NRL Hits and Misses: Awful forward pass, awesome Penrith Panthers

This week we take a look at an awful forward pass, the clockwork precision of the Panthers backline and the awesome power of the reigning premiers' forward pack.

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


Forward pass re-opens bunker debate

To be fair, it's not even a debate anymore, the bunker simply must get involved with ruling on blatant forward passes after the debacle we saw on Saturday night. In the lead up to Jordan Riki's 54th minute try against the Warriors, Reece Walsh first delayed, and then threw a pass that not only travelled roughly three metres forward, it left his hands in that direction on its way to Selwyn Cobbo who was already in front of him. It was what they would have called in the old days "a deliberate forward pass" or more recently "a pass to a player in an offside position" -- it was well and truly worthy of a penalty.

The theory against involving the bunker in forward passes has always been that all the available cameras cannot completely cover all the angles, and that the officials are in a better position to judge the pass and whether it was thrown backwards from the hands before travelling forward with momentum. Walsh's pass was so blatantly forward, you would have been able to pick it from a head-on shot and yet the three officials on the ground missed it.

As if to throw an exclamation mark on the end of the point made by Walsh's pass, the very next ball from Cobbo inside to Ricki was also clearly forward and was also missed. Thankfully the try had no real influence on the outcome of the game, with the Broncos well in control by that stage.

Why don't we leave the majority of forward pass calls to the on field officials, but add forward passes to the list of things the bunker can check when a try is scored. If the call is line-ball, the bunker can defer to the original call as it does with all other adjudications.


You can only be impressed by the well-oiled Panthers machine

Penrith's first try of the night against the Storm came after seven minutes and it summed up exactly why they are favoured to win their third-straight premiership. After their forwards had powered their way well into the Storm half, the backs took control in the most clinical of fashions.

Nathan Cleary took the ball at first receiver, he ran at the line, did a subtle step, swerve, shuffle and dummy as a decoy caught the defenders' eyes. The moment they were slightly misaligned by the deception he fired a bullet to fullback Dylan Edwards who caught and passed in the one motion to Brian To'o who hit the ball on the fly and covered the last ten metres to the line without being touched.

It was a move so simple in its construction, yet so perfect in its execution, that it was impossible to stop. You can only imagine the hours put into running that play over and over again at training until the timing became so ingrained as to be almost muscle memory. It also leaves you wondering why your own team can't put in the work required to be that sharp.


DWZ cancels out his own tries with defensive lapses

Was there ever any doubt Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (DWZ) would cross for a try in the preliminary final against the Broncos? The curly long-haired flyer has made a habit of diving into the corner for the Warriors, and so it was to open the scoring on Saturday night after only four minutes.

He was in for his double in the 11th minute after intercepting a Reece Walsh pass on halfway. With only Adam Reynolds in pursuit, DWZ strode away to score in the corner. The Reynolds chase paid dividends as Adam Pompey missed again from the sideline leaving the Warriors with a narrow 8-6 lead.

The heroics of DWZ only seemed to spark the Broncos and it was down his wing that they scored their next two tries. On both occasions DMZ's defence proved ineffective, frustrating Shaun Johnson who let his frustration out after the try to an unmarked Jesse Arthars.


The forwards do win the big games

Penrith clearly have great halves, a brilliant fullback and a backline bristling with pace and finishing power, but as we all know, they would be ineffective without the forwards giving them the space to operate.

The Panthers pack are an awesome sight in full flight. Time and again they were able to bend the Storm line. James Fisher-Harris in particular refused to be tackled, and off the back of his rampages, Moses Leota would take his turn. When either needed a break, Spencer Leniu would come on and continue the carnage. The three props are brutal both in defence and with every carry of the ball. They are fast-moving, made of concrete and absolutely determined to run through walls for their team.

In the backrow they were ably supported by Liam Martin, Scott Sorenson and Isaah Yeo, while Lindsay Smith and Luke Gardner contribute from the bench. It's a lethal combination which wears down the opposition and creates the opportunities for the backs to exploit.


Goalkicking is key in the big games

Adam Reynolds is no doubt a champion halfback with all the skills that the role requires. The extra string to his bow is his goal kicking. The ability to turn the majority of four-pointers into six-pointers is vital at any time, but particularly in the finals.

Against the Warriors, with the teams scoring try for try early, Reynolds outkicked Adam Pompey to give the Broncos a 24-12 halftime lead, despite only scoring four tries to three. Reynolds would go on to kick a perfect seven from seven, while Pompey missed each of his three attempts.

Of course that advantage won't necessarily exist next week, when Reynolds comes up against Nathan Cleary, himself one of the league's most accurate goal-kickers. Cleary kicked five from six against the Storm.


Ugliness mars the Panthers Storm game early

There was plenty of feeling early in the clash between the Storm and Panthers. The first mass of pushing and shoving came after Liam Martin tapped Justin Olam on the head, after he had dropped the ball with a try begging. Players came from all directions to get involved and the referee took forever to separate them all and issued a general warning to both captains.

Not long after, down the other end of the field, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, who had been up to his ears in the first fracas, came out of the line to give Nathan Cleary an almighty shove. Black jerseys flew in from everywhere for another mass push and shove session. The referee was set to send Big Nelson to the sin bin, but was informed by the bunker that although late, the hit was not serious enough to leave the Storm short-handed.