Broncos forwards Alex Glenn and Korbin Sims.

Monday Morning Halfback: Big plays

Winning moments, the Cowboys' missed opportunity, Manly's curious stat, McCrone's mouthful and Leilua a real chance at rep honours.

 


Cowboys lynched

It wasn't quite Marshawn Lynch and the Seattle Seahawks at the Superbowl, but the Cowboys' failure to find Coen Hess close to the line in the dying minutes of their loss to the Dragons was certainly a head-scratcher.  

Hess has been terrorising opposition teams in the opening rounds of the NRL Telstra Premiership competition on the right edge, scoring six tries in six rounds in an identical position to where North Queensland found themselves needing a try to level the scores. 

He's been virtually unstoppable in that area of the field, even with three defenders hanging off him. He also had six line breaks and 30 tackle breaks in those six games. 

But with the game on the line – after the Cowboys had fought back valiantly to get themselves into a position to tie the game – the ball never found its way to Hess when it mattered most. 

‌There's no guarantee the rookie sensation would have found his way to the line, but surely in the final minutes the Cowboys had to give him a chance to do what he's done all season. 

There's no doubt the Cowboys were missing direction from their superstar halfback Johnathan Thurston, especially in the first half. And while John Asiata showed he has more than enough skills to play as a genuine halfback, it's not normally his job to come up with the clutch plays in the final minutes when the lungs are screaming. 

Hooker Jake Granville has also been a massive loss in terms of the cohesion of the side and owning the key moments. 

There was a perfect chance to give Hess a crack at the tired Dragons line, but it never came.

In the end, the Dragons scrambled well and when the Cowboys shifted left in the final minute, the Red V defence made sure the game would not go into golden point. 

It must be noted that the Dragons forward pack did a number on reigning Dally M medallist Jason Taumalolo, keeping the destructive forward to 'just' 168 metres. Prior to the clash, Taumalolo had averaged 250 metres per game. 

Completions aren't everything

At half-time in Manly's clash with Melbourne, the Sea Eagles had completed at an unbelievable 92 per cent. Most coaches would be ecstatic with that kind of ball control coming into the change rooms. 

Indeed, when you interview most players, high competition rates are often cited as the goal for the weekend. 

Only problem: Manly had conceded six tries and 30 points in those first 40 minutes. Competition rates be damned. 

They fought back to stay in the contest, but the Sea Eagles ultimately would be left ruing a shambolic first 40 minutes that started from the opening kick-off. 

While the Storm were lucky to be awarded a penalty when Riley Jacks caught the kick-off slightly before he put his foot dead, Manly had nothing to complain about when their turnstile defence made an ugly return at Lottoland. 

The Sea Eagles had hoped their embarrassing Round 2 loss against the Rabbitohs was the wake-up call they needed after conceding 38 points. They shut-out the Bulldogs the next time they were at home, but the defensive lapses came back with vigour first against the Dragons, conceding 35 points and then against the Storm, coughing up 30 first half points. 

All that with 15/16 completed sets in the first half. 

Fortress Brookvale is certainly not what it used to be. 

They'll have to fix things in a hurry when they face the daunting roadtrip to Canberra to take on the Raiders on Friday night. 

Epic games? That's in Queensland

Another Queensland derby, another scintillating game of football with a heart-stopping finish. They just keep doing it north of the border. 

The Broncos-Titans clash had just about everything. And then, with two minutes to go, Matt Gillett produced one of the plays of the season to charge down a Kane Elgey clearing kick and then have the presence of mind to find James Roberts for the match winning try. 

It was a fitting end to a pulsating clash and an absolute heartbreaker for the Titans who had done everything in their power to end the Suncorp hoodoo. They haven't won at the venue since 2007. 

Add it to the Round 2 golden point epic between the Broncos and Cowboys and an entertaining 32-26 game between the Cowboys and Titans in Round 4. 

If Queensland clubs keep producing games of football like this, they can have another team. 

McCrone's mouthful

Dragons half Josh McCrone has one of the weirdest habits or superstitions in the NRL. He refuses to take out his mouth guard until well after he has showered and changed in the sheds, sometimes over 45 minutes after a game has finished. 

When he was interviewed on the field by Fox Sports straight after his side's win over the Cowboys, his trusty mouth guard was still on, leaving the panel and viewers everywhere wondering what he had actually said. 

The story goes that a young McCrone took out his mouth guard after a game playing junior footy and somehow lost it. He vowed never to lose one again and a quirky superstition was born. 

It is well known around the game if you want to interview McCrone for radio or television, it is best to wait until after his post match routine. 

 

Leilua the Kangaroo?

Canberra's Joey Leilua is getting closer and closer to a maiden Australian jersey after another dominant performance against the Warriors on Saturday. 

Leilua scored two crucial tries to help his side overcome a slow start and is well and truly in the sights of Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga for the mid-year Test after the season-ending injury to Greg Inglis. 

Meninga has indicated that Darius Boyd will get the first shot at the fullback role – though Billy Slater is certainly looking like returning to his best with two try-assists in the Storm's win over Manly – meaning it is unlikely Harry Sunderland Medal winner Blake Ferguson would switch to the centres to accommodate Boyd on the wing. 

The rampaging Raiders centre may have been overlooked for NSW Origin selection last season, but Leilua may just find himself with a green and gold jumper instead.