Monday Morning Halfback - Round 5
Trent Hodkinson's golden boot, the rise of the Red V Wall, restarts cause havoc and Manly unearth a future superstar.
When Trent Merrin told NRL.com's Matt Encarnacion that you only need two points to win a game of football, we assumed it was a throwaway line to deflect criticism from the team's stuttering attack. Merrin was speaking in the sheds after the Dragons had all but shut out the Sea Eagles in Round 4.
"You can win a game off two points. So it's not about putting as many points on them. I think it's about our defence and building pressure off our D," he said.
"We're not going into next week worried about our points, we'll be going in there worrying about our D."
Turns out, he wasn't joking. The Dragons travelled to Newcastle in Round 5 and kept the league leaders scoreless on their own turf. It was the first time the Knights have been kept scoreless at home since 2005. The 'Red V Wall' has now conceded just one try in their last 220 minutes of football.
Their attack still needs a lot of work, but over the last few weeks they have shown you can tackle your way to victory. They are showing a lot of heart.
One more point
Bulldogs halfback Trent Hodkinson's clutch field goal has been overshadowed in the aftermath of a dramatic grand final rematch. It was the 14th field goal in his relatively short Telstra Premiership career (101 games). That is more than superstar Johnathan Thurston (10) who kicked two in the space of five minutes to win his Cowboys the game in Round 4. The genius of Hodkinson is that while everyone knows the ball is going to him, he still has enough time and poise to continue to get the job done. He seems to thrive on the pressure.
Hodkinson has got a way to go to catch Eric Simms though, the South Sydney fullback is credited with 86 career field goals (including five in one match) between 1965-75.
Field goals were worth two points when Simms was in his prime and – thanks to his sharpshooting – they are now worth one.
Put simply, he was so good, they had to change the rules.
Restarts causing havoc
On Friday night the Bulldogs were handed their chance to go in front when the Rabbitohs muffed a routine kick-off with time winding down and the error resulted in a goal-line drop out. The Bulldogs accepted the invitation and Hodkinson only needs one. It was almost the match-defining play.
On Sunday, the Roosters had their tails up and were riding momentum of two quick tries as they chased the game late against Cronulla only to flub the resulting kick-off and the Sharks duly iced the game through exciting youngster and man of the match Jack Bird.
It pays to get the fundamentals right.
Blood, sweat and tears
James Graham's actions at the end of the Friday night blockbuster have been well documented, and we will soon learn what consequences if any the Bulldogs captain will face from the NRL. There is no doubting Graham is a fierce competitor, he is a throwback to a bygone era, but at times it can get the better of him. Earlier in the second half, Graham remonstrated angrily with the referee after being asked to leave the field due to the blood rule. The prop forward tried to get patched up on the field and stalled several times before reluctantly leaving the field, much to his annoyance.
Graham is a warrior but needs to understand the rule is in place to protect not only himself but the other players as well.
There haven't been many positives for Manly fans to start the 2015 season, one win from five games and the announcements of their star halves' pending departures.
Enter Tom Trbojevic.
The youngster has been carving up the Holden Cup and made a great debut in a badly beaten side, scoring one of the quickest-ever tries in first grade when he crossed with his first touch in the third minute. NRL Guru David Middleton informs me the fastest belongs to South Sydney's Andrew Everingham, which came in the second minute against the Panthers in 2012.
Trbojevic ended the game with two tries, two linebreaks and a whopping 207 metres. Not bad.
It is nothing on some of his earlier stats in the Holden Cup. In Round 1 against the Eels under-20s side, Trbojevic turned heads with four tries, 14 tackle-breaks, four line breaks, a try-assist and 321 metres.
It's fair to say the Sea Eagles have a fair replacement when the original Prince of Brookvale, Brett Stewart, finally hangs up his illustrious boots.