Five things we learned from NRL round 23
What did we learn from round 23 of the 2012 NRL Season? Here are the five big points, starting with the Rabbitohs and their troublesome right edge defence.
The Rabbitohs need to fix their right edge defence
Manly possess a penetrative right-sided attack with Daly Cherry-Evans, Glenn Stewart, Jamie Lyon and David Williams.
But on Friday night they altered their attack to focus on the opposite side of the field in order to target a weaker right edge defence presented by South Sydney.
The change of tactics paid huge dividends as Keiran Foran, Dean Whare, Brett Stewart and Jorge Taufua ran rings around a spluttering defensive group of Adam Reynolds, Dylan Farrell and Andrew Everingham.
Manly’s first three tries in their 23-6 demolition at Bluetongue Stadium came in near identical fashion – using quick hands to dump passes out the back to deep runners, who created extra man situations that Farrell and Everingham weren’t able to deal with.
What the Premiers did, apart from delivering the Rabbitohs their first loss in seven games, was highlight a fragile defensive area in the South Sydney line-up that can be effectively attacked close to the line.
Coaches will have taken note of the ease in which Manly were able to create an extra man situation close to line, and the onus will be on Souths coach Michael McGuire to ensure that his right edge defence doesn’t continue to leak points in big games.
The Titans won’t make the finals
The Gold Coast Titans delivered an extremely brave performance against the Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park on Friday night, before finally going down 24-16.
They now sit four points adrift of the top eight and they will more than likely have to win all three of their remaining games (against a rejuvenated Eels, an unpredictable Panthers and an ominous looking Sea Eagles) to make the finals.
If this scenario didn’t appear tricky enough, the Titans have lost inspirational prop Luke Bailey for the season.
Further niggling injuries sustained to marquee forwards Greg Bird and Ashley Harrison mean that the Titans are limping towards the finals, while teams ahead of them (Canberra, Newcastle and the Wests Tigers) appear to be running into decent form.
The courageousness shown by the Titans over the last few weeks can’t be questioned – on Friday night they played most of the game with just two reserves – but the loss and a growing injury toll means that it’s curtains for the Titans in 2012.
Matt Bowen is the new Jonathan Thurston
Cowboys fullback Matt Bowen has taken on a lot of extra ball playing responsibility this season as a result of Johnathan Thurston being moved from halfback to five-eighth.
Thurston’s move to the number six was made to accommodate the signing of halfback Robert Lui, a controversial move given Thurston was the 2011 Golden Boot winner and RLIF Halfback of the Year.
Earlier in the season the move looked like it would backfire when Lui was convicted of assaulting his girlfriend, and he has only played one game for the club all season.
Luckily for the Cowboys, Michael Morgan has been solid recently at halfback and Bowen has been simply brilliant, looking just as dangerous when he chimes in at first or second receiver as he does when he is returning the football from the back.
This season Thurston has taken more of a backseat role, chiming in whenever he pleases rather than touching the ball three times a set. The main beneficiary has been Bowen, who is now far more involved and is orchestrating the cowboys attack, and doing it with aplomb.
The Warriors have officially clocked off for 2012
Four weeks ago, across the ditch, the New Zealand Warriors led the Newcastle Knights 18-0, and had their sights firmly set on the top eight.
They went on to lose 24-19 and one month later the Warriors season had headed south in a hurry. In the meantime they bombed another big lead against Manly, before being hammered by a Todd Carney inspired Sharks.
But Saturday night was evidence enough that the Warriors have nothing left to give in 2012.
Facing an inform Cowboys outfit at Dairy Farmers Stadium without experienced forwards Mannering and Luck, the zoned out Warriors presented themselves as turnstiles in defence and found themselves down 22-0 after just 20 minutes, before going on to lose 52-12.
With nothing to play for, except pride, the Warriors were abysmal.
The loss puts extreme pressure on first season Warriors coach Brian McClennan who has taken last year’s grand finalists to 13th on the ladder, and his team is now an outside chance of collecting the wooden spoon.
With matches coming up against fellow bottom-eight teams Penrith, St George-Illawarra and Canberra, it will be the job of McClennan and his senior players to get the attitude of the team right or the coach will be looking for a new gig in 2013.
Canterbury are the ultimate closers
This season the Bulldogs have conceded a total of just five tries in last 10 minutes of games, making them the most effective ‘closers’ of games in the NRL.
The Bulldogs finish games so consistently well, they possess two ways of playing the final quarter or less of a game. They can blow teams away when the game is already in their grasp, or they can grind teams out of contests when the match is tight.
On Sunday at ANZ Stadium, Canterbury performed the latter on the beaten up Brisbane Broncos.
Down 14-0 just before halftime, Des Hasler’s men should have been completely out of the contest. But they held on in defence and showed their renowned mental toughness to claw their way back into the game.
They eventually hit the front with 20 minutes to play and went on to win 22-14.
The Dogs are the most ruthless finishers in the competition, and this was particularly evident when Barba held up Wallace in the dying moments of the game. The game was pretty much over, but the desperate and ruthless Bulldogs have proven they don’t stop until the final whistle.
Individual Performance of the Round: Ben Barba (Bulldogs)
Match of the Round: Bulldogs v Broncos
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