Top six Holden Cup tries of 2016
If you love to watch attacking footy then the National Youth Competition is the place for you. Out of the 1,974 tries scored in the Holden Cup in 2016, here's a look back at what we think are the best from the year gone by.
6. Greg Lelesiuao (Round 4, Titans v Raiders)
Get out of my way. That's the simple message Titans centre Greg Lelesiuao sent his rivals in 2016. The 19-year-old only played eight matches last season but averaged over 150 metres per game thanks to his size, speed and brutal fend. The Canberra Raiders found out just how destructive he can be with ball in hand in Round 4 as Lelesiuao crossed for a double – his only tries of the season – on a day that saw him run for 225 metres. With absolutely nothing doing near the right touchline, the rampaging centre made a mockery of the defence as he charged over the first attempt before he fended away from another would-be tackler. Despite a Raider pursuing him down the GIO Stadium sideline, the Titan pinned the ears back for 50 metres before pushing away as he dived over for the try.
5. Johnny Tuivasa-Sheck (Grand Final, Roosters v Panthers)
The Roosters might have lost Roger Tuivasa-Sheck at the end of the 2015 season, but they look to be well stocked with his younger brother Johnny doing great things in the NYC. It was his long range try against the Dragons in the preliminary final that sealed the Roosters' path to the decider, and history would repeat on grand final day as he left the Panthers in his wake to complete one of the greatest comebacks in Holden Cup history. Down by 22 points at the break, no one gave Anthony Barnes's men any hope of victory. But someone forgot to tell the Roosters. Three unanswered second-half tries cut the margin to just four points, before JTS stepped up to prove the doubters wrong. With a few minutes remaining, Panthers five-eighth Tyrone May put in an grubber, only for the kick to be blocked by Victor Radley, who scooped up the loose ball, waited for support, and released his speedy winger for the most important 55-metre run of his career. The Penrith chasers tried desperately to reel him in, but it was all in vain as Tuivasa-Sheck outsprinted them to seal the improbable win.
4. Matheson Johns (Finals Week 1, Dragons v Cowboys)
Fair to say this was one of the games of the season. With a crucial week off for the winners at stake, the teams traded tries in a frenzied final three minutes that sent the game into golden point locked at 30-all (incidentally the same score as their Round 12 encounter). It didn't take long for the Dragons to land the telling blow in extra-time as Matheson Johns finished off an incredible passage of play to secure a preliminary final berth for the Red V. The movement started deep inside Dragons territory with a seemingly innocuous carry by Luciano Leilua, but the behemoth back-rower broke through two would-be tackles and then had the foresight to offload to a charging Izaac Thompson. The giant centre burst through the initial wave of defence before he popped a perfect offload just as he was about to be tackled. When the ball reached Matt Dufty, the fullback was grossly outnumbered, but the crafty fullback attracted four Cowboys, stepped this way and that, and then kept the play alive with a miracle pass to Johns. With no room to work in, the winger looked to have bombed it as he juggled the pass, but incredibly, he caught it at the second attempt, and in the same motion fell to the turf to somehow ground the ball to end the contest.
3. Sam Smith (Round 19, Broncos v Souths)
The siren might have sounded but that didn't mean the fun had ended for the Broncos as they ran in a ninth try of the evening to put the cherry on top of a crushing win over South Sydney. Instead of putting the ball into touch, Brisbane swiftly shifted the ball to the right as Sam Leach scorched his way down the sideline and put in a dusty infield kick that evaded several players before teammate Jamayne Isaako soccered it off the ground, regathered the ball, beat two tackles, and produced a stunning backhand offload for Sam Smith to score. You don't see too many teams celebrate at a scoreline like 52-20, but this was a special effort and the Broncos wanted to enjoy the moment.
2. Ross Bella (Finals Week 2, Cowboys v Wests Tigers)
If someone told Ross Bella he'd score a 75-metre runaway try in the second week of the Holden Cup finals, he probably would have believed them. But no one else would have. That's exactly what happened as the Cowboys back-rower turned defence into attack to put away the Wests Tigers and send North Queensland into the grand final qualifier. With the visitors pushing for a much needed try, back-up hooker Daniel Peck attempted an audacious 15-metre flick pass that landed in Bella's bread basket. Instead of surrendering to help his teammates catch their breath, the back-rower took off downfield, stepped past an opponent and crossed the halfway line. Despite being in the clear, Bella was quickly chased down by Tigers prop Jakob Giles, only for the long-haired forward to miss the tackle. His legs turned into jelly 20 metres out from the line, but the big man wasn't going to let this opportunity pass, and against all odds dived over to score; exhaustion the only thing stopping him from celebrating the moment.
1. Braidon Burns (Finals Week 1, Panthers v Sharks)
There was no scarier sight in 2016 than seeing Ratu Tuisese in full flight, and the Holden Cup's third-leading try scorer lived up to his billing in the first week of the finals to cap off a one-sided affair at Allianz Stadium. The minor premiers had been tested in the first half but flexed their muscles after that to surge past the Sharks; the highlight coming as the full-time siren blared in the background. Most players who collect kicks five metres from their own line would gladly take the tackle and wait for the hooter to sound, but despite being up by 18 points, Tuisese decided to chance his arm. After he fought through the tackle of Lachlan Stein, the Panthers winger brutally brushed Sione Katoa away before streaking down the sideline. Ash Nisbet's desperate chase looked to have shut down the play, but the back-rower's efforts were all in vain as Tuisese cheekily slid to the turf, got to his feet and stepped past another Shark before offloading to Dylan Edwards who studied his options, saw an unmarked Braidon Burns, and kicked ahead for the Panthers centre to complete the try of the season.