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Bulldogs Continue To Improve, Raiders Comeback & A Masterpiece Four Points

We’re into the nitty gritty of the 2024 NRL season now, with every team looking capable of beating the other each week.

A new round and a new coach didn’t provide any new fortunes for the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Following the departure of Jason Demetriou during the week, little changed for the Bunnies who were comprehensively beaten by the Penrith Panthers 42-12 at home on Thursday night.

It looked as though the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles would do similar to the Canberra Raiders on Friday. Manly was in cruise control 20-0 in front inside 30 minutes. However, you can never keep the Raiders down. A try before halftime gave life to the idea of a comeback, and the Raiders got on with it to score four second half tries and secure the 26-24 victory.

The Brisbane Broncos played host to the Sydney Roosters in a blockbuster Friday night matchup, but a slow start and an Adam Reynolds injury was too much to overcome for the home side. It’s another one of those Roosters rounds where they looked like a top team in the NRL on their way to a 40-18 win.

The Wests Tigers started well on Saturday afternoon, but the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs have continued their steady rise with another two competition points. Meanwhile, the Gold Coast Titans made steady improvements of their own. They don’t have the two points on the NRL ladder to show for it, though. Falling just short of the Melbourne Storm at 22-20 is a positive sign for Des Hasler’s side. Close games defined Super Saturday in Round 9 as the Dolphins clawed their way to a 28-26 win over the North Queensland Cowboys. Both teams scored five tries with Jamayne Isaako’s boot proving the difference.

Wet conditions welcomed the New Zealand Warriors to Newcastle as the Knights held on to win 14-8. A heavy track made it difficult for either team to get going with the ball throughout an ugly 80 minutes. Similarly, the Cronulla Sutherland Sharks and St George Illawarra Dragons were forced to swim around Shark Park on Sunday afternoon. While the Dragons took a lead in the first half, the Sharks finished the stronger of the two teams with a Tom Hazelton try with 15 minutes to play all but sealing the result.

NRL Team of Round 9: Canberra Raiders

“That’s the Raiders’ DNA.”

– Ricky Stuart

Despite being 20-0 down, there was still a feeling that the Raiders could make a game of it. We’ve seen it plenty of times before. They don’t go down easily.

“Ask people what we spoke about in the change rooms at half time, there was no way we were out of that game. When I walked out of that shed at half time I knew we were still a chance to be in this game at the back end.”

And a chance they were…

Three tries through the middle of the second half gave the Raiders a sniff. With it, Hudson Young found the line with four minutes to play. Catching Tom Trbojevic slow across the field, Young was able to latch onto a grubber in the in-goal for the Raiders to complete the 26-24 comeback.

Down on troops and off a short turnaround, the Raiders showed what kind of team they are this week. They might not be among the premiership contenders, but they make for a tough opponent every week. No lead is safe.

Player Spotlight: James Tedesco

His place in both the Sydney Roosters and New South Wales Blues has come into question over the last 12 months, but there is little questioning James Tedesco’s quality.

He might not have it every single week like he did in his prime, but Tedesco is still one of the best players in the NRL on his day.

Against the Broncos in Round 9:

  • 265 running metres
  • 2 line breaks
  • 2 line break assists
  • 2 try assists
  • 9 tackle breaks

Teddy is finding his form at the right time if you’re a Blues fan and the Roosters look a lot better for it.

The Highlight Reel

This try is a masterpiece.

What looks like a regular block shape for Tom Trbojeivc out the back becomes a slip line and charging Trbojevic carry.

The timing, deception and execution make it the highlight play of the round.

The Numbers Game

Look away, Rabbitohs fans. The numbers don’t make for great reading this week. While some expected a bit of a new coach bounce, the Bunnies sunk to new lows. You’ll struggle to find a team average less than the 29.92 running metres per set they did in this one.

Possession ended up even for the Sea Eagles and Raiders. Manly’s 11 errors went a long way to negating Canberra’s eight penalties. The difference, in a match with little to separate the two teams, came in the tackle stats. With 35 missed tackles and 17 ineffective tackles, the Sea Eagles fell off too many and didn’t offer enough resistance as the Raiders fought back. The Roosters won the all-important yardage battle on Friday night. The Broncos are one of the best ball-carrying teams in the NRL but couldn’t keep up with the Roosters as nine of Trent Robinson’s mean cleared 100 metres. Two found over 200 on the night.

If there was one advantage you could point towards for the Wests Tigers against the Bulldogs, it was the middle of the field. However, a large chunk of the Bulldogs’ recent improvement has come through the centre-third, where they out-ran the Tigers by almost 300 metres in an otherwise even contest. The Titans finished on top in possession, yardage and linebreaks. Just looking at the attacking stats, they present as the winning team. You can’t gift the Storm easy field position, though. They’re the most efficient attacking team inside the opposition 20-metre line in the NRL, and the Gold Coast’s seven penalties piggybacked them up the field too often. The usually-reliable Valentine Holmes couldn’t find his aim off the tee on Saturday night. Jamayne Isaako’s extra conversion decided who took the two competition points home in the end.

As is often the case, the Warriors finished on top of their opposition in possession and yardage. They could only crack the line once, though. In contrast, the Knights made the most of their three line breaks in wet conditions to take the chocolates. The Sharks did similar to the Warriors with ten players running for over 100 metres but capitalised on their chances to outlast the Dragons in a close one.

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