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Lethal Latrell, Storm Setting the Standard & the Panthers System

The premiership contenders are separating themselves form the rest of the NRL following Round 18 of the season. The Melbourne Storm, in particular, are setting the standard. 

Are the South Sydney Rabbitohs back? It’s a bit early for that, given who they have beaten and where on the NRL ladder they are coming from. Still, they’ve won five on the bounce to be 13th on the ladder and at least in with a sniff of finals football after beating the Parramatta Eels 32-16 on Thursday night.

In stark contrast, the Cronulla-Sutherand Sharks have fallen off a cliff to record only one win in their last six games. The Gold Coast Titans carried their Round 16 form into Round 18 and continued to threaten with the ball. However, it’s the defensive end they impressed most while holding on to win 20-16. Another close contest wrapped up Friday night as the Penrith Panthers clawed their way to a 14-6 win over the Brisbane Broncos. Neither team entered the game at full-strength, but the Panthers system did the job, as usual, to collect the two competition points.

You’ll struggle to find a more hearty and brave performance than what the Warriors produced on Saturday afternoon. Losing their whole back three and finishing with only one player on the bench and an 18-year-old debutant in the centres, they didn’t deserve to leave Accor Stadium empty handed. The Golden Point field goal battle ended with Matt Burton splitting the posts for a 13-12 Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs win.

While the 40-28 scoreline flatters the Wests Tigers a little bit, they showed fight against the Melbourne Storm. Tigers teams of the past collapse under the pressure of an early deficit. However, this group rallied back to add some respectability to the scoreboard at Leichhardt Oval. The North Queensland Cowboys and Manly Warringah Sea Eagles played out a second Golden Point thriller to wrap up Super Saturday. A strong second half from the Cowboys and a monster Scott Drinkwater two-point field goal sent the game beyond 80 minutes. However, five missed field goals defined North Queensland’s inability to ice the game as Daly Cherry-Evans knocked over the winner in the 83rd minute.

The Sydney Roosters are flying now. Following a disappointing 2023 NRL season and a handful of false starts in this one, they made it four wins on the bounce in beating the St George Illawarra Dragons 42-12 on Sunday afternoon. Dominant from the start, the Roosters cruised to victory and now sit 3rd on the NRL ladder.

Rather fittingly, Jared Warea-Hargreaves was ordered to the sin-bin (by reputation, on further review) as he became the most capped Roosters player of all time.

The wheels have fallen off the Canberra Raiders as they fell to their fourth consecutive defeat. The early-season form has left them with the Newcastle Knights, below their best, taking advantage to win 16-12 in Canberra. For Newcastle, they continue to flirt with the Top 8 with eight wins and eight losses.

Player Spotlight: Latrell Mitchell

For better or worse, Latrell Mitchell is one of the most heavily scrutinised players in the NRL. He’s either not doing enough for his team, or is hailed as the best player in the world. There isn’t often an in-between.

Having struggled to start the NRL season, it’s only fair to highlight his uptick in form. Whether it be the pressure on South Sydney’s season or his desire to earn a New South Wales Blues jersey, Mitchell has been on fire.

Since Round 10:

  • 6 tries
  • 12 try assists
  • 30 tackle breaks
  • 123 running metres per game.

His form gave life to the idea of a late-season run at the NRL Finals. However, yet another injury and spell on the sidelines looks set to derail things for the Rabbitohs and Blues for Game 3.

NRL Team of Round 18: Melbourne Storm

Sure, it’s a big win over the now-17th-placed Wests Tigers. But it’s not this win in particular that puts them here. It’s the 13 this season and five on the bounce to see the Melbourne Storm at the top of the NRL ladder, which is impressive.

They just… keep… winning…

Ryan Papenhuyzen was out there for this one, but Harry Grant and Cameron Munster sat on the sidelines.

No disrespect to any player who features at an NRL level, but there will have been more than a few people asking who Grant Anderson, Kane Bradley and Alec MacDonald are while scanning the team sheet before kickoff.

Nonetheless, the Storm system continues to produce. They defend well and roll up the field despite playing with less possession. In attack, they take almost every opportunity given to them. Melbourne broke the line 10 times on Sunday. Only the Roosters average more linebreaks per game than the injury-depleted Storm.

If they can find full strength in August and play themselves into finals form heading into September, they’ll be the team to beat after Round 27.

Highlight Reel

What. A. Try.

In a tightly contested game that look destined to be decided by one moment of brilliance, the Penrith Panthers produced two to beat the Brisbane Broncos at Suncorp Stadium.

Numbers Game

The Eels aren’t far off with the ball. Mitchell Moses and Dylan Brown are capable of piling up enough points to win on their own. However, little has improved defensively since Brad Arthur was moved along. They missed 43 tackles to the Rabbitohs’ 22 on Thursday night.

It’s a similar story for the Sharks who have no trouble scoring when running down hill. They won the yardage battle, broke the same number of tackles and registered the same number of linebreaks as the Titans. The 16 errors saw them finish with only 46% possession, though. There was some classic Panthers to their win on Friday night. Understrength and prepared to enter the grind, they maintained possession (55%) and won yardage (1,948m), knowing the points would come in the end.

The Warriors finished on top everywhere but the scoreboard on Saturday. Possession, completions, yardage, tackle breaks, linebreaks, everything. But it’s the scoreboard that counts. Later, the Tigers fought hard and won a few key areas of the stats pages. However, you can’t hand the ball over to the Storm too often if you expect to hang on. With 13 errors and completing at only 68%, Wests gifted Melbourne too many opportunities to keep close. Field goals will be on the cards for extras after training in North Queensland this week. The Cowboys spine connected on just one of six attempts late in their loss to the Sea Eagles on Saturday.

Sydney’s dominance is best displayed in the yardage game. Despite splitting possession with the Dragons 50/50, the Roosters ran for over 500 more metres. Neither the Knights nor Raiders put their full force into defence on Sunday afternoon with six players – Kaeo Weeks, Matt Timoko, Albert Hopoate, Kalyn Ponga, Dane Gagai and Greg Marzhew – all clearing 200 running metres.


Apologies, Sprays & Silky Tries Define Round 19

Round 19 Preview

Round 18 Preview

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