This week we take a look at the bite that launched a Knights fightback, an incredibly gutsy Roosters victory, the mistake-riddled Storm, the absolutely awesome Panthers and a Storm captain's challenge that wasn't accepted because the captain couldn't catch up to the referee in time.
Read on as we take a look back at some of the biggest hits and misses of the weekend.
Incredible final deserves a recap
What an amazing game we had between the Knights and Raiders to wrap up the first weekend of finals. For the opening ten minutes the Knights appeared to be in charge, scoring the first try of the match to lead 6-0 while running into the teeth of a strong breeze. The Raiders owned the rest of the half scoring 16 points and having another try disallowed. They jogged off for oranges satisfied with their 16-6 lead, the Knights set to return without injured halfback Jackson Hastings, and no one suspecting the drama that was about to unfold.
After the break, Jack Wighton's bite (more on that below), seemingly sent the Knights on a tear, cutting the Raiders apart out wide and treating Jordan Rapana's last line of defence with distain. They ran in 22 unanswered points to take a 12-point lead with 15 minutes remaining. Raiders five-eighth Matt Frawley dummied and stepped his way through some feeble defence for a try almost straight away. Then with under two minutes remaining the crowd had the wind knocked completely out of them when Tom Starling crashed over from short range. The conversion levelled the scores at 28.
With seconds to go the Raiders took two shots at field goal, Jamal Fogarty's attempt was charged down, before Frawley's attempt fell short.
In finals the rules allow for two five-minute halves of extra time, without golden point. The Raiders received the kick off and completed their set with a kick to Kalyn Ponga. A couple of tackles later Ponga dropped an awful pass on halfway. The Raiders worked their way deep into the Knights 20 metres where Fogarty chipped to the corner, rather than take a shot at a one-pointer. The Knights completed the next set with a kick to Rapana who cramped up on his return. With 21 seconds remaining Jack Wighton put up a bomb from 30 metres out which Ponga took cleanly before losing the ball on the ground. The Raiders packed a scrum to stop the clock with three seconds remaining, and Fogarty's attempt at field goal was charged down again, this time by Tyson Gamble, who had packed into the second row.
In the second five minutes the Knights completed a set before the Raiders finished theirs with Fogarty kicking the ball out on the full near halfway. The Knights worked their way into field goal range, and the ball was fired back to Ponga after a mix-up at dummy half. Ponga scrambled as referee Ashley Klein signalled six again for Raiders back-rower Hudson Young being well offside. Ponga was tackled and lost the ball which meant a penalty in front, as the Knights had not received an advantage.
With 1 minute 26 seconds remaining, Ponga put the home team two points ahead. The roar was deafening, but the drama wasn't over. There was a mad scramble for the short kick-off, before the Knights finally came up with it. At the end of their set Ponga was tackled before getting a kick away. The Raiders had one last chance, they spread the ball wide from the handover, but the Knights defence held firm.
The hoarse crowd had one more roar left in them as full-time was called. Newcastle had booked their flights to Auckland where they will face the Warriors. What a game.
Knights fire up after Wighton takes a taste of Gamble
Seven minutes into the second half of the sudden-death clash between the Knights and Raiders we saw incredible scenes after Jack Wighton was tackled by Tyson Frizell and Tyson Gamble. Gamble's arm was jammed firmly across the face of Wighton, whose mouth was open. Gamble jumped to his feet pointing to his arm, as the cameras zoomed in to show a mark which closely resembled a bite. Referee Klein asked Gamble if he wanted to go on with the allegation and Gamble was adamant that he had been chomped on, even going to the trouble of pointing out the drool on his arm.
Klein called in the touch judge to have a look, but neither apparently had the forensic training required to identify a bite mark or match it to Wighton's dental records. Wighton chimed in with some self-damning testimony, asking the referee what he was supposed to do under the circumstances. Between the two on-ground officials and the bunker, with teeth marks in Gamble's forearm and Wighton's near confession, the best they could come up with was to place him on report.
The incident fired up the passionate home crowd and the Knights, as they scored the next 22 points to take a 28-16 lead.
With the Raiders knocked out of the finals, Wighton's charge becomes South Sydney's problem, as any suspension would delay his debut for the Rabbitohs.
Roosters battled against adversity to pip the Sharks
With star winger Joseph Sualii lost to a head knock at half-time, Billy Smith in the sheds for an HIA and Joey Manu limping off with a recurrence of a hamstring injury, the last thing the Roosters needed on Saturday night was to lose skipper James Tedesco to the sin bin 12 minutes into the second half.
It all started with a poor grubber kick from Sam Walker on the fourth tackle 10 metres out from the Sharks line. The ball bounced straight off the shins of Braydon Trindall who managed to scoop it up and take off downfield with Tedesco in pursuit and prop Lindsay Collins closing him down with an unexpected diagonal cross-field dash. Trindall pulled up to avoid the steam train called Collins and was brought to the ground by Tedesco, with the Roosters prop landing on top.
Tedesco removed himself from the tackle but was still on his knees in the ruck as Nicho Hynes scooped the ball up from dummy half and went for a dash to the short blind. Tedesco could hardly avoid making the a legs tackle on him, while still kneeling. The referee had little choice but to send him to the sin bin, and shortly after the Sharks spread the ball to the decimated left side of the Roosters defence, where Ronaldo Mulitalo crossed to take the Sharks to a 10-6 lead.
Nine minutes later with Tedesco still in the bin, the Sharks made the controversial decision to kick a penalty goal with the Roosters seemingly on the rack. The Roosters were able to level the scores with 11 minutes remaining in the game through a converted try to Siua Wong, before Walker calmly put them ahead with a field goal three minutes later. The Sharks had their chances to level the scores with field goal attempts in the final minutes, but two inspirational charge downs from Tedesco and Luke Keary saw the Roosters through to next week, when they will meet the Storm in Melbourne.
Mistakes ruin Storm's hopes of continuing their dominance over the Broncos
It started early for Craig Bellamy's Storm, the uncharacteristic errors, which would ultimately cost them any chance of beating the Broncos in Brisbane on Friday night.
Four minutes into the game and the faith Bellamy had shown in selecting Nick Meaney at fullback over Ryan Papenhuyzen seemed suddenly and painfully misplaced. Broncos halfback and stand-out performer Adam Reynolds brilliantly picked up a poor pass from his boot laces before launching a towering kick which came down perfectly two metres out from the Storm line right in front of the posts. Meaney positioned himself well, possibly too well, as his leaden feet didn't shift enough to counter the swirling Steeden. He managed only to knock the ball on giving the Broncos a scrum in the middle of the field ten metres out.
Two sets later, after another Storm error, and with the Broncos enjoying all the possession and territory, Kotoni Staggs crashed through some worrying defence to opening the scoring.
It was the first of seven first-half errors from the Storm, including a short drop out that went way over the sideline on the full. The Broncos led 8-0 at the break, and ran away with it in the second half.
Seriously, who is going to stop the Panthers?
Sure, the Warriors lacked a lot when it came to finals experience and star halfback Shaun Johnson was a late withdrawal from the team, but the Panthers absolutely mauled the visitors at Penrith on Saturday afternoon.
Nathan Cleary was the conductor, completely in charge of the black-clad orchestra, as they powered their way up the middle of the Warriors defence, before working his magic on the edges. The Warriors sat back on their heels and watched Cleary deceive and elude their best defensive efforts. The five tries to one demolition was nothing short of ominous for the remaining teams, who will be clinging to their hopes of winning the premiership.
The Panthers have a week off to recover and plan their next assault as they await the winner of the Storm, Roosters clash in Melbourne.
Short drop out nearly proves deadly to Knights
We saw a short drop out go spectacularly wrong for the Knights leading to the Raiders second try on Sunday. Kalyn Ponga put it up perfectly, the ball coming down on the 10 metre line where Raiders forward Trey Mooney was waiting. In their fruitless attempts to regather the ball the Knights players made the mistake of leaving too much fresh air between Mooney and the try line.
He caught the ball on his chest, took off for the line and powered his way through the scrambling defenders to score. The try took the Raiders to a 10-6 lead with nine minutes remaining in the first half..
Time runs out on a challenge that might have succeeded
Fourteen minutes into the second half, Broncos fullback Reece Walsh put in a long clearing kick from well inside his own half. After the kick, but not particularly late, Eliesa Katoa tackled Walsh, and as the ball dribbled over the Storm try line the referee blew a penalty.
As the players made their way downfield, replays showed Katoa had wrapped both arms around Walsh and had lowered him as gently as possible to the ground. Whether or not it was too late, was debatable, but certainly worth a review.
Unfortunately by the time Storm captain Christian Welch caught up to the referee, it had taken so long for everyone to get to the other end of the field, that Grant Atkins declared the 10 seconds up. The challenge was not accepted. The Broncos crossed again shortly after to take the score to 20-0.