Another extraordinary weekend of rugba leeg, especially for the Mark Hughes Foundation, who managed to raise $2.55m AUD during this year’s Beanie For Brain Cancer Round, a massive & fantastic effort in the middle of an apocalypse.
Still, not one cardboard cutout was seen wearing a beanie this weekend.
Keeping up the positives, the ARL Comission confirmed all teams will be back in their own stadiums by July, Queensland went one step further and allowed 10,000 fans in stadiums from Saturday, which means the Queensland Police can punish 10,000 offenders by giving them tickets to the Broncos vs Titans game.
Meanwhile, the COVID wave in Victoria has become so bad that the Storm have to play their upcoming home game against the Warriors at Kogarah, and they’re getting out of Victoria until further notice.
Probably might want to stay out of Albury this time.
But, the biggest news of all…
COACH BLOODLETTING HAS BEGUN.
After a live battle between Paul McGregor, Dean Pay, John Morris and Paul Green in the race to the bottom, losing to a superior Souths team was enough to make Warriors owner Cam George pull the trigger on Steve Kearney, brutally ending his coaching tenure after he and the Warriors had FLOWN TO ANOTHER COUNTRY JUST TO SAVE THE NRL SEASON.
From a PR standpoint, this had all the piss poor timing of an English batsman.
His stand-in is his assistant & Wests Tigers premiership prop Todd Payten, who put it pretty bluntly that after everything the playing group have gone through, Kearney’s sacking was almost like “A death in the family”, the players were distraught, and some might even go home.
Still, with the way the Warriors have under performed for years, I felt that Kearney was going to get the chop this year or the next (Strange how I never actually wrote it here), but bloody hell, pick a better sense of timing.
Newcastle 27 defeated Brisbane 6 at Central Coast Stadium
You can tell Adam O’Brien sat in a coaching box with Craig Bellamy for 11 years.
Considering he was coaching that game in a private suite, I’m disappointed Adam didn’t pick up that ice sculpture and throw it against the wine glasses.
Still, it would’ve been a small blip on Adam’s rise to legendary status thanks to his Knights team, compromised of the greatest assortment of unique names in rugby league history:
Kalyn, Edrick, Bradman, Gehamat, Hymel, Kurt, Sione, Herman, David Tex, and Tim.
It sounds like the roll call for a Seattle high school.
Meanwhile, Tevita Pangai Junior was back from his enforced holiday for the Broncos, and he showed everyone that he was ready to win back the trust of his teammates and his embattled coach.
By demolishing David Klemmer 3 minutes into the game.
Big Dave was lucky he only got sat on his arse – Jason Taumalolo got folded back so badly by TPJ last year, he jarred his right knee and missed 6 weeks.
I half-expected to see TPJ had been rubbed out for a shoulder charge when I read the headline “Broncos duo facing ban” on NRL.com on Friday, but he definitely got the left arm wrapped, certifying it as another BIG hit.
TPJ balanced that out with 3 errors 6 missed tackles, and like most tipsters expected, the Knights bounced back from last week’s defeat with a commanding performance, although the Broncos got more promising signs from Xavier Coates, who produced a 96m metre intercept try when the Broncs were down to 12 players and pinned on their own line, also claiming the title of fastest player in the game in the process.
Andrew McCullough setting up a Broncos try – There are some things you can’t change.
After Pearce kicked a field goal on the bell to make it 13-6, the play that wrecked the Broncos, and pretty much summed up their current on-field mess, was when Isaac Luke, TPJ, and Joe Ofahengaue had wrapped Daniel Saifiti in a regulation tackle on the goal line just after the 2nd Half started.
Thinking they had the job done, the defenders dropped off, and Saifiti was able to turn to the goal line, and propel himself over for a try that was softer than fresh bed sheets, giving Anthony Seibold more grey hairs.
Continuing the descent into insanity, Patrick Carrigan landed a cheap shot on Mitchell Pearce with 20 minutes to play, getting himself sin-binned (And suspended), and giving the Knights a free 2 points to make it 21-6.
Pearce would score a try for himself just before the bell, and further rubbing it in the Broncs, even in a crowd of barely 500, Darius Boyd still managed to get sledged by angry Knights fans.
Apparently Novocastrians don’t forget.
So the Broncos got pumped and failed to score in the 2nd Half for the 4th game in a row, their discipline killed them again (Carrigan and Tom Flegler were suspended), and Anthony Seibold said something in his press conference that perked my interest.
I believe I heard something similar in a 2007 ABC documentary series about students at a public school:
So, the Knights are okay again, and the Broncs are still in a hole the size of North Queensland right now, and it’s as if no matter what they do, they’re going to get crapped on for it.
Dropping an underperforming Anthony Milford will probably be the first thing that happens.
South Sydney 40 defeated Once Were Warriors 12 at Bankwest Stadium
A fairly regulation win for Souths, who made the Warriors pay for Kodi Nikorima’s sin binning by blowing the game open in the 1st Half, and another wildly inconsistent performance was enough to say goodbye to Steve Kearney.
Put 37 on a crappy Cowboys team and you’re golden, but get minced by a superior Rabbitohs team?
OFF YOU GO, KEARNEY.
Fair dinkum, some coaches have kept their jobs for worse than a 2-4 start to the year.
Anyway, it was another Souths performance where Cody Walker and Latrell Mitchell had their fingers in just about everything, and Latrell showed he’d improved big time on his defensive game, pulling what was praised as a cracking desperate try saver on David Fusitu’a that was deemed perfectly legal…. Despite being a textbook coathanger.
That wasn’t even called for a penalty, let alone a sin binning or a penalty try, and the Bunker didn’t even bother investigating, because they started the frikkin’ replay after Fusi had gone to ground.
It was called a knock-on Warriors, and, summing up a bad case of botched officiating, Fusi failed his HIA and didn’t return, and despite careless contact to the head resulting in a concussion, Mitchell didn’t even get cited for it.
That was on a par with Jamie Ainscough clobbering Craig Smith in the 1999 Grand Final.
The Warriors will have to make do with the standard apology from Graham Annesley, typically as genuine as a BP Executive after an oil spill.
Still, if that contact was slightly egregious, then Wayde Egan’s alleged eye gouge on Mitchell with 15 minutes remaining was downright ordinary, and unlike the other incident, was met with Match Review revenge.
How dare Wayde do that to a face of the game.
The other talking point from Latrell’s night was him getting visibly emotional about someone or something in the rooms post-game, which had Fox League going into overdrive about what the cause was and playing the footage about 400 times.
WAYNE was asked about Latrell’s emotions no fewer than four times in his press conference, but like a master coach protecting his player, and sticking to his loveable character, Bennett repeatedly gave a response that could be best described as the polite version of “Piss off.”
Some will claim the journos were just doing their jobs.
So was Wayne.
Penrith 21 defeated Melbourne 14 at Campbelltown
Cameron Smith can’t use his Captain’s Challenge on this result.
Fantastic performance by the Mountain Men, who more than earned a big win against their regular tormentors, after playing pretty well last week for no result.
Both times the Storm challenged them and drew level, Nathan Cleary just picked his teammates up by their collars and found a way to get them ahead again.
He set up the winning try for Viliame Kikau with a textbook cross field kick that had the Storm defence shitting themselves at the sight of the Flying Mop coming charging through, allowing Kikau to mark the ball uncontested, spear through and score.
You can see The Pap realise what was coming if he even dared to attempt a tackle on the flying mop.
Cleary put the lid on the coffin with the conversion, then he drilled it shut with the drop goal close to full time.
Another name who won’t get mentioned like Cleary but should is the revived Josh Mansour, who put together another big game of 197 metres on 18 runs (Just short of his average of 203) and fed in Stephen Crichton for the opening try.
I don’t want to know what Ivan fed Joshy, but it’s worked.
Another facet for the Panthers is that even with the flurry of set restart calls in the opening month of the new rules, this was the second game out of four since the resumption that the Panthers haven’t been awarded a 6 Again from the referee.
You can’t tell me with a straight face that a team like the Storm didn’t commit one dodgy bit of play in the ruck for 80 minutes.
The amazing coincidence was who officiated both those games.
Clearly he’s jealous about Viliame’s ability to grow a rug on his head.
As for the Storm, as Craig Bellamy would say to start an answer – At the end of the day, their attack simply didn’t cut the mustard.
It was slow, it was devoid of creativity in the halves, they made bad errors at the wrong time, were once again relying on Munster and Smith to create something, and they ultimately couldn’t find a way to make the Panthers crack.
Still, losing by 7 points and saying they were dog crap shows the standard the Storm are held to.
St George-Illawarra 20 defeated Gold Coast 8 at Suncorp Stadium
James Graham is officially going ‘home’ to St Helens, and the only nice thing I can think of is that the Red V saw him out with a rousing win.
And it probably is a good time for Jimmy to go to St Helens, because the Dragons have to play the Roosters and Raiders in their next 2 games, so he’s left on the best possible note.
During the week, Dragons fullback Matt Dufty claimed Paul McGregor told him he could “Go and play 20 games a year for the Titans if you want, or you can play 20 games here by forcing yourself to get picked every week and play the rest of the season,” which is a quote so good it manages to double as motivation and a sledge at the Titans.
Titans coach Justin Holbrook then claimed the Titans were never interested in Dufty because they were hoping to sign Corey Thompson from Wests – Which they did.
Based on the little footage I saw of Saturday afternoon, the Tits probably should’ve considered having a go at Dufty, because he repeatedly went through their defence like a can opener, forming a lovely 1-2 punch with Zac Lomax.
No surprises to see which players led the way in the Dally M votes.
And the other facet was that Thompson, on his Titans debut, got knocked out of the game and almost had his jaw broken after 2 minutes, thanks to a high tackle from Jordan Peirera, who was duly reported and suspended.
The Titans finished the game with 1 fit player on the interchange, which exasperated their usual struggle to cross the white line.
So, the Dragons won, the first time they’ve strung two Ws together since Round 6 last year, and yes, winning apparently sure as hell beats losing.
That said, SIGN UP MARY.
Wests Tigers 36 North Queensland 20 at Campbelltown
Wow, look at that inspiring half-arsed 2nd Half comeback from the Cowboys.
Look at how they can use that finish to deflect from why THEY WENT 34-0 DOWN AFTER 34 MINUTES.
IT WAS THE BIGGEST ROOTING INVOLVING COWBOYS SINCE BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN.
Still, at least Josh McGuire could call a spade a shovel and admit it was a “Pretty shithouse” performance, which will do absolutely nothing to stop us from pouring kerosene on the fire currently raging under Paul Green’s coaching seat.
It’s odd – Ever since Josh started finishing games without his head taped to his eyeballs, he’s become more enjoyable and ‘relatable’ to listen to.
The only possible excuse that the Cows could attempt was that they thought the game started at 6:30 instead of 5:30, which might explain why the Tigers whipped them so thoroughly.
The other facet to this win – Wests have managed to maintain their stranglehold on their island home of 9th.
Even in the craziest year on record, these Tigers don’t change their stripes.
Sydney Roosters 24 defeated Parramatta 10 at Bankwest Stadium
A contest that was played like a major final, and was as intense as a State Of Origin game.
When Maika Sivo trucked James Tedesco so brutally that Teddy was LITERALLY SENT FLYING BACK INTO THE TURF AND KNOCKED OUT COLD ON IMPACT, it looked like the Eels really were going to pull this off, especially after Mitch Moses nailed the conversion to put them up 10-8 with all the momentum.
That was some tribute to the 25th anniversary of Jonah Lomu flattening Mike Catt.
Still, the balls on Teddy, coming across in cover defence, knowing full well said balls are probably about to end up in his stomach and out his mouth when Sivo ran through him.
It’s that dumb self-belief that he can tackle anyone that helps make him a gun.
But, like an out and out champion team, seeing their best player go down for the count invoked a sort of rage in Easts that I haven’t seen in anyone/anything since Obi-Wan Kenobi watched Qui-Gon Jinn get fatally impaled by Darth Maul.
The Tricolours trailed for all 3 minutes, and on their first set after conceding the go-ahead try, Luke Keary squeezed his way through Moses and Reed Mahoney, and fed in Boyd Cordner to restore the status quo.
That’s the ultimate paradox about the 2020 Roosters – They’ve now played 100 minutes with arguably their best player off the field, and they’re 75-0.
After getting headed again, the Eels were their own worst enemy in the final quarter of the game.
Nathan Brown clouted Victor Radley in a dangerous tackle (Which has earned him another ban), giving Flanagan another easy 2 points to make the lead 16-10.
Then, Michael Jennings gives away a professional foul and gets sin-binned with 12 minutes remaining – Flanagan kicks the 2 to make it 18-10, all but short-circuiting the Eels, and with the player advantage, Josh Morris fed in Dan Tupou and made sure of things, putting the margin to a misleading 14 points, considering how tough the game was.
It was interesting to see the Chooks bring back the old Jamie Soward penalty goal tactics – Whenever they were awarded penalties from within range (And they got plenty of them), the kicking tee was straight out to Flanagan to tack on the 2 points and put the scoreboard pressure on, probably because Robbo recognised how tough it was going to be to score against the Eels.
Another moment where the Chooks took the cheap 2 points was on half-time, when Sivo knocked on, the Roosters got the ball, and Kaufusi was penalised for a dangerous tackle on the last play of the half, allowing Flanagan to make it 8-0, in a half where the Eels made 215 tackles and only allowed one try to Brett Morris.
But, when you’ve got a kicker in as good a form as Flanagan, why not.
So, the Roosters are definitely still the team to beat, the Eels put in a performance that suggested they have a live chance of contending, and on a parting note here’s Sitili Tupouniua expressing his disappointment at knocking-on in front of the posts right before the half, when the Roosters were all over the Eels.
Manly 14 defeated Canberra 6 at Campbelltown Cow Paddock
Phrase: ‘Pyrrhic Victory’
Definition: Anytime Manly win in 2020
Just when things couldn’t get any better for the Sea Eagles:
Dylan Walker looked like he’d broken his leg 2:30 into the game, although it was nothing more than a broken foot.
Then, Brad Parker slipped on the worn down Campbelltown cow paddock and got knocked out by a flying Sia Soliola, putting the Silvertails down to 2 on the bench for 76 minutes.
Then, the worst one of all.
Tommy Turbo’s turbo charger exploded.
Daly Cherry-Evans accurately encapsulated the thoughts of all Silvertails fans:
At the moment. the only fit first choice player from the Manly spine is DCE.
If Des wasn’t their coach, their season would be skewered and roasted at this very minute.
But, he is, and they can pull off heroic performances like this against premiership fancies when nobody expects them to, thanks to the mere thoughts that come from his brain on to a team sheet.
Conversely, that’s 3 games in a row where the Raiders have put in performances that could hardly be described as convincing.
Clearly beaten by the Knights, doing just enough to get over the Tigers, and the latest spluttering effort was being unable to conjure up more than a try against a Silvertails team who were down to one on the bench for the final half hour.
It’s as if they approached that Storm game as their Grand Final after months of waiting, and they’ve been on Mad Monday ever since.
It was hard to decide the bigger visually disgusting sight:
The Raiders fumbling along in attack, or that Campbelltown playing surface, turned into the equivalent of a Heavy 10 at Rosehill after hosting its 7th game in 16 days, and the apparent cause of Manly’s key injuries – Which Annesley and Hasler refuted.
I’m not surprised the grass looks like an Afghan minefield – Campbelltown could barely handle 3 Wests games a year, let alone an unrelenting schedule during winter with basically no time to let the turf ‘breathe.’
Thankfully, the NRL actually got proactive on the issue, and moved the Panthers-Rabbits game to Kogarah.
Another massive historical trend continued from the game: Hasler’s monstrous stranglehold on Ricky Stuart coached teams.
After this win, Des is 17-4 all-time against Stuart-coached teams, although they’ve somehow never met in a final.
Ricky’s wins: 1 at the Roosters in 2004 (Hasler’s first year Manly), 1 with Cronulla in 2008, and his only wins at Canberra were against Hasler’s Bulldogs in 2016.
One last note, I did expect the Raiders to win, and I had a banner prepared for Sticky as he racked up a great milestone.
Unfortunately, I’ve had to hastily edit it.
Great win Manly, but lord knows how many more injuries they can cop.
Cronulla 20 defeated Canterbury 18 at Bankwest Stadium
Is it possible to feel whiplash watching someone sustain whiplash?
Because I got whiplash watching Dallin Watene-Zelezniak send Matt Moylan all the way back to Penrith.
I want to end it on that note and ignore Sione Katoa scoring a hat-trick in a game between two struggling but evenly matched teams, because holy crap, how did Moylan not die.
A solid 6/8 this week… apparently I tipped Cronulla, and I don’t remember it.