On the Road: New leaders
“All I had to do was run, I would have dived on that ball.”
Nathan Hindmarsh is stood in the middle of Brookvale Oval steam rising from his shaggy head, pain etched on his face.
“Aw ... I’m filthy at myself.”
There has been no premiership decided. No State of Origin has been lost. No-one’s season is over.
But a 78th-minute try to Manly five-eighth Kieran Foran gave them a 22-18 win over a Parramatta side that had surged to the front against all odds and looked certain to stop the Sea Eagles gaining a share of the competition lead.
That’s all that was decided at the weekend: the competition lead. And for one of the few times in the past two and a half seasons, the St George Illawarra Dragons no longer have it.
The previous day, Melbourne had thrown down the gauntlet to the Sea Eagles and Dragons by edging ahead at the top of the table by one point with a 12-4 success against Wests Tigers at a packed Leichhardt Oval.
Manly belatedly joined them on the top rung, behind Melbourne only on percentages with the joint venture side slumping to third.
Sunday’s game was not without rancour; the Storm’s triumphant return to the top was accompanied by familiar complaints about their tackling style.
Forward Sika Manu was charged for dropping his knees on the calf of Wests Tigers forward Gareth Ellis (he’ll escapes suspension with an early plea) but not for a crusher tackle on fullback Wade McKinnon.
And Wests Tigers captain Robbie Farah complained that referees just don’t want to give him penalties.
Assistant coach Peter Gentle agreed, saying: “You saw how ineffective Robbie Farah was. I’m sure he caught the markers offside at least three or four times, that first half.
“We actually heard the referees call ‘they’re off, they’re off’ but then didn’t penalised them, played on.
“It becomes very frustrating. They’re the best team in the comp at slowing the ruck down and unfortunately it’s very hard to get any momentum off a slow play-the-ball.”
The Dragons’ fall from grace was engineered by Brisbane, who on Friday night managed to topple them 21-14 on the back of Darren Lockyer’s hands, boot and brain.
If it was the last time Wayne Bennett coached against his long-time protégé, then he gave the long-serving boss plenty to remember him by with a 40-20, a try-assist and a field goal in the closing stages.
Lockyer nonchalantly said afterwards that the game was easier than Origin and “I wasn’t gassed out there”.
It wasn’t exactly “glory, glory” to South Sydney on Friday night at ANZ Stadium but it was “victory, victory”- which is enough right now when the Bunnies downed Gold Coast 31-8.
The top of the table wasn’t the only thing that has changed. Penrith’s 16-12 loss to Newcastle at AusGrid Stadium on Saturday was the last in charge of the Panthers for coach Matthew Elliott, who along with assistant Wayne Collins was replaced on Monday by caretaker Steve Georgallis.
Johnathan Thurston thought his biggest worry out of the 30-10 win over the Warriors at Dairy Farmers Stadium on Saturday night was a twisted ankle. Not so. After making contact with referee Matt Cecchin while trying to prevent a James Maloney try, he’s been charged with contrary conduct and could miss Origin III.
Queensland coach Mal Meninga told Triple M the charge was “ludicrous”. When it was suggested to him that at least he wasn’t putting forward any anti-NSW conspiracy theories, he responded: “We don’t say it, we just think it.”
And the changes may not be far away at Canterbury, where a 26-10 loss to Cronulla at ANZ Stadium on Sunday came with centre Jamal Idris stood down for missing training and coach Kevin Moore reported to be under increasing pressure.
Sitting in the dugout watching his team-mates being beaten, Idris was probably far more entitled to regret than Hindmarsh.