Monday Morning Halfback: Round 13
Titans are Gold
Gold Coast's season had seemingly come to a crushing halt in Round 9 when they suffered their fifth consecutive loss with a humbling 38-0 defeat against the Storm. They had been 'gutsy' to start the season, but the Melbourne result was proof the wheels had finally fallen off.
Not so fast. Since that loss, the Titans have won three games in a row over the Panthers, Roosters and Rabbitohs to move into the top eight. Outside of two heavy losses to the Storm, the Gold Coast outfit has proven tough to beat and continue to perform seemingly above their means.
Ashley Taylor had a wow of a game against the Rabbitohs on Sunday. Not only did the 20-year-old nail the clutch golden point field goal, he also kicked a crucial 40/20 in the second half when it looked like the Rabbitohs were getting on top. He is certainly taking the most of his opportunity.
Then there is Ryan James, somewhat of an NRL Fantasy cult hero, who is having the best season of his career. His recent performances have his name again being mentioned in NSW Origin circles. James seems to be thriving under new coach Neil Henry; his work rate has gone up and his panache for giving away penalties and silly errors seems to have disappeared from his game. He was immense in the Titans' win over the Rabbitohs, scoring two tries – the first despite five Rabbitohs defenders hanging off him. He's certainly one of the form forwards of the competition.
With Tyrone Roberts guiding the team around, Greg Bird doing the grunt work in the middle of the field, and the recent acquisition of Nathan Peats, the Titans are starting to look every bit a top-eight team and one that demands to be respected.
The term 'gutsy Titans' may now be a tad condescending. This is a serious football team.
Cooper Cronk the ultimate professional
One camera shot from the Queensland Origin sheds was enough to immediately silence all doubters when Cooper Cronk's horribly bruised ankle was laid bare for all to see. There had been no mass conspiracy – Cronk had legitimately raced the clock to be fit for the showpiece event.
Cronk didn't get much sleep during the Origin build-up as he was constantly icing his ankle at all hours of the night to give himself every chance of playing.
His ability to get through Origin and then back up for the Storm and produce another masterful performance against the Panthers was a mark of the man. Cronk laid on three first-half assists and managed a late try of his own to will the home side on to victory.
There are plenty of players who would have missed both games due to the injury.
NRL shows respect
It went relatively unnoticed but there was a nice touch by captains and referees in Round 13 with all three swapping handshakes on the field before kick-off in a show of respect. It is a great initiative and a great example for all levels of the game. We hope it continues for the rest of the season. Respect starts at the top. Well done to all involved.
Warriors' timely win
Are they back? The jury is still well and truly out, but beating the high-flying Broncos is a great start.
The battle for the Warriors is to do it consistently. The Origin period always produces a good chance for the New Zealand outfit to make a charge, but they have to make it count.
By most critics' scorecards the Warriors have had a disappointing season to date, but they are still just two points outside of the top eight and could be about to turn things around following Issac Luke's best game for his new club.
The Warriors take on the Knights and Roosters in the next two weeks and if they are serious about playing finals football, they should win both fixtures.
Broncos' mid-season struggle
Brisbane fell to a third-straight loss for the first time in almost two years to drop to third on the NRL ladder. But a closer look at the results shows why Wayne Bennett won't be hitting the panic button just yet.
The loss to the Warriors was a bad one from a performance point of view, but it was just days after State of Origin and they had also rested a couple of players. Last week they were beaten by a late Wests Tigers field goal without their Origin players, while their other loss in the sequence was to a Johnathan Thurston field goal in another epic grand final rematch after leading 18-6.
The Broncos have a tricky fixture against the Raiders before a well-deserved bye. It may be somewhat of a mid-year slump, but Bennett won't be worried.