NRL: five things we learned from round 22

Rugby League Challenge Cup

Roosters still the anointed ones

Each week columns with names such as this one – Set of Six, Five in the Bin, Poke in the Bum, Punch in the Gob, all them – look to anoint a premier for this 2015 Telstra Premiership. And as per the last few weeks, indeed just about all season, the anointed one has been Sydney Roosters. And after demolishing Newcastle Knights without their halfback and for long periods playing like pelicans, this column, whatever it’s called, has to anoint them Probable Premiers again. This is the testing material. And if their staffers can keep these people fit, firing and out of trouble they’ll be odds-on every game they play and will go deep into late September and beyond. Granted this is not something anyone who’s watched a game of rugby league this season or even their entire lives would be necessarily “learning”. But the Chooks continue to ram home the lesson: they’re the best*.

* Eight weeks out from the Big Dance.

Sea Eagles flying towards September

Manly? How good were Manly? Manly were great is how good Manly were. And lo, here they come, the sleeping giant of the premiership, storming up the ladder, a frightening beast from Fortress Brookvale. The TV heads gave two-try prop Jake Trbojevic the equivalent of the Seiko watch for man-of-the-match but he had a few mates. Willie Mason was strong and direct while the bench and back-row played like Bob Fulton was watching with a view to next season. Yet Kieran Foran was best afield and by some margin. Slick service and hard running and support, the man’s an all-action footy player and up there with Blake Austin for Most Dangerous Six. And with his captain Jamie Lyon running great lines and flinging symapthetic wide balls, Peta Hiku scored a hat-trick. The Rabbitohs didn’t do a lot wrong and in a return game at ANZ Stadium could reverse the result. But the Sea-Eagles are a-comin’.

Sharks masquerading as England in the Ashes

Cronulla? Closing in on the top four with a points differential in the negative, what sort of happy mad cow meat is this? How does this happen? No-one knows, it’s like the Ashes before they actually played the Ashes and everyone thought England would be really, really bad. And the Sharks were pretty bad early on. I saw them play at Kogarah-Jubilee a couple of months ago getting belted by the Dragons and you haven’t seen a shaggier bunch of inebriated hippies since Woodstock. But now they’ve won eight of the last nine and are just … winning. Somehow. And good luck to them. They’re playing strong, simple footy and hanging onto the ball, and their ball-players are joining it all together. You like them as you do an underdog on the charge. But the Roosters will eat them like Jonah Lomu on a quarter chicken and chips.

Raiders are gone

The Raiders? It’s over, baby. Over. You’d hope they make the eight because they’re fun, and everyone likes the fun kid. They have a crack and each man is given a role and entrusted to back his skills and be himself. And they don’t seem to care how many the other team scores … unless that team scores more than them, as the baby Tigers of Sydney’s West(s) did on Monday night. Top game, though. Both teams ran free like the buffalo and scored some fine rugby league tries. Yet it was a game punctuated by absent-minded D-action that saw length-of-the-field tries and James Tedesco winning the TV people’s best afield gong.

Regardless, the Raiders are gone. Win their last four – against Titans, Manly, Panthers and Eels, home or away it matters not, it used to, but no more – and Canberra will finish on 28 points which has got into the eight a time or two. But they’re surely shot, you’d suggest, as is David Shillington who threw a head-butt at Aaron Woods in the game’s last scrum and was sent off, and won’t play for the next few weeks if at all.

Elsewhere

The Bulldogs continued the Broncos’ late season stutter, the Dragons torched the Warriors, and Storm flogged the Titans and showed that life without Billy needn’t be so sad given the hot form of 20-year-old fullback Cameron Munster.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Matt Cleary, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 11th August 2015 01.35 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010