Hits and Misses: Mitchell meltdown as Bunnies bounced by Knights

This week we take a look at the ongoing decline of the Rabbitohs, featuring an A-grade Latrell Mitchell meltdown, a dazzling three-try effort from Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and the wobbly Raiders trying to limp into the finals.

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


Knights brilliant as Bunnies self-implode

It was a huge day in Newcastle with a full house at McDonald Jones Stadium as the in-form Knights hosted the out of sorts Rabbitohs. Left winger Greg Marzhew had a real day out on the end of some Kalyn Ponga brilliance. He scored a hat trick before the break to take Newcastle out to a 12-0 lead. Ponga was his own worst enemy when it came to goal kicking, putting Marzhew over out wide each time and missing all three conversions from near the sideline.

After the break the Rabbitohs crumbled under the pressure, despite scoring a couple of consolation tries.

Fullback Latrell Mitchell had one of his worst performances, making errors which led directly to two Knights tries, before getting involved in some nasty incidents, including an elbow to the back of Tyson Frizzell's head. Mitchell was placed on report and sent to the bin for the incident. He has been charged with a Grade 2 Dangerous Contact offence and will miss one game with an early guilty plea or two games if he contests the charge and loses.

The problem for the Bunnies is that they have the bye this weekend, before a crucial clash with the Roosters in the final round. Mitchell will miss that massive clash unless he can convince the judiciary of his innocence.


DWZ dazzles again

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak is having one of his best seasons with the rejuvenated New Zealand Warriors. He sits atop the NRL try-scorers list, level with Jamayne Isaako and Alex Johnston after bagging a hat trick against the Sea Eagles on Friday night.

His first after 11 minutes was a DWZ classic. At the end of a sweeping Warriors backline move, given the five metres of lateral space he needed to win the race to the corner where he soared through the air with the ball held in his outstretched left arm, before planting it millimetre perfect in from the touch-in-goal chalk, his body seemingly hovering over row three of the grandstand.

He brought up his hat trick in the second half with a similar gravity-defying effort, but it was his second try that really stood out. Given the ball at the end of another backline movement, he found he didn't have the space to make his dash to the corner post, instead stepping back inside where he proceeded to beat five attempts at a tackle from Sea Eagles players including two from Jake Arthur.

If the Warriors do manage to go deep into the upcoming finals he will be one of their key players, finishing off the slick plays of his inside men.


Wobbly Raiders headed for final flop

I'm not too sure what Ricky Stuart and his Raiders hope to achieve as they scrape their way into the Top 8 with the worst for and against record of any of the finalists. They'll have to produce far more than they had on show in the opening ten minutes against the Bulldogs. The Bulldogs were their usual pedestrian selves with little to no spark and plenty of errors and they looked to have dragged the Raiders down to their level.

The teams went to the break locked at 12, with both looking flat and disinterested at times.

Canberra ended up winning 36-24 with a raft of ridiculous Bulldogs errors helping them along the way. We saw stupidity like throwing a dummy-half pass to the feet of a runner on their own goal line, being tackled on halfway on the last tackle, allowing passes from well-tackled players and at one point taking a bomb that was landing a metre out over the sideline by jumping from the field of play.

The Raiders play the Broncos this weekend and they won't be making those kinds of errors. The Raiders defence will be thoroughly tested by the Broncos and then the Sharks in the final round. If two of the teams currently on 28 points catch the Raiders they will miss the finals, as their for and against is appalling.


Sharks roll down the middle before dismantling the Cowboys

The Cowboys and Sharks were so evenly matched early in their clash on Thursday night that the scores and most of the statistics were level six minutes out from halftime. Then, on the back of an offside penalty deep in their own half, the Sharks punched it right up the middle, with inside ball after inside ball rolling over a backpedaling Cowboys defensive line.

Shark prop Royce Hunt crashed over next to the posts to allow Cronulla to take the lead for the first time in the game, 18-12. It was the passage of play that broke the backs of the home team, with the Sharks scoring all the points in the second half to win comfortably 32-12. It was a disappointing effort from the Cowboys who had everything to play for in front of their adoring fans.

The Cowboys have lost their last three games now to sit on 28 points even with eighth-placed South Sydney. They face the Dolphins and Panthers in the run home and their chances of playing in the finals now depends on them winning and other results going their way.


Tough night for the Eels starts with a shocker

It was always going to be a tough night for the Eels at home against the Roosters without Mitchell Moses, but when Reagan Campbell-Gillard was penalised for an incorrect play-the-ball in the opening set of six, they really should have copped it and faced up in defence.

Instead they threw their Captain's Challenge on the line. Replays showed the referee was perfectly correct, as the big Eels prop rose from the tackle with the ball already on the ground, an illegal move in itself, but all whilst facing almost perfectly 90 degrees left of where he should have been facing. The only correct part of the play-the-ball that he managed to achieve was placing his foot on the Steeden as he hooked it back to his dummy-half.

With almost the full 80 minutes remaining in this do-or-die clash, the Eels had blown their only review. They would go on to lose 34-12, falling two points out of the Top 8 with the Panthers looming to knock them further out of the park.


Bellamy baffled by Storm defensive woes

Craig Bellamy would have been seething the whole trip back to Melbourne after the Storm's defensive effort against the Dragons on Saturday night. They allowed the second-last-placed Dragons to score five tries against them, with the last one a simple catch and pass sweep to the right which caught several defenders flat-footed.

The Dragons have been showing some improved form in recent times, giving better teams a real run, but the Storm defence was way below the level expected from their veteran coach. They are hanging on tightly to their Top 4 position with a game against the Titans this week before a blockbuster finish against the Broncos. If they don't improve their defence before that clash, they could be lapped by a red-hot Brisbane.