Brisbane’s big wet threatened to put a dampener on Magic Round, but once again putting all 16 NRL teams under the same roof made a big splash in a weekend of spectacular footy.
Unexpectedly high scores, boilover results and unforgettable tries were the hallmarks of the Suncorp Stadium-hosted extravaganza – but the biggest upshot saw an embattled coach fall on his sword.
Catch up on the Round 10 fireworks and fallout.
The predicted southeast Queensland downpour saw the total points line set at less than 40 for all eight Magic Round matches – but the prevailing conditions did little to stymie the flow of attacking football. Six matches went over the total line, with seven teams managing to top 30 points.
Meanwhile, six underdogs covered with five – Newcastle, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Canberra and Sydney Roosters – claiming an upset win.
Broncos halfback Adam Reynolds’ breath-taking kicking game enchanted Friday night after an insipid Knights-Bulldogs opener.
Titans winger Jamayne Isaako produced the third golden point play of his career, a brilliant try in the corner to sink to the Dragons. It was the NRL’s fifth instalment of extra-time already in 2022 – one shy of the record after 10 rounds since golden point’s introduction in 2003 and matching the combined 2020-21 total.
The Raiders channelled their opponents’ stoicism from a week earlier by pounding the high-flying Sharks 30-10 despite having three players sin-binned, while Mitch Moses and Joseph Suaalii produced spectacular tryscoring efforts in a Roosters-Eels thriller.
But for pure rugby league sorcery, it was impossible to go past Cowboys winger Murray Taulagi’s instantly iconic, gravity-defying try-assist…though boom front-rower Reuben Cotter did his best to snatch top billing on the highlights reel with a stunning 60-metre solo try.
Brisbane, North Queensland and Gold Coast have not won more than 24 games between them or finished with a winning record for the past three seasons. But the Sunshine State trio has already combined for 16 victories in 2022 after all three saluted in Magic Round, with two firming as likely finalists.
The 3-7 Titans are still well off the Top 8 pace, but their gutsy 20-16 golden point defeat of the Saints snapped an ugly five-match losing streak and could have planted the seeds of a turnaround. Fullback tyro Jayden Campbell returned from a seven-week layoff and made an enormous difference.
The wiry Campbell, in just his 12th NRL game, finished with a game-high 266 metres, a whopping 13 tackle-breaks and a line-break before setting up the winning try. His presence also eased pressure on the green halves pairing of AJ Brimson and Toby Sexton.
The Broncos chalked up four consecutive wins for the first time since 2017 on the back of another Adam Reynolds masterclass. The 31-year-old halfback recruit has been arguably the NRL’s hottest player over the past month, scoring three tries and producing seven try-assists during the current winning streak.
Reynolds’ pinpoint kicks for Selwyn Cobbo tries either side of a dazzling chip-and-chase try dripped with class – especially in the conditions – in a 38-0 rout of Manly. Cobbo finished with a spectacular hat-trick and a reborn Corey Oates bagged a barnstorming late double. The Broncos’ Top 8 odds have been slashed to $1.45.
The Cowboys rumbled to five straight wins for the first time since early-2016 via a 36-12 beatdown of the Tigers, scoring the last 28 points of the match.
Taulagi and Cotter deservedly soaked up the majority of plaudits, but halves Chad Townsend and Tom Dearden notched two try-assists each and veteran centre Peta Hiku was in vintage touch.
The third-placed Cowboys boast the NRL’s second-best defence and have averaged 34.3 points per game in their past four outings – but their biggest test to date awaits in Round 11 courtesy of home date with the Storm.
The Broncos and Cowboys have climbed to the eighth line of premiership betting at $21.
Barrett Bolts From Belmore
Canterbury returned to the bottom of the NRL ladder and Trent Barrett’s fruitless tenure as coach is over, reportedly quitting the club on Sunday night following news the club’s board was to meet this week to discuss his future.
The 2-8 Bulldogs’ grim 16-6 loss to the struggling Knights proved the last straw. They are averaging a paltry 9.6 points per game and failed to produce a line-break against what up until the weekend was the NRL’s worst defence.
Phil Gould’s much-publicised midweek influence on the Bulldogs’ gutsy Round 8 upset of the Roosters effectively worked against Barrett in light of his charges’ limp, low-scoring losses to the Raiders and Knights since. Barrett leaves with the record of five wins from 34 games in charge at Canterbury.
Speculation suggests premiership winners Shane Flanagan and Paul Green are in the running to take the Bulldogs’ reins, while Panthers assistant Cameron Ciraldo and successful Tonga and St Helens coach Kristian Wolff have been bandied about as replacement options.
Meanwhile, a late fight-back from the Warriors has diverted some much-deserved attention away from Nathan Brown.
Diabolical in recent weeks, the Warriors plummeted to rock bottom during the first half on Saturday as South Sydney raced to a 26-0 lead. The depleted Rabbitohs took the foot off the gas and the Warriors piled on four late tries to conjure hope of a miracle win, papering over the cracks of an overwhelmingly inept display.
The 32-30 scoreline flattered the Warriors but still left them with the NRL’s worst defensive record – a common theme for Brown-coached teams. Despite a serviceable 4-6 record, the Warriors have blown out to $9 to make the playoffs and face critical encounters with the Dragons and Knights over the next fortnight.
Heavyweight Bout Loses Sting
The injury withdrawal of Melbourne spine superstars Ryan Papenhuyzen and Jahrome Hughes essentially rendered the hyped top-of-the-table showdown with Penrith a non-event.
The Panthers duly powered to a highly impressive, but relatively meaningless in the context of their rivalry with the Storm, 32-6 victory. The result did, however, underline the defending premiers’ ruthless qualities as they bounced back from their first loss of 2022 in style.
Three of Penrith’s most consistent performers, Isaah Yeo, Nathan Cleary and Dylan Edwards, scooped the Dally M votes. But perhaps most encouragingly, comparatively enigmatic Jarome Luai got back into his groove with a try, a line-break and two try-assists.
The Panthers, who shortened slightly to $2.75 for the title after Saturday’s win, and Storm will square off again in Round 22 – hopefully with both juggernauts at full-strength.
The Penrith/Melbourne grand final quinella ($3.25) continues to firm as a smart option with the next layer of premiership contenders unable to build consistency as the NRL season heads into the demanding representative period.
Cronulla suffered its second loss in three games, backing up a heroic 29-10 win over the Warriors after having a player sent off and another sin-binned with a dreadful 30-10 defeat to a similarly shorthanded (and highly unfancied) Canberra side on Sunday.
Nicho Hynes was glaringly ineffective at fullback as the putrid loss illuminated Will Kennedy’s importance to the Sharks.
Parramatta has also lost two of its last three, enduring something of a comedown from rolling the Panthers in a 31-24 loss to the Roosters. The Mitchell Moses- and Isaiah Papali’i-inspired Eels rallied spectacularly from 25-6 down to trail by a point but the 80-minute intensity and patience on show at Penrith was lacking.
Manly, meanwhile, tumbled out of the Top 8 courtesy of its dismal 38-0 rout at the hands of Brisbane.
The Roosters were the big movers, surging into fourth spot on the ladder and rejoining the Eels on the third line of premiership betting at $9. The clunkiness is disappearing from a Tricolours attack that has piled on 75 points in the past fortnight, playing far more direct and fast with the ball in hand with Sam Walker the catalyst on Sunday.
Souths will be disappointed to have let the woeful Warriors back into the contest, but Cody Walker’s three try-assist performance in a Rabbitohs side missing Cameron Murray and still without Latrell Mitchell was heartening.