Titans 28 def. Cowboys 12
The Moment: A 12-nil lead at halftime was never going to be enough for the gallant Titans whose energy reserves must have been all but exhausted after a demanding first 40 minutes in defence. The home side made 37 more tackles than the Cowboys, who also unleashed 29 more attacking runs in the opening stanza. Consequently Ashley Harrison’s silky-smooth pick up of a Matt Srama grubber that rebounded off the North Queensland goalposts for an 18-nil lead in the 56th minute was crucial to their fifth win of 2012. The Maroons lock really put his body on the line as he crashed heavily and awkwardly to the turf.
The buffer gave them the confidence to toss the ball around and when Beau Champion dived over on the right edge a few minutes later, the Titans were as good as home. Meanwhile it was a night of disappointment for the Cowboys, whose stars appeared flat. Executions (just 63 per cent completed sets) killed them, as did a whopping 16 errors. Of great concern to Neil Henry must be that his charges ran a decisive 249 metres more on the night, but were never in the hunt.
Sea Eagles 20 def. Dragons 8
The Moment: The Dragons defended stoutly all evening to set up a thrilling two-point ball game from the 54th minute to inside the final 10, but in truth they always looked off the pace against the Sea Eagles’ ravenous right-side attack. Four tries down Jamie Lyon’s edge of the field, including a hat-trick to fill-in winger Michael Oldfield, were nuggets of gold in a valuable victory that pushed the defending premiers from 7th to 5th on the ladder at the midpoint of the season.
The ‘Eureka!’ moment came with six minutes on the clock when Brett Stewart cashed in on some good deception from his inside men to befuddle the Dragons out wide. Daly Cherry-Evans took the ball at second receiver and fired the ball behind decoy Glenn Stewart to brother Brett. The New South Wales No.1 showed the ball inside to co-captain Jamie Lyon, which drew the attention of opposite centre Matt Cooper, before offloading to Oldfield. The winger jinked an inside line, stepping out of Jason Nightingale’s attempted try-saver, to cross for his sixth try in his sixth game of 2012.
Wests Tigers 40 def. Raiders 0
The Moment: No team weights attacking kicks better than the Tigers in 2012, and their favourite tactic of grubber-kicking behind the defensive line was perfectly suited to the miserable, greasy conditions in the nation’s capital. Having barged their way over for three tries from inside 10 metres in the first half, the visitors put ball to boot in the second stanza, with devastating effect. Centre Beau Ryan seized on a Benji Marshall dab to secure a 26-nil lead just two minutes after the resumption, then provided an identical try assist himself after a searching run that started 40 metres out on the left-hand edge and finished 10 metres out on the right flank, before his grubber was pounced on by fellow centre Chris Lawrence. Matt Utai made it a hat-trick of tries from kicks when he crossed off a Marshall assist in the 65th minute.
However, Ryan’s contribution was by far the most entertaining, with Canberra coach David Furner no doubt still wondering how Ryan was able to dodge or brush aside the majority of the Raiders during his dash. Canberra couldn’t hope to compete in this game given they afforded the Tigers 16 full sets of six tackles more throughout the 80 minutes.
Bulldogs 23 def. Rabbitohs 18
The Moment: Okay… it’s the 77th minute and the Bulldogs are clinging to a 19-18 lead when bunnies hard man Sam Burgess brushes aside opposition five-eighth Josh Reynolds to burst clear 35 metres out from his own goal line. With a full head of steam big Sam charges over halfway and offloads to team-mate Dylan Farrell 40 metres out. From there it’s a foot race between Farrell and Doggies fullback Ben Barba, with two competition points the valuable prize. Farrell figures that the wet conditions will be conducive to a slide across the line, so he goes to ground early. Except, Sydney’s big wet means he’s susceptible to a lateral slide too. Barba dives at Farrell’s torso, hoping his limited bulk will be enough to force his opponent over the sideline in the sodden conditions.
And in the absolute game-changer he manages to pull it off – with not a blade of grass to spare Farrell’s boot glides across the touchline before the Steeden glances the stripe. No try… game over (David Stagg’s late four-pointer simply iced the Bulldogs’ cake). There’s been plenty of fan forum discussion about why Farrell didn’t bend his knees and raise his legs to avoid the touchline; have a look at the replay and you’ll see he did – just not early enough.
Broncos 50 def. Newcastle 24
The Moment: At 22-nil this loomed as an epic massacre – before the Knights dug deep and found some pride and application. And although the final scoreline suggests an easy victory to the Broncos at the end of 80 minutes, things could have been markedly different but for a rulebook decision that (correctly) went against the Knights on the stroke of halftime. Looking to grow the Broncos’ 24-18 lead with an attacking raid down the left edge, Peter Wallace stabbed a grubber that glanced off Jarrod Mullen into Knights team-mate Chris Houston before Mullen gathered the ball and sprinted 90 metres for what many assumed would be an equalising four-pointer. But replays confirmed the ricochet from Mullen to Houston and back to Mullen left the ‘try-scorer’ in an offside position when he raced away.
Another sliding doors moment came deep in the second half with the Broncos leading 32-24: on a third-tackle play that started 20 metres from their try line, the ball was swung wide to the right, with Peter Wallace throwing a risky double-cutout pass that the Knights only just failed to intercept. Winger Gerard Beale streaked away, then passed inside to Justin Hodges who lumbered 40 metres to score untouched for an unassailable 14-point buffer with eight minutes remaining.
Storm 22 def. Warriors 12
The Moment: If you get in a grind with the Storm, you’d better not gift them the slightest opportunity or they’ll make you pay – as the brave Warriors discovered here. Although the visitors had reeled in the Warriors’ surprising 12-nil lead though Cooper Cronk’s wonderful short ball for Will Chambers to cross for a 16-12 advantage midway through the second half, the Warriors looked capable of striking back. That is, until the Storm showed why they are the most dangerous attacking team from turnovers. With seven minutes left on the clock Warriors winger Manu Vatuvei charged into the Storm half down the left edge. Collared by the defence ‘The Beast’ hurled a hopeful pass infield – but without a team-mate in support the ball was collected by Storm back-rower Ryan Hinchcliffe who offloaded to Will Chambers who stuttered up to the Warriors defence.
Right on cue Billy Slater loomed in support, slicing through and hurtling downfield. ‘The Kid’ looked certain to score before Warriors fullback Glen Fisiiahi dragged him to ground – but not before Slater managed a last-ditch offload for captain Cameron Smith who had trailed along just in case. Their fourth try in 2012 from a simple turnover, in particular the passage showed why Smith is rated one of the best in the game: he never gave up on his team-mate and made sure he was on the spot if required.
Eels 29 def. Sharks 20
The Moment: Jarryd Hayne’s half-look, bullet cut-out pass for Luke Burt to score in the 54th minute and Ryan Morgan’s rampaging line-break to set up Burt in the 69th minute were giant steps not just in this clash but also towards the immediate future of Parramatta coach Stephen Kearney – and perhaps the long-term prospects of some of the club’s player unit. Burt converted his first try to pull the Eels within two points of the Sharks, who’d looked ‘morals’ for the win when they led 20-6 at halftime.
If fans sensed the tide had turned with Burt’s first four-pointer, they must have thought it simply gushing when Nathan Hindmarsh put Morgan away on his 40-metre gallop for Burt to cross and seize the lead and put them in the box seat for just their second win of season 2012.
• The views in this article are the author’s and not necessarily those of the clubs or the NRL.