NRL Winners and Losers – Round 7
Before the Round 8 fixtures, we take a look back on the winners and losers of Round 7.
Winner: The ANZAC Day Matches
Once again, we honour the ANZACs, paying homage to the bravery of those who fought to protect our way of life.
The ANZAC day matches – Roosters v Dragons and Melbourne v Warriors – lived up to the billing, despite the events seeming small compared to the magnitude of what the day represents for Australia and New Zealand.
While the first half of the Roosters v Dragons was one sided. The second half saw the Dragons make a roaring comeback, only to fall short after one final Roosters try iced the game.
The second match was even more entertaining. The Warriors led the Storm for most of the game until a goal kick and Brodie Croft field within the final five minutes gave the Storm a win.
Loser: The Unlucky Underdogs
The Dragons and Warriors walked away feeling unlucky after they came so close to upsetting the two best teams in the competition.
The Warriors will feel particularly proud of their efforts. Nobody gave them a chance heading into the match, especially with captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck out injured.
Pita Hiku played admirably in the fullback role and the defence went to a level we had yet to see from the team in 2019. Both teams will hold their heads high going into round 8.
The Panthers can also be thrown into this category, in their game against the Rabbitohs. For the first time this season, the Panthers seemed determined to win. They even looked likely to win at certain stages of the match, but the Rabbitohs were too classy in the end.
While there were good signs in this game, doubt still remains over last year’s NSW Origin halves combination. Freddy Fittler will be nervously awaiting a form jump before selecting Nathan Cleary and James Maloney in his Game 1 Origin squad. Players like Luke Keary, Cody Walker, and Adam Reynolds have made strong cases in the opening seven rounds.
Winner: The Tigers’ Backline
The Tigers were down by 14 against the Titans and looked out of sorts after last week’s thrashing to the Eels.
Some great goal line attack, courtesy of the the Tigers backs lifted them to 30 unanswered points and an important win. Esan Masters and Mahe Fonua were unstoppable on the right edge – Fonua scored a hatrick in his best game of the season.
Masters and Fonua looked back to their 2018 scintillating form. Moses Mbye, Luke Brooks, and Robert Jennings also had strong showings. All those players were involved in at least one try.
Loser: Josh Reynolds
Once again, Reynolds looks set to miss significant time due to injury. Over the last two years, the five-eighth has struggled to stay on the paddock. And while he made some errors in the five minutes he was on the field, no one can question his determination and toughness.
After Reynolds suffered the MCL injury, he attempted to tackle the Titans ball carrier while hopping on one leg. Not many players would show that kind of commitment in a round 7 fixture.
Winner: The Broncos (finally)
The Broncos finally looked like the team we expected to see in 2019, albeit against an injury-riddled Sharks team. The Broncos laid a great platform for themselves in their run metres – 10 of their 17 players ran for over 100 metres in an all-round team effort.
The forwards were dominant, and outside backs Jack Bird and Corey Oates continue a convincing campaign for origin selection.
Halfback Kodi Nikorima will sit out this week’s clash with the Rabbitohs, with reports suggesting he will leave the club to play for the New Zealand Warriors. That gives 18-year-old Tom Dearden a chance to claim ownership of the role. Dearden is touted as a future star of the league.
Loser: The Sharks
Early in Saturday’s game, the Sharks lost another key player to injury – Shaun Johnson. The 2019 star recruit is set to miss 4-6 weeks with a torn hamstring.
Already on the sidelines are Matt Moylan, Wade Graham, and Aaron Woods.
The next few weeks will be challenging for the Sharks as their depth continues to be tested.
Winner: Lachlan Croker
On Sunday, Lachlan Croker made his return to the Manly Sea Eagles as the starting five-eighth. That was almost exactly a full year since he tore his ACL.
Croker scored two tries, and led the Sea Eagles to victory after his halves partner, Daly Cherry-Evans, exited the game with an ankle injury.
DCE will miss at least a month due to that injury, and now Croker will be tasked with leading the playmaking duties. For better or worse, Des Hasler will find out what he has in Croker over the next month.
Loser: The Maroons
Daly Cherry-Evans’ right syndesmosis injury looks likely to keep him out of Origin Game 1. A devastating blow for the Manly halfback, considering he was the favourite to take over Greg Inglis as the next captain of the QLD Maroons.
Maroons coach Kevin Walter will be frustrated after Greg Inglis’ retirement, and the latest injuries to DCE and Jake Friend. While Michael Morgan and Ben Hunt are capable of filling those voids, the question of who will be captain lingers.
Will Walters choose a short-term option for Game 1 and hand it to DCE upon his return, or will he look to a bolter as a capable long-term option?