Five things we learned from NRL round 20
What did we learn from round 20 of the 2012 NRL Season? Here are the five big points, starting with the finals-like game between Canterbury and Manly.
The finals aren’t far away
With just six more rounds of football before the new Finals Series, both the Bulldogs and Sea Eagles gave us a taste of what we can expect come September, and it tasted good!
Canterbury’s 20-12 victory over Manly at Brookvale Oval on Friday night was one of the games of the season. It had everything, including exciting tries, controversial refereeing decisions and bone crunching defence – just ask Sam Kasiano.
The Bulldogs prop suffered a serious facial injury after a head clash with Manly’s Jason King, which resulted in him being forced from the field after 20 minutes. His teammate Kris Keating wasn’t too far behind him when he limped off minutes later. Despite a total of just 15 players, the Bulldogs dug deep and did enough to edge a competitive Sea Eagles side and ensure that Des Hasler’s return to Brookvale was a winning one.
Brisbane are in a post-origin rut….again
It’s déjà vu for the Brisbane Broncos. Despite a tough victory against the Warriors in round 19, a 14-10 loss to the Gold Coast Titans at Skilled Park has proved that the Broncos are once again in a post-Origin rut.
Last season, first year coach Anthony Griffin took the proactive step of resting his Origin players throughout the representative period. It proved to be a masterstroke, as the Broncos went on to win their last six games leading into the finals series.
This season Griffin has taken a similar stance, resting the majority of his Origin stars during the same period. However, much like years gone by (prior to 2011), this team looks tired and injuries are starting to catch up with the Broncos, who were missing Yow Yeh, Reid, Copley, Hala and Kahu against the Titans. On top of that, Maroons pair Justin Hodges and Corey Parker picked up fresh injuries on the weekend.
At the beginning of the year the Broncos were flying. They looked like they were the strongest and fastest team in the NRL. With many players now either tired or injured, and with the Broncos halves pairing of Wallace and Norman struggling, Brisbane look a shadow of their former early season selves.
The Warriors lack the killer blow
With halves Shaun Johnson and James Maloney, and lock Feleti Mateo, the Warriors can confidently lay claim to being one of the most talented teams in the NRL. But talent alone won’t win them an NRL Premiership.
Their 24-19 defeat at the hands of the Newcastle Knights at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday night came after they led the Knights 18-0 after just 17 minutes. The Warriors were brilliant, making plenty of metres in attack and cutting the Newcastle defence to pieces with skilful second phase play.
They had Newcastle at their mercy, but instead of steamrolling their opposition; the Warriors allowed the Knights back in the contest with two tries in the final 12 minutes before halftime. After the break the Knights looked rejuvenated, while the Warriors looked flat.
The Warriors five point loss, which leaves them outside of the top eight, should be a wakeup call for coach Brian McLennan. McLennan made the mistake of having some of his best players – Mateo, Matulino and Packer – off the field at the same time, as Newcastle mounted their successful comeback.
Players are motivated by change
On Thursday, Stephen Kearney announced that he would step down from his position in charge of Parramatta after Saturday night’s game against the second placed Melbourne Storm. With just nine wins from 41 attempts, Eels fans were more than supportive of Kearney’s decision.
48 hours later, having defeated the Storm 16-10 after one of the clubs most courageous, gritty and determined performances, Kearney looked like a shattered man at the after game press conference.
“I know that I have given it my all and tried my hardest,” said Kearney. Can the majority of Eels players say the same thing? Their result on Saturday night proved that their performances, and in particularly their effort levels, have not been up to scratch over the last two seasons.
It shouldn’t take a coach leaving (and the uncertainty of a new man coming in) to motivate these players, but apparently it does. With Kearney now gone, the Eels players will no longer have anywhere to hide.
Footy tipping at this time of the season is nearly impossible
Predicting the results of any NRL round is tough enough, but at this stage of the season it only becomes even more difficult, as last weekend’s round of games proved. Canterbury, Gold Coast, Newcastle, Parramatta and Canberra all literally won against the odds, defeating their more fancied opposition in round 20.
Injuries to key players, teams resting players, teams playing for nothing, top teams in ruts, coaches departing their positions, refereeing decisions, and players announcing their retirements, are all factors that turn a 7/8 tipster one week, into a 2/8 tipster the next.
Unpredictability……it’s what makes this game so great!
Individual Performance of the Round: James Graham (Bulldogs)
Match of the Round: Manly v Canterbury
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