Eight games, eight moments: Round 5
The biggest game-changing moments from Round 5 of the NRL season.
Cowboys 22 def. Titans 12
The Moment: Brilliant players have the knack of making things happen – but similarly things happen for brilliant players, too. You could just sense it was going to be the Cowboys’ night when Kangaroos halfback Johnathan Thurston trapped a dangerous Scott Prince cross-field grubber kick, was presented with a perfect bounce and sprinted 72 metres to score and take the home side out to a 10-nil lead after 15 minutes.
Wests Tigers 30 def. Rabbitohs 6
The Moment: Chalk Matt Utai up with an ‘honorary’ try assist after his pressure-laden kick-chase of a Benji Marshall clearance led to crucial points five minutes into the second half. Leading 12-6, Marshall booted deep on tackle four, hoping for a 40/20. The ball teased the sideline 15 metres out before Rabbitohs winger Fetuli Talanoa picked it up – and was immediately crunched by the terrier-like Utai. The ball jolted free and over the sidelines, with the Tigers gaining a precious scrum feed. On tackle two they swept the ball from the right sideline to the left, from Marshall to Robbie Farah to Tim Moltzen and finally winger Mitch Brown who scored. Moltzen’s touch was a cracker – he feigned to pass inside before firing across the face of centre Geoff Daniela to find Brown unmarked.
Warriors 24 def. Roosters 12
The Moment: What’s that old coach’s saying? Never pass the ball with your back turned to the opposition? Pfft – what’s the worst that could happen? Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce found out what when his errant pass landed perfectly for Warriors centre Shaun Berrigan to scoot 30 metres and score the game’s match-winning try in the 67th minute. The Roosters’ comedy of errors started on the last tackle on their 40-metre line, with captain Braith Anasta playing the ball to Jake Friend. The hooker found Anthony Minichiello at first receiver; the fullback wasn’t expecting the pass but luckily knocked the ball backwards. Pearce retreated to clean up the dregs, but then lofted a no-look backwards pass that floated over Todd Carney’s head into vacant space. Enter Berrigan at full pace and… that’s all she wrote.
Panthers 36 def. Raiders 10
The Moment: Under-rated winger David Simmons’ hat-trick against the Raiders took his try-scoring tally in Panthers’ colours to six from just five games. His third of the night, with the home side up 18-10 in the 48th minute, was the clincher. It began with a lovely weaving run from fullback Michael Gordon on the Panthers’ 40-metre line. Gordon beat a handful of Raiders’ jersey grabs and then round-arm offloaded to centre Michael Jennings on his left. In a two-on-one situation Jennings drew in deputising Raiders fullback Blake Ferguson and passed to a flat-footed Simmons who loped 10 metres to score. Gordon’s conversion made it 24-10 and the Raiders were sunk.
Sea Eagles 19 def. Sharks 13
The Moment: Sometimes it’s not tries or field goals that win matches. Sharks coach Shane Flanagan will still be wondering how two seemingly banked competition points were stolen after his side led by 13 points with less than a quarter of the game remaining. Sea Eagles winger Michael Oldfield’s try on the full-time siren may have clinched the visitors the win, but it was the unnecessary repeat set Cronulla surrendered with two minutes left that was the killer blow. Up 13-12, they only needed to absorb what should have been the Sea Eagles’ final attacking set. But late in the tackle count (and a massive 40 metres out from the Sharks’ line), back-rower Anthony Tupou went for a reflex intercept pass, and knocked on. You could see Tupou’s anguish at the likely consequences. From there, the Sea Eagles worked into position for Daly Cherry-Evans’ smart left-footed field goal, and from the restart, Oldfield scored after he regathered a Jamie Lyon speculator chip. It should never have happened. Not really Tupou’s fault; just the way the game goes sometimes.
Storm 38 def. Eels 0
The Moment: If we wanted to be flippant we would say it was when referee Tony Archer blew his whistle for the kick-off. But in all seriousness it occurred even long before that – when Craig Bellamy’s match plan identified Eels five-eighth Daniel Mortimer as a liability defending on his try line. Storm skipper Cameron Smith isolated Mortimer to send Adam Blair over from close range after just 15 minutes for a 12-nil lead, before he linked with halfback Cooper Cronk to put the game beyond doubt three minutes before halftime. Again Mortimer was the target. On the second tackle of the set, Smith shifted the play to the right-hand side where he found Cooper Cronk, who delivered for Beau Champion to steamroll over the No.6. Heading to the sheds at 22-zip the Eels were smoked.
Dragons 25 def. Bulldogs 6
The Moment: Outclassed on a wet and horrid Sunday afternoon at the SCG, the Bulldogs, trailing 15-6, nonetheless looked like making a game of it when five-eighth Kris Keating, in open space, advanced towards Dragons fullback Darius Boyd in the 60th minute with options left, options right and only Boyd to beat. Keating chose the right-side option – but reigning Dally M Fullback of the Year Boyd had already committed himself to that play and snaffled a miracle intercept on his 20-metre line. Off he hightailed, stepping last line of defence Corey Payne and racing a further 60 metres downfield to score a cocky try under the posts. (That one-armed carry in the wet conditions was a worry though.) The upshot? A 21-6 score line instead of 15-12. We’re not saying it cost the Bulldogs the game, as the Dragons were all over their opponents statistics-wise. But what a momentum shift!
Broncos 17 def. Knights 6
The Moment: Sharks coach Shane Flanagan would have offered a wry smile at a couple of calls that went the Broncos’ way. Without doubt the turning point was the officials’ decision to call up a Knights’ forward pass out of dummy-half to fullback Wes Naiqama running off his try line in the 53rd minute. From the ensuing scrum the Broncos headed left, with fullback Gerard Beale chiming in and getting on the outside of opposition centre Adam MacDougall to cross in the corner. Despite Corey Parker’s inability to convert (0-4 on the night) it gave the home side a comfortable buffer, up 12-6 on a dour, wet night. It was the first of two forward pass calls that favoured the Broncos – just five minutes later Kurt Gidley’s last pass to a charging Richie Fa’aoso to score was pulled up as well. Here was an example of officials making tough decisions with the game on the line, a point laboured by Cronulla’s Flanagan and Paul Gallen after a suspect pass to Sea Eagle George Rose was let go and proved the difference in their close clash at Toyota Stadium.
The views in this article are the authors’ and not necessarily those of the clubs or the NRL.