Dragons 15 def. Bulldogs 10
The Moment: Bulldogs fans were howling when video ref Tim Mander gave the green light to a contentious Matt Prior try in the 19th minute. With neither side giving an inch and the Dragons leading 2-nil from an early penalty goal, Jamie Soward hoisted a well-directed cross-field bomb to the Dragons’ right wing. Jason Nightingale flew high and batted the ball infield, with back-rower Beau Scott scooping it up and looking certain to score. But a Herculean feat from Bulldogs No.6 Kris Keating on his tryline held the Dragon out. Keating’s tackle buckled the Dragon backwards – towards the waiting arms of team-mate Matt Prior, who took possession of the ball (much like a gridiron quarterback) and rushed three metres to score. The question: had the tackle been effected before Scott ‘offloaded’? In real time it looks a simultaneous hand-off, so we’re with video ref Mander on this one. Had Scott passed the ball even 30 cm rather than hand it off, we doubt there would have been much of an outcry from anyone – Dogs’ fans included. Given the final scoreline it was definitely a turning point.
Panthers 33 def. Broncos 10
The Moment: The midweek ‘Gus’ Gould coaching input announcement brought immediate results at Centrebet Stadium. Through nine rounds the watertight Broncos leaked just 12 points per game; it took the beleaguered Panthers just 49 minutes to inflict that average dose – and 13 minutes later they’d doubled the number thanks to the brilliance of fullback Michael Gordon and the finish of centre Brad Tighe. Gordon fielded a Peter Wallace clearing kick 10 metres from his line, then powered through the centre of the Broncos’ ruck, linking with Tighe on halfway as he drew opposition fullback Gerard Beale. But not long after, tragedy for the Mountain Men – Gordon crumpled in a tackle with a serious anterior cruciate ligament injury that will see him sidelined for the remainder of 2011.
Raiders 20 def. Storm 12
The Moment: Blake Ferguson’s stunning solo try down the right touchline with eight minutes remaining got the Raiders the cash at AAMI Park, but it was the winger’s acrobatic defusing of a Cameron Smith 40/20 attempt two minutes earlier that was the defining play. With the Raiders nervous 14-12 leaders having held the early 12-nil ascendancy, Smith looked to have pulled off a team-lifting 40/20 that would have put the visitors under the pump. But Ferguson was on the spot, jumping over the sideline as the ball crossed high above the chalk and batting it back deep into his in-goal. He raced back to gather it and then sprinted back into the field of play before the Storm’s good kick chase had a chance to nab him and earn a crucial line-dropout restart. Ferguson’s chip, chase and regather try was a pearler – although Storm pivot Gareth Widdop may like to have his defensive attempt over again. In hindsight, a physical tackle might have been a better option than the attempted push over the sideline that appeared to propel Ferguson faster towards the Storm tryline.
Rabbitohs 29 def. Wests Tigers 18
The Moment: Wow; two try assists, six goals from as many attempts and a field goal to boot – the Bunnies are sure going to miss the wily creativity of Chris Sandow when he exits Redfern for Parramatta from 2012. The No.7 got the home side off to a blistering start in just the seventh minute when he crafted the opportunity for Nathan Merritt to cross for his 100th try in the red and green. Standing at second receiver on the right edge, Sandow looked to pop a short ball to support runner David Tyrrell but checked his play when he noticed the Wests Tigers’ defence had swarmed up quickly in numbers. So he grubbered through an angled kick instead – despite being grasped by opposition defender Liam Fulton. The delivery was pinpoint-perfect for Merritt and the first body blow during a stunning opening half that featured 27 unanswered points.
Cowboys 40 def. Eels 26
The Moment: Parramatta implosion, or Cowboys explosion? That’s what all fans were left pondering after the home side managed to lasso the visitors’ 16-point lead, then put on a 30-points stampede in just 22 minutes to register a stunning turnaround victory at Dairy Farmers Stadium. The Eels led 26-10 midway through the second forty before a five-tries flurry wrested the contest away from them. There was no finer moment than when Cowboys fullback Matt Bowen torpedo-passed a long ball for winger Kalifa Faifai Loa, whose gravity-defying grounding in the left corner bridged the gap to 26-22 in the 65th minute. His incredible strength and finishing ability (four tries) has seen 21-year-old ‘KFL’ become a bit of an NRL cult figure and we tip he’ll put plenty of pressure on the likes of Will Hopoate and Daly Cherry-Evans for the title of Rookie of the Year.
Warriors 25 def. Knights 16
The Moment: In a frenetic game of ‘we score, you score’, it was imperative the Knights broke the mould by posting the first second-half points when leading 16-12. They looked certain to do just that in the 54th minute when lock Joel Edwards took a lovely inside ball from dummy-half Matt Hilder close to the Warriors’ tryline. Edwards ran a great angle to charge over under the posts – but somehow diminutive fullback Kevin Locke, aided by workhorse defender Micheal Luck, managed to keep the ball from touching terra firma. So instead of playing with the confidence that a 22-12 lead instills, the Knights played tentative footy – and the Warriors burned them with back-to-back tries inside the final 10 minutes to register their first hat-trick of away wins since 2003.
Sharks 18 def. Roosters 4
The Moment: Take a bow Isaac Gordon! In just his 15th NRL game and first for 2011, the 24-year-old was a shining light filling in for injured Nathan Gardner at fullback for the Sharkies. They may have always been in front on the scoreboard but you just got the sense the home side was never really comfortable on a sunny Sunday afternoon at Toyota Stadium. Indeed, trailing 12-4, the Roosters looked set to claw within two points of the Sharks with 15 minutes remaining when halfback Mitchell Pearce made a dash from first receiver – but Gordon saved the day with a telling strip over the Cronulla tryline. Seven minutes later Gordon was at it again, defying Tom Symonds by wrestling him over the corner post, one on one. But the Pearce strip was the play that crushed the Roosters’ momentum.
Sea Eagles 16 def. Titans 12
The Moment: We don’t make a point of dwelling on controversy but… we’re as confused as Titans coach John Cartwright must be after Ashley Harrison was pinged for a rare ‘not square’ play-the-ball on just the third tackle of this game. From the ensuing penalty, Sea Eagles prop Brent Kite made a hit-up, was tackled – and then appeared to play the ball every bit as not square as Harrison! The play was allowed to flow, Jamie Lyon’s sublime right-hand flick offload for winger David Williams resulting in crucial early points. It was always going to be tough to come back from such a body blow.
The views in this article are the authors’ and not necessarily those of the clubs or the NRL.