Monday Morning Halfback: Where did it go wrong?
The Panthers' and Rabbitohs' worrying stats, a look at average play-the-ball speeds in the NRL and how it affects your team's chance of winning, Cam Smith breaks goal-kicking record and a massive call from the referees.
Where did it go wrong for Panthers?
Heading into their Round 9 clash with the Broncos with a 2-6 record to start the season is not where many thought the Panthers would be before a ball was kicked this year. The Panthers came into the season with much hype, they even carried the premiership favouritism tag, which is something of a poisoned chalice.
The Panthers went to Suncorp with the most ineffective tackles per game, most errors per game, third most penalties conceded and fourth most missed tackles in the league.
They are alarming stats.
Add the injuries to Bryce Cartwright, the ACL Josh Mansour suffered during the Four Nations campaign, Sam McKendry's knee, and James Fisher-Harris also in and out of the team and not many things have gone right at the foot of the mountains to start the year.
At Suncorp Stadium the Broncos ran 400 metres more than the Panthers (961 to 563) including 109 more post-contact metres, while the Penrith outfit had seven errors and 28 missed tackles in just the first half alone.
So dominant were the Broncos that the Panthers only managed to find space with one clearing kick in the first 40 minutes, providing the Broncos ample chance to start their sets well and continue to dictate terms.
By the end of the game, the Panthers had fought back, ending the contest with 23 play-the-balls in the Broncos 20 metre zone to just 11 to the Brisbane side.
But the game had already gone by that point with the Broncos running in four first-half tries.
The representative break couldn't have come at a better time for a Panthers team that needs to regroup before hosting the Warriors in a fortnight.
Crucial plays help Manly to big win
Manly thumped the Rabbitohs at Allianz Stadium, but it was largely thanks to two key plays early in the match that swung momentum the Sea Eagles way.
First Daly Cherry-Evans came up with a crucial 40/20 when the Rabbitohs had looked good early. Manly made the most of the momentum scoring from the ensuing set and then the Sea Eagles managed to force a drop-out soon after, and they didn't let momentum slip thereafter.
In the first half the Sea Eagles ran a whopping 580 metres more than their opponents, including 179 more post-contact metres. They had 10 offloads to two, made 100 fewer tackles and had 61 per cent of the ball. Racing in six tries to zero to enable them to cruise to victory in the second half.
The Rabbitohs only had three play-the-balls in Manly's 20 metre zone in the first 40 minutes. Manly had 12.
By full-time the Rabbitohs had made 29 ineffective tackles and missed a further 30 as the Sea Eagles ran almost 800 more metres and made nine linebreaks to one. South Sydney were forced to make 129 more tackles and had few answers once Manly started to get on a roll.
Already two wins outside of the top eight, the Rabbitohs will be looking for a strong performance against the Wests Tigers before a daunting clash with the Storm.
Play-the-ball speed not everything
There's no question there is a lot of emphasis on the ruck and the ruck speed in the modern game. Controlling the ruck is quite rightly seen as a crucial battle to gain your team the advantage.
But of the eight teams to win in Round 9, only three of them had a quicker average play-the-ball speed than their opponents.
The Sea Eagles, Broncos and Titans were roughly half a second slower than their opponents and still managed comprehensive victories.
While the Eels, Bulldogs and Warriors all had slightly quicker play the ball speeds than their opponents in victories.
Sea Eagles 46-8
Smith breaks goal record
Cameron Smith has kicked more goals than any other player in the competition's history, going past Jason Taylor's mark of 942 in the Storm's big win over the Dragons on Sunday afternoon.
Ironically, Smith's first ever shot at goal in first grade was against the Dragons in his second ever match way back in 2002. The young halfback – at the time – missed on that occasion, had eight goals from nine attempts in 2003, before taking the full-time kicking duties in 2004.
He has since gone on to break the goal-kicking record and when he finally hangs up the boots it will take some beating.
Cam Smith 943*
Jason Taylor 942
Andrew Johns 917
Hazem el Masri 891
Referees get massive call right
They are under the microscope like never before, but credit where it is due, the officials got the call right when they penalised Mitchell Pearce for being offside in the dying minutes of the Warriors' clash with the Roosters. The decision gave the Warriors a chance to hit the game-winning penalty, and Shaun Johnson obliged.
It was a massive call, and one that would have been easy to miss with the play moving away from the ruck before coming back towards Pearce who never retreated the 10 metres.
It was refreshing also to hear Roosters coach Trent Robinson agree that the referees got the call right, instead ruing poor discipline from his team that allowed the Warriors to stay in the contest.
"Yeah it was offside, that's the rule," Robinson said post-match.
"It was a genuine penalty, he needed to get back onside and he didn't."
The Jillaroos' quest to reclaim the World Cup begins in earnest against the Kiwi Ferns on Friday in the Anzac Test double header in Canberra.
Steph Hancock was ruled out with a knee injury, with Brittany Breayley and Kody House also in doubt. This added to the broken leg suffered by Kezie Apps at the NRL Auckland Nines, means there is the chance for plenty of new faces in the final team.
The match is an important watermark ahead of the World Cup later in the year and will be streamed live on NRL.com from 5.25pm.