NRL round 8: Key takeouts

Brisbane Broncos 16 bt Cronulla Sharks 7, Suncorp Stadium

Brisbane had been putting together some good stretches of football in recent weeks, so it was only a mild surprise to see them get a reasonably sized scalp. The Sharks had been on a Cinderella run under new coach Craig Fitzgibbon but this was a stark reminder that they fit squarely into the tier down from Penrith and Melbourne. They were flat, as Fitzgibbon later conceded, and the centre showdown between Siosifa Talakai and Brisbane’s Kotoni Staggs ended with a wide decision to the home fighter. Brisbane’s defence was excellent, Staggs rose to the occasion to become a real Origin contender and Adam Reynolds continues to live up to his pricetag. They could be a handful for a hot-and-cold Rabbitohs this weekend, while the Sharks get the chance to reset against the Warriors.

Phil Lutton

Penrith Panthers 18 bt Gold Coast Titans 4, CBUS Super Stadium

It’s quite the tussle at the bottom of the ladder and the Titans should start to settle in if they continue to dish up this kind of insipid football. They are all over the shop at the moment, lacking direction through the halves, punch in the outside backs and a complete inability to get any points out of good ball sets, where they just tend to run through the motions and hope for the best. AJ Brimson was a spark at his return to fullback and their middles, especially captain Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, deserves so much better given his efforts. They had a 4-0 lead at the break but it was all over when Penrith scored twice in the first seven minutes of the second. The Panthers? They had on off night. Still won. And that was about that.

Phil Lutton

South Sydney Rabbitohs 40 v Manly Sea Eagles 22 at Central Coast Stadium

The Karl Lawton send off hurt the Sea Eagles who continued to have a red-hot go with 12 men for 71 minutes. They are a good team who have had no luck with injuries and suspensions. And to think Tom Trbojevic and Haumole Olakau’atu return this week. The return of Josh Schuster was excellent, and he will strip much fitter second and third-up. His No. 6 dream being put on hold is a good thing for Manly because Kieran Foran could not be playing any better – and tougher (as always) alongside his good mate Daly Cherry-Evans. Souths kicked away, but were probably entitled to a lot earlier than they did. Campbell Graham continues to push for Origin selection, while fellow centre Isaiah Tass has a huge future and making a good case to remain right in the team talk, despite the return of the suspended Taane Milne. Holding the ball has been the big issue for Souths, and when they did complete at 80 per cent for just the second time in eight games, they piled on 40 points.

Christian Nicolussi

New Zealand Warriors 21 bt Canberra Raiders 20, Moreton Daily Stadium

How low can the Raiders go? It could be as low as last if they can’t beat the Bulldogs at home this Friday night. Just as winning can become a habit, so can losing. And Canberra just have no idea how to close out a game at the moment. This was a game they dominated for most parts, but again they failed to score a point in the second half and were left vulnerable to Shaun Johnson’s golden point field goal. All the while Jarrod Crocker sits in reserve grade stranded on 291 NRL games. Nathan Brown’s team got walloped 70-10 by the Storm last week …. and finish the first eight rounds at 4-4. How? Maybe it says as much about the strength of the NRL, rather than the Warriors themselves.

Adam Pengilly

Canterbury Bulldogs 16 bt Sydney Roosters 12, SCG

Forget Gus Gould, Matt Burton is the one person Canterbury should be thanking for the win. Burton produced a monster 40/20 and helped deny Joseph Suaalii late in a well-deserved performance and win. The Dog splayed with plenty of energy and had plenty of field position early. Even a few dud calls were not going to stop this emotional victory. The Roosters need to urgently kickstart their attack. They looked lost for ideas. Drew Hutchison passed to an unsuspecting Jared Waerea-Hargreaves at the end of one set while James Tedesco was caught with the ball on another. They have too many stars to miss out on September, but after the Titans this week, Easts will have their work cut out. If they ever needed to get their attacking mojo going, it’s this week.

Christian Nicolussi

North Queensland Cowboys 35 bt Parramatta Eels 4, Tio Stadium, Darwin

Parramatta had enough good ball in the opening half to win this match and several others. The fact they didn’t is a testament to the North Queensland defence and a lack of direction from the halves. It looks like time for a change. Dylan Brown was shifted into the centres out of necessity, due to a horror run of injuries to the outside backs. However, he was one of the most improved players of the season playing alongside Mitchell Moses, who wasn’t his usual dominant self when paired with Jake Arthur. It’s time to Moses and Brown to be united.

The Cowboys, meanwhile, couldn’t have been more impressive. They soaked up everything Parramatta threw at them and then made the most of their opportunities to run away with the win. They now sit in third spot to be the surprise packet of the competition. They should consolidate their spot against Newcastle this week,

Adrian Proszenko

Melbourne Storm 50 bt Newcastle Knights 2, McDonald Jones Stadium

Newcastle wanted to come out firing after their dismal 37-point loss against Parramatta but didn’t touch the ball until the 12th minute. In that period they made 52 tackles and conceded two tries. Coach Adam O’Brien was quick to point out after the one-sided affair the Knights were without eight players with more than 100 games of experience due to injury but conceded that was no excuse for such poor defence. Things won’t get easier next week with an away fixture against the third placed Cowboys. Meanwhile, the Storm’s stocks continue to rise. Harry Grant was outstanding, Cameron Munster got better as the game went on, while Ryan Papenhuyzen is arguably the most potent back in the competition at the moment. He is dynamite. Melbourne have had a decent run with injuries and if that continues, they’ll fancy themselves against Penrith in a fortnight.

Tom Decent

St George Illawarra Dragons 12 bt Wests Tigers 6, WIN Stadium

The Tigers won just about every key metric apart from the one that counts: the scoreboard. Ben Hunt continues to come up with the big plays when the Dragons need them, breaking an almost hour-long tryless start to the game. And from there the Dragons did enough to hold on. Anthony Griffin will be ecstatic with his side’s new-found resolve in defence for a third straight win, but the Tigers clearly won the collision and battle of the middles, and that doesn’t spell good news for the Red V against the rampant Storm next week. Jayden Sullivan provided the spark St George Illawarra needed off the bench. How does Griffin use him from now on, especially given Jack Bird is due back next week? Michael Maguire will be ruing his side didn’t convert their dominance into points, and the absence of fullback Daine Laurie is starting to bite when it comes to their creativity.

Adam Pengilly

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