NRL Round 20 Six Again: There are some real pretenders going into the finals

First tackle: Finals pretenders

There are some real pretenders making up the numbers in this year's finals series. We saw the Sharks lose to a Raiders team which was resting most of its star players. The Sharks have been inconsistent all year, struggling against teams higher than them on the ladder, and losing Shaun Johnson last week was the final nail in the coffin of their slim premiership hopes. They face a full-strength Raiders on Saturday and they should be out of the bubble and into the pub before the day is over.

The Knights went into their Friday night clash with the Gold Coast Titans needing a win to lock in a home semifinal. There was plenty to play for, but they failed to fire a shot, meekly surrendering to the Titans. It's hard to work out how they'll go week to week, and they have suffered some key injuries along the way. They face the Rabbitohs on Sunday and if the weekend's form counts for anything they should lose by around 130 points.

The other pretenders in the Top 8 are the Parramatta Eels. They fought tooth and nail to put the lowly Tigers away on the weekend. This was with their Top 4 place on the line and they still struggled even with Tigers star Benji Marshall limping off early in the game. They have been unconvincing for weeks now and face the Storm first up at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night. If they lose that they will likely play the Rabbitohs who will be well and truly on a roll. It could be an ugly straight-sets end to a season of promise for the Eels.

Second tackle: Gender reveal disrespectful

There has been mixed reaction to Darius Boyd's decision to gather his teammates on the field following another insipid Broncos performance against the Cowboys, so that he could perform a baby gender reveal. Boyd's wife is expecting and so he kicked a small ball which burst into a cloud of pink powder indicating they would be welcoming a daughter to the family. The players, who you would expect to be exhausted and shattered after their loss ensured the embarrassment of the club's first ever wooden spoon, whooped it up and danced about with Boyd to help celebrate his wonderful news.

Boyd has retired from rugby league, so he might not have cared what fans thought of this pre-planned event. A lot of his teammates are youngsters who might be forgiven for not putting any thought at all into it. I thought the whole carry on was completely disrespectful to all those Broncos fans out there who have long put their hearts into supporting the club.

All they wanted to see on Thursday night was a win over the Cowboys to hand the wooden spoon to the Bulldogs. Instead they saw the continuation of a season full of heartless efforts from a bunch of overpaid and disinterested players who sulked their way to a new coach and still couldn't be bothered having a go. To see them dancing about on the Suncorp Stadium surface celebrating a gender reveal must have felt like fist full of pink salt in their wounds.

Fans take defeat seriously and it grinds on them to see players who don't seem to share the emotional investment they have in the club. Congratulations to the Boyds, I wish them all the best with the birth of their new daughter. But, on the scale of blind insensitivity, this gender reveal fiasco ranks a solid 10.

Third tackle: Bonkers bunker calls

With the Rabbitohs leading 12-4 mid-way through the first half of their clash with the Roosters we had a terrifying look at what the bunker could again bring to the finals.

Campbell Graham made a dart at the Roosters' line and powered his way over two defenders to score. It looked like a duck, it was sent to the bunker as a duck, but the bunker, with its slow motion microscopic analysis decided that it was in fact a water fowl.

Graham's hand pushed the ball along his own chest to the ground. It wasn't tidy, but it was a try. The bunker slowed replay after replay down until it could find a reason to disallow it.

With three minutes left in the half, Rabbitohs replacement Mark Nicholls was tackled early by Luke Keary as a pass headed his way. The ball rolled into the Roosters in-goal area and Nicholls followed though to ground it. The referee sent the call upstairs as "no try" thinking Nicholls had knocked the ball on. Replays convincingly showed the ball missing Nicholls completely before bouncing off Keary's shoulder. For some reason the bunker felt it didn't have enough evidence to overrule the "no try" call.

The two calls had absolutely no influence on the outcome of the game, with the Rabbitohs running away to a record victory over the stunned Roosters. But as we head into the finals you can almost guarantee that one of these decisions will end a team's season and frustrated fans will be left with nothing to do but shake their heads.

Fourth tackle: Young Cowboy has his moments

Young Cowboys winger Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow would appear to have the NRL world at his feet. "The Hammer" has done a lot of good things since his Round 5 debut, earning the praise of commentators and pundits alike, but he really let himself and his team down in the 24th minute of their clash with the Broncos.

With the Broncos leading 12-6 the Cowboys tried a trick play from deep inside their own quarter. On just the second tackle an angled kick downfield caught the Broncos by surprise. The Hammer raced downfield after it and Corey Oates completely messed up his attempt to gather the ball. Oates could only manage to spoon it up into the arms of The Hammer who raced away to plant it under the posts. An easy conversion would have levelled the scores at 12.

Replays showed the Hammer was half a metre in front of the kicker. A planned move with 90 metres of territory to play with and he couldn't hold himself back for the split second it took for him to be offside and ruin his try. Experience is something you can only earn with time and Tabuai-Fidow has plenty of time on his side.

Fifth and last: Sad Dogs end season with scoreless effort

What a terrible end to a terrible season for the Bulldogs against the Minor Premiership-winning Panthers. With Penrith resting some key players and the Bulldogs next head coach Trent Barrett in attendance, they failed to muster a single point while conceding 42.

Aside from a continuance of their season-long ineptitude, the worst part for Barrett would have been seeing Jayden Okunbor helped from the field with an ACL injury. Okunbor has shown plenty of promise since returning from his long suspension. If that wasn't bad enough Barrett then witnessed expensive English import Luke Thompson being placed on report for an eye gouge on James Tamou. Thompson has been sent straight to the judiciary, with footage looking pretty damning.

As Barrett celebrated another great win by the Panthers, you'd have to wonder what was going through his mind about next year.

Handover: Points aplenty in wild final weekend

What a weekend of fast-paced, open rugby league we witnessed, with a mountain of points scored. There were in fact 438 points scored across the eight games, with a total of 83 tries. That's an average of almost 55 points per game with 10 tries in each.

Coaches of the eight remaining teams will be hoping for an improvement in defence heading into the finals. The depleted Storm and Raiders conceded 30 and 28 respectively, while the Eels gave up 24 to the Tigers. The Roosters leaked a massive 60 points while the Knights and Sharks let in 36 and 38 respectively. The only coach who won't necessarily be working the tackle bags overtime this week will be the Panthers' Ivan Cleary, with his team keeping the Bulldogs to 0.