The British contingent made their presence felt in round 13 of the NRL campaign.
In his last game before going to have shoulder surgery, the 30-year-old was his usual blockbusting self. The game did have its flash points though as with less than a minute to go in the first half, Sam and his brother Tom were at the centre of a fiery brawl between the teams, resulting in both Burgess brothers and two Newcastle players being sin-binned to end the half.
It was a struggle from the outset though for Burgess and his men as the Knights just looked that little sharper and quicker every time they had the ball in hand. The second-rower did show his leadership qualities towards the end, scoring a try after bursting through two defenders but it was not enough as the Rabbitohs lost consecutive games for the first time this season. The stats may have made for a quieter affair on Burgess’ part as he missed the first ten minutes of the second half, making 19 tackles and 92 metres.
Now, Burgess goes on to have his operation and will leave a huge void in that forward pack and with a second consecutive loss, the Rabbitohs are going to need to find a way to start winning again without their most influential player in the mix.
As the tandem with his brother Tom in the front-row had its greats moments to watch, the 27-year-old was able to show his brute strength alongside his brother as the Knights’ Mitchell Pearce collected the ball a couple metres short of his own try line but could only watch as George and Tom forced him over. Again, George showed he was more like a wall than a rugby player league by forcing the error from a Newcastle player with a huge hit up.
Despite another loss for the Rabbitohs, Burgess has put up steady numbers since his return from a suspension with 79 metres from seven carries but could keep seeing game time distributed between himself and Junior Tatola as the season goes on.
After scoring his first try of the season last week against Parramatta, the 27-year-old came out with a lot of fire, showing his sheer power in partnership with his twin George as they were able to muscle Mitchell Pearce over the Knights try-line with relative ease.
However, ill-discipline got the better of the prop forward this time as tensions mounted in a game that was already showing signs of boiling over. After not taking too kindly to a tackle, Burgess and Damien Saifiti initiated a brawl that saw Tom as one of four players to be sin-binned in the aftermath. He may have been lucky to escape with only a sin-bin after a suspicious looking headbutt from the Yorkshireman.
It may have been a loss, but Burgess continued to be his bulldozing self when carrying the ball, making 146 metres as well as showcasing to be a workhorse in defence with 27 tackles – both the most by any Rabbitohs player in the game. Even despite the controversy with this game, Burgess has been a force on both sides of the ball in recent weeks and any suspension to come from this game will leave another massive hole to fill, with two of the three Burgess brothers on the sidelines.
It could have been called lucky but what cannot be taken away was that it was exceptionally quick thinking from the 29-year-old to stick out the boot and allow team-mate Bailey Simonsson to go through and score the Raiders’ first try in their win over the Tigers.
That much improved defence of the Raiders continues to flourish after holding the Tigers to no points with Whitehead leading the Britain’s contingent of Canberra players in reigniting the side’s defensive line. In their 28-0 win over the Wests Tigers, the former Bradford and Catalans star was at his efficient and productive best with 31 tackles and making 83 metres from nine carries. In a team that has the likes of Charnze Nicoll-Kolkstad and Jordan Rapana, Whitehead may not be the most destructive in terms of running with the ball, but his great touch has him second on Canberra’s assists leaderboard for the season with four. If you combine this with the fact he leads the way in tackles for the Green Machine (425) then there can be little doubt that Whitehead is a general in Ricky Stuart’s forward pack.
The 25-year-old continued his remarkable comeback from injury with a try-scoring effort in their win over the Wests Tigers on Friday. The former Wigan star scored Canberra’s third try of the match on the stroke of half-time after placing a kick through for Nicoll-Kolkstad, with the dynamic full-back gathering the ball and passing back to the England international to score the try as well as giving the Raiders an 18-0 going into half-time.
Since his return, his impact and influence are unmatched as they continue to be a shadow of the team that lost three in a row without Bateman in the picture. But free of injury, he continues to put forth those displays we have become so familiar with and the same would happen again in the drubbing over the Tigers. Another 100-metre performance and he made the third most tackles by a man in the lime green with 34.
The Raiders now sit joint fourth with Newcastle and Cronulla both on 16 points as the race for the top four starts to heat up.
After a couple of quieter games from what we have been used to seeing from Sutton thus far, the 23-year-old was back up to his old tricks with a field day against the Tigers. The former Wigan man showcased one of his best performances to date in the NRL as he led the way in tackles with 44 and a 141-metre display to add to this.
Another starring display certainly must give international selectors a headache as he continues to impress as part of this English invasion for the Raiders and go up the side’s stat charts, sitting as the Raiders’ third top tackler (350) and fifth highest metre maker (1,108).
A brutal game one of State of Origin meant the Roosters came into the match up against Penrith a little worse for wear and as questions begin to be raised about star centre Latrell Mitchell’s mindset, it would bring Ryan Hall back into the Sydney set up. After making his debut in round 10, Hall showed exactly what he could bring the Roosters’ attacking line with a vintage performance that saw him finish as the Roosters top metre maker for the game with 136 in their 19-10 loss to Penrith.
In only his second game for the Chooks, the former Leeds man followed this up with another 100-metre display and saw plenty of the ball with 114 metres off 16 carries, the second most runs by a Roosters player.
Although it will be a third straight loss for Trent Robinson’s men, the 31-year-old continues to show no signs of losing a step. Hopefully we see more of the powerful winger in the many rounds to come.
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