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In a new weekly feature for LeagueUnlimited, our Armchair Expert will run his lazy eye over the weekend that was. Each round he'll look at the happenings of the previous weekend, and keep you up to date with the big issues like refereeing, social media and the current controversies.
Round 2 held a couple of upsets, and a few big scores. We saw the first half century of the season, confirmed a few clubs as pretenders, and saw the new rule changes bring about an exciting finish. Let's get into it.
Performance of the Round
There were a few teams vying for this coveted award this week. The Dragons looked good in their win over the Warriors, the Roosters piled on 56 points against the Eels, and the Bulldogs thumped the Sharks in a record win. But this week, I've given the chocolates to the Tigers. I've chosen the Tigers partly because they beat the Titans convincingly, but also partly because they managed to play for 80 minutes despite ridiculously hot temperatures. Robbie Farah put on a show, and was the catalyst for almost all of the Tigers' attack, ably supported by James Tedesco, Braith Anasta and Luke Brooks. Pat Richards yet again had a dream day with the boot - he kicked 7/8 goals, as well as clubbing a dropout down field 70 metres on the fly
The Paul Carige Award for Worst Performance of the Round
Poor Beau Champion. The guy couldn't take a trick on the weekend against the Manly Sea Eagles. While, defensively, a number of the Rabbitohs players were off their game on Friday night, Champion's performance was particularly uncharacteristic, as he is usually a decent defender out wide for the Rabbitohs. His missed tackle stats may only read 2 missed from 17 attempts, the fact of the matter is much worse. On a number of occasions, Champion was simply not in a position to even effect an attempted tackle. He was rewarded for his performance by being dropped for this week, with Joel Reddy to take his place.
After the Parramatta Eels put the Warriors to the sword in round 1, many critics were forced to sit up and take a bit of notice... or so we thought. Round 2 was more in tune with what people were predicting from the Eels in 2014, although the magnitude of the fall from grace was larger than expected. The Eels ran in seven tries against the Warriors, with both Semi Radradra and Vai Toutai scoring a triple. This attacking prowess was far from evident against the Roosters in Round 2 though, as the Roosters piled on 56 points. A lone Eels try in the 32nd minute did little to console desperate Parramatta fans - their joy after the Warriors game quickly turning to one of surprise at how badly their team can actually perform.
It was a weekend without major referee controversy in Round 2. There were still the usual over-abundance of video referee decisions, and borderline calls going the wrong way, but it wasn't until the 79th minute of Monday night's game that a true clanger occurred. The Bulldogs had been dominant for the entire game against the Sharks, and were leading 42-0 in the 79th minute. With only seconds remaining, the Sharks spread the ball to the right of the field, before Wright crossed in the corner. The referees ruled a try, for once without consulting the men upstairs. After the try was awarded, Josh Reynolds was seen to be blowing up, which I presumed to be about the fact that the Bulldogs had faltered at shutting out the Sharks so late in the game. On closer inspection though, the last pass for Wright was forward by almost two metres. The worst part of the ruling was that the touch judge was right on the spot, and directly in line with the pass. Not only that, the pass was thrown from the ten metres line - a physical line painted on the field. If we can't get the correct ruling on forward passes in that situation, what hope do we have?
Bumps and Bruises
Round 2 had a much lighter injury toll than Round 1. Greg Bird seemed to be seriously injured against the Tigers - he was in a fair amount of pain on the field, but has curiously been named in the Titans side for Round 3.
The full injury list from Round 2 is:
The Naughty Chair
The full list of judiciary charges from Round 2 is:
While this section was going to feature Jharal Yow Yeh's early retirement, and the issue of life after football for players, the NRL had other plans. Early this morning the NRL announced that it would begin testing players for two classes of prescription drugs. The two classes, which cover drugs such as Valium, Rohypnol and Stilnox. This raises two potential points. Firstly, does this mean that there is a known, even if anecdotal, issue with prescription drug abuse within the NRL, and if so, how long has this been the case. The ASADA investigations of 2013 focused mainly on banned peptides and performance enhancing drugs, however this new focus on prescription drugs suggests a possible problem. Secondly, although 2014 will only be used as a data collection tool, what impact will this have in future. As raised by Matty Johns on Triple M earlier today, this may potentially prevent players from taking prescription pain relief. Johns said ""To say a player can't take a heavy painkiller to get pain relief from a broken leg or a torn pec is absolutely ridiculous. I hope that's not the case".
Around the Social Media Traps
A good old fashioned social media duel broke out this week, between @therealbeauryan and @robbiefarah. It was all in fun, but I think there were a couple of home truths thrown around during the battle.
Check back next week for more expert analysis from the seat of my pants.