Holden Cup wrap: Round 16
All the key stats and talking points from Round 16 of the National Youth Competition.
Race for the eight heats up
The battle for the last few spots in the top eight is heating up with a number of teams still in contention for the playoffs with 10 rounds remaining. The Eels, Sea Eagles and Titans are in sixth, seventh and eighth respectively on 18 points while the Rabbitohs, Broncos and Storm are just one win behind them. Importantly, Brisbane and Melbourne claimed crucial wins on the road in Round 16 and are set to come face-to-face in a blockbuster clash at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.
Once were worriers, now they're Warriors
An 11-game losing streak to start the season had some people calling for a Senate inquiry into the crisis engulfing the Warriors, but thankfully their NYC side has steadied the ship with three wins from their past four matches. The New Zealanders were brilliant in their 36-6 win over the Bulldogs with the Warriors resembling the sides that once dominated the under-20s competition. Gibson Popoalii was unstoppable on the left wing with 251 metres, 10 tackle breaks and a try, Eiden Ackland wreaked havoc around the ruck, while halfback Chanel Harris-Tavita was simply superb and might just feature in our 'players of the round' section.
Dog of a day
While the Kiwis were great, the Bulldogs were simply woeful. The blue and whites missed a whopping 62 tackles and produced 11 errors and are now just three points clear of the bottom-placed Warriors.
Brailey for Brailey?
Cronulla's hooking crisis in first grade could force coach Shane Flanagan to take a huge punt on untested No.9 Blayke Brailey. With Daniel Mortimer and Manaia Cherrington granted mid-season releases and James Segeyaro unavailable through injury, the last thing the Sharks needed was their rookie rake Jayden Brailey to suffer a broken jaw in a sickening collision against the Sea Eagles. The safe option would be to use Fa'amanu Brown and Joseph Paulo around the ruck, but the left field play would be to replace the injured hooker with his younger brother, and NYC sensation, Blayke Brailey. The 18-year-old leads the league with 19 try assists and scored the match-winner as the premiership favourites edged the Sea Eagles on Sunday.
Players of the Round
We're tracking the best performances every round this year with a good old-fashioned 3-2-1 points system.
3 – There have been some outstanding performances in the NYC over the years but perhaps none have been as dominant as what we saw from Warriors halfback Chanel Harris-Tavita. The young playmaker was at his electrifying best on Friday with three try assists in the first half, while he also threw the penultimate pass for his side's other four tries. Just for good measure, he also kicked four goals and nailed a 40/20.
2 – Cowboys halfback Jake Clifford was the difference as his side upset the Panthers on Saturday afternoon. The talented No.7 controlled the game with his boot and was rewarded for a gut-busting kick chase to get his side on the board just before half-time. He added two try assists and four goals and was easily the best player on the field.
1 – Titans fullback Phillip Sami set the tone for Jarryd Hayne's night out at Campbelltown Stadium with the youngster bagging a double, busting 14 tackles and running for 226 metres in his side's win over the Tigers.
Warriors 36 – Bulldogs 6
Wests Tigers 14 – Titans 28
Cowboys 24 – Panthers 18
Roosters 34 – Storm 35
Raiders 20 – Broncos 34
Dragons 21 – Knights 16
Sharks 34 – Sea Eagles 30