Eight Games, Eight Moments: Round 13
Eels 14 drew with Dragons 14The Moment: During their 10 wins prior to Round 13 the Dragons had been behind on the scoreboard for a total of just 72 seconds. But when giant Eels prop Fuifui Moimoi crossed for his 18th career try in the ninth minute it triggered a 62-minute passage when Dragons players experienced unfamiliar anxiety glancing at the scoreboard. All four of the thrilling game’s four tries came from kicks; however not one of seven kicks for field-goal could break the deadlock – including Jarryd Hayne’s 56-metre boomer in the first stanza of extra time. It was a miraculous piece of skill by injured Dragons winger Brett Morris’ replacement Ratu Peni Tagive that stole the night’s moment. Trailing 14-6 with almost three quarters of the game gone, Dragons’ fullback Darius Boyd dabbed a delicate grubber behind the Eels’ right-edge defenders 15 metres out. Tagive flew through and collected the ball in a diving half-volley a metre short. Without an Eels defender’s hand on him he promoted the ball for the Dragons’ crucial second try. A stunning pick-up you’d be thrilled to see a superstar execute let alone a substitute.
Broncos 34 def. Sharks 16The Moment: Sharks fullback Nathan Gardner did his best Happy Gilmore impersonation when urging the ball to ‘go home’ – i.e. over the deadball line – with the home side trailing the Broncos 12-4 five minutes before halftime. But the ball refused, teasing the Shark as he willed it over the stripe with urgent flourishes of his right hand. Bronco Peter Wallace’s 40-metre kick into the in-goal was simply weighted to perfection, with back-rower Alex Glenn slipping under Gardner’s guard at the death to touch down for the try that broke the hearts of Sharks fans.
Panthers 23 def. Titans 10The Moment: After getting back on level terms via a brilliant Preston Campbell solo try early in the second 40 the embattled Titans looked like they might just go on with it – especially when threatening Panthers centre Michael Jennings was forced from the field with an ankle injury with 30 minutes left to play. But the momentum halted as quickly as it takes a furrow to flash across coach John Cartwright’s brow these days, with veteran prop Petero Civoniceva the catalyst for the visitors. Big Petero bounded out a huge hit-up from near his 40-metre line, busting through the Titans’ defence before offloading to his right to Lachlan Coote 40 metres from the Titans’ tryline. The Gold Coast defence swarmed in numbers but it was to no avail, with Coote getting an inside call from winger Adrian Purtell who did extremely well to gather in the pass 15 metres out and cross untouched. There were four Titans players within spitting distance of the final pass, including winger Steve Michaels who for whatever reason simply hung off Purtell and watched as he raced past. When things go bad, they really go bad. (Also, a quick memo to Bill Harrigan: Round 13 saw too much inconsistency at the ruck. In a correct decision in the Eels-Dragons game, St George Illawarra replacement Jack Bosden was penalised for not facing square at the play-the-ball, negating a crucial field-goal attempt by Jamie Soward. Yet in this clash Panthers prop Sam McKendry clearly dropped the ball as he attempted to play it yet Luke Walsh’s ensuing field-goal was allowed to stand. If it had been the game-breaker we’re sure all hell would have broken loose.)
Watch Civoniceva and Coote send Purtell clear
Rooster 13 def. Warriors 6The Moment: You know the saying ‘rocks or diamonds’? That’s what Roosters winger BJ Leilua looked to provide in the one play just a few minutes after returning from oranges with his side up 12-nil. First the ‘rocks’: Looking to clean up replacement Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson’s attacking grubber kick from close range, Leilua slipped in his in-goal and appeared to lose control of the football as Warriors skipper Simon Mannering came charging through to claim a try. Next, the ‘diamonds’: Not convinced of his error (his 23rd of the season as it turned out – the most in the NRL) or of Mannering’s grounding Leilua picked up the football and ran 102 metres to claim a ‘try’ of his own – to the bemusement of the Warriors and also referee Alan Shortall. Full marks to ‘BJ’ for his commitment… although unfortunately video ref Pat Reynolds sided with the Warriors on this one. Still, this semi-precious moment ranks as one of the weirdest in recent memory.
Watch Mannering's try and Leilua's fruitless 100m gallop
Sea Eagles 38 def. Bulldogs 4The Moment: Rookie halfback Daly Cherry-Evans was a thief in the night at ANZ Stadium; but he stole more than just the limelight in the northern beaches side’s breathtaking battering of the Bulldogs. With Manly up 16-nil just after the half hour, Cherry-Evans relieved Bulldogs interchange Dean Halatau of the football during his uncertain, half-hearted hit-up, scooting away and offloading to co-captain Jamie Lyon down the right edge. Lyon then linked with winger David Williams for a try that left the Bulldogs wondering: ‘What happened there?” Less than 10 minutes earlier DC-E had robbed the ’Dogs of their defensive dignity, dashing from the base of a scrum to score under the posts untouched. (When was the last time we saw that in the NRL? The kid has it all.)
Cowboys 40 def. Raiders 24The Moment: It’s impossible to encapsulate all the drama of this rollercoaster battle into a solitary moment so we’ll identify three. First, there was the nauseating sight (if you’re a Raiders or New South Wales supporter) of fullback Josh Dugan buckling under a Tariq Sims tackle in the 23rd minute with the home side up 22-nil; the upside though was Raiders playmaker Terry Campese jogging on for the first time in 2011 as Dugan’s replacement. But fast-forward just eight minutes and there was Campese crying out in agony (anguish? annoyance?) after injuring his groin while attempting to stop Cowboys back-rower Glen Hall barging over. As for the game-changer, it had to be Cowboys fullback Matthew Bowen’s wonderful shepherding effort on runaway Raiders winger Blake Ferguson in the 72nd minute with the home side up 24-22. Ferguson received the ball 10 metres out from his goal line on tackle one after a Johnathan Thurston pressure kick but hit the afterburners and sped through the tired Cowboys ruck defenders. Calm as you like, Bowen showed Ferguson the right touchline. The young Raider took the odds to getting around his opponent but the Cowboy rounded him up and forced him into touch near halfway for a crucial turnover of possession. Two minutes later Cowboys rake Aaron Payne scored to scupper the Raiders for good.
Watch Bowen clean up a barnstorming Ferguson
Storm 16 def. Rabbitohs 6The Moment: Heading into this clash the Rabbitohs had conceded the second-most points in the final quarters of matches in 2011, averaging 9.1 points past them in last 20s. So it came as no surprise when Storm skipper Cameron Smith was able to scythe his way through from close range to steal the game-breaker in the 78th minute. But things could have been entirely different had Storm winger Sisi Waqa not pulled off a miraculous, almost graceful, grasping recovery of Dane Nielsen’s frantic inside pass before the Maroons’ Origin centre was bundled into touch near halfway two minutes earlier. Despite the 10-6 scoreline at the time the Rabbitohs were finishing the stronger and a turnover of possession would have made things interesting indeed. Instead the Storm did what they do so well: put a valiant opponent to the death, at the death.
Wests Tigers 17 def. Knights 16The Moment: Robbie Farah’s one-pointer in the second five minutes of extra time to clinch the game for the gold-and-blacks was the obvious scene-stealer at Leichhardt Oval. But just as Round 13 delivered two pulsating golden-point games, so too did it provide two remarkable tries involving a defender, a bobbling ball near a deadball line and a never-say-die kick chase. The first was Alex Glenn’s effort for the Broncos on Friday night (see above); the second involved Wests Tigers winger Beau Ryan and Newcastle centre Junior Sa’u. Knights captain Kurt Gidley’s stab into the in-goal from 20 metres out was perfectly weighted but Ryan, his back to the opposition and arms wide open, appeared to have successfully shielded the ball from Sa’u. Certainly the ball was ‘out’ in the air – it just hadn’t bounced out. Sa’u sized up the situation in a millisecond, planted a final foot in bounds before he too was ‘out’, then swatted the ball back in front of Ryan’s body into the in-goal. The ball glanced the hand of Knights team-mate James McManus, but with no knock-on the winger pounced for a try that gave the visitors a 10-6 lead shortly before halftime. Extraordinary skills.
• The views in this article are the author’s and not necessarily those of the clubs or the NRL.