With the Origin period upon us, Round 13 was a disrupted one, with just four games taking place across the weekend’s NRL action.
The in-form Cowboys and Panthers maintained their spots within the top-four, while the Titans, Warriors and Bulldogs were all on the wrong end of the ledger once again.
In the final game of the round, the inconsistent Roosters fell to the Raiders in a thrilling clash.
Here’s what we liked and disliked from every game in an Origin-affected Round 13.
North Queensland Cowboys 32 – 6 Gold Coast Titans
What we liked: Cowboys defying the odds
No Valentine Holmes, no Jeremiah Nanai, no Reuben Cotter and no Tom Dearden – no worries!
The heavily depleted Cowboys looked dicey during the opening stages. Yet, as soon as possession swung in their favour, so did the scoreboard, territorial advantage, run metres and just about every other metric.
Scott Drinkwater laid on three tries, Murray Taulagi showcased exactly why he’s in Queensland calculations and Jason Taumalolo led the forward pack upon his return with 184m and five tackle busts.
Todd Payten’s men once again made defence their forte, putting the early try they conceded behind them and shutting the Gold Coast out for the rest of the game.
What we disliked: Same old Titans
Somewhere around the 36th minute, you could have sworn it was Groundhog Day.
Despite establishing a lead, the Gold Coast collapsed and leaked three tries in eight minutes to go in at the interval 16-6 down against a patched-up Cowboys.
After last week’s debacle against Brisbane – where they threw away a 20-point advantage – Justin Holbrook’s side had once again managed to shoot themselves in the foot.
Somewhere around the 77th minute, you could have sworn it was Groundhog Day.
Despite threatening to get back into the contest through Erin Clark, the Gold Coast collapsed and leaked three tries in eight minutes to lose the game 32-6.
Right now, there isn’t a team in the league who surrender points in bunches as quickly as the Titans do. As soon as they seem to suffer an ounce of adversity, notching tries for the opposition becomes child’s play.
Penrith Panthers 30 – 18 Canterbury Bulldogs
What we liked: Panthers lift despite missing six stars
With six players missing due to Origin duties – Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai, Isaah Yeo, Liam Martin, Stephen Crichton and Brian Toó – the Panthers were never really troubled in an impressive performance.
Sean O’Sullivan, Kurt Falls and Matt Eisenhuth took the roles of Cleary, Luai and Yeo to brilliant effect, all playing starring roles in the victory.
Five individual try scorers also underlined the team performance from Penrith.
What we disliked: Bulldogs don’t make the most of possession
The last-placed team dominated possession throughout the match, completing 39 of their 42 sets, but couldn’t get enough pressure on the scoreboard.
With the Bulldogs not converting their pressure, the Panthers were lethal when they were in attack to take their chances and earn a comfortable win.
Flying winger Josh Addo-Carr fought hard for Canterbury with two tries but the supporting cast didn’t perform enough for the struggling Bulldogs side.
Manly Sea Eagles 44 – 12 New Zealand Warriors
What we liked: The aggression of Haumole Olakau’atu
The big back-rower seemed to make it his personal mission to terrorise New Zealand’s left edge defence at every opportunity.
First, he palmed off Chanel Harris-Tavita before charging towards the line. Then, he brutally bumped Marcelo Montoya off, sending the winger crashing to the turf.
His third tackle-busting run produced a brilliant solo try as he brushed off three tackles from close range and contorted his body to get over the line.
At the interval his stat line read: 113m, six tackle busts, one linebreak and one try.
What we disliked: Warriors woeful first half
Unfortunately, pressure is building on Nathan Brown. And after the performance that the Warriors put in against Manly, it is only going to intensify.
New Zealand were blown out of contention in the early stages, with the Sea Eagles racing to a double digit lead after 12 minutes.
In this period, Manly scored twice, had 73% possession and completed all ten of their sets. The Warriors, on the other hand, had completed just two.
Things then went from bad to worse, as Bunty Afoa was sin-binned and his side leaked two more tries in his time off the field.
92% of the first period was played in the Warriors half, while they were able to muster a solitary tackle in Manly’s 20m zone as they went in 24-0 down.
Canberra Raiders 22 – 16 Sydney Roosters
What we liked: Hudson and Horsburgh set the tone
It was a hard-fought victory that allowed Canberra to flex their defensive muscle – and it was firebrand forwards Corey Horsburgh and Hudson Young who were in the thick of it.
The pair set the tone early for the Raiders with their aggression, going after Fletcher Baker in an early scuffle and asserting their dominance.
But it was the charge-down just after half-time from Horsburgh that changed the game, with the red-headed enforcer streaking away and getting a pass away to Seb Kris for a crucial try.
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Horsbrugh would finish with 123 run metres and 36 tackles, while his partner Young was tireless over the course of the 80 metres, also finishing with over 100 run metres and 43 tackles.
Joseph Tapine was also fantastic in the middle of the field, as the middles from Canberra took it to the likes of Sio Siua Taukeiaho and Angus Crichton throughout the clash.
What we disliked: Roosters’ ill-discipline proves costly
In a game where they finished with more possession than their opponents, Trent Robinson will be filthy with his side’s ill-discipline in the first-half.
After conceding six penalties in first 20 minutes, the Roosters allowed the Raiders to get the ascendancy heading into the half-time break.
Both sides would finish with 11 errors, but it was the Tricolours who let themselves down, giving away 10 penalties during the loss.
Sitili Tupouniua (two penalties and an error) and Fletcher Baker (two penalties) both drew their fair share of whistles from Adam Gee, while young winger Joseph Suaalii had an up-and-down day, scoring a try but coming up with four mistakes.