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With much of the early part of Round 5 played through torrid conditions, it was an opportunity for some of the NRL's biggest men to take centre stage.

While the likes of Eliesa Katoa and Viliame Kikau put in dazzling attacking displays, others like Nathan Brown and Leo Thompson impacted games with sheer will and physicality. 

There was plenty to like from some of the known magical ball players too, with Daly Cherry-Evans marking his historic night with a strong performance and Shaun Johnson and Xavier Savage producing some highlight-worthy moments in big wins. 

Round 5 Team of the Week

1. Scott Drinkwater (Cowboys)

Bounced back from a tough Round 4 which was spent fielding towering bombs in torrential rain to be his side’s most dangerous attacking weapon in a six-try showing. The Cowboys are at their best when Drinkwater is acting as a third half in attack and against the Titans he was heavily involved, which included laying on a nice final pass for Reece Robson’s second half try. Scored a double of his own with four-pointers either side of the break.  

Scott Drinkwater 2nd Try

2. Zac Lomax (Dragons) 

While it was confirmed last week that he’ll be departing the club at the end of the 2024 season, Red V fans get be confident they’ll get the best of Zac Lomax for the remainder of his time there, following another colossal effort from the wing. Showed lovely hands to collect a grubber in soaking conditions for the Dragons' first try, before coming up with what might end up being the assist of the season. With two defenders sending him skidding towards the sideline, Lomax unleashed a powerful spiral ball back in field to a waiting Ben Hunt in a brilliant show of skill.

Ben Hunt Try

3. Rocco Berry (Warriors) 

Resembled a hungry bull terrier in defence, producing a series of swarming kick chases and efforts from dummy-half early in tackle counts. Ran a laser-perfect line for his try off a Shaun Johnson short ball and recovered from an early slip up to form a solid new-look combo with Roger Tuivasa-Sheck on the right side. Well and truly got the better of Jack Wighton in their one-on-one battle. 

4. Matthew Timoko (Raiders) 

A brilliant way to celebrate extending with the Green Machine earlier in the week. Scored two tries – the first of which was a stunning effort that any of the game's best finishers would have been proud of – and set up a further two with some lovely ball skills. Timoko also busted through a game-high eight tackles as part of a 209-metre effort. 

5. Xavier Savage (Raiders) 

The best performance to date in his 28-game career. Provided a skillful assist for Danny Levi's try with a grubber back in field while running at full tilt, which went along with a four-pointer of his own in the first half. Registered a game-high 235 run metres on the left flank. Sometimes in rugby league there is no answer for blistering pace and Savage has that in bucket loads. 

Xavier Savage’s Round 5 highlight reel

6. Matt Burton (Bulldogs) 

It was the performance Bulldogs fans had been waiting for with the star five-eighth using his damaging running game and slick ball skills to hand the Dogs an early lead on Friday. His hat-trick and 147 run metres were somewhat buried in a dramatic game that had a stack of injuries and a send off, but Burton had a hand in everything on Friday night and reminded us what he can do in the No. 6 jersey. 

7. Shaun Johnson (Warriors) 

Put on a show with some sublime passes to set up early tries for Rocco Berry and Jackson Ford and then scored the next two by putting himself in the frame during line breaks from teammates. Just as importantly though was the way he managed the game during an early period when the Warriors couldn't break down the South Sydney line, with the rewards coming soon after. 

Shaun Johnson's Round 5 highlight reel

8. Tui Kamikamica (Storm) 

A dominant performance up front in a nail-biter against the Broncos, with half of his 166 metres coming after contact as he took it to the Brisbane middles. The Fiji Bati captain also made 23 tackles without a single miss.   

9. Wayde Egan (Warriors) 

While it was Shaun Johnson who got most of the plaudits, so much of the great work he did was only made possible by Egan's masterful display at dummy-half. Both of Johnson's tries began with a half break from Egan after he manipulated defenders from the bottom of the ruck, while his pass selection was key in the lead up to Rocco Berry and Jackson Ford's tries too.

10. Leo Thompson (Knights) 

Made the world of difference in his return from suspension, laying a platform from which the Knights were able to dominate the opening 40 minutes. Churned through 132 metres, 66 of which came after contact, and made 33 tackles without a miss in his 52-minute stint.  

11. Viliame Kikau (Bulldogs) 

The powerhouse back-rower wreaked havoc on the Roosters' right edge in the first half, running 155 metres off six runs and setting Matt Burton free. In wet conditions a barnstorming Kikau wasn't what the Roosters defenders wanted to see. Finished with a team-high 167 metres with two line breaks and a try assist. 

Kikau activates beast mode

12. Eliesa Katoa (Storm)

When a player like Katoa gets it right in wet conditions, he’s always going to be hard to stop. By half-time the Tongan already had a try-scoring double and had caused untold issues for Ezra Mam and Jaiyden Hunt on his side of the field. His 15 runs were more than any other Storm forward had, resulting in 125 metres gained. 

13. Morgan Smithies (Raiders) 

Yet another brilliant British pick up from Ricky Stuart, Smithies passed another litmus test with flying colours on Sunday against a powerful Parramatta pack. Had 41 tackles without a single miss and was crucial to Canberra restricting the offloads the Eels so often build their game around. Carried the ball 19 times, the most by any player on the field at GIO Stadium, for 150 metres gained.  

14. Daly Cherry-Evans (Sea Eagles)

If you’re going to beat the Panthers then you better come with a kicking game that can limit their bulldozers from the backfield, and as he broke the record for the most appearances ever for a Sea Eagles player Cherry-Evans did just that. Forced three dropouts with a dialed-in short kicking game, while some of the longer stuff which saw him finish with a touch under 600 metres off the boot got Manly out of bother too. Kicked a perfect six from six after stepping in to do goalkicking after the early loss of Reuben Garrick and scored a try which sent 4 Pines Park wild in his 310th game for the club.  

Daly Cherry-Evans celebrates the night in style

15. Reece Robson (Cowboys) 

Super reliable in defence, although that’s nothing new at all. It was with ball in hand that Robson really impressed on Sunday, running 11 times from the bottom of the ruck to punish the sloppy Titans defence with 142 metres gained from dummy-half runs alone. Scored a nice try and came close to grabbing another later in the match. 

16. Isaiya Katoa (Dolphins) 

With his future at the club now secured long-term, Katoa delivered another reminder of his potential as a playmaker with an assured showing in the driver’s seat against the Wests Tigers. Kept the opposing back three guessing with a variety of kicks which limited their ability to steal cheap metres on returns. His game management is allowing halves partner Kodi Nikorima to play his natural game and on the back of it the Dolphins are flourishing.  

Isaiya Katoa Try

17. Nathan Brown (Sea Eagles) 

When he gets the balance right Brown can be so impactful off the bench at this point of his career, and he executed his role to perfection against the reigning premiers. An energetic and aggressive 39-minute stint off the bench saw him change the game with line speed and physicality in defence. While plenty of others played bigger roles, it was somewhat telling that the Sea Eagles did their best work during Brown’s time on the park in what was otherwise a closely contested game.  

Acknowledgement of Country

The New Zealand Warriors honour the mana of the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa, Australia and the Pacific. We acknowledge the traditional kaitiaki of the lands, elders past and present, their stories, their traditions, their mamae and their mana motuhake.

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