First tackle: Annus horribilis continues for Chooks
The terrible run of injuries continued over the weekend, with the Roosters copping the worst of it with Lindsay Collins and Brett Morris both out for the season with ACL tears. At 25, having debuted for Queensland last year, Collins has time to make a full recovery and continue his career, it would be much tougher for 34 year-old Morris.
Morris was having yet another stellar season, having proven over the past few years that he deserves to be remembered among the best outside backs to ever play the game. A winger by trade, but versatile enough to play fullback when needed, he was in the centres for Sunday's game against the Knights as Roosters coach Trent Robinson shuffled his remaining players to make a complete backline. It now appears that his career is over and the road to the finals has never been steeper for the Roosters.
"It's one of the proudest and worst sheds I've been in," Robinson said after the game.
"You've got a guy that's a legend of our game, one of the best wingers we've seen and he's possibly just finished his career.
"It's just flattening, extremely flattening."
They somehow must regroup this week as they face the red-hot Eels at Bankwest on Friday night. It looks likely that we will see the debut of rugby prodigy Joseph Suaalii, as it will be all hands on deck for Robinson's tri-colours.
Second tackle: Tough time to lose a half
The injury Gods have not been kind to the Raiders either over the past couple of years, but on Thursday night they decided to be particularly cruel. Towards the end of their lengthy pre-game warm-up, halfback George Williams hobbled from the field with a hamstring strain. Williams is instrumental in everything the Raiders do with the ball and with captain Jarrod Croker out injured, he would have been their goal kicker as well.
It wasn't until the Raiders were lined up to leave the dressing room, with the Viking clap building to a crescendo in the chilly Canberra air, that coach Ricky Stuart whispered in Elliott Whitehead's ear that he'd be playing five-eighth. Stuart moved Jack Wighton to halfback and he did an admirable job in leading a fired up Raiders to an unlikely halftime lead. The Bunnies skipped away after the break before the Raiders mounted a late fightback which was killed off by two disallowed Wighton tries.
Wighton's first effort, near the posts with ten minutes remaining, was disallowed thanks to some cunning play by veteran Benji Marshall. With Wighton weaving his way towards the defence, Marshall deliberately moved in behind a Canberra forward who was parked in the line, throwing his arms in the air as the Origin star cut through to dive over.
Replays showed Marshall could have run a more direct line to Wighton, but managed to obstruct himself with the slightest of detours instead. The locals weren't happy, particularly when Wighton's second effort was disallowed by an equally marginal, however correct, obstruction call.
Third tackle: Walters tirade works, eventually
Broncos coach Kevin Walters spoke before their clash against the Titans about returning home with the kind of defensive line speed they showed two weeks earlier against the Panthers.
Within 13 minutes his words were tattered and torn and strewn across the Suncorp turf. The Titans had crossed for their fourth try, running straight through the heart of the Broncos defence. In doing so they completed just their seventh set of tackles. The Broncos defence was in disarray.
As the Titans players celebrated their 22-0 lead, you could feel the anger bubbling in the crowd, Broncos fans are used to success and effort, certainly not abject humiliation. Then the tide turned, the Broncos saw more of the ball, the Titans would not score again until the 71st minute, and Water's men piled on 36.
The Broncos went from zeroes to heroes, allowing just one more late try, to win 36-28. I'm sure Walters was happy and relieved by the result, if not the path they trod to get there.
Fourth tackle: Eels spine almost complete
You can't win a premiership without a quality spine and you certainly need a top-notch No.9 at the heart of everything you do. In Reed Mahoney, the Eels might have found the man to take them all the way in 2021 or beyond, but does the rest of the spine measure up?
Mahoney started the game against the Bulldogs by charging down a Kyle Flanagan kick. Shortly after he spun through the defence near halfway, sprinted into the clear, before sending Clinton Gutherson over for the first try of the game. He was busy throughout, topped the tackle count with 47 and had the Eels on the front foot with his slick dummy half delivery.
Gutherson at fullback had another blinder, scoring two tries, with three line breaks and 261 metres in a man-of-the-match performance.
So we know the Eels have the hooker, fullback, and on his day Mitchell Moses is a match-winning halfback. Dylan Brown at five-eigth shows glimpses of spark, but still has some way to go before being the premiership winning fourth piece of the puzzle. Still the Eels are looking good and have a chance to make a statement this weekend against the battered Roosters.
Fifth and last: The better of two halves
Little wonder the Roosters so readily released Kyle Flanagan to the Bulldogs this year, when they knew they had Sam Walker in their back pocket. The Roosters weren't ready to use Walker so early this year, but they were forced to through injuries and he has been a sensation, more than delivering on all the hype that surrounded his junior development.
He scored a try against the Knights, as well as four try assists including a brilliant effort with 18 minutes to go when he sent Josh Morris over with a clever kick pass after he backed up a break. Walker possesses so much natural talent at 19 years of age, it's frightening what he might achieve with a couple of seasons under his belt. He also kicked five from seven attempts.
Meanwhile over at the Bulldogs Flanagan is impressing no one, with his pedestrian play and uninspired kicking game. Flanagan is playing behind a badly beaten pack each week, but is completely lacking the little touches of freakish brilliance we see regularly in Walker. The Roosters knew what they were doing.
Handover: Finally we've Cini something promising for Tigers
It's not all doom and gloom for the Tigers with a very impressive debut performance from Zac Cini, who was called up to play on the wing after James Roberts dropped out with injury. Cini had been tearing defences apart at fullback for Western Suburbs Magpies in the NSW Cup before being named by coach Michael Maguire who is madly searching for answers to a miserable start to the season.
Cini had a large group of family and friends in the crowd in Wollongong to cheer him on and they weren't disappointed. He made a try saving tackle in the first half and was impressive with the ball, making several strong returns. Most importantly he played with the passion of a player excited and very grateful for the opportunity.
He was denied a try early in the second half by a Joey Leilua knock on, but a few minutes later he was on the end of a backline move from a scrum ten metres out, to dive over in the corner. The section of the grandstand packed with his supporters erupted in celebration, as the Tigers went to a 10-8 lead, before eventually winning their second game of the season 16-8.