First tackle: Madge under fire as Tigers flop
So Michael Maguire is under pressure following the Tigers' insipid performance against the Sea Eagles. There always has to be at least one coach under the hammer every year as the media searches for drama and tension at a club to explain a losing team. Every weekend, half the teams in the competition have a loss, someone has to be losing. Of course no fan wants their team taking more than their fair share of those losses, but it comes down more to how their team loses.
Fans of rugby league appreciate how tough the game is, but most also remember a time when their heroes gave their all without the substantial financial rewards we see today. It brings a heightened sense of frustration when we watch players, that we know are making more money in a year than we'll make in ten, and we don't see the commitment and passion we feel is warranted.
Tigers fans are definitely not seeing value for money from their players and their collective ire is once again being turned towards the coach. If the coach can't get these well-paid players performing at their best, then the solution must be a new coach. It doesn't help when recent recruitment decisions have only added to the underperforming frustrations. Rugby league fans simply want to see their team play with as much passion for the club as they have in supporting it. They can't stomach players putting in half-hearted efforts before walking away to count their cash.
Rightly or wrongly, the coach usually takes the blame and the fall. The problem for the Tigers is that they have tried just about every coaching style in the game and still can't find the magic.
Second tackle: Scrum twist opens the way
The Panthers scored a try 67 minutes into their Thursday night game, which came from a clever scrum move ten metres out, right in front of the Knights' posts. It was nothing new, the lock picked up the ball from the base, skirted away before turning the ball back inside for Dylan Edwards, who appeared from nowhere to dive over under the posts. We've seen this move work before, notably for a key Sharks try in the 2016 Grand Final, but the secret to success was really obvious in the Panthers' execution.
The magic at the base of the scrum can only work if the front row plays a vital role. Their job is to stay tightly bound and twist the opposing front row ever so slightly away from the action. The Knights backrowers, who must stay bound until the ball is out, pull their heads out of the scrum to find themselves stranded on the wrong side of the action. In the split second it takes for Edwards to loom up on the inside, the defence has no one available to plug the hole.
It has to be well executed and considering the Sharks were pulled back after pushing the Bulldogs pack off the ball on Saturday, it has to be subtle. The Panthers carried it out to perfection, like most things they have done so far this season.
Third tackle: Veterans shine on the Gold Coast
What an entertaining game we saw between the Rabbitohs and Titans on Friday night -- with plenty of open footy and some spectacular tries -- and it was two old hands that really stood out.
Souths replacement Benji Marshall and Titans winger Corey Thompson were neck and neck for man of the match honours in the enthralling tussle.
Thompson was busy all night with scything runs and solid defence. He set up a length of the field try in the first half and his powerful second half surge set up the Tyrone Peachey try which levelled the scores at 30, with a little over ten minutes remaining.
The Titans had turned an early 10-6 deficit into a 24-10 halftime lead. After the break it was the Marshall show for the Bunnies as he set up tries and scored two of his own. The referee helped, giving the visitors all the ball they needed with a never ending stream of tackle resets. They moved to 30-24 before Peachey's try locked them up, then Marshall both set up and scored his second try down the left side of the field. A couple of late penalty goals made sure the Bunnies secured the two competition points in the high-scoring clash.
Of course, young forward David Fifita also deserves a mention for his second hat-trick this season, all scored in the first half. Fifita is certainly earning his money at the Titans and has proven just about unstoppable when he gets going.
Fourth tackle: 18th man rule comes into play
We saw our first use of the 18th man substitution over the weekend, with three teams needing an extra player after foul play.
In the Bulldogs game against the Sharks, Siosifa Talakai launched a shoulder at a charging Matt Doorey. It made contact with the head and saw both players leave the field, Doorey to fail a HIA and Talakai to the bin for 10 minutes. The hit resulted in the first use of the 18th man rule with Brandon Wakeham joining the Bulldogs line-up. Talakai now faces up to six weeks on the sideline for the hit.
We then saw a hit on Melbourne Storm's George Jennings by Josh Curren which saw Jennings knocked out of the game. It seemed pretty obvious from the replay that the two were involved in an accidental head clash as Jennings dipped in the tackle. The bunker saw it differently and despite protests, Curren was put in report and sent to the bin for ten minutes. Jennings was ruled out and the Storm were able to bring in their 18th man, Chris Lewis. Curran could miss up to two weeks for his tackle.
In the Dragons' Anzac Day clash with the Roosters, we saw James Tedesco hit high by Jordan Pereira. Tedesco left the field and failed his HIA, with the Roosters calling on 18th man Matt Ikuvalu to fil the void. Pereira faces up to five games on the sidelines if he challenges the charge and loses.
The weekend showed that the new rule is a good one. In all three examples the team that was able to maintain its full contingent and went on to win the game.
Fifth and last: Broncos highlight early
The Broncos' first try against the Eels was a cleverly worked one-two punch by two of their best forwards. Ten metres out from the Eels try line Payne Haas drew four defenders as he crashed towards scoring. The Eels defenders untangled themselves, no doubt pleased with their efforts, and fully expecting the Broncos dummy-half to spread the ball to take advantage of the concentration of Eels around the ruck. Instead he turned the ball inside to a rampaging Tevita Pangai Junior who charged directly into the same group of defenders.
They were caught on their heels and unable to stop the sheer bulk of the man. It was about the only highlight from the game for the Broncos, who went on to capitulate to the Eels. Talk is that Kevin Walters has had enough and will clean the roster out. He has a tough job ahead of him as he battles to turn the once-great club around.
Handover: Emotions spill over after Dogs first win
It was good to see the emotional response from Trent Barrett at fulltime on Saturday as his winless Bulldogs finally brought home two competition points against the Sharks.
Barrett wiped tears from his eyes as he hugged his players after watching the game from the sidelines of Netstrata Jubilee Stadium. There is no doubting the enormous pressure he has been under to deliver at the club and there is no questioning the amount of effort that he has put into his role. The relief and joy of seeing his players rally together to hold off a late Sharks charge, bubbled to the surface for all to see.
"That's the best win I have been involved in in my coaching career, and even as a player," Barrett said after the game.
Life as the Bulldogs head coach doesn't get any easier for him, next week they face the high-flying Eels at Bankwest Stadium. At least they won't have the ugly prospect of a winless season hanging over their heads.