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NRL Round 13 Hits and Misses: Manu a champion fullback as well

Round 13 of the NRL season saw an incredibly important play from Corey Horsburgh, a sparkling display from Joseph Manu, the Panthers show off their playing depth and a mysterious try to Manly's Martin Taupau.

Read on as we take a look back at some of the biggest hits and misses of the weekend.

HITS

Horsburgh's game-changing play

The charge-down is often a fraught play in rugby league -- invariably even a successful effort ends up in the hands of the team that just kicked the ball, only now with the tackle count restarted. It must lead coaches to sometimes question whether it's a play that's worth making.

But you don't get a much more valuable charge-down than Corey Horsburgh's effort early in the second half of Canberra's match against the Roosters on Sunday. With the Raiders holding a 12-6 lead at the break -- not a big advantage for a team that is notorious for letting leads slip away in the second half of games -- star Roosters playmaker Luke Keary put up a kick on the last, as Horsburgh rushed out of the defensive line.

The red-headed forward lifted his arms, got in the way of the kick, regathered it and charged upfield. There was no chance he'd have the legs to make the tryline himself but he found centre Sebastian Kris in support and made the simple pass. Kris ran away to score, Jamal Fogarty converted, and even though the Roosters did make a late charge, the Raiders held on to win. By six points.

Manu a star fullback in the making... one day

Joey Manu is one of the best centres in rugby league, a two-time premiership-winner and a New Zealand international. He's also secretly one of the best fullbacks in the game, but hardly ever gets to play there.

With the game's premier No.1 James Tedesco away on Origin duty, Manu lined up at fullback on Sunday and once again piled up a crop of huge numbers: 288 run metres, 14 tackle breaks, seven offloads and a try assist. It's more tackle busts and offloads than Tedesco has made in any game in 2022. Tedesco has averaged 218 metres a game, and has only twice made more metres than Manu did on Sunday.

Manu has produced similarly stellar numbers every time he fills in at fullback -- something he's now done 10 times over the past four seasons. He has made an average of 234 metres and 7.5 tackle breaks per game in those appearances, numbers that would put him among the best in the league in both categories (Penrith fullback Dylan Edwards is the only player to make more metres per game this season).

The 25-year-old Manu and the 29-year-old Tedesco are both contracted to the Roosters through to the end of 2024, and the Roosters may have a plan for Manu to take over the fullback role after that. But they've done a tremendous job to keep him at a time when a lot of rival clubs would be thrilled to have a fullback as good as the Tricolours' back-up option.

Depth shines for terrific Panthers

Much is made of the effect of the State of Origin period on the NRL season -- and its effect of weakening clubs who lose players to the three-game series -- but when the best team in the league plays the worst, it hardly matters.

Penrith were without six of their best players in Saturday's clash with the Bulldogs, while Canterbury enjoyed a couple of excellent performances from former Panther Matt Burton and snubbed ex-NSW winger Josh Addo-Carr. It didn't matter, with Penrith cruising to a 30-18 win, despite the Bulldogs enjoying the bulk of possession.

It's the kind of game that will only help Penrith in the long term, with back-up halves Sean O'Sullivan and Kurt Falls (who kicked five goals) getting more first-grade experience and the team's other stars getting their chance to step up in the absence of Cleary, Lui, Yeo and the like. All that experience could come in handy if an injury strikes one or two of the club's big names come finals time.

MISSES

One pass too many blows Titans' try

Titans five-eighth AJ Brimson looked to have thrown away the first try of Thursday night's clash with the Cowboys, with the scores locked at 0-0 just 10 minutes in. He took the ball on the fly out wide, stepped through the defensive line and looked to have beaten the fullback with three metres of open turf to cover. But as he stumbled slightly, and possibly expected a better effort from the last defender, he threw a one-handed over-the-top pass which missed its mark and bounced up into the arms of scrambling Cowboys winger Brendan Elliott.

Just six minutes later Brimson made up for the blunder, setting up Toby Sexton for the first try of the game, taking the Titans to a well-deserved 6-0 lead. Unfortunately for the embattled club, that would be the last time they would trouble the scorers. The Cowboys started to exert their superiority across the park and ran in six unanswered tries. It was a shame for the over 10,000 fans who were mostly there to cheer the Titans on. The victory allowing the Cowboys to maintain their grip on a Top 4 position.

The Manly try that really wasn't

Sometimes you can only scratch your head and wonder what just happened. Manly prop Martin Taupau took at hit-up 10 metres out from the Warriors' line with 15 minutes remaining in the first half and was stopped awfully close. He looked to be struggling to his feet to play the ball as the referee's whistle blew to signal a try. Taupau looked as confused as the Warriors defenders, but happily celebrated the four-pointer.

Initial replays raised doubts over whether he had reached the chalk at all, so the referee was obliged to send it to the bunker for review. A thousand slow motion replays from all available angles failed to convince anyone that Taupau had scored, but as is often the case with these goal-line pile-ups, there was no definitive angle to show that he hadn't. The bunker had no choice but to go with the referee's decision. Warriors fans simply added it to the long list of calls they feel have gone unfairly against them this and previous seasons.