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Wednesday, January 27, 2021
Ian Cubitts
Ian Cubitts

NRL round 11 review: Courageous Canberra

Round 11 saw a premiership contender suffer a massive blow, while the misery continues to pile up for the Broncos.

The Newcastle Knights lost to the bottom-placed Canterbury Bulldogs on Sunday afternoon but there was more damage done as they lost two players to season-ending injuries.

If they need inspiration on how to win with injuries, they need look no further than the Canberra Raiders who produced a gutsy effort against the South Sydney Rabbitohs despite picking up yet another injury.

Meanwhile, the Brisbane Broncos’ dismal season under Anthony Seibold continues to spiral as they took another heavy defeat at the hands of the Melbourne Storm.

Parramatta Eels 26 – 16 Wests Tigers

The Eels returned to the winners list with a comprehensive victory over the Tigers despite losing Ryan Matterson early to concussion.

After being down 10-4 early on, the Eels dominated the last 60 minutes of the match and again proved why they’re premiership threats.

Reagan Campbell-Gillard has returned to his best form since moving to the Eels this season and showed some pace for a big fella in scoring a long range try. It’s always fun seeing front rowers in a bit of space.

It was a disappointing performance for the Tigers who once again failed a test against one of the top sides.

They now find themselves in the familiar position of 9th spot on the ladder and in a real dog fight to make the top 8.

Blake Ferguson almost scored the try of the season with this miraculous effort.

North Queensland Cowboys 12 – 24 Manly Sea Eagles

The Cowboys were again more competitive in this match but still outclassed by a strong Manly side.

The stats were all very even but with the Cowboys missing Valentine Holmes, Scott Drinkwater and Michael Morgan, they just lacked the polish to hit the scoreboard consistently.

Jason Taumalolo and Francis Molo both ran for over 200 metres and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow continues to improve at fullback but it wasn’t enough against a classy Manly side.

Manly have battled injury all season but it was one of the men who replaced an injured star that starred in this one.

Cade Cust had his best performance in first grade, managing two line breaks, one try assist and a try himself in a best on ground performance.

Addin Fonua-Blake also returned from suspension in fine fashion, racking up 225 metres while Martin Tapau was enormous as he recorded 198 metres gained.

Brisbane Broncos 8 – 46 Melbourne Storm

In the first half, the Broncos looked a completely different team to the one that was flogged 48-0 last week and even led the contest 8-6 at one point, but they couldn’t sustain that effort.

They conceded 40 straight points to finish the match as some ordinary defence made it easy for a quality Storm outfit.

It was almost as if once the Storm got ahead, the Broncos players dropped their heads and never recovered.

The pressure continues to mount on coach Anthony Seibold and if the ultimatum of the Broncos needing to win five of their last 10 matches is true, he might as well back his bags now.

The Storm were below their best in the first half, but a Craig Bellamy spray at halftime seemed to kick them into gear.

Cameron Smith was instrumental as always in the second half blitz and continues to show why he’s the most influential player in the game.

The Storm have now won five matches in a row and are looking like one of the best teams in the competition.

The Storm blitzed the Broncos in the second half.

New Zealand Warriors 10 – 18 Sydney Roosters

Most people would’ve been barracking hard for the Warriors to win this one and they showed tremendous endeavour to match it with the Roosters.

They led 10-6 at halftime and the possibility of one of the greatest upsets of all time was on the cards – but it wasn’t to be as they failed to score a point in the second half.

The Roosters have been below their best in recent weeks and relied on the talent of Luke Keary to win one.

The highlight of the match was the battle between Jack Hetherington of the Warriors and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves as both big men had some words to say to each other in the second half.

They had several run-ins throughout, but it was after the siren that was most interesting as Waerea-Hargreaves was clearly upset by the treatment and refused to shake Hetherington’s hand.

Cronulla Sharks 28 – 24 St George Illawarra Dragons

This was a cracking game that went right down to the last play, but it was the Sharks first try of the match that caused all the controversy.

A decision was sent to the bunker in the 9th minute that looked to show Dragons Matt Dufty grounded the ball in goal before the Sharks Jack Williams got his hand on it, but the bunker inexplicably ruled it a try and it cost the Dragons dearly.

They still had their chances to win the match, but when you consider they only lost by four points, the Dragons have every right to be filthy with the decision.

The bunker referees who made that call were later dropped for their next match as Graham Annesley confirmed they got the call wrong. It follows two other recent incidents in which the bunker made the wrong decision and has heaped pressure on the expensive review system.

The Sharks win was marred by a controversial try to Jack Williams.

Canberra Raiders 18 – 12 South Sydney Rabbitohs

This was another gutsy win for the injury-riddled Raiders side as they produced a tough win behind their front row brigade.

Josh Papalii, Dunamis Lui and Joe Tapine have been superb the past two weeks and again were instrumental in winning this match both in attack and defence.

The Raiders lost Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad to a nasty finger injury which forced Jordan Rapana to fullback where he did a splendid job. Rapana will likely line up in the 1 jersey in the absence of Nicoll-Klokstad next week.

The Rabbitohs had plenty of chances to take the game late as they won the territory battle but were unable to crack the Raiders’ determined goal line defence.

A positive for the Rabbitohs was the debut of Jack Johns. It doesn’t get much tougher to debut against the Raiders in Canberra on a cold and wet July night, but he ended up playing 52 minutes and showed he is good enough for first grade football.

Newcastle Knights 12 – 18 Canterbury Bulldogs

This was a horror show for the Knights as they lost to the bottom placed Bulldogs and were also dealt two cruel injury blows.

Their hooker Andrew McCullough tore his hamstring badly and then his replacement Connor Watson tore his Achilles ruling both out for the season.

The Knights looked destined for finals football before this match as they sat in 4th spot on the ladder but have now slipped to 6th place and will be relying on their depth to see them through this tricky period.

On the other hand, it was good day for the Bulldogs as they recorded just their second win of the season.

It wasn’t a pretty performance for the Bulldogs, but they handled the wet conditions better than the Knights as they fought their way to a tough win.

Andrew McCullough is helped from the field with an injury.

Gold Coast Titans 14 – 22 Penrith Panthers

There was some huge news for the Titans with the announcement of David Fifita joining the club on a massive $3.5 million deal, but they couldn’t get the win to cap off the weekend.

They matched it with the Panthers for most of the game, but ultimately lacked the class to finish the job.

The Panthers were missing several key players so will be happy to escape the Gold Coast with an important win that keeps them on top of the ladder.

Nathan Cleary continues to show why he’s considered the best young halfback in the game, while Stephen Crichton has become a star centre in the space of just 15 games.

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Ian Cubitts
Ian Cubitts