Eight games, eight moments: Round 9
Bulldogs 46 def. Eels 12
The Moment: Wow! No side executes the deep second-man attacking sweep better than a Des Hasler-coached squad, with a couple of multi-faceted gems on show in this annihilation. To everyone’s extreme surprise the ’Dogs were doing it tough on the half hour though, trailing Parramatta 21-4 – but then Sam Kasiano left his stamp on proceedings, at the same time confirming his status as the most improved forward in the game. Big Sam took the ball at first receiver 30 metres from the Eels’ line and ambled up to the defence, with David Stagg simultaneously running a decoy line to his left that sucked in three would-be tacklers. Displaying halves-like prowess and poise, Kasiano shot a deep pass back to Kris Keating who rushed past the deceived defenders (including brother Matt – wince) and into space. From there it was a simple draw-and-pass to centre Josh Morris who crossed for the second of his three tries on the night. Three minutes later the blue-and-whites executed an even deeper decoy sweep with James Graham and Josh Reynolds combining to send Tim Lafai over for a try that saw the ‘visitors’ reclaim a lead that would only grow… and grow. Damning stat: the Eels missed 40 tackles, the Bulldogs just 10.
Cowboys 30 def. Dragons 6
The Moment: Will Matt Prior’s of madness derail the Dragons’ 2012 premiership campaign? The visitors were already on the ropes trailing 22-6 in the 53rd minute when Prior’s blatant forearm to the side of Johnathan Thurston’s head saw him sent from the field – now the back-rower’s brain snap looks set to further weaken the Dragons’ back-row stocks for the immediate and even semi-distant future. With Beau Scott sidelined for at least four more weeks as he recuperates from a dislocated elbow and with Ben Creagh seemingly a shoo-in for the Blues, you can bet St George Illawarra coach Steve Price will have only fitful sleeps over the next few months.
Warriors 30 def. Broncos 20
The Moment: Heading into this clash the Broncos ranked fourth in the comp for defusing cross-field bombs but that reputation copped a battering at Mount Smart Stadium. Shaun Johnson’s accurate boot – and Gerard Beale’s misfortune – saw the home side post back-to-back tries in the space of five minutes to assert control. Trailing 10-6 in the 28th minute Johnson sent the ball skyward, with Beale seemingly having the play covered – but inexplicably he spilled the ball cold without a Warrior even laying a hand on him. Johnson then swooped on the loose ball to wrest the lead. Minutes later the crafty No.7 targeted Beale again – this time team-mate Manu Vatuvei won the contest with a superb vertical leap, batting the ball back to Elijah Taylor who touched down. They may have snared the two competition points but there’s no doubt Warriors coach Brian McClennan will have the tackle bags out in force this week given the side tallied a staggering 47 missed tackles.
Wests Tigers 15 def. Titans 14
The Moment: Poor Jordan Rankin’s horror last few minutes surrendered the competition points on a night the Titans should really have been singing their team song in the sheds after the siren. First, with 90 seconds of normal time remaining, Rankin made the cardinal error of not ensuring his fifth-tackle clearance kick had enough elevation to get past Robbie Farah’s desperate lunge, when a deep and well-directed punt would have all but banked the win. Then, with the scores locked up following a penalty goal for Phil Graham’s professional foul on the Tigers skipper as Farah looked to claim possession from his charge-down, Rankin spilled the ball early in the first section of extra time and watched aghast as his blunder afforded – wouldn’t you know it – Farah the opportunity to post the Tigers’ second golden point win of the season.
Storm 44 def. Panthers 10
The Moment: Ivan Cleary’s side got to painfully live the dictionary definition of ‘demoralising’ on the stroke of halftime courtesy of some breathtaking arrogance from Billy Slater and Justin O’Neill. While most teams shut up shop when pegged inside their 10-metre zone with just seconds remaining, the Storm regard it as a challenge to their attack. The Panthers were guilty of applying too much pressure to first receiver Billy Slater, who dummied to his outside man O’Neill and then sliced through the disjointed Penrith defensive line. Showing awareness befitting his rank as the best player in rugby league, the fullback centre-kicked deep, with O’Neill chasing and receiving a dream bounce with 30 metres left to sprint. So instead of jogging to the sheds with their heads held high and only a six-point deficit, the Panthers trudged from Centrebet Stadium looking downcast and trailing by 12. Which was a pity, given they’d given their all to lead 10-6 through 17 minutes of play. The Panthers are now 0-5 at home in 2012.
Sea Eagles 18 def. Raiders 12
The Moment: Say what you want about the video referee but as a safeguard against blatant errors it definitely earns its keep. If it weren’t for the referral system Canberra would have snatched the lead in the 61st minute when Shaun Fensom dived on a loose ball in the in-goal after a Daly Cherry-Evans handling mistake attempting to defuse Josh McCrone’s grubber kick from close range. But the video replay showed Raiders winger Blake Ferguson’s stumbling attacking kick down the right flank in the lead-up actually swiped the sideline, leaving the home fans breathing a sigh of relief as the premiers clung to their 16-12 lead. In other talking points from this game, we’re not sure Josh Dugan’s momentum wasn’t halted in the in-goal before a desperate second-effort lunge secured him his try from dummy-half in the 52nd minute for a 12-10 lead. And what about Steve Matai’s form? You’d be excused for thinking the Kiwi was raising the bar in anticipation of an Origin call-up next week! Certainly Matai is giving his manager plenty of reasons to smile as he goes about securing his client another contract on the northern beaches.
Roosters 24 def. Knights 6
The Moment: Nothing wears out a rugby league defence like hot-potato passes – as the fatigued Knights tacklers learned first-hand here. On an unseasonally hot Sunday afternoon in Sydney, Newcastle simply had no answer to Brian Smith’s clever rapid-fire, second-phase game plan that spurred 18 offloads. Sam Perrett’s right-corner try in the 63rd minute for an 18-6 lead was a case in point, with four sizzling offloads marking the lead-up before Anthony Minichiello’s looping torpedo pass assist. Certainly coach Smith won this round against arch rival Wayne Bennett, and a look at the stats sheet shows why: the Roosters rank second for offloads this season (14.2) while the Knights concede the equal-most offloads every week (13.7).
Rabbitohs 34 def. Sharks 28
The Moment: It would be remiss not to acknowledge one of Greg Inglis’ three tries as pivotal to the bunnies’ stirring win, so we place his 24th-minute run-around effort, which gave his side a comfortable 18-6 lead, at the top of the pile. It continued the rebirth of the humble runaround we’ve witnessed in recent weeks, as sides look for ‘new’ ways to confound increasingly well-drilled defences. The other moment that proved extremely costly, given the final scoreline, came when Sharks skipper Paul Gallen gifted Nathan Merritt a long-range try against the run of play with a wayward pass in the 16th minute. And Dave Taylor taking out referee Chris James in the 38th minute? We’re not sure Taylor’s involvement in the set scrum play wasn’t a planned move, even accounting for the fact he was receiving attention from a trainer. Look carefully at the highlights reel and you’ll notice Taylor’s eyes are trained on the scrum. Even the trainer knows when to move aside. Issac Luke, who picks up the ball at lock, knows Taylor is coming; he drifts right and passes inside to the Coal Train. Unfortunately ref James spoils the party. Which makes us wonder: what if Taylor had broken through and scored? Would any rules have been broken?
• The views in this article are the author’s and not necessarily those of the clubs or the NRL.