Hits and Misses: To'o brilliance turns game for Panthers

This week we take a look at an incredible match-turning individual try, some awful Cowboys defence, a definite forward pass and a ridiculous hair-pulling penalty.

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


To'o brilliance turns game for Panthers

What an incredible individual winger's try we saw right on halftime from Panthers' flyer Brian To'o. With the Rabbitohs leading 12-6 and on the attack, a pass from Latrell Michell was spilled by Campbell Graham, straight into the arms of To'o, deep inside Panthers territory.

He took off downfield with four Rabbitohs players in pursuit, and Cody Walker closing the gap. As Walker neared, To'o slowed, turned to him and bumped him off with enough upper body strength to see Walker sprawling and impeding the pursuit of his own teammates. To'o barely broke stride and managed to run away to score near the posts.

It allowed the Panthers to level the scores 12-12 right at the break. All the effort to bustle the Panthers out of the game early had been undone.

Fans barely in their seats for hot start to final

We saw a thrilling start to the preliminary final between the Cowboys and Eels. The Cowboys took the kick-off and hit it up with a ferocious Jason Taumalolo run. From the play-the-ball they spread it right to the wing of Kyle Feldt who made a burst downfield. Four tackles later and they were putting in an attacking kick to the left corner.

They had literally covered the length and breadth of the field in the opening minutes and only missed a shot at scoring in the corner due to an offside chaser. The heads of the Eels players must have been spinning, as they dropped the ball cold in their first set of tackles. It was the beginning of an awful first half completion rate that really should have seen the Eels a lot worse off than being locked at 12-12 at the break.

Rabbitohs show Eels path to victory

Brad Arthur and his coaching staff could do a lot worse than study the first half hour of the Rabbitohs performance against the Panthers as they prepare for the Grand Final. The Bunnies played in the Panthers' faces, cutting down their time with the ball and hurrying Nathan Cleary when he came to kick. With the ball they played to their strengths, kicking through the line and spreading it to the edges.

The difficulty is in maintaining the required intensity for the full 80 minutes. The To'o try just before halftime broke the spirit of the Bunnies, as they conceded 32 points after leading 12-0. The Eels need to play mistake-free high-intensity football for the whole game. If they start the way they did against the Cowboys, the game could be over before the break.


Hair-pulling penalty a joke

Every NRL player should spend the upcoming off-season growing their hair, so that they can start the new season with a flowing ponytail hanging off the back of their heads.

Cowboys forward Luciano Leilua proved the value of such follicular extravagance early in the second half of the preliminary final. He charged into the Eels defence and as Waqa Blake bounced off him, his desperate grab for a handle, found only the bundled mop of Leilua.

Blake was penalised for the rarely seen, particularly in the rule book, offence of hair pulling. Meanwhile old men everywhere were looking skyward to scream at the clouds: "Get a haircut hippy!"

Could have been very ugly for Bunnies

It took a couple of tough calls to deny the Panthers their first two tries with Jarome Luai infringing on both occasions. The first four-pointer was disallowed because Luai grabbed Souths halfback Lachlan Ilias as he waited for a Nathan Cleary kick to land. The ball bounced into the arms of Izack Tago who crossed untouched.

The second disallowed try appeared to be harsher as Luai threw a long ball which saw Charlie Staines dive over out wide. On replay it was shown that Luai ran behind one of his forwards as he passed. He was well behind his player and the defender had no chance of influencing the play, so it was hard to see how Luai had gained an advantage. Still, they have been calling them that way for some time now.

It was one of four disallowed tries on the night for the reigning premiers. They won comfortably in the end, but it could have been so much uglier for the Rabbitohs.

Soft defence costs the home team dearly in Townsville

The Cowboys may have been unlucky early, with the Eels first try appearing come from a forward pass, but they have no grounds for blaming the loss on that miss after allowing Reagan Campbell-Gillard to stroll across for two extremely soft tries.

His first try after 18 minutes came from a simple cut-out pass ten metres out from the Cowboys line. Campbell-Gillard lined up Cowboys halfback Chad Townsend who decided he was having none of it, turning in to help double up on the decoy runner. It was a great pass from Eels hooker Reed Mahoney, but a horrible defensive play by Townsend.

His second four pointer, which came 57 minutes into the game was even more embarrassing, with Mahoney passing directly to him two metres out. He barreled his way between two Cowboys forwards who both declined to put their bodies in his path.

Campbell-Gillard heads into the Grand Final having had the last laugh at New South Wales selectors who dropped him after Origin I this year. He'll be keen to show his former Panthers teammates his much improved form in the big one

Now that one was definitely forward

Having watched the Eels victory the night before, Souths fans might have wondered what was wrong with their first disallowed try. Latrell Mitchell ran to the line and threw a pass to his winger Taane Milne, who may or may not have placed the ball in the corner. The grounding didn't matter, as Mitchell's pass had traveled a couple of metres forward. It was in a very similar position to the Eels pass the night before, with a completely different result.