NRL talking points: Bateman boosts Canberra, Johnston hat-trick & Koroisau’s standout stats

We have taken a look at the main talking points from round 12 of the NRL.

St George Illawarra Dragons 24-32 South Sydney Rabbitohs

South Sydney Rabbitohs produced an outstanding comeback despite losing Adam Reynolds to injury to shock the beleaguered Dragons.

The Bunnies saw Reynolds depart with a shoulder complaint after just seven minutes and found themselves 16-0 down in as many minutes but failed to cement their place in the top eight. 

His half-back partner Cody Walker inspired Souths as he controlled the match, starting the turnaround with a superb solo try and grabbing a second after the break, which was added to by an Alex Johnston hat-trick and Latrell Mitchell’s score. 

With the full-back also kicking four goals, it ensured all South Sydney’s points were scored by Indigenous players, a fitting start to the dedicated Indigenous round. 

It was a disappointing loss for the Dragons considering their fast start which saw Matt Dufty cross twice either side of assisting Euan Aitken, who was forced off with a hamstring injury in the closing stages. 

St George Illawarra again start the round next week against the Roosters on Thursday while Rabbitohs host the Broncos on Friday.

Stat of the match: 3 – Alex Johnston has become the third South Sydney Rabbitohs player to score a hat-trick against the St George Illawarra Dragons.

Wests Tigers 20-26 New Zealand Warriors

New Zealand Warriors ended a three-game losing streak as they came from behind to stun the Wests Tigers at the Sydney Cricket Ground. 

After Karl Lawton grabbed their first try in the opening period, they trailed 14-8 but Peta Hiku turned the game with a second half double before Tohu Harris crossed to seal the win for Todd Payten’s side. 

It came at the end of a tough week for the Warriors having seen David Fusitu’a, Ken Maumalo and Agnatius Paasi depart for home but loan signings from Parramatta George Jennings and Daniel Alvaro performed well. 

The Tigers will be distraught about how they lost given they raced into an early lead through Moses Mbye and David Nofoaluma and Sam McIntyre saw them in the ascendancy at half-time. 

Due to a tough draw, this could spell the end of a finals shot for the Tigers with matches against the Roosters, Panthers, Storm and Eels to come. 

Wests Tigers will travel to face the Knights on Saturday, with the Warriors facing the Sea Eagles on Friday.

Stat of the match:  3 – Wests Tigers have only played in the finals three times – 2005, 2010 and 2011. 

Brisbane Broncos 26-36 Cronulla Sharks 

Cronulla kept their top four ambitions alive with a remarkable comeback scoring three tries in eight minutes against the shell-shocked Brisbane Broncos. 

The Sharks trailed 26-18 with 10 minutes remaining but tries from Sione Katoa, Connor Tracey and Braden Hamlin-Uele completed the turnaround and gave John Morris’ side their third successive win. 

Ronaldo Mulitalo had actually given them the lead after just six minutes and in an end-to-end opening period, and further scores from Siosifa Talakai and Jackson Ferris on debut saw them lead 18-14 at half-time. 

In contrast, the Broncos have now suffered nine losses in 10 games and their late collapse will again be of concern to Anthony Seibold having also squandered a promising lead against the Warriors in round eight. 

The form of Darius Boyd will be positive as his first match at full-back since round 16 last year and he produced four try assists for doubles for Kotoni Staggs and Richard Kennar. 

Brisbane face the Rabbitohs on Friday as the Sharks end the round against Parramatta on Sunday.

Stat of the match: 9 – With a host of injuries, Cronulla’s side contained nine players with less than 20 NRL games to their name.

Sydney Roosters 18-12 Gold Coast Titans

An injury-hit Sydney Roosters had just enough to hold off a spirited Gold Coast side after a Joseph Manu try at the Sydney Cricket Ground. 

Having to field second-rower Sitili Tupouniua in place of Josh Morris, the back-to-back premiers were indebted to a near flawless kicking display by Kyle Flanagan to see them home. 

They trailed after just 10 minutes but narrowly led at the break after a Mitch Aubusson try and three Flanagan goals. 

Justin Holbrook was proud of his Titans’ performance, a week after losing narrowly to the Penrith Panthers. 

They were not helped by the controversial sin-binnings of Keegan Hipgrave and Brian Kelly, but AJ Brimson looked sharp on his return from injury and in Anthony Don they have a reliable try scorer. 

Sydney Roosters will play St George Illawarra on Thursday while the Gold Coast host the Cowboys on Sunday.

Stat of the match: 56 – This match came almost a year after the Roosters had thrashed the Gold Coast 58-6. 

North Queensland Cowboys 12-14 Canberra Raiders

Buoyed by a couple of important players returning from injury, Canberra edged out the Cowboys in a tight encounter at Queensland Country Bank Stadium.

John Bateman played for the first time this year after a shoulder problem and Curtis Scott overcame an arm infection to link up for the match-winning try and earn the Raiders a valuable win.

Bateman also had a hand in George Williams’ breakaway score and ran for 152 metres, making 31 tackles while it was a much-needed try for Scott who welcomed a new team-mate with Corey Harawira-Naera making his bow following his move from Canterbury. 

Last tackle options let North Queensland down as they failed to turn pressure into points, again fielding a new-look halves partnership as Ben Hampton replaced Daejarn Asi who was nursing a knee injury. 

In the coming weeks the Cowboys may have a new coach as current interim coach at the Warriors Todd Payten revealed he has his eyes set on the role in Townsville. 

They will look to bounce back against the Titans on Sunday with the Raiders facing league leaders Penrith on Saturday.

Stat of the match: 23 – John Bateman made 23 appearances for Canberra in 2019, scoring five tries, as he won the Dally M Second Rower Of The Year award.

Manly Sea Eagles 12-42 Penrith Panthers

Penrith made it seven consecutive wins as they swept aside Manly at Brookvale, with Nathan Cleary winning the battle of the Origin halves. 

The Panthers half-back continued his excellent form this season as he chalked up two try assists, seven goals and a solo try in a commanding performance. 

His Queensland counterpart Daly Cherry-Evans had a solid enough game in trying circumstances, setting up tries for Jake Trbojevic and Jorge Taufua.

The game was effectively over as a contest at half-time with Penrith leading 24-6 where Charlie Staines made it six tries in his first 100 NRL minutes and Api Koroisau capped an outstanding personal performance against his former club with a four-pointer after the break. 

Manly’s top eight hopes were hit with this loss and Dylan Walker expected to miss another four to six weeks after a foot injury on his return from a previous six-week lay-off. 

Manly will remain at Lottoland for their match against the Warriors on Friday while the Panthers host Canberra on Saturday.

Stat of the match: 52 – In a top quality 73-minute performance, Penrith hooker Api Koroisau made 52 tackles.

Canterbury Bulldogs 16-18 Parramatta Eels

Parramatta withstood a Canterbury fightback to score another narrow victory over their rivals at ANZ Stadium. 

It seemed as the Eels were set for a comfortable win as Mitchell Moses collected a superb Junior Paulo offload to score and Clint Gutherson added a double for a 18-0 lead after 28 minutes. 

However, it will be a concern how they again nearly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory after narrowly hanging on against Manly and Canberra earlier in the season. 

Raymond Faitala-Mariner’s fourth try in five games got the Bulldogs on the board shortly after Gutherson crossed and helped build a platform for the second half. 

The momentum was with the bottom-placed side as Jake Averillo produced a remarkable diving finish in the corner and Marcelo Montoya cut the deficit further but Aidan Tolman’s decision to pass up a kickable late on put paid to the comeback.

Canterbury will travel to the Sunshine Coast to face the Storm on Saturday with the Eels finishing round 13 in Sydney against Cronulla.  

Stat of the match: 8 – The combined score of Parramatta wins against the Bulldogs in 2020 after their 8-2 win in the first match of the season. 

Melbourne Storm 26-16 Newcastle Knights

Melbourne Storm overpowered Newcastle Knights for their sixth successive victory but will be without Cameron Smith for three weeks following a shoulder injury.

The influential captain sustained the injury when crossing for a try, equalling his coach Craig Bellamy’s record of 46, in the 24th minute. 

His replacement at hooker will be Brandon Smith, who will be hoping to make a mark in his preferred position with clubs sure to be interested in his acquisition if his elder namesake chooses to carry on next year at the Storm. 

Newcastle battled gamely after losing fourth-choice hooker Chris Randall to an HIA with full-back Kayln Ponga impressing, assisting Aidan Guerra after his counterpart Ryan Papenhuyzen produced a stunning break to extend Melbourne’s lead. 

Suliasi Vunivalu and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui scored for Melbourne with young gun Bradman Best and Enari Tuala also notching for the Knights. 

The Storm will host Canterbury on Saturday with Newcastle seeking a much-needed victory against Wests Tigers the same day.

Stat of the match: 10 – Suliasi Vunivalu has now scored 10 tries in eight matches against the Knights, crossing at least once in every match. 

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