First tackle: Officials mess up as Brown proves he's the Eels' weak link
The Eels have been travelling well on the back of an ever-improving spine, with Reed Mahoney, Clinton Gutherson and Mitchell Moses maturing into premiership quality players in their positions. Young five-eighth Dylan Brown is currently the weakest link and during their clash with the Roosters on Friday night he showed a couple of examples why.
In the 21st minute with the Eels leading 6-4 and well into the Roosters half the ball went to Brown on the left in a set play. He passed the ball a metre behind Gutherson where it found nothing but Bankwest Stadium turf, the ball was swooped on by Roosters forward Nat Butcher who sent winger Matt Ikuvalu on a 50 metre run to score his second try of the night.
Then, just before halftime, with Roosters five-eighth Drew Hutchison diving over the try line to ground the ball, Brown came across in cover and landed knees first on the outstretched Hutchison. He did some real damage to the young Rooster cracking ribs and puncturing his lung. Inexplicably the referee and bunker overlooked the indiscretion as they ruled on a knock on and a shoulder to the head of James Tedesco in the lead up.
Brown was put on report during the break, but should have been, at the very least, sent to the sin bin for ten minutes. He has been charged and will miss a minimum of three weeks during which he can work on his overall game.
Second tackle: Another brilliant winger keen to leave the wing
He is easily one of the best finishers in the game and Josh Addo-Carr put on a wingers' clinic in crossing for six tries against the depleted Rabbitohs. He so dominated his State of Origin opposite number Dane Gaigai, that the Queenslander only laid his hands on him during one of the six tries. Whether running onto passes on the outside, inside balls or regathering kicks, Addo-Carr knows his way to the try line and seldom misses.
He will arrive at Belmore in 2022 determined to pull on the Bulldogs fullback jersey. Even the greatest wingers in the game have a very real salary ceiling for their position. Clubs are much more willing to loosen the purse strings for the key position of fullback. This has led player managers to advise their clients that they are way too good to be wasted on the end of the backline. And the Bulldogs have fallen for it several times already as they search for a quality custodian.
Dallin Watene-Zelezniak came across from the Panthers' wing with the aim of wearing the Bulldogs No. 1. Corey Allen followed this year from the Rabbitohs hoping to wear the same jersey. They already had Will Hopoate who fancied himself as a fullback. Nick Cotric has come across from the Raiders' wing looking to play anywhere but there and ironically they have one specialist fullback, in Nick Meaney, who they play on the wing. Next season Bulldogs coach Trent Barrett will have a backline full of wingers who are too good to play on the wing, with Addo-Carr the best of the lot.
Third tackle: One-eyed alien scores freakish try for Cowboys
Kyle Feldt scored a try in the third minute of the Cowboys game against the Broncos that simply defied logic. Feldt took the ball at the end of a backline move ten metres out with very little room to move and motored towards the line. Three Broncos players converged and wrapped him up short of the chalk. It was a great defensive effort, that looked like a try-saver and absolutely should have been.
Then from the pile of players emerged an arm, an arm with a ball at the end of it, rising up like the eye of an alien beast, searching for the try line. Having spotted a patch of chalk covered turf the arm rolled over the pack and planted the ball for the try.
Commentator Greg Alexander said he had never seen anything like it in his lifetime of playing and watching the game. It was an incredible effort by Feldt and ultimately proved vital, as the Cowboys went on to win by a late field goal.
Fourth tackle: Top teams show no mercy
It may only be Round 9, but the top teams appear to have stepped up the intensity to finals level already. Last year's Grand Finalists the Storm and Panthers combined to score a ruthless total of 98 points last week. Neither side have a merciful bone in their bodies and both were intent on scoring as many tries as time allowed against the Rabbitohs and Sharks respectively.
More importantly to their coaches, both sides, despite their unbeatable positions, were ready to scramble to the very last tackle of the game to prevent their opponents scoring a single point. That hunger to protect the try line, by backing up your teammates to the very end, is a key ingredient of any premiership winning team.
Fifth and last: Near miss could have been very ugly
We saw a passage of play in the Tigers loss to the Titans that was both inspirational and terrifyingly dangerous all in a split second. Tigers winger David Nofoaluma was headed for the corner to score another try at Campbelltown when the Titans cover defence completely cleaned him up.
Led my man-giant David Fifita, fullback Alexander Brimsom and replacement centre Tanah Boyd, the Titans launched Nofoaluma beyond the corner post and crashing into the uncovered chain-mail fence and concrete drainage gutter. He hit the fence with considerable force and lay clutching at his leg for some time. There have been enough injuries happening on the field recently, the last thing the NRL needs is for a fence to come into play.
Handover: Bulldogs taking shortcuts everywhere
So when Benji Marshall feigns obstruction near his own line it's a penalty, but just a week later when Bulldogs forward Luke Thompson does the same thing, it is ruled play on, try to Dragons forward Paul Vaughan.
Rabbitohs veteran half Marshall was lauded for his craftiness by some and criticised by others for making a mockery of the obstruction rule. But, almost universally, it was agreed that the rules were the rules and they had to be black and white to ensure consistency.
Of course there was a slight difference between the two cases. Ben Hunt played the ball, so his presence in the defensive line was acceptable and as soon as he saw the runner heading back towards the ruck he did everything he could to get through the line and out of the way. Unlike Marshall, Thompson didn't sell the obstruction well enough. Instead of colliding with Hunt he was too busy pointing at him as he moved out of the way and Vaughan stormed through. Thompson had a perfectly clear shot at tackling Vaughan, but preferred instead to stand there gesticulating and yelling at the referee.
It was just another example of the Bulldogs taking shortcuts and failing to do even the little things as well as any of the top teams.