NRL Bunker Review – Round 20

Round 20 of the 2022 NRL season is in the books, and it’s one that sets the Eels and Sharks up to finish strong following big wins over top opposition.

Statement Game of Round 20

Statements are made every round in the NRL. In Round 19, it was the Brisbane Broncos. This week it’s the Parramatta Eels.

The Parramatta Eels are doing that thing again…

The thing where they look like genuine premiership contenders only to flop a week later.

We’re at the “Parramatta might be a chance here” stage following their massive 34-10 win over the Penrith Panthers on Saturday night. Sure, the Panthers played over an hour without Nathan Cleary after the halfback was marched for a dangerous tackle. There are a few grains of salt taken with this result. Still, the Eels led 12-4 when Cleary was sent off. They dominated the opening stages, and like the last time the two teams met, the Eels more than kept up with the defending premiers.

But we’ve been here and done this with the Eels before. Too many times to count over the last three seasons. However, another tough game against the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles at 4 Pines Park next week won’t give them the chance to take it easy. If Parramatta can put together another win and win it well, we can start to consider them as premiership contenders again ($8).

Moses & Cleary Out

Making things more difficult for the Eels is the loss of Mitchell Moses.

He played 50 minutes with a fractured finger on Saturday night but will sit out the next four weeks recovering from surgery. The Eels need some consistency, and while Jake Arthur has been with the first grade side for much of this season, he’s going to struggle to fill the void.

Cleary will be sitting out for a similar period but will do so 100% healthy after receiving a five-game ban for his ugly tackle on Eels half, Dylan Brown.

The Panthers have dealt with Cleary on the sideline over an extended period in the past. However, Jarome Luai isn’t out there at the moment either. They’ve been the best team in the NRL all year, but the Panthers face a tough run into September.

Costly Campbell

There will have been more than a few punters celebrating a Canberra Raiders 13+ win when Sebastian Kris crossed over in the 74th minute to make it 36-18 on Saturday afternoon. It looked for all money like the Green Machine would wrap it up then and there and wind down the clock to 80:00.

Enter: Jayden Campbell.

The livewire Gold Coast Titans fullback has recently returned from injury and is looking to make his mark off the bench to finish the NRL season. And make a mark he did. He threatened throughout his 43 minutes, scoring two tries, breaking three tackles and running for 86 metres. It’s the second try that made the difference, though.

The Raiders had packed up and gone home which allowed Campbell to bag his second to cut the lead down to 12 in the final minute of the match. Raiders 1-12 punters celebrated a win through the back door as those cheering for 13+ sat in shock.

Sharks def. Rabbitohs

The Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks and South Sydney Rabbitohs entered Saturday night’s contest knowing that the winner would put themselves in the box seat to finish inside the Top 4.

It took more than 80 minutes to get there but, eventually, the Sharks took the chocolates with a 21-20 win.

Neither side played their best footy. There was an ugly, grinding element to the game which gave it a finals feel. Neither went too far out of their way to take the game by the horns and it translated into a back and forth affair. What it did do, however, is establish both as NRL premiership smokies.

Hanging in games through tough periods is key in September. Regardless of your regular season form, finals football is rarely comfortable. Both the Sharks and Rabbitohs worked through up and down stages of the match to give themselves a sniff at the end. Latrell Mitchell had three but struggled to knock over the game-winning field goal. Field goal setup is an area Souths will need to improve on. Meanwhile, Nicho Hynes took his chance from in front. Behind a strong Braden Hamlin-Uele carry and quick play-the-ball, the halfback knocked over the winner for the Sharks to now be two competition points clear of the Storm at 4th and Broncos at 5th.

Bulldogs Barking In Attack

It’s the question every NRL fan has asked over the last few weeks: What was Trent Barrett doing?

The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs are pretty good.

They’re not contenders. They’d still only be flirting with the Top 8 had they played like this all year. However, their improvements over the last three months have been incredible to see, and somehow, they’ve become one of the most entertaining teams in the NRL.

Josh Addo-Carr and Matt Burton’s combination is continuing to thrive while the likes of Jacob Kiraz and Aaron Schoupp solidify themselves in the top side through strong performances. While they’re only a mathematical chance and long $301 odds to make the NRL’s Top 8, nobody thought they would be in the conversation this late into the season after Round 10.