NRL round 8: What we liked and disliked from every game

There were big upsets along with blowouts in what was a highly dramatic round of NRL.

The Roosters, Raiders and Knights both sunk to new lows, though it was the Tricolours defeat to the Bulldogs which was the big talking point over the weekend.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys and Dragons are two teams who continued to impress with another win over the weekend.

Here’s everything we liked and disliked from round eight.

Brisbane Broncos 16 – 7 Cronulla Sharks

What we liked: Staggs wins battle against Talakai

With both flyers competing for a Blues jersey, it was Kotoni Staggs who got the upper hand over Siosifa Talakai with a commanding performance.

Staggs beat Talakai to score the Broncos opening try in the corner just before half-time, and also forced an error from his rival in the opening stages of the match.

It might just be enough for Staggs to secure the NSW Origin gig over Talakai.

What we disliked: Sharks continue on from poor finish last week

The Sharks dominated last week’s first half against Manly, but almost ground to a halt in the second half, giving the Sea Eagles a sniff before holding on to win.

Favoured to win on the road against the Broncos, the Sharks struggled to get going, and if it wasn’t for a piece of individual brilliance from Matt Moylan, would have remained try-less throughout the contest.

Despite still being in fourth on the ladder, Cronulla are going to need significant improvement to be a premiership challenger.

Penrith Panthers 18 – 4 Gold Coast Titans 

What we liked: Brimson’s return to fullback

AJ Brimson looked remarkably comfortable at fullback against the Panthers and will give Titans coach Justin Holbrook some selection dilemmas for the coming weeks. 

Moved out of the halves, Brimson was able to contribute in attack and defence for his side. 

He was confident under the high ball, zippy in his runs, and robust in tackles.

His stats weren’t mind-boggling, but he undoubtedly had a positive impact, notably in the first half.

What we disliked: Fifita bench experiment

David Fifita was moved to the bench in a move that focused on extracting ‘quality’ rather than ‘quantity’ from the Titan’s million-dollar man.

The decision was reminiscent of the Cowboys reducing Jason Taumalolo’s minutes last season in an attempt to maximize his effectiveness. 

Fifita played 45 minutes but only had eight runs in a bizarre cameo.

Expect the Titans big man to return to the starting 13 next week.  

South Sydney Rabbitohs 40 – 22 Manly Sea Eagles

What we liked: Sea Eagles’ perseverance after going down to 12 men

Having a player sent off eight minutes into a match is far from ideal, but the Manly Sea Eagles put on a very respectable display following the dismissal of Karl Lawton. 

It’s not only a huge physical challenge to compete one player down, but a mental one too. 

It was arguably inevitable that the Rabbitohs would go on to win the match, but the boys from Brookvale didn’t give up, only trailing by two points heading into the sheds at halftime. 

Sure, they lost by 18. But it could have been so much worse.

What we disliked: Lawton’s tackle

It was extremely difficult to watch Karl Lawton’s tackle on Cameron Murray. 

Even if it wasn’t done with genuine malice, a send-off was the only option. 

The driving force into the ground once Murray was in a dangerous position is an absolute no-no in rugby league. Nick Cotric was sent off for a similar tackle in 2019. 

It’s so important that the right message is sent to players – and fans – about dangerous tackles like that.

New Zealand Warriors 21 – 20 Canberra Raiders

What we liked: Dream come true for Daejarn Asi

A week ago, Daejarn Asi was a back-up at the Cowboys and stuck behind plenty of in-form players.

Fast-forward to Saturday afternoon in Redcliffe, the New Zealand-born playmaker stepped up and produced a stellar display for his new club.

Asi grew up a huge Warriors fan, with a photo surfacing prior to the game of him waving the flag as a kid, and looked right at home in his new colours.

The 21-year-old set up two tries and defended admirably across the 80-plus minutes, coming up with some bone-rattling and crucial tackles close to the Warriors line. 

Warriors coach Nathan Brown was full of praise for the young backline utility following the narrow win. 

“He created a nice try for Euan and kicked for a nice try…if he didn’t get here, maybe we wouldn’t have won the game,” he said.

“Daejarn is a young kid that has got talent – that’s why he was at the Cowboys for so long and that’s why we have bought him to the club.

“Daejarn just has to work out himself what type of player he wants to be and what level he wants to get to.

“If he really knuckles down, he has certainly got the talent to make a career for himself.”

What we disliked: Both teams’ discipline

This was not a pretty game to watch. To be brutally honest, it was horrible and neither team looked like they wanted to win it. 

Both the Raiders and Warriors struggled with their ball-control, with a total of 35 errors across the course of the game. 

Warriors in particular had an awful completion rate of 58 per-cent, while the Raiders completed at under 70 per-cent by the time the game ended.

Canberra gave away eight penalties and New Zealand conceded seven in what was a rollercoaster, coach-killing 80 minutes of football. 

To sum this game up, Tom Starling threw a forward pass in golden-point and allowed Shaun Johnson to step up and kick the game-winning field-goal. 

Ricky Stuart will again be frustrated by his side’s lack of ability to go on with the game in the second-half. 

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 16 – 12 Sydney Roosters

What we liked: Rocks and diamonds Bulldogs stars come up clutch

Matt Dufty and Tevita Pangai Junior are two of the more frustrating players to watch if you’re a Bulldogs fan – but both men made up for their earlier mistakes against the Roosters.

Dufty came up with an error, a penalty for back-chatting the referee and also got dragged into touch, with his errors leading directly to tries for the opposition.

But with the game on the line, the 26-year-old came up with a stunning pass to set up Jayden Okunbor’s try. Dufty also ran for 149 metres and didn’t shy away from the contest despite his earlier mistakes.

Pangai gave away three silly penalties and a couple of risky offloads, but he took the game right to Victor Radley – similar to how he did last year while playing for Brisbane.

The second-rower finished with 118 run metres and 30 tackles, and his final play of the game was a tackle on Radley that forced an error.

After so much criticism in recent weeks, you can’t help but feel happy for Trent Barrett and his struggling side. 

What we disliked: Manu the mouse

For a man who is the best centre in the game, Joey Manu was barely sighted on Saturday night against Canterbury and went missing when his side needed him most. 

The 25-year-old finished with just five runs for 51 metres, with four of those carries coming inside the final quarter of the game.

Manu is one of the Roosters’ best attacking weapons, but barely saw any good ball and was well-handled by young gun Aaron Schoupp.

And there was certainly one moment that Manu will live to regret late in the game. 

After it looked like Joseph Suaalii had scored a match-levelling try, Manu mouthed off at Schoupp and the pair got into a bit of a push-and-shove.

Moments later, the try was overturned and Manu looked extremely silly considering his lack of involvement and the victory for the Bulldogs. 

North Queensland Cowboys 35 – 4 Parramatta Eels

What we liked: Have we travelled back to 2015?

North Queensland had been in good form so far this year – but if anyone says they saw this performance agaisnt the Eels coming, they are lying to themselves.

After turning it on against some lower-ranked sides and putting themselves into the top-half of the competition, Todd Payten’s side came up against their biggest test of the season and passed with flying colours.

Kyle Feldt crossed for a hat-trick, Scott Drinkwater had a hand in multiple tries and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow made an exciting cameo in his return from a knee injury to cap off a huge win for the Cowboys with plenty of attacking highlights.

But perhaps the most pleasing area of the Cowboys’ performance was their defence. Parramatta love to throw the ball around and can pile on the points like few teams – but North Queensland leaked just one try despite finishing the game with less possession than the Eels.

Payten will be grinning from ear to ear after that display – and his side have well and truly cemented themselves as a force to be reckoned with in 2022. 

What we disliked: Arthur’s tough night

Jake Arthur would have already been feeling a bit of pressure for the Eels – and his display against the Cowboys certainly won’t help his confidence.

The son of Eels coach Brad Arthur, the 19-year-old has been moved into the five-eighth role in the past two weeks, with Dylan Brown playing in the centres to cover for a backline injury crisis.

Brown was arguably the in-form No.6 of the competition before being moved out wide, and while it worked against a legless Knights outfit last round, it was a glaring issue to have Arthur in the halves against the in-form Cowboys.

Arthur struggled to have any real impact on the game, running for just 13 metres and failing to register a single attacking stat. He also added pressure to Mitchell Moses, with the halfback forced to take on the majority of the workload when it came to general-play kicking.

This isn’t Jake’s fault. He’s still a kid learning his game and should be honing his craft in NSW Cup or even Jersey Flegg, considering he is still eligible to play in the U21s competition.

To have him out there in the halves while an established five-eighth in Brown is being wasted in the centres is poor coaching – and it’s coming from his own father. 

Newcastle Knights 2-50 Melbourne Storm

What we liked: Storm’s unheralded workhorses

A lot gets made about Melbourne’s jaw-dropping attack, and rightfully so after scoring a mesmerising 120 points in the last fortnight.

The side’s stacked spine often get the accolades but it’s time to put the spotlight on some of the lesser heralded players in Craig Bellamy’s side.

Take new recruit Josh King, for example, who ran 24 times for 212 metres, and winger Nick Meaney, who churned out 166 metres and broke the line four times.

Their capability to blow teams away as we saw again on Sunday is simply staggering, but the work that gets done for Melbourne to be in the position to pile on the points was equally as impressive from this win in Newcastle. 

What we disliked: Coach killer galore for O’Brien

Sometimes when it rains it pours on a rugby league field when you’re out of form and that’s most definitely the case for the Knights at the moment.

Right from the start it was clear Newcastle’s heads weren’t in the game against Melbourne, with Jake Clifford kicking it out on the full at kick-off.

10 minutes later, the Knights playmaker sprayed another one at the end of a set about 15 metres into the stands in what turned out to be a nightmare first half.

It didn’t improve in the second half either, with a mix up at kick-off from Edrick Lee seeing the Steeden roll dead, gifting the Storm possession.

When it wasn’t these types of blunders, discipline with the ball and attacking execution were all over the shop from Adam O’Brien’s men, who committed a total of 13 errors in the game.

The Knights are in a serious rut at the moment and pressure is quickly mounting on O’Brien to find a solution.

St George-Illawarra Dragons 12-6 Wests Tigers

What we liked: Dragons grit

The Dragons showed incredible bravery and resolve throughout what was an intense 80 minutes against the Tigers.

The Tigers had the run of possessions, completions and penalties and had more tackles inside 20 metres, but the Red V wall turned them away time and time again.

A crucial period late in the second half when the Tigers had four repeat sets but were unable to crack their opponents will be seen as the defining point in the match.

The Dragons of old would’ve eventually surrendered, but Anthony Griffin’s side also managed to turn defence into attack, scoring back-to-back tries in the second half after spending plenty of time defending their line.

What we disliked: Execution lets Tigers down

The Tigers attack has been on song over the last two weeks but was arguably what let them down on Sunday night.

Michael Maguire’s men were on top in just about all fundamental stats in the game with the ball in hand, and had the Red V on their knees on several occasions but failed to come away with the finishing touch.

The Tigers iced the key moments in the wins against the Eels and Rabbitohs last fortnight but that was the key difference between the two teams on Sunday where they fell short.

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