Nine talking points from NRL Round 10

Scott Pryde Roar Guru

By , Scott Pryde is a Roar Guru & Live Blogger

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    It’s crazy to think we are ten rounds into the NRL season. Ten whole rounds. That’s 80 games of footy. Origin is around the corner, the ladder is tight and we are still no closer to working out who will make and miss the eight after the highest scoring round this season. Here are The Roar‘s NRL Talking Points from Round 10.

    The Knights have their second, but what to make of the Raiders?
    We all knew it was coming, it’s just that no one was sure when the Knights would pick up their second win. As it turns out, two wins in ten weeks is a whole lot better than one in 26 last year, and the hapless Canberra Raiders were on the end of it.

    While the celebrations will run hot for the youthful Knights outfit, this is a Canberra outfit who have more questions than answers about a season that currently appears to be lying in tatters.

    They have won just four of ten games, and have never looked like the convincing, dominant force that they did last year and most expected them to be this year.

    What’s particularly baffling about the Raiders is that they have enough talent to be sitting up the top of the ladder. They proved that last year, but their attack simply hasn’t hit it’s potential and their defence has, for much of the season not been good.

    While their defensive record is far from the worst, it’s not in the top eight and equates to their ladder position for a team who seem to be hanging everything on some ‘Leipana’ magic.

    This is a season quickly slipping away and if Ricky Stuart can’t turn his men around in the next few weeks, it’s a season gone.

    Jack Stockwell Newcastle Knights NRL Rugby League 2017
    (AAP Image/Darren Pateman)

    A super, super Saturday
    There are six clubs who need to take a bow. What a superb six hours of footy it was on Saturday. No one really deserved to lose based on the show that was put on.

    First up it was out to Penrith. A desperate Panthers outfit battled their way through the first half, down 28-6 before pulling off a miraculous comeback 30 unanswered points in the second half to record their second biggest ever comeback.

    If that wasn’t good enough for you, the second game was the match of the weekend, and is an early contender for match of the year – it’s hard to see it being beaten, even by the Cowboys and Broncos rivalry that has shaped the last few seasons when you think of the best matches.

    The Storm should have beaten the Titans. They scored 36 points. When Melbourne score more than 20 points, they normally don’t lose. But they did and wasn’t it incredible.

    Melbourne equalled the highest ever losing score in the history of Australian Rugby League, as the Titans came back once, then came back twice before scoring two tries in the final six minutes to pick up victory in a game that saw 13 tries.

    With Suncorp Stadium building towards capacity, the Broncos then came out to finish a big double-header in the Queensland capital against the Manly Sea Eagles.

    The Sea Eagles blew them off the park in the first ten minutes, scoring 14 points. They then didn’t score again as Brisbane got into the contest and scored 24 unanswered.

    Bryce Cartwright of the Panthers, (centre), celebrates with team mates
    (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

    Forward passes and tackles in the air. What to make of officials and rules?
    Unfortunately, referees are a necessary talking point this weekend. Full credit to the men in the middle, because they made a superb start to the year, but standards have dropped off in the last couple of weeks, hence them appearing here again.

    Forward passes were the topic of discussion this weekend, with two outrageous, blatant ones that should have been pulled back every single time.

    The first of the two being referred to was in the Dragons versus Sharks game on Friday, with Cronulla’s comeback being launched on the back of one that sailed a couple of metres forward.

    It was then onto the Sea Eagles game, with a try in the corner to Jorge Taufua coming off a pass from Tom Trbojevic that went even further forward.

    Tackling in the air was the other hot topic over the weekend, with Tom Trbojevic suffering a potentially serious injury as he was taken out after the ball bounced.

    It’s important to note the ball had bounced, so Trbojevic being tackled in the air wasn’t really a refereeing blunder, more a rule that needs urgent attention.

    It’s something the NRL must look at. If we are concerned about the health of our best players, the simple fact of life is that being tackled in the air is not something that should be allowed after a kick under any circumstance.

    Tom Trbojevic Manly Sea Eagles NRL Rugby League tall
    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    Three in a row for the Titans and at full strength, they could go the distance
    Don’t let the header mislead you. I’m not suggesting the Titans are favourites, or that I reckon they will win the premiership. What I am suggesting though, is that September is a weird beast.

    Make the top eight and who knows what’s going to happen.

    The Titans will make the eight. Let’s get that off the bat straight away. This is a team who have been decimated by injuries and bad luck, yet have still found a way to win three on the trot after losing six of their first seven.

    They are yet to play a poor game and while there are still some concerns about the defence of the Gold Coast, this is a team who have plenty of improvement in them, even after scoring 38 points against Melbourne.

    Neil Henry’s men beat reigning premiers the Sharks only a handful of weeks ago away from home and as long as they continue fighting and playing to their strengths, they will make it to September comfortably.

    Once that happens – who knows. The finals are a crazy beast and a team like the Titans could just do something special.

    Titans rugby league player Ashley Taylor running with ball
    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    What are the Bulldogs playing at?
    Des Hasler, Moses Mbye and Michael Lichaa. Meet Matt Frawley. You know, that bloke who has given you a spark in the halves this year that no one else has been able to.

    Watching Friday’s loss to the Cowboys, it would have been enough to bring a Bulldogs’ fan to tears as their fifth tackle options went from ordinary, to woeful and then downright disgraceful.

    Frawley was virtually ignored throughout the game, although that seemed to change when it was all too late. Instead, Moses Mbye racked up countless poor options, kicking the ball dead, then refusing to kick it at all, throwing ordinary passes and generally stunting the Bulldogs attack.

    The return of Josh Reynolds might help down the track, but Frawley is their form half, Mbye is not and Des Hasler needs to reform their attack in a hurry.

    Canterbury Bulldogs NRL coach, Des Hasler,
    (AAP Image/Paul Miller)

    Cronulla are playing well below their best, but still at the top
    The Sharks are running second on the ladder and haven’t yet played consistently. They have had good moments, played well when they needed to and got the better of Melbourne with a complete performance, but they appear to be a team down on motivation to clean up their competition like they did last year.

    This is a team who can go back-to-back. You don’t run second after ten rounds without playing good footy, but the Sharks still have a number of gears to go up yet before they are anywhere near their potential.

    That’s fine as well – you don’t want to be peaking at this point in the season.

    But the Sharks do need to show us they can consistently go up the gears in the next month. It’s going to be a telling point of the season as to whether they can fire up.

    This is a team who has the competition at their fingertips, but they are yet to prove come September they will be able to skip away from sides as they did in 2016.

    Paul Gallen Cronulla Sharks NRL Rugby League 2017
    (AAP Image/Craig Golding)

    The Dragons are the real deal
    Okay, I know what you’re thinking – the Dragons lost to the Sharks on the weekend.

    But, this is a team who were tipped by most pundits to finish 15th or 16th on the ladder. They then took it to the Sharks without Gareth Widdop or Josh Dugan, after almost losing to the Roosters in golden point.

    Take out the first 25 minutes against the Melbourne Storm in Round 9 when they fell behind 22-0 in rapid time and the Dragons are yet to put in a really poor stretch of play in 2017.

    This is a team who are building their game off defence and offloads, attacking off the back of being solid on their own goalline and having a ball doing it.

    Every interview seems to be a positive one and it seems that nothing can knock the Dragons down a level. If they can continue that and ride the bumps while Dugan and Widdop are on the sideline, there is no reason they can’t finish in the top four.

    Tariq Sims St George Illawarra Dragons NRL Rugby League 2016
    (AAP Image/Craig Golding)

    The Roosters finally get back on the front foot
    Not through a lack of motivation, the Roosters have been somewhat like the Sharks this year. Playing well enough to sit at the top of the table, but struggling to be dominant and win games by big margins.

    While the Eels were defensively incompetent, it was an important statement game for the Roosters, who ran up 28 first half points. It was something they had to do, no questions asked.

    After winning and losing their last two games by a point each way and having some other unconvincing performances, this was one where Mitchell Pearce and Luke Keary put an authoritative foot down which said ‘the Roosters are a force to be reckoned with.’

    And they absolutely are. This is a team with potential all over the park, and while they won’t win by 40 every wee, the level of intent must remain the same.

    Roosters player Latrell Mitchell is congratulated by Mitchell Pearce
    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    Penrith finally win, but they need to build off it
    Well, the Panthers won something. It wasn’t pretty after being down 28 points to 6 at halftime against the Warriors, but it typical Warrior fashion it was a collapse of epic proportions as the Panthers ran up 30 consecutive points to win.

    For Penrith, they need to focus on the positives out of the game and move forward with them. For the first time in what must seem like forever, their attack fired. It might have been against the Warriors, but this is a team who have been struggling big time so to see them put points on, especially after a dreadful first half almost came as a surprise.

    We all know the Panthers can turn it on. They showed us last year, and again in the second half against the Warriors. Concerns about their defence are still relevant and must be addressed, but if they are going to start climbing up the ladder, they have to play something like the team who knocked the Warriors over.

    Roarers, what did you make of Round 10? Drop a comment and let us know.

    Scott Pryde
    Scott Pryde

    One of the mainstays of The Roar, Scott Pryde has written over 1,100 articles covering everything from rugby league to basketball, from tennis to cricket. You can follow him on Twitter @sk_pryde.