NRL Bunker Review – Round 15

Round 15 of the 2022 NRL season ended up as one of the best of the year with close games, comebacks and highlight-reel plays throughout the weekend.

Cowboys Comeback

With a 26-12 lead heading into the final ten minutes of the match, the competition points had been distributed to the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles. While the North Queensland Cowboys are one of the top teams in the NRL, a handful of injuries and a big deficit with only ten minutes to play at Brookvale seemed like a step too far for Todd Payten’s side.

It wasn’t.

Jeremiah Nanai collected yet another bomb before sending Reece Robson over the line in the 72nd minute.

Offloads, a short side raid, long-side shift and flick pass – all on 3rd tackle – ended up with Connelly Lemulu dotting down under the posts only two minutes later.

A Cowboys error after points looked to have the Sea Eagles home. However, an error of their own on the ensuing scrum ended up with Valentine Holmes racing 75 metres to score the winner.

For 70 minutes the Sea Eagles played exceptionally well and produced the sort of performance many expected following back-to-back wins. They started to pat themselves on the back too early, though. Falling asleep to finish against a genuine premiership contender in the Cowboys, the Sea Eagles fumbled away two competition points which could come back to bit them considering their position on the NRL ladder.

Statement Game of Round 15

Statements are made every round in the NRL. In Round 14 it was the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles. This week it’s the Parramatta Eels.

If Brad Arthur can find a way to bottle the first half of the Parramatta Eels’ 26-16 win over the Sydney Roosters, his side will shorten from their current $13 into premiership contenders.

Just a week after their embarrassing loss to the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in Round 14, the Eels put together one of their best 40-minute periods of the NRL season to start Round 15. Dominant through the middle, dangerous down short sides and changing angles on the edges, Parramatta built a 26-12 halftime lead over a Roosters side that wasn’t that far off the pace. The Eels, however, played at a different level. A level we know they’re capable of but incapable of producing consistently.

The better the opposition, the better Parramatta perform. However, they can’t seem to shake the shockers against the lowly sides. It’s what stops them from being talked about as premiership contenders. They’ve got the South Sydney Rabbitohs up next in Round 16, but it’s the Wests Tigers Parramatta need to beat in Round 17 if they’re to be taken seriously again.

Raiders Sink Knights

Take a bow, Hudson Young.

With his Canberra Raiders behind the Newcastle Knights after choking away a 14-0 lead, Young produced a moment of brilliance. He had told the coaching staff he might try to grubber for himself in this one. Nobody expected it down 18-14 with two minutes to play, though.

Seeing Kalyn Ponga caught in the previous tackle and no Knights player behind the line, Young took possession, ran across the field, dropped the ball onto his toe and won the race to get it down. Outrageous.

The try did save the Raiders from another embarrassing choke job. Something is going wrong with how the Raiders train or get through halftime. The second half fades are too common. For now, though, they’re perfectly mid-table and still in with a sniff of cracking the Top 8.

Bulldogs Bark Back

The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs produced back-to-back winning performances to dominate the Wests Tigers 36-12 on Sunday afternoon.

As impressive as their win over the Parramatta Eels was in Round 14, we needed to see more before hailing significant improvement in the Bulldogs. And see more we did.

The Tigers hung around for a little while but never looked likely of victory. Alex Twal left the field in the opening minute, Luke Brooks struggled with his kicking game, Jackson Hastings couldn’t influence the match and 13 errors made things terribly difficult for the visitors. The Bulldogs, on the other hand, continued on with their newfound expansive style of play. They dominated the middle and found space down the edges to end up with 2,071 running metres for the match. In good ball, Kyle Flanagan, Matt Burton and Jake Averillo found points.

Just like that, the Bulldogs are 13th on the NRL ladder and pulling away from wooden spoon contention.