NRL Six Again: Late hit crackdown goes overboard

First tackle: Going too far on late hits

Most would say Wests Tigers forward Luke Garner and Bulldogs forward Chris Smith were unlucky to be penalised for what were deemed late hits on Saturday night. It was a shock when Garner was sent to the sin bin for his hit on Lachlan Lewis in the first half. When Smith tried to pull out of his tackle on Ryan Matterson in the second half the referee almost apologetically suggested he had to go to the bin because Garner had been binned.

To hear yesterday that both players had been charged by the Match Review Committee was just astonishing. Garner will miss a game thanks to carry over points, while Smith will be clear to play if he takes the early guilty plea.

Neither player made high contact and neither were particularly late. Garner did rock Lewis, whose head snapped back slightly, but the Smith "hit" wouldn't have knocked the icing sugar off an apple turnover.

Bulldogs coach Dean Pay wasn't impressed and suggested that the referees had lost touch with the game.

"I didn't think there was much in it. They've (referees) just got to have a feel for the game; I think that's the biggest part of it," Pay said.

"There's toughness in our game and people want to see that.

"We don't want to see the cheap shots, and I'm not going down that road, but the toughness in the game and getting a feel for the game."

Second tackle: Flying Ponga stops Gutho

Clint Gutherson scored a first-half double to set the Eels on their way to victory over the Knights, but Kalyn Ponga was brilliant in stopping him from scoring two more.

Twice the Eels custodian looked certain to cross only to be denied by Ponga. The first saw him within a metre of the line on the end of an Eels backline movement before being launched over the sideline on the shoulder of a flying Ponga. It was of course a shoulder charge, as Ponga tucked his arms away, but he'll escape sanction based on the Slater precedent.

In the second half a brilliant Shaun Lane pass put the Eels in the clear. Ponga was drawn, the inside pass found Gutherson and the Knights fullback turned the wrong way before starting his pursuit, only 15 metres out from his line. It was remarkable that he was able to round up and drag Gutherson to ground.

The Eels scored in the ensuing tackles and went on to further entrench themselves in the Top 8. The Knights were left to drag themselves up the freeway to Newcastle, their once-promising season in tatters.

Third tackle: DCE's brain snap a major turning point

With 19 minutes remaining in the first half and down 4-0, the Sea Eagles received the ball on the Warriors try-line following a handling error by Roger Tuivasa-Scheck. The ball was spun quickly to Daly Cherry-Evans who inexplicably put a grubber kick through to the corner. His winger Jorge Tafua couldn't get out of first gear in the slippery conditions, and was nowhere near the ball as it rolled over the touch-in-goal line to give the Warriors a seven tackle set.

The Warriors worked their way down the field and crossed for their second try of the match to lead 10-0. Cherry-Evans is one of the NRL's most experienced and gifted halfbacks, he saw an opportunity to set up a try after being denied by the Warriors' goal line defence for 27 tackles. It is easy to be critical of the kick from the lounge room.

From the following kick-off the Warriors worked their way back up field to score another try, taking them to 16-0. Cherry-Evans' errant kick was a turning point early in Auckland, from which the Sea Eagles never fully recovered. They fought back to give the Warriors a scare before running out of time with the scoreboard recording a 24-16 Warriors win.

Fourth tackle: Wounded Tiger proves costly

Tigers captain Moses Mbye proved beyond a doubt that you shouldn't take a serious warm-up injury into an NRL game.

Mbye was spotted receiving treatment in the Tigers dressing sheds after pulling up during the pre-match warm-up. He was obviously cleared to take the field against his old team, the Bulldogs, but didn't last long.

After his first involvement he looked dusty and was attended to by a Tigers trainer. Shortly after he threw the final pass in the Tigers' first try, but did so on the hop and hit the turf immediately after releasing the ball. He hobbled from the field with a hip flexor strain, leaving the Tigers a man short.

The error in not subbing him out of the team was only compounded when Robbie Farah hobbled off in the first half with a leg injury. To rub further salt into the wound, Paul Momorovski, who took over Mbye's kicking duties, missed two relatively easy conversions late in the game, which could have reversed the result.

Fifth and last: Storm happy to be penalised

Were we witnessing the latest evolution of Melbourne Storm's ongoing journey through the realms of rugby league manipulation? With the first 12 points on the board, the Storm spent most of the first half happily giving away penalties.

The first three penalties of the game went to the Storm, and with that possession advantage they managed to score two tries and a penalty goal. The next nine penalties before the break went to the Rabbitohs, with most of them in and around the ruck as the Storm went about completely disrupting the flow of the game. The referees had a couple of discussions with Cameron Smith, but for some reason they weren't tempted into using the sin bin for repeated infringements.

The Storm seemed happy to be backed up against their tryline where their defence was at its most organised and desperate. Souths could only cross for one try to leave the score 12-6 at the break.

Four minutes into the second half and Felise Kaufusi was penalised and sin binned for a professional foul. The Storm would only earn the ire of the referee two more times after that, as the final penalty count ended up 12-7 in the Rabbitohs favour.

This column has been critical in the past of referees giving multiple back-to-back penalties against one team with no respite. On Sunday the Storm were almost demanding to be penalised repeatedly. The only criticism of the referees being that they didn't take further action sooner.

Handover: Roosters and Storm just a class above

The Raiders started their big clash with the Roosters a little shaky. On their first possession, with the Roosters charging up in defence, the Raiders forwards were being stopped in their tracks. After a sloppy play-the-ball hooker, Josh Hodgson went on a crossfield run and was absolutely smashed by Latrell Mitchell.

The Roosters scored the first try with James Tedesco carving them up on the edge of the ruck before sending Victor Radley over. The signs were ominous, but the Raiders did exceptionally well to bounce back, scoring the next two tries to take a 12-6 lead.

From there the class of the Roosters shone through as they crossed for the next three four-pointers. Daniel Tupou's second try came from a freakish looping pass from Tedesco as he fell to his knees in a backline movement. The Raiders fought on, but were unable to bridge the gap.

The Storm were tested by the Rabbitohs, but managed to frustrate them out of the game, before halves Cameron Munster and Brodie Croft scored second half tries to ensure victory. Both the Raiders and Rabbitohs have plenty to work on before they meet these two in the finals.