NRL Round 9 Hits and Misses: Storm keep smashing records

Round 9 of the NRL season saw the Storm continue to score many more points than their opponents, the Warriors blow a perfect opportunity to upset the Sharks and match officials somehow miss a blatant knock-on from Panthers forward Viliame Kikau.

Read on as we take a look back at some of the biggest hits and misses of the weekend.

HITS

Scintillating Storm keep smashing records

Melbourne Storm appeared to be one of the major benefactors from the rule changes in the past couple of seasons, but they've continued to excel in attack even with the six-again rule wound back this year.

The 335 points they have scored this season is the most of any team through nine rounds -- ever -- eclipsing a mark set by the 1935 Roosters.

The Craig Bellamy era has been a remarkable one for the Storm, considering he's effectively had two superstar teams in his time at the club.

For years it was expected that Melbourne would struggle after the departures of club legends Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith, but instead they've thrived with Cameron Munster, Harry Grant, Ryan Papenhuyzen and Jahrome Hughes emerging as a new crop of elite players. It's unlikely the departure of Brandon Smith to the Roosters next year will slow them down much either.

In the short term, a hamstring injury to Papenhuyzen might slow their progress, especially with a massive Magic Round contest against the Panthers coming up this Saturday night.

- Dominic Brock

2022: Year of the halfback?

Halfback has long been considered the most important position on the footy field, but in recent years it hasn't always been the case. The fast-paced, touch football-style of the past two season brought about by the six-again rule helped ball runners like Tom Trbojevic dominate.

But this year the presence (or absence) of experienced halfbacks has seemingly shaped the fortunes of half the teams in the NRL.

The Broncos (Adam Reynolds), Sharks (Nicho Hynes), Cowboys (Chad Townsend) and Wests Tigers (Jackson Hastings) all recruited new halfbacks who immediately improved their team's fortunes.

Meanwhile the Rabbitohs (Reynolds), Knights (Mitchell Pearce) and Titans (Jamal Fogarty) let experienced No.7s leave and have struggled with inexperienced alternatives. Fogarty's season-ending injury has also coincided with a disastrous start to the season for his new club the Raiders.

The other teams filling out the top eight all possess highly rated halfbacks -- rep players Nathan Cleary, Jahrome Hughes, Mitchell Moses and Daly Cherry-Evans and future Origin player Sam Walker -- while Ben Hunt's excellent individual form has helped make the Dragons a potential finals candidate.

- Dominic Brock

Sharks pair set for time on sidelines

There was a send off and a sin binning in the Sharks miraculous victory over the Warriors on Sunday, but the penalties could so easily have been reversed. Sharks fullback Will Kennedy was sent off in the 16th minute after catching Reece Walsh with a lazy arm as he was side-stepped. It looked spectacular as Walsh's feet flew out from beneath him and it definitely deserved to be on report, but in reality there was no solid contact made and the Warriors fullback was fine.

The other incident in the second half was a little different. Jesse Ramien lined Warriors forward Euan Aitken up and planted a forceful shoulder directly on his jaw. Aitken was knocked out, dropping the ball as the Sharks players celebrated the big hit. Replays showed how bad the contact actually was, as Aitken was helped from the field. Perhaps the referee didn't want to have a second send-off for the night, but if Kennedy deserved to go, then so did Ramien.

They have both been hit with level-three charges. Kennedy will miss two matches with an early guilty plea and Ramien three games, as the centre already has a charge in 2022.

- Darren Arthur

MISSES

Hapless Warriors let golden opportunity slip

The Warriors won't get many chances to beat one of the NRL's top sides this season, but they had a huge opportunity to beat the Sharks on Sunday when Will Kennedy was sent off after just 16 minutes. And the immediate signs were good, with the New Zealand side running in two quick tries in the first five minutes with Kennedy off the field.

But, somehow, Cronulla wrested back control of the game and never gave it up -- even when Jesse Ramien was sin-binned after a shoulder charge to the face of Euan Aitken. For the following 10 minutes the Warriors had 13 players up against the Sharks' 11 and still couldn't get across the line.

It was one of the more frustrating performances of the season and the first time in 14 years a team has won a game despite being reduced to 12 men.

- Dominic Brock

Blatant knock-on overlooked in Panthers-Eels game

In the classic clash between the Panthers and Eels on Friday night, there appeared to be a clear miss from the match officials, in the lead up to the Panthers second try just before halftime. With time running low, the Panthers spread the ball left to the hard running Viliame Kikau. As he was being brought to ground by an Eels defender, the ball clearly spilled from his grasp, went forward with momentum and even bounced forward before Izack Tago sheepishly picked it up and continued to play. To everyone's surprise, the play was allowed to continue and two tackles later Taylan May swooped on a clever kick from Kikau to score in the corner, levelling the scores at 10.

Thankfully the massive blunder didn't take the impressive upset victory from the Eels. It seemed incredible that the referee, or nearby touch judge didn't have a clear view of the ball bouncing along the ground after Kikau had dropped it.

- Darren Arthur