NRL round 5 Talking Points: For a few clubs, it’s getting late early


A lot going on in NRL round five. Injuries, suspensions, great performances and some, let’s say, less than energetic efforts. Let’s have a look at your weekly NRL talking points.

Have a breather, Latrell

“They’re both stupid things. You’ve got to be better, simple as that.” After another South Sydney debacle, going down 34-4 to the very impressive New Zealand side it was coach Jason Demetriou making this fair point about his fullback getting placed on report for a high elbow fend, then a lifting tackle.

Latrell Mitchell copped three weeks from the judiciary and was lucky to stay on the field. His season so far has been a hell of a ride. Maybe some time off will do him good, not that it might do Demetriou any good. The coach is in all sorts with his highly touted squad sitting bottom and with a points differential of -90 meaning they’re even further behind in the finals chase.

Latrell’s opening five games:

Round 1 – looked ready to go to another level

Round 2 – swears repeatedly in post-game interview, congratulated himself on 100 tries despite loss

Round 3 – sin-binned for kneeing Teddy

Round 4 – fined for hit on Foxx

Round 5 – on report twice

— Jack Blyth (@jblesfooty224) April 6, 2024

Another DCE legacy game

Daly Cherry-Evans is a highly polarising figure. Many love him, many don’t. If you don’t, you’re in an increasingly shrinking group. His 310th game broke Cliff Lyons’ Manly’s club record and DCE turned it on to celebrate, knocking over the Panthers 32-18.

Cherry-Evans has won a premiership and a Clive Churchill medal, a World Cup and many Origin series while he firmly changed people’s minds about his Queensland career. He continues to play at a high level. He’s a gem.

Points everywhere

The biblical, torrential weather across much of New South Wales on Friday meant you could be forgiven for expecting dour, error riddled football but we got the complete opposite – rampant attack, tries everywhere. It followed a belter of a game in Melbourne on Thursday as the Storm edged Brisbane 34-32. For all the points though we only had a couple of blowouts and somewhat quirkily, the Dolphins were the only winning team this weekend not to get 30 (they got 26).

New Zealand’s Wayde Egan. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

This was coming for the Bulldogs

It was a great win by Canterbury over the Roosters and it had everything. After blowing out to 26-0 it looked like the Bulldogs were going to rampage to 50, before stumbling and fumbling against 12 men, then 11. It genuinely looked like the Roosters had the game in hand halfway through the second half before Matt Burton secured the 30-26 result.

Where are things changing? It’s effort, and it’s structure starting to bear out with the talent they have. Let’s take for example their high profile recruit Viliame Kikau, who has been making half-breaks through the defence all year.

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At Penrith, these were usually accompanied by a runner anticipating a pass. At Canterbury, they weren’t… until the last couple of weeks. It doesn’t always lead to a try, but it can be a lethal play. Kikau leads all forwards for line break assists and had another try assist for three on the season, already passing last year’s total and well on track to beat his season best of 10. His run metres are up by 32 a game on last year’s injury impacted season.

Viliame Kikau. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

This is not to say Kikau is the reason for the improved Bulldogs play, mind you. He’s just a good example of how Canterbury’s attacking plans are starting to come together. The Bulldogs are second in the NRL for ‘supports’ and that flows to being third for both tackle breaks (160) and line breaks (30). They’re also second for dummy half runs.

Players in motion, at speed, understanding what they’re trying to do. Gelling the brand new squad is a bloody tough thing to do and there’s work left in defence because they miss too many tackles and give away too many penalties, but Cameron Ciraldo and his crew are making real progress.

Michael Jennings should not be anywhere near the NRL

Really didn’t like seeing Michael Jennings take the field for the Roosters on Friday night. He hadn’t played since 2020 because of a three-year suspension for drug use. Fine and fair enough to do your time and come back like Bronson Xerri did this week, but Jennings is a different case – on top of the drugs, some seriously horrible allegations (supported in court) of abuse and sexual assault were made by his ex-wife, to whom he was ordered by a court to pay $500,000 (which he hasn’t).

Did the Roosters really have no other squad options than to bring in a 35 year old with his putrid record?

It’s Jennings’ 300th game this weekend. It should not be celebrated. It’s shameful the Roosters wanted him and even more shameful the NRL approved his registration. Rugby League, once again aiming the shotgun at its own feet.

Scott Drinkwater makes a break. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

You can only beat who’s in front of you

The Cowboys win again, the Dolphins win again, the Knights did what they needed to do to get two important points. Not a great deal can be drawn from who they beat – the Titans are an abomination in 2024, the Tigers are still learning what Benji wants them to do and the Dragons are also in a bad place.

Wayne Bennett’s men are also in heaps of injury strife ahead of a tough month – they’ve got Brisbane, Parramatta, Newcastle and North Queensland. Newcastle have the Roosters, Bulldogs, Dolphins then Warriors and North Queensland faces Parramatta, Cronulla, Penrith and the Dolphins. Get three (or maybe just two) of those wins, and the season is kept alive.

Good games this week

Some decent matchups arrive in round six but be warned – there’s a few with a high chance of being bludgers.

Thursday night the banged-up Roosters will head to Newcastle in an almost must-win contest. Friday’s early game is in Melbourne as the Storm host Canterbury, a game looking sneaky good. Primetime Friday is the Broncos and Dolphins, which will be a bit of fun.

Saturday starts across the ditch with a belter as the Warriors and Manly go at it. Manly have been great and horrible in even doses – let’s see how they back up from their great win over Penrith.

Canberra’s Ethan Strange. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

Parramatta then host North Queensland, a game which will test both. I thought the Eels had sorted some defensive issues this season, I was quite wrong.

Saturday night sees the beleaguered South Sydney up against Cronulla, who are rested off the bye but were hardly setting the world alight prior to that.

Sunday’s games are Wests Tigers and St George-Illawarra, and for the third week in a row, Canberra play at 6.15 Sunday night as they welcome Des Hasler and his hapless Titans. These are the sort of games Canberra drops – will the Gold Coast get off the mark?

Penrith get a week off.

Round 5’s random thoughts

Maybe it was just the broadcast microphone positioning, but there was some serious crowd support for the Warriors in Sydney against the Bunnies.Shane Flanagan and Des Hasler are the ‘old school’ coaches brought in to make huge difference for clubs who need help. Currently their Titans and Dragons sit 15th and 16th with a combined 2-7 record and a joint differential of -133. Work to do.Wests Tigers’ gun new five-eighth Lachlan Galvin was out suspended this week, the first of a two-game seating for a hip drop tackle. This ruled him out of contention for the Dally M rookie of the year considerations. Is that harsh?Parramatta coach Brad Arthur had some curious comments about the 41-8 loss in Canberra, including “41 points I know isn’t great. But I don’t think it was effort-based or soft. I thought it was around the big moments which we didn’t nail.” Arthur also praised the effort of half Dylan Brown in a hopelessly outclassed side. Gotta look for the positives, I suppose.Big time refereeing complaints about Manly centre Tolatau Koula’s try to bust it open against Penrith, but the ball clearly goes backwards before he takes off with it. The problem for the rest of us is that we’re so used to seeing balls hit the deck and get immediately called as knocked on…

Koula plays to the whistle!#NRLManlyPanthers

— NRL (@NRL) April 6, 2024

What’s caught your eye this weekend, Roarers?

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