Eight games, eight moments: Round 8
Dragons 28 def. Roosters 24
The Moment: It wasn’t Jason Nightingale’s skillful leap to regather Ben Hornby’s short kick-off in the lead-up to their 77th-minute try that won the day for the Red V. And although Michael Weyman’s deft offload to Ben Creagh with 55 seconds left yielded the points that confirmed their remarkable comeback win, you have to plot the lead-up to really get a handle on how the Dragons pulled this one from the fire.
The fact is the Roosters would have strutted away with two deserved competition points had it not been for Jamie Soward gaining the Dragons an unlikely repeat set of six. Roosters captain Braith Anasta kicked deep to restart play after Matt Prior’s try edged St George Illawarra two within two points of the tricolours, before the Dragons ploughed up-field. On their last tackle Soward rolled the dice – and how they cashed in! In a planned move the No.6 chip-kicked infield from 42 metres out. It looked too long for chaser Jason Nightingale, with plenty of Roosters ringing the spot. But somehow Nightingale managed to get there first, booting ahead on the volley. Then their next bit of luck: instead of bouncing dead the Steeden propped, with Roosters winger Sam Perrett collared by a posse of chasers. Three tackles and three frenetic offloads later the Dragons had pulled off a win for the ages. St George Illawarra haven’t excelled at pinning teams in their in-goal in 2012, forcing just seven line-dropouts – and that fateful restart was their only one on Anzac Day.
Storm 32 def. Warriors 14
The Moment: The scoreline belied the competitive nature of this clash, with the sides locked at 14 all right up to the 68th minute. That’s when Cooper Cronk stepped up with a wonderful piece of deception in the attacking red zone that put the Warriors’ goal-line defenders in two minds about his intentions and gave his supports the space they needed to score a crucial four-pointer. And it was a classic Storm ‘spine’ play: dummy-half Cameron Smith faked a pass inside to decoy Rory Kostjasyn, then shot the ball to Cronk at first receiver. All in the one motion the No.7 caught the Steeden, dropped his hands as if to kick, and instead fired a pass to Billy Slater who offloaded for Will Chambers to score his third try of the evening. We don’t like to bag out players but a couple of Krisnan Inu clangers can’t go unnoticed. First the enigmatic Warrior dropped the ball while jogging back with an arrogant fingertips-grip, one-handed carry, before minutes later turning over possession through a panicked offload to a poorly positioned support. On both occasions the Storm scored tries in the ensuing set of six. It will be interesting to see if Inu’s name is on the Warriors’ team sheet this week.
Sea Eagles 12 def. Bulldogs 10
The Moment: One man’s loss is another man’s gain: with Darcy Lussick suspended big George Rose was handed his first opportunity in the maroon and white for 2012 – and he grasped it like there’s no tomorrow. In hindsight it was probably the one flaw in Des Hasler’s preparation of the Bulldogs: not imploring them to remain vigilant to any offload by the 113-kilogram hulk. At least that’s the only conclusion we can make given the lack of urgency in cover defence around the goalposts as Rose promoted the ball to Steve Matai for the match-winning try in the 76th minute. It was some effort – he commenced his play from a standing start, receiving the ball from Daly Cherry-Evans via an innocuous inside hand-off 15 metres out from the Bulldogs’ try line. He beat a poor Michael Ennis tackle attempt with a twinkle-toes stutter, then charged into Aiden Tolman and David Stagg. His momentum halted two metres out Rose managed to pop the ball back to Matai who crossed untouched. Such an offload should have been high on the Bulldogs’ ‘red flag’ list – after all, Hasler would have been prescient to the damage big George was capable of, having averaged one offload in each of his 26 games for Manly last season. And guess what? It was his only offload of the night.
Broncos 26 def. Titans 6
The Moment: It’s true the Titans gave themselves paper cuts all evening, including gifting the home side an insurmountable 62 per cent of possession in the first 40 minutes, but their cause certainly wasn’t helped by some dubious ref calls. For starters, Corey Norman was clearly offside when Peter Wallace hoicked a bomb that David Mead spilled and Alex Glenn cleaned up to score the Broncos’ first try with 10 minutes on the clock. Norman chased to within two metres of Mead’s attempted take and although he never touched an opposition player or made a play for the ball, the subliminal threat the Broncos five-eighth posed to the Titans winger would have increased the pressure tenfold. Result? Spilled ball… try. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Next, Matt Gillett’s final pass to Gerard Beale in the 37th minute looked to travel at least a metre forward. Beale even had to leap forward to gather it in. Last, refs boss Bill Harrigan may have given the green light to Corey Norman’s tap back for Josh Hoffman to score Brisbane’s final try in the 70th minute, but we remain dubious. The move was full of ad-hoc brilliance… a Justin Hodges line-break assist for Alex Glenn, who managed a belated offload which was soccer-kicked ahead by Norman. Then the tap back for Hoffman and the final nail in the Titans’ coffin. However, you have to ask: what if that had determined the outcome of a Grand Final?
Rabbitohs 20 def. Cowboys 16
The Moment: Suddenly, everything old is new again! Last week Mitchell Pearce revived rugby league’s foundation attacking play – the humble run-around – with great success when Chris Lawrence crossed for a crucial try. This week Greg Inglis and John Sutton combined inside the Cowboys’ 10-metre zone, with Inglis plunging over to open the scoring for the Rabbitohs with only three minutes gone. Certainly the modern game is all about decoys, running angles and bodies in motion – but throw a simple run-around into the mix and that’s one heck of a confusing cocktail to try to defend. In a beautifully structured move Souths halfback Adam Reynolds was fed the ball to the right of dummy-half before handing off to Inglis zooming back to the left. The Test star passed behind decoy Eddy Pettybourne to Sutton, then regained the ball running behind his five-eighth. A semi-dummy later and the Cowboys’ backs were utterly clueless, leaving the door open for Inglis to briefly hit the afterburners and set them on their way to an historic 1000th club victory. Meanwhile it was the Cowboys’ 30th loss in Sydney in their past 36 games dating back to 2006, the year after their sole Grand Final appearance. They’ll be handed the nickname ‘Guinness’ soon – as in, doesn’t travel well.
Sharks 44 def. Raiders 22
The Moment: The brick wall-like defensive structures of modern rugby league make it almost impossible for an attacking player to breach the opposition line without a hand being laid on him – but that’s exactly what Jeff Robson managed against the clunky Green Machine. With the Sharks leading 28-12 early in the second half, ex-Eel (and wouldn’t he be happy wearing that adjective at the moment) Robson threw a dummy at first receiver 10 metres out that hoodwinked a lethargic Tom Learoyd-Lahrs and caught out the too-quick-to-advance Matt McIlwrick. But the standout attacking move of the afternoon belonged to the otherwise overwhelmed Raiders, with Reece Robinson starring in the final minute. The winger chased fullback Josh Dugan’s speculative grubber down the left sideline, just managing to keep the ball in play with a soccer-kick of his own that opposition No. 1 Matthew Wright failed to grasp above his head. All that was left was for the alert Robinson to pounce.
Wests Tigers 31 def. Eels 30
The Moment: So Benji Marshall’s field-goal “for practice” in the closing minute of the first half wasn’t self-indulgent or silly after all! Clearly that was the defining play – but given it had the wow factor just higher than any rerun of Gilligan’s Island, we’ll steer clear. Instead we’ll toss a plaudit at Wests Tigers back-rower Liam Fulton who offered a remarkable performance channeling former Blues great Ben Kennedy on the right fringe. Bald-headed Fulton crossed for a barnstorming run that would have done ‘BK’ proud: with the Tigers ahead 10-zip he received the ball flat-footed 28 metres from the Eels goal line, showed the ball in two hands, put a stutter on Ben Roberts, then unleashed a stunning right-foot sidestep that left Jarryd Hayne grasping at nothing. On the Tigers’ pathetic collapse it should be noted they missed 25 tackles in the second 40. We reckon 20 of those were scratched into the stats sheets in the final 12 minutes.
Knights 34 def. Panthers 14
The Moment: Timana Tahu may have been credited on the stats sheet with a try assist for Zeb Taia as the Knights scored their third four-pointer for a 16-4 lead on the half hour but it’s supremely unfair that fullback Darius Boyd wasn’t accorded some reward. It was Boyd’s sublime, fast tip-on to Tahu midway through their deep left-side shift that was pivotal to the success of the scoring play. Just a fraction of a second slower and the move would have been snuffed out. Hard to believe Boyd has just the one try assist for Newcastle so far. Judging by his game against the Panthers he’s warming to hit his straps for Origin. Watch out Blues.
• The views in this article are the author’s and not necessarily those of the clubs or the NRL.