NRL Bunker Review – Round 21

We’re into the pointy end of the NRL season, and while the top teams are clear, there is still a race to fill out the remaining finals spots.

Munster’s Night

Cameron Munster moved to fullback on Friday night and instantly put himself into the conversation around the best in the NRL at the position.

Munster finished up with 252 running metres, three tries, two linebreaks, a linebreak assist and nine tackle breaks as the Melbourne Storm took care of the Gold Coast Titans 32-14 at AAMI Park.

The celebrations post-match weren’t as loud as they could have been with Jahrome Hughes being forced to leave the field with a shoulder injury. However, scans have revealed positive news and he is expected back before the end of the season. While it’s only a W over the Titans, it’s the sort that gives life to the idea that the Storm aren’t done as premiership contenders at $8.

Titans punters copped a bad beat to finish this one, too. As Young Tonumeipea crossed the line in the final play of the game, the touchie waved the pass forward. However, the referee ignored the suggestion and blew the try anyway for the Storm to cover the line.

Sivo Salutes Again

Maika Sivo backers are enjoying themselves at the moment.

The barnstorming Fijian crossed the line for the fifth consecutive match having scored a double in each of his last three. Sivo became the first Parramatta Eels winger since Semi Radradra in 2015 to score a double in three consecutive games.

Sivo’s try-scoring contributed to an impressive 36-20 win over the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles. Parramatta continues to be a terribly difficult team to predict while this loss all but ends any chance of finals football for the Sea Eagles. To make matters worse, Kieran Foran looks set to miss time after leaving the field with a hamstring injury on Friday night.

Statement Game of Round 21

Statements are made every round in the NRL. In Round 20, it was the Parramatta Eels. This week it’s the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

While it’s only a win over a hapless New Zealand Warriors side made worse by the selection decisions of their coach, the South Sydney Rabbitohs’ 48-10 win still sent a statement to the rest of the NRL. They recovered from their Round 20 golden point loss to the Sharks and returned to their winning ways in emphatic style.

South Sydney’s defence isn’t at an elite level. However, their attack can put points on anybody. The lethal left edge might be the most predictable avenue for points in the competition but nobody can stop it. Latrell Mitchell has only made them more dangerous down that side and across the field in general, too.

The Bunnies pack is getting up the field. They play tight and direct, looking to use second phase to scramble the defensive line. It’s where Damien Cook and Cody Walker do their best work and it puts the team on the front foot for Mitchell to dominate. It took half the NRL season for the Rabbitohs to click into gear, but they’re coming good at the right time for there to be interest in them as potential premiers at $13.

Stuart’s Spray

Whether or not Ricky Stuart really did hold a grudge over something Jaeman Salmon did as a 12-year-old or his spray was designed as a deflection tactic, nobody seems to be talking about the Canberra Raiders’ shocking 26-6 loss to the Penrith Panthers on Saturday night.

Gifted an opportunity to play a Panthers side without Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai and Viliame Kikau in Canberra, the Raiders blew it. They’ve made it awfully difficult to make the Top 8 now, too.

However, not all hope is lost. There is still a log jam at the bottom of the eight and Canberra’s draw in comparison to others keeps them in the conversation.

6th: Rabbitohs, 26 pts, +108PD
Draw: @ Eels, Panthers, Cowboys, Roosters

7th: Broncos, 26 pts, +51PD
Draw: Knights, Storm, Eels, @ Dragons

8th: Roosters, 24 pts, +107PD
Draw: Cowboys, Tigers, @ Storm, Rabbitohs

9th: Raiders, 22 pts, -33PD
Draw: Dragons, @ Knights, Sea Eagles @ Tigers

Knights End Losing Streak

You could see the relief on Adam O’Brien’s face as the Newcastle Knights ended their four-game losing streak with a 14-10 win over the Wests Tigers on Sunday afternoon. He now has a relatively peaceful week to prepare for the Broncos in Round 22 with few questions surrounding his job being sent his way.

It wasn’t without panic, though. The Tigers had a golden opportunity to win the game in the final moments. A break down the left edge forced the Knights to give away six more tackles in an attempt to reset their defensive line. They set it poorly with only three players covering half of the field. However, Jock Madden didn’t see the opportunity out wide and instead crashed the ball into the middle. With the line then set, the Knights defended their way to a much-needed win as the Tigers gave up an opportunity to remove themselves from the wooden spoon conversation.