First tackle: Man bites Shark, or did he?
There was an ugly incident during Cronulla's big win over the Titans on the weekend. Sharks star Shaun Johnson rolled off a tackle yelling and holding his arm up claiming he had been bitten. Replays showed Johnson's arm wrapped around the face of Titan's forward Kevin Proctor. Proctor, feeling Johnson's forearm tightening across his mouth, appeared to chomp down with his mouth guard-covered teeth.
As the severity of his claim dawned on him, Johnson wanted to back away from his complaint, obviously realising what it would mean for his New Zealand international teammate. But referee Henry Perinara was not backing down, replays had shown a biting motion and so Proctor became the first player in the league's history to be sent off for biting.
Proctor has since claimed that he was struggling to breath due to sinus troubles and vehemently denies biting Johnson. He plans to fight the charge at the judiciary.
"I will be telling the NRL judiciary I didn't bite Shaun Johnson," Proctor told the Courier Mail.
"I didn't bite him, I am 100 percent on that. I will fight to the death to clear my name."
I'm not sure a fight to the death will be necessary. The video evidence was pretty conclusive and Johnson's initial reaction was not one of a player who 100 percent had not been bitten. Proctor's only hope of a reduced sentence might come from his gasping for air claims, as Johnson's arm was definitely tightening across his face.
Second tackle: Weirdness from the bunker
There was a strange moment with 25 minutes remaining in the first half of the clash between the Broncos and Raiders. The referee called a knock on by Canberra as Jack Wighton reached out from marker on his own try line to interfere with Jake Turpin's pass from dummy half.
Wighton, knowing that he hadn't touched the ball called on captain Jarrod Croker to lodge a challenge. On review the bunker saw that Wighton had indeed grabbed at Tupin's arm, causing the ball to dribble away. The bunker also suggested that Wighton was not square at marker when he reached out.
For some reason the bunker is not allowed to rule on such matters, so the referee entered into a private conversation that seemed to last an eternity. Together they came up with a zero tackle possession for the Raiders, because they ended up with the ball as the referee blew his whistle for the Wighton knock-on.
Jack Wighton's infringement should have resulted in a penalty to the Broncos, but once again fans and commentators were left scratching their heads over what should have been a simple, logical conclusion.
Third tackle: How good are the Panthers?
The Panthers recorded a club record breaking ninth-straight victory on the weekend, knocking over the Warriors in difficult Central Coast conditions. The Panthers play with such efficiency and controlled enthusiasm, but most importantly they play as a team. One of the highlights of their success this year has been their short kicking game.
They forced the Warriors into ten line-drop outs in the pouring rain; the heavy track helping the Panthers to pull their kicks up in the in-goal area. And it's not just Nathan Cleary with the clever little kicks over the try-line. On Friday night he was responsible for six of the drop-outs, with Tyrone May, Stephen Crichton, Jarome Luai and Josh Mansour all picking up one each.
If they continue as they have been, with a large portion of injury luck on their side, they are going to be hard to stop. The Roosters and Storm however will have experience on their side when the big games roll around. It will be interesting to see if the Panthers can overcome that edge with the quality of their teamwork.
Fourth tackle: New trick from old Dogs
The Bulldogs continue to come up with new ways to look absolutely awful. In the 55th minute of their clash with the Tigers, Bulldogs replacement rake Jeremy Marshall-King made a break up the middle from 40 metres out. He came to the last line of defence which was Tigers fullback Adam Doueihi and managed to spin out of his arm tackle to stand within diving distance of the line with his scrambling step-brother Benji not near enough to stop him. He inexplicably stopped and looked for support.
Chugging along behind him, no doubt screaming for the ball was Aiden Tolman, looking to double his try tally for the season. Marshall-King passed the ball to him and the much-maligned prop was hit on the line by both Marshall and Doueihi and very nearly dropped it in getting the ball down. It was a diabolical end to a brilliant piece of heads-up dummy-half work.
The Bulldogs went on to show one more trick with nine minutes remaining and clinging onto a 6-point lead. Well on the attack, the Bulldogs chose to attempt a field goal. When Jack Cogger took the kick, he simply had to miss in order to avoid hitting the charge down attempt of a Tigers' player. The ball went dead, giving the Tigers seven tackles. The Bulldogs decided that they weren't so keen on making those seven tackles and soon the Tigers were scoring their only try of the second half. Trent Barrett had better bring a bag full of new tricks with him next year, for the Bulldogs' sake.
Fifth and last: Storm brilliance
You won't see many better individual tries than the Storm's first against the Roosters last Thursday night. On the last tackle, five metres out from the Roosters line, Jahrome Hughes took a pass from the dummy half and saw the goal line defence had rushed up to limit his options to the left. So he headed back towards the ruck which was hugging the right touchline where Suliasi Vunivalu had played the ball.
Hughes stepped off his left foot a couple times, as four defenders converged around him. He looked to be dragged down a good metre short of the line, but surged forward through the defenders with sheer leg strength. His arm reached out and planted the ball.
The Storm would go on to defeat the Roosters convincingly, playing typical Storm football even without inspirational skipper Cameron Smith. The Roosters have hit a tough patch with injuries and having Luke Keary leave the field with a rib problem was the worst thing that could have happened to them on the night. The arrival of Sonny Bill may have come in the nick of time.
Handover: Costly Sea Eagles sloppiness
Newcastle Knights hooker Kurt Mann scored a try from dummy half against the Sea Eagles which would have seen coach Des Hasler tearing doors off hinges.
It was a simply awful display of goal line defence by the Sea Eagles. Mann stood with the ball, saw a half gap open up and took off from seven metres out. Manly's Reuben Garrick who had moved to fullback following the injury to Brendan Elliott tried to step into the gap, but two Sea Eagles forwards, Sean Keppie and Haumole Olakau'atu, were too slow to react from the inside. These two had just come on fresh from the bench, so fatigue definitely wasn't the problem.
The Knights levelled the scores at 12 on the back of Mann's soft try and they would go on to win by two points. Hasler must have been livid.