First tackle: Seibold departure sees marked improvement
It was good to see the Broncos players step up to show how much better they are without Anthony Seibold at the club. The Broncos managed to score 12 more points against the Roosters than they did last time they played the reigning premiers back in Round 4 of the 2020 NRL season.
They also improved their defence for the return clash. Back in Round 4 the Roosters raced away to 59 points. With Seibold gone, the Broncos were able to restrict them to just the 58. Mind you, the Roosters were missing their biggest attacking threat, Luke Keary, and he did kick the field goal in Round 4.
Second tackle: Bunny unlucky
Most game-time injuries come with a degree of bad luck. A misstep which sees a tendon fail, a collision slightly amiss which sees structural damage, the weight of another player falling on a twisted limb. Rugby league is such a brutal collision sport that it demands a degree of good luck for a player not to end up injured.
Still, you have to feel sorry when you see a season-ending injury come out of an incident like the one which claimed Rabbitohs fullback Latrell Mitchell.
Racing across in cover to prevent an Eels try, Mitchell rolled over Dylan Brown in the in-goal area. As he did, teammate Jaxson Paulo rolled over Mitchell's legs, extending one of them beyond its limits to rupture his hamstring. It is hard to remember or even imagine anything quite like it.
Mitchell was just starting to dominate in the fullback role, after initially taking some time to find his feet. The Rabbitohs backline attack has been lethal of late and Mitchell has been a key part of that with his hard running and astute passing game. The Rabbitohs are charging hard for a Top 4 finish and the loss of Mitchell will only make that task more difficult.
Third tackle: Sharks' threat down to one
Before this weekend, four teams were clinging to a mathematical chance of jumping the Sharks into eighth place. Three of them, the Tigers, Dragons and Sea Eagles have all but crossed themselves off that list.
The Tigers, despite a solid start, were overwhelmed by the unstoppable Panthers, proving that any foray into finals football would ultimately have proven fruitless anyway.
The Dragons, unhindered by the coaching of Paul McGregor, threw away a win against the fast-finishing, yet generally ordinary Titans. Clearly finals football is not for them.
Finally the Sea Eagles looked ready for the contest early against the Storm, but lacked any polish in attack and were clearly missing way too much backline class to compete at that level. If they can keep all their stars on the field next year, the will be a real threat.
Fourth tackle: Rough Knight
With the casualty ward at Newcastle filled to overflowing the Knights finally ran out of steam in the second half of their clash with the Warriors. It looks like a promising season will again end in disappointment, with their injured player list containing enough quality players to build half a first grade team.
It was said when the Warriors came to Australia, leaving their families and homes behind, that they might as well give the season a red hot crack. They now look as though they are consistently playing with that mindset. Why not turn a disastrous year on a personal level into a very successful season from a team perspective? They are still four points behind the Sharks, but Cronulla have some tough games ahead. All the Warriors can do from here is keep on winning and hope for a couple of Sharks slip-ups.
Their turn around in form has certainly benefitted interim coach Tod Payten, with reports surfacing that he will be named the new North Queensland Cowboys coach.
Fifth and last: Blown opportunity the start of a bad day
In a game where Manly simply had to execute everything perfectly to have any chance of beating Melbourne, the Sea Eagles blew a brilliant opportunity to open the scoring.
Just five minutes into the game a planned move saw Jake Trbojevic take the ball at first receiver 15 metres out, prop and put a pin-point kick into the Storm in-goal area. It was a well-worked piece of deception which caught Storm winger Josh Addo-Carr out of position and nowhere near a flying Reuben Garrick, who reached the ball first by about ten metres.
Garrick simply had to gather the bouncing ball before placing it down for the first try of the game. Instead he tried to force it in the one motion and ended up batting it down on the bounce. It was the first of many errors for the Sea Eagles, on a day where they bid farewell to any chance of playing finals football in 2020.
"We came here with a plan and that was about possession. Our execution of skill and our choices around execution with the ball are just not up to standard," coach Des Hasler said after the game.
"There is no doubt about the intent and commitment and effort ... but it is more than that. There are certain standards that need to be accomplished."
Handover: Wighton too good
The Raiders were given a first-half fright by the Bulldogs in Canberra on Sunday night, but it was five-eighth Jack Wighton who put an end to any challenge in the second half. With hooker Tom Starling sent to the sin bin, the representative half scored back-to-back tries in the 48th and 54th minutes to put the Green Machine ahead 22-20.
What magic did Wighton weave to breach the Bulldogs line twice from ten metres out? He simply tucked the ball under his arm and ran hard. That's all it took to crack the wooden-spoon-seeking Bulldogs' defence. Raiders coach Ricky Stuart was full of praise for his champion No. 6.
"Jack Wighton got the game by the throat and took it on himself to get the us on the front foot," Stuart said after the win.
The two points kept the Raiders in the hunt for a Top 4 spot, while another soft capitulation by the Bulldogs left fans crying for an end to the season. Their mood wasn't helped by shots of interim coach Steve Georgallis laughing in the coaches' box after Wighton's second try. As far as the fans are concerned, the sooner Trent Barrett puts the cleaners through the place the better for the once proud club.