Almanac Rugby League – NRL Round 24: Off-field interference

 

Friday night’s Panthers v Rabbitohs game brought with it a mixed bag of thoughts, most of them relating to kicks. On the upside, Penrith showed considerable poise to weather a whirlwind start by the Rabbitohs before contriving a couple of tries from somewhat speculative kicks to be on even terms. Keeping the ball alive and introducing an element of unpredictability broke up Souths’ defensive line. Then, in the second half, Cleary found his range with a series of towering, swirling bombs to terrorise Mansour and Mitchell resulting in errors that changed the momentum of the match completely. For both of these elements, kudos to the Panthers.

 

On the downside, with the game evenly poised at 12-12 in the second half and Souths finally getting out of their half, the penalty against Souths’ Mark Nicholls after a kick downfield really irked me. (Disclaimer: I don’t support either of these teams.) I’ll be the first to admit that, technically, it was a correct call. What bugged me was that Nicholls was well outside the 10 metres when Penrith took possession and only became involved in the play when Penrith coughed up the ball after it had been moved more than 10 metres forward. Common sense tells you that Nicholls was not involved in the play and contributed nothing to Penrith’s loss of possession. Play on, for goodness sake! It was a defining moment in the game. But The Bunker had other ideas and, by recalling play and awarding a penalty to Penrith, has created a rod for its own back forever more. Imagine the howl if they miss another such call in the finals series and costs a team its season! Wasn’t it the idea that The Bunker would eliminate howlers from the game rather than perform the role of pernickety prefect? That’s two weeks in a row after the Roosters’ escape last week which did decide that game and may well end up deciding a top four spot. Not happy! Souths also came out second best with the crusher tackle call against Kolomatangi. Blind Freddie could see that Naden contributed to his own problems by spinning in the tackle as he went to ground. Kolomatangi simply held his ground; he did not push forward. As the commentators said, ‘Kolomatangi can’t just disappear!’ Play on! Instead, the Souths player gets two weeks! Ridiculous!

 

To top off a bad weekend for The Bunker, the decision to award Euan Aitken a try against the Broncos defied logic. The on-field call was ‘no try’ which means that The Bunker has to find compelling evidence (either Aitken clearly forcing the ball first or at least simultaneously) to overturn that decision. The vision certainly doesn’t show any clear image of Aitken beating Coates to force the ball. In fact, just the opposite: Coates’ hand is obviously in view and forcing the ball – you can’t even see Aitken’s hand! Crazy!

 

On to Round 24 with finals spots and positions within the eight still up for grabs. Tonight the Knights play the Titans. The Knights look fairly safe in 7th but need to cement that position; the Titans must win to stay in contention. It’s hard to see the Gold Coast lads getting their act together sufficiently to win. Sure, Newcastle weren’t at their best the other day but they have more strike power in them and should book themselves in for September action.

 

The Raiders and Warriors also have it all to play for in an intriguing Friday evening showdown. The Raiders are enigmatic – at their best they should win this on the bit, but if they run hot and cold again, the Warriors might just have it in them to cause an upset. Jack Wighton, where are you? Your team needs you to take control! The Warriors’ team selections have been a bit baffling and they must be running on empty. I’ll go with Canberra.

 

The Roosters v Rabbitohs clash tomorrow night is the cracker game of the round. Teddy is on fire, young Walker is classy and the Roosters’ forward pack looks ruthless. But how’s their fuel tank? Can they keep coming with another two players in doubt for this week – Keighran (concussion) and Nat Butcher (leg)? But the prize is 4th spot! Souths will be keen to make amends after losing to Penrith. Although their top three spot is secure, they will want to regain momentum before the finals. I thought they defended very well against a glut of possession and a poor rub of the green last weekend. If both Cook (quad strain) and Mansour (head knock) are missing on top of Kolomatangi’s suspension, it might be enough to tip things in favour of the Roosters. Mitchell will need to regain focus after his hesitancy in Cleary’s second half aerial bombardment. I’ll go for an upset and tip the Roosters.

 

On Saturday afternoon, the Dragons and Cowboys play in the round’s ‘who cares’ match. The Dragons had their moments against the Roosters but need to play out a full game; the Cowboys are just not gelling. I’ll go with Hook’s boys. Then the Sharks take on the Broncos in the early evening. The Sharks scored 50 last weekend for the first time in years and want to hang on to 8th spot. That should be enough. But the Broncos showed a bit of form on the back of, of all people, Anthony Milford and deserved their win over the Warriors. Line ball here but I think the Sharks will have what it takes to protect their finals interests.

 

The Storm v Eels game is the other highlight of the weekend. Can the Storm break the record and notch consecutive win number 20? You’d be a brave person to bet against them! What gets me is that their so-called ‘second stringers’ come into the team to replace several much bigger names and simply get the job done. Plus, Munster is stirring. The Eels got back into form over the Cowboys but have had trouble competing with the better sides in recent times. They’ll give it everything but I can’t see them going with the Storm.

 

Come Sunday afternoon and the Sea Eagles will beat the Bulldogs to keep the pressure on the Roosters for that top four spot. The bigger question will be whether or not Tom Turbo plays or is given more time to heal and freshen up for the finals campaign. There’s not much of a positive nature to say about the Doggies so I’ll leave it at that. Finally, the revitalised and increasingly confident Panthers will win the battle of the big cats hands down. The pretenders were badly exposed and put in their place by the modestly equipped Sharks last weekend, so what can they expect from the marauding Penrith – an absolute flogging, that’s what!

 

So my winners this week are the Knights, Raiders, Roosters, Dragons, Sharks, Storm, Sea Eagles and Panthers.

 

Thursday August 26

Knights v Titans, Sunshine Coast Stadium, 7.50pm

 

Friday August 27

Warriors v Raiders, BB Print Stadium, Mackay, 6.00pm

Roosters v Rabbitohs, Suncorp Stadium, 7.55pm

 

Saturday August 28

Dragons v Cowboys, Browne Park, Rockhampton, 3.00pm

Sharks v Broncos, Suncorp Stadium, 5.30pm

Storm v Eels, Suncorp Stadium, 7.35pm

 

Sunday August 29

Sea Eagles v Bulldogs, Moreton Daily Stadium, Redcliffe, 1.50pm

Panthers v Tigers, Moreton Daily Stadium, Redcliffe, 4.05pm

 

Venues and times are current at the time of publication but please check for late changes.

 

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About Ian Hauser

A relaxed, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A Queenslander through and through, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. I enjoy travel, good coffee and cake, reading, and have been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. As well as being one of Footy Almanac's online editors, I moonlight as an editor for hire - check me out at www.writerightediting.com.au

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