NRL talking points: Katoa hat-trick, Trbojevic injury & Panthers bounce back

We discuss the main talking points from round six of the NRL campaign.

Newcastle 27-6 Brisbane 

Newcastle eased past a disappointing Brisbane in a scrappy affair in the Central Coast on Thursday night. 

Their pack dominated one of the best young forward packs which saw the return of Tevita Pangai Junior but it was David Klemmer and Daniel Saifiti who laid the platform. 

The latter capped off a great performance where he ran for 226 metres with seven tackle breaks by scoring a try shortly half-time. 

Previously used in a utility role, Kurt Mann has now been consistently operating at five-eighth for the Knights in his first extended run in one position since 2015 and continued his career-best form with the first try and his fifth try assist of 2020. 

As for the Broncos, they remain winless since the restart. They are giving away more penalties (eight a game) and more six-again ruck infringements (six per game) than any other team.

Newcastle will want another victory when they face the Cowboys while the Broncos face an interesting challenge against the Titans in round seven. 

Stat of the match: 2 – Times since 1991 that the Broncos have failed to make the finals.

South Sydney 40-12 New Zealand Warriors

The Rabbitohs made it consecutive wins by beating the Warriors.

Latrell Mitchell created two tries for South Sydney. For the Warriors, they were stunned by the news of coach Stephen Kearney’s departure with two years remaining on his contract. 

The New Zealander had been in charge since 2017, leading them to the finals in his second season but had overseen 19 losses in the last 30 matches. 

This campaign had seen them record two wins albeit in difficult circumstances having to move to Australia in order to play. Warriors assistant coach Todd Payten said: ‘”I’m assuming it was the performance on Friday. It was out of the blue. Very surprising and shocking.”

Cody Walker, who capped his 100th NRL game with a try and two assists, will look for more when they face the Panthers while Payten’s first game in interim charge of the Warriors will be against the Storm. 

Stat of the match: 26 – The age of Cody Walker when he made his NRL debut.

Penrith 21-14 Melbourne

Penrith bounced back from their narrow loss to Parramatta by edging past the Storm. 

Boosted by the return of full-back Dylan Edwards, they secured just their third victory over Melbourne since 2006 when Viliame Kikau burst over with Nathan Cleary converting and adding a late drop goal. 

After surrendering another led to be at 14-14, this time the Panthers kicked on to seal a deserved win, despite not receiving a six-again call for the second time in four weeks. 

As for Melbourne, it was a disappointing display but the main news coming out of their camp was that coach Craig Bellamy announced 2021 could be his last as a coach, he said: “I’m 62 this year so next year will probably be it for head coaching…it’s a young man’s game now.”

The Panthers will kick off round seven against South Sydney with the Storm looking to gain points the following day against the Warriors. 

Stat of the match: 1- The Panthers are the first team to win without receiving a single six again call.

Gold Coast 8-20 St George Illawarra

St George Illawarra made it two successive victories by beating fellow strugglers Gold Coast. 

They are now 12th on the ladder after an important two weeks marking their first back-to-back wins since round six last year. 

Paul McGregor’s positional changes appear to be paying off with halves Corey Norman and Adam Clune impressing.

As for the Titans, they battled gamely, finishing with one sub after Phillip Sami (hamstring) and centre Young Tonumaipea (knee) both succumbed to injury in the second half.

The Titans play Brisbane next week with the Dragons facing arguably the toughest test of all against the Roosters. 

Stat of the match: 4 – The most successive wins St George Illawarra managed last season but they face the Roosters, Raiders and Sea Eagles in their next three.  

Wests 36-20 North Queensland

A first half points fest allowed Wests to survive a North Queensland fightback and seal an important win. 

Michael Maguire’s side led 34-0 at the interval, equalling their biggest first half lead, with six different try scorers and hooker Harry Grant again showed his importance with a try assist, 95 metres and 42 tackles. 

Despite the scoreline, remarkably the Cowboys had more than double the amount of play-the-balls in the attacking red-zone than the Tigers in the first half and fought back to give the score a respectable look including three tries in seven minutes. 

Both sides were hampered by injuries with the Tigers losing Alex Twal, Robert Jennings and Zane Musgrove and the Cowboys already without Valentine Holmes, Jordan McLean, John Asiata and Michael Morgan.

Next week the Tigers face Canterbury in the last game of the round with North Queensland playing Newcastle. 

Stat of the match: 6 – The number of top eight sides North Queensland face in the next six weeks.

Sydney 24-10 Parramatta 

Sydney Roosters showed it will take a special effort to beat them in the remainder of the season as they snuck past the Eels. 

Despite the loss of James Tedesco to injury, the Roosters confirmed a fourth consecutive win with late tries from Boyd Cordner and Daniel Tupou. 

Impressive Parramatta defence kept the score to just 6-0 at half-time but tries from Michael Jennings (his 150th in the NRL), Maika Sivo saw them lead by two and they looked in the ascendancy with the Dally M medalist’s injury. 

Although they could not hold on to start a season with six straight wins, they showed enough to consider them serious contenders for the Premiership. 

The Roosters, likely to be without Tedesco, will look to extend their winning run against the Dragons while the Eels will face Canberra. 

Stat of the match: 8 – The Roosters’ longest winning run of games in 2019. 

Canberra 6-14 Manly

Manly overcame a host of injuries to claim a gutsy win over the Raiders. 

They edged to a victory which Des Hasler called ‘one of the best’ as Dylan Walker and Brad Parker were injured in the first half with Tom Trbojevic later joining them. 

A hamstring injury is particularly worrying for Tom Trbojevic, who had scored and set up a try apiece, as it caused him to miss 15 matches last season for a side who are also missing Martin Taupau, Moses Suli and Jorge Taufua. 

Only six points against a weakened team will disappoint Raiders coach Ricky Stuart who have scored just 104 points this season, and not more than 24 in a single game. 

In round seven, they face contenders Parramatta with Manly playing the Sharks in the following game. 

Stat of the match: 3 – The numbers of teams who scored more than the Raiders’ 524 last season. 

Cronulla 20-18 Canterbury

Sione Katoa scored his first career hat-trick as Cronulla narrowly gained an important victory over Canterbury. 

He opened the scoring before adding two more in a devastating four minute spell shortly after half-time. 

Cronulla halves Shaun Johnson and Chad Townsend grabbed two assists each with the latter recording his first this season. 

Canterbury’s Christian Crichton had seemingly set up a grandstand finish, with Kieran Foran having scored his first try since returning from a lengthy injury lay-off but the Sharks held on. 

The Sharks face an injury-hit Manly next with the Bulldogs up against West Tigers to finish the round. 

Stat of the match: 8 – The number of try assists Shaun Johnson has in 2020, more than anyone else. 

By Sam Harris

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