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Sea Eagles Send A Message & Timoko Terrorizes The Eels

Round 5 of the 2024 NRL season is in the books and it’s one the Manly Sea Eagles may yet circle as where it all began following their win over the Penrith Panthers. Meanwhile, Matt Timoko has just triggered recurring nightmares for the Parramatta Eels left edge attack.

We’ve had some good games to start the 2024 NRL season, but following the latest edition of Thursday Night Football, we have a new leader in the Game of the Season rankings.

The Brisbane Broncos and Melbourne Storm played out a barnstormer to kick off the round. Cameron Munster’s return added some spice to the Storm. An in-game injury to Adam Reynolds added salt for the Broncos. But in the end, Melbourne held on to claim the 34-32 win in a thriller.

In contrast to the thriller, the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and Sydney Roosters put together a weird, wacky and brutal 80 minutes defined by HIA’s, the return of previously banned players, and the prospect of an all-time great comeback. They took the two competition points, but the Bulldogs didn’t look like winners while walking off the field following their 30-26 result. Shortly after, as the rain continued to fall in Sydney, the Newcastle Knights kept their heads above the water for long enough to beat the St George Illawarra Dragons 30-10 in a slopfest at McDonald Jones Stadium.

The New Zealand Warriors had been inching closer to a convincing 80-minute performance all season and put one together in thrashing the South Sydney Rabbitohs 34-4 on the road. Against the odds, the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles did it relatively easily in beating the Penrith Panthers 32-18. Anthony Seibold’s side continues to be difficult to read as they lose to the Dragons one week and beat the defending premiers the next. The Wests Tigers couldn’t add another two competition points to their tally but will take a moral victory from their 26-16 loss to the Dolphins. The wins aren’t going to come regularly just yet, but this team fights harder and for longer than they have done in previous seasons.

On Sunday, the 35-22 scoreline somewhat flatters the Gold Coast Titans in defeat. Outside of a dominant period with Chad Townsend in the bin, the Titans struggled to keep up with a North Queensland Cowboys side that looks lethal in attack every week. Finally, the Canberra Raiders attack had their way with the Parramatta Eels to wrap up the round with a 41-8 win at GIO Stadium.

NRL Team of Round 5: Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Manly Warringah Sea Eagles

It’s not always the ‘best’ performing that is named Team of the Round. In this case, Manly Warringah Sea Eagles who collected a massive scalp in beating the three-time defending premiers.

It looked as though the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs would have this spot sewn up for Round 5. They flew out of the blocks to lead the Sydney Roosters 26-0 at halftime. It’s the best half of footy they’ve played in years. The second half, however, exposed just how far they still have to come if they’re to be a Top 8 team.

With Dom Young already sent off for a high shot and two players ruled out following HIA’s, the Roosters scored four unanswered tries after halftime. With another sent to the bin, they closed the gap to four with eight minutes to play. The Bulldogs held on, but they can’t be the Team of the Round with how they finished.

Instead, we have to look at the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles here.

In a game where Daly Cherry-Evans broke the record for most games played for the club, the 35-year-old put on a clinic. He finished with a try assist and try for himself, but played a hand in much more. He threw the pass before the pass or, in one case, put the kick in before the pass leading to points.

Manly looked up for this one from the very first tackle. Despite conceding early to a team that is rarely chased down when given a head start, the Sea Eagles kept up through the middle of the field, completed at 80% (to Penrith’s 73%) and did what so few others have been able to do over the last four years – wore the Panthers down.

It’s not only a win that gets the ship headed back in the right direction. It’s one that puts Manly firmly on a path towards finals footy if they can continue to produce at that level.

Player Spotlight: Matt Timoko

The signs have been there for two years.

Hidden away at the Canberra Raiders, who don’t feature much on free-to-air television, Matt Timoko is ready to announce himself as one of the best centres in the NRL.

If he hasn’t already…

Dominant against the Parramatta Eels in Round 5, Timoko bent the line with every carry, shrugged off defenders at will, and played a leading role in four tries.

– 2 tries
– 2 try assists
– 15 runs
– 183 running metres
– 8 tackle breaks

Built low to the ground, Timoko is difficult for defenders to wrap up. He’s a big unit. His fend is lethal, and if the defence does manage to collect him up around the ball, his leg drive pushes him through the tackle for a quick play-the-ball. He’s a classic “give him early ball and let him run” type of centre. With the way the Raiders are attacking this year, using momentum through the middle to put their edges on the front foot, Timoko is in for a Centre of the Year kind of season.

The Highlight Reel

Under the spotlight already, Matt Timoko’s finish in the corner deserves a spot of its own.

A Numbers Game

There was little to split the Storm and Broncos in Round 5. Possession (52% v 48%), completion rate (85% v 86%), line breaks (6 v 5) and, of course, the score (34 v 32) ran close to even. However, the Storm managed to run for over 200 more metres than the Broncos and forced five dropouts to one. Of huge concern for the Bulldogs, who should have taken care of the Roosters relatively comfortably by the end, they defended at only an 85% clip, missing 40 tackles on the night. Later on Friday night, Kalyn Ponga’s touches and influence in torrential rain were notable. He finished with 39 touches and is averaging 40 per game this season after averaging 32 per game in 2023.

What a return for Charnze Nicola-Klokstad. In his first game of the 2024 NRL season, he ran for a game-high 263 metres. Shortly after, Daly Cherry-Evans put on a masterclass that doesn’t quite show in the numbers. He scored a try and registered one try assist but had a far greater influence on the Sea Eagles, scoring 32 points than that. As usual, Dylan Edwards led the way in running metres for the game with 270. Errors really hurt the Tigers on Saturday night. Despite winning possession and yardage, their 11 errors to the Dolphins’ five made a big difference in the end.

Scott Drinkwater bounced back from a horror performance in Round 4. He scored a double and dished out a try assist, but most importantly, finished the game without an error after making five a week earlier. In the final match of the round, the yardage numbers tell the story: Raiders 1,963 running metres v Eels 1,299 running metres.

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