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Monday, April 12, 2021

NRL round 12 review: Perfect Panthers

Round 12 saw some Indigenous stars step up for the NRL’s Indigenous round while the Panthers produced the performance of the season against Manly.

Indigenous round always provides us with the best jerseys we see all season and reminds us of how much impact Indigenous players have had on this game, so it was great to see some modern-day stars step up.

Latrell Mitchell, Cody Walker and Alex Johnston were instrumental in the Rabbitohs win while Kotoni Staggs showed off his incredible talent and celebrated a try with an Indigenous dance.

Meanwhile, the Panthers demonstrated why they are top of the ladder with an incredible performance.

Led by Nathan Cleary, the Panthers racked up 42 points against Manly in a showing that put the whole competition on notice.

St George Illawarra Dragons 24 – 32 South Sydney Rabbitohs

Cody Walker of the Rabbitohs scores a try during the round 12 NRL match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium on 30 July in Sydney. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Well, this was a fun way to start Indigenous round and it was fitting that the Indigenous stars for the Rabbitohs all played well.

In fact, all 32 points scored by the Rabbitohs were from their Indigenous players with Alex Johnston bagging a hat trick, Cody Walker scoring two tries and Latrell Mitchell kicked four goals to go along with his try.

After trailing 16-0 after just 15 minutes and with their halfback Adam Reynolds off the field injured, it was up to Walker and Mitchell to lead their side to victory.

The Dragons started the game on fire with Matt Dufty continuing his hot form with two early tries and a try assist in the first 15 minutes, but they couldn’t go on with it.

The game probably summed up the Dragons’ season with some quality performances mixed in with some poor efforts and ultimately a disappointing result.

Wests Tigers 20 – 26 New Zealand Warriors

The critics have come after the Tigers following yet another disappointing performance that left coach Michael Maguire furious.

Despite leading 14-8 at halftime, Maguire knew his side was off and delivered a fuming spray at the break, but it didn’t work as the Warriors ran over the top of them.

Inconsistency has been the Tigers tale for several seasons now and it seems they are destined to miss out on finals once again in 2020.

This was a tremendous win for a Warriors side that had four players leave the team and head back to New Zealand during the week.

Coach Toddy Payton said after the match that captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck had been struggling with being away from his family, but he turned in a real captain’s game in this one to lead his side to victory.

Tuivasa-Sheck led from the front and the rest of his troops followed as the Warriors earnt themselves a famous victory.

Brisbane Broncos 26 – 36 Cronulla Sharks

Braden Hamlin-Uele of the Sharks is congratulated by team mates after scoring a try during the round 12 NRL match between the Brisbane Broncos and the Cronulla Sharks on 31 July in Brisbane. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

The Broncos have had a season from hell and just when you thought they were about to earn themselves a victory, they completely folded in a horror final 10 minutes.

Darius Boyd’s move to fullback worked well as he chimed into the attack and ended up with four try assists.

The Broncos looked like a much better side than the one we have seen in recent weeks and leading 26-18 with 15 minutes to go, they looked set to record a much-needed victory.

The Broncos had all the momentum until a dropped ball from Tom Dearden off a goal-line dropout gave the Sharks the ball in which they scored to make in 26-24.

From that moment on it was all Cronulla as they crossed for another two tries to add to the Broncos miserable 2020.

There were still good signs for the Broncos, but at the moment it seems like they’ve forgotten how to win.

Sydney Roosters 18 – 12 Gold Coast Titans

The Roosters haven’t been at their best in recent weeks and were again lucky to escape with a victory over the lowly Titans.

The Roosters are the highest scoring team in the competition but could only manage two tries against a Titans side that was twice down to 12 men after Brian Kelly and Keagan Hipgrave spent time in the sinbin.

While they’re currently not performing as well as what we’re accustomed to seeing from them, the Roosters know how to win come finals time so there’s certainly no calls for concern just yet.

The Titans were impressive in defeat and if a couple of calls went their way, they could’ve produced an epic upset.

They were denied a try early when Kelly was deemed to have passed while already tackled and the Roosters’ first try looked to come off the back of a clearly forward pass from James Tedesco.

The Titans have been a basket case in recent years so it’s good to see them finally playing some tough football under their new coach Justin Holbrook, and with some key signings for next year, finals could be just around the corner.

North Queensland Cowboys 12 – 14 Canberra Raiders

The Cowboys have now lost five matches in a row, but their effort in recent weeks has been unquestionable.

They were missing several of their key playmakers for this match, but the fight they showed against a quality outfit would have pleased their fans no end.

Jason Taumalolo continues to lead by example by playing at an extremely high level, while young fullback Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow seems to get better every week.

After having to travel up to Townsville on the day of the game, the Raiders started poorly, but after 20 minutes or so they woke up and found themselves in a dog fight with the Cowboys.

Fortunately for the Raiders, their past two matches against the Roosters and Rabbitohs have been similar contests so they were ready for another close scrap.

John Bateman was the big story out of this one as he starred in his first game for the season, playing the full 80 minutes and was involved in both Canberra tries.

The Raiders have now won three matches in a row but face the ultimate test against the top of the ladder Panthers on the road next round.

Manly Sea Eagles 12 – 42 Penrith Panthers

Nathan Cleary of the Panthers kicks during the round 12 NRL match between the Manly Sea Eagles and the Penrith Panthers at Lottoland on 1 August in Sydney. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Many were expecting this to be the match of the round, but the Panthers flexed their muscles to annihilate the Sea Eagles.

Nathan Cleary has taken his game to another level this season and has assumed the mantle of the best halfback in the game.

He had led his team around the park magnificently all season and did so with aplomb in this game as he dismantled the Manly defence.

Cleary scored a try and had another two try assists as the Panthers pulled off one of the performances of the season in a warning shot to rival premiership contenders.

Manly find themselves in ninth position on the ladder and their form has been so up and down, it’s going to be a real fight for them to make finals.

They were completely outplayed in all areas of the game and simply had no answers for the Panthers.

Des Hasler loves it when his side has its back against the wall so expect Manly to come out firing against the Warriors next round.

Canterbury Bulldogs 16 – 18 Parramatta Eels

The Bulldogs have become a much-improved side since Dean Pay left the club and were so close to pulling off another upset.

This match had the feeling of a blowout early as the Eels led 18-0 after just 27 minutes, but the Bulldogs showed tremendous fight to claw their way back into the contest.

With the scores at 18-16 late in the match, Aiden Tolman decided to take the quick tap from a penalty right in front of the goals and it probably cost his side a shot at golden point.

Possibly the funniest moment of the season occurred in this match when Dallin Watene-Zeleziak was flipped around in a tackle and ended up playing the ball facing the wrong way. It rarely happens, but when it does, it’s a thing of beauty.

The Eels would be happy to bank the two points but would know they need to improve on that effort to beat the top sides.

Being able to find a way to win when not at your best is a sign of a quality team, so the resilience they showed to hang on against a fast finishing Bulldogs side was something to take away from this match before a big clash against the Sharks next round.

Melbourne Storm 26 – 16 Newcastle Knights

Cameron Smith of the Storm leads his team onto the field during the round 12 NRL match between the Melbourne Storm and the Newcastle Knights on 2 August at the Sunshine Coast, Queensland. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

The Storm reeled off their sixth win in a row but it was a shoulder injury to their leader Cameron Smith that grabbed the headlines.

Smith scored a try early in the game before he left the field nursing his shoulder. Smith has 423 games for the Storm in his remarkable career and it has been so rare to see him injured, it took a little moment to realise what was actually happening.

In fact, even the commentators were confused as they were told it was a potential ACL injury to his knee before they clarified it was actually the AC joint in his shoulder that was the concern. An ACL injury would have Smith out for the season, but fortunately his AC injury will likely see him miss only a couple of weeks.

The Storm did well in his absence to find a way to hold on against the Knights and there will be plenty of pressure on Brandon Smith to perform in his captain’s absence.

The Knights have now lost two matches in a row and find themselves just one point clear of ninth-place Manly on the ladder.

Their recent injuries have become an issue for Newcastle, but it was announced this morning that Blake Green will head to the Knights for the remainder of the season.

Green will likely slot in the halves next to Mitchell Pearce, shifting Kurt Mann to hooker, and will provide plenty of experience and an elite kicking game.

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