Almanac Rugby League – 2022 NRL Round 21: Ouch!

 

 

 

 

Here’s a blast from the past – 1967 (’68?), if I remember correctly. Fast forward to last Friday night and a spear tackle caught the headlines again. The only difference is that 55 years ago the tackle would have been widely applauded (unless you were Grahame Cronk on the receiving end); this week Nathan Cleary accepted a 5-match ban after being sent off for his tackle on Dylan Brown.

 

Cleary’s send off and Pat Carrigan’s hip-drop tackle on Jackson Hastings were the headline stories coming out of Round 20 while the apparent inconsistencies in a series of other incidents left us all shaking our heads – think Big Nelson, JWH and Alfred Smalley. But, let’s face it, it was ever thus!

 

Away from the controversies, it was another engaging weekend of footy. Penrith lost their way for 20 minutes following the dismissal of Cleary and suddenly found themselves 26 points in arrears, the game well and truly lost. But did you notice how they fought back in the second half when lesser sides would have caved in to a cricket score? They actually won the second half 6-4 and, from where I sat, dominated play for most of that 40 minutes. That is a champion team! But what does that say about the Eels who were superlative in the first half but amazingly ineffective thereafter? They may be the only side to beat Penrith this year (that’s twice!) but the question marks remain.

 

Elsewhere the Roosters had to fight harder than expected to down a valiant Manly Sea Eagles outfit decimated by the jersey kerfuffle. Again, the best work was done by Hasler and DCE when they fronted the media. Where the hell were the people who created the mess? The Storm grifted their way to a win over the Warriors but were less than convincing. The Raiders stayed in contention with a good win over the Titans and the Bulldogs maintained their late season resurgence with a solid game against the disappointing Knights. The Cowboys were made to fight by the Dragons before talent won out and the northerners stampeded.

 

The Broncos were dealt a surprise defeat by the highly energetic Wests Tigers who were clearly still smarting from their controversial loss the previous weekend. The loss might do Brisbane a favour and remind them that you need to be in the game for 80 minutes every week to be competitive. Full marks to the Tigers for showing resilience and not a little flair. What might have happened if they had Adam Doueihi available all year? The Sharks and Rabbitohs had a ding dong battle before Nicho Hynes had the last say. The Sharks are showing more and more steel as the season progresses – even Andrew Fifita looks interested! The Bunnies, in spite of the heroics of Cameron Murray, still have a way to go.

 

Looking ahead to Round 21, the Roosters look like they may hold the aces against the Broncos tonight. The loss of Carrigan is a big blow to Brisbane while the Chooks’ forwards are showing a degree of menace. They’ve lost Lindsay Collins but have the depth to cover him more than Brisbane can cover for Carrigan. Joey Manu is the form player of the competition and James Tedesco isn’t far behind  – and that’s enough for me to go with the Roosters. So the Roosters will consolidate a place in the 8 while the Broncos look like they’ll drop out of top four contention.

 

The Storm look well-placed to consolidate fourth spot when they take on the woeful Titans tomorrow night. They’ll also be looking to run themselves back into a bit of form after a horrible July. The Titans…I’ll leave it at that. Later on tomorrow night the Sea Eagles host the enigmatic Eels at ‘Brookie’. Manly’s season is on the line (if it isn’t over already) but it’s hard to think there isn’t at least some internal unrest lingering after last week’s fiasco. The Eels will miss Mitchell Moses badly after he dominated last week. So it’s a good test of their depth and their ability to go to Plan B. Having said all that, I have a sneaking suspicion that Manly might cause an upset!

 

On Saturday afternoon the Rabbitohs host the Warriors for their annual match on the Sunshine Coast. Souths will be fuming at themselves for failing to get the win over the Sharks last time out and that will be all the motivation they need to beat the willing but under-resourced Warriors. The early evening game sees the Raiders at home to the Panthers. It’s must win territory for Canberra (again!) while the Panthers have to find a way to win without their regular halves for the next month or so. Yeo is a terrific leader – did you see how he hauled his team forward when all was lost last week: what a player! – and I think Penrith have the depth to cover for Cleary and Luai. Canberra will claw and fight but, in the end, I think class will prevail. In the night game, the Sharks face the Dragons. It’s yet another case of the Dragons must win or they’re gone while the Sharks, now firmly in third spot, will want to preserve their top four position. The Dragons will be willing but the Sharks are too hot at the moment.

 

On Sunday the energetic Bulldogs host the Cowboys who, among other things this year, have learned how to win on the road. Again, I expect the Doggies to be willing and competitive for about 60 minutes before the class of the Cowboys overpowers them. Mick Potter deserves a lot of credit for what he has done with the Dogs in such a short time while Todd Payten deserves even more kudos for transforming the Cowboys in 2022. The round concludes with the bottom of the ladder clash between the reborn Wests Tigers and the running-out-of-puff Knights. The loss of Hastings will hurt the Tigers but Adam Doueihi is a class act who will inspire his team to a rare two wins on the trot. The Knights, so promising back in April, have faded and faded. It looks like a long rebuild there.

 

So my winners this week are the Roosters, Storm, Sea Eagles, Rabbitohs, Panthers, Sharks, Cowboys and Tigers.

 

And it’s only three weeks until the NRLW 2022 season commences.

 

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About Ian Hauser

A relaxed, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A Queenslander through and through, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. I enjoy travel, good coffee and cake, reading, and have been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. As well as being one of Footy Almanac's online editors, I moonlight as an editor for hire - check me out at www.writerightediting.com.au

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