Sea Eagles 22 def. Panthers 16
The Moment: “He’s the one who’s let you down, not us…” They were the measured words from referee Jason Robinson to frustrated Panthers captain Trent Waterhouse after hooker Kevin Kingston was penalised for an incorrect play-the-ball with the visitors desperate for some momentum when trailing 16-4 in the 67th minute. Kingston’s ‘airswing’ effort was inexplicable given the crackdown by the refs this year – it was like he was barefoot and the ball was covered in shards of broken glass! The gift two points from 20 metres out gave the home side a crucial 14-point buffer. But more Mountain Men madness was to come seconds later – centre Brad Tighe failed to kick off the required 10 metres, Manly marched downfield from the penalty and Michael Robertson crossed in the left corner on tackle four for the killer blow. Two late tries would not have sweetened coach Matthew Elliott’s sour mood.
Broncos 31 def. Wests Tigers 18
The Moment: Beau knows he mucked up here… ball security should always have been the priority bringing the ball back off his own line with a wall of opposition defenders converging – especially given the Wests Tigers were hanging onto the ropes in the midst of a first-half Broncos battering. Down 18-6 after 35 minutes, ring-rusty winger Ryan, playing his first game for 2011, retreated to field a Peter Wallace clearing kick on his goal line. Instead of just tucking the ball under his arm and ensuring he got back into play, he offered a half-hearted dummy to teammate Blake Ayshford before being crunched ball-and-all by Broncos second-rower Alex Glenn. The impact spewed the pill loose, with Wallace strolling through to pick up the spoils and cross for a 24-6 lead. Darren Lockyer’s field goal made it a 19-point ball game at halftime, which was always going to be plenty no matter the Tigers’ mini-fightback in the second stanza.
Cowboys 30 def. Sharks 12
The Moment: Cowboy Kalifa Faifai Loa is fast making a name for himself as an impact winger in his maiden NRL season and his try just after halftime kept the visitors on path for just their second win at Toyota Stadium in 12 attempts. In a hard slog on a dour night in the Shire, first points in the second half were bound to be crucial. In the 48th minute, Cowboys maestro Johnathan Thurston dabbed a grubber behind the Sharks’ right-edge defenders from 10 metres out. Faifai Loa appeared to be blocked by caretaker Sharks fullback Matthew Wright and winger John Williams but soared through to dive on the ball just centimetres from the dead-ball line. Call him Kalifa on-fire Loa, we say!
Bulldogs 36 def. Rabbitohs 24
The Moment: Aiden Tolman will be getting phone calls from disgruntled members of the front-row forwards brotherhood after his 62nd-minute try halted the bunnies’ fightback and gave the Bulldogs breathing space. Not because he scored a try – his first in blue-and-white colours and just the fifth in his career – but because of his furious involvement in the lead up to it. With the team clinging to a 20-18 lead, Tolman hit the ball up 40 metres out from the Rabbitohs’ line, crunched into the defence, spun and offloaded to fullback Ben Barba who was trailing alongside him like a suckerfish. (Important to note Tolman was actually tackled to ground at this point.) When Barba was finally felled 10 metres out, hooker Michael Ennis ran from dummy-half and looked for a charger on his left – and who was there? Tolman! We make it nine seconds from his offload to Barba to his getting his mitts on the pill from Ennis. Astonishing stuff. Question is, where were all the other Doggies?
Knights 22 def. Raiders 12
The Moment: Having just seen his side’s commanding 12-nil halftime lead eroded with a 42nd-minute try to Knights winger James McManus, senior Raider Alan Tongue (not captain in this, his return match from a shoulder injury) had the chance to put the Raiders firmly back on the front foot when given an open passage to the try line in the 51st minute. But Tonguey dropped the simple ball from Bronson Harrison (co-captain in this game) and with it, a would-be decisive 18-6 lead.
Eels 22 def. Titans 18
The Moment: Titans coach John Cartwright called it arrogance, and blasted his troops for their “total disrespect for the opposition” in the latter stages of this game at Parramatta Stadium. We call it plain dumb. The visitors had the game in the bag when leading 18-16 with three minutes thirty on the clock and about to start a full set of six deep in their half. On just the second tackle back-rower Mark Minichiello spilled the ball on a regulation hit-up, possibly because he was looking to push an offload at the cajoling of fullback Luke Capewell supporting on his inside. But 40 metres out on tackle two with the game on the line? From the turnover of possession the Eels pushed downfield, then earned a repeat set. On the last tackle, Jeff Robson hoisted the ball high into the in-goal, Luke Burt batted it back and Shane Shackleton sealed victory with his first try for 2011. Dumb luck? Nah, just dumb.
Dragons 24 def. Roosters 10
The Moment: Brett Morris was the NRL’s leading tryscorer in 2010 with 25 from 24 games; last year he ranked equal third with 20 from 25 games. But entering this year’s Anzac Day clash the Dragons’ left winger had not crossed in an NRL game since the 32nd minute of their Round 26 win over the Rabbitohs last year. So it was entirely fitting that Morris ended his drought with the four-pointer that clinched the game for the Red V at the SFS. Up 12-4 but being thoroughly tested by a committed Roosters outfit and with a quarter of the clash remaining, second-rower Ben Creagh popped a wonderful short ball to centre Matt Cooper who steamed into space 30 metres out. The veteran centre drew tricolours fullback Anthony Minichiello and passed wide to Morris who crossed untouched. So ended his 829 minutes without a try – welcome back Brett!
Warriors 18 def. Storm 14
The Moment: Almost a year to the day, and in the corresponding round to their 40-6 drubbing at the hands of the Storm after 2010’s infamous salary cap scandal broke, the Warriors steeled themselves to offer their best performance of 2011 with a gutsy win in Melbourne. But as is the case with all teams getting the better of the Storm, they needed a massive slice of ‘luck’. And in this game that came with both a literal and figurative meaning – in the 31st minute when leading 12-6 the Warriors spread the ball to the right 10 metres out from the Storm line. Winger Anthony Quinn rushed in to make a telling play, knocking the ball free from the grasp of Ukuma Ta’ai. The ball spilled out like a cake of wet soap back into the Storm in-goal – with Warrior Micheal Luck gleefully pouncing for a decisive try. There was plenty of conjecture over whether Luck should have been penalised for being in front of Ta’ai when the strip occurred, but it never entered video ref Pat Reynolds’ equation.
The views in this article are the authors’ and not necessarily those of the clubs or the NRL.