First tackle: What is a professional foul?
Now I'm not even sure what a professional foul is after what I saw on Friday night as the Roosters fought hard to defeat a determined Broncos side.
Ten minutes before halftime, James Tedesco made a scything run. He stood up Broncos fullback Tessi Niu with a swerve and looked set to score an incredible individual try until he was unexpectedly caught from behind by Payne Haas, who himself was putting in a stand-out performance.
With Tedesco fighting to play the ball ten metres out, Haas around his legs and the Broncos defence in disarray, David Mead joined in and stripped the ball from Tedesco's grasp. Roosters players, including Tedesco, were quite clear in letting referee Ashley Klein know that it was a professional foul, punishable by a trip to the sin bin, but Klein simply awarded a penalty for a strip before astounding everyone by saying:
"In my opinion, I don't believe it was deliberate."
Tedesco replied for everyone with: "Are you kidding?"
How can a player be penalised for stripping the ball if it wasn't a deliberate act? Do we need to introduce the term "accidental strip" as one that can be penalised, but not incur a sin binning?
You have to give it to the referees, almost every week they come up with something new to kickstart conversations between mates and on the countless rugby league panel shows.
Second tackle: Raiders shine in Dogs horror show
Raiders forwards Ryan James and Corey Horsburgh were seconded into the Bulldogs team to take on the Warriors after the club suffered a spate of front-row suspensions. I can only imagine the news for the two was like lining up in the school playground to play lunch-time footy, before missing out on being picked for a team, only to have a teacher tell you to report to the netball courts for a game there instead.
James hit the ball up well early for the Bulldogs, copping a battering in the process. His nine carries for 74 metres led the way for the Bulldogs through the middle in the first half. Perhaps frustrated by his new teammates and looking for a way out he tackled Warriors five-eighth Chanel Harris-Tevita in the air after a kick, before slamming him into the Redcliffe turf. He was put on report and made to continue his blue-and-white suffering, with a suspension hanging over his head.
Bulldogs fans will hope Sione Katoa is suspended, after he was also put on report for an act of abject stupidity which cost his team a try. If he is knocked out for the rest of the year, the Bulldogs might be allowed to borrow a real dummy-half from some other team.
Third tackle: Sea Eagles soaring
It was an incredible start for the Sea Eagles against the Eels on Saturday night, crossing for two tries and a 10-0 lead after nine minutes. More alarming than the score was the fact that the Eels had not touched the ball, apart from taking a kick and being bundled into their own in-goal area. It was 10 minutes and 30 seconds into the game before Parramatta had their first set of tackles.
Apart from the expected class of Tom Trbojevic, and the control, brilliant game management and kicking game of Daly Cherry-Evans, it was Kieran Foran who shone on the edges, with slick service and incisive runs against one of his former clubs.
Foran has found his home again after several years in an injury-plagued wilderness west of the ANZAC Bridge. He is the perfect foil for Cherry-Evans and adds another attacking and kicking weapon to the Sea Eagles.
The game finished pretty much as it started with the Sea Eagles running in tries at will after the Eels had Ryan Matterson sent off and Marata Niukore sent to the sin bin, leaving them defending with eleven players against a ruthless Manly team that simply wouldn't let them touch the ball.
The 56-10 scoreline was soured only by Tom Trbojevic's facial injury. Manly will sorely miss him, but with Reuben Garrick in a scintillating form spell of his own, they might be able to cover for him until the finals.
Fourth tackle: Cowboys ordinary apart from one try
North Queensland Cowboys were terrible against West Tigers on Saturday, as they slumped to their ninth-straight loss. But there was one moment of joy involving two young players making their NRL debuts.
Five minutes before the break Cowboys half Tom Dearden put in an appalling kick that went further sideways than it did forward, landing just inside the right touchline 20 metres into the Tigers' half. Cowboys winger Kyle Feldt could do little more than throw his right foot at the ball as it bounced, sending it back towards centre field where it sat up perfectly for hooker Reece Robson, who carried it forward before looking for support.
This is where the fairytale began, with the debutants next in line to handle the ball. Not long after running onto the field, Griffin Neame took the ball before slipping it to Jeremiah Nanai who dived over for the spectacular try. It was a moment that Nanai will never forget and it lifted the entire team, as they threatened to score again before the break.
Fifth and last: Dragons all but gone
Sometimes having all the possession and territory doesn't help. The Panthers started their game with the declining Dragons with a stack of handling errors and general sloppy play. They had all the ball, but just couldn't do anything with it in the opening ten minutes as the Dragons threw everything into what was a desperation game for them.
A couple of Dylan Edwards tries either side of halftime put the Panthers on the path to victory and without Ben Hunt and Matt Dufty, the Dragons lacked the spark to match it with the premiership contenders. The Dragons remain just two points out of the Top 8, but have the Roosters, Cowboys and Rabbitohs to come, with the likelihood of winning just one of those three.
Handover: Sharks still alive, but barely
What an incredible game the fans at Moreton Daily Stadium, Redcliffe, were treated to when the Sharks and Knights fought tooth and nail for their premiership survival on Sunday afternoon. The field was in immaculate condition as a COVID-limited crowd was allowed in the stands, hill and on the club verandah to watch the two teams battle it out.
The Sharks looked to be in for a tough day when the Knights crossed in the opening minute of the game, but the two teams would go on to score two tries each in a tight struggle. With criticism rife following a season of blow-out scores, it made a nice change for a game of such importance to go right down to the wire. A 73rd minute Jake Clifford penalty goal giving the Knights a 18-16 victory.
It left the Knights in seventh place with a stack of teams left fighting over the final position in the finals. Currently the Titans hold eighth place on 20 points ahead of the Raiders on for-and-against, while two points behind are the Sharks, Dragons, Warriors and Tigers. The Sharks and Tigers will take on each other next week with the loser surely out of the race.