Brits Down Under: Graham shines for Dragons, Burgess’ Bunnies win, Canberra suffer setback

Another round of NRL action is in the books and once again, we take a look into the performances and stats of the league’s British contingent…

James Graham

It was not to be a fifth win on the bounce for Graham and his St George Illawarra side, who went up against a Sydney Roosters team in cruise control. It was a 20-10 losing effort for the Dragons but there is a slight bit of solace as they were able to restrict the Roosters the best they could by keeping the reigning champions at bay for a good 45 minutes of the game.

Now, this may have been Sydney’s gameplan all along by getting ahead early before wearing their opponents down and providing that killer blow in the final stages of the game. However, the Dragons didn’t give up with Graham once more being a staple to his side’s defence alongside Cameron McInnes. The experienced prop forward racked up 42 tackles, the second highest in the game. Although the 33-year-old may be left pondering his missed tackle on Rooster Sia Sio Taukeiaho, who barged through some slack defending to get the winning try.

Sam Burgess

It is undoubtedly safe to say that South Sydney have not played their best of rugby as of late, however, the wins just keep adding up for Wayne Bennett’s men. The case was exactly that over the weekend as Burgess led his Rabbitohs team to a 22-18 win over a Penrith in a tough encounter. The Bunnies and ‘Slammin Sam’ were certainly called upon defensively during this game as they had to keep the Panthers at bay on plenty of occasions inside their own 20 metres. The hard-fought victory saw the 30-year-old make the second most tackles by a Rabbitohs player with 33.

South Sydney’s struggles throughout the match were even contrasted in the running game as only one player was able to surpass the 100-metre mark and Burgess himself recording 92.  However, they are all wins at the end of the day, no matter how you get them. A tasty encounter awaits in round eight as Bennett makes his return to Brisbane and even though he never needs an excuse to be fired up, you can bet Burgess will be primed and ready for this one.

John Bateman

The 25-year-old’s introduction to life in the NRL has been a sight to behold, earning praise and plaudits for his consistent and exhilarating play with even a few Dally M suggestions thrown in there as well. The hard hitting second-rower play has been key to the Raiders red hot form as of late but despite this, it suffered a slight bump in the road over the weekend as they fell short against Manly in a 24-20 loss. It was not the huge stat bursting performance we have seen on plenty of occasions this season as the former Bradford and Wigan star made 99 metres along with making 21 tackles.

There were still moments to enjoy and saviour though from a Bateman perspective as the back-rower rounded off a good deal of Canberra pressure by following up his sublime offload try assist from last week with a football-like assist to set up a late try for Canberra.

Tom Burgess

It is fair to say that even despite the loss to South Sydney, Penrith displayed a good deal of determination in their effort to thwart such a strong forward pack.

A performance that as mentioned was able to restrict all but one player to under 100 metres with the ball in hand. Alongside his brother Sam, Tom seemingly did what he could with the opportunities that were presented to him along with putting in a solid shift defensively. The 27-year-old made 88 metres from nine runs while making 21 tackles.

Elliott Whitehead

Like Graham at the Dragons, it is becoming more and more a common site on the defensive stat pages that we see Whitehead’s name right near the top and this week again was no exception.

Even with the loss to Manly, the 29-year old was his gritty and determined self, making 33 tackles and only behind England team-mate Josh Hodgson for the most made by a Canberra player. The former Bradford and Catalans star was even able to put up more solid numbers by averaging over 10 yards per carry with 83 metres from eight runs.

Ryan Sutton

Well, the 23-year-old has undoubtedly gone from strength to strength since the beginning of the season. He has taken a spot within the starting 13 due to a key loss to Joe Tapine in the back-row due to injury. However, one will not just openly suggest that Sutton has brought forth that same level of influence but throughout his first few games in NRL he has quickly shown how easily he has been able to adjust to his role within the Canberra side.

The Raiders were the better side throughout good chunks of the game against Manly, but a dominant 30-minute spell from the Sea Eagles and a lack of discipline proved to be their downfall in the end, with the Raiders giving up several penalties throughout the game. Despite gifting chances to the Northern Beaches side, they were still as gritty in defence as best as they could be with Sutton making the fourth most tackles by a Canberra player with 30 along with chalking up 65 metres from seven carries. The former Wigan man has now made the fourth most tackles by a player in Canberra this season and stands as a good indication to his ability to adapt to new surroundings. A Great Britain call-up in the future perhaps?

George Burgess

It was noted last week, that now the twin Burgess’ have been reunited in the Bunnies’ pack, there looks to be this sense that both players will not see huge workload on a weekly basis and will instead will be evenly distributed amongst the pair as the season goes on and as South Sydney find themselves right in the midst of the top four it would only make a great deal of sense in terms of health and fitness.

As we saw in their win over Canterbury, George was able to find himself wrapping up over 100 metres alongside his brother Sam while twin, Tom did not have the greatest deal of chances, racking up only 59. Now, in the hardly fought contested win over Penrith this week that metaphorical workload switch seems to have been flipped once again as throughout such a tough match up, the 27-year-old was only able to muster 40 metres from four carries while making 13 tackles in the process.

However, there might not be a need for alarm bells just yet as he we should probably expect more of these hot and cold performances as the season goes on.

Josh Hodgson

The 29-year-old has cemented himself as of one of the go-to men in the lime green of Canberra once more this season, with his sublime organisation, in-game kicking ability and hard work in defence standing as a true testament to the Raiders. They sit in a pretty fourth place in the league, with five wins out of seven.

Their loss to Manly in round seven can easily be said to be just a blip in the road but there were plenty of positives to take from it, with the England international leading the way in tackles for his side with 38 in another workhorse-like performance defensively, despite the loss.

The turn of round eight brings a chance for Hodgson and his men to bounce right back as they face a Penrith side who have struggled to win games in 2019.