What did we learn from round 25 of the 2012 NRL Season? Here’s the five big points, starting with the in-form Green Machine.
No team wants to face the Raiders in September
The Canberra Raiders served notice to a host of top 8 teams over the weekend, with an emphatic 34-6 thumping of Canterbury that put an end to the Dog’s 12 game winning streak, and all but guarantees the Green Machine of a spot in this seasons finals series. The Raiders leapt into outright seventh spot on Friday night at Canberra Stadium after a near perfect performance that saw them lead 24-6 at the break.
Backed by near impenetrable defence, the Raiders showed far too much grunt up front for an out of sorts and lacklustre Bulldogs outfit. Behind a huge forward pack led by captain David Shilllington, Canberra’s backline looked electric, as five of their six tries went to wingers Sandor Earl and Reece Robinson.
The Raiders are a confidence team and should they defeat the Warriors this weekend they may jump into sixth place and earn a home final. With Josh Dugan hitting top form and young halfback Sam Williams expertly pulling the strings no club will want to play the Raiders in September.
Teams on the cusp of the top 8 can’t get it done
Most of the teams walking the finals tightrope fell or at least stumbled severely over the weekend, after top 8 hopefuls the Broncos, Tigers, Titans and Knights all suffered losses.
Brisbane were easily second best at Brookvale against the reigning Premiers; a reshuffled Wests Tigers line-up missing injured hooker and leader Robbie Farah looked lost during their defeat to a rampant Roosters at Allianz Stadium; the Gold Coast went down to a rejuvenated Penrith Panthers after playing a string of must-win games over the last six weeks; while Newcastle were outclassed by the Johnathan Thurston inspired Cowboys at Dairy Farmers Stadium.
With results occurring as they did over the weekend, six teams are guaranteed a top 8 spot, which mathematically leaves up to five teams fighting it out for two spots. In reality though, wins to Canberra and Brisbane in this week’s final round will crush the hopes of the Tigers, Titans, Knights and Dragons – with many of those teams relying on hefty losses to teams above them and crushing victories for themselves.
Spineless Broncos continue to struggle
Despite a dogged defensive effort against Manly at Brookvale Oval on Friday night Brisbane continued to lack any attacking spark in their 16-6 defeat. Over the years much has been made of the disadvantage that Brisbane face in the latter part of the season as their host of Origin stars run out of playing petrol. This season the Broncos had five Origin players – Sam Thaiday, Petero Civoniceva, Ben Hannant, Matt Gillett and Justin Hodges – but what would they sacrifice for 1 or 2 more, particularly in their spine?
This season has been the first since 1995 – when Broncos players were banned from Origin because they’d signed to join the Super League – that Brisbane hasn’t provided Queensland with at least one key position player in the teams spine (fullback, five-eighth, halfback and hooker). Since their 26-12 round 16 victory over Souths, the Broncos have won just one game and averaged a miserable 13 points in attack. Brisbane’s young quartet of Josh Hoffman, Corey Norman, Peter Wallace and Andrew McCullough (in the main) have lacked a cutting edge. Unless they can re-ignite the form they showed early in the season, the Broncos may miss the finals for just the second time since 1991.
Some teams have nothing to play for, while others find something
Thankfully there aren’t too many games at this stage of the season that don’t have any real consequence or meaning, but unfortunately Saturday night’s game between St-George Illawarra and New Zealand was one of them. In a game that lacked the typical intensity of an NRL fixture, the Dragons ran out extremely comfortable 38-6 victors and in the process provided two of the club’s favourite players – Ben Hornby and Dean Young – with a fitting farewell in front of their fans in Wollongong.
Another lifeless performance – this time under new interim coach Tony Iro – sees the Warriors continue their terrible slide down the NRL ladder. If there were three or four weeks left in the season, instead of just one, the Warriors would be a fair chance of shoving Parramatta out of the way and stealing the wooden spoon.
Inglis must continue to fire
If Souths share any aspirations of winning their first Premiership since 1971, Greg Inglis must continue where he left off in South Sydney’s 38-6 romp of Parramatta on Sunday at ANZ Stadium. The rampaging fullback scored two tries, created three others, and racked up an incredible 12 tackle breaks as he tormented the Eels and ensured that the Rabbitohs first top 4 finish in 23 years is within their grasp.
Souths have lacked a genuine game-breaker since Inglis was suspended after his round 20 hit on Dragon Dean Young, but in form Inglis offers the complete package – pace, strength, agility and mesmerisingly silky skills with the ball in hand.
Last week he blew away some cobwebs against Cronulla, but against the wooden spooners Inglis delivered a two pronged rugby league lesson – barnstorming runs and bullet passes. Souths will need five similar performances from Inglis if they are going to become Premiers.
Individual Performance of the Round: Greg Inglis (Souths)
Match of the Round: Manly v Brisbane
- Souths’ NRL confidence intact: Inglis (news.theage.com.au)