Monday Morning Halfback: Round 6
Knights have the Tigers seeing double, the Dragons can't find a point, Dylan Napa's big performance and Brett Stewart's Warriors winning streak.
Bizarre double-ball play helps Knights
When Newcastle halfback Trent Hodkinson put up a routine bomb in the second half, everything was going to script, until Korbin Sims spotted a second ball on the field and appeared to kick it in the direction of Wests Tigers' Jordan Rankin.
It was enough to put Rankin off and he dropped the bomb, gifting the Knights a goal-line dropout, despite protests from the Tigers.
It left fans, commentators and social media debating what the ruling should have been.
Normally when a second ball is on the field the referee orders play to be stopped, but at the time the play began it was well in the backfield and nobody noticed it, until it was too late.
But Wests Tigers coach Jason Taylor was adamant that it should not have affected his side and refused to use it as an excuse for his side's loss.
Taylor's unique appraisal of the incident was both admirable and refreshing.
"You've got to catch the ball, there is one ball that had to be caught and it needed to be caught. That's it," Taylor said post-match.
"It is horrendous that in a game of NRL that can happen, but we are not going to use that as an excuse.
"We gave up a try after that, we had to catch that kick. That stuff happens at training all the time, guys are kicking balls, there are other balls flying around the place.
"It is not an excuse to drop it."
Under a mutual infringement – where play is irregularly affected – the referee can order a scrum feed to the team in possession, which in this case would have been the Newcastle Knights. That means the Knights could have been awarded a scrum feed 10 metres from the Wests Tigers line. The dropout was the lesser of two evils for the Tigers even though the Knights scored from the ensuing set of six.
For the record, Sims denied seeing the ball (or deliberately kicking it) in post-match interviews.
It's a funny game.
Dragons need points
The Dragons have been held scoreless twice in six matches this season and have a total of just 40 points at an average of 6.6 per game. Something is not right.
Six players have scored more points individually than the entire Red V outfit; Jarrod Croker (58), Johnathan Thurston (50), Shaun Johnson (50), Jamie Lyon (46), James Maloney (44) and Michael Gordon (42).
Against the Broncos, the Dragons simply didn't give themselves a chance. They had six errors and five penalties in the first half alone with only 38 per cent of the ball. You'd struggle to win any game of rugby league with those numbers, let alone an NRL game against last year's grand finalists.
The Red V ended the night with 12 errors and eight penalties, and although the Broncos left it late they were totally in control for the entire match and ran out comfortable 26-0 victors.
The Dragons were typically brave in defence and kept themselves in the contest, but if they showed the same aptitude with ball in hand as they do with their scramble in defence, they would be a much more complete football team.
Their clash with the Titans on Saturday night can't come soon enough.
Dylan "Jukebox" Napa
Dylan Napa had one of the most dominant and destructive first 40 minutes from a prop in recent memory. Napa put Sam Burgess on his backside three times, while rattling the rib cages of plenty more would-be Rabbitohs attackers. It was a real statement from the fiery redhead and it clearly inspired his teammates who responded with vigour, winning their first game of the season.
It was just reward for a Roosters team who haven't been as bad as the table suggests. It is way too early to say the wheel has turned for them, but they'll certainly sleep a lot better with their first win.
Napa may not be eligible for a Maroons jersey this season due to a year-ban placed on him from new coach Kevin Walters due to a well-publicised curfew incident, but he wouldn't look out of place in the green and gold jumper in May. Whether new Kangaroos coach and former Queensland mentor Mal Meninga would pick Napa while under a Maroons Origin ban is another matter.
Knights break drought
The Newcastle Knights also got their first win of the season, which doubled as their 200th at Hunter Stadium and their first since Round 24 last year – 230 days ago.
It's been a long wait for Novacastrian fans, but over 21,000 of them were there to see it.
The Warriors have now lost 17 of their last 21 matches against Manly. It is an incredible record stretching back to 2006. Brett Stewart has never lost against the New Zealand based club, winning 13 from 13 matches.