NRL Round 6 Hits and Misses: Hastings shows Tigers the way

There was plenty to talk about out of Round 6 of the NRL, from a player shining on a losing team, to the Raiders imploding, a couple of dodgy refereeing calls, and the upset of the season.

We take a look back at some of the biggest hits and misses of the weekend.

HITS

Hastings shows Tigers the way

The professionalism and sheer competitiveness of Jackson Hastings came to the fore on Easter Monday, as Wests Tigers broke their drought with a largely unexpected victory over the Eels. Coach Michael Maguire moved Hastings, who has missed a large chunk of the season through suspension, into the halfback role, pushing maligned half Luke Brooks out to five-eighth. It worked wonders for the Tigers as Hastings took control of the team, allowing Brooks to work his magic without the stifling game management responsibilities. The victory certainly relieved a lot of the immediate pressure from Maguire.

"It's pretty special," Maguire said of the win. "I'm really pleased for my players.

"I've got a committed group here and the last month with results things haven't gone our way.

"We had a bit of a tinker with the team and Jacko adds to what Brooksy is doing."

The Tigers are not exactly set to break their finals drought just yet, but the game marked a significant step in turning things around. If Hastings can continue to perform at this level, the Tigers will at least shake their "easy-beats" status.

- Darren Arthur

Siosifa Talakai is the real deal

Nicho Hynes has been the headline act at Cronulla this season and Cameron Munster was the star of the show in Melbourne's win over the Sharks on Saturday night. But the next most impressive player in that game was back-rower-turned-centre Siosifa Talakai, who has been a revelation since being shifted out wide by the Sharks this season.

Two weeks ago he finished with a massive 17 tackle breaks in a dominant display against Newcastle's Dane Gagai -- up until that point arguably the form centre of the competition -- and against Melbourne he showed he wasn't just a wrecking ball. Some silky passing led directly to two tries and he scored another, finishing the game with 182 run metres and eight tackle busts to boot.

New coach Craig Fitzgibbon has got his forward pack firing and Hynes and Matt Moylan are playing as well as they ever have in the halves, but Talakai could be the secret weapon that helps take Cronulla from top eight side to genuine premiership threats.

- Dominic Brock

Cowboys defence unrecognisable in 2022

In 2021, the Cowboys conceded a whopping 189 points through six rounds -- the second-worst defensive record in the league. Only eventual wooden spooners the Bulldogs conceded more.

This season, North Queensland have let in 89 points -- the second-best defensive record in the league. Only the unbeaten Panthers have conceded fewer points.

The worst defeat in that run last season was a 48-10 flogging by Cronulla, with North Queensland fielding a line-up on that day that has been almost entirely overhauled. Hooker Reece Robson was the only player involved in that game who played the same role for the Cowboys in this past weekend, with four others (Scott Drinkwater, Valentine Holmes, Coen Hess and Jordan McLean) playing different roles in the 17. Part of that is due to injuries, while the Cowboys have also unearthed a few young guns and brought in a few savvy recruits.

Todd Payten's line-up decisions have largely come up trumps so far this year, but his work on the defensive side of things could be the basis for a genuine charge towards the finals.

- Dominic Brock

MISSES

Second-half fades a nightmare for Raiders

Ricky Stuart's reign as Canberra Raiders coach has been an inconsistent one -- from the highs of reaching the 2019 grand final to the lows of four 10th-placed finishes. The one consistent trend in that time? A reputation for struggling in the second half.

Whether it's down to fitness, tactics, a lack of composure or just bad luck, the Raiders have a worrying tendency to let their opponents back into the contest no matter how well they played in the first half. They did it again on Thursday against the Cowboys, with a 12-0 lead transforming into an 18-12 home defeat. Stuart labelled his team's start to the second half as "pathetic".

They've blown double-digit leads seven times since 2020 -- more than any other club -- and have struggled badly after halftime in all but one of their games this year. The outlier was a stunning, record-equalling 24-22 comeback win over the Titans, which appeared to come out of nowhere.

Take out that impressive result and the numbers are bleak -- outside that Titans win the Raiders have outscored their opponents 50-42 in the first halves of games but have been outscored 76-14 in the second.

There are a couple of excuses this year -- before the first round of the season was done they'd already lost star hooker Josh Hodgson and new halfback Jamal Fogarty to long-term injuries. But with a star-studded forward pack and a Clive Churchill Medal-winning rep player in Jack Wighton leading the backline it's fair to expect more from this Raiders side than we're seeing.

- Dominic Brock

Another referee head scratcher

With nine minutes to go in the first half and the Panthers on the attack against the Broncos, Nathan Cleary put up a high kick on the last tackle. It was allowed to bounce and was caught by Panthers centre Stephen Crichton, who was immediately wrapped up by two Broncos defenders. With the referee screaming that it was still the last tackle, one of the Broncos players spun out of the tackle with the ball in his hands. The referee penalised him him for stripping the ball in a two-man tackle.

What on earth had the tackled player lost and what on earth had the Broncos gained? He was held and due to hand the ball to one of the Broncos players anyway. He obviously had no incentive to hang onto the ball either. It was a ridiculous call, which fortunately didn't result in any points to the Panthers, who couldn't crack the Broncos defence in the ensuing six tackles.

- Darren Arthur

From bad to worse

You have to wonder -- 17 minutes into the Raiders' clash with the Cowboys, the ball came squirting out of a tackle, with one tackle left in the set and the Raiders attacking. The referee blew a penalty for what, at first glance, looked like a pretty obvious case of defensive stupidity.

As if to only compound the error, the Cowboys decided to challenge the referee's call. Slow motion replays showed Cowboys forward Reuben Cottee scooping the ball clear of the tackled Raiders' grasp. It was a stupid play and it seemed as though the captain's call came late, after a replay had been shown on the big screen at the ground. It was the same angle we all saw and it defied belief that a captain's challenge was wasted.

- Darren Arthur

A costly line-ball decision

The Sharks were looking good against the Storm with under 10 minutes remaining in the first half, until Cameron McInnes did his best to drag down Storm fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen in a one-on-one tackle, 10 metres out from the Melbourne line. In making the tackle and swivelling around Papenhuyzen, McInnes landed on his lower leg and ankle. As the Storm trainer came on to treat the distraught fullback, a review of the footage resulted in a Storm penalty for a hip drop tackle. It would be interesting to hear from the NRL what McInnes was expected to do differently.

The Storm took their relieving penalty, received a dubious six-again call on halfway, before Cameron Munster cut through Nicho Hynes to score a try. The score was 6-6 at the time of the match-turning call and the Storm went on to win comfortably. Papenhuyzen managed to convert Munster's try and despite a report from the sheds at halftime that his ankle wasn't 100 percent, he managed to complete most of the game before an early shower.

- Darren Arthur