Top six try-saving tackles of 2016
While it's the breathtaking tries that will last in the memory banks of fans forever, it's the tries that players stop that matter most to teammates and coaches. Here's a look back at the best try-saving tackles from 2016.
6. Marika Koroibete on Valentine Holmes (Storm v Sharks, Round 26)
Rugby league players will put their bodies on the line no matter the situation, but when you add the lure of the minor premiership, expect them to give the proverbial 110 per cent. When halfback Chad Townsend launched a pass to Luke Lewis, the Sharks had what appeared to be a three on none overlap. But there's a reason why the Storm finished the year with the best defence, as first Cheyse Blair scrambled to shut down the space, before Marika Koroibete appeared out of nowhere to smash Valentine Holmes into touch when he looked certain to score. In what was his last regular season game at home, Koroibete's 39th-minute effort inspired the Storm to victory to deliver Melbourne its first J.J. Giltinan Shield since 2011.
5. Nathan Ross on Valentine Holmes (Sharks v Knights, Round 20)
Valentine Holmes finished the year level with Sharks great David Peachey on 19 tries – a club record – but he'll be kicking himself that he didn't add to that tally. The lightning-quick winger had been chased down against the Tigers and Storm earlier in the year, and when he scooped up a loose ball against the Knights, he would have been thinking it'd be a case of third time lucky. It took less than two minutes for him to get his chance as he collected an errant pass on his own 20 metre line, before turning Korbin Sims inside-out. With Ben Barba supporting him on his outside, it looked as if he could have passed to his flashy fullback, but instead he dummied and went himself. It appeared as though Knights winger Nathan Ross had taken the bait, but to Holmes's shock, the Novocastrian reeled him in with an incredible legs tackle just inches from the line. While Holmes would later collect a double, Ross's spirited chase earned his side a penalty after the Sharks speedster was pinged for a double movement.
4. Moses Mbye on Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (Bulldogs v Panthers, Finals)
It didn't hold the same weight as his 80th-minute try to sink the Panthers back in Round 2, but Moses Mbye's special double effort to deny Dallin Watene-Zelezniak in the first week of the finals said a lot about the halfback's character. Down 22-6 with 16 minutes remaining, Mbye could have been excused for throwing in the towel when his stray kick was intercepted by the Panthers winger who quickly burst into the clear. But with his season seemingly over, Mbye set about fixing his error. Incredibly, Mbye dragged him down 15 metres short of the line, only for the young Panther to get back to his feet. Watene-Zelezniak looked odds on to score, but Mbye came again to chop him down at the legs a metre short of the line to salvage what was an otherwise disappointing day for the Dogs.
3. Jarryd Hayne on Bodene Thompson (Titans v Warriors, Round 22)
He might have earned his money as a running back in the NFL, but Jarryd Hayne's first contribution back in rugby league had you thinking he could have tried his hand as a linebacker. Having spent barely two minutes on the field, the Titans' new recruit showed he could still be a force in the NRL with a stunning one-on-one tackle on a rampaging Bodene Thompson to deny the Warriors backrower centimetres short of the line. What made the play even more special was the fact Hayne had an eye on Shaun Johnson – as well as Tuimoala Lolohea who was looming out the back – but made a split-second decision to take Thompson instead.
2. Jack Wighton on Tom Trbojevic (Raiders v Sea Eagles, Round 13)
Jack Wighton had copped some flak for his ball handling in the weeks leading into this Friday night clash, but the Raiders fullback silenced his critics with a scintillating all-round display against the Sea Eagles that earned him high praise from his captain and coach. Having scored a try earlier in the second half, Wighton showed why is he regarded as one of the best defensive fullbacks in the game to deny a flying Tom Trbojevic. The Sea Eagles appeared down and out, but two late tries cut the margin to 12 points, and when their star No.1 burst into the backfield, it looked as if a grandstand finish was on the cards. When Trbojevic sped past his opposite number near halfway, it only seemed a matter of how wide out the conversion would be. But instead, Wighton put on the afterburners to reel in the 20-year-old, spin him onto his back, and force him into touch to save the day.
1. Joseph Manu on Bevan French (Roosters v Eels, Round 18)
When Bevan French gets the ball in space, he scores. Case closed. Someone forgot to tell Joseph Manu. When the Eels speedster picked off a Dale Copley pass near his own line, everyone at Pirtek Stadium and on their couches at home thought the young gun from Tingha would fly away for yet another four-pointer. What they didn't bank on was Manu, who wasn't even in the picture when French crossed halfway. But by the time he reached the 30 metre line, the Holden Cup premiership-winner had him in his sights. Not used to anyone matching him for speed, French tried to burn him down the sideline, but the Rooster had the final say, pushing the Eels winger into touch as he tried to dive for the try line. The commentators were in disbelief, social media exploded, but it wasn't enough to help his side claim the two competition points.