NRL round 22: What we liked and disliked from every game

Two sides were kept clean, the Sharks kept flying and the Titans finally ended their losing streak.

Here’s what we liked and disliked in Round 22 of the NRL.

Melbourne Storm 16 – 0 Penrith Panthers

What we liked: Melbourne’s wall defences

It’s been a while since we’ve seen it but the Melbourne brick wall made a comeback with their 16-0 win over the Panthers on Thursday night.

Although the Panthers ended up with 55 percent possession, the incumbent Premiers couldn’t break the storm and remained goalless on their home turf.

Melbourne conceded six penalties and nine penalties during the game but supported their defense to keep the Panthers fended off.

Some bone-jarring hits from Justin Olam and perfect management from Cameron Munster in defense were just two of the highlights for the Storm.

Harry Grant finished his 80-minute performance with a game-high 68 tackles, missing just four.

What we didn’t like: Penrith’s amazing full-back move

With Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai and James Fisher-Harris already absent, the champions were dealt a late blow on Thursday when in-form full-back Dylan Edwards was out with a sternum injury.

In his place, Penrith settled on Charlie Staines in the #1 role, and things didn’t go as planned.

Looking lost in attack, Staines was hooked with 18 minutes left by Ivan Cleary, who decided to move center Stephen Crichton to the back in a late attempt to spark a comeback.

With both Crichton and Fijian international Sunia Turuva in the squad, and both capable of playing full-back, Cleary needs to know he made that crucial selection wrong.

New Zealand Warriors 42 – 18 Canterbury Bulldogs

What we liked: Form is temporary, class is permanent

Shaun Johnson has had a rough time since returning to the Warriors but his performance at Mt Smart Stadium against the Bulldogs was good.

The veteran playmaker ended the game with two try assists, two line break assists and 73 yards as the Warriors proved too strong for a Canterbury side that have been in solid form of late.

His solo attempt towards the end of the game was a great throwback to the formative years of Johnson’s career and although it was a tough campaign and the final was out of reach, it gave the loyal fans something to cheer about.

What we didn’t like: Canterbury’s Bank

Mick Potter has done a great job since taking on the role of caretaker manager but using his bench on Friday night was confusing to say the least.

Zach Dockar-Clay only played 12 minutes, although the dogs had to watch the game on numerous occasions. A player of his skill and style needed to be used more, especially with Jeremy Marshall-King having an unusually off evening.

Chris Patolo played just 20 minutes and Jackson Topine even less, with second rower Joe Stimson the only substitute to spend more than half the game on the field.

South Sydney Rabbitohs 26 – 0 Parramatta Eels

What we liked: Latrell marches on

If there is a more influential player in rugby league right now than Latrell Mitchell, he has to be invisible.

The 25-year-old full-back was unstoppable against the Eels on Friday night, ending the game 211 yards high and three linebreaks.

Latrell also produced two line break assists and a try assist, proving he’s as damaging a baller as he runs.

South Sydney fans, it’s time to get excited for September.

What we didn’t like: Parramatta’s center

Brad Arthur hit the nail on the head after the game when he said the rabbitohs rolled through the eels.

Parramatta missed 32 tackles and conceded an extra 441 yards in Friday night’s 26-0 home loss, allowing the likes of Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker to let off some steam.

South Sydney had 12 players run the 100m, with front rower Tevita Tatola finishing 208m, continuing his strong form.

Their hopes of a run to the Premiership are hanging by a thread judging by recent performances.

Sydney Roosters 32 – 18 Cowboys from North Queensland

What we liked: Suaalii shines in another Kangaroos audition

With much talk about a potential call-up for Australia at this year’s World Cup, Joseph Suaalii didn’t spoil his chances with another brilliant performance for the Roosters.

The teenage sensation scored one try, ran 150 meters and hit two line breaks in an impressive performance.

Suaalii also scored some big hits on defense and looked to be the attacker for the Tricolor as they ran away with a big win to cement their place in the top eight.

And considering he faced Maroons winger Murray Taulagi, he’ll be spot on for the Kangaroos should Mal Meninga choose his side in the coming months.

What we didn’t like: Nanai gets quiet

Jeremiah Nanai was arguably the best forward in the NRL this year, but he had a rarely quiet game against the Roosters on Saturday.

The boom rookie has scored 16 tries this season and provided the Cowboys with plenty of X-factor but failed to cross the finish line at the SCG.

Nanai played the entire game but only managed six runs for 37 yards and missed a disappointing eight tackles.

Wests Tigers 12 – 36 Cronulla Sharks

What we liked: Cronulla’s makeshift backline firing

The Sharks started the game with fire, scoring two tries within the first 10 minutes to establish their dominance over the Tigers early on.

Nicho Hynes threaded a kick-through to Lachlan Miller to touchdown before Braydon Trindall repeated the trick on the other end for Matt Ikuvalu.

It was the setting for an impressive night for the entire Cronulla backline as every man except Ronaldo Mulitalo crossed the strip as they all ran 100 metres.

It’s a great sign that the Sharks didn’t miss a beat despite the absence of a few regulars – Will Kennedy, Siosifa Talakai and Connor Tracey – through injury.

What we didn’t like: The Tigers are sleepwalking towards the end of the year

During the opening stages, there were many moments when everything seemed a bit too easy for Cronulla. They rolled down the field scoring points at will, with Nicho Hynes pulling the strings as halfback.

After showing signs of improvement under interim manager Brett Kimmorley, the Tigers have returned to some of their distasteful performances under Michael Maguire.

No doubt the loss of Jackson Hastings has been a key reason behind their struggles over the past two weeks as they look disoriented without their leader in attack.

But with a month left in the season, the Tigers appear to be just waiting for their season to end.

Brisbane Broncos 28 – 10 Newcastle Knights

What we liked: Selwyn Cobbo returns to form

From his very first punch, which went straight into the jaws of the pack of knights, it looked like Selwyn Cobbo was ready for battle.

His trademarks have been missing lately since returning from a concussion he sustained in the Origin decider. But his power, speed and skill showed at Suncorp in a game the Broncos just had to win.

The tall winger finished with a hat-trick but the most exciting aspect will be his growing understanding of Adam Reynolds. Brisbane’s key playmaker and young gun were on the same side for his third of the evening, with a deft little chip in the corner which was devoured by Cobbo to cap a brilliant return to form.

What we didn’t like: Watching the knights try to attack

Newcastle’s efforts to keep its defensive line intact were the story of their season. They were constantly dropping points and not giving themselves a chance to win games.

They had plenty of possession against the Broncos but couldn’t do anything with it when their attack stalled. It seems that without their talisman, Kalyn Ponga, the Knights have no real idea what to do when they have the ball in good field position.

Again and again they forced repetition sets and rolled them through in the opponents’ 20m zone. They always looked like they couldn’t score.

Newcastle have plenty of weapons in their team – even without Ponga – so it will worry Adam O’Brien a great deal how lost they looked on Saturday night.

Canberra Raiders 24 – 22 St George Illawarra Dragons

What we liked: Amone and Hunt shine despite defeat

With the Dragons’ season effectively over, it’s difficult to find any silver lining from their loss to the Raiders.

However, the performances of young wild Talatau Amone and veteran Ben Hunt in the halves were certainly a bright spot.

Amone scored the first career hat-trick of his career, scoring an attempt assistant.

As for Hunt, he was at his most influential form, kicking 40/20 and 20/40 to give his team a chance.

The damage was done early on the scoreboard, however, as the Dragons left their run too late.

What we didn’t like: Raiders almost missed out on a crucial win

As the race for the finals tightened, the Raiders vs. Dragons match was practically a must.

Xavier Savage sizzled as the Canberra forwards smashed their opponents to put the home side 24-12 ahead early in the second half.

With 15 minutes left it seemed an easy result, but the Raiders gradually allowed the Dragons to regain control of the game, leading to a grandstand finish.

Zac Lomax’s missed sideline conversion was the difference between the two teams in an unexpectedly tight game.

However, at the end of the day the points went to the men in green and they still have a chance to squeeze into the top eight.

Gold Coast Titans 44 – 24 Male Sea Eagles

What we liked: Titans finally tear their streak

Gold Coast had lost 10 games in a row prior to this one and will no doubt be relieved to have broken that unwelcome streak.

In general, their attack hasn’t been too much of a problem lately, and this time they were just able to outperform their opponents.

Playing against a disjointed Manly side certainly helped, but Justin Holbrook and his side certainly won’t care how they scored.

What we didn’t like: The decline of Sea Eagles continues

The loss to the Titans marked the Sea Eagles’ fourth straight loss and all but eliminated them from the Finals this season.

It’s hard to believe that her memorable victory over the storm came just over a month ago. Since then, Manly has been in free fall.

Off-field drama certainly played its part in the team’s downfall, but recent on-field performances have also been underwhelming.

Back to the drawing board for 2023.

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