Rabbitohs 36 def. Raiders 18
The Moment: Their completions (76 per cent) and errors (12) left much to be desired, but no question a host of NRL oppositions are envious of the Rabbitohs’ red hot attack in 2012. Origin stars Greg Inglis and Dave Taylor competed with even more spark than they did for Queensland just two days previously (granted, not hard for Taylor given he was crook throughout the game), combining to score or set up six of Souths’ seven tries. The first of Inglis’ two tries, in the 18th minute, confirmed the value of recruiting Michael Maguire as coach, with the clipboard-holder borrowing a favourite play from his former employer the Melbourne Storm.
Hooker Issac Luke channeled Cameron Smith, ducking out of dummy-half 40 metres out and firing a pass to five-eighth John Sutton, who showed Cooper Cronk-like precision in firing the Steeden back infield for Greg Inglis, who steamed through a tiny gap in the centre of the ruck a la Billy Slater. You had to feel for last line of defence Reece Robinson here; one trademark left-foot sidestep from the 106-kilogram Inglis and the Raiders’ fill-in fullback was left sprawled on the ANZ Stadium turf in a tangle of his own limbs, like a kid trying ice-skating for the first time.
Storm 34 def. Broncos 10
The Moment: Two long-range tries saw Melbourne steal the Bulldogs’ mantle as the most dangerous attacking side from over halfway. The first of them – with Billy Slater running 70 metres in the 57th minute – hobbled the Broncos for the night. There was plenty of ‘sliding doors’ intrigue surrounding the play, which could so easily have resulted in the Broncos clawing their way to within six points of the ladder leaders had the bounce of the Steeden been kind.
It started with Broncos halfback Peter Wallace running a diagonal line for the right corner from 35 metres out, then chip-kicking back to the left for chaser Josh Hoffman. The Broncos fullback timed his run to perfection and was in great position to field the ball on the fly, but the football gods had other things in mind. Instead, Slater grabbed possession, offloaded to winger Justin O’Neill, then doubled around his team-mate to spear through a yawning gap and gallop away. Special mention to Jason Ryles and his try assist for Todd Lowrie in the 7th minute. We can’t remember his last one… and we’re not sure he can either.
Titans 24 def. Knights 14
The Moment: When you tally almost one third fewer missed tackles than your opposition you don’t expect to finish on the wrong side of the scoreboard. But incredibly that’s just what happened to Newcastle on an evening when they held their own in pretty much all statistics departments but still copped a pasting at home. The damage was all done in the first 40 minutes, with the Titans busting clear for four crushing line-breaks to race to a 16-4 lead at oranges. The defining moment came straight after the Titans had crossed for a 6-4 advantage in the 22nd minute, with Jamal Idris handed an innocuous inside ball on the left edge well inside his own side of halfway. Confronted by what appeared to be a rigid defensive line Idris ran flat across the face of the Knights before picking out Mark Minichiello with a select pass. The back-rower burst through for a 30-metre run and from the play-the-ball the Steeden swept to the right, with Scott Prince and Beau Champion handling before David Mead touched down for their second four-pointer in just three minutes.
The mood isn’t great up in the Hunter at the moment – in particular we don’t like the mixed manner of Wayne Bennett’s references to ‘they’ and ‘we’ in his post-match presser. As in: “… no-one can fix that but themselves and until they start playing collectively then we are going to look like we did tonight.” Surely they’re all in it together?
Dragons 14 def. Eels 12
The Moment: It wasn’t pretty but the Dragons avoided becoming the first team to lose three successive premiership matches by one point, by triumphing by just two. But they had to wait until the 77th minute when Kyle Stanley proved their salvation, taking on the disjointed Eels left-edge defence and exposing Chris Sandow’s glaring weakness in defence.
The Eels had toiled hard to lead the Red V at a venue they had sung the team song just once before. But with time running out the Dragons dug deep for one last shot, with five-eighth Jamie Soward switching the point of the attack on a last-tackle play. Stanley received the ball in space down the right edge; he must have fancied his chances from 20 metres out given the only obstacle between him and the tryline was Sandow. One massive dummy later Stanley was fielding hugs from team-mates. With nine misses on the night the Parramatta No.7 has now missed the most tackles by any halfback (53, average 5.3) and the second most in the NRL overall. And if you want to gauge how bad the Eels felt about losing, just look at Jarryd Hayne – he picks up the ball after Stanley’s try and boots it out of the park and onto the Princes Highway!
Panthers 22 def. Sea Eagles 4
The Moment: It’s been a long time coming but the Panthers are starting to click in attack. The welcome sign for fans was the snappy interchange to open this game’s scoring in the 32nd minute: Luke Walsh sliced through from 40 metres out for just his second line-break of the year, offloading to interchange Ryan Simpkins on the 30 who then popped a wonderful assist as he was falling for Lachlan Coote on the 20.
The Penrith fullback’s amazing hands ensured the Panthers would play from in front. And while you won’t see his name on the scorer’s sheet, rookie winger Josh Mansour’s contribution to the victory cannot be understated: he made a staggering 17 tackle busts to keep the premiers back-pedaling and ensure his side’s confidence stocks were always near to brimming over.
Wests Tigers 26 def. Cowboys 18
The Moment: This was a two-point ball game with three minutes remaining – which reinforces the importance of Lote Tuqiri’s intercept try in the dying stages of the first half. The Tigers conceded 12 unanswered points to trail 12-8 at the 37-minute mark before Tuqiri swung the momentum back their way.
Advancing in attack, the Cowboys shifted to the right, with Johnathan Thurston juggling the ball before batting it on to Matt Bowen in a frantic effort to keep the play alive. Bowen followed suit – but instead of finding its mark in Brent Tate, the ball was snatched by Tuqiri who sprinted 40 metres to cross for his 80th NRL try unopposed. It was a play the Cowboys may rue come Round 26 when the order of the top eight is decided.
Bulldogs 30 def. Bulldogs 12
The Moment: So the big-bucks Warriors experiment didn’t work for Krisnan Inu… perhaps life at the Bulldogs will see him reach his potential? Certainly Brian McClennan must be banging on the walls in his office in Auckland today after Inu showed more flair and talent in his debut game for the blue-and-whites than he ever displayed in a Warriors jersey. Inu scored two tries, set up another, made two line-breaks, added 117 metres and slotted over three goals filling in for the injured Bryson Goodwin (who wouldn’t be feeling a whole lot better this morning).
The highlight of Inu’s contribution came in the 36th minute when the ’Dogs trailed 12-4, with the new recruit leaping high to catch a Kris Keating bomb just centimetres from the sideline and hoicking it infield, in the one flowing movement, for support Frank Pritchard to score. This game was also memorable for two vastly different confrontations between the captains and referee Jason Robinson. In the 19th minute Bulldogs skipper Michael Ennis dropped a wave of F-bombs Robinson’s way after Sam Kasiano was denied a try for a Frank Pritchard obstruction. Thirty-five minutes later Braith Anasta politely queried why Tim Lafai had not been penalised for not getting to his feet in the play-the-ball in the lead-up to Inu’s second try. Anasta even called the ref ‘Sir’. Robinson said he hadn’t seen it; Anasta persisted. Robinson darkened and hinted he’d take disciplinary action if the questioning continued. Anyone else see anything wrong here?
• The views in this article are the author’s and not necessarily those of the clubs or the NRL.