NRL lowdown: How the teams are faring after round 17

Bodene Thompson's season with the Warriors keeps getting better. Photo / Getty
Bodene Thompson's season with the Warriors keeps getting better. Photo / Getty

Who starred, who struggled, who's on the fringe, who's on the outer, who passed and who failed?

Get the very best analysis from the news.com.au team of experts in the round 17 edition of the NRL lowdown.

WARRIORS

How they fared

The Warriors returned to the winner's circle with a crucial home win against the Titans.

Showing the kind of grit that suggests they can be a finals side, the Warriors hung tough with the Titans, then burst clear late in the game thanks to some Shaun Johnson magic and hung on for a 27-18 victory in Simon Mannering's 250th appearance.

Who starred, who struggled?

Bodene Thompson's season continues to get better with every week and he was the best forward on the park on Saturday. The second-rower stormed through for a great try and notched 14 runs for 167m, 7 tackle busts, one offload, one linebreak, one linebreak assist and 42 tackles.

Meanwhile hooker Issac Luke is getting better after his slow start, but the Warriors could do with more attacking spark from their star recruit.

Injury ward

Roger Tuivasa Sheck (Knee, Season), Ben Henry (Knee, Indefinite), Manu Vatuvei (Hamstring, Round 19), Sione Lousi (ACL, Season), Ryan Hoffman (Virus, Round 19)

Who's lurking on the edge?

Centre Junior Pauga scored a try in the Junior Warriors' 14-12 win over the Titans under-20s. What's more incredible is he ran for more than 300m, a week after topping 200m. Wow.

Report card

B+: Four wins in their past five games and a spot in the top eight. There's a long way to go but the Warriors are trending in the right direction.

SHARKS

How they fared

If the teams languishing at the bottom of the table have forgotten how to win, then the Sharks have forgotten how to lose.

After trailing the Eels 18-0, Cronulla clawed their way back to steal a 38-24 victory and extend their winning streak to 12 games on the trot.

The shire club was stunned by Bevin French's quickfire double but as soon as the glut of possession shifted Cronulla's way, so did the momentum of the game and they struck back with their own blitz - scoring two tries in five minutes.

Who starred, who struggled?

Origin-bound Wade Graham's all-rounder capabilities were on display and the backrower caused plenty of headaches for the Eels from the left edge, Graham ran the ball with intent, showed off his kicking game and even set up a try with a nice cut-out pass to send Sisaia Feki over in the corner.

Injury ward

Valentine Holmes (Hamstring, Round 19), Ricky Leutele (Ankle, Round 19)

Who's lurking on the edge?

In the NSW Cup, the Newtown Jets were defeated 38-14 by the Illawarra Cutters at Henson Park. Fa'amanu Brown was impressive in a losing side, crossing for two tries by showcasing his strength close to the line to wrestle over and score.

Mitch Brown, Jordan Drew, Fa'amanu Brown and Jesse Sene Lefao are likely to come into the NRL with the likes of Wade Graham, Paul Gallen, Andrew Fifita and James Maloney on Origin duties.

Report card

B: Their defence was shaky and soft in the early stages but they managed to turn things around to post 28 unanswered points. They displayed the kind of resolve that separates them from the rest of the competition.

STORM

How they fared

Scarily well. Melbourne blitzed the Broncos off Suncorp Stadium in stunning fashion, racing out to a 30-0 lead just before half-time, and never let up in a blistering display.

Giant winger Suliasi Vunivalu scored a hat-trick, Cameron Smith booted a perfect eight goals from eight attempts and the Storm stamped their premiership credentials with a 48-6 thumping of last year's grand finalists.

Who starred, who struggled?

Take your pick. In such a dominant performance there were more stars than the Milky Way - give or take - but we'll single out Cooper Cronk for particular praise.

After a slow start to the season, the Storm halfback has been out of this world of late and threw up an astonishing five try assists in yet another commanding performance.

On the flip side, injuries cut short the nights of Jordan McLean and Tohu Harris early on, which only makes the dominance of Melbourne's performance all the more incredible.

Injury ward

Billy Slater (Shoulder, Season), Will Chambers (Fractured foot, Round 19), Cameron Munster (Ankle, Round 19), Tim Glasby (Shoulder, Round 20), Jordan McLean (Concussion, Round 19), Nelson Asofa-Solomona (PCL, Round 25), Tohu Harris (Ribs, Round 19).

Who's lurking on the edge?

If Jordan McLean's injury sidelines him for any amount of time, it'll put more strain on the Storm's depth given the recent loss of Nelson Asofa-Soloman and Matt Glasby. Luckily for Melbourne, Matt White and Slade Griffin are hitting their straps in the Queensland Cup with both forwards having strong games in Easts Tigers' 40-16 win over Norths Devils.

Report card

A+: The Broncos have been off the boil for a while now, but don't let that take anything away from such a stellar Storm showing. Craig Bellamy's side is positively flying at the moment and, with Cameron Munster and Will Chambers due back in the coming weeks, looks set for a red-hot run home to the finals.

COWBOYS

How they fared

They continued their impressive form with a solid 20-0 away win over the Rabbitohs.

Who starred, who struggled

Surprise, surprise but Johnathan Thurston was a massive star for his side once again. In what was his best performance of the season, JT ran for 115m off 10 runs, made five tackle busts, scored a try and set up another one. Overall, the Cowboys were not at their most clinical but there is nothing to be concerned about.

Who's lurking on the edge?

Kane Linnett should be back for next week's clash with Canberra, but that will be the only piece of good news for the Cowboys. They will lose JT, Justin O'Neill, Matt Scott and James Tamou to Origin duty, while Michael Morgan is still out with injury. Ray Thompson and Javid Bowen should retain their spots in the side while the likes of Jahrome Hughes and Coen Hess are expected to come into the side like they did ahead of Origin I.

Report card

A-: Nothing seems to be able to bring these Cowboys down. Origin has hardly affected them and they continue to show week in, week out that they are every chance of winning back-to-back premierships.

BULLDOGS

How they fared

The Bulldogs looked sluggish and fatigued at times but did just enough to get away with a 24-20 win over the Roosters.

Who starred, who struggled?

Look out, because the Morris boys are on the loose. Brett crossed for a double to take his season tally to five tries in two games while Josh missing Origin selection allows for better continuity in the backline. The brothers always looked dangerous against the Roosters and moving Curtis Rona to right centre gives them a little more speed on their weaker attacking edge.

Michael Lichaa has had an up and down season and the young hooker was again patchy on Thursday. While Lichaa defended stoutly his service was inconsistent and more than once he stifled an attacking movement by overlooking his halves and going off on his own.

Injury ward

Adam Elliott (Hamstring, Round 23)

Who's lurking on the edge?

The Dogs' NSW Cup side got their fifth win in a row in a 38-18 victory over Newcastle with Craig Garvey, Chase Stanley and Reimis Smith all playing starring roles.

Report card

B: The early sluggishness can be put down to the five-day turnaround but the Dogs ended up getting the job done. With their strong forward pack and backline stars hitting form at just the right time they are without doubt a top four team.

EELS

How they fared

Parramatta got off to an early 18-0 lead against the Sharks but were run down and eventually lost 34-24.

Who starred, who struggled?

Bvean French scored three superb tries, including a brilliant effort where he zipped past Ben Barba without being touched. Danny Wicks has been an unsung hero all year for Parramatta and worked tremendously hard in the middle of the field, landing a well earned try in the first half.

Manu Ma'u had one of his quieter games of the year and you wouldn't have known that Semi Radradra played where it not for the chorus of boos that cascaded across the field every time he touched the ball.

Injury ward

Luke Kelly (ACL, Season), Tim Mannah (Shoulder, Round 18), Kepeli Tanginoa (Ankle, Round 25), Mitch Cornish (Knee, Round 20), Kieran Foran (Shoulder, Season), Brad Takairangi (Hamstring, Round 18), Anthony Watmough (Knee, Season), Kaysa Pritchard (Shoulder/neck, Indefinite), John Folau (Fractured wrist, Round 21)

Who's lurking on the edge?

The Eels went down 36-10 to the Sharks in the under-20s but Mason Cerruto had a fine game at fullback for the blue and golds. The Camden junior made one or two errors but worked tremendously hard and always looked capable of busting the game open.

Report card

C+: The Eels were undone by a failure to score points in the second half and some leaky defence on the right side but they were tremendously tough and gritty. It would be interesting to see how they'd fare with all their troops.

RAIDERS

How they fared

Canberra came back from 22-0 down against the Knights to win 29-25 in golden point. The entire game was absolutely insane.

Who starred, who struggled?

Josh Papalii has been one of the Raiders best this season and he was absolutely immense on the right edge. In his best game of the season Papalii carried the ball with great strength and was a constant menace. Jarrod Croker was also superb, scoring two tries and providing the final pass for another.

While its not attributable to one player, the Raiders defence in the opening quarter was nowhere near the standards required of a top eight side. The ruck was loose and Newcastle shredded them up the middle while the lack of line speed was constant threat throughout. Fixing the defensive intensity is the only thing stopping Canberra from becoming a premiership force.

Injury ward

Sia Soliola (Ribs, Round 18), Shannon Boyd (Knee, Round 18), Jordan Rapana, (Shoulder, Round 18), Edrick Lee (Hamstring, Round 20), Jeff Lima (Hip, Round 20).

Who's lurking on the edge?

Lachlan Croker made a return to the under-20s but it was Harry van Dartel who starred for the Raiders, scoring three tries in a 34-24 win over Newcastle that kept the club's finals hopes alive.

Report card

B-: The Raiders are now on the cusp of the top four and are well ensconced inside the top eight with a good run home. But that fact that it took a freakish golden point try to defeat the probable wooden-spooners means there's still a lot of work to do.

BRONCOS

How they fared

Brisbane were embarrassed by Melbourne on Friday night, going down 48-6 in front of their home crowd.

Who starred, who struggled?

It is fair to say the Broncos struggled against the Storm. Kodi Nikorima had a night to forget after he was thrown on the wing against an in-form Suliasi Vunivalu, with Corey Oates taken off with a head knock. There was little the playmaker could do to stop his opponent.

Who's lurking on the edge?

The Broncos will be desperate to get their team back to full strength after this week's bye, starting with the versatile Jordan Kahu and veteran forward Sam Thaiday. Those two alone will give plenty to the side.

Report card

D+: You cannot concede 48 points and get a pass mark. Their confidence is low and their defence was all over the place against Melbourne. They have a lot of work to do to be true finals contenders again.

PANTHERS

How they fared

After controlling the match in the opening stages, the Panthers were shut out of the contest as the Tigers scored a whopping six unanswered tries - with fullback James Tedesco proving a thorn in their defence. In the end Wests' six-try haul was too big a task to overcome and Penrith went down 34-26, scoring two late consolation ties in the process.

Who starred, who struggled?

He was caught out in defence by James Tedesco on a couple of occasion but you can't take away from Bryce Cartwright's efforts to try to get his side over the line. His ability to keep the ball alive and create second-phase opportunities helps keep his side in the match - Cartwright can pull off the most unlikely offloads and time them to perfection.

Winger Josh Mansour's highlight reel-worthy put-down gets an honourable mention. The winger, like so many other in the modern game, seemingly defied gravity to plant the ball down with his body suspended in the air and out of play.

Injury ward

Te Marie Martin (Shoulder fracture, Indefinite), Sam McKendry (ACL, Season), Dean Whare (ACL, Season), Peta Hiku (ACL, Season)

Who's lurking on the edge?

In the NSW Cup, the Wentworthville Magpies upset the Panthers 28-24. Despite having the momentum in the dying stages, Penrith were unable to crack Wentworthville's scrambling defence to steal victory.

Report card

C: Penrith were on top for about 20 minutes but things fell apart and they were unable to recover. They also struggled to capitalise on their opportunities went possession as in their favour.

DRAGONS

How they fared

The Dragons were abysmal on Monday night at Brookvale Oval where they fell 36-6 against Manly. Their only points came late in the game when it had already been lost. There were simply no positives to take away from the match.

Who starred, who struggled?

One look at the score line means you don't need to be a rocket scientist to figure out no one starred and everyone struggled.

Injury ward

Dylan Farrell (back, indefinite), Mose Masoe (ACL, season), Ben Creagh (knee, indefinite).

Who's lurking on the edge?

Shannon Wakeman has been a stalwart in the Dragons lower grades for many years and the high-impact prop was at his devastating best in the Cutters 38-14 win over Newtown.

Report card

D: The Dragons were playing one of the most trampled teams in the competition this season next to the Knights, Roosters and Rabbitohs. A win would have seen the Red V leap past the Warriors into the top eight. Did they treat this match with the importance it deserved? Did they give Manly the respect due to a club capable of doing anything despite recent poor form?

They did not and they paid the price. Horrible football.

TITANS

How they fared

Despite being drawn 10-all at half-time with the Warriors, the Titans were left heartbroken after the loss of two players and some Shaun Johnson magic saw them go down 27-18.

Who starred, who struggled

The Titans forwards were phenomenal in the first half, laying a great platform for a possible upset. Agnatius Paasi in particular put in a great deal of effort, making 11 runs for 102m.

When things fell apart, no one was truly at fault. Zeb Taia had to move to centres again to cover the loss of Karl Lawton, which did affect the flow of the game, but no one played poorly.

Who's lurking on the edge

The Gold Coast will enjoy a bye this week. The extra time off will also give the likes of David Mead, Konrad Hurrell and William Zillman a chance to return.

Report card

B: The biggest problem for the Titans on Saturday was their injuries. It did cause some ill-discipline towards the back end of the second half, which was another reason why their game unravelled. Once they stop making silly errors, they will be a massive force in this competition.

TIGERS

How they fared

The Tigers kept their finals hopes alive with an entertaining 34-26 win over the Panthers.

Who starred, who struggled

James Tedesco isn't just the best player at the Tigers, he's one of the best players in the league. The star fullback totally outplayed his opposite number Matt Moylan, setting up two tries and looking every bit an Origin player.

It was a strong team effort from the Tigers and their good scramble defence throughout the match but the slight collapse in the final quarter will be something Jason Taylor is keen to work on before they play the Bulldogs this weekend.

Injury ward

Curtis Sironen (Foot, Round 18), Nathan Milone (Knee, Indefinite), Matt Ballin (ACL, Season)

Who's lurking on the edge

Josh Addo-Carr is a real candidate to return to first grade this weekend with James Tedesco heading to Origin and he did his cause no harm by scoring a scorching double against the Warriors in NSW Cup last weekend.

Report card

B. The Tigers have the attacking capabilities to make the finals, or at least be a thorn in the side of many teams in the run home. They're finally trending in the right direction.

RABBITOHS

How they fared

Twenty-zip. That's the score line the Rabbitohs produced when they bizarrely took a home game deep into Cowboys territory in Cairns. They were not at the favourable end of the score sheet. In short, they were outplayed while playing poorly themselves.

Who starred, who struggled?

My mother always told me if you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all. We'll just leave it there shall we?

Injury ward

Zane Musgrove (wrist, indefinite), Angus Crichton (groin, indefinite), Hymel Hunt (pectoral, season), Samisoni Langi (ACL, season), George Burgess (groin, round 21), Bryson Goodwin (arm, indefinite), Siosifa Talakai, ankle, indefinite), Sam Burgess (knee, round 19), Kirsome Auva'a (ankle, indefinite), Tautatasi Tasi (knee, indefinite).

Who's lurking on the edge?

Backrower Angus Crichton made a return from a long battle with a shoulder injury against the Cowboys in the under-20s over the weekend and the former schoolboy rugby star was outstanding, charging over for a try in the Rabbitohs 26-18 win. He also ran for 198 metres and recorded 13 tackle busts.

Report card

F: The Bunnies are just horrible this year. Apart from an apparent lack of drive to get the job done, their performances are frequently punctuated by errors. The Rabbitohs never had a chance against the Cowboys. Johnathan Thurston forced them to start every set deep within their own territory and any attacking chances they got were quickly squandered with dropped balls.

EAGLES

How they fared

Manly produced their best performance of the season in a 36-6 belting of the Dragons

Who starred, who struggled

Tom Trbojevic proved why he should be the Manly fullback ahead of Brett Stewart and Daly Cherry-Evans had one of his best games of the season. Jamie Buhrer also had a fine gamed, capped by an improbable 90 metre try off a scrum.

Martin Taupau was again quiet for Manly but they were so dominant in other aspects that it didn't matter in the slightest.

Injury ward

Steve Matai (Neck, Season), Brenton Lawrence (Pectoral, Season), Matt Parcell (Hamstring, Round 19), Liam Knight (Broken ankle, season), Isaac John (Pectoral, Indefinite), Jayden Hodges (ACL, Season), Nate Myles (Knee, Round 19)

Who's lurking on the edge

Pita Godinet was only brought into the Manly system just before the season began but the Samoan international is a legit first grader. Despite the struggles of Manly's bottom of the table NSW Cup side, Godinet has been a consistent shining light.

Report card

C: Manly were great but where was this zest and enthusiasm early in the season when it really mattered?

ROOSTERS

How they fared

The Roosters played some good footy in their 24-20 loss to the Bulldogs but defensive lapses cost them dearly.

Who starred, who struggled

Mitchell Pearce had his best game of the season and was prominently involved in everything good that the Roosters did. Talk of an Origin recall might have been premature but Pearce looked composed and confident throughout the match.

Blake Ferguson's defence at centre is so bad it nearly defies belief. He was exploited by the Bulldogs again and again, to the point where Trent Robinson was forced to switch him to the wing. For a player of his experience such ineptitude is unacceptable.

Injury ward

Ian Henderson (Broken leg, Indefinite)

Who's lurking on the edge

Wyong destroyed the last-placed Sea Eagles 58-14 in the NSW Cup over the weekend with Abraham Papalii, Mitch Williams and Omar Slaimankhel starring for the Roos.

Report card

D-: You can talk about the Roosters putting in a good effort and nearly getting the win but considering the roster and their disposal such talk is hollow. This season has been a monstrous disappointment.

KNIGHTS

How they fared

They were so close. So damn close to stealing their second win of the season. But in the end the Knights lost again, this time to the Raiders 29-25 in golden point.

Who starred, who struggled

It's taken most of the season but the Knights have finally found a forward pack that fits. Korbin Sims, Robbie Rochow and Sam Mataora all had fine games while Mitch Barnett and Sione Mata'utia were both fantastic in the second row. After some real teething problems, Mata'utia may have found his long-term NRL spot.

The right edge was again a problem for the Knights. Canberra targeted Brendan Elliot and Jack Cogger mercilessly, scoring all three of their second half tries down that side. Elliot has been a real disappointment since joining from the Roosters and would be lucky to stay in first grade at any other club.

Injury ward

James McManus (Concussion, Season), Jarrod Mullen (Hamstring, Round 19), Brock Lamb (Ankle, Round 19), Jaelen Feeney (Ankle, Indefinite), Kade Snowden (Various, Season), Tyler Randell (Ribs, Indefinite).

Who's lurking on the edge

Tom Hughes recently joined the Knights from the Rabbitohs and the rangy outside back made his club debut against the Bulldogs in NSW Cup last weekend. However, it wasn't enough for the Knights to earn a victory and they went down 38-18.

Report card

C+: If they Knights play with the same energy and enthusiasm as they did in the opening quarter of the match they'll have plenty to build on in the back end of the season.

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