The final round of NRL action before State of Origin Game 2 takes centre stage brought about plenty of interesting storylines.
It also produced three one-score margins of victory for the first time all season with the Sharks, Knights and Dragons all inning tight finishes.
With a do or die game looming in Brisbane on Sunday night, we’re taking this opportunity to run through our five big conclusions right here.
1 – Latrell Mitchell Is Really Good
When he’s on, he’s borderline unplayable.
Mitchell scored the first try of Round 15 and played a huge role in the Rabbitohs big win in Brisbane.
His run to score his sixth try of the year highlighted the importance of his connection with Cody Walker to the fortunes of Souths for the rest of the season.
It was a much needed confidence booster for the Bunnies mercurial player, ending a four game try scoring drought at club level.
While Souths dominated the game, special mention has to go to Broncos flyer Xavier Coates for what will undoubtedly go down as one of the best defensive efforts of the entire NRL season.
2 – Nathan Cleary Is The Most Valuable Player In The NRL
Penrith with Cleary in 2021: 13 wins, 0 losses.
Penrith without Cleary in 2021: 0 wins, 2 losses.
While the coach’s son was not the only star to return to the Panthers lineup on Friday night, his importance to the side was obvious to anyone who watched the game.
After finding themselves in an early 12-0 hole, Cleary took over the game and steered the Panthers to 38 unanswered points as they (briefly) regained top spot on the NRL ladder.
You could forgive the Panthers fanbase for approaching the next few weeks with some trepidation as their star man is likely to feature in Origin Games Two and Three.
Should he get through unscathed, you can just about put a Panthers Grand Final appearance in pen.
3 – And Tom Trbojevic Is A Very Close Second
The funny thing about the phrase “Most Valuable Player” is it can take on so many different meanings.
In this instance, it’s being taken at literal meaning in terms of who is the most important player to their team’s relative success.
That was none more evident than the Manly fullback helping the Sea Eagles storm home and come back from a 24-8 halftime deficit on the Gold Coast.
While Nathan Cleary is crucial to the Panthers’ premiership hopes, Manly is just as reliant on Tom Trbojevic, although their ceiling is slightly lower.
Even though they are six points off the top four, they are one of the more dangerous teams heading into the run home.
It’s probably why Manly is seen as one of the four contenders to make the top four at $5 odds in our NRL futures markets.
4 – The Blues Depth Is Scary
It must be a nice position for Brad Fittler to find himself in, needing only to make a few forced changes to the team that dominated State of Origin Game 1.
While losing Jake Trbojevic is not ideal, being able to call upon the likes of Angus Crichton and Dale Finucane will offset that blow.
Our State of Origin Game 2 Preview will be coming later in the week, but it’s easy to see why the Blues have been installed as $1.25 favourites in our market.
5 – Queensland Is Counting On The Unknown Factor
While Brad Fittler may be feeling pretty good about himself going into Origin 2, Paul Green must feel like he’s carrying Mt Everest as he looks to turn around that Game 1 hammering.
It’s asking a lot of an 18 year old kid with seven games of NRL experience to step into a do or die State of Origin game on debut but Green is banking on him being able to handle the occasion.
With four tries in his last five games and starting the last three at fullback, the Maroons will need Walsh to have an instant impact on Sunday night…
Good luck kid.