Five games, five moments: Round 11
Wests Tigers 24 def. Warriors 22
The Moment: The tragedy of the Warriors’ capitulation early in the second half is that they were prepared for Beau Ryan’s penchant for grubber-kicking through for himself – it was just poor execution of the defusal that saw them come undone. The Warriors had made all the running in the first 40, leading 10-nil at the break. Certainly coach Brian McClennan would have been quietly confident of victory – especially given opposition five-eighth Chris Lawrence failed to return after halftime. But yet again a simple setback revealed alarming fragility in the Kiwi unit. With seemingly nothing on, Ryan dabbed a speculative grubber from 32 metres out, the Steeden slicing between defenders Ben Henry and Shaun Johnson. Big Manu Vatuvei had dropped back to cover for a kick of any sort but as he stooped to grab the ball and dash away he fumbled it through his fingertips. Ryan arrived to boot the loose ball through into the in-goal, arriving before Glen Fisiiahi to post the Tigers’ first points. Three minutes later Lote Tuqiri performed a ballet-like grounding after gathering a Tim Moltzen kick and in the blink of an eye the Tigers led 12-10 just seven minutes into the second half. The deflation among the Warriors was obvious; it’s a trait McClennan must eradicate if they’re going to challenge seriously again in September.
Cowboys 30 def. Panthers 28
The Moment: Ashton Sims’ try in the 74th minute understandably prompted a huge emotional outpouring from the big prop: not only did it seize back control of this contest, Ashton’s first four-pointer for 2012 was also an obvious dedication to his little brother Tariq, who cruelly suffered yet another season-ending broken leg just 20 minutes beforehand. The play unfolded with Kalifa Faifai Loa batting back a cross-field bomb, with Ashton showing great composure to pick up the wobbling ball and crash over despite the attention of Clint Newton at the tryline. That was the decisive play – although for sheer skill factor it’s hard to overlook Ashley Graham’s in-and-away to bamboozle opposite Josh4 Mansour in the 18th minute to post his 12th four-pointer for 2012 and extend his lead at the top of the tryscorer’s list.
Sea Eagles 18 def. Roosters 10
The Moment: If the on-field officials and video referee thought Brad Takairangi’s tentative raised elbow as he crunched into the Manly defensive line midway through the second half was foul play, boy do the NRL Match Review committee have their work cut out for the remainder of the season. We agree with bemused Rooster Braith Anasta’s take on this one: we’ve seen it a million times and it happens in every game. As Takairangi hit the defensive line he raised his left arm to fend off the impact of Daniel Harrison and Darcy Lussick. Sandwiched between that pair and also halfback Daly Cherry-Evans 20 metres out, Takairangi still managed a surreptitious offload to Daniel Mortimer who sliced between Matt Ballin and Jason King to cross under the posts. A green light would have seen the contest tied up at 16 points apiece. But it wasn’t to be. Even refs boss Bill Harrigan was left flabbergasted – he issued a statement on Monday saying his men got it wrong.
That wasn’t the only slab of misfortune to befall the visitors though, with the bounce of the Steeden for Steve Matai’s equalising try in the 38th minute one of the cruelest in memory. Liam Foran stabbed a left-foot chip over the top before the ball propped over the head of swooper Sam Perrett straight into Matai’s arms for the easiest of four-pointers. Maybe Roosters coach Brian Smith was right when he suggested Manly would have won even had Mortimer been awarded his second try of the afternoon.
Rabbitohs 19 def. Dragons 18
The Moment: Although drama reigned in golden point, Souths really owed their victory to a roll of the dice that paid off handsomely on the stroke of halftime. Trailing 12-6 and on the last tackle with just 30 seconds showing on the clock, Rabbitohs five-eighth John Sutton hoisted a towering bomb from 40 metres out. The Dragons never seemed comfortable in their response, with none of Brett Morris, Matt Cooper or Daniel Vidot staking a claim at the defusal. This non-commitment on their own 20-metre line saw the Steeden spill into the hands of Rabbitohs centre Matt King, who gracefully swept the ball to his left for halfback Adam Reynolds to seize the spoils and send the sides to the sheds locked at 12-all. This was the Dragons’ second defeat in golden point in the space of eight days; their overall extra time record now reads an unbalanced nine played for seven losses, a draw… and just one win. They’ve lost to eight different teams. Talk about a confidence sapper…
Bulldogs 26 def. Sharks 6
The Moment: Bulldogs five-eighth Josh Reynolds again confirmed why good judges have him marked down for bigger things, with another polished playmaking display at ANZ Stadium. It was Reynolds’ lovely delayed pass that sent Dene Halatau galloping into space 40 metres out from the Sharks’ tryline, with Halatau delivering the final assist for Ben Barba to open the scoring with just seven minutes on the clock. The try added to the blue-and-white’s phenomenal success rate of crafting try-scoring plays between halfway and the opposition goal line – they’ve now accrued 17 tries in this manner, making them far and away the most dangerous outfit from long range. That spells calamity for the Sydney Roosters next Monday night, given they’ve had massive problems shutting down oppositions in this key region of the field, with 13 tries conceded.
• The views in this article are the author’s and not necessarily those of the clubs or the NRL.