First tackle: Would you choose the Dogs?
It was a tough sell, asking any genuine sports lover to tune into the NRL over the weekend with the Olympics on. Saturday's pandemic postponements gave everyone a free Saturday to tune into our athletes taking on the world in Tokyo.
By the time Monday rolled around the NRL had the Bulldogs, Titans game to entice viewers at 6pm through Fox Sports only. Anyone brave enough to tune in couldn't have been surprised by the standard of rugby league served up. More ineptitude from the Bulldogs, with the Titans struggling to look as convincing as they should have on the way to a 35-6 victory.
The next game promised more with the Sharks clinging to a Top 8 position up against the Sea Eagles who will comfortably play finals football. With an 8:05pm kick-off this game was up against the clock to capture a sports loving audience, as over in Tokyo Australia's Matildas were set to play in an Olympic semi-final against Sweden.
It started well with Jason Saab scoring a miraculous try after 15 minutes. Completely airborne and over the touch in goal line Saab somehow manage to grab the ball from over the line and drag it back to be grounded while he headed in the opposite direction.
The Sharks defence was determined on its own line, but the Sea Eagles were too sharp and Saab crossed again, this time comfortably and untouched after some typical Tom Trbojevic craftsmanship. A third try in five minutes came after some Trbojevic magic, trampling defenders before flicking the ball inside to Morgan Harper. It was very entertaining football, if you weren't a Sharks fan.
With halftime 26 minutes away the Sharks finally got their hands on the ball again and some slick backline play saw them score their first try, taking the score to 16-6. The Sharks weren't finished there, scoring a fortunate try from a grubber kick as the siren sounded for halftime. After it looked like the Sea Eagles would run away with it, the Sharks fought back to trail 16-10 at the break.
I'm not sure what happened in the second half, Sam Kerr was calling and I patriotically switched back to the Olympics.
Second tackle: Relentless Storm roll on
If you're not a Storm fan, then please don't read on, it will only make you feel a little ill. The Storm were absolutely ruthless against the Panthers, scoring six tries before conceding a couple of late ones..
The game saw Harry Grant back on the field and Ryan Papenhuyzen continue his staged return. The Storm are in the ridiculous position of having to drag Brandon Smith and Nicho Hynes off the field just to give those two a run.
Papenhuyzen might be finding his feet after a lengthy time out following a heavy concussion, but as the game progressed the champion fullback looked to be regaining his touch.
Only Craig Bellamy knows how he will best utilise the talents of these four as they roll into the finals, but it becomes increasingly hard to see how anyone will beat them.
Third tackle: Reynolds will be a big loss for Rabbitohs
Every time I watch a Rabbitohs game I find it harder to believe that Adam Reynolds has been allowed to leave for the Broncos next year. I'm not privy to whatever went on during negotiations between the gutsy half and the club, the talk was he wanted a longer extension than they were willing to give, but it still seems like madness.
In case you doubted his individual brilliance, with 11 minutes to go in the game against the Dragons, he took the ball at first receiver twenty metres out from the Dragons' line. He looked up, saw the opportunity, chipped ahead and out-paced the Dragon's defender to the ball. Once he won the race, his work was not done, he had a tricky bouncing ball and a rapidly approaching dead ball line to contend with. He dived, grabbed the ball and planted it down for the four points.
The Broncos will gladly throw a jersey on the seasoned campaigner next year.
Fourth tackle: Broncos brilliance
We saw an incredible piece of creative luck in a Broncos try during their upset victory over the disappointing Cowboys.
They shifted the ball to the right from inside their own half and found Jermaine Isaako in the clear down the touchline. Isaako put in a centering kick for fullback Tesi Niu who chased it into the feet of a Cowboys defender who fumbled as Niu arrived.
Showing skills perhaps developed on junior soccer fields, Niu moved the ball away with his feet, before brilliantly kicking it back 10 metres to his support, the ball traveling as well as any pass straight into the hands of lock Kobe Hetherington who spun it wide to Alex Glenn who went on a 20 metre angled charge to the try line. It was great example of a player thinking on his feet.
Fifth and last: Tigers lose shining light
One of the few highlights in the West Tigers' frustrating season has been the emergence of Daine Laurie as he found a home in the fullback jersey. The diminutive and elusive former Panther has been the focal point of their attack, bobbing up all over the field with dazzling footwork and a razor sharp passing game. With the finals slowly slipping from their reach, the last thing the club needed was to lose Laurie to a major leg injury.
Laurie charged into a three-man Warriors tackle towards the end of the opening set of tackles and was folded up like an origami swan, with his leg trapped awkwardly under the full weight of the tackle. Legs are just not made to cope with some of the stresses they encounter is a game of rugby league. Laurie left the field with a suspected fracture of his tibia, a season ending blow to the young man and probably his team.
Enigmatic former captain Moses Mbye moved from centre to fullback and lifted his contribution, scoring a try and setting up another as the Tigers enjoyed plenty of possession on their way to a 10-0 halftime lead. It wasn't to last though, with the Warriors rallying after the break to all but end the Tigers 2021 finals hopes.
Handover: Rough start before Chooks shine
It was a rough start for both teams when the Roosters took on the Eels on Thursday night. Thirteen minutes in and we had been treated to a litany of mistakes in Mackay. The steamy local conditions made the ball assume the handling qualities of a greased piglet.
There were ten handling errors in total before a quarter of the game had passed. The running was hard, the hits bone cracking and the ball was hard to hang onto. The Roosters were slipping off tackles as well and it looked as though they might fall to the Eels.
But the Roosters have a lot of admirable qualities about their side and the way they go about their football. Despite all the pitfalls this year, to which you can now add another injury to Josh Morris, they lift and find ways to win games. The Eels were missing Mitchell Moses, but the 28-0 score line said a whole lot about their chances to advance very far in this year's finals.