NRL Round 14 Hits and Misses: Bulldogs bite back

Round 14 of the NRL season saw the Bulldogs spring a massive upset, the Broncos charge onwards and upwards, and a new Tiger have an awful afternoon against the Sea Eagles.

Read on as we take a look back at some of the biggest hits and misses of the weekend.


The Bulldogs are back baby!

Monday couldn't have gone any better for Canterbury. They shocked the Eels and the rugby league world with a 34-4 thrashing -- arguably the most surprising result of the season so far. It's just the Dogs' third win from 14 games, but it's a big one; against a rival that is considered a genuine premiership contender.

But it was more than just a win, it was a performance that suggests there really is light at the end of the tunnel in a season where the Bulldogs have already parted ways with their coach. In 10 matches under Trent Barrett this year the team scored a paltry 96 points. They've scored 98 under interim coach Mick Potter in the four games since, which is a huge improvement from 9.6 points per game to 24.5 (only three clubs have scored 25 points per game or better this season).

Their most spectacular attacking option combines the biggest strengths of their two highest-profile recruits. Matt Burton's kicking game is almost as explosive a weapon as Josh Addo-Carr's speed, and when the five-eighth kicks for his winger early in the tackle count it's lethal. Burton set up three tries on Monday, including two for Addo-Carr, while the speedster scored a hat trick to pile more pressure on NSW selectors after his shock snubbing for the State of Origin series opener.

Burton revealed after the game that Potter had encouraged them to play with greater freedom, to enjoy themselves and back their abilities.

It's true the Bulldogs may have caught Parramatta at just the right time -- the Eels had had a few days off and looked rusty after their bye week -- but if Canterbury can attack and defend as well as they did on Monday they'll win a lot more games between now and the end of 2022.

- Dominic Brock

Kevolution is bringing real results for the Broncos

After two disastrous seasons, the Brisbane Broncos are well and truly back.

Saturday's gritty win over the Raiders -- the Broncos clinching the victory despite losing their best forward Payne Haas, their best playmaker Adam Reynolds and strike centre Herbie Farnworth to injury -- extended Brisbane's winning streak to seven games. It's their longest streak since the 2015 season, the year Wayne Bennett guided the team to the Grand Final (one of the all-time classic deciders, albeit a one-point loss to the Cowboys).

Kevin Walters' current Broncos side is still long odds to reach the decider, but at this point it's hard to argue that they're not a good team.

Now comes the hard part. Haas, Reynolds and Farnworth are all tough players to replace, especially in the middle of an Origin campaign that also brings a heavy workload for the likes of Pat Carrigan, Selwyn Cobbo and Kotoni Staggs. And even if the Broncos were fully fit it would be a big ask to keep the streak going against this week's opponents Melbourne.

But with Brisbane unearthing a crop of rising stars -- Cobbo has been a revelation on the wing, and Ezra Mam looks a great prospect at five-eighth -- there are a lot of reasons for Broncos fans to smile regardless of what happens against the Storm.

- Dominic Brock


Terrible afternoon for Tigers' Naden

Brent Naden left the Bulldogs mid-season seeking greener pastures at Wests Tigers. Despite being in a desperate position themselves, and lacking try-scoring options, the Bulldogs didn't put up a fight.

Naden hasn't exactly set the world on fire in the black, gold and white and had a simply awful afternoon against Manly at Campbelltown on Sunday.

Firstly he was taken from the field following a head clash in the first half. He managed to pass his HIA, but it was after halftime that things really unravelled. He made a terrible one-on-one tackle attempt on Reuben Garrick, as he ran diagonally towards the line, five metres out. Naden jumped up and grabbed him with one hand on either shoulder and swung around like he was a cape draped from the Sea Eagles fullback's neck. Garrick shrugged him off and left him sprawled on the turf as he crossed for a try that took Manly to a 12-4 lead, once converted.

He was then one of several Tigers left in the tracks of Haumole Olakau'atu, as the big man bulldozed his way to a try that stretched the margin even further.

Just three minutes later Naden's afternoon would come to an end. He drove in low to tackle Jake Trbojevic, lifted the Manly forward and tipped him into the turf head first. Trbojevic's head wasn't tucked and his neck extended in a very ugly manner. It didn't take many replays for the referee to point to the sheds, with Naden becoming the first Wests Tigers player in 20 years to be sent from the field. The Tigers continued to crumble, eventually losing 30-4, while Naden faces a month on the sidelines.

Voluntary tackle is a horrible look

The rugby league rule book still says: "A player in possession shall not deliberately and unnecessarily allow himself to be tackled by voluntarily falling to the ground when not held by an opponent. If a player drops on a loose ball he shall not remain on the ground waiting to be tackled if he has time to regain his feet and continue play."

Cowboys fullback Scott Drinkwater ran a kick out of his in-goal area only to dive to the ground at the feet of Zac Lomax, untouched. Lomax cleverly stood over his motionless body, raised his arms and looked back at the referee several times for a ruling. After what seemed a ridiculously long time, the referee yelled at Drinkwater to stand up and play the ball. If you were running a refereeing school and wanted to illustrate a voluntary tackle, you would use this footage, it was so blatant.

It's a terrible look, especially when so many players who do the right thing, by running into contact, are allowed to be marched back up to ten metres to force a goal line drop-out. Either you allow players to fall on the ground where and wherever they like to effect a tackle on themselves, or you enforce the rule and blow a penalty.

It is as awful as the current trend of players stopping in the tracks and submitting to avoid an obstruction penalty.

- Darren Arthur

Missed chance proves costly for Chooks

In a game where the lead changed hands all night, there was an incredible miss for Roosters forward Sitili Tupouniua. With just over seven minutes left on the clock and the Storm leading 20-18, Sam Walker put in a brilliant cross-field chip kick which came down in front of Tupouniua with nothing but vacant in-goal area ahead of him. It was so catchable that Tupouniua brought it from his outstretched arms back to his chest before spilling it. It would have put the Roosters back in front, with a kick to come.

To compound matters, Melbourne worked their way downfield for Felise Kaufusi to score the match-sealer. It was heartbreaking for the Roosters who have now lost three of their last four, to sit on seven wins and seven losses for the season.

Saturday not so super for injury toll

Fortunately there wasn't a significant injury toll from Wednesday's State of Origin series opener, but injury carnage began a few days later in arguably the two matches of the round. First the Roosters-Storm blockbuster saw injuries to star Tricolours halves Luke Keary and Sam Walker, then Brisbane lost Payne Haas, Adam Reynolds and Herbie Farnworth to injuries in their win over Canberra.

Both games remained close, high-quality contests -- the Roosters lost, the Broncos won -- but those injuries threaten to derail the formline of those two clubs in the short term. The potential absence of Keary and Walker is especially concerning for a Roosters team expected to challenge for a top-four spot, but on that is currently battling to remain in the top eight.

- Dominic Brock