First tackle: Good intent won't mend a torn groin
The old wishbone tackle reared its ugly head at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night as three Melbourne Storm players tried to see who could get the wish by tearing Kevin Proctor's legs apart. Cameron Smith won the contest and Proctor had to leave the field with a torn groin muscle after the ugly tackle.
Smith now faces a one-week ban for the tackle, if he takes the early guilty plea, while Proctor will be missing for several weeks. Smith was adamant there was no ill-intent involved in the tackle.
"I didn't try to pull his leg out," Smith said.
"Kevvie is a really good friend of mine and good friend of everyone at this club and has played many games for the Storm.
"So there was no way I was going in there to try to injure the bloke; I will be honest with you there."
But Smith did injure him and he did it using a technique which has been banned because of the damage it can do to a player.
It was part of a horror night of injuries for the Titans as they tried to match it with the reigning premiers. At one point their interchange bench was empty until Keegan Hipgrave bravely returned to the fray with a suspected fractured wrist heavily strapped for what it was worth.
Second tackle: Tigers' backs roar
Wests Tigers definitely benefitted from the return of prop Russell Packer, his work rate and presence around the ruck giving them a solid foundation for their victory over the Cowboys, but it's their hard-running backs that really impressed.
Centres Esan Marsters and Mahe Fonua remind me of Konrad Hurrell on one of his good days. They run hard, add just enough footwork to beat the defence and both can slip a pass to set up their wingers. Benji Marshall and Luke Brooks are feeding them plenty of clean, early ball and every time they get it the crowd rises and alarms bells start ringing for the opposition.
Wingers Malakai Watene-Zelezniak and David Nofoaluma are among the best finishers in the game and both know the value of stepping into dummy half when the forwards are struggling.
Up the back, Corey Thompson has been a revelation in the No.1 jersey. Thompson was always a lively winger with the Bulldogs before a brief stint in England, but his size and defensive reads let him down on occasions. Ivan Cleary has given him a chance to restart his NRL career and he has grabbed the fullback position with vigour. He has a roving role and is popping up in the backline, taking advantage of the defensive chaos the centres are causing.
It is a long season, but there is plenty to like about Cleary's Tigers as we head into the State of Origin period.
Third tackle: Games being blown away
I've been watching rugby league for about a thousand years and like most fans and commentators today I am just about sick of watching the whistle blowers determine the flow of games. We all know the referees have been asked to crack down on ruck and offside infringements this season and yes, teams are still pushing their luck in those areas, but it's the back-to-back-to-back-to-back penalties which are really frustrating.
The momentum of games is being determined by these blocks of penalties. I can't remember a time in the game previously when teams were receiving so many successive penalties. It adds up to a mountain of possession inside the attacking 20 metre zone and if the defending team manages to survive, they are often left without enough juice to attack when it's their turn to receive a block of penalties.
Add to that the utter confusion around how many warnings a team receives before they have a player marched to the bin for ten minutes and you have a season that has been increasingly hard to enjoy.
Fourth tackle: It's a tough game for tough men
Payne Haas is a big boy, the Broncos reserve forward is 194 cm tall and weighs 119 kgs, but size doesn't protect you from injury in rugby league. After leaving the field last week against the Bulldogs with an ankle injury and concussion, he returned this week much earlier than expected. Within minutes of running on, just before the halftime break, he dislocated his shoulder while making a tackle.
With a trainer in attendance he back-pedalled as the Sea Eagles threatened to score a vital try. Between Haas and the trainer the shoulder was popped back into the socket and just in time for Haas to join Darius Boyd in a try-saving tackle. The bench yelled out to the trainer asking if he was coming off, the reply was "he says he's OK". The 19-year-old Novocastrian didn't return for the second half.
Fifth and last: Are the Rabbitohs for real?
The Dragons were ripe for a beating following big clashes against the Warriors, Roosters and Storm in the preceding three weeks, but the Rabbitohs still had to be good enough to get the job done.
When back-row forward Angus Crichton scrambled over the line for the Rabbitohs' second try in the first six minutes of the game, it became obvious that the Dragons were in for a long afternoon. South Sydney won the game through forward domination and desperate defence. To keep the NRL ladder leaders off the scoreboard until the final thirteen minutes was an indication of how determined they are to return the finals this year after a two-year break.
They sit just outside the top four on for-and-against and have games against the Cowboys, Warriors, Sharks, Titans and Eels coming up. They will lose centres Greg Inglis and Dane Gagai to State of Origin duties, but should retain the bulk of their forward pack, led by the Burgess brothers.
Handover: Strugglers battle to avoid spoon
The Bulldogs prevailed in the bottom of the ladder clash with the Eels, in a game that showcased why these clubs are struggling this season. There is no lack of effort from both clubs, with the 100 percent completion rate the Bulldogs carried into the second half showing they have at least improved in that aspect of their game. They both just lack polish in attack, with playmakers from both sides looking completely lost at times.
The Bulldogs' right edge defence continued to leak points with Marcelo Montoya and Will Hopoate having all sorts of trouble in simply numbering up. The Eels really should have gone to that well more often, particularly in the second half. The better teams identify such weaknesses and punish them relentlessly.
It was a night when many remote controls might have been searching for the Swans vs. Hawks game on another channel. It wasn't pretty and the margin in the end came down to four penalty goals awarded to the Bulldogs. As mentioned earlier, the influence of the referees in determining results is becoming tiresome.