NRL Round 22 Hits and Misses: Contenders build walls, while pretenders crumble

The old adage that defence wins the big games was never truer than over the weekend as the Storm and Rabbitohs held out their more fancied opponents. While the Sea Eagles showed a lack of effort across the park, but particularly up the back.

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


Defence win the big games

After listening to all the praise Melbourne Storm received for their tremendous 80-minute defensive effort to hold out the Panthers in Penrith, the Rabbitohs stood tall and said; "hold my beer". They travelled to a packed CommBank Stadium in the heart of Parramatta and sat the Eels on the seat of their pants. Missing halfback Mitchell Moses, the Eels looked lost with the ball, the Rabbitohs' defence was relentless in its high-pressure pursuit of anything in a blue and gold jersey.

With the ball the Bunnies dominated the middle of the field, with the interplay between Damien Cook and Cameron Murray causing problems all night for the Eels. With the South forwards on top, the ball was shifted to Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker to work their magic on the back-peddling defence. Alex Johnston added two more to his mountain of tries, while Walker also bagged a double.

The Storm and Rabbitohs will carry a lot of confidence into the finals following their Round 22 efforts in defence. Both the Panthers and Eels should field stronger teams, in particular enjoying the return of their star halfbacks, so it is unlikely they will be kept to zero again. Still, knowing that their defensive structures have stood up against a key rival, will help them lift when the pressure is on in the big games ahead.


Garrick fails to tackle key part of being a fullback

It might seem an obvious statement, but Manly really miss Tom Trbojevic and not just for all the tries he scores, but for the ones he prevents. Reuben Garrick may be a fair replacement in attack, but in defence he falls way short of not only Trbojevic, but of first grade standard. You would have to search long and hard to find footage of him making a successful one-on-one tackle at fullback, it was hard enough to find an example of him even trying against the Titans on Sunday. There were several key examples during the upset loss, but the worst came in the 56th minute when David Fifita broke through the defence 40 metres out.

Garrick backpedalled as fullbacks often do to allow his cover defence to help out with the Titans support players pouring through. But Garrick continued to back away, reacting slightly to a dummy from Fifita, but effectively escorting him all the way to the try line, without laying a hand on the rampant forward. Late in the game Garrick was outpaced by Titans forward Beau Fermor who ran 30 metres diagonally across the face of the Sea Eagles goal line to avoid the Manly fullback.

It was part of a very disappointing evening for Manly who needed a win to remain any chance of playing finals this season. There was none of the desperation you would expect from a team in their position and Garrick's ongoing lack of effort in defence is part of why the Sea Eagles won't be involved in the pointy end of the season.

Dogs administration lets fans and players down

You have to wonder about some front office decisions at times and whether the best interests of the players and fans are truly taken into account. The Bulldogs, playing a better brand of football since Mick Potter took over as coach, somehow managed to sign up for a "home" game in Bundaberg against the red hot "away" team North Queensland Cowboys.

The Bulldogs put up a good fight for 60 minutes before the fitness problems they had struggled with all year were compounded by the Queensland afternoon heat.

Next up they faced an away game in New Zealand on a five-day turnaround, complete with a flight landing in Auckland at 1am and just enough time for a single captain's run before game night.

Not surprisingly they looked flat against the Warriors who stomped all over them in Auckland. The NRL has mandated that each club take some games to the regional centres, but an afternoon game in Queensland against a Queensland team sitting second on the ladder? The Bulldogs are a team which in recent years, has not needed off field blunders to help them look bad. Hopefully newly signed coach Cameron Ciraldo will have a greater say in what his players are expected to do.