NRL round 5: The exhilarating, the nauseating and everything in between

Manly Sea Eagles 30 defeat Newcastle Knights 6 at McDonald Jones Stadium

Manly proved they can win without Tom Trbojevic. They dominated the Knights pack early – Josh Aloiai went after the Saifiti brothers – and played smarter when they needed to in attack in the wet. Daly Cherry-Evans’ kicking game is top class at the moment. And Dylan Walker brings so much energy off the bench, despite playing with a serious cork in his quad. Newcastle could have won had Chris Randall grounded a Kalyn Ponga grubber midway through the second half. Ponga needs to sort out his contract situation for the good of the game, despite wanting the media to “stay patient”. To be fair to the home side, they also had their share of injuries, with poor Kurt Mann shifting from lock to wing to fullback in the space of 10 minutes.

Christian Nicolussi

New Zealand Warriors 25 defeat North Queensland Cowboys 24 at Moreton Daily Stadium

Where to start with this contest? Both sides conceded some soft tries, but it was the kind of NRL match between two mediocre sides which was clearly going to be enthralling after just a few minutes. The Cowboys are their own worst enemy, and have made a habit of clocking off after securing big leads. The Warriors are talented, but have too many defensive lapses to worry the best of the best. They will both scrap for the final couple of places in the eight. The star of the show was eventually Shaun Johnson, who slotted an ugly field goal in golden point to win the match. Both parties had their reasons for cutting ties when he moved to Cronulla, but Johnson belongs in that jersey. When you think about the Warriors, you think about him.

Sam Phillips

Sydney Roosters 24 defeat Brisbane Broncos 20 at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

Brisbane didn’t get the result but it was a performance full of merit from a team that had been struggling for the past fortnight. After the week they had, with the Payne Haas incident and injury to fellow middle Pat Carrigan, things could have turned nasty. Instead, they showed good resolve to dominate the first half, only to give up a 10-0 lead as the Roosters regrouped in the second. Joey Manu was the difference for the Roosters and took the comeback upon his own shoulders. As his team struggled to put together cohesive back-line play, he took the direct route and barged over for two tries. Sam Walker has many layers to add to his game but again stood tall under pressure with a key late conversion and a deft kick for the winning try. If he and Luke Keary stay fit, they will be twice the combination by the end of the season.

Phil Lutton

Melbourne Storm 30 defeat Canberra Raiders 14 at McDonald’s Park, Wagga Wagga

We didn’t learn much that we didn’t already know. Melbourne showed why they are again one of the best and most consistent sides in the competition, while Canberra appear one of those middling teams that will be in a mighty scrap to squeeze into the top eight. The Raiders never gave up, but gave the renowned frontrunners too big a start. Cameron Munster was perhaps the best on ground, Jahrome Hughes had some classy touches and all the other big-name Storm stars made contributions. The Storm’s next challenge, against the resurgent Sharks on Saturday, should be a belter.

Adrian Proszenko

South Sydney 24 defeat St George Illawarra 12 at Accor Stadium

Blake Taaffe slotted straight into fullback like he had not missed a beat as Latrell Mitchell looks set for a stint on the sidelines with a hamstring issue. The vital game time Taaffe was given while Mitchell was suspended late last year will come in handy for Souths in the coming weeks. This game was awful to watch at times, and as Jason Demetriou quipped afterwards, the best thing was “the two points”. Cody Walker had a frustrating night, while Josh Mansour did well but possibly not enough to nail down the right-wing spot. St George Illawarra completed at nearly 50 per cent in the second half and were lucky Souths were just as guilty of spilling the ball, otherwise it could have got ugly a second straight week. Their only bright spot was Mat Feagai who busted tackles for fun in the first half.

Christian Nicolussi

Parramatta Eels defeat Gold Coast Titans 26-20 at Cbus Super Stadium

Eels coach Brad Arthur was rightly content with his side’s work on the Gold Coast, even if they did have to hold on for dear life after establishing a 20-0 lead. But the Titans are nothing if not unpredictable so the sort of close finish that transpired was always on the cards. The Eels had to content with a pair of controversial captain’s challenges, sparked by deliberate penalties, that both ended in tries to the Titans. Then Junior Paulo was sin-binned for a high shot, leaving them to scramble with 12 men as the home team surged. It was win four in the bank as they continue their fine start to the season. The Titans are close to taking the next step but coach Justin Holbrook they need to be far better in building pressure through structured play than chancing their arm on counters off broken play. They squandered good ball sets, the Eels did not and that was the difference.

Phil Lutton

Cronulla Sharks 30 defeat Wests Tigers 4 at PointsBet Stadium

Sadly for Tigers fans, the Sharks were nowhere near their best but still had far too much firepower for the winless Tigers, whose woes show no signs of slowing down yet. Granted, Michael Maguire lost Daine Laurie at the gates of PointsBet Stadium when he tested positive to COVID-19, and without Jackson Hastings, Adam Doueihi and James Roberts it was going to be a struggle, but some of the effort and energy plays just weren’t up to NRL standard. The match was as good as over at half-time and Cronulla was in cruise control after the break, Ken Maumalo’s last-minute intercept only saving the Tigers from being tryless for the second straight week. There’s no relief in sight either.

Adam Pengilly

Penrith Panthers 32 defeat Canterbury Bulldogs 12 at CommBank Stadium

There wasn’t a whole heap to learn from this contest. The Panthers are clearly the best team in the competition, and won this match in second gear. The Bulldogs showed glimpses of defensive intent and scored one sensational team try from inside their half, but were otherwise uncompetitive. All eyes were on Kyle Flanagan, and he did enough to guarantee his place in the side that will face the Rabbitohs on Good Friday.

Sam Phillips

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