Almanac Rugby League – NRL 2020 Round 19 Wrap: Not a lot to get excited about

Following a boilover in the opening match of the penultimate round of the NRL round-robin season, attention instantly turned to the Brisbane Broncos. Could this wealthy club and this one-team town really claim the wooden spoon?


Later this week, we’ll find out. Unless they record a win or a draw against fellow strugglers the North Queensland Cowboys, the Broncos are guaranteed to claim the wooden spoon for the first time. Their many critics will love it if this happens.


The Penrith Panthers secured the minor premiership with a comfortable win over the Cowboys, while there were plenty of high scoring contests in Round 19. There was plenty of controversy too.


Strangely, the fate of the Broncos seemed to rest in the hands of the Canterbury Bulldogs rather than the Brisbane team for several weeks, as the then last-placed Bulldogs lost a sequence of matches that they could just as easily have won. It was only through sheer luck that Brisbane had not already sunk to the foot of the ladder. It appeared that luck might be on Brisbane’s side again, as the Bulldogs frittered away a shock 20-0 lead against the Rabbitohs. It was astonishing to see the last-placed team give the sixth-placed team a touch-up in the first 30 minutes. The Rabbitohs were caught with their pants down, and perhaps guilty of taking their opponents lightly.


There was ample controversy, yet both sides were in the position to overcome their respective setbacks. The first controversy came as Rabbitohs forward Jaydn Su’A was sin-binned for a so-called high shot when ball-carrier Lachlan Lewis fell into the tackle. The Bulldogs scored two tries when they had a one-player advantage – although Lewis had to exit the match – before Souths halved the margin in the shadows of half-time following Su’A’s return. The first try for the Rabbitohs, however, was tainted as Jaxson Paulo touched the sideline before he planted the ball, yet referee Ashley Klein awarded the four-pointer. Considering Klein did not even seek assistance while the linesman did not indicate doubt, The Bunker could not be blamed this time! When the margin shrank to four points in the second half, it appeared that the Bulldogs were on the ropes. It appeared that another golden chance to offload the wooden spoon would be blown. But the Rabbitohs lost their way, and a speculative try to Chris Smith gave the Bulldogs some breathing space. Souths could have fought back but incredibly, a knock-on occurred almost right on the tryline as a try looked certain. It summed up an off night for the Rabbitohs who later fell to seventh on the ladder.


On Friday, the minor premiers were never troubled as they led the Cowboys 26-0 after 47 minutes, although Penrith was outscored 12-6 in the last 33 minutes. The Panthers were in form in attack for at least 40 minutes while their defence was solid for the most part, but they continued their habit of not putting together a strong 80-minute performance. There will still be plenty for Penrith coach Ivan Cleary to address. Parramatta coach Brad Arthur, meanwhile, could not have been too satisfied with his team’s 26-12 victory over the Broncos. It wasn’t until midway through the first half that the Eels opened their account and, after Parramatta led 20-6 at half-time, Brisbane scored as many points as the Eels in the second stanza. The Broncos were insipid as expected but there was little for the Eels to be thrilled about despite maintaining a top-four spot. A disallowed try to Parramatta in the second half proved extremely confusing, as the role and process of The Bunker again came under scrutiny. Check the incident here:


The three contests on Saturday featured plenty of points, as there was some impressive attack and less-than-impressive defence. In the fixture featuring two teams well outside the top-eight, the Gold Coast Titans recorded their fourth successive win as they whipped the hapless Manly Sea Eagles 42-24. Manly’s Tom Trbojevic had a horror night in his return after a lengthy injury lay-off, although the Sea Eagles began brightly with an early converted try. But things went downhill as the Titans romped to a 42-12 lead midway through the second half, before two unanswered tries to the Sea Eagles added a sliver of respectability to the result.


The Melbourne Storm’s attack was hot as the second-placed team scored nine tries in a 50-22 thumping of the Wests Tigers, but Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy was understandably unhappy with the defence. For the second time in a week, the Storm conceded four tries against a team out of finals contention. Also for the second successive round, veteran Tigers playmaker Benji Marshall had some brilliant moments in attack. Without suggesting that Marshall “ages like fine wine”, I admire his ability to compete as well as he does in his mid-30s. Marshall might not be as quick as he once was, but he is nothing like a has-been. “Craig Bellamy was fuming after Melbourne’s suspect defence was exposed by Benji Marshall’s brilliance”, was Travis Meyn’s apt description in the Brisbane Sunday Mail. There was also some banter involving Melbourne’s coach and captain, after Cameron Smith overtook Bellamy’s tryscoring tally. Check it here:


The third-placed Sydney Roosters continued to push their credentials for three straight premierships, as they rested some key players yet still comfortably beat the eighth-placed Cronulla Sharks 34-18. The Sharks scored the second try of the match to bring the scores level, but the Roosters were too good as they moved ahead 24-6 in the first half. Despite scoring two more tries, the Sharks could not cut their deficit below 10 points. Already below full strength, Cronulla was rocked even further with news that Shaun Johnson could miss the remainder of the season with an Achilles injury.


The fifth-placed Canberra Raiders also had some injury concerns as they accounted for a gallant Warriors outfit on Sunday. With Canberra’s Jack Wighton in the sin bin, the Warriors extended their lead to eight points but, incredibly, Canberra jumped to a 16-14 lead prior to Wighton’s return. As I’ve mentioned before, nothing changes a game quite like an intercept! It happened again! With the Warriors leading 14-6 and on the attack against the 12-man Raiders, a loose pass was scooped up by Semi Valemei who scored a 90-metre try. Two unanswered tries in the second stanza enabled the Green Machine to win 26-14, but the coach was far from impressed. The game was not attractive by any means. Check the reaction here: (


In the other Sunday fixture, the Dragons may have been more interested in looking to the end of their disappointing season as they were simply awful in defence for the most part. The Newcastle Knights made it look too easy at times as they shot to a 30-6 half-time lead, before the teams scored 12 points each in the second half.


With just one more round remaining before the finals, the end of the season can’t come soon enough for the teams which have had little or nothing to savour in the past month or two.


On another note, I keenly await the Group 9 Grand Final this Sunday, with arch-rivals the Gundagai Tigers and Tumut Blues facing off. The Blues are gunning for back-to-back titles after the Tigers won the 2018 premiership.


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About Liam Hauser

A Queenslander through and through, Liam went out of his comfort zone as he had a thoroughly worthwhile time in Tumut and Gundagai from 2008 to 2016 before enjoying a year in Gunnedah. His strongest sporting interests are State of Origin, Sheffield Shield, Test cricket and the NRL. His sporting CV doesn’t have many highlights, although he once top-scored in a warehouse cricket match with 54 not out at number 10, and shared in an unbroken last wicket stand of 83 with the number 11 who scored an undefeated 52. Liam has written books including State of Origin 40 Years, A Century of Cricket Tests, A History of Test Cricket, The Immortals of Australian Cricket, The Immortals of Australian Rugby League, and The Great Grand Finals: Rugby League's Greatest Contests. Also a huge fan of Electric Light Orchestra.


  1. Liam, I agree that that it might be the best thing if the Broncos receive the dreaded ‘spoon’. After all, you can only start the climb back up once you’ve hit rock bottom. On another tack, I think there are only three realistic candidates for the premiership – Panthers, Storm and Roosters. The recent form of all three has been ominous and we should be able to look forward to some great clashed between them come finals time.

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