While it didn’t produce the highest quality of football, Round 17 can be celebrated as the last split round of the 2021 NRL season. Now things start to get spicy on both ends of the ladder.

Rabbitohs Roll On

The South Sydney Rabbitohs have Brad Fittler to thank for their 46-18 win over the North Queensland Cowboys on Friday night. With Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai both out for Game 3 of the 2021 State of Origin series, Fittler snubbed both Cody Walker and Adam Reynolds in favour of Jack Wighton and Mitchell Moses.

Boy, do the Cowboys wish Fittler had at least picked Walker for the Blues…

The 31-year-old ripped through the North Queensland defence for three try assists and five line break assists in a superb individual performance. Down the left or sweeping over to the right, Walker popped up all over the field in a five-eighth/Mitchell-like hybrid role that the Cowboys had no answer for in the end.

The Cowboys started well enough. Jason Taumalolo appeared to be having one of those games as he trampled defenders and set up a long-range Cowboys try. However, the wheels fell off shortly before half time, and as is so often the case in the NRL at the moment, the superior team couldn’t be stopped once they started getting down hill.

It’s difficult to read too much into results at this time of the year. Still, the Rabbitohs are looking good and are into $6 to win the premiership.

Sam Walker’s Backwards Dash

With the Sydney Roosters 22-16 in front of the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs with 20 seconds on the clock, Sam Walker iced the game and sent social media into overdrive.

He wasn’t prepared to give the Bulldogs one chance at a hail mary play. Instead, he took possession and ran 80 metres back towards his own line. He killed the clock and any chance of a last-gasp play to force Golden Point in the process. It’s a smart play for a 19-year-old.

That didn’t stop the meltdowns across the internet, though…

The Roosters aren’t winning it this year. Out at $21 to lift the Provan-Summons Trophy in October, the injuries are too much for this group to overcome. However, with a smart young half like Walker at the helm, it won’t be long before they’re in contention again.

READ: State of Origin Tips & Preview – Game 3

Warriors Drop Another One

You wouldn’t know it based on the relative lack of scrutiny around Nathan Brown, but the New Zealand Warriors have lost seven of their last eight games to now be 13th on the NRL ladder. They’re now equal with Wests Tigers – the only team the Warriors have beaten in this stretch – and only two competition points ahead of the lowly Broncos.

They’ve had injuries to deal with. Most notably at the moment, Chanel Harris-Tavita’s organisation in the halves is missing. Sean O’Sullivan and Kodi Nikorima have played beside each other in the halves twice now. Both matches they’ve struggled to produce anything remotely close to a dangerous attack. Remarkably, the Warriors have two great fullbacks in Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Reece Walsh in the squad, but are failing to use both effectively.

Somewhat positively for the Kiwi club, it was Shaun Johnson – who is returning to the Warriors next season – that orchestrated the 20-12 win for the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks.

He forced five dropouts as the Sharks applied pressure and kept their foot down. The extra sets translated into a 53% v 47% advantage in possession with the Sharks holding the ball for over three minutes longer than the Warriors.

It wasn’t a perfect Sharks victory, but it’s a promising response to their shock defeat at the hands of the Broncos in Round 17.

NRL Against The Spread Standings

The Canberra Raiders big win over the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles has broken the drought and lifted them off the bottom of the NRL’s ATS standings. Meanwhile, with the Sharks covering their -4.5 on Sunday afternoon, they jump to 3rd with the Warriors now at 16th.

After Round 17

Top 8
Bottom 8
Storm (14-2)Panthers (8-8)
Eels (13-3)Cowboys (7-9)
Sharks (10-6)Titans (7-9)
Sea Eagles (10-6)Bulldogs (6-10)
Rabbitohs (9-7)Roosters (6-10)
Knights (8-8)Broncos (6-10)
Tigers (8-8)Raiders (4-12)
Dragons (8-8)Warriors (4-12)