Where you finished Round 21 will come down to who made up your halves pairing for the week. On Friday night, Nathan Cleary and Shaun Johnson racked up massive scores on the same field, with Cleary in particular putting aside a few quiet weeks to steer his Panthers into sight of the finals. Sunday afternoon saw the current top four sides on show and it was Cameron Munster that stepped up highest and proved his run-home worth, tearing up the Rabbitohs at a sunny Gosford.
Outside of those, slim pickings for the rest of the HLF/FE brigade! Moses, Keary, Milford and especially DCE were a little underwhelming despite favourable matchups – although DCE was a long way from a dry Brookvale track trying to get something going in the cold, wet Auckland night.
Hopefully you found yourself on the back end of some of the big Rocker scores below and are coming home strong as we wind down with just four rounds to go!
Cowboys 14 def by Broncos/Referees/Being Terrible 18
Payne Haas (79) – One of the few forwards across the game to get any real momentum on the night, with a huge 37 hitup points. This game was a bit different to how he’s been travelling lately (base-point meat and potatoes stuff), as he looked very dangerous on his way to 7 tackle busts. With 61 minutes, there’s few as consistent as him in the SuperCoach game.
Tevita Pangai (71) – Bit-parts offloading weapon on the night, most-parts classic grub-on-grub action between him and McGuire. One of the few customary games the wannabe million-dollar man turns up for each year is this one, and he delivered for SuperCoaches in his 80 minutes on the edge. Got himself off to a good start with an offload that led to the Broncos’ first try and threw another five after that (three effective). Workrate a little down on that side, with just 20 tackles and 21 hitup points, so needs to keep that arm free.
David Fifita (78) – Streamrolled ex-teammate McGuire to level the scores in the second half, and like TPJ, played out the full 80 on the edge. Was hoping for a few quieter games off the bench in the run-home to bring his price down for 2020, but has been one of Brisbane’s best in recent weeks so that looks like it’s going out the window!
Kotoni Staggs (36) – Over the last few weeks, it seems the Cowboys left-edge defence, this time a makeshift pairing of Gela-Mosby and Coen Hess (yet again), has held relatively firm outside of a couple of carve-ups by Esan Marsters in Round 20. Staggs had what many thought was a favourable matchup on that side this week and failed to deliver, despite racking up four busts. The Broncos were awful in spreading the ball all night (how the f*** did they win this game, honestly…). Loss of goalkicking stings a little as well, with Isaako nailing them at the moment.
Michael Morgan (36) – Seems to have shaken off the head knocks with seven runs leading to a couple of offloads and 17 tackles for no misses, but has barely offered a spark in the Cowboys’ attack since his return. I’m just going to keep playing this thing until it fixes itself and works…The million-dollar playmakers in this game really didn’t deliver.
Anthony Milford (42) – Amazing that this score includes a try. A total of 12 hitups with just two of them going over 8m shows how ordinary both Milford and this game as a whole were. At least he doubled his run count from last week. Owners will surely be getting nervous now with these sorts of scores, especially in matchups like this, but I’m sure he’ll put on 50 junk time points at his beloved Suncorp at some stage in the last few rounds. #PenaltyBroncos.
The Jakes (Clifford (56) and Turpin (69)) showed up their playmaking counterparts here, providing a few highlights on an otherwise awful night for rugby league. Again, I ask for anyone that saw Clifford’s grubber for himself that led to his try, why in the hell do we have a ‘kick and regather break’ if no one is ever, ever, EVER going to be awarded it? Honestly.
Jason Taumalolo (55) again warmed the bench for over twenty minutes here. Sigh. With McGuire now out for three weeks, this surely has to change. The offload was put away with just one ineffective one here, possibly because every time one of these teams tried to do something, they fumbled it. Fair call, Lolo.
Warriors 24 def Sea Eagles 16
Ken Maumalo (96) – A couple of inch-perfect efforts to dot down in the corner had owners singing in the rain, and reinforcing this guy as a set-and-forget CTW option. 39 hitup points, 3 busts and even 5 tackle points should be enough base to satisfy even the most critical. Three errors but you can forgive those here.
Reuben Garrick (83) – Nine tries now from his past seven games after notching another double here. One of the few CTW cheapies who has kicked on consistently across the year and now has an average of around 55 and a price of $550k. Great stuff in his rookie year.
Jazz Tevaga (78) – The move back to hooker looked like it had finally caught up with the base stat beast, who was given a seven-minute rest as Kearney rotated Adam Keighran into the game. Coming into the final five minutes, his score was hovering below the 50-point mark which you wouldn’t have expected on a soggy night where tackles tended to stick (41 of them for Tevaga) and were racked up at will. So what did he do? Barged over and scored a try. The flow of the game was disrupted with a fair few errors for both teams across the night, so would probably not read too much into the base here. As a non-owner, for God’s sake Manly, could you have just held out for 5 more minutes?
Addin Fonua-Blake (77) – AFB managed to stay on the park for a huge 69 minutes here courtesy of a few reshuffles as a result of the injuries to Brad Parker and then Curtis Sironen (late in the game). Managed to rack up 7 tackle busts out there in that time and ten points in offloads, but the running game was a touch limited with just 16 of them as he conserved energy. Have to be happy with that effort as an owner. His last seven scores? 57, 63, 68, 73, 65, 48, 77. Wild ride!
Daly Cherry-Evans (29) – Outside of a linebreak, DCE was a long way from going anywhere close to a big score here as he battled an ankle injury throughout the game. Tried to run the ball a little to limited success (7 runs for 3 busts) but it was a slippery, unhappy night all around with a handful of errors. Thankfully back at Lottoland this week on Thursday night against the Tigers – hopefully the rain stays away.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (47) – Provided a real highlight with his try assist, flicking the ball off the ground in horrible conditions to everyone’s 2018 boy Ligi Sao to score, but outside of that was pretty well-contained across the night. Stalled a little these last few weeks now.
Tom Trbojevic (46) – Two weeks in a row in the Floppers. Hmm…this couldn’t possibly coincide with my purchasing of him two weeks ago, could it? Got a couple of try contributions (because he’s Turbo, I guess) but like RTS, was very well-contained across the night. Just the one bust for both fullbacks. Imagine this on a dry, sunny day? Surely not.
Manase Fainu (30) – Just the one bust in around an hour of game time seems criminally-low. Keep on racking up these scores for next year, please!
Chanel Harris-Tavita (75) has stepped up in the absence of Kodi Nikorima the last few weeks, with two try assists here, and must be wondering why they bothered with the former Bronco.
Jake Trbojevic (61) and Martin Taupau (58) both churned through the work in the middle here but didn’t do much outside of tackle and run. Expected a little more from Jurbo, with just 37 tackles to his name despite the conditions which usually suit him well. In better signs, at least the conditions stopped him from just shovelling the ball on at the line as he’s been doing the last few weeks, with 15 hitups. Up to the mark where he was at the start of the year.
Panthers 26 def Sharks 20
Nathan Cleary (139) – This can’t be the same bloke as the one who could barely make a dent in the Bulldogs defence last week, can it? Must just be Maloney’s absence. Had around a month’s worth of attacking stats in the one game here. A try, two linebreaks, two try assists, a linebreak assist, 5 goals and even three busts. Importantly, no errors to his name. Reminds us all of the quality he possesses in the game, and he’s made a habit of stringing these larger games together throughout the year when on a run. This is his first ton of the season, surprisingly.
Shaun Johnson (99) – Couldn’t quite match what Cleary was doing from the opposite side, but would have stung owners if they backed him in for a quiet one here or played him over Cleary (not often you’d be upset with a 99). His running game is crazy at the moment, with three busts, two linebreaks and even an offload as he tried to spark the Sharks back into the game. Couple of crisp try assists to his name by the end, but it was the Penrith half that stole the show.
Wade Graham (93) – How long do the attacking stats keep up? A try and a try/lb assist this week to go with his three from last week. Crazy stuff on his return. Again, the base stats are a touch low at just 44 (18 hitup points, 26 tackles, one bust) but I guess when he’s on, you don’t need to worry about that. A few pretty handy games in the run home, so maybe he is worth a punt if you need a true POD?
Brian To’o (30) – Finished the game without an attacking stat as his hitups sat at a low 12 for the game. Three games under 60 now, but to be fair, not many others in his position have been killing it consistently and he’s playing in a team that can certainly rack up points in quick time as they’ve done here. Wouldn’t be turfing just yet.
Briton Nikora (38) – Yet another game where all he really did was tackle. Just five hitups for the night which is awful for a second-rower. The re-emergence of Wade Graham into the side seems to be taking the ball away from Nikora’s side. As an owner, you’re sticking these dual CTW/2RFs into your side in the hope that their high base will shore up some scores there while you can play the more attacking players around them. He’s just not been delivering.
Viliame Kikau (41) – Oof. Got a short ten-minute spell in the second half but had a pretty dour night, with a couple of errors and seven hitups below 8m. In games where he hasn’t scored a try, his score has gone over 42 points just twice (51 against the Tigers in Round 4 and 70 against the Warriors in Round 15). That is a pretty bloody ordinary return. Thankfully the six tries he’s scored throughout the year turn his games into pretty decent affairs, and that’s what you badly need from him. Wenin’s weekly teams analysis might be useful for owners in the run home as they try to pick the right week to play him.
Andrew Fifita (47) – Relegated to the bench again for just 44 minutes and also came from the field with 8 minutes to go with what looked like a troubling knee injury yet again. With just eleven runs for the game and the one offload, it’s hard to see him being a play for the rest of the season if he’s stuck there. Thought the benching would do something to spark him after his suspensions this year but that’s not been the case.
Dylan Edwards (83) took until round 12 to notch his first score above 50 for the season, and since then has dipped below just once. Here he notched his second double for the season and looks settled once again at the back.
James Fisher-Harris (58) had a surprisingly-down night in terms of base output, despite 80 minutes on the park. Guess he didn’t need to be tackling or running too much when his halves and fullback were tearing it up.
Bronson Xerri (52) had his running shoes on here, with 15 hitups, 5 busts and two offloads, but unfortunately, all it led to was a try contribution. The big scores seem like they still might be frequent in the run-home with the way the Sharks are now structuring their attack down that left-edge with Graham in form.
Dragons 40 def Titans 28
Gareth Widdop (104) – Imagine having the trades in hand at the back end of the year to be bringing in this sort of player just for his matchups against the Titans? If you have the option in Round 25 when they line up again, you’d surely do it based on this! Three assists, six goals (in tough conditions – great vision watching James Graham old-school hold the ball steady on the tee for him from the sideline) and even a linebreak of his own despite just three runs. Hopefully signing off from the NRL in style after such a disrupted year.
Cameron McInnes (99) – Sparked to life in the second half, finding a rampaging Tariq Sims close to the line with a great short ball before breaking the line himself very late in the piece. Tackle count was again the highest amongst his SuperCoach peers (Smith and Cook) with 47, just another day out for him. He’s been looking very dangerous each time he runs the ball in 2019.
Jai Arrow (47) – Tough to put him in the floppers after such a long layoff with ankle injuries, but he was eased back here with just 52 minutes. Hopefully that climbs as the year winds out, as he looked his usual busy self out there despite having to stand behind the tryline for much of it. Outside of a couple of busts, this was all base. A bit like Nathan Brown – you’re relying on his coach leaving him out there for long enough to get a big score. With just 11k other owners, could be a punt worth taking if you’re desperate?
In a game where defence was optional, there were always going to be some massive scores from unusual suspects. Without spending too much time on them – Tariq Sims (109) and Phillip Sami (103) got doubles, while Ben Hunt (99), Brian Kelly (99), Paul Vaughan (90), Euan Aitken (77) and Tyson Frizell (74) all crossed the stripe on their way to big scores.
Even Carty (39) managed to get a freak offload away that led to a try. Both these sides just look like leaking SuperCoach points in the run home, so keep an eye out for captaincy options.
Eels 20 def Knights 14
Manu Ma’u (82) – Strolled his way through the line in the second half to register a linebreak, but it was his base stat output that was again the most impressive, with 30 tackles, 5 busts and 22 hitup points which is great on the edge. There were some doubts over his willingness to look for work based on previous years and the fact he’s off to the Super League at year’s end but has continued to deliver here and has now scored 64+ every game he’s played since Round 14. Owners may have had their hearts in their mouths at the very end here, with Ma’u taking a swipe at David Klemmer with the ball in hand with a minute on the clock that could have seen both binned if the referees were feeling that way inclined. Thankfully, it was a penalty to the Eels and they wound out the game with a penalty goal.
Maika Sivo (47) – Despite latching onto a grubber to dot down in the second half, he was again well-contained by the Knights coming out of his own end. Very rarely given the ball in decent attacking space, with a couple of shifts wide falling just short. Plays the Titans this week so you would hope they decide to target his edge with the ball in hand – but who knows, the Titans will probably open the floodgates through the middle and let Brown, Gower and Alvaro score doubles.
Mitchell Pearce (29) – Jeez. Got a try assist here too.
Kalyn Ponga (41) – Well it’s now two games in a row where he’s fallen into this category after that seeming impossible given his run of SuperCoach form at fullback. Whether it’s trying too hard, getting fatigued after a big season or just being a little out of form himself, something doesn’t seem quite right here. Cowboys, Tigers, Titans and Panthers aren’t crazily-difficult games in the run-home so doubt many will be shelving him, regardless of his recent form.
Nathan Brown (70) and David Klemmer (70) took the game on through the middle for their sides and got through a fair chunk of work. In terms of minutes, there was a clear winner between the two, with Brown notching a rare 80-minute effort despite a four-forward bench rotation. Klemmer, meanwhile, just got the 57 which is again a touch down on where he should be after a 54-minute game last week.
Mitchell Moses (70) and Clint Gutherson (56) formed a dynamic duo in the first half, with two Moses kicks leading to two Gutho tries. While Moses kicked on a little with some strong runs that almost looked like breaking through (5 busts and an offload), Gutho had a horrendous base stat day out. Another shift to hooker to accommodate the benched/tryscoring Reed Mahoney (81) mid-game for around 20 minutes saw him take very few (if any?) runs in this time. So little was his output in the second half that I think he notched only around 3 points for the 40 minutes. Crazy.
Waqa Blake (42) looks like slowly warming to his time in the yellow jersey, but doesn’t appear to be an option based on current stats.
Bulldogs 18 def Tigers 16
Ryan Matterson (92) – Will take further responsibility for this score here after I benched Matto for this game. Had seen one, maybe two attacking stats over the last month or so, and figured it would be a similar outing here against the big Bulldogs forwards. Not to be, with Matto racing out of the blocks and busting two tackles, forcing a dropout, throwing two offloads and breaking the line. All mixed in with some very handy base in a high 76 minutes of gametime. A big improvement on the 60-ish minutes he’s been getting since moving to lock, and largely due to the mid-game injuries suffered to Farah, Mbye and the sinbinning of Luke Garner.
Robbie Farah (16) – Career looks like it may have come to an abrupt end after suffering a fractured tibia in this game. Very unfortunate news. Fingers crossed the recovery comes about quicker than expected and he gets a proper farewell.
Esan Marsters (44) – A reasonable-enough 13 runs for the game, and many of them were crabbing across the field as he can do with success at times, or at least was doing so in 2018. Didn’t amount to much here, with two busts seeming a little lower than what I’d expected, but again the Bulldogs muscled up reasonably well for the second week in a row. Is he even a play on matchups anymore?
Aiden Tolman (69) could be firming as a mid-range starting option next year on the back of some base-heavy games these last few weeks.
Luke Brooks (99) tried his best to spark the Tigers to life in the game but despite three linebreak assist and two try assists, couldn’t land the crucial blows when needed. A 5RA of 73 is handy, but only 4k owners have been able to enjoy it.
Luke Garner (71) was binned in the second-worst decision of the night (the next was a binning to the Bulldogs’ Chris Smith for an even more innocuous ‘late hit’). Despite this, the early-round cheapie still managed another handy score courtesy of darting through untouched off a piece of Benji magic. Sadly for the Tigers, Paul Momirovski (101) then capped off a rollercoaster night by shanking the conversion that would have levelled the game after he’d hit the post earlier after notching a double of his own. Tough stuff, this NRL business.
Raiders 18 def by Roosters 22
James Tedesco (82) – After breaking the line to set up the Roosters’ opening try, it seemed like Teddy was on course for a repeat of his demolition of the Titans the previous week. He quietened down a little as the game steadied, copping a knock to the head that opened him up but thankfully didn’t take him from the field. Outside of a few strong runs, his only other real highlight for the game was his incredible offload as he was falling to the ground to launch the ball into Daniel Tupou’s hands out wide for his second. This guy’s been stuck on God-mode since pre-Origin.
John Bateman (80) – Until Teddy came along in the second half with that try assist, Bateman looked like getting play-of-the-day for his effort to create something out of nothing – getting the ball flat-footed after the Raiders bumbled around on the right edge, he charged into three defenders before somehow squeezing a flick pass offload to the waiting Rapana to crash over. How good is he. Loved his running battle out wide with Latrell Mitchell – couple of decent hotheads there.
Josh Hodgson (78) – More craftiness from the Englishman who set up a couple of the Raiders’ tries and even lifted his base game up – 36 tackles (albeit with 7 misses) and 6 runs out of dummy half. This is exactly the type of form we thought he would come into the year with, but it seems it took a decent injury layoff into the back end of the year for it to start showing regularly.
Angus Crichton (74) – Has looked decidedly more involved these last few weeks since finding a home in the starting second row and has been delivering with a score of 80 last week. He again backed up those strong runs last week with the same number above 8m here (10). Only the bravest would have, or would be, jumping on at this stage, with no clue as to how he fits into the pack in the run home, but at least for now this is looking a little more like the Angus of old.
Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad (32) – Not a fantastic afternoon by his standards this season, spilling a bomb that led to the Latrell Mitchell try in the first half and being well-contained coming out of his own field by the Roosters’ defence. The 88 and 111 he put on in Rounds 15 and 17 look a fair way off now, failing to crack 50 points in his last four outings.
Joseph Tapine (69) has been getting over an hour on the park the last couple of weeks and has proven pretty tough to bring down – 6 busts here and he looked very dangerous close to the line. Another one rekindling a bit of 2018 form at the back end of the year.
Jordan Rapana (46) got a gift offload from Bateman to cut through and score but outside of that gave away two penalties and two errors in a quiet afternoon.
Speaking of quiet, Luke Keary (53) continued his up-and-down last 5 rounds with a middling score – will feature in the highlight reels for being on the end of an insane fend from Johnny Bateman that looked about as good as I could do at 85kg trying to tackle.
Josh Papalii (71) has benefited from a couple of tries over the last two weeks to see his scores go quite large but in this case, it was a pretty solid outing in base from just 50-odd minutes that got him to this score. He looks in great form at the moment which is good signs for the Raiders and for late-season POD hunters. Only drawback is those minutes, they seem to be capped at 55 at best.
Rabbitohs 16 def by Storm 26
Cameron Munster (127) – He either gets 40s or he tons up. Seems to be the way this year for Munster who averages 73 this year despite 8 scores below 51. A try of his own and then a late try assist where he grubbered through were his only attacking stats in those columns, but he contributed in a big way to Melbourne’s ridiculous 10 linebreaks for the afternoon, adding three of them as the Bunnies’ right-side defence opened up alarmingly for him at times. 9 tackle busts here shows he’s in pretty good nick and finally showing some of that Origin running game despite not being at fullback. God help the Titans in a couple of weeks.
Cameron Smith (100) – Smith has a century strike rate recently that matches his namesake in the Australian cricket team. Last 5 scores read 101, 102, 53, 108 and 100. A shame he doesn’t kick on with it after raising the bat. An early short ball to a charging JBrom set the tone for the afternoon but his 39 points from tackles was what helped lift him up here. Helps also when you can boot 5 goals from 6 when your team is scoring at will.
Damien Cook (50) – Just the two runs for the afternoon is not ideal, although his opposite number managed only one more than that anyway. Souths never really got on a roll and you thought it may have had to come through his hands, but they were too good at slowing the ruck down as they always are and getting numbers there. This is now his 7th score in the 50s for the year. In terms of the effectiveness of his running game, he’s been getting outpointed in that area by Cam McInnes since Origin.
Campbell Graham (110) helped himself to all of his side’s three tries – if only the injured Braidon Burns managed to make it out there for owners!
Cam Murray (62) again got over 60 minutes of gametime which you’ve got to be comfortable with as an owner. Cody Walker (64) helped spark a little bit for the Rabbits with three linebreak assists and two try assists in signs that he’s warming somewhat closer to his early-round form which is great to see.
Special shoutout to Corey Allan (1) for bothering the stats guys with his one run in fourteen minutes. Hopefully no one got killed by him as your AE but would love to hear it to make me feel a little better after a disaster of a year in this game! Our mailman Stilesy is killing it this year, but suffered some delayed-onset Allan disease by virtue of this score. He’s now $100 short of trading him/Staggs out to Manu Ma’u. Lel.
Injuries & Suspensions
Brad Parker (Knee) was forced to hobble from the field after copping a knee injury from a tap restart. One of the weirder ones. Along with Curtis Sironen (Hamstring), he’ll be out 1-2 weeks.
Matt Prior (Ribs) and Andrew Fifita (Knee) copped knocks in the Sharks’ loss to the Panthers. Fifita is hopeful of the issue being a minor one and could be right to go this week, while Prior could be out for a couple of weeks as his pain is managed.
On Sunday, Adam Reynolds (Back) looked in a deal of pain with another back problem. No word yet on how severe this one may be – he did play the game out, but only because Souths had no interchanges left…
Robbie Farah (Knee) may have unfortunately played his last game in the NRL, with a fracture of his tibia possibly having him on the sidelines recovering for at least 6 weeks. Moses Mbye (Thigh) also came from the field with a strain and could still be right for this week based on early scan results.
Sam Verrils (Knee) looked in a great deal of pain after having his leg stick into the ground in a tackle but hopefully has just copped a knock there and should be right for next week.
A series of pre-game scratchings this week, with Jahrome Hughes (Back – again), Brandon Smith (ankle), Ryan Papenhuyzen (Foot), Braidon Burns (Hamstring – again), Jordan Mclean (Calf) and Sam Burgess (Quad soreness) failing to make it out on the weekend. Of these, Burns may suffer the most given the hamstring strain is a recurrence of the issue that saw him sidelined already this year for an extended period. Brandon Smith also looks set for around a month on the sidelines, having him hopefully fresh for the finals.
Josh McGuire (Contrary Conduct – 3 weeks) finally had his track record catch up with him, despite his latest eye gouging indiscretion appearing the most innocuous of all. Hopefully out of all this, Taumalolo gets some much-deserved bigger stints on the park.
Luke Garner and Chris Smith (Dangerous Contact) were laughably charged after their soft hits after their opponents had passed the ball were ruled worthy of a grade 1 charge as well as their in-game sinbinning. They will avoid suspension with an early guilty plea.
As will the Titans’ Brian Kelly (Dangerous Throw) and Tyrone Peachey (High Tackle) and the Raiders’ Elliott Whitehead (Dangerous Contact) who will play next week with the early guilty plea on their charges.