Sea Eagles 24 def. Broncos 22
The Moment: Misses cost the Broncos dearly here – both conversions (Corey Parker missed four from four attempts) and tackles. While it’s not our go to bag players for the sake of it, the fact is two-try hero Matt Gillett was out of his depth marking Sea Eagles opposite Steve Matai. Gillett, pushed to right centre following the belated withdrawal of Justin Hodges, missed seven tackles throughout the contest (he made 10 overall) – including a bad miss that allowed Matai to carve out 40 metres on the second last play of the night. The game turned when, with less than two minutes remaining, Blues bench selection Jamie Buhrer put an in-and-away on Ben Hunt that drew Gillett off his man Matai. Hunt still managed to grass Buhrer, but not before he passed to Matai who accelerated through the gap left by Gillett, with the No.16’s desperate lunge falling a fingertip shy of shutting down the move – and the game. From Jorge Taufua’s play-the-ball on the 20-metre line the ball shifted through the hands to the right, with Glenn Stewart’s one-motion catch-and-pass putting Jamie Lyon into space. The captain then drew the last line and gifted David Williams free passage for the match-winner. But if the Broncos’ could have one set of six in defence over again, it would undoubtedly be that final one of the night. Don’t think Maroons interchange Gillett’s uncertain reads were lost on Blues coach Ricky Stuart…
Titans 25 def. Bulldogs 14
The Moment: What do they say about games turning on the bounce of the ball? Jamal Idris’s try in the 51st minute could so easily have been a Bulldogs try down the other end had Josh Reynolds’ chase of the Steeden been rewarded with a fortunate bounce. The Titans led 10-6 with half an hour to play when Aidan Sezer spilled a pass two off the ruck. The rookie five-eighth managed to putty up his blunder by pushing the ball backwards, transforming a knock-on into a knock-back. Still, the ball rolled loose behind the play, narrowly evading Reynolds before Idris scooped it up and sprinted 10 metres through the disjointed defence to score. Have a look at the replay at you’ll see Reynolds was oh so close to capturing possession; given the Bulldogs’ record from long distance in 2012 (an NRL-high seven tries) it’s fair to assume they would have gone the length of the field to score a killer blow. But they didn’t, and Idris’ bulldozing effort saw the Titans claw out a crucial 10-point lead. The play was potentially a 12-point turn-around, no question.
Warriors 30 def. Roosters 26
The Moment: It may not have seemed pivotal at the time but Shaun Johnson’s dazzling solo burst to embarrass Aidan Guerra and Mose Masoe in the 48th minute ultimately proved the difference on the night. With the Warriors trailing 14-12 but on the attack, Johnson retreated to pick up a loose ball 15 metres out. With the Steeden in two hands he jogged flat across the face of the Roosters’ defence, his eyes searching for a hole or a weakness. Then he found it: a stutter and a blistering right-foot step and poor Guerra was left grasping at nothing as Johnson planted the ball under the posts. On the subject of whether Anthony Minichiello should have been called back by the refs and given another chance to play the ball correctly after being given a free trip to Disneyland courtesy of Jacob Lillyman’s bell-ringer with 90 seconds remaining: nope, it was an error. It’s one thing to call back a player in possession when they’ve run on after being called ‘held’. It’s quite another to take the shine off a legitimate hit by molly-coddling a player who is forced into error.
Cowboys 32 def. Knights 12
The Moment: A halfback’s diminutive physique is generally suited to their role as a playmaker – but we bet Knights halfback Tyrone Roberts would prefer even one centimetre more height to his frame. Especially given what transpired here. If the former Junior Kangaroo was 178cm instead of 177cm maybe he could have shut down the play that saw the pendulum swing the Cowboys’ way. The turning point came in the 58th minute with the scores locked at 12-all. Johnathan Thurston took the ball at first receiver 20 metres out from the Knights’ tryline, ran to the line and feathered a chip kick for his right-side chasers. Roberts managed to get some fingers to the ball and stunned its progress – only to have it fall delicately into the waiting arms of Michael Morgan who strolled over untouched. That made it 18-12 and when Ashley Graham dived over six minutes later the Knights were done.
Raiders 40 def. Eels 34
The Moment: Wow – 13 tries and 15 line-breaks! So much to choose from… but we’ll nominate Casey McGuire’s ill-directed cross-field bomb into the arms of opposition speedster Blake Ferguson as the play that consigned the Eels’ mission to the too-hard basket. Parramatta trailed 12-6 on the half hour but looked to get back on level pegging when McGuire hoisted his bomb from 15 metres out and just a few metres in from the right sideline. The Steeden floated pretty much directly sideways towards their left sideline before Ferguson collected it on the burst, brushed aside Ryan Morgan and sprinted 85 metres to score. The lack of depth to the kick left the Eels flat-footed and transferred the attacking advantage to the Raiders. Sheesh, what else can go wrong for these guys? Special mention to Jarryd Hayne who tallied a personal record four try assists (in a beaten side).
Sharks 12 def. Storm 10
The Moment: For a team that prides itself on having the best defence in the NRL the Storm remain surprisingly slow to react to rushes from dummy-half. In fact, the premiership pacesetters have conceded the second-most tries to opposition dummy-half bursts. It happened again on Sunday at Toyota Stadium when Jeremy Smith picked up the ball at the ruck eight metres out and ploughed through Gareth Widdop, Jesse Bromwich and Dane Nielsen to score the match-winner. That makes it five tries surrendered by the Storm marker defence – all opposition coaches take note! Elsewhere, in a game devoid of razzle dazzle it fell to Shark Isaac Gordon to provide the memorable moment: suiting up for the first time in 2012 Gordon was his side’s hero inside the final minute, felling Billy Slater with a copybook bootlaces tackle after the fullback regathered a Cooper Cronk chip kick, then dropping back to defuse a Cronk bomb the very next play. Extraordinary stuff.
Panthers 13 def. Dragons 12
The Moment: A horror spell by St George Illawarra gave the Panthers a real leg-up in their quest for their first win at Centrebet Stadium in 2012 in six appearances. Aided by a streak of dropped balls, penalties and line-dropouts, the Panthers enjoyed seven consecutive sets of possession midway through the first half. The pressure finally told when the home side cracked the Red V’s goal-line defence twice in the space of three minutes, rocketing to a commanding 12-nil lead at the 22-minute mark. Kudos to Lachlan Coote for his match-winning field-goal in golden point – the fullback showed excellent composure to change tack from a right-foot attempt to a left-foot snap when pressured by rushing Dragons defender Ben Creagh. Dark days for the once-formidable Dragons attack: their cumulative 150 points scored is the third fewest this season… even the lowly Eels have racked up 16 more.
• The views in this article are the author’s and not necessarily those of the clubs or the NRL.