NRL Lowdown: Dogs begin finals march

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WHO starred, who struggled, who’s on the fringe, who’s on the outer, who passed and who failed?

Get the very best analysis from our team of experts in the Round 16 edition of the NRL Lowdown.

SHARKS

HOW THEY FARED

It took a golden point James Maloney field goal to secure an 11th straight win for Cronulla who snuck past a determined Warriors outfit 19-18. After going down 10-0 early, the Sharks raced over for three quick tries to take the lead only for former Sharks Blake Ayshford and Jonathon Wright to bag tries of their own to force it into golden point.

WHO STARRED, WHO STRUGGLED?

James Maloney’s right boot was again the star for the Sharks; successful with all three of his conversions and notching the matchwinning field goal. Michael Ennis was his usual menacing self as he wreaked havoc out of dummy half securing the Sharks first try to spark them to life. Backing up from Origin, Paul Gallen showed plenty of enthusiasm running 199 metres while the outside backs were kept fairly quiet.

Chad Townsend, Jack Bird and Andrew Fifita celebrate with Sharks five-eighth James Maloney after his matchwinning field goal.Source:AAP

INJURY WARD

Sosaia Feki (Groin, Round 17), Junior Roqica (Foot, Indefinite), Valentine Holmes (Glute, Indefinite).

WHO’S LURKING ON THE EDGE?

It was a nightmare game for the Sharks’ feeder side Newtown Jets on the weekend. Not only did they lose 6-60 to Penrith but Fa’amau Brown, Matt Mcllwrick, Kurt Capewell, Josh Cleeland and Kenny Niko all succumbed to injuries. The standout in a miserable game was back-rower Anthony Moraitis who grabbed the sole Newtown try. NYC winger Josh Tuilaga bagged two tries as his side fell just short of an impressive comeback losing 32-36. Tuilaga’s second try coming in the dying moments of the game as he refused to admit defeat in a lively display.

REPORT CARD

B: Another slow start for the Sharks but they found a way to win their 11th in a row. Cronulla are becoming accustomed to close contests with six of their 11 straight wins won by five points or less.

— Joshua Thomas

STORM

HOW THEY FARED

Melbourne raced out of the blocks, racked up 26 answered points, then went to sleep and allowed the James Tedesco-inspired Wests Tigers to roar back into the contest and storm to within a converted try of a stunning comeback.

In the end, the poise of veterans Cooper Cronk and Cam Smith was enough to stem the tide and guide the Storm them to a 29-20 victory.

WHO STARRED, WHO STRUGGLED?

Is there a better sight in rugby league than Marieke Koroibete in full flight? The Storm flyer lit up AAMI Park — as he’ll no doubt continue to do next year, albeit for Super Rugby’s Melbourne Rebels — with a spectacular runaway try, not long after another brilliant solo run that eventually led to Melbourne’s opening try. He finished with more than 270 all-action run metres.

Tohu Harris once again showcased his versatility as he moved from second-row to fill Blake Green’s boots at five-eighth with aplomb, scoring a try, setting up another, busting three tackles and nearly cracking the ton in run metres.

While they eventually hold on for the win, the whole team will be on notice from Craig Bellamy after leaking 20-straight points in the second half.

Marika Koroibete in full flight for the Storm. Picture: Wayne LudbeySource:News Corp Australia

INJURY WARD

Billy Slater (Shoulder, Season), Will Chambers (Fractured foot, Round 19), Cameron Munster (Ankle, Round 17), Tim Glasby (Shoulder, Indefinite), Blake Green (Calf, Round 17), Nelson Asofa-Solomona (Ankle, TBC).

WHO’S LURKING ON THE EDGE?

Skilful backrower Charlie Galo bagged a hat-trick in the Storm under-20s 38-12 win over the Wests Tigers, with fullback Jesse Arthars grabbing a double and booting five goals. It was a mixed weekend for the Storm’s Queensland Cup feeder sides. Recent NRL debutant Brodie Croft booted five from five as Easts Tigers downed Northern Pride 26-24, while young gun Curtis Scott continued his comeback from injury with a try as Sunshine Coast Falcons fell 22-12 to Townsville Blackhawks.

REPORT CARD

B+: The first half they looked like the clinical Storm side that can robotically dismantle anything in their way, the second not so much. Still, they steadied late on and remain one of the teams to beat.

— Dominic Burke

BRONCOS

HOW THEY FARED

An Origin fatigued Brisbane side suffered a 40-14 loss as they were outmuscled and ultimately out scored by a hungry Bulldogs side. A shocking 53 missed tackles from the Broncos condemning them to defeat.

WHO STARRED, WHO STRUGGLED?

Corey Oates was one of the few Broncos players that performed on the night with the Maroons winger forcing two line breaks and running 154 metres as he scored a try. Matt Gillett and Ben Hunt were among several that failed to perform as they missed a combined 16 tackles.

Matt Gillett didn’t have a happy night for the Broncos. Picture: Mark EvansSource:News Corp Australia

INJURY WARD

Andrew McCullough (Broken thumb, Round 17), Alex Glenn (Shoulder, Round 17), Jordan Kahu (Pectoral, Round 17), Tom Opacic (Foot, Indefinite), Matt Gillett (Eye, Indefinite),

Jack Reed (Shoulder, Round 19)

WHO’S LURKING ON THE EDGE?

Feeder club the Redcliffe Dolphins did enough to defeat the Mackay Cutters 36-28 with halfback Darren Nichols proving the difference with a try and five conversions. Sadly for the Broncos no-one really shone in the NYC side either with five players backing up from Under-18 Origin duties. Patrick Carrigan and Gehamat Shibasaki were two of these players backing up with both managing tries as their side lost 38-22.

VERDICT

C: Just days after Origin and with a switched on Bulldogs to deal with, it was never going to be easy for a Broncos side let down in the middle of the park. They did however show some life in attack to ensure it wasn’t a complete embarrassment.

— Joshua Thomas

BULLDOGS

HOW THEY FARED

Brilliantly. Off the back of a barnstorming display up front, the Bulldogs bulldozed their way past a lacklustre Broncos outfit to register their most impressive win of the season.

Inspired by returning star Brett Morris’ hat-trick, Des Hasler’s side ran in seven tries in a 40-14 thumping.

WHO STARRED, WHO STRUGGLED?

Brett Morris was rightly lauded for his stunning return from injury, the former Test and NSW State of Origin star shaking off nearly four months on the sidelines to bag three tries and immediately spark talk of a Blues recall.

The Dogs were well served by their big men up front, with Tony Williams rolling back the clock to the T-Rex days, Sam Kasiano slam dunking his way to a double and Aiden Tolman, James Graham, and David Klemmer combing for more than 500 run metres.

It would be harsh to single out any players for struggling in such a dominant performance.

Brett Morris scored a hat-trick for the Bulldogs. Picture: Mark EvansSource:News Corp Australia

INJURY WARD

Adam Elliott (Hamstring, Round 23), Tim Browne (Ankle, Round 17), Raymond Faitala-Mariner (Knee, Indefinite), Greg Eastwood (Knee, Round 17), Josh Morris (Groin, Round 17).

WHO’S LURKING ON THE EDGE?

It was a winning weekend all round for the Bulldogs, with the NSW Cup side running out 46-24 winners over Wentworthville and the under-20s grabbing their fifth victory of the season, 38-22 against the Broncos. Forward Lloyd Perrett bagged a two tries in the NSW Cup victory, although he’ll probably struggle to force his way into the Dogs pack at present.

REPORT CARD

A: It was exactly the type of performance to stamp Des Hasler’s side as serious top-four contenders. Now they need to back it up with a consistent run of form to show they can stick with the competition’s big guns.

— Dominic Burke

RAIDERS

HOW THEY FARED

Canberra did what was required to take out a 30-22 win over fellow finals aspirants the Gold Coast Titans.

WHO STARRED, WHO STRUGGLED?

Jarrod Croker had one of his best games of the season, scoring 18 points from two tries and five goals and always looking likely with ball in hand. Josh Papalii continued his good form from Origin and carried the ball well on the right edge as well as popping a number of quality offloads.

The Jack Wighton experience continues to be a wild one with the enigmatic fullback setting up two tries with nice passes, dropping the ball over the line, knocking on in the lead-up to another which was disallowed and miscommunicating with Jordan Rapana in the lead-up to the Chris McQueen try.

Jarrod Croker was great for the Raiders.Source:Getty Images

INJURY WARD

Edrick Lee (Hamstring, Round 17), Jack Wighton (Sternum, Round 17), Kurt Baptiste (Concussion, Round 17), Josh Hodgson (Concussion, Round 17), Jeff Lima (Hip, Round 20)

WHO’S LURKING ON THE EDGE?

Backing up a strong effort for NSW under-18s during the week, Nick Cotric showed why the Raiders have such high hopes for his future with a dynamic two-try performance in the club’s 34-32 win over the Titans.

Mounties also resumed their winning ways in the NSW Cup with a 36-14 defeat of Wyong. Sam Williams and Adam Clydesdale were the best for the Mulga, who secured their place at the top of the competition ladder.

REPORT CARD

B: An 80-minute performance remains elusive for the Raiders but they were controlled, poised and impressive for long patches of this win. With the Knights and an Origin-depleted Cowboys in their sights, they should be able to gather some momentum ahead of their run to the finals.

— Nick Campton

PANTHERS

HOW THEY FARED

It was closer than it should have been in the end for Penrith as they held out for a nervy 28-26 win over the Rabbitohs.

The Panthers conceded 12 points in the final seven minutes but did just enough to cling on.

WHO STARRED, WHO STRUGGLED?

Bryce Cartwright put his hand up for a possible State of Origin call-up setting up three tries while Blues winger Josh Mansour, showed no signs of fatigue as he secured a try and forced two line breaks. Young halfback Nathan Cleary continued to shine on the big stage finding the try-line for consecutive weeks.

Prop Suaia Matagi had a night to forget missing four tackles in his 21 minutes on the field.

Bryce Cartwright sets up a try for Panthers teammate Josh Mansour. Picture: Brett CostelloSource:News Corp Australia

INJURY WARD

Dean Whare (ACL, Season), Te Marie Martin (Shoulder fracture, Season), Peta Hiku (ACL, Season), James Fisher-Harris (Broken thumb, Round 18), Sam McKendry (Suspension, Round 17).

WHO’S LURKING ON THE EDGE?

Jamie Soward showed his class playing in the Intrust Super Premiership orchestrating a 60-6 thrashing of the Newtown Jets. He set up several tries and was successful with all ten of his conversions in a masterful display. Panther’s back-rower Corey Harawira-Naera was also impressive scoring a hat-trick of tries in the win to take his tally to an impressive eight tries for the season. Jarome Luai stood tall for an NYC side that continues to lose players to first grade. The halfback showed excellent individual skill to grab a try while also displaying real intelligence with the boot throughout the game.

VERDICT

B: Despite a poor finish, the Panthers showed enough spark in attack to celebrate Peter Wallace’s 200th game with a win. They’re now in the top eight and could prove a real handful going forward, provided they can put in comprehensive 80-minute performances.

— Joshua Thomas

DRAGONS

HOW THEY FARED

It was the best attacking display for the Dragons this season bar none. They ran out 30-18 winners over the woeful Knights. The only criticism that could be levelled at them was they allowed some late tries to the Knights rather than finishing them off.

WHO STARRED, WHO STRUGGLED?

Didn’t think this would be written but here it goes … the star of the Dragons side on Saturday was Benji Marshall. Yes, it was the Marshall of yesteryear that led the Dragons to victory over the Knights through a series of tries, tackle busts, line breaks and plenty of assists. It was hard to fault any of the Dragons players. No-one really struggled as has been the case for many teams that have faced the Knights this season.

Benji Marshall was the star for the Dragons.Source:Getty Images

INJURY WARD

Dylan Farrell (back, indefinite), Mose Masoe (ACL, season), Ben Creagh (knee, indefinite).

WHO’S LURKING ON THE EDGE?

NYC Dragons fullback Matt Dufty continues to impress in the lower grades. Dufty scored a try and set up two more in his side’s 36-6 win over the young Knights.

REPORT CARD

C: Yes, the Dragons got a win, Yes, it was emphatic and they scored points. But at the end of the day it was only against the Knights. The challenge for Paul McGregor’s men: To go and replicate that performance against sturdier foes.

— David Campbell

TITANS

HOW THEY FARED

Injuries continue to undermine a makeshift Titans side that couldn’t overcome a Croker inspired Raiders side that fell 22-30. A broken leg within 20 minutes to centre Nathan Davis, concussions to Eddy Pettybourne and Ryan James plus the sin-binning of Greg Bird with 15 minutes to go proving too much for the Gold Coast side.

WHO STARRED, WHO STRUGGLED?

Prop Ryan James did all he could for the Titans putting in 37 tackles in defence, while making 191 metres and grabbing a try in attack. Tyrone Roberts meanwhile managed two try assists with Nene Macdonald bagging a double.

Three missed tackles and a sin-binning to Greg Bird made life tough for his side in the final minutes as they valiantly mounted a comeback.

Ryan James couldn’t be faulted for his effort. Picture: Adam HeadSource:News Corp Australia

INJURY WARD

Kane Elgey (ACL, Season), Matt Srama (Knee, Season), Daniel Mortimer (Hamstring, Season), John Olive (Broken collarbone, Indefinite), David Mead (PCL, Round 19), David Shillington (Pectoral, Round 17), Konrad Hurrell (Calf, Round 19), Nathan Davis (Suspected broken leg, Indefinite), Will Zillman (Foot, Indefinite), Eddy Pettybourne (Concussion, Round 17).

WHO’S LURKING ON THE EDGE?

It’s becoming a very familiar last name in rugby league and there’s yet another Burgess to keep an eye on. Although Titans feeder club Tweed Heads Seagulls lost 30-48, halfback Michael Burgess stood tall scoring a try and was successful with all four of his conversions. Olly Regan meanwhile bagged himself a hat-trick as the Burleigh Bears beat the CQ Capras 44-20.

Despite a last-minute loss in the NYC, halves pairing Aj Brimson and Josh Ralph put in polished performances for the young Titans side with Phillip Sami benefiting to cross for two tries.

REPORT CARD

C: For a team plagued so badly by injuries, the Titans put in a solid if unspectacular performance as they missed their chance to jump into the top eight.

— Joshua Thomas

WARRIORS

HOW THEY FARED

The Warriors turned in their best performance of the season, only to fall agonisingly short of toppling the ladder-leading Sharks in Cronulla.

The New Zealanders had their chances but James Maloney’s wobbly field goal in golden point extra-time was enough to snap their three-game winning streak.

WHO STARRED, WHO STRUGGLED?

In a pack full of big names, Albert Vete rarely hogs the headlines but he was his side’s best against the formidable Sharks unit. The big prop led the Warriors forwards for run metres and chimed in with four offloads, including a wonderful pass to set up Thomas Leuluai for a try.

Jono Wright was a shock late inclusion on the wing as part of an odd backline reshuffle that saw Tuimoala Lolohea drop to the bench, and while the winger grabbed an early four-pointer he later bombed two great chances and was also at fault for one of Cronulla’s tries. He’ll surely make way for the dynamic Lolohea to start next week.

Jono Wright struggled for the Warriors.Source:AAP

INJURY WARD

Roger Tuivasa Sheck (Knee, Season), Ben Henry (Knee, Indefinite), Manu Vatuvei (Hamstring, Round 17), Sione Lousi (ACL, Season).

WHO’S LURKING ON THE EDGE?

Mason Lino was the man as the Warriors’ NSW Cup side edged North Sydney 15-14. With the scores locked at 14-all in the dying minutes, the halfback secured a repeat set with a deft kick into the Bears’ in-goal area, then landed a field goal to secure the win. Fullback Kane Telea scored a double as the Warriors’ under-20s held off a fast-finishing Cronulla to win 36-32.

REPORT CARD

B-: It might seem harsh to mark the Warriors down for losing – just! – away to the form side of the competition, but this was a real opportunity gone begging for the Warriors. If they continue to play to this standard they’ll beat a lot of teams, they’re just running out of time.

— Dominic Burke

WESTS TIGERS

HOW THEY FARED

You heard the one about how it was a game of two halves?

The Tigers proved that sometimes cliches endure for a reason, giving up a 26-0 lead at the break to Melbourne before clawing back to 26-20 and ultimately going down 29-20.

WHO STARRED, WHO STRUGGLED?

James Tedesco and Luke Brooks were at the heart of the Tigers comeback and good things will continue to happen when those two get more involved in the attack. Tedesco was particularly impressive, creating a try out of nothing early in the second stanza to get the comeback started.

Elijah Taylor had his first poor performance since joining the Tigers after he was switched to hooker in the hours before the game when Robbie Farah failed to back up from Origin. An excellent lock forward, Taylor was forced to play more minutes at dummy half than Jason Taylor would have liked after an injury to Dene Halatau and the Tigers sorely missed his fine work out of first receiver.

James Tedesco Picture: Wayne LudbeySource:News Corp Australia

INJURY WARD

Matt Ballin (ACL, Season), Nathan Milone (Knee, Indefinite), Curtis Sironen (Foot, Round 17)

WHO’S LURKING ON THE EDGE?

The Tigers under-20s were smashed 38-12 by Melbourne over the weekend but young backrower Bayley Sironen managed to score a try and showed some flashes of real ability.

REPORT CARD

C: The Tigers are starting to find their way in attack but their effort and intensity in the first half was dreadful. If they can find a way to perform for 80 minutes they’ll be a dangerous prospect down the stretch.

— Nick Campton

RABBITOHS

HOW THEY FARED

Finally, we saw some resolve from the Rabbitohs. Against the Panthers they toiled for 60 minutes, barely clinging on, before doing something they have struggled to do all season. They fought back. It wasn’t enough in the end, with a 28-26 loss stranding them on 12 competition points but it was a start.

WHO STARRED, WHO STRUGGLED?

Sam Burgess and Greg Inglis were at their best with Burgess in particular driving his side forward. Not only was Burgess a constant threat to the Penrith kickers but he managed to barge over for two tries to get his side within a sniff of victory.

Meanwhile, Aaron Gray continues to search for the early-season form which saw him picked for the City v Country match.

Greg Inglis was back to his best for the Bunnies.Source:Getty Images

INJURY WARD

Zane Musgrove (wrist, indefinite), Angus Crichton (groin, indefinite), Hymel Hunt (pectoral, season), Michael Oldfield (hamstring, round 17), Samisoni Langi (ACL, season), George Burgess (groin, round 21), Bryson Goodwin (arm, indefinite), Siosifa Talakai, ankle, indefinite), Paul Carter (suspension, round 17).

WHO’S LURKING ON THE EDGE?

Things continue to look a little dire for the NYC Bunnies who went down 32-8 to the young Panthers.

REPORT CARD

C: The Rabbitohs were much improved against the Panthers, the players feeding off of the confidence and form of their senior stars. Now Michael Maguire’s men need to take it a step further and play like they did for the last 20 minutes for the entire 80.

— David Campbell

KNIGHTS

HOW THEY FARED

Another beating looked on the cards when the Knights trailed the Dragons by a hefty margin at half-time but they managed to claw their way back into the game and with a little more consistent application they could have really given the Red V a scare.

WHO STARRED, WHO STRUGGLED?

Nathan Ross is the best thing about the Knights this season and it’s not even close. The cult hero winger scored one of the best tries of the season with an incredible acrobatic effort that saw him sail over the corner post for Newcastle’s opening try. Ross always looks the most likely of any of the Knights backs while Mitch Barnett and Robbie Rochow also played some good footy.

Jack Cogger has been forced into first grade before his time and was targeted heavily by the Dragons. The son of Wests great Trevor Cogger, the young five-eighth looked totally out of his depth and should be given a few weeks in NSW Cup or the under-20s so he can rediscover a bit of confidence.

NRL: Knights flyer Nathan Ross looked like he could have a spot in the Australian Olympic side with his impressive high jump, hand stand style crash over.

INJURY WARD

James McManus (Concussion, Season), Jarrod Mullen (Hamstring, Round 19), Brock Lamb (Ankle, Round 19), Will Pearsall (Ankle, Round 17), Jaelen Feeney (Ankle, Indefinite),

Kade Snowden (Various, Season), Jake Mamo (Ankle, Indefinite)

WHO’S LURKING ON THE EDGE?

The Knights under-20s went down 32-6 to the Dragons and their NSW Cup team lost 40-24 to Illawarra, so it wasn’t a great weekend for the Steel City. However, David Bhana crashed over for a try in reserve grade and should be in the frame for a first-grade recall sooner rather than later.

REPORT CARD

D: The last team to win just one game in a season was the 1993 Gold Coast Seagulls. Newcastle must face the grim prospect of possibly matching the extinct club.

— Nick Campton

* The Eels and Roosters had the bye, while the Cowboys and Sea Eagles play on Monday night

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