By the Numbers: NRL Round 22
The Bulldogs dominate the team stats, Manly's backline conundrum, and the Raiders' young group of forwards begin to show what they're capable of. The key numbers and statistics that defined Round 22 of the 2015 NRL Telstra Premiership season.
The Bulldogs returned to form with an important win on the road against the ladder-leading Broncos on Friday night, and a look at the stats from this fixture paint a clear picture despite the narrow margin. Canterbury-Bankstown completed 89.2 per cent of their sets, as opposed to 73.7 per cent for Brisbane. The Dogs ran for a combined 1750 metres (Broncos 1632 metres), made six line breaks (double their opponents' tally), and missed just 12 tackles, with the home side missing 32. Des Hasler's side also had 14 offloads (Broncos six), and made five errors, with Brisbane committing 11 mistakes.
Many were of the belief Peta Hiku should be the man to drop out of the Sea Eagles backline to accommodate rising star Tom Trbojevic, with the try-scoring machine instead forced to bide his time with the club's NYC side. But against the Rabbitohs, Hiku showed just why he's held his place, producing 239 metres, three offloads, three line breaks, and scoring a hat-trick in Friday night's win. While Trbojevic is undoubtedly a star of the future, it'd be a tough call to drop any of Manly's current back five on current form. Manly's other two tries on the night came from prop Jake Trbojevic, showing it's not just the outside back in the family that can get amongst the points.
After a barren run through the middle of the season, the Dragons are back on track for a return to the finals. Scoring 36 unanswered points against the Warriors, the Red V's aggregate score over their last two starts sits at 82-24, a healthy boost for their for-and-against.
The Sharks have now won five in a row, and are well in with a chance of challenging not just for the top eight, but a top-four spot as the race towards September heats up. Saturday's 30-18 win over the Cowboys was the Sharks' second victory over North Queensland this season, following their 24-18 upset at 1300SMILES Stadium in Round 16. Cronulla are the only side so far this season to inflict two defeats on the Cowboys, who still sit in second spot on the ladder through 22 rounds.
Two bright young prospects had a field day on Sunday afternoon, with fullbacks Cameron Munster and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck scoring hat-tricks in their sides' respective victories. The more experienced Tuivasa-Sheck continued his stellar season, while for Munster, it was a game where he showed he is more than capable of performing in the top grade as Melbourne stormed home to down Gold Coast.
While it was an unhappy night for the Green Machine on Monday, with 200-game man David Shillington sent off in the dying stages of their narrow loss to Wests Tigers, there were still a few impressive efforts, particularly from the bench. Interchange prop Shannon Boyd didn't waste any time making an impact, scoring two tries and making seven tackle busts, two line breaks and 88 metres in just 27 minutes on the field. Paul Vaughan also chipped in with 190 metres and 24 tackles from the bench, while workhorse Shaun Fensom returned to playing 80 minutes, coming up with a game-high 54 tackles. Making his first grade debut, Mitchell Barnett started in the second row, coming up with 125 metres, three tackles busts, 23 tackles and an offload, all without making any errors, missing any tackles or conceding a penalty in a very solid first NRL outing.