Trent Barrett has been a dead man walking for some time – but it’s the damning statistics out of Friday night’s woeful loss to the Knights that could prove the end of him.
While the Knights did enough to win in a scrappy game, the Bulldogs were truly terrible.
In 80 minutes against one of the worst defenses in the league, they didn’t make a single line break and had just 13 tackle breaks.
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Their lone try came off a kick and only one forward ran more than 100 meters, Paul Vaughan.
The lack of spirit or enthusiasm left officials and fans scratching their heads.
It was another dreadful performance that will only heap more pressure on the embattled Barrett with the Dogs’ board due to meet in the next day.
Woolford shines on debut
Award for the gutsiest performance of Magic Round without doubt goes to the Canberra Raiders.
Rank outsiders against Cronulla, the Raiders had three players sin binned, at one stage being reduced to 11 men.
Despite the setbacks, the Raiders’ defense made the Sharks look second rate and they finished convincing 30-10 winners.
You have to go back to 2018 to find the last time a team won a game having had three players in the sin bin – Manly beating arch rivals Melbourne.
One of the highlights of the win – easily the Raiders’ best of the year – was the debut of rookie hooker Zac Woolford.
The son of former Raiders hooker Simon, Zac laid on two tries in a fine debut.
The Raiders certainly have the wood on the Sharks – that win was their ninth straight in clashes between the teams.
Hughes loss a massive blow for Storm
The battle of the giants showed that Jahrome Hughes is just as vital to the Storm as Nathan Cleary is to the Panthers or Tommy Turbo to Manly.
When Hughes pulled out on match day with a calf injury, the smart money all went Penrith’s way – and it proved spot on as the Storm struggled for direction in the absence of their star number seven.
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Hughes’ pin-point kicking game, one of the Storm’s biggest assets, was also missed as the Panthers dominated every facet of the game to romp home 32-6.
Storm coach Craig Bellamy will be counting the days until the return of his star number seven – as well as electric fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen.
Penrith’s defense shines
The Panthers scored their biggest ever victory over the Storm on Saturday night – but it was the Panthers’ defense that really caught the eye.
To restrict the mighty Storm machine to a mere six points was a superb effort and sent me heading to the record books.
The last time the Storm scored less than six points was way back in round 15, 2020 when they went down to Parramatta 14-0 … without their Origin players … and an injured Hughes.
With Hughes missing, Jarome Luai bounced back to his best playmaking form for the Panthers.
Luai had been quiet in recent weeks but the big occasion brought out the class in him and he dictated terms with his clever running and passing game, producing two try-assists, a linebreak assist and a try.
Klemmer stars for Newcastle
Lost somewhere in the Knights’ long seven match losing run was the form of big boppa David Klemmer
In a beaten side, Klemmer – who had a disappointing 2021 and was supposedly shopped around to rival clubs – kept turning up.
So it was only appropriate that when the Knights broke their long drought, it was Klemmer who led the way – and against his former club at that.
The bearded prop ran for 190 meters – far and away the most on the field by the forwards – and pulled off some big hits in defence.
No player deserved a win more and if the Knights are to make a late run for the finals, it will be Klemmer who heads the charge.
Wingers lead Brisbane’s resurgence
Old time forwards like to make jokes about the role of wingers – but in the modern game wingers play a very different role to the quick, little guys on the flank who grabbed the glory in days gone by.
Most current wingers are over 100 kilos and act as an extra forward, running into the teeth of the defense to gain vital meters.
And that has been a big part of the secret of the Broncos’ success story in 2022.
Reborn veteran Corey Oates and youngster Selwyn Cobbo have given Brisbane a killer one-two punch as they bring the ball back to the opposition.
The pair ran for over 400 meters between them in the big win over Manly in Magic Round – Oates 232 and Cobbo 183.
Added to that, they scored five of the Broncos’ six tries, with Magic Man Adam Reynolds getting the other.
The pair are getting the Broncos on the front foot, and with Reynolds’ superb service, driving the team towards an unlikely finals berth.
Consider radical switch
Don’t be surprised if Manly coach Des Hasler presses the panic button and brings in journeyman James Segeyaro when he names his team tomorrow.
The Sea Eagles were woeful in both attack and defense in the 38-0 loss to the Broncos and it’s obvious changes need to be made.
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In the key hooking spot, Lachlan Croker made just one run for 13 meters and missed TEN tackles.
Admittedly, Croker did make 53 tackles to lead the Manly count but Segeyaro offers a lot more in attack, even if Croker starts and the veteran comes on from the bench mid-game when the gaps begin to appear.
Walker regains top form
All the talk about how much Souths are missing Adam Reynolds on Friday night seemed to bring out the best in his former partner in crime, Cody Walker, less than 24 hours later.
Reynolds was one of the stars of Magic Round – but Walker wasn’t far behind.
Handed the captaincy in the absence of the inspirational Cam Murray, Walker finally found his 2021 form after a sluggish start to the season.
Walker was dynamic in the Rabbitohs’ 32-30 win, laying on several tries with his crafty service.
Campbell the difference for Titans
It’s no co-incidence that the Titans ended a five—game losing run on the night that Jayden Campbell made his return to the team.
Campbell had been sidelined with a rib injury since round three and the Titans clearly struggled in his absence.
The son of former Dally M Medallist Preston Campbell was the difference between two desperate, struggling teams on Saturday night as the Titans edged out the Dragons 20-16 in extra time.
Campbell made up for lost time in one of the most eye-catching displays of the weekend.
In atrocious conditions, the slightly-built fullback ran for 261 meters, made 15 tackle breaks and set up the winning try for Jamayne Isaako in the 89th minute.
One memorable run saw him beat half a dozen would-be Dragons tacklers and there’s no doubt the Titans have a very special young player on their hands.
Dragons loss a massive finals blow
The Dragons were the best side for much of a thrilling golden point clash with the Titans, but a baffling decision cost them dearly.
With the scores even in the 65th minute, the Dragons got a penalty deep in Titans’ territory and right on the touchline.
They opted to go for goal – and Zac Lomax slotted a fine pressure kick from wide out to edge them ahead.
But the decision to go for goal sent the Titans a message – that the Dragons didn’t think they could score a try – and even though the Dragons did score the next try through Moses Suli, it appeared to give the Titans a lift.
They went on to score the final two tries of the game – and keep their slim final hopes alive while dealing a massive blow to the Dragons’ chances of September football.
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