Six Again NRL Round 2 Brookvale a minefield, future Origin stars shine

First tackle: Brookvale has always been a minefield

Roosters coach Trent Robinson wasn't too happy with Brookvale Oval after Saturday night's clash with the Sea Eagles, during which Brett Morris injured his knee on the dodgy surface. Sydney had experienced plenty of rain during the week and the Brookvale surface suffered.

Before extensive drainage works were carried out several years ago, Brookvale was notorious for turning into a muddy bog after heavy rain. Now the sub-surface is sand based which drains away the surface water, but can come up in clumps during play. Morris landed on his knee which dug deeply into the turf and twisted as he fell forward. Robinson suggested the NRL needed to adapt the same kind of standards the AFL applies.

"The AFL has certain restrictions on the ground. It has to be tested to get to AFL standard about the hardness and the softness. There's a rating, and if you're not in that rating, you can't hold your AFL games. We're not at that level," Robinson said.

It is a bit easier for the AFL to set such lofty standards, as they abandoned suburban grounds long ago. If the NRL is to maintain the tribalism of suburbia, they are going to have to find ways to funnel more money into the maintenance of these grounds.

Second tackle: Hard times defending in the line

The Jack Wighton five-eighth experiment wasn't looking too good for the Raiders in Canberra on Friday evening. Melbourne Storm scored three tries in the first 30 minutes and all of them to Suliasi Vunivalu down the side where Wighton was defending. The third try in particular resulted from poor communication between the Raiders defenders.

Wighton is a good tackler and he stands next to Jarrod Croker, who has plenty of experience in the centres. Defending in the line as opposed to at fullback is about a whole lot more than the heavier workload. Talking to and understanding how your fellow defenders will react to every situation is key. It might take Wighton a bit more time to make the transition.

Third tackle: Game of millimetres

The Dragons were well beaten by the Cowboys in Round 1 and headed home to Kogarah hoping to turn their season around. They battled hard in the first half, without some key forwards, and did well to take a 12-6 lead into the break.

Just three minutes into the second half and Rabbitohs leader Sam Burgess reached out to score a try, with the ball squirting from his grasp. Referee Gerard Sutton sent the decision to the video bunker signalling that he thought it was a try.

From the several angles shown during the coverage it was impossible to see whether the ball actually made it to the line or not. What was clear from one angle was that at the critical moment, Sutton's line of sight appeared to be obstructed by a Dragons player.

The bunker awarded a try and the game slipped from the Dragons' grasp from that point onwards, the Bunnies running out 34-18 victors.

Burgess crashed over for a second try late in the game, and it was very close to being considered a double movement. It was a disappointing second half for Dragons fans, but they must realise that a Burgess double would have been highly unlikely had Tyson Frizell and Jack de Belin been on the field.

Fourth tackle: Glimpse the future of State of Origin

It might be a bit premature to mention Origin selection after only two rounds of the premiership, but I think we saw a glimpse of Queensland's future on Friday night in Broncos' 19 year-old man mountain Thomas Flegler. With one of his first touches off the bench in the first half he stepped, swerved and accelerated through a gap for a 20-metre run. The speed and agility was amazing for a young bloke standing at 190cm and weighing in at 108kgs. His contribution to the Broncos' win and ongoing development will surely be noted by the Queensland selectors.

Thankfully for the Blues the other big performer on the night, Tevita Pangai Junior, who has played for Tonga, is eligible to play for New South Wales. Pangai set up the first Broncos try and was very damaging in defence, including a tackle which saw Cowboys star Jason Taumalolo leave the field with a knee injury. He then scored a try of his own just after the break with an angled run straight through the heart of the Cowboys' ruck. If he can perform like that on a more regular basis, then he should come into consideration for higher honours.

If the Blues are looking for another set of young legs in the halves, then Luke Keary has to be high on the list. The way he finished off last season and has started this one has been extremely impressive. He took on a lot of extra responsibility with Cooper Cronk and Jake Friend missing against the Sea Eagles and he steered the Roosters to victory. He has the all-round game to make an impact at Origin level.

Fifth and last: Bulldogs meek after early promise

The Bulldogs started reasonably well against the Warriors in Round 1 before capitulating as their opponents ran over and through them. This week against the Eels they started even better, racing to a 10-0 lead after 17 minutes. Their enthusiasm with and without the ball against the Eels led to a majority of possession and two early tries.

Just like their first game against the Warriors, the fire flickered and spluttered and just about went out completely. The Eels scored two tries of their own to go to the break leading 12-10. From there, it was all Eels as they piled on the points in the second half to win 36-16.

Rugby league is a tough, 80-minute game. It punishes any team that has lapses in intensity. There is not a lot of value in looking like world beaters for 10-minute periods and there comes a point in the season when moments of good play can no longer even be considered promising.

Handover: Play the ball mess

Ten minutes into the second half, with the Tigers attacking the Warriors' line and leading 12-6, Tigers bench forward Thomas Mikaele stood to play the ball, by putting it on the ground as he rose. Before he could bring his foot forward, marker Adam Blair brushed it with his boot sending it out to the side of the ruck. As the referee called a scrum for a lost ball, Mikaele and Robbie Farah protested vehemently that contact had been made by Blair.

According to the commentators, one of the touch judges advised the referees that it should indeed be a Tigers' penalty. They kicked the goal to go to 14-6 and it seemed that the air was let out of the Warriors' fightback tyres.

There is a rule that clearly states that a player should not put the ball on the ground until he has risen to his feet. If there was a penalty in the incident then it should have gone to the Warriors, as Mikaele placed and left the ball out in front of him as he climbed to his feet. It's hard to say it made a difference to the outcome as the Tigers raced away to a comfortable 34-6 victory, but it was an incorrect call at a vital point in the game.