EIGHT GAMES, EIGHT MOMENTS: Easter joy for the Bunnies, a Tigers mix-up, the Sharks roll on and the Storm put on a show.
Rabbitohs 20 def. Bulldogs 10
The Moment: Rabbitohs rookie Andrew Everingham continued his excellent form warming the jersey for injured winger Nathan Merritt with two tries against the Bulldogs – but his sensational try assist for Matt King to open the home side’s scoring in the 18th minute showed that coach Michael Maguire may have to find a way of squeezing the kid into his 17 even when Merritt is passed fit to return. The Bulldogs led 4-nil in the 18th minute when Rabbitohs halfback Adam Reynolds chipped a cross-field bomb towards opposition winger Bryson Goodwin. Everingham charged through to challenge, with Goodwin seemingly getting a touch before the ball spilled towards the sideline. Everingham lurched towards the ball, planted his toes a centimetre from the chalk and reverse passed infield as the momentum and weight of the top half of his body dipped over the sideline. His precision paid off, with stunned centre King taking a reflex catch and strolling over to score. It could all have gone horribly wrong however – had Everingham put a foot into touch the Bulldogs would have received the scrum feed, thereby relinquishing the advantage Souths would have received had he not even played at the ball after Goodwin’s touch. But that’s getting petty…
Broncos 18 def. Wests Tigers 14
The Moment: Playing without confidence can quickly erode the things you’re doing well on the football field. Like defusing bombs. Prior to last Friday night the Wests Tigers had a perfect record for nullifying high kicks hoisted from midfield, as well as a high 75 per cent strike rate for defusing bombs around the goalposts. But in their frantic attempts to make sure they didn’t muck things up against the Broncos, Beau Ryan and Tim Moltzen got in the way of each other and did just that. The Broncos led 4-nil when Peter Wallace launched a towering bomb from 43 metres out, positioning it perfectly between Ryan to his left and Moltzen to his right. This forced the two Wests Tigers to sprint towards each other to try to capture the ball before the Broncos’ chasers arrived. Unfortunately, neither called for the Steeden – and disaster ensued. The pair were left horrified as the ball bounced on their 10-metre line and haplessly fell into the arms of Jack Reed who crossed for his second try of the night with just 15 minutes showing on the clock. We’re not convinced Moltzen was to blame for the clanger as he was retreating and Ryan advancing towards the ball – but he was definitely at fault when incredibly he let another bomb bounce just 10 minutes later. Guess what will be on the agenda at training this week?
Roosters 18 def. Titans 12
The Moment: The Roosters’ right-side attack was a rare shining light in an otherwise frustrating game for fans, with the winning team barely managing a pass park in possession but still proving too strong for the embattled Gold Coast. The Roosters bumbled their way to completing just 22 of 40 sets with the ball in hand but a smattering of crispness saw them post the points needed to secure the win. The turning point came when Titans centre Jamal Idris left the field for treatment 10 minutes into the second half with the scores locked 6-all; it triggered a burst of relentless attack from the opposition who sensed uncertainty in the Titans’ defensive structures. Almost immediately the Roosters racked up back-to-back tries in the space of three minutes, with fullback Anthony Minichiello’s 110th career try, supporting a snappy Mitchell Pearce inside pass, sealing the victory. The Titans’ fifth straight loss equals their second-biggest losing streak – and next up they take on back-to-form premiers Manly at Brookvale Oval. Ouch.
Sharks 12 def. Dragons 0
The Moment: It was equal parts impressive attack and sleepy defence that provided the turning point in this sold-out, passion-fuelled southern Sydney local derby. The Sharks led just 6-nil at halftime but they put the game beyond the Dragons’ reach 17 minutes into the second half when Wade Graham out-enthused the opposition defenders to win the race to a Jeff Robson speculative grubber. It was the Dragons’ disjointed defensive line that presented Robson with an option he would not have had had they matched their cohesive standard of the past few seasons, with interchange Leeson Ah Mau a glaring offender. Second-rower Ben Creagh charged off his try line to try to shut down Todd Carney at first receiver in front of the Dragons’ goalposts. Snared around the legs but still functional, Carney managed a basketball offload back to the left side of the field to Robson. The halfback spied Ah Mau standing on his heels back near the goal line and rushed to exploit his tardiness. He sucked in Beau Scott, then dabbed a kick into the in-goal, with Graham winning the race to score the match-winner. How Graham managed to get to the ball before Kyle Stanley and Ben Hornby further emphasises the desire of this Sharks outfit to compete to the death in 2012.
Raiders 32 def. Warriors 12
The Moment: Incredibly this game remained in the balance until midway through the second half before some magic from halves Josh McCrone and Terry Campese lit the afterburners on the Green Machine. And it showed the value of the decoy man/men in the modern game. Leading 16-6 after scoring three first-half tries to the Warriors’ one, Campese took the ball at first receiver 20 metres out and feigned to pass to NRL debutant Jarrad Kennedy back on his inside. And he didn’t just ‘show’ the ball either – the Steeden actually left his hands, spinning at the ends of his fingers like a Harlem Globetrotter’s basketball. The mesmerising play distracted the Warriors, with Campese shooting a pass out the back behind second decoy Tom Learoyd-Lahrs to McCrone, who handed off a wonderful short ball to Josh Papalii. The second-rower ran 20 metres to score unopposed for a 22-6 scoreline which guaranteed the Warriors miserable 15-year losing record in Canberra remained intact. With the ‘sorting out’ period at the start of 2012 now complete the Warriors are on track to become easy-beats in defence yet again – they are missing almost 40 tackles a game (the most by any side) and they tallied 36 against Canberra. The story was the same last year, with 38 misses. If they continue to dig a hole for themselves it will soon be too deep for their flashy attack to pull them out.
Knights 14 def. Eels 6
The Moment: Danny Buderus may have had a smirk on his face after helping Tim Mannah make a meal of a couple of play-the-balls that gifted the Knights prime attacking position when ahead 8-nil late in the first half but it was the Parra prop who had the last laugh.
Well, sort of. Desperate to keep his name in the frame for the New South Wales Origin squad Mannah charged onto an inside ball from dummy-half Matt Keating and out-muscled a quartet of Knights try-line defenders, including Buderus, to score. But you know what they say: winners are grinners – it was Buderus who was all smiles at fulltime after the Knights edged back into the top eight following this mostly drab contest.
Storm 42 def. Cowboys 18
The Moment: Aaron Payne deserved better in his 200th game for North Queensland: the 29-year-old hooker gave his side the best possible start when crafting the game’s opening four-pointer with a delicate grubber for Matt Bowen to score with just two minutes on the clock. But then Payne and his team-mates were overwhelmed. They ended up spending eight separate spells sucking in the big ones beside their goalposts as the Storm embarked on a point-scoring whirlwind. In particular the visitors were devastating in the second 40, completing 95 per cent of their sets, making six line busts and crossing for five tries. All their attacking plays were majestic, with Ryan Hinchcliffe’s four-pointer in the 36th minute a wonderful example of the squad’s awareness. No doubt clued up by coach Craig Bellamy that the Cowboys are the side most vulnerable to grubber kicks in 2012, Cooper Cronk dabbed into space 45 metres out, with Billy Slater gathering and passing inside to Hinchcliffe who loomed in support. You do your homework, you get the rewards.
Sea Eagles 30 v Panthers 0
The Moment: The return to Brookvale Oval for the first time in 2012 certainly did the trick for the premiers, who despite the absence of key personnel proved far too strong for the Mountain Men to record their 11th straight win at their ‘Fortress’ HQ. A near-faultless second half when Manly completed all but two of their sets of possession yielded 22 unanswered points, with halfback Daly Cherry-Evans awakening from his sleepy past few weeks to dominate. In five-eighth Kieran Foran’s absence he really took control, laying on three sweet try assists with his final service the ‘cherry’. With the game well in the bag at 26-nil when he took the ball at first receiver 40 metres out from the Panthers’ line, chipped over the top and chased. He then toed the ball ahead into the in-goal and although he was unable to get a kind bounce, team-mate Anthony Watmough was on the spot to bag the try. While the side responded well to their fans’ cheers they’ll be hoping for more than the 14,000 who attended here over future months.
• The views in this article are the author’s and not necessarily those of the clubs or the NRL.