NRL Six Again finals week 3: Papalii, Keary lucky not to miss grand final

First tackle: Match review generosity

Josh Papalii and Luke Keary are lucky the NRL Match Review Panel have seemingly taken it upon themselves to be lenient on offences that might have otherwise seen a player miss the grand final. Papalii wasn't charged at all for his tackle that nearly removed the head of Rabbitohs fullback Adam Doueihi. There were mitigating circumstances, with Doueihi dipping and first contact deemed to have been with the ball, but there have been similar shoulder-to-the-chin tackles which have resulted in suspensions in the past.

With Keary they have been particularly generous, charging him with a grade 1 careless high tackle, which will result in just a fine. I'm not sure how Keary's actions could be deemed careless. He firstly tore out a chunk of Felise Kaufusi's hair and then went back in with a swinging arm to Kaufusi's jaw. And Keary didn't miss - Kaufusi left the field and failed his HIA.

The Storm lost one of their best attacking forwards and the review panel somehow thought it was only a grade 1 careless tackle? Could it be that they just wanted to avoid the annual calls to change the system so that players don't miss grand finals? Well, Kaufusi is missing the grand final and a clump of hair.

Second tackle: Hooker battle decides match

There was plenty of talk leading up to the Rabbitohs preliminary clash with the Raiders about the two hookers. Damien Cook and Josh Hodgson are two of the best hookers in the game, both regularly playing huge roles in determining their team's fortunes. Which of the two would come out on top?

Hodgson was so good, particularly in the first half, that he would have outpointed Cook at his very best. Unfortunately for the Rabbitohs Cook was far from his best. On at least three occasions Cook's dummy-half passes found the turf. His running game wasn't as sharp as usual and he put in an awful kick during a key moment towards the end of the game.

For his part Hodgson was brilliant. He set up the first try of the match after stripping the ball from his opponent. Towards the end of that set of six, he put in a grubber kick which was scooped up by Rabbitohs centre Campbell Graham. Hodgson followed through and thumped the ball from his grasp, allowing Jarrod Croker to score.

But it was an act of desperation in defence that left fans and commentators amazed. The Rabbitohs worked a slick backline move from a scrum 10 metres out from the Raiders line, Cody Walker cut through and was actually over the line when Hodgson, who had packed into the scrum at lock, appeared from nowhere to strip the ball from his grasp.

If Hodgson can reach those heights again next week, the Raiders are in with a very real chance of beating the Roosters.

Third tackle: HIA out the window

As good as Josh Hodgson was against the Rabbitohs, he probably shouldn't have been on the field for at least 10 minutes of his dominant first half. Hodgson went into a tackle with his head in the wrong position and was sent reeling to the ground.

He regained his feet, but was clearly wearing a pair of wobbly boots. All year, in every other game, it has been clear that a player showing any signs of stumbling following contact to the head has to leave the field for a HIA test. If the referees miss it, the doctor on the sideline is supposed to pick it up in replays.

Hodgson shook it off and went onto to play a match-winning role for the Raiders. The new concussion rules are there to protect the players. No one wants to leave the field, especially in such a big game. What happens next week if someone obviously cops a knock but looks to shake it off?

Fourth tackle: Opening tackle sin binnings

You couldn't have asked for a more fiery start to the preliminary final between the Roosters and Storm with Nelson Asofa-Solomona and Siosiua Taukeiaho coming to blows following the very first tackle.

Asofa-Solomona was given the ball for the first hit-up from the kick off and ran directly into Taukeiaho. The two became tangled and as Asofa-Solomona rose to his feet he gave Taukeiaho a shove to the head. Taukeiaho wasn't happy, shaped to throw a punch and it is debatable as to whether he actually did. When the dust settled from the scuffle, the referee sent them both to the sin bin for a 10-minute rest. Just 20 seconds into the game.

Fifth and last: Luck of the Green Machine

The Raiders' victory over the Rabbitohs was not without a share of luck. Their second try four minutes after halftime broke a 6-6 deadlock. Raiders fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad leapt for a bomb and knocked it backwards 10 metres out from the Rabbitohs line.

The ball bounced straight into the arms of Jack Wighton who fumbled it, but managed to get his boot to it before it hit the ground. He chased his "kick" through, regathered and dived over to give the Raiders a 10-6 lead.

Handover: Grand final replay a flop

The intensity was there, but the quality not so much as the Roosters took on the Storm for the right to play Canberra in the grand final. The Storm finished the season as runaway minor premiers on the back of controlling the play-the-ball and stifling opponents with their defence. So it wasn't too surprising that their preliminary final clash was a dour affair.

The Roosters looked frustrated as they tried desperately to unleash their deadly backline. It became a real arm wrestle and the Roosters can expect more of the same in the grand final. Along with their well-practiced stripping technique, the Raiders are up there with the Storm for wrestling in the ruck. It has proven effective throughout the year and it might be their best chance of stopping the Roosters from winning back-to-back titles.