NRL Team of the Week Round 15: Panthers domination

Round 15 of the NRL saw big hits massive tries and some huge wins by teams that desperately needed them. As we have done every week Edge of the Crowd brings you our team of the week.

#1: Fullback - Kalyn Ponga (Newcastle Knights)

The Raiders overcame a second-half surge from the Knights to win 20-18, clutching victory with a 79th-minute try and subsequent conversion. Despite playing for the losing side and battling a stomach illness during the match, Knights fullback and skipper Kalyn Ponga had an outstanding performance.

He had a try assist for Kurt Mann in the 39th minute thanks to his strong run out of dummy half. Ponga racked up another try assist in the second half with a grubber into the in-goal for Mat Croker in the 56th minute. Ponga set up this try merely a minute after suffering from whiplash from a tackle that resulted in Elliott Whitehead getting sent to the sin bin.   

In addition to his two try assists, Kalyn Ponga finished the game with 120 running metres, a linebreak, a linebreak assist and three out of three conversions.

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#2 Winger - Joseph Suaalii (Sydney Roosters)

Last season, Joseph Suaalii, then a young 17 year old, burst onto the scenes for the Roosters. While injury cut his 2021 short, he has more than made up for it in 2022.

With his third multi-try game of 2022, Suaali has quickly established himself as one of Sydney's big scoring threats. He also broke through Paramatta's defensive line on three occasions on Saturday.

While not in the named side for the second origin side, Suaalii is part of the New South Wales squad, and will be hoping to prove to NSW coach Brad Fittler that he deserves to make his origin debut.

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#3 Centre - Valentine Holmes (North Queensland Cowboys)

One of the best kicking boots in the NRL at the moment, Valentine Holmes seems untouchable at the moment.

With 16 points to his name this week, Holmes scored twice, and made four conversions, in a comeback win against Manly. His tries also came at key moments for the Cowboys, getting them on the scoreboard, and then scoring the game winning try.

Holmes will be hoping to carry his strong form into Origin, where he proved a key piece of the Queensland side in game one.

#4: Centre - Aaron Schoupp (Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs)

In what many were expecting to be a messy Sunday afternoon matchup between two bottom sides, the Bulldogs played one of their best games of the season.

While only finding himself on the scoreboard once, Aaron Schoupp's 293 run metres tired out the Wests Tigers side.

This week's game was a showcase of the young talent currently at the Bulldogs side, and showed glimpses of the dangerous backfield we expected before the season.

#5 Winger - Brian To'o (Penrith Panthers)

Another Origin star to make the Team of the Week, Brian To'o continued to be untouchable by opposing players. For him and the panthers, it was business as usual, with a 40-6 thrashing of the warriors.

To'o broke the line twice, and ran for over 200 metres, as the Panthers asserted dominance. He also had two tries to his name.

This form from To'o is exactly what NSW will be hoping to see on Sunday, as he has been named as a starting winger as the Blues try to even up the series in Perth.

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#6: Five-Eighth - Matt Burton (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)

Matt Burton backed up his stellar performance in Round 14 with another strong performance in Round 15 in the Bulldogs’ 36-12 victory over the Tigers. This led to the Bulldogs’ first back-to-back wins since 2019.

Burton managed to kick all six conversions, while also running 161 metres and setting up back-to-back sets and tries with his kicking game.

He has now earned a State of Origin call-up for Game 2 in Perth, in which he will be reunited with several of his former Panthers teammates. He is expected to play in the Centres to replace COVID-19 stricken Jack Wighton, which was his position in the Panthers squad.

#7: Halfback - Nathan Cleary (Penrith Panthers)

Nathan Cleary earned a second consecutive position in our Team of the Week this week with a skillful performance in the Panthers’ convincing 40-6 win over the struggling Warriors. His kicking, running and passing game outshone that of his Warriors counterparts.

Cleary secured a try assist in the 21st minute, delivering an inside ball for Dylan Edwards to score. He backed this up with a second try assist in the 39th minute, sending Taylan May over the line in the corner thanks to a bullet-like pass.

Cleary finished the game with 319 kicking metres and five out of six goals, with Stephen Crichton successfully taking the final conversion of the match in the 80th minute after Cleary came from the field early in the 76th minute.

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#8: Prop - Joseph Tapine (Canberra Raiders)

Tapine once again earned a spot in our Team of the Week for his key role in this week’s game. Having 203 run metres and a strong line break, along with 3 tackle breaks, he assisted the team with a tight 20-18 win over the Newcastle Knights.

Tapine’s sturdy defence in the last two minutes assisted 2nd rower Hudson Young to score the game-winning try.

#9: Hooker - Reece Robson (North Queensland Cowboys)

Playing a tough game, Robson proved himself to be an incredible hooker in this week’s game against the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles, and has found himself in our Team of the Week again.

Robson had a great game, having 38 tackles with a 92.7% efficiency. His try in the last 10 minutes gave a wave of motivation to the Cowboys, with another 2 tries from teammates Lemuelu and Holmes following quickly. Robson’s efforts found his team coming home with a 28-26 victory.

#10: Prop - Junior Paulo (Parramatta Eels)

Finishing with 229 run metres, the most from his team, Paulo played a strong game against the Sydney Roosters this week. Assisting in the team’s resilient possession and high completion rate, he put up a fight in his 59 minutes on field.

Despite being taken on and off field throughout the game, Paulo put up a great fight for his team, playing a key role in their 26-16 victory over the Roosters.

#11: Second Row - Jeremiah Nanai (North Queensland Cowboys)

Nanai played a good game against the Sea Eagles, scoring a try in the 44th minute. His try assist and tackle breaks supported his teammates in pushing against Manly.

Despite making a couple of handling errors, Nanai proved himself to be a great team player, assisting in the Cowboys win over the Sea Eagles.

#12: Second Row - Shaun Lane (Parramatta Eels)

Lane had a stellar game this week against the Roosters, with 3 line break assists and 2 try assists. His quick-thinking pass to Gutherson in the 20th minute put the Eels further ahead, securing the lead just a quarter of the way into the game.

Lane proves to be a consistent player, with strong assists and teamwork proving his position in our Team of the Week.

#13: Lock - Tevita Pangai Junior (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)

In the Bulldogs’ 36-12 thrashing of the Wests Tigers, Tevita Pangai Junior put in a strong performance punctuated by a series of half a dozen or more important offloads. He played in the Lock position for the first time in 2022, having played predominantly as a Second Rower or Prop during the earlier part of the season.

Tevita Pangai Junior’s offloads lead to the Bulldogs racking up a total of 19 offloads during the match compared to the Tigers’ six offloads. Pangai Junior currently leads the 2022 competition for offloads with a total of 38, which is eight offloads clear of the next closest player.