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5 things we learned from NRL round 22

What did we learn from round 22 of the 2012 NRL Season? Here’s the five big points, starting with the Storm who seem to be a revitalised Premiership threat.

The storm are still are a Premiership threat
The Melbourne Storm returned to form in devastating style, smashing the Panthers 44-6 at AAMI Park during a rare Saturday afternoon game. The win snaps a five game losing streak, which was putting them at risk of dropping out of the top 4, and reignited their credentials as premiership contenders.

More importantly for the Storm, the win allowed them to blow out some cobwebs in attack and defence, and provide them with some much needed confidence with the finals just a month away. Their start was extremely impressive, and their intensity was back up to where it’s been in the past. They got out of the blocks quicker than Usain Bolt to score in the first minute of the game and the remainder of their first half performance followed suit. The Storm’s defence was also much better than in previous games, where it has looked very brittle.

Ominous warning signs for the other teams who will still be around in September.

Newcastle is still a fair way off the benchmark
The Knights played against the competitions benchmark and they were spanked. On the cusp of the top 8 and playing some solid football under the tutelage of master coach Wayne Bennett over the past month or so, the Knights were expected to provide a stern test for a firing Bulldogs team in front of 30,000 supporters at Hunter Stadium on Saturday night.

Instead, they were blown off the park by Canterbury in an incredible opening 20 minutes that saw them fall behind 24-0. The slick Bulldogs came out all guns blazing and stunned the Knights, who just couldn’t stay with them.

While the Bulldogs were unstoppable early, the Knights didn’t help themselves – serving up some feeble defence early on. It was an improved Knights performance in the second half, but by that stage the bulldogs had put the cue in the rack and were playing within themselves. It ended 26-10. The Bulldogs chalked up their 10th consecutive win, while the Knights were left licking their wounds.

Souths look less comfortable against a forward pack as aggressive as theirs
The South Sydney Rabbitohs should be commended for a gutsy win against the Gold Coast Titans at Skilled Park on Sunday, running out victors 22-18. The result keeps the Rabbits in second position on the ladder. However, Souths were certainly matched – if not outplayed – in the forwards by a Titans outfit possessing representative players Luke Bailey, Ashley Harrison and Nate Myles – all of whom had fantastic games.

It’s the first time in a long time this season that Souths were unable to roll forward in attack like they‘re normally able to do soo effectively. This nullified the effectiveness of halves John Sutton, and in particular Adam Reynolds. Souths spent very little time in the Titans 20 (it took them 60 minutes before a Souths player was tackled in this area of the field) because the Titans won the forward battle and they played much of the game in South Sydney’s half.

Despite holding on for their sixth consecutive victory – their best winning streak since 1994 – other teams in the competition will have noted how close the Titans came to upsetting the inform Rabbits.

Manly are great in the clutch

Manly are making a habit of winning close games. They did it against the Warriors two weeks ago, and on Saturday night they held off another top 8 contender, this time defeating the North Queensland Cowboys 8-6 in Townsville.

It was an extremely gritty performance from the defending premiers, who led 6-0 at halftime. Despite being outscored 6-2 in the second half, the Sea Eagles withstood a Cowboys team who threw everything they could at them late in the game. The Sea Eagles hung on by defending their line stoutly. It was Premiership style defence.

Footballers are strange creatures
Facing a do or die clash against the Brisbane Broncos at home on Sunday, the most unpredictable team in the NRL (on the field) continued that theme off the field. Despite playing a home game in Canberra, the Raiders travelled into NSW on Saturday for a team bonding night and then travelled back into Canberra the day of the game.

Coach David Furner made the unorthodox decision to stay outside of Canberra the night before the game in order to replicate the preparation used for an away game, because the Raiders away performances have been far better than the form they have shown at home this season.

The move well and truly worked. The Raiders were extremely impressive in disposing of the Broncos 28-12.

Individual Performance of the Round: Luke Bailey (Titans)
Match of the Round: Titans v Rabbitohs



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