NRL Round 9 Six Again: Storm find another infuriating ploy

First tackle: The Storm come up with another rule stretcher

For years Melbourne Storm have been successful at stretching the rules to their advantage. Whenever a new rule or adjudication crackdown has been announced, there was a feeling amongst fans that the Storm brains trust would be hitting the whiteboard to come up with the best way to exploit the change.

On the weekend against the Raiders we saw the latest result of their constant innovation and adaptation. Last season the NRL introduced shot clocks for several of the game's more menial activities. Scrums and drop-outs were deemed to be the source of too much time wasting during games. This season with the high defensive loads experienced by teams under the new 'six again' rule, a goal line drop-out can be a crucial time to regather thoughts, breath and structure. The shot clock negates that, unless of course you have an injured player attended to while you are waiting to kick the ball back into play.

We saw the Storm try this twice against the Raiders, with the small Canberra crowd leaving no doubt about how they felt about it. The second time they attempted the ploy, they got the timing wrong with the injury not being apparent until after the clock had started ticking. The referee insisted that Ryley Jacks leave the field for treatment until play resumed. Cameron Smith still managed to waste a lot of time discussing the details of the ruling with the referee until finally taking the kick.

Second tackle: Roosters Ikuvalu leads wingers' romp

Just when you think you have the capabilities of the Roosters measured, just when a couple of key injuries looks to have them a touch vulnerable, just when a two-hour delayed flight and the late withdrawal of Brett Morris would appear to leave them susceptible to a Cowboys upset, they go and pull a Matt Ikuvalu out of their sleeve.

Ikuvalu, whom few had ever heard of previously, took up Brett's wing position wearing jersey number 21. He proceeded to leave his name imprinted on the memories of all that watched by scoring five tries for the Roosters in another convincing victory. This is a player who has had no match time anywhere since before the coronavirus disruption. This a player who will be dropped as soon as Brett Morris recovers from his groin strain.

Ikuvalu wasn't the only winger to have a great weekend. Making his debut for the Panthers, Charlie Staines crossed for four tries, while for the Rabbitohs, veteran Dane Gagai grabbed a hat-trick of his own.

Third tackle: Fine line between passion and recklessness

Five minutes into the Tigers loss to the Rabbitohs, Josh Reynolds chased through a loose ball and tried to kick it further. He missed and instead kicked Souths centre Campbell Graham in the head. As he was checking on the results of his errant boot, Souths fullback Latrell Mitchell charged in and tried to remove his head with a swinging arm.

Both players have accepted two-week suspensions rather than risk a third week for an unsuccessful challenge of their charges.

Reynolds is often lauded for his passion, his enthusiasm and his competitiveness, but he was also derided whilst at the Bulldogs for his ability to lose as many matches as he helped win, through countless thoughtless acts.

Seconds before he swung the boot, Reynolds should have been able to tell that Graham was going to have his head somewhere near the ball. When enthusiasm overrides good judgement, it becomes dangerous and costly.

Fourth tackle: Woods leads awful defensive effort

We saw some terribly soft defence in the Panthers' victory over the Sharks on Saturday afternoon, but none softer than Cronulla's goal line effort to stop Billy Burns in the 55th minute. Burns received the ball ten out for a simple hit-up, he stepped off his left foot, swerved and the only contact made on him was the forearm of Aaron Woods which smashed into his nose.

He fell to the ground a metre out, slightly stunned and not a single Sharks player made a move to fall on him. He scrambled over the line to score before having a trainer move his nose back into the middle of his face.

Woods typified a very bad afternoon for the Sharks. Not long after the Burns try, he dropped the ball cold, reached out to arm grab Dylan Edwards as he raced past and finished the movement with ten minutes in the sin bin for knocking over the player racing to be dummy-half.

Fifth and last: basic knowledge

There are some basics of the game that players should have repeatedly hammered into their heads for use when the situation arises. The bouncing ball in the in-goal area only needs to be forced to kill it, there is no need to sweep it over the dead ball line. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad was reminded of that early in the Raiders loss to the Storm on Saturday night, with a costly try being the result of his actions.

The other basic is that a player diving to the ground to avoid being tackled into his own in-goal area, should not be touched at all by the pursuing players. He has committed a voluntary tackle and, for some reason, touching him at all saves the referee from having to blow that long-ignored penalty. Simply stand there next to the prone player and the referee will, at the very least, be forced to tell the player to play on.

Handover: Too many fish out of water at Bulldogs

If you want to see the frustration of Bulldogs fans encapsulated in one passage of play, then it came early in the second half against the Broncos on Saturday. Brisbane five-eighth Anthony Milford ran into the defence on the Bulldogs 40 metre line, before putting a low kick in towards the corner. Christian Crichton, possibly the worst defensive winger in the game, turned to chase and soon lost his five metre head start in the process.

Jamayne Isaako flew past him and only had to beat the Bulldogs fullback to the ball. Where was fullback Dallin Watene-Zelezniak? He started his chase from in front of the goal posts, desperately out of position. Fullback 101 has you tracking the ball across the field, Watene-Zelezniak was 10 metres from where he should have been.

Apologists for Dean Pay will explain that he simply doesn't have the cattle to perform any better. A closer look shows that he has too many players playing out of position. The two best wingers at the club are Watene-Zelezniak and Reimis Smith, Pay has them playing fullback and centre. Nick Meaney was brought down from Newcastle as a fullback, he's languishing on the wing. Lachlan Lewis has played a lot of lower grade football in the centres, he would certainly shore up the defence out wide. If you don't have high-quality players, you certainly don't strengthen their contributions by asking them to play out of position.