Brits Down Under: Bateman different class, disappointing Dragons & Watkins struggles

Zach Holland

We have taken a look into how the British contingent got on in round 24 of the NRL season.

John Bateman

A thrilling 15-14 golden point win for Canberra over Cronulla was headlined by a monster of performance from the 25-year-old who was dominant with the ball in hand alongside being astute in defence. The 2019 NRL buy of the year finished with the second most metres by a Raiders player with 183 as well as the second most tackles with 35. The display means that Bateman is now third in both metres and tackles for the season with 2,107 and 636 respectively.

The former Wigan favourite continues to impress Down Under and now with Canberra joint third with one game left to go of the regular season, the Green Machine can come into the upcoming game against the Warriors with plenty of confidence in terms of title ambitions. With the likes of Bateman in the fold, Ricky Stuart’s men have been able to take their game to a whole new level and if he can remain healthy and keep up this electric style of play then it will go a long way in the Raiders’ attempts to secure their first major league title since 1994.

Kallum Watkins

The search for that elusive first win still continues for Watkins as Gold Coast succumbed to their tenth straight defeat after another hapless performance from the last placed Titans. It was another difficult game for Watkins as the 28-year-old continues to adjust to NRL life and in a limited showing the former Leeds centre could only manage 27 metres and 12 tackles in the 38-4 loss to Newcastle.

The Titans have one more opportunity to break this winless streak, with their last game of the season against another team out of form in the Dragons. Since the departure of coach Garth Brennan, the problems have lied all over the field. The only silver lining for Gold Coast now seems to be that things cannot get worse and with one game left, they can play with a certain amount freedom that can give their opponents some trouble and also give incoming coach Justin Holbrook something to work on.

Josh Hodgson

It was another controlled and measured display from Canberra’s dynamic dummy half. A productive and efficient defensive effort looks to have been par for the course for Hodgson recently, leading the way in tackles throughout games for his side on a consistent basis since returning from a broken thumb and Sunday’s win over Cronulla was more of the same.

An encapsulating contest ended with the 29-year-old making 50 tackles and overall, he took his tally for the season to 690 and now stands as Canberra’s leading tackler for the season after retaking the lead from his international team-mate, Elliott Whitehead. The star number nine also recorded a try assist and ultimately showed his undeniable ability to create chances and carve up his opposition with his creativity and organisational mindset. The Raiders end their season with a game against New Zealand Warriors next weekend and they will look to Hodgson to lead from the front once again as they attempt to secure third place.

Sam Burgess

After slipping outside the top four a couple weeks ago, the Rabbitohs are now fresh off back-to-back wins against the Broncos and now the Warriors. The Rabbitohs find themselves in joint third alongside Canberra on 32 points. After missing last week’s thriller against Brisbane, Burgess returned to Souths’ starting line-up at prop in place of his brother Tom, who remains out of with injury. In a 31-10 victory over the Warriors, the 30-year-old put up solid figures with 105 metres and 15 tackles in a steady return to action. Even though he has missed out plenty of time due to injury this season, the influential Burgess has still been as effective as ever in the 16 games he has featured in this year, making the seventh most metres by a Souths player with 1,952 and the eighth most tackles with 350. The former Bradford Bulls man has the highest average in terms of run metres per game for the Bunnies with 122.

The Rabbitohs’ last game of the regular season will be against the Roosters, needing a win to officially secure fourth place. The last time the two played each other was right at the beginning of the season in round one where Wayne Bennett’s men were able to come away with the victory and if they want the same result then they will definitely need a similar kind of performance once again, especially when Sydney look to be showing no form of mercy in the lead up to the finals.

Ryan Sutton

It may not have been the most productive game from the 24-year-old but the ex-Wigan star showed glimpses of exactly what he is able to offer with steady numbers in the game against the Sharks with 61 metres and 22 tackles to his name.

Sutton may be another British player that has missed some time out due to injury, but there is still no doubt has been an impressive figure in the Canberra set-up, making the fifth most tackles by any Raiders player with 492 and the 12th most run metres with 1,512.

Gareth Widdop

It has not got any better for St George Illawarra in recent weeks as they stared down the barrel of another heavy defeat and this time against the Tigers in a 42-14 thrashing. The Dragons will now finish the season second from bottom in 15th place, with seven wins and 16 points in a disappointing season for Paul McGregor’s men. Widdop tried his best to add some shine to the loss against Tigers with a try and an assist to his name but it still was not without its mishaps as a misplaced pass from the stand-off allowed Paul Momirovski to score his second try of the game.

The Dragons have one final chance to end their season on a high and it will be their best chance as any as they face a similarly poor Titans side.

Elliott Whitehead

The 29-year-old may not be Canberra’s leading tackler anymore but that does not take anything away from the fact that Whitehead continues to be a leader in the back-row and in Sunday’s game against Cronulla, he showed that perfectly by making the fourth most tackles with 33.

Another great defensive showing means Whitehead now has 682 tackles to his name at an average of 29.7 per game. There is no question that Whitehead’s partnership with Bateman in the second-row has been pivotal during the course of this much improved Raiders season and as we draw closer to the NRL finals, the Bradfordian’s influence will become even more integral as they look to claim their first title since the inception of the NRL back in 1998.

James Graham

The 33-year-old looks to be finishing the season strong with his individual efforts but his consistency has still not translated into wins for the Dragons. In the heavy defeat to the Tigers, the veteran prop was able to put up the fifth most metres by a member of the Red V with 107 alongside the second most tackles with 36. Now, as the season comes to a close, Graham has a total of 1,576 metres and the fourth most tackles at 581 and all in 18 games for his side.

In what has otherwise been one of the more disappointing seasons for St George Illawarra, Graham has continued to show that he has still got it with another productive year.

Watch NRL and live stream every NRL game to keep up with how the Burgess boys, John Bateman, Ryan Sutton, Elliott Whitehead, James Graham and all the others are getting on Down Under.

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