First tackle: Morris warming jersey for young Shark
The selection of Josh Morris in the centres for New South Wales would seem to be a step backwards for Brad Fittler's Blues. Fittler took over the reins last year and ran a broom through the ranks, naming 11 debutants as he introduced the next generation of exciting, young, in-form players. The poor form of James Roberts this year has seen him dropped from first grade by the Broncos and subsequently overlooked by the Blues selectors. The list of centres available to replace Roberts was short, with Jack Bird's season-ending injury a major blow.
Morris, in the twilight of his career, has found new life with the Sharks and has been in great form, but he is hardly the man for the job long term. Fittler won't have to look much further than the other side of the Sharks backline for that man. Bronson Xerri, 18 years old and in his first season of first grade, has already shown signs that he is a cut above and his name must have been raised during selection discussions, particularly following his hat trick of tries against the Dragons on Sunday.
Although Xerri is a touch green to throw into Origin this year, if he continues to shine at the Sharks he should step into the Blues centres next year and beyond. In fact, it wouldn't surprise to see him called up for Game 3 should the Blues lose the first two games and the series.
Second tackle: Deliberate penalties a farce
Twenty minutes into Newcastle's clash with the Roosters we saw the ugly evolution of conceding a deliberate penalty when under pressure on your own try line. It is a tactic that has become more prominent in recent times with teams preferring to give away two points when they fear the opposition are about to score six.
With the Roosters trailing 8-0 and the Knights on the attack again, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves was involved in a tackle on Kalyn Ponga. Determined to prevent a quick play the ball Waerea-Hargreaves pressed down on Ponga's shoulder as he struggled to get up off his back. He then moved his hand to Ponga's throat, looked straight up at the referee and waited to be penalised. It could only have been more blatant had he yelled out; "Sir, can you please penalise me?"
It reminded me of the deliberate fouling fiasco which goes on at the end of closely contested NBA games. There is one sure way of stopping it, they call it cynical play in rugby union and it usually results in the player going to the sin bin.
Third tackle: Take the kicker to ground
Kick pressure is something that comes under a lot of scrutiny as officials do their best to protect the kickers at their most vulnerable. It is acceptable to make a legitimate arm wrapping tackle on a kicker as long as you don't hit while he's in the air. The defending team needs to cut down the kicker's time, so that he rushes the kick, but there is another benefit that was illustrated late in the Sea Eagles clash with the Titans.
With the Titans well in control and only minutes remaining, the ball was passed to Tyrone Roberts about 20 metres out from the Sea Eagles line. He put up a bomb, as an exhausted Jake Trbojevic made a token effort to apply pressure. The kick landed and bounced into the arms of the trailing Roberts, who dummied, stepped and dived over for the Titan's seventh and final try of the evening. Any other point in the game and Roberts would have been on the grass wrapped up in a classic Trbojevic kick pressure tackle.
Fourth tackle: Arthur's harsh call
Criticism doesn't come much harsher than that aimed at the Eels by coach Brad Arthur after their disastrous effort against the Panthers on Thursday night. Calmly delivered, it should have hit his players right in the heart.
"I reckon we ran away from the collision instead of running into it," he said.
The implication was that his players looked for the easy way out, that they didn't put their bodies on the line for the cause. In such a closely contested competition it is often said that you only have to be slightly off your game to lose. If being off your game includes deliberately shirking your responsibilities that becomes completely unacceptable to the coach and fans of the club.
Fifth and last: Thompson wasted on Tigers' wing
The late withdrawal of Tigers fullback Moses Mbye from the clash with the Rabbitohs proved beyond a doubt that Corey Thompson is wasted on the wing. Thompson was a danger every time he handled the ball, breaking 14 tackles and running 187 metres, 43 of them after contact.
He scored the Tigers first try following some slick trickery from Benji Marshall and generally provided a lot more spark from the back than we've seen all season from Mbye. The 29 year-old Queenslander, off contract at the end of this season, might never be mentioned when representative teams are being named, but he is the kind of full-effort player every fan loves to see running around for their club.
Handover: What was the point?
The curse of the first half field goal struck again with Dragons' halfback Ben Hunt kicking his team's final point against the Sharks as the first half came to an end at WIN Stadium. The one point allowed the Dragons to go to the break with a 9-8 lead.
There is the argument that you should take the point whenever you can in a closely fought contest. With the clock ticking down, there is a greater chance of potting a drop goal than there is of crossing for a try, but you have to wonder about the psychological message sent to the opposition. They jog off knowing full well they intend to score a lot more points in the second half, and thoroughly determined to make that one point totally insignificant.
The Sharks went on to score another 14 points in the second half to record a 22-9 victory. It continues a horror run for the Dragons who have now lost five straight and languish in 13th position on the ladder. They have the bye this weekend and coach Paul McGregor has a lot of work to do if he hopes to turn their season around.