Sport Rugby League Straight Six: What we learned about NRL Round 8
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Straight Six: What we learned about NRL Round 8

Wayne Bennett insists he didn't think he was breaching the NRL's coronavirus protocol. Photo: AAP
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Master v apprentice

He might be 69 years old, but wily Wayne Bennett has still got it. The biggest battle of this round was not on the field but off it, the duel between Bennett and Anthony Seibold.

The controversial coach swap at the end of last year between Souths and the Broncos was exceptionally messy and drawn out.

And when the Rabbitohs and Broncos met for the first time this season, it was always going to be big.

South Sydney won the game easily, running out 38-6 winners, and on the benches Bennett was also the clear winner.

Seibold clearly appeared to be flustered with questioning about the issue and struggled to handle the spotlight. Not so the master coach, which has been in the hot seat since 1976.

Bennett knows how to handle journalists and external pressure, not to mention keeping his players calm and relaxed.

Eight rounds in and with the Bunnies in second spot on the ladder, the decision to appoint the veteran Queenslander is proving to be a masterstroke.

Baby Sharks with bite

Cronulla’s young guns pulled off one of the results of the season when the Sharks edged Melbourne 20-18. It was an absorbing contest that went right down to the wire.

With the Sharks missing four Test internationals, Storm was huge favourites. But step forward Kyle Flanagan, Bronson Xerri, Briton Nikora, Blayke Brailey and Braden Hamlin-Uele.

The rookie quintet, with less than 10 NRL games experience combined, were outstanding against the might of Melbourne.

The Sharks’ academy is really bearing fruit right now and the future is bright in the Sutherland Shire.

Bellyache’s big spray

For Melbourne it was a disappointing finish to the night and Storm coach Craig Bellamy did not hold back after the game.

New breed: Kyle Flanagan. Photo: Getty 

The notoriously fiery Bellamy, nicknamed ‘Bellyache’, threatened to drop several of his players after the loss.

“We gave young (Ryan) Papenhausen a go tonight and how good was he?” he said.

“So if I have to go and do that and put young players in, I’ll do it.

”There’s a lot of players in that team who have got a lot of points up. So there’ll be a couple tapped on the shoulder saying you need to improve.”

It was vintage Bellamy as he went on to lay down the law: “I don’t want to sit here and bulls–t to you. At the moment we aren’t playing games out like Storm teams play games out.

”It was a crap second half for us. They took real advantage of it. They played a near-perfect second half. We were outplayed, out-toughed physically, out-toughed mentally.

”Their game management was a whole heap better than us. They outmaneuvered us.”

Winging it

On Saturday Manly managed to get past Canterbury 18-10 at Lottoland and it was a pair of young wingers who starred, Sea Eagle Reuben Garrick and the beautifully named Dogs flyer Reimis Smith.

Each grabbed a double, but it was Garrick who scored all of Manly’s 18 points with two conversions and three penalty goals.

For the unheralded 21-year-old, who only made his NRL debut this year, it was some night.

On the other side, Smith made the most of his own start with a well-taken brace.

The 21-year-old actually debuted three years ago as a teenager, but has only racked up 20 appearances since.

But with bloodlines like his – his uncles include Tyrone Smith and Anthony Mundine – he is surely only to watch.

The Mitchell show

Latrell Mitchell put on a masterclass for Sydney Roosters to smash Wests Tigers.

The big centre scored three tries and set up two others, as well as kicking seven goals, to put his stamp on the SCG.

There’s no doubting that Mitchell is the best and most exciting young player in the world right now.

At 21 and with every weapon in his arsenal, he is simply a phenomenon.

Against the Tigers he was unplayable with his speed, strength, ability to fend, bust tackles, as well as being able create tries with his kicking game. He is a joy to watch.

Canberra party rolls on

The remade Raiders made it win No.6 with their result over the scratchy Panthers in Wagga.

There are real guts and determination in this Canberra side, a strength not apparent in recent seasons.

The new-look side has been able to battle past adversity and grind out victories in 2019.

Part of that has been because of their awesome Englishman John Bateman.

The back-rower has been brilliant since arriving from Wigan, full of steel and heart, and is currently fifth on the Dally M leaderboard.

But unfortunately Bateman suffered a bad injury against Penrith and could be out for some time.

Bateman is believed to have fractured an eye socket, meaning the Raiders will have to make do without him in the weeks ahead.

This will be a test of the new-found resolve of Ricky Stuart’s men.