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NRL: The five big moments from round 20

It was another huge round in the NRL with plenty to talk about as Nathan Cleary was sent off, the Panthers lost and both the Bulldogs and Tigers showed what they are made of.

There are just five rounds of the regular NRL season to play before we head into finals and the pressure is starting to mount.

Maybe that is why we are seeing one or two loose tackles in the heat of battle as the stakes are high and the players are feeling the heat.

The Panthers lost just their second game of the season against the Eels, with the dismissal of Cleary the main talking point to come from the game.

The Cowboys capitalised by beating the Dragons to close the gap at the top of the ladder to just six points and keep the fight for the minor premiership alive.

The Bulldogs and Tigers fans have lots of reason to be optimistic for once, but again there are real concerns about what is going on at Newcastle.

So there is another eventful week in the NRL to dissect. Let’s take a closer look at the five big moments from round 20.

Nathan Cleary sent off against Parramatta

The sending off of Nathan Cleary in the defeat to the Eels was without doubt the talking point of the weekend.

It came during the Panthers 34-10 defeat against Parramatta and means he is now looking at five weeks on the sidelines through suspension.

Most have jumped to Cleary’s defence following the dangerous spear tackle, declaring that there was no malice intended and the NSW star is ‘not that kind of player’.

Even so there can be no complaints about the five-game ban. In fairness Cleary has held his hands up and taken it on the chin.

The Panthers are priced at 11/10 to win the NRL grand final and will now face the next five weeks without their star halves combination as Jarome Luai is also out injured.

It could be a blessing in disguise for the Panthers. Although ideally you would like to have your strongest team on the pitch building momentum towards finals, at least Cleary and Luai should be well rested, fit and raring to go.

Canterbury Bulldogs are the entertainers

The Bulldogs had a miserable start to the season but now they are flying after picking up their fourth win in six games.

They smashed the Newcastle Knights 24-10 on Sunday and all of a sudden the future is looking very bright.

Josh Addo-Carr continues to shine, as does Matt Burton. Not only that they will be joined by another couple of marquee signings in 2023 – Reed Mahoney and Viliame Kikau.

There is also talk that Panthers assistant coach Cameron Ciraldo has agreed to be the Bulldogs head coach from next season.

But saying that, considering the current performances, maybe interim coach Mick Potter should be taking the job full-time.

Alarm bells are sounding at Newcastle

While all is looking bright and rosy at the Bulldogs, the same cannot be said of Newcastle, the team they beat on Sunday.

The Knights were again very poor in front of their own supporters at McDonald Jones Stadium.

Newcastle actually had enough of the ball during the game but they could not capitalise on it and their attack was poor to say the least.

Next up they face the Tigers and unless things start to improve the pressure really will be building on coach Adam O’Brien.

Wests Tigers gain redemption

Performance of the weekend has to go to the Wests Tigers following their shock 32-18 victory over the Brisbane Broncos.

Just a week earlier the Tigers were denied a win over the Cowboys in cruel and controversial circumstances but they bounced back in fine style.

Adam Doueihi has made a huge difference. It is no coincidence that the Tigers are looking a far better unit now the playmaker has returned from injury.

Just like the Bulldogs, the future is looking a lot brighter than it was a few weeks back.

The one big setback from the win was the loss of Jackson Hastings who suffered a broken fibula following another bad tackle.

Sharks pinch golden-point win over the Rabbitohs

The game of the weekend has to go to Cronulla v South Sydney who fought out a thriller before the Sharks won 21-20 courtesy of the golden point.

Really it should have been the Bunnies that took the two points that would have put them on 26 points, level with the Sharks.

However Latrell Mitchell missed three field-goal attempts in extra time and it proved to be costly as Nicho Hynes grabbed his one opportunity with both hands to slot the one-pointer for the win.

The win moved the Sharks into third place and they are going great guns heading into finals.

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