Almanac Rugby League – NRL Round 11 review

 

 

A win to the bottom-placed Canterbury Bulldogs on Sunday came as a big surprise in Round 11 of the NRL, which featured two scorelines of 18-12.

 

But attention to this NRL round was diverted on Saturday as David Fifita signed a 3-year deal worth $3.5 million with the Gold Coast Titans. The Broncos were unable to retain him as their offer was much lower than the Gold Coast’s offer, although the delay in Fifita’s decision meant his choice was anything but straightforward. I don’t think anyone would begrudge Fifita for chasing the big dollars, but it must be realised that a huge amount of responsibility will rest on his shoulders. I really think the deal is an absolutely insane amount of money, especially for a 20-year-old. The deal really could be counterproductive if Fifita struggles to meet the sky-high expectations that he faces. Look no further than the acid criticism that Brisbane’s Anthony Milford has faced in the past year or two.

 

Meanwhile, two NRL veterans have shown that age has not diminished them, while a maligned veteran produced one moment that revived memories of past glories.

 

The opening match of Round 11 featured a 26-16 win for the Parramatta Eels over the Wests Tigers, yet Tigers veteran Benji Marshall put in another eye-catching display. Six days after his brilliant showing in a 48-0 drubbing of the Broncos, the 35-year-old Marshall wasn’t able to propel his team to another win, but he showed he clearly hasn’t stayed around for a year too many. The Tigers scored early but the Eels eventually gained control, leading 18-12 at half-time and 26-12 with 15 minutes left before the Tigers scored a consolation try. The outcome somewhat took a back seat as Tigers forward Michael Chee Kam was taken to hospital after suffering a worrying head knock. Thankfully, there appeared to be no serious damage.

 

The first match on Friday contained no great surprises as Manly hovered around the bottom of the top-eight with a 24-12 win over the faltering Cowboys. The second match on Friday was surprisingly competitive in the first half, with the badly out-of-form Broncos holding a shock 8-6 lead against the Melbourne Storm. Maligned veteran Darius Boyd turned back the clock with a brilliant cover tackle that took Melbourne winger Suliasi Vunivalu into touch. Alas, the match became predictably one-sided after a soft try in the 35th minute helped Melbourne to a still attainable 14-8 half-time lead. Brisbane’s woes were back in full swing as the Storm scored 32 unanswered points in the second stanza. Storm hooker Cameron Smith, aged 37, was at his brilliant best.

 

Words cannot describe just what a sensation Cameron Smith has been for a number of years. It’s not my style to gloat about anyone or be in awe of anyone, but I make an exception for Cameron Smith. Although identities from different sports and different eras cannot be compared, I think Cameron Smith deserves a similar amount of recognition as the likes of Don Bradman, Walter Lindrum, Muhammad Ali and Phar Lap. How one rugby league player can have so much authority, control and influence on a contest – out of 26 players on the field and the match officials – is something I cannot understand. As Johnathan Thurston said in the commentary, Smith can think eight, nine or 10 sets ahead. I’d go as far as saying Smith can govern a game of rugby league. Who else has ever been able to do that?

 

One of Melbourne’s discards, Brodie Croft, had another disappointing night in Broncos colours and again made many critics question his place in the Queensland capital. After he was in tears following a defeat a few weeks earlier, Croft was spotted laughing and joking with several ex-colleagues on the field after Melbourne’s 38-point victory.

 

On Saturday afternoon, reigning back-to-back premiers the Roosters had to work surprisingly hard to achieve victory against the lowly-placed Warriors, who held a surprising 10-6 half-time lead before the Roosters scored a dozen points without reply in the second half.

 

The Sharks versus Dragons match had many momentum shifts, with the Dragons leading 14-6 before the Sharks grabbed a 22-14 half-time lead. The margin blew out to 14 points but the Dragons clawed back to trail 28-24, and then came achingly close to stealing victory. Unfortunately the match was tarnished as The Bunker again drew attention for all the wrong reasons. Scarcely does a week go by without a decision from The Bunker that causes a furore. It was obvious that Cronulla’s first try should not have been awarded, as St George Illawarra’s Matt Dufty clearly forced the ball in-goal before Cronulla’s Jack Williams grounded it. Whereas the officials in The Bunker have usually had no price to pay apart from copping criticism, the NRL took action this time with officials Steve Clark and Ben Galea being stood down from a subsequent fixture.

 

Saturday night’s tussle at GIO Stadium was a tight one, with Souths taking a 12-10 advantage into half-time after quickly turning a 10-point deficit into a narrow lead. With rain falling in the second half, the hosts registered a penalty goal and a converted try to record an 18-12 victory, although the result was in doubt as there was no change to the score in the final 20 minutes.

 

The same score occurred in the first match on Sunday, with the Bulldogs remaining on the bottom of the ladder but providing hope that they could yet avoid the wooden spoon. Canterbury led 18-0 after 50 minutes before the Knights closed the margin to a converted try with 10 minutes left, but it wasn’t their day. Newcastle slipped from outright fourth to outright sixth in the process.

 

Following the last match of the round, the Panthers maintained the ladder lead but were far from their best in their 22-14 win over the Titans in wet weather. The Panthers were in control as they led 16-4, until the Gold Coast scored two good tries in the last three minutes of the first half. Ash Taylor nearly levelled the score on half-time, but his sideline conversion attempt struck the left upright. The second half featured just one try, with the last pass looking highly suspect. For the second successive week, the Panthers did enough to beat a lowly-placed Queensland team, without being dominant.

 

Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.

 

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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.

Comments

  1. The win by the Bulldogs was the upset we didn’t see coming and will cause a few nervous moments in Newcastle ranks – two relatively easy competition points missed! But good luck to the Dogs. Penrith, somewhat depleted, did well to win tough, the mark of a good side. Otherwise, all pretty much to script. Off the field, the Fifita signing, together with other recent gains from the Storm and Newcastle, might be the start of something better for the Titans – but they need on-field leadership in the spine to be a serious finals prospect.

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