First tackle: The craziest round of NRL ever
Round 16 kicked off with another score blow-out, this one a little unexpected as the Roosters failed to compete against the Storm in Newcastle. Melbourne ran in eight tries while holding the Roosters scoreless in the humiliating 48-0 victory. The ink was barely dry on the 'ugly blow-out season continues' headlines when we had two games on Friday night, both decided by field goals.
Maybe things weren't so bad, when the two teams were evenly matched, which was the case in the Panthers' 13-12 win over the Eels and the Dragons' incredible 19-18 fightback victory over the Warriors.
Move to Saturday and the Sea Eagles let loose on the hapless Bulldogs, scoring eleven tries in the 66-0 annihilation. This was followed by another one-sided display as Ricky Stuart's Raiders stayed at home in bed allowing the Titans to win 48-6. The Raiders at least managed a try. The day ended with the Knights blanking the Cowboys in a surprising 38-0 victory.
Take the two one-pointers out and the other four games had seen a total score of 194-6. It was ugly viewing, unless your team was on the favourable side of the scoreboard.
Sunday arrived and the Broncos upset the Sharks 28-16 before the Rabbitohs looked like they were going to add to the one-sided fixtures list when they scored five tries to lead the Tigers 26-0 at halftime. Souths took their foot off the pedal in the second half to cruise to a 38-22 victory, allowing the Tigers some respectability.
Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett blamed the clubs and media for the blow-outs.
"Things that are happening in some of these clubs are absolutely adding to the scoreboards. We don't want to take blame for that," he said.
"I listen to you guys [the media] - I try not to, but occasionally when I'm bored in lockdown - and you keep blaming the players... you're so far off the mark it doesn't matter," he said.
"It's an easy blame to put the blame on the player because he's not playing well. You've got to look deeper than that - it's not the rules, the rules may be a part of it. Until clubs learn to manage themselves better, it's not going to get better."
Second tackle: King Gutho gives his all, again
We saw one of the greatest goal line tackles of the year from Parramatta's Clint Gutherson with 10 minutes remaining in their knife edge clash with the Panthers on Friday night. With the scores locked at 10 and the Panthers enjoying a tackle reset as they attacked the Eels line, Viliame Kikau charged onto a brilliantly delayed pass from five metres out. With only Marata Niukore around his legs, the big Panthers back rower with the splash of white hair looked certain to crash over for a crucial try. Across came Gutherson, putting his body on the line and miraculously halting Kikau's momentum, before somehow stopping him from wrestling the ball to the turf.
It was a genuine captain's effort and pretty much standard from Gutherson, who gives his all every time he pulls on the Eels jersey. Unfortunately for 'The King' and his Eels it didn't prevent a Panthers victory, with Matt Burton kicking his second attempt at a late field goal.
The Eels received a surprise late shot at victory with an obstruction penalty from the ensuing short kick-off. Mitchell Moses, ahead of his New South Wales call-up, lined up a kick at goal 10 in from the touch line and roughly 10 metres further out from where he would normally take a conversion on a similar line. Moses tried to cover the extra distance with greater effort, which resulted in the ball hooking away. Considering most of his conversions travel through near the top of the sticks, he really just had to focus on direction and clean contact. Pressure does strange things to the best of them.
Third tackle: Please bring back the real crowds
It was painfully obvious that the COVID restrictions on crowds were back, if you watched Nine's coverage on Thursday night. The producers cranked up the fake crowd noise to compensate for the mostly empty stands in Newcastle.
I thought last year they developed the technology to make the noise seem like it was at least reacting to what was happening on the field. During the Storm's big win over the Roosters, it just sounded like a very busy night at the local RSL club. It was an almost continuous murmur of noise, that sounded like it would be interrupted at any moment by a PA system announcing meat tray numbers.
Fourth tackle: Warriors, Raiders extremely frustrating
If you think it's tough being a Bulldogs or Broncos fan lately, at least you go into each week expecting to lose, and any form reversal comes as a pleasant surprise. Imagine being a Warriors or Raiders fan, having come into this season with high hopes of being premiership threats or at the very least finalists.
The Warriors welcomed new signings Chad Townsend and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak to their side on the weekend and looked like beating the hot-and-cold Dragons when they led by eight points with five minutes remaining. Townsend, who was carrying a shoulder injury from early in the game, lined up for a field goal to extend the lead to nine points. He missed and in the ensuing seven tackle possession the Dragons scored a try. They scored again pretty much straight after and despite Corey Norman missing conversions from all over the field, they managed to win the game on the back of a field goal from the same player. The Warriors have an innate ability to lose games they should have won.
As for the Raiders, well they look to be taking their pay cheques under false pretenses these days. The players are being well-paid to play football for their proud club and, for whatever reason, they seem to have lost the will to care. Fans of both clubs must be sick of the sub-par performances.
Fifth and last: Love Tom, still hate Manly!
With 52 points on the board against the useless Bulldogs, the Sea Eagles split the battered defence once again. The ball found Tom Trbojevic who crossed the line for what would have been his fourth try of the afternoon. Instead he stopped and passed it to his younger brother Ben, who planted the ball for his first ever NRL try. His teammates mobbed him in celebration of the manufactured highlight of the young man's fledgling first grade career.
The referee wasn't impressed by the show of brotherly love and sent it to the bunker to look for obstruction early in the play. Several replays underwent microscopic analysis before it was found that Bulldogs half Jake Averillo was slightly put off, at the start of the movement, ironically by Ben Trbojevic. The Sea Eagles were denied their moment of nepotism, the Bulldogs went back to being ordinary and Manly won the game 66-0.
Handover: Making it up as they go now
Cronulla Sharks were disallowed a try after ten minutes of their loss to the Broncos, in a bunker decision that both defied logic and corrected a blatant error in the same breath.
Sione Katoa made a break down the right-hand touchline before passing the ball infield to Jesse Ramien who raced away to score what would have been the first try of the match. Everyone, everywhere, apart from the on-field officials, could see that the ball was thrown at least two metres forward. Play was allowed to continue and Ramien put the ball down near the posts.
The referee referred it to the bunker as there was some doubt about Katoa bobbling the ball before he passed it. The bunker of course cannot rule on forward passes, no matter how blatant they are - something about camera angles making it impossible.
Replays showed Kotoa juggled the ball before flicking it one-handed into Ramien. The voice from the bunker said: "Katoa has juggled the ball... after juggling the ball it has gone forward across the ground." The ball did not touch a Broncos player or the ground, but the try was disallowed. The mysterious ruling saved the touch judge and referee from being the subject of much ridicule.