The NSW Blues have been named for the first game of the 2017 #Origin series.
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In this weekly feature for LeagueUnlimited, our Armchair Expert runs 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.
This week, our Guru looks at super games, super failures, and superheroes. All those, plus a wrap up of all the injuries and suspensions from the weekend. Let's get into it....
Performance of the Round
Four sides tied for this one this week - Canterbury, Melbourne, Penrith and Brisbane all delivered outstanding performances in two very different games over the weekend. At a freezing AAMI Park on Saturday, a depleted Bulldogs defended stoically against an equally courageous and tired Melbourne Storm outfit - points were at a premium on a boggy track but both sides tackled well and even attacked well, despite the lack of scoring plays.
On Monday night, Sportingbet Stadium saw the Penrith Panthers get home late against Brisbane. The hosts were ahead by a fair margin before the Broncos clawed their way back to be level at 34-all within the final minutes of the contest. Unlike AAMI Park's slow track, Penrith Park was fast and offered plenty of points and entertainment for the fans, the Panthers pushing home on the back of a late field goal to Matt Moylan.
Here's hoping both these contests provide a sample of what's to come as up to 12 teams push for a spot in the top eight.
The Paul Carige Award for the Worst Performance of the Round
The Sharks have been outstanding in recent weeks, clawing their way back from improbable trailing margins to win close-fought contests... but this week that all collapsed in a heap. The Sharks reversed the trend by racing to an 18-0 lead over fellow cellar-dwellers in the Newcastle Knights before conceding 31 unanswered points and crash to yet another loss. The result leaves the Sharks now alone at the foot of the NRL table going into the last half of the season - and after losing their caretaker coach a fortnight ago along with their chief playmaker - they now have to deal with the loss of Paul Gallen for several weeks as he recovers from another injury.
The good news? They host the Cowboys this Friday - who are winless away from Townsville since they last visited Remondis Stadium in September last year.
The Gold Coast-Canberra clash on Sunday was quite bizarre. Canberra were coming into the game on a string of losses while the Titans had the confidence of downing South Sydney in their pocket... but the result went the other way. The Raiders took the points with a 36-20 win and the Gold Coast just looked in all-sorts for large parts of the game. The win keeps the Raiders on par with Newcastle as both clubs fight to avoid the wooden spoon, while for the Gold Coast the loss stunts their movement back toward the eight and severely hampers their chances of recapturing the form they showed so strongly in the opening ten rounds.
That said, wow - Dave Taylor that pick-up and run...
Oh Mr. Shayne Hayne. A bit of a howler on Friday night at the start of Manly's clash with the Tigers left visiting captain Robbie Farah fuming. Tigers' winger David Nofoaluma looked all but certain to have scored in the corner but Hayne, in wanting to make a quick call and keep the game moving, incorrectly ruled a knock-on. Video replays showed his error and Farah was left fuming at the head referee who'd only recently been demoted from controlling State of Origin.
Early this week, refs boss Tony Archer then confirmed he would not be stood down. One can only wonder why he wasn't!
Bumps and Bruises
Matt Gillett (Broncos) - ankle - Round 20
Aiden Tolman (Bulldogs) - ankle - Round 22
William Zillman (Titans) - hamstring - indefinite
Beau Henry (Titans) - posterior cruciate ligament - indefinite
David Mead (Titans) - hamstring - indefinite
Tim Mannah (Eels) - shoulder - Round 21
Peter Wallace (Panthers) - knee - Round 24
Tyrone Peachey (Panthers) - pec - Season
Paul Gallen (Sharks) - bicep - Round 21
Trent Merrin (Dragons) - shoulder - Round 21
Dan Hunt (Dragons) - groin - Round 20
Daniel Tupou (Roosters) - back - Round 25
Braith Anasta (Tigers) - bicep - indefinite
The Naughty Chair
Justin Horo (Sea Eagles) - Grade 3 Dangerous Contact, unnecessary head-neck pressure
Josh Reynolds (Bulldogs) - Grade 2 Dangerous Throw
(3 week suspension issued from Origin III, first week served in Round 18)
Robbie Farah (Tigers) - Grade 1 Dangerous Throw
Around the Social Media Traps
This week saw the launch of the #ISCMarvelHeroes strips - five NRL clubs who use ISC Sports as their apparel supplier will don Marvel Comics superhero jerseys in Round 21. LeagueUnlimited's Twitter account was amongst the first to offer a look. Check out the sample ad below:
— League Unlimited NRL (@LeagueUnlimited) July 14, 2014
Just quietly, we reckon they're gonna sell like hotcakes.
Check back next week for more expert analysis from the seat of my pants.
- The Armchair Expert