Representative Round Hits and Misses: Origin wrecked by set restarts

The NRL season took a break to let the best of the best take to various stages across the weekend in Representative Round. We take a look at how the officiating is changing Origin, admire the dominant Kiwis the brilliance of Josh Schuster, and the magic inspired by deep national pride.

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


The Six Again call is now wrecking Origin as well

It was only a matter of time before State of Origin became caught up in the controversial world of six again calls and the domination encouraged by one-sided possession rates. Game I in Sydney saw a traditional arm wrestle of a contest with both sides allowed a bit more leniency around the ruck as line speed and big hits dominated play. Following a two-week campaign by New South Wales officials, led by head coach Brad Fittler, it appeared that Origin should be officiated like every club game, every week of the year. The last bastion of a game vaguely resembling the one fans knew and loved was gone.

That one period prior to halftime, when referee Ashley Klein decided he'd seen enough slowing tactics from Queensland, was the turning point in an up-till-then riveting game and series. The Maroons' defence, pinned to its own try line while the Blues were gifted set restart after set restart, used up way too much gas trying to prevent the inevitable. Then, with Felise Kaufusi sent to the sin bin, Queensland cracked and had to dig even deeper for the first nine minutes of the second half.

We've seen it for two years at club level now: one team battered by an opposition's artificially enhanced possession share, crumbling in the second half from sheer exhaustion. There was hope that Origin would be left alone, with the two teams allowed to decide the outcome, but that hope died last night in Perth.

Desperation in defence has always been a beautiful and vital part of Origin success. The ability and will power of an Origin player to put his body on the line, to hold out the opposition, to be able to look his mates in the eye and know he'd done everything in his power to support them, is diminished when there is no end in sight to the opposition's time with the ball. The six again call tears at the very soul of what has made State of Origin the ultimate rugby league contest.

Let's hope the decider in Brisbane isn't ruined by that horrible digital bell sound and the overly influential effect it has on games.

- Darren Arthur


Kiwis live up to the hype

We wrote about the new-and-improved New Zealand side -- already ranked No.1 in the world -- ahead of their clash with Tonga, and they met expectations with a dominant 26-6 win despite the Auckland crowd throwing their vocal support behind the visitors.

Brandon Smith is the only member of their playmaking spine who retained his spot from the last time the Kiwis played back in 2019, and the new faces all played a huge part in Saturday's win. Halfback Jahrome Hughes scored the opening try, five-eighth Dylan Brown had two try assists, and fullback Joseph Manu (who had previously played centre for New Zealand) ran for a staggering 398 metres from 31 carries.

The forwards matched it with Tonga's giant pack as well. Joe Tapine led the team for tackles and hit-ups, while Isaiah Papali'i crashed over for a trademark try.

They won't start as favourites ahead of Australia at this year's World Cup, but they won't be far behind.

- Dominic Brock

Schuster brilliance a glimpse of things to come for Manly, Samoa

Josh Schuster is viewed as a future five-eighth for the Manly Sea Eagles, but he played in the back row for Samoa on Saturday night, producing a terrific performance against Cook Islands -- culminating in a superb play to set up a try for David Nofoaluma.

Taking a pass just outside his own 20-metre line, flat-footed with a set defensive line in front of him, Schuster drifted to the right then burst through half a gap in the defence, charging upfield and sizing up his options as he drew the Cook Islands fullback.

With cover defenders closing down the space around the support players to Schuster's left, he instead kicked to the right -- with the ball bouncing up perfectly for the chasing Nofoaluma. It was a spectacular try that capped a performance in which Schuster finished with 129 metres, 29 tackles, two line breaks, two line-break assists and three try assists.

It's not easy to overshadow a player who scores four tries, as Nofoaluma did in that match, but Schuster managed it. He looks a genuine superstar in the making.

- Dominic Brock

What Pacific Tests bring that the NRL doesn't

How good is this?

And this?

And this?

- Dominic Brock