NRL Round 4 Six Again: Simple fix for forward pass farce

First tackle: Forward pass farce

Maybe it's time for another rule change, one that will end all future arguments about forward passes. Have you ever tried to explain the physics behind the current rule to someone who has just witnessed a pass travel forward with their own eyes? It is next to impossible and you begin to doubt your own sanity as you do.

Referees and touch judges are required to make split-second calls with no help allowed from the video bunker. Of course they are going to get some of them wrong; a third of the people who have watched the Tom Trbojevic pass think it was forward, a third of the people think it wasn't and the other third aren't sure what the question was.

The rule should simply say that the ball must be caught behind the point at which it was thrown. Take all of the momentum physics out of it, and it becomes as reviewable as an offside call; two points on the field, one needs to be behind the other. If that becomes a problem for players at full pace, then they'll have to learn to support at greater depth and turn their bodies more when passing.

The alternative is to move more towards the way rugby union treats forward passes. They allow video reviews of passes when a try has been scored, but generally, unless the ball is deliberately and overtly thrown forward, it is allowed to stand and they get on with the game.

Second tackle: Bad or worse?

Would you rather be a Dragons or a Broncos fan this week? It's a tough decision, with a lot of things to consider.

The Dragons were terrible against the lowly Bulldogs. The players really look like they have absolutely no interest in being out there.

Coach Paul McGregor shuffled the deck chairs around for this clash of the bottom-feeders, but it did little good. Ben Hunt, playing a bit wider, threw some horrible passes, including one in the first half that hit Bulldogs centre Jake Averillo on the chest; others bouncing off his own players. Corey Norman at fullback looked completely nonplussed by all that was happening, his only contribution to stopping Adam Elliott's try was to stick out his foot.

The sacking of McGregor will be a costly and fruitless task for the Dragons. The players really have to be held responsible for a large part of what is currently happening on the field at the once mighty club.

Speaking of once mighty, the Broncos have taken a dramatic tumble from their pre-coronavirus start to the season. It's true they have lost a couple of key players to injury and suspension. Despite coach Anthony Seibold's assertions about the inexperience of his team, they are not the Under 12 side they resembled against the Roosters.

The Roosters racked up a record 59-0 defeat of the Broncos and did it without arguably the world's best player in James Tedesco who stayed at home after failing one of the NRL's new coronavirus protocols.

Seibold pointed out that they were missing $4 million worth of players, and that his side was the youngest in the competition. On the bright side they'll all be a week older as they line up against the Sea Eagles this week in Gosford.

Third tackle: Incredible Ponga

If ever there was a player who lived up to the hype surrounding his abilities it is Kalyn Ponga. His efforts against the Raiders on his return from injury were just phenomenal. The faster ruck speed under the new six again rule has made him an even more dangerous attacking weapon.

His solo effort from near halfway was breathtaking. With the Raiders defence on its heels, Ponga ran hard at them before stepping and skipping towards a weak spot in the line. With a puff of dust he accelerated through leaving lime green jerseys in his wake.

The Knights have started the season very well on the back of some hard-working defence. With Ponga, Mitchell Pearce and Kurt Mann taking advantage of the quicker ruck speed, they look set for a deep run into the shortened 2020 season.

Fourth tackle: Burton bounces back for Panthers

Matt Burton could well have been expected to be down in the dumps this week after missing enough field goals against the Knights to win the game five times over. But to his credit, and with coach Ivan Cleary's full support, he bounced back to lead the Panthers to victory over the Warriors.

Burton scored the first two Panthers tries as they proved too sharp for the Warriors in Campbelltown. The first came after Warriors winger Patrick Herbert dropped a bomb, while the second came after he charged down a Blake Green kick, picked the ball up ten metres into Warriors territory and scooted away to score under the posts.

The Dubbo-born youngster looks to be a natural footballer and will be a good foil for Nathan Cleary ,who returns from TikTok suspension this week.

Fifth and last: Hasler's last-tackle limitations

During his tenure at the Bulldogs, Manly coach Des Hasler famously told his play-makers that he'd rather a handover at the end of an attacking set of six than a set of seven tackles to the opposition from a kick over the dead ball line.

It seems he has carried that thinking over to the Sea Eagles, who ended several attacking raids against the Eels with handovers. The most destructive part of this way of thinking is that it messes with the minds of genuinely good last tackle option takers like Daly Cherry-Evans. The short kicking game of Cherry-Evans against the Eels was diabolical, with grubbers into the legs or arms of defenders, and other attempts, ineffectual. You have to wonder how worried he was about upsetting Hasler, with a seven-tackle set to the Eels.

Ironically, with the new six again rule extending tackle counts all over the field, a seven-tackle restart is the least of a team's defensive worries. The reward of a quality short-kicking game far outweighs the risk -- so many tries are created and drop-outs caused.

Handover: Cowboys lost without JT

The Cowboys proved yet again that Jason Taumalolo is worth every cent of his $1 million a year contract. After some bone bruising during their clash with the Titans, Taumalolo sat out the home game against the Sharks and his absence was crucial.

The Cowboys missed his punch up the middle and had trouble moving the ball against Cronulla, who were desperate to put their first points on the ladder for the year. Each week Taumalolo provides the momentum to allow the halves and Valentine Holmes to weave their magic. His replacement at lock Josh McGuire ran for 198 metres, which is not bad, but not up with the 290 metres Taumalolo ran the week before. More telling though is the 126 metres Taumalolo made after contact compared to McGuire's 69.

Of course the Sharks' defence showed a lot more starch than the Titans the week before, but not many teams have been able to stop the carnage when Taumalolo is wound up.