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Sunday, June 20, 2021

NRL round 19 review: Minor Premiers crowned

Round 19 saw the Penrith Panthers claim their first minor premiership since 2003 with another dominant display.

The Panthers have hardly put a foot wrong this season and will be mighty hard to beat come finals time.

We also saw the Bulldogs record a win to put the Broncos in last position and the new favourites to claim the dreaded wooden spoon.

The Raiders also overcame a rough start to down the Warriors and keep their top four hopes alive heading into the final round.

South Sydney Rabbitohs 16 – 26 Canterbury Bulldogs

The Bulldogs had been knocking on the door for a win that would take them off the bottom of the ladder and they delivered against a poor Rabbitohs side.

The Bulldogs jumped out of the blocks quickly to lead 20-0 after 25 minutes and withstood a Rabbitohs’ charge to record just their third win of the season.

It was a well-deserved victory for the Bulldogs and now puts the Broncos in the box seat to record their first wooden spoon.

The Rabbitohs would have been disappointed with their performance. They have now dropped to 7th on the ladder and will likely travel to Newcastle in week one of the finals.

A sin bin to Jaydn Su’A in the 21st minute cost them two tries and they never recovered.

The Rabbitohs were finding their groove after a 38-0 victory over the Eels in round 16 but have since put in three poor performances in a row and will need to find that spark again to make an impact in the finals.

bulldogs players celebrating
The Bulldogs finally got the win to get them off the bottom of the ladder for now.

North Queensland Cowboys 12 – 32 Penrith Panthers

This was yet another clinical performance from the Panthers to take their winning streak to an incredible 14 straight matches and secure their first minor premiership since 2003. It is also the first time since 2012 that neither the Storm nor Roosters have been minor premiers.

As has become customary for the Panthers, they jumped out of the blocks to lead 16-0 at half time and were never threatened as they coasted to victory.

Having secured the minor premiership, the Panthers are in a position to rest some of their stars in the last week before hosting either the Eels or Raiders in a qualifying final.

The Cowboys were simply outclassed by a much better side and they must be looking forward to the off season and starting fresh with new coach Todd Payten.

Parramatta Eels 26 – 12 Brisbane Broncos

The Eels got the win to remain in the top four, but their performance was far from convincing.

They have struggled in recent weeks and many were looking to see a big confidence-boosting win before finals, but their second half against an undermanned Broncos side left plenty to be desired.

The Broncos lost their five-eighth Tyson Gamble in the opening minutes, disrupting the side and forcing Kotoni Staggs into the playmaking role.

David Fifita also left the field with a serious ankle injury which means this was his last game for the club before moving to the Titans next season.

It has been just a horrible year for the proud Brisbane club, and they will need to beat the Cowboys next week to avoid their first wooden spoon.

broncos and eels players together
The Broncos are heading for the first wooden spoon in club history.

Manly Sea Eagles 24 – 42 Gold Coast Titans

As everyone predicted at the start of the season, the Titans are on a four-game win streak and are now in 9th spot on the ladder.

They have improved so much this season and this was another step forward as they ran riot over Manly.

Alex Brimson has surely booked a spot in the Queensland side and his explosive pace has become a real weapon for the Titans.

Manly took a risk in playing Tom Trbojevic for his first game since injuring his hamstring on 21 June and it backfired spectacularly as he looked well underdone and ended up leaving with field in the 62nd minute with a shoulder injury.

Trbojevic is expected to be fit for Origin after the season but it would be a brave decision from Brad Fittler to play him if this game is anything to go by.

Manly are another team that will be looking forward to the end of the season and it will be an interesting off season as they’ll need to add some quality players to challenge next season.

Melbourne Storm 50 – 22 Wests Tigers

The Storm have secured their fifth straight top-two finish with a commanding victory over the Tigers.

There were plenty of tries during the match, but the highlight was Cameron Smith scoring his 47th try to move past his coach Craig Bellamy on the all-time try scoring list. It prompted Smith to point to Bellamy in the coaches box to which the master coach responded by flipping Smith the bird with a smile on his face.

The Storm have now conceded 42 points over the last two weeks to teams outside the top eight so they will need to fix that before finals.

The Tigers are one of the strangest sides in the competition as they can look lethal with the ball at times, but too often their leaky defence lets them down.

The loss was compounded by a serious knee injury to Josh Aloiai which will see him miss their final game next week.

Storm players celebrating
The Storm players took much delight in letting Craig Bellamy know that Cameron Smith had overtaken him on the all time try scoring list.

Sydney Roosters 34 – 18 Cronulla Sharks

Another try-fest to finish off Super Saturday as the Roosters celebrated Mitchell Aubusson breaking the club’s games record with a big win.

Aubusson has been a wonderful player for the Roosters and fittingly scored two tries in his record-breaking game.

The Roosters are in terrific shape heading into finals and will no doubt be the team to beat once finals get underway.

The Sharks secured their finals spot last week, but their performances indicate a side that will just be making up the numbers, especially without Shaun Johnson.

Johnson ruptured his Achilles tendon in the loss and will be out of action for a long time.

Canberra Raiders 26 – 14 New Zealand Warriors

This was a strange game for the Raiders as they overcame an early 8-point deficit and an early injury to keep their top four hopes alive.

George Williams was forced from the field early on after suffering a head knock and was unable to return. It meant Elliott Whitehead shifted into the halfback role where he did an excellent job.

With the Raiders trailing 14-6, Semi Valemei came up with a huge momentum swinging play to pick up a loose ball and sprint 90 metres to score the first of his two tries.

From there, the Raiders got back to their usual game to grind out a win, but Ricky Stuart wasn’t pleased with the quality of the match at all.

The Warriors have shown so much heart this season and their sacrifices to keep the game going this season was acknowledged by the crowd as they received a standing ovation when they took to the field before the game.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck looked dangerous until he suffered a hamstring injury in the second half that will see his season come to a premature end.

It’s been a long season for the Warriors and they will be looking forward to heading back home to NZ after next week.

Jack Wighton falling over
The Raiders overcame a shaky first half to defeat the Warriors.

Newcastle Knights 42 – 18 St George Illawarra Dragons

The Knights raced to an early lead in this one and never looked threatened.

Kalyn Ponga returned to the side and had an immediate impact, scoring the first try of the match to go along with two try assists.

The Knights’ form has been incredibly inconsistent over the past month, but they have put themselves in a position to secure a home elimination final if they can beat the in-form Titans next week.

The season gets worse for the Dragons the longer it goes on so they will be relieved to finish up next week.

Their halves pairing of Ben Hunt and Corey Norman simply has not worked for the club and you would think it’s unlikely they will start together next season.

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