NRL Bunker Review – Round 22

Round 22 of the 2022 NRL season is in the books and it’s one that signals the premiership intentions of the Storm and Roosters following impressive wins over the weekend.

A Storm Brewing

We need to start thinking about the Melbourne Storm as premiership contenders again…

Sure, their 16-0 win came over a depleted Penrith Panthers. It’s not the win that has triggered the conversation, but how they won it. Cameron Munster’s influence at fullback, in particular.

It looks as though Munster will spend the rest of the NRL season at fullback. Cooper Johns and Nick Meaney are playing well enough in the halves for one of them to pair with Jahrome Hughes. That leaves Munster roaming around the field and the Storm looks better for it.

His work in defence might be the biggest factor, though.

Brandon Smith provided an eloquent summation of Munster’s form at the moment:

“He’s [Munster] as thick as pig s***. He’s the dumbest bloke in the world but when he gets on the field, he’s a genius.”

His genius showed without the ball as he organised the Storm line and came up with big moments in defence. We know the Storm can score points. If they defend at a premiership level and the pack continues to improve, their current $7 to lift the Provan-Summons Trophy will shorten sooner rather than later.

Remaining Draw: @ Broncos, Roosters, @ Eels

Winning Warriors

The New Zealand played out their best 80 minutes in two years on Friday night.

Strong in the middle, controlled in attack and stern in defence, they dominated the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs for the most part.

The Dogs fought back after the Warriors built an early lead. However, the final 42-18 scoreline is a fairly accurate reflection of of the home teams performance. One that was capped off by a running Shaun Johnson selling Jake Averillo a dummy to put the game beyond any doubt.

Unsurprisingly, naming the best side he has available helped Stacey Jones following the horror show he produced the Tuesday prior. This team is different when playing across the ditch in front of their own fans, too. With three games to come against the Cowboys, Panthers and Titans (at home), picking up two more wins in 2022 would make for an encouraging end to the season ahead of Andrew Webster’s arrival in 2023.

Statement Game of Round 22

Statements are made every round in the NRL. In Round 21, it was the South Sydney Rabbitohs. This week it’s the Sydney Roosters.

It’s unlikely that Trent Robinson timed the run into form quite this close to September, but they’ve found it at the right time and played like genuine premiership contenders on Saturday afternoon. Hosting an impressive North Queensland Cowboys side, the Roosters got into the grind early, dominated in yardage and territory, and went on to record a convincing 32-12 win.

Just quietly, they’ve won five games in a row.

The pack is surging up the field behind Matt Lodge (153m) and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (180M0. With that go-forward, Sam Walker, Luke Keary, Joseph Manu and James Tedesco are causing havoc with the ball. Sam Verrills finished Saturday’s contest with a double. Most importantly, and it’s another product of the improved yardage, is the Roosters defence. They’re defending well and kept a lid on one of the better attacking teams in the NRL this week.

They still have some work to do, but they deserve a look in the premiership market at $13.

Wooden Spoon Race

The wooden spoon race is wide open once again following a huge 44-24 win for the Gold Coast Titans over the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles.

Heavy underdogs before kickoff, the Titans were the far better team across the 80 minutes. Now, the Wests Tigers are back to the bottom of the NRL ladder and at $1.40 to stay there through to the end of Round 25.

It’s not a clear cut finish, though. Looking at the draws for each team, the Warriors ($21) and Knights ($15), in particular, are still in contention.

Bulldogs (14pts): @ Eels, @ Sharks, Sea Eagles
Warriors (14pts): @ Cowboys, @ Panthers, Titans
Knights (14pts): Raiders, @ Titans, Sharks
Titans (10 pts): @ Dragons, Knights, @ Warriors
Tigers (10 pts): @ Roosters, Dragons, Raiders

The Warriors have the Cowboys and Panthers to come, and if the Titans ($3.40) can beat the Dragons and Knights, Round 25 at Mt Smart Stadium could well decide the spoon if the Tigers can finish strong.