5 Lessons Learned – NRL Round 23

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We’ve got 16 games remaining in the 2021 NRL Regular Season and there is plenty to play for over the next two weekends.

Round 23 provided plenty of entertaining contests with three games decided by a converted try or less.

It was tough to go by Ronaldo Mulitalo providing the moment of the weekend here as well.

Overall the average margin of victory was just 12.5 points with the average score at 30.75-18.25.

As we do every Monday, we’ve got our five big takeaways from the weekend that was below.

1 – Momentum Will Be Key In The Finals

Momentum may not be something that is statistically quantifiable so the number crunchers don’t buy into it, but it will play a big role in picking the finals.

The Storm recorded another double digit win over the Titans and took one step closer to the Minor Premiership.

Should they take care of business against the Eels on Saturday night, they would all but secure the JJ Giltinan Shield with a week to spare (barring a shock loss to the Sharks in Round 25, plus Penrith winning their remaining games by about 175 points).

It would then put Craig Bellamy in an interesting position because he will have to decide if he wants his team to push on against the Sharks and keep their winning streak alive or give his players some rest.

Elsewhere, teams like Souths who know their Finals assignments will turn their attention to getting the best preparation possible for their next meaningful game.

Get ready to back the hot hand.

2 – Manly Had The Biggest Win Of The Weekend

Cronulla might have belted the Tigers by 30 points but no side picked up a more important win than Manly on Friday night.

All season we have gone back and forth on whether or not the Sea Eagles can compete without Tom Trbojevic but getting that 19-18 victory over a desperate Raiders side gave them hope for September.

Not only did they manage a victory, but they came back from 12-0 down, a position most were writing them off from.

Still two points out of the top four, Manly is now in position to leapfrog the Roosters and get that pivotal double chance.

With or without Turbo, they should have no troubles handling the Bulldogs and Cowboys over the next fortnight.

Their focus from here will be on getting ready for that first round of the finals where the NRL’s most valuable player will be required in full flight.

They should be able to defeat just about any team in the NRL in a low scoring scrap fest but without him, they will not be able to match the likes of Melbourne and Souths if the game turns into a shootout.

3 – Penrith-Souths v3.0 Will Live Up To The Hype

While still not officially locked in, it’s 99.9% likely that Penrith and Souths will renew hostilities in the first round of the NRL Finals.

Just like Manly in the first part of Friday’s double header, Penrith had to work their way out of a 12-0 deficit, although this came against a much more talented Souths side.

Thanks to a healthy Nathan Cleary, Penrith did just that with the man himself kick starting a 25-0 run after half an hour.

Whoever wins the rematch in the first round will move into odds on favourite to face the Storm in the Grand Final and it should be an absolute belter.

4 – It’s All On The Line For Newcastle This Weekend

Normally this would be some sort of pun about line betting but in this instance, we’re talking about the Knights sealing a spot in the NRL Finals.

Thanks to their insane -131 points differential, the Knights could still miss out on the Finals if they lose their remaining two games.

They had a perfect chance to get it back to a slightly more respectable level (or at least down to double digits) against the Bulldogs but could only manage a six point win.

It would hurt even more knowing they built a 22-6 lead and let their defence slip in the closing stages.

Up next is a season defining clash against one of the sides looking to chase them down, the Gold Coast Titans.

A win on Thursday would lock in a Finals spot while a 12th defeat of the season would open the door for two of the Titans, Sharks and Raiders to pip them with wins in Rounds 24 and 25.

Ask any athlete, they want to take care of their own business and the Knights can do it on Thursday.

5 – Brisbane Provided The Only Upset

Outright upsets have been few and far between of late with the favourite winning 19 straight heading into yesterday’s Broncos-Warriors clash.

The Warriors entered the game as slim 1.5 point favourites and were upset thanks to an Anthony Milford masterclass.

His man of the match effort, combined with the kicking efficiency of Herbie Farnworth gave the Broncos a confidence boosting win.

For most clubs this season you can just about toss the home and away records out with the competition moving to Queensland, but for the Broncos those numbers can still produce some key takeaways.

As the home side Brisbane has amassed an impressive 8-3 record against the spread showing that at Suncorp at least, a home crowd can play a role in the performance of a team.