Eight games, eight moments: Round 6
Bulldogs 34 def. Eels 14
The Moment: This local western-Sydney derby will be remembered for three minutes of madness from Eels duo Jarryd Hayne and Nathan Hindmarsh that will likely end up costing the side dearly come September. The Eels had this game in the bag midway through the first half, with Hayne shaking off his early season attacking funk to score two dazzling tries for a 14-nil lead after 24 minutes. But then the cool operator lost his head, retaliating to Corey Payne’s late swinging arm to his jaw with a blatant head butt to the Bulldog’s nose. No sooner had that pair left the field sin-binned than Hindmarsh – the Eels’ captain no less! – gave up chasing the play to instead chase champion NRL niggler Michael Ennis and dish out more fisticuffs. With the teams left at 11 apiece, and the Eels’ best attacking player and defender sitting on the sidelines, it didn’t take long for the Bulldogs to bite back. Three tries in the final nine minutes of the half, including two to fullback Ben Barba, saw them head to the sheds on terms at 14-all – but there was no doubt among fans as to which team would have all the momentum in the second 40.
Titans 20 def. Wests Tigers 14
The Moment: Time was the Titans’ enemy when they trailed 14-8 with only eight minutes left – but then skipper Scott Prince stepped up with snappy solo effort to tie proceedings. With second-rower Greg Bird putting outside defenders in two minds with a well-timed decoy run, Prince took the ball at first receiver from hooker Nathan Friend 30 metres out down the right side. He sized up the moment, dummied to fullback Luke Capewell and sliced through normally impenetrable Wests Tigers’ defender Gareth Ellis to score under the posts. Six minutes later the home side had secured their second at-the-death win in three weeks when Mark Minichiello plunged over from close range, but it was Prince’s initiative that saved the day. Special mention must also go to Tigers winger Matt Utai’s gold medal ‘Falcon’ two minutes after halftime (see bloopers in the Game Analyser). We’re sure it must have closed a bunch of sports reports the world over last weekend: “And finally, from the NRL in Australia…” Ah Matt, great stuff.
Sea Eagles 20 def. Warriors 10
The Moment: Opposition coaches had better wise-up to the Kieran Foran-Jamie Buhrer left-edge combination for the Sea Eagles from close range. The duo registered a second try in three weeks with a precision pass assist and gun barrel-straight run from 10 metres out to rock the Warriors shortly before halftime. After a slow start, tries to Michael Oldfield (26th minute) and Michael Robertson (30th minute) edged the home side 10-4 ahead before Buhrer hit the defensive line at pace with a no-fear dash, Foran’s short ball putting him into the narrowest of gaps for a crucial 14-4 lead with 34 minutes gone. The move replicated Buhrer’s second try against the Rabbitohs in Round 4. One for the coaches’ little black books, that.
Cowboys 26 def. Raiders 18
The Moment: All the talk after this game focused on Cowboys No.7 Johnathan Thurston’s contentious benefit-of-the-doubt try that gave the home side full control shortly before halftime. But maybe the refs should also have looked long and hard at whether or not Raiders fullback Blake Ferguson was afforded a fair chance to play the football during the telling play. Ferguson attempted a quick play-the-ball 15 metres out from his line, obviously trying to catch the opposition out and earn his side a relieving penalty. As he struggles to his feet and plays the ball it’s clear Cowboys’ prop Ashton Sims pulls him by the jersey and he falls to the ground. Still, that doesn’t account for why no Raider had managed to get in at dummy-half to assist their No.1. So, did ‘JT’ knock on? We’re with video ref Bernard Sutton on this one. But it could easily have been a penalty to the Raiders instead. Given it was 18-6 at the time, and given the Raiders’ comeback, it was a huge moment.
Broncos 24 def. Roosters 6
The Moment: In the 60th minute, Roosters Mitchell Aubusson, Anthony Minichiello and Justin Carney made a real mess of trying to clean up Darren Lockyer’s speculative left-foot stab kick and could only watch in horror as Ben Hannant claimed a knockout try for the Broncos. Each tricolour had a play on the ball but as they converged from different directions all appeared to hang off getting involved; presumably they feared a collision would ensue and disaster would result. Instead, no collision – but disaster just the same. Hannant’s easy touchdown catapulted the visitors out to an unassailable 24-nil lead. The lack of communication would have incensed Roosters coach Brian Smith.
Knights 24 def. v Sharks 20
The Moment: It’s funny how often a moment against the run of play can make all the difference. Take Knights five-eighth Jarrod Mullen’s 70-metre counter-attack when his side appeared ‘morals’ to leak more points to the ravenous Sharks 32 minutes in. The home side trailed 10-6 after surrendering the lead to a breakaway Sharks raid and looked likely to crack again when Wade Graham dabbed a grubber behind the backline targeting the tired Newcastle right-edge defenders. But Mullen defused the situation and then pressed the accelerator, pushing off Cronulla fullback Nathan Gardner not once, but twice in a desperate sprint and dodge downfield. He was finally crunched to ground by Sharks winger John Williams, and did well not to lose control of the ball in the thuddering collision. Three tackles later James McManus latched onto a Kurt Gidley long ball to cross in the left corner and the Knights had regained the lead. They were in again five minutes later and ended up heading to the sheds up 18-10. All thanks to Mullen’s amazing run and ball security.
Storm 25 def. Panthers 10
The Moment: Young heads continue to impress for the Storm early in 2011, with wonderful ball skills from 21-year-old prop Jesse Bromwich and 22-year-old five-eighth Gareth Widdop laying the platform for Cooper Cronk’s 9th-minute try – it set the visitors on the path to their first away victory since Round 10 last season. Bromwich’s one-armed midfield offload to Widdop, despite being collared by the Panthers’ defence, was sublime. And Widdop’s vision to manoeuvre between cover defenders David Simmons and Sandor Earl to gift Cronk an uninterrupted passage to the line highlighted an exceptional football brain.
Dragons 16 def. Rabbitohs 0
The Moment: Rabbitohs interchange Chris McQueen looked certain to break the try-scoring deadlock of this frighteningly physical showdown when he glimpsed an open try line just five metres out in the 54th minute at ANZ Stadium. The Rabbitoh actually got over the line, with the ball a mere centimetre from touching the grass, before Dragons centre Matt Cooper lifted McQueen’s hulking 98kg frame and dragged him back into the field of play. McQueen managed a desperate offload for Chris Sandow, but alert trailing defenders Ben Hornby and Ben Creagh shut down Sandow as well. But how Cooper managed such a feat of strength still boggles the mind.
The views in this article are the authors’ and not necessarily those of the clubs or the NRL.