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The Warriors spoil the party

Round 15 of the NRL premiership produced the standard 2023 fare of upsets, thrillers and comebacks against the backdrop of State of Origin game two selection, but the big takeaway was the reality check doled out to a few finals and premiership hopefuls. 

Moses anointed as Blues’ saviour

In a exaggerated example of recency bias, the NSW selection panel have named Mitchell Moses to replace injured halfback Nathan Cleary for next week’s do-or-die second clash at Suncorp Stadium – the most feasible reason being the Parramatta linchpin was the last player they saw.

Moses’ Eels have spent the entire season outside the Top 8, yet a standout display in a 34-12 thumping of the battling Bulldogs earned him a surprise recall.

Reigning Dally M Medal winner Nicho Hynes – good enough to be horrifically misused from the bench in the series opener – tumbled out of contention for the 17 altogether following an understandably quiet showing in Cronulla’s 54-10 loss to Melbourne.

Adam Reynolds could not have done much more – across the entire campaign so far, and in another brilliant performance to get the Broncos over the line 24-20 against the Knights. The veteran laid on one try and helped set up the match-winner, which he finished off himself.

Stranger things have happened (though they rarely do for the Blues), but a Moses-Luai combination seems destined to fail. Cody Walker was unlucky to miss out on the No.6 jersey and missing Souths’ loss to St George Illawarra may have played a role. However, a Reynolds-Hynes or Reynolds-Moses pairing would have had at least a chance of squaring the series for NSW.

Few $2.35 Origin underdogs have looked as unappealing as the Blues do heading into game two in Brisbane.

Harsh spotlight on trio of teams after blowouts

Six teams went down by margins of 16-plus over the weekend, but the Dolphins, Sydney Roosters and Cronulla Sharks, in particular, were left reeling after insipid Round 15 showings.

The Dolphins, perhaps the rigours of an arudous debut campaign – with injury and suspension belatedly starting to chip away at their stoic efforts to stay more than competitive – starting to show, were towelled up 58-16 by a Manly side that has hardly set the world on fire in recent months.

Sydney Roosters could barely hold onto the ball long enough to have any chance against a Cleary-less Penrith, going down 30-6 – the Tricolours’ sixth loss from their last nine games. The Roosters have not played with less defensive toughness or attacking impetus during Trent Robinson’s previous 10 seasons at the helm. Incredibly, they are scoring less points per game than any team in the NRL.

The biggest shock, though, was Cronulla’s 44-point demolition at the hands of Melbourne. Everything Craig Fitzgibbon had apparently instilled in this side went out the window during 80 minutes at AAMI Park. While it could be written off as merely a bad day at the office, it was a continuation of a dismal 2023 record against their Top 8 rivals.

The Dolphins have a bye in Round 16, while the Roosters head up to Newcastle without their Origin players and the Sharks hosts the Bulldogs in games the sliding heavyweights simply have to bounce back in.

Statement game of NRL Round 15

Heading into their second bye, the Warriors have set an outstanding platform to make a run at a top-four berth that would have seemed a pipedream at the start of the year. An authoritative 36-14 win over Canberra at GIO Stadium was their most important step towards respectability and sustainable success yet in an Andrew Webster-led revival than is developing into the story of the 2023 NRL season.

The Warriors carved out a convincing victory over a quality team on the road after absorbing plenty of first-half adversity. They set up the result with a stirring defensive display in the opening 40 minutes (10 of those with a man in the sin-bin). The Raiders, who came out firing amid the emotion of Jarrod Croker’s 300-game milestone, seemed demoralised at only leading 8-6 at halftime, such was their malaise after the break.

In a quality that hasn’t been a strong point in recent weeks, the Warriors cashed in on just about every scoring opportunity made available to them. Another freakish Dallin Watene-Zelezniak play. Constant touches of class from Shaun Johnson and Tohu Harris. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad’s big-body threat on the edge. Luke Metcalf’s speed and Wayde Egan’s guile.

But it all comes back to the team’s overall poise and resilience under pressure, and 80-minute effort – which has barely abated all season. A 14-0 loss to the Roosters on a five-day turnaround from Anzac Day was their biggest of the season.

A popular wooden spoon pick in the pre-season, the Warriors have shortened to $1.50 to make the Top 8 and $5.50 to squeeze into the Top 4, the latter starting to look like genuine value given their very handy remaining schedule.

Sharks and Roosters drift

The top four contenders are looking very pronounced in the market now with Cronulla sliding out signficantly, while Sydney Roosters have been overtaken by Parramatta on the sixth line of betting after their price more than doubled. The big climbers this week were the Warriors and Manly, while Canberra eased off a bit, North Queensland shortened without having to lift a finger, and the Dolphins tumbled further.


Penrith Panthers$2.70$3.10
South Sydney Rabbitohs$4.50$4.20
Brisbane Broncos$5.50$6.00
Melbourne Storm$7.00$8.50
Cronulla Sharks$15$10
Parramatta Eels$16$18
Sydney Roosters$31$15
New Zealand Warriors$31$51
Manly Sea Eagles$34$61
Canberra Raiders$36$26
North Queensland Cowboys$41$51
The Dolphins$81$61
Newcastle Knights$126$101
Gold Coast Titans$126$126
St George Illawarra Dragons$251$251
Canterbury Bulldogs$301$251
Wests Tigers$401$201



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