The Armchair Expert - Round 20

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 the high-flying Eagles, the Tigers' dramas, and the NRL in board game format. All those, plus a wrap up of all the injuries and suspensions from the weekend. Let's get into it....

Performance of the Round

It's pretty hard to go past competition frontrunners the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles. They travelled across to Auckand to face a Warriors team desperate to keep a foothold in the top eight after losing to Brisbane the previous round. A win would guarantee the Eagles a four-point gap at the top and it was clear that was part of their goal with an outstanding defensive display. The visitors conceded early after a Watmough error eventually saw Koni Hurrell dot down out wide for the hosts, but from there the 2011 premiers were never headed, pulling into a four-point ascendency before defending stoically over extended periods in the second half. Once they stemmed the flow of possession they headed up the other end and did the job, securing a 22-12 win at Mt Smart, bringing the two competition points home and shortening dramatically as minor premiership favourites. Can Penrith, Souths or Canterbury catch them?

The Paul Carige Award for the Worst Performance of the Round

Hard to split this one so we're going to go three ways...

Canberra's second half capitulation to South Sydney on Monday night was nothing short of spectacular. In with a shot into the second half, the Raiders eventually lost 34-18... after trailing by as much as 34-6 in the final ten minutes. Some consolation tries made the scoreline far more flattering than it should've been.

The Wests Tigers... well. Let's start with that horrid first half on Sunday. Coming off a bumper win over the Bulldogs the previous Sunday, plenty was expected of a Tigers side that seemed to be banding together through media reports of unrest. Someone obviously forgot to tell the players, because they opened up like Sydney Heads and let in four tries, several of them long range, against the Dragons in the first half. While they put the foot down in the second half and clawed back 12 points, they were never going to have the legs and it raises serious questions about the side making a finals push.

And the last one... well, like our friend Andrew over at The Halftime Spray, we've gotta give Gorden Tallis a gong. Whether Farah said what he said back in early 2013 is true or not, he said it in confidence. Journalism is built on protecting sources and sometimes you just need to take the hit and sit on it if your integrity comes into question. How many NRL players will ever let information slip to someone like Tallis now? Even if you agree with the way he did things - he's damaged his own brand in the journalistic sense.

Surprise Packet

Newcastle and North Queensland were probably not expected to do a lot at the weekend, coming up against heavyweights in the Roosters and Bulldogs respectively.

Up at Hunter Stadium, the Knights chose to Rise for Alex five days late, putting in a courageous showing to down the Roosters late amid some refereeing controversy. Meanwhile the Bulldogs capitulated for a second straight week against notorious on-the-road failures in the Cowboys. Johnathan Thurston was at his sublime best laying on several tries with both the hand and the boot. 

Ref Watch

As mentioned above, there were a few clangers at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. The video referees came under scrutiny for a few decisions where the Roosters were arguably dudded, included what appeared to be a try for James Maloney in the first half. The no try decision and a few later on in the first half kept the Roosters to just 6-0 at halftime, and eventually the Knights came back into the contest. Of course that was the exacerbated by referee Gavin Badger sin-binning Roosters enforcer Jared Waerea-Hargreaves for backchat ("it was a f----n forward pass!") after one of the Knights' tries.

The Roosters hit back late before the Knights reclaimed the lead but plenty of Roosters fans were left angry and confused, and we don't really blame them - but well done to the Knights anyway!

Bumps and Bruises

Kalifa Faifai Loa (Cowboys) - knee - Round 22
Jarrod Mullen (Knights) - abdominal - Round 23
John Sutton (Rabbitohs) - knee - Round 23
Dylan Farrell (Dragons) - pec - Season
Sonny Bill Williams (Roosters) - thumb - Round 24
Mitchell Aubusson (Roosters) - ankle - Round 22
Chris Lawrence (Tigers) - ankle - Round 24

The Naughty Chair

1 week
Matt Prior (Sharks) - Grade 1 Dangerous Throw
Ben Te'o (Rabbitohs) - Grade 1 Dangerous Throw

Around the Social Media Traps

Those of you who spent any time on Twitter last night would've no doubt seen the hilarious Trending Topic "#NRLmonopoly". All from one throwaway tweet from @Former_Legend, the whole NRL Twittersphere took to it with hilarious results. Here's a sample of some of the less risque ones...

Want more? Hit #NRLMonopoly to read through the whole lot!

Strangely enough, there is actually already a real NRL version of Monopoly available to buy in shops...

Check back next week for more expert analysis from the seat of my pants.

- The Armchair Expert