Eight games, eight moments: Round 8
Broncos 20 def. Bulldogs 12
The Moment: There is no substitute for experience. The Bulldogs had that hammered home when former Dragon Michael Lett made a game-defining blunder on debut in the blue and white. Down just 8-6 at halftime, the Bulldogs were well in the contest but Lett’s gaffe just two minutes into the second 40 rocked the Bulldogs back on their heels. Opposition No.7 Peter Wallace pumped a clearing kick from halfway that meandered into the opposition’s in-goal. Winger Lett was first on the scene and ran back 12 metres where he was engaged by Broncos back-rower Alex Glenn. Meanwhile, teammate and fullback Ben Barba had positioned himself outside Lett, who probably figured ‘why not give it to Ben?’ Trouble was the duo were ringed by four Broncos’ tacklers. Lett’s attempted pass while falling to ground was the dictionary definition of “foolhardy”. Pressured by the hungry Broncos, Barba was unable to clean up the mess, with Brisbane interchange Ben Hunt picking up and passing to unmarked winger Dale Copley for the simplest of tries and a 14-6 lead. Talk about wind out of your sails. Still, we all learn from our mistakes.
Rabbitohs 31 def. Sharks 12
The Moment: The scoreline indicated a convincing victory for the home side – but you can bet there would have been entirely different fulltime numbers had Souths halfback Chris Sandow not rolled the dice and won when pulling off a massive intercept try in the 51st minute. The cocky No.7’s pivotal play, with the scores locked 12-all, was a 12-point turn-around. Twenty-five metres out from his line, Sharks five-eighth Wade Graham cleverly beat a rushing Rabbitohs defence and looked to link with his outside men down the left flank. Sandow, isolated in backplay, made the split-second decision to rush up. Had Graham’s pass found Colin Best it would have presented a two-on-one scenario and a likely four-pointer. But Sandow stuck out his right arm, juggled the ball and dashed 40 metres to score. And doesn’t he like a pre- and post-try celebration?
Titans 24 def. Roosters 13
The Moment: How often do we see passes thrown by attacking teams miss their mark, bounce yet lead to tries? The Titans got home on the back of just such a play as the clock wound down on their clash at Skilled Park. Trailing 13-12 with seven minutes remaining, Titans hooker Nathan Friend passed right from dummy-half 45 metres out for skipper Scott Prince, who basketball-style offloaded over the head of Roosters interchange Jake Friend hoping to pick up jack-in-the-box Preston Campbell lurking in the ruck. Campbell over-ran the ball and it bounced, propping perfectly for Nathan Friend again who drew the defence and offloaded to winger David Mead. The speedster evaded the fingertips daks-grab of Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (tsk, tsk), then Tom Symonds and finally Anthony Minichiello in a scorching, arcing run. Controversy reigned over whether Campbell had actually knocked on with a touch of the ball but replays appeared to support the ‘all-good’ call. And no-one on the field appeared too concerned – always a fair indicator.
Cowboys 22 def. Sea Eagles 20
The Moment: It’s hypothetical whether or not video ref Paul Simpkins’ controversial knock-on call on Jamie Lyon in the lead-up to Michael Oldfield’s no-try cost the visitors the game. But it’s hard to fathom how Simpkins arrived at the decision when consensus and vision appeared to support ‘play on’. Trailing 22-14 with six minutes remaining, the maroon and whites attacked down the right edge near halfway. Tony Williams flicked an offload to Glenn Stewart, who had the ball jolted from his grasp by Cowboys’ prop Ashton Sims. Stewart tapped the ball back, with skipper Jamie Lyon, running and facing backwards, attempting to scoop the ball. He failed at first and the ball appeared to be pushed backwards. Lyon regathered, flicked to Oldfield, who spotted some tired Cowboys in the centre of the ruck and raced 62 metres to cross in the right corner. All to no avail. Did it cost Manly the game? Who knows… but it came three minutes after Oldfield scored to bridge the gap on the Cowboys, and four minutes later Anthony Watmough scored to get them within a sniff. Guess we’ll never know.
Storm 42 def. Knights 12
The Moment: A deceiving final score line, given the Knights matched it with the Storm for most of the first 40 minutes. Home team winger Anthony Quinn’s 33rd-minute try pushed the Storm out to an 18-12 lead – but three minutes later came the sight that would have chilled the hearts of Knights coach Rick Stone and New South Wales coach Ricky Stuart: Kurt Gidley prone on the turf with a dislocated shoulder. The No.6 had just made a dart out of dummy-half 40 metres out from his goal line late in the tackle count. He slid across-field and was picked up by the compressing defence, with Storm halfback riding him to ground over the top. You could almost feel the pain as Gidley was driven into the turf, his left arm outstretched. He battled on bravely for a few minutes before trudging from the field a forlorn figure on the stroke of halftime. With no Gidley, the Knights were easy meat for a hungry Storm unit that piled on four second-half tries.
Wests Tigers 49. def Raiders 12
The Moment: Too many soft tries to mention but Wests Tiger Liam Fulton’s short-range charge off Robbie Farah in the 60th minute broke the back of an already dispirited home side. Josh Dugan had just crossed for his second try to keep local fans interested at 25-12 down – but then the flimsy Raiders goal-line defence leaked like never before and they were left an insurmountable task. To make matters worse they conceded three tries in the final nine minutes to complete a truly embarrassing blowout loss in the nation’s capital.
Warriors 26 def. Panthers 18
The Moment: “You get it,” could have been the call from Panthers fullback Michael Gordon to winger teammate David Simmons as the duo hovered over Warriors five-eighth James Maloney’s innocent-enough kick into their in-goal in the sixth minute. “No, you get it,” could very well have been Simmons’ reply. In the end neither committed themselves to cleaning up the ball, with Warriors winger Kevin Locke soaring through to split the pair and open the scoring at Mt Smart Stadium. It was the first in a long line of blunders for the Panthers, who failed to rally for outgoing coach Matthew Elliott. Could be a long season, Panthers fans.
Dragons 30 def. Eels 0
The Moment: If this had been a boxing match referees Ben Cummins and Tony De Las Heras might have been fronting an investigation into why they didn’t stop the bout given the bashing one of the contenders was being handed. The Dragons effortlessly cruised to a 22-nil lead after just 34 minutes with five-eighth Jamie Soward leading the procession with two first-half try assists. However, his crowning moment came in the 57th minute with his third try assist, sparked by a lovely read of a rushing Eels defence. Looking to push the ball wide to the right to Mark Gasnier and spark a long-range raid, Soward instead propped off his right foot 30 metres out from his line and, bam, away he went. With options left and right as he raced towards last line of defence Luke Burt, he chose the slightly more difficult right-side option and hit Beau Scott who broke free of a tackle attempt to cross over beside the posts. But an NRL.com bugbear – like so many final passes on runaway plays, the last delivery was blatantly forward. Memo to support players: it can’t be that hard to make sure you position yourself behind runners, can it?
The views in this article are the authors’ and not necessarily those of the clubs or the NRL.