We take a look at two terrible tackles from Round 20 of the NRL, one season-ending, the other potentially life-ending, as well as a brilliant game between the Sharks and Rabbitohs, and the entertaining Bulldogs.
Read on as we take a look back at some of the biggest hits and misses of the weekend.
Awful tackles deserve awful bans
Nathan Cleary wasn't out to seriously injure Dylan Brown when he moved in to tackle the Eels five-eighth 17 minutes into the first half at CommBank Stadium, but what ensued could not have been much uglier. With Brown struggling to remain upright, Cleary put his hand between his opponent's legs, lifted him off his feet, upended and sent him head and neck first into the turf. It was a textbook spear tackle, the consequences of which can be crippling or indeed life ending.
There was absolutely no other decision to be made other than to send Cleary off, and he was subsequently charged with a grade-three dangerous throw and suspended for five games. The price Brown could have paid is so high, and so spear tackles must be stamped out of the game.
On Saturday night we saw another shocker as Pat Carrigan dropped his entire weight down on the back of the legs of a well-held Jackson Hastings. These so called "hip-drop tackles" can have dire consequences for the victim. In this case Hastings' leg was broken and he will miss the rest of the season as a result. Hastings is at a point of his career where he would have been hoping for a strong finish to the year to set up his next, and possibly final, contract. Carrigan was put on report and will face the judiciary.
Send offs and hefty suspensions are the only weapons the NRL has in its battle to stamp these tackles out of the game. They need to continue to be harsh in their penalties.
Tupou passes miss the mark
Roosters winger Daniel Tupou has really stepped up his contributions this season, making some stinging runs out of trouble and impressing Blues coach Brad Fittler enough to oust Josh Addo-Carr from the sky blue jersey. He was causing the Sea Eagles plenty of trouble on Thursday night, often putting his team on the front foot early in the tackle count and crossing for their first try after eight minutes.
He did however emphasise a weakness in his overall game. Twice in the first half against the Sea Eagles he made a break down the left wing, ran out of room as the fullback closed in and both times passed it infield directly to Manly captain Daly Cherry-Evans. Cherry-Evans knocked the first one on, but the second was so perfectly placed, he turned with it and headed off in the other direction.
Sharks win epic battle over Rabbitohs
It promised to be brilliant contest between two high-ranking premiership aspirants and it delivered at Shark Park on Saturday night.
With only a couple of minutes remaining and Cronulla leading by six points, Rabbitohs forward Tevita Tatola crashed over next to the posts. There was a hint of a double movement, which had the home crowd roaring, but the bunker review confirmed the try which, once converted, would eventually lead to golden point extra time.
In the first set of tackles of extra time, Andrew Fifita hurried to play the ball and referee Gerard Sutton ruled that he had lost control of the ball. The Rabbitohs set for the field goal a couple of tackles after the scrum, but Latrell Mitchell sprayed his drop kick from right in front. The Sharks worked their way downfield where Matt Moylan lined up a long-range effort which was charged down.
Next it was the Rabbitohs' turn and again Mitchell missed gifting the Sharks a seven-tackle set. On the last of those seven Moylan unleashed an ugly duckling of a kick which wobbled its way towards the posts before missing low and to the left. The first five minutes were done and the game was still up for grabs.
Into the second half of extra time Tom Burgess made a bullocking run downfield and Mitchell had another attempt on the next tackle, spraying it wide once again.
In the next set of tackles Burgess became the villain when he nearly decapitated a Sharks ball-runner and was sent from the field. The Sharks kicked for touch and after a couple of hit-ups, the dramatic game was decided by a Nicho Hynes field goal. "Up Up Cronulla" blared through the load speakers as the local fans wildly celebrated the Sharks moving more securely into a Top 4 spot.
If this is what the finals have in store for us, bring it on!
Spectacular viewing when the entertaining Bulldogs are on
At the start of the year, that headline would have been completely ludicrous as the Bulldogs struggled to get out of their own way in attack, scoring fewer points on average than at any time in their long and storied history. Enter interim coach Michael Potter and a free reign to get out there, play footy and enjoy themselves.
What a turnaround.
The Bulldogs of the early 1980's were dubbed "The Entertainers" thanks to their ability to score tries through ball movement, offloads, support play and clever kicks. Under Potter's coaching the 2022 Bulldogs are showing glimpses of that same attacking flair.
There were several examples during the game against the Knights in Newcastle, but the one most reminiscent of "The Entertainers" came in the first half as Matt Burton kicked ahead for Josh Addo-Carr to take the ball on the fly, before passing infield to Aaron Schoupp who escaped the clutches of Dane Gagai to score.
If you Google "Steve Gearin try 1980 Grand Final" and compare the two, you'll see exactly what I'm rambling on about.