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Eels Bounce Back, Henry Tackles Everything & Rapana In The Clutch

State of Origin has taken over the NRL, but Round 13 will be remembered as one for the underdogs as they caused havoc for tipsters.

The Parramatta Eels welcomed back Mitchell Moses and Clint Gutherson for Round 13 and put themselves back in the winners’ circle with a 34-22 win over the Cronulla Sutherland-Sharks. While the Sharks played without Nicho Hynes, the defeat could look worse if it becomes another—and three on the bounce—against the Brisbane Broncos next week.

Did the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs play really well to score 32 points, or did the Newcastle Knights play poorly to concede that much while only scoring two themselves? This played out like a classic State of Origin period bludger. Still, the Bulldogs continue to head in the right direction and pick up much-needed competition points.

You can’t take too much out of the Penrith Panthers losing at this time of the year. However, it’s hard not to be impressed by the St George-Illawarra Dragons claiming the 22-10 win without Jaydn Su’a, Zac Lomax and Ben Hunt. Jack Bird missed this one due to injury, too. Shane Flanagan is having a positive impact on this group regardless of who wears the jersey each week.

As the least Origin-impacted game, the Canberra Raiders taking on the Dolphins at Kayo Stadium always presented as the Game of the Round. The 80 minutes lived up to the hype and translated into nine more as the game went into Golden Point. Both teams had their chances to win it late. However, Jordan Rapana came up with the goods to land the 89th-minute field goal and a 26-25 win for the Raiders.

The biggest upset came in the last match of the round as the North Queensland Cowboys pipped the Sydney Roosters. Trent Robinson lost James Tedesco the morning of the game. The Roosters have their excuses for the 18-16 defeat. Still, it’s one they were expected to win all week.

Player Spotlight: Liam Henry

Liam Henry has earned his spot as a regular first grader following an incredible 2023 NSW Cup season to have featured at NRL level 10 times in 2024.

He’s played his best football as a prop but started in the backrow for the Penrith Panthers as they looked to piece together a team for Round 13. Decimated by State of Origin, we so often see the next man step up at the Panthers, and Henry did just that.

A powerful ball runner who doesn’t stop coming, it was in defence that he made his mark in Penrith’s defeat. The 22-year-old finished up with a whopping 71 tackles to his name in only 74 minutes. Remarkably, he fell off only two.

He’s not James Fisher-Harris – let that be clear. Still, he’s going to play a major role in how Ivan Cleary and the Panthers replace the Kiwis captain. Henry has the work rate to help overcome such a big loss to the roster.

NRL Team of Round 13: Parramatta Eels

As the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks waved goodbye to Nicho Hynes for the week, the Parramatta Eels welcomed back Mitchell Moses and Clint Gutherson. Surprisingly, a lot of the chatter pre-match revolved around a Sharks victory.

However, Parramatta’s two best players taking to the field changed the dynamic of the side.

Gutherson’s effort is contagious. He might not be the most damaging ball carrier or silky ball player, but he puts himself in the right spot at the right time more often than not. Defensively, it’s night and day between him and his replacements. Meanwhile, Mitchell Moses returned from a long injury layoff but didn’t miss a beat. He organised the attack and dominated short sides. Notably, he opened up space for Dylan Brown to get back to his ball-running best.

Parramatta looked like a different team.

They’re languishing at 15th on the ladder with only four wins in 12 games. Teams typically require 12 wins to reach the NRL Finals, leaving Parra with 12 games to find eight wins if they’re even a sniff. Their Round 14 match against the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs is vital. If they can win that and win it well, we might have to start thinking about a run towards the finals similar to the Sydney Roosters last season.

Highlight Reel

Take a bow, Jordan Rapana.

The 34-year-old just doesn’t know when to stop. He does it all for the Canberra Raiders and did it again in Round 13, kicking two field goals to beat the Dolphins at Kayo Stadium.

Numbers Game

The Eels have always been at their best when offloading the football. It’s no coincidence that they played themselves back into form with 19 offloads on Thursday night, using the second phase to run for 2,172 running metres.

While the Bulldogs ended up scoring all of the points, they missed 56 tackles along the way. It’s another concerning number for the Knights who still struggled to get the scoreboard ticking over despite the loose defence in front of them.

The Panthers have found ways to win without their best players because of their system. Every player in the club knows how to fall in line and execute the plan. However, 10 errors, only 45% possession and 50 missed tackles aren’t part of the system.

The Raiders back-five came up with the goods on Saturday night. Nic Cotric (136m), Matt Timoko (195m), Seb Kris (169m) and Xavier Savage (160m) laid the platform early in the set for Josh Papalii (178m) and Joseph Tapine (211m) to surge through the middle. It kept the Raiders moving up the field and ultimately put them in positions to land two field goals late in the piece.

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