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Yes, it was a split round. Yes, many players were missing. Yes, it’s not the same as normal.
But it’s still footy! And we still had some outstanding talent on display.
Here’s your Monday morning recap of the NRL’s round 13.
North Queensland Cowboys 32 – Gold Coast Titans 6
The Cowboys bounced back from their loss last week to the Panthers, with a 32-6 thumping of the Titans on the Gold Coast on Thursday night.
Despite missing Origin stars Reuben Cotter, Valentine Homes, Jeremiah Nanai and Tom Dearden, the Cowboys never missed a beat. Funnily enough, the Titans seemed to feel more of an impact from representative duties with just their captain Big Tino missing as opposed to North Queensland who had four players out.
But when you still have Jason Taumalolo, Scott Drinkwater, Reece Robson and a Hammer in your toolbox, you would like to think a win was still well and truly on the cards.
The Titans opened the scoring through Toby Sexton in the 15th minute, but after that it became one-way traffic for the Cowboys. Helium Luki, Murray Taulagi and Hammer all crossed in the space of eight minutes and the visitors went to the sheds with a 16-6 halftime lead.
The Titans had a few opportunities to score in the second half but couldn’t seal the deal. Robson showed them how it was done in the 68th minute, with Hammer grabbing his second shortly after and Peta Hiku crossing just before the final siren.
The entire Cowboys pack were on song, with Taumalolo, Tom Gilbert and Robson leading the way. The Titans on the other hand seem to be going from bad to worse, after capturing their 10th loss of the season. To add salt to the wounds, one of their shining lights Jayden Campbell left the field in the 60th minute with a hamstring injury and could be sidelined for a while.
The Queensland Origin side was in the crowd to watch the game, and poor Tino looked like he didn’t know whether to run out and help his teammates or just head home.
Penrith Panthers 30 – Canterbury Bulldogs 18
Their horrendous season continues for the last-placed Bulldogs, unable to secure a win against an Origin affected Panthers side on Friday night.
Just as the Cowboys did the night before, the Panthers played like normal despite missing a whopping six of their stars and continued the journey for back-to-back premierships.
But again like the Cowboys, when you still have the likes of James Fisher-Harris, Viliame Kikau and Dylan Edwards on the field, it’s hard to see the game going any other way. All three played a huge role in the win, along with young halfback Sean O’Sullivan who filled in for the missing Nathan Cleary.
But the night belonged to Penrith debutant Kurt Falls. Playing his first NRL game at 25 years of age, he not only set up his team’s first try but kicked an impressive 5 from 6 and played like he had been there for years.
The Dogs put up a decent fight in their five tries to three loss, but not enough to beat the premiers.
Matt Burton was once again the best on-field for the blue and white, and Josh Addo-Carr had a point to prove after being left out of the NSW Origin side, grabbing himself a double. But as for the rest of the side, once again errors and careless defence continue to hold them back.
Manly Sea Eagles 44 – New Zealand Warriors 12
Well. This game was just embarrassing. Not if you were a Manly fan, it would have been glorious! But for Warriors fans and neutral supporters, it was very hard to watch.
The Sea Eagles, minus DCE in Origin camp and Tommy Turbo with a busted wing, finally broke a three-match losing streak to absolutely wallop the Warriors in front of their delighted fans on Saturday night.
Manly put in a dominant performance early, crossing for two tries in the first ten minutes. When Warrior Bunty Afoa was sent to the sin bin for a professional foul, they scored another two and took a 24-0 lead to the halftime break.
Jack Murchie grabbed the visitor's first try for the night in the 53rd minute, but the excitement was short-lived when Manly’s Reuben Garrick crossed for his first, and then his second not long after that.
Afoa tried to make up for his time off the field with a late try, but it was again matched by the Sea Eagles, with Jason Saab crossing just before full time.
Garrick was huge for the Sea Eagles, running the most metres for the game with 225, slotting a sensational 8/9 through the sticks as well as having a sensational kicking game that led to two of his team’s tries. The big boys were also instrumental for the home side, with Haumole Olakau’atu, Toafofoa Sipley, Josh Aloiai and stand-in captain Jake Trbojevic all leading from the front.
The Warriors' woes continue, this being their fifth loss in a row. Poor possession, penalties and errors hurt the visitors, along with a massive 43 missed tackles.
And with the Sharks, Panthers and then the Roosters over the next three weeks, the future doesn’t look to get any brighter anytime soon.
Canberra Raiders 22 – Sydney Roosters 16
For the second week in a row, the Raiders played in the last match of the round, which again turned out to be the best. But this time they got the win, putting in a tremendous 80-minute defensive effort and holding off a late fight-back from the Roosters for a gritty four tries to three win, in the chilly Nation’s Capital.
Both sides were down thanks to Origin, with the Raiders missing Big Papa and Jack Wighton, and the Roosters were without Captain Teddy, Daniel Tupou and Lindsay Collins. But it was the late withdrawal of hardman JWH that proved just as detrimental to the visitors.
Sitili Tupouniua thought he had scored for the Roosters in the fourth minute but was denied due to obstruction. Adam Elliot crossed for the home side only minutes later and was given the green light. Tupouniua wasn’t refused a second time, levelling the scores to 6-all midway through the first half.
Xavier Savage gave the Raiders their lead back when he scored in the 30th minute, and the home side went to the break 12-6 up.
Canberra struck early in the second, after Corey Horsburgh charged down and regathered a Luke Cleary kick and passed to a flying Seb Kris who pinned the ears back to score.
Two tries to the Roosters, one to the high-flying Joseph Suaalii who jumped about 1000 feet to catch a Keary kick and score, saw them back to only two points behind with 14 minutes left on the clock.
Matt Timoko hit back for the Green Machine, but an unsuccessful conversion attempt kept the door open for the visitors who now trailed by six. The tricolours did everything they could in the final minutes of the game to cross again, but a desperate Raiders defence proved too strong.
Big Papa would have been very proud of his front row replacement, with Joseph Tapine putting in a huge effort in his absence. Adam Elliot was also impressive for Canberra at lock, and fullback Savage continues to show he is a star on the rise.
The Roosters hot and cold season continues, today they obviously needed a jumper. Despite having the higher possession rate, they didn’t do enough with the ball when they had it. Their one standout was Joey Manu, who was close to faultless in a losing side, filling in for Teddy in the number one jersey. He ran for a ridiculous 300m, set up a try and seemed to be absolutely everywhere.
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