NRL Round 3 Talking Points

Round 3 NRL was quite an entertaining package, with some great matches between well-matched teams. Here are your talking points from the weekend.

Remove the Stone of Shame and Attach the Stone of Triumph
Last week I went pretty hard at Parramatta’s Ray Stone for a cannonball tackle that cost his side the game against Cronulla, so this week I have to pay respect to his winning games in Melbourne.

Stone’s and us efforts to follow through and put together a field goal attempt from Mitch Moses to score the winner more than made amends for last week’s clash. As of this writing, no official announcement has been made on the extent of the knee injury, but it looks like an ACL injury, which would be a real shame.

Eels vs Melbourne was the game of the year
Stone’s late heroics won the day, but the match itself was an intense, high-quality battle from the kick-off.

There were memorable moments all around – Waqa Blake lines up and rolls Ryan Papenhuyzen for a try, Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Junior Paulo combining for 389 yards and 60 tackles, Cameron Munster’s glorious cross kick for a Nick Meaney flying, Brandon Smith coming back early with a broken hand to make the break and set up the Storm’s last minute equalizer… I could go on!

Melbourne and Parramatta put together a whole portfolio of memorable clashes. Long may it continue.

These are not “brain blasts”, these are dirty deeds
‘Not his shot’, ‘something he worked hard to get out of his game’, ‘an accident’ – you name it, we’ve heard all the usual excuses for Newcastle striker Mitch Barnett hitting Penrith’s unsuspecting ball Chris Smith, who left the field and did not return. Referee Peter Gough made the right choice, Barnett was sent straight to NRL justice where he could be looking at between 4 and 8 weeks.

Melbourne’s Nelson Asofa-Solomona can thank the NRL’s pre-season judicial changes for only fining $1,000 (if he pleads guilty) for a ‘reckless’ tackle on Parramatta’s Makahesi Makatoa. Makatoa and Asofa-Solomona had been stuck in each other the whole game and if you can see that act and call it “reckless” then you’re a different judge for me.

Fans can complain all they want, but that’s the outcome the court changes were designed to achieve.

Penrith takes a chance, but the Knights showed a lot
Saturday afternoon’s Penrith-Newcastle match was all but decided by Barnett’s dispatch, but there were still plenty of good signs for both teams.

Penrith once again overcame a host of missing players, showing that they are not so easily dismissed and their depth remains. Newcastle have fought hard and still shown plenty, it has been an encouraging start to their year and they have had their own injury issues too.

There will be more to come from these two as the rounds unfold.

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

The Sharks are settling in well
A lot of teeth were sharpened when Cronulla launched his coach John Morris early last year to bring in Roosters legend Craig Fitzgibbon, but so far in 2022 Fitzgibbon’s appointment looks to be great.

Their dismantling of the Dragons on Thursday was efficient and thorough. They exploded early, soaked up the pressure after halftime and then ran away with the game 36-12. The performance answered many questions about how the Sharks see themselves in 2022, but raised just as many about the Dragons, who had been good but not great in the first half.

Next month from Cronulla is Newcastle, Wests Tigers, Melbourne and Manly, four tough but eminently winnable games in their current form. The Dragons have Parramatta, South Sydney, Newcastle and the Roosters – it’s a much, much tougher challenge and they’ll need to find some cohesion quickly before they trail too far behind the Finals field.

South Sydney wakes up
The Bunnies made a big change on Friday to topple the much-loved Roosters and change the complexion of their season after two losses. You could argue the Roosters were unprepared for South Sydney to maintain such high energy for 80 minutes, but that understates the quality of the Rabbitohs’ game. They are still a good fun team to watch.

Cody Walker (Getty Images)

Cody Walker (Getty Images)

And as far as concerns about roosters go, there’s still nothing to see here. They will fit into the season like any other, as teams that know how to time their efforts when it matters most. Withhold rooster obituaries until they are actually needed.

The Cowboys will knock
Brisbane have been well beaten by the Cowboys, who take their chances when offered. Valentine Holmes turned back the clock with a great game and there is a potential star in the making with 19-year-old back rower Jeremiah Nanai, who scored three tries and also ran strong. Todd Payten’s men have two fine wins in a row and face a good test this week when the Roosters arrive in town.

It was a throwback to the bad old days for Brisbane, but it’s unrealistic to expect a massive turnaround from this far. Their fans must not have enjoyed watching their former “high hope” Tom Dearden cut them up.

A miracle in Canberra, but the Titans were stiff
After an abject performance in Round 2, Canberra were again deplorable in the first half on Saturday, trailing the Gold Coast 4-22 and looking in disarray.

A 20-0 second half stole victory as the Gold Coast crumbled, with the decisive score a converted try from Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad which was on the back of a highly questionable ball game from Jack Wighton .

The Titans may also have had an instance where AJ Brimson lost the ball upside down when it was totaled by a flying Semi Valemei in the dying moments of the game, but when you lose a 22 point lead no one does not want to hear about arbitration decisions.

So Canberra remains the real Jekyll and Hyde of the NRL, and the Titans are still trying to figure out who they are and what they have. Gold Coast will host the Tigers next week and surely, surely, they will do the job.

Wests Tigers fought
The Wests Tigers had chance after chance of beating mediocre New Zealand in Friday’s opener but consistently missed them. They did everything but win – they only missed ten tackles, had a ten-minute spell with the Warriors one man for a sin bin and were all over the Warrior try line, but still managed to bomb some scores and return possession to the regular.

Victories are hard enough to come by without shooting yourself in the foot.

Parra’s NRLW Horror Show
Parramatta’s NRLW side suffered a shock against imperious Brisbane on Sunday, losing the game 38-4, losing full-back Botille Vette-Welsh to a bad knee injury and losing their place in the final to the Roosters on a point differential.

Next week’s final will see St George Illawarra take on Gold Coast, who picked up a good victory over a struggling Newcastle. Brisbane take on the Roosters, with the winners advancing to the Grand Final.

Sea Eagles stumble past Canterbury
They committed 16 errors and scored just two tries on a lifeless attack, but a late Daly Cherry-Evans field goal stole a win and two valuable points from a committed Bulldogs side.

Canterbury are working hard this year, especially in defence. After three games, they have conceded just 33 points which is good for second place in the competition. The problem is that they only scored 28, which is the worst in the competition.
To be fair, they are clearly focused on defense as they try to get back on their feet, and the big question will be how long that intensity can last if there are no points to go with it.

Next
Round 4 is stirring up some intrigue, especially with teams who might have expected to advance a bit better into the year than they are.

On Thursday, the Titans host the Wests Tigers in a game both teams would love to have. Friday night has some beauties in Cronulla against Newcastle and Penrith against Souths, the Warriors and Broncos will play for a win that could mean more later in the year, Canberra and Manly are in a similar situation and Parramatta can consolidate a decent start to the year with a tough battle against the Dragons.

Over to you: What did you think of Round 3, Roarers?

Martin E. Berry