 2012, allowing the Sharks to lead the league in forcing dropouts (averaging 2.5 per game).
On Saturday the halves duo were on fire again, forcing another three dropouts in wet conditions. But perhaps the most important play of the night came when Carney darted out of dummy half early in the tackle count with just 10 minutes left on the clock and delivered with a 40/20. From the resulting scrum Robson went over and Carney converted to put the Sharks in front for the first time since the 12th minute.
Bowen back in contention
North Queensland Cowboys fullback Matt Bowen turned in a masterful display against Queensland rivals the Brisbane Broncos on Friday night at Dairy Farmers Stadium.
With Billy Slater all but ruled out of State of Origin three due to injury, many expect Greg Inglis to slot into fullback against the Blues. But Bowen put forward a strong case for his inclusion as he linked up beautifully with Queensland playmaker Jonathan Thurston for both of the Cowboys tries in their 12-0 victory.
With 20 minutes to go and both teams scoreless it was a piece of Thurston and Bowen magic that set up the Cowboys first win since round 11. Thurston’s inside ball to Bowen was as simple as it was brilliant. Bowen then drew his opposite number before passing to Cowboys second rower Gavin Cooper.
Then with just 10 minutes left on the clock it was a Thurston pass out the back to Bowen who threw a lovely little pass to Kane Linnet to seal what was just the Cowboys seventh ever win against the Broncos. If Queensland decide to keep Inglis in the centres for the Origin decider, expect Bowen to add to his 10 State of Origin caps.
Sandow misses Souths more than Souths miss Sandow
There was a lot made of Chris Sandow’s defection to Parramatta at the end of last season. Some thought that Souths were crazy to let a good halfback sign with a rival team, particularly when quality generals are hard to come by. Others felt that Parramatta had paid overs ($600,000 a season) to get him and that Souths had made a smart financial decision. Sandow has had an unhappy first half of the season with the Eels, criticised for not living up to his price tag and for being overweight.
On Saturday night his season got worse as he was comprehensively outplayed by Souths rookie halfback Aaron Reynolds who set up one try with a delightful cross field kick for flyer Nathan Merritt. Reynolds marshalled his troops expertly all game. Sandow on the other hand looked overwhelmed in attack and a speedbump in defence as Greg Inglis made it his mission to run at him all night.
The two halfback’s seasons couldn’t be better encapsulated than in the 68th minute on Saturday night. Approaching the try-line having run 90 metres after intercepting an Inglis pass, Sandow looked as happy as a pig in mud. That was until he was brilliantly chased down and taken into touch by a desperate Reynolds.
The Roosters forward pack looks the goods
The Sydney Roosters forward pack delivered something that they have promised all season – 80 minutes of powerful attack. Possessing some of the biggest physical specimens in the NRL, the Roosters forward pack tore apart the Wests Tigers in their 42-28 victory at Leichardt Oval on Sunday. Leading the charge were props Jared Waerea Hargreaves and Martin Kennedy and lock Frank Paul Nuuausala. The Roosters forwards literally beat their opponents into submission as they continued to propel themselves over the advantage line with apparent ease and killed the Tigers with second phase offloads. Incredibly, five of the Roosters seven tries were scored by forwards.
Smith is a more than handy halfback
It’s hardly that a great a surprise, but the one of the best hookers of all-time – Cameron Smith – is a more than handy halfback. In the absence of injured fullback Billy Slater, Storm coach Craig Bellamy elected to move five-eighth Gareth Widdop to fullback and halfback Cooper Cronk to five-eighth for the much hyped match against Manly at Brookvale Oval – the two teams first meeting since last year’s fiery encounter at the same venue.
This meant that the Storm captain started the game at halfback and even though he moved back into the dummy half role late in the second half it was more than enough time to prove that Smith would be one of the best halfbacks in the NRL if he played there permanently. His selection of when and who to pass to was a sight to behold as he controlled the game expertly.
Smith is an uncomplicated player who always looks like he has more time than his opponents when he has the ball in his hands. This couldn’t have been more evident than when he dummied to stroll straight past State of Origin opponent Anthony Watmough and score the Storm’s second try, which set them on their way to a six point victory.
Individual Performance of the Round: Cameron Smith
Match of the Round: Sharks v Warriors
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