25 rounds, 192 games, #Origin on a Sunday, and a September Grand Final.
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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 timing your run, the Spoonbowl, some stunning stadium pics... all those, plus ref watch, and a wrap up of all the injuries and suspensions from the weekend. Let's get into it....
Performance of the Round
How good are the Cowboys looking now? Three wins from their past four away matches (including a dominant first half and complete defensive display against South Sydney at the weekend), and they've embarked on a crucial late-season run that has them right in the running for an improbable top four berth if results fall their way. Regardless - what an effort from the Townsville men after a less-than-impressive first half of the season.
It would be remiss of us to not mention the Roosters - they're back to full strength and their disposal of the Warriors on Sunday sounded a massive warning that has the bookies reinstating them as premiership favourites. They've timed their run perfectly - can they become the first team to win back-to-back since Brisbane did it twice in the 90's?
The Paul Carige Award for the Worst Performance of the Round
This could have been easily predicted but it's still worthy all the same. The quality of football in the first half of the Sharks-Raiders clash on Sunday was appalling - errors punctuated the opening exchanges and it looked like neither side was interested in offloading the dreaded wooden spoon. The score stayed at nil-all until the Raiders eventually crossed with just minutes left til halftime. The men from the Nation's Capital went on with the job in what was an equally dour second half, almost certainly leaving the Sharks with what looks like their first wooden spoon since 1969.
The Parramatta Eels are fast becoming a late-season nightmare for budding tipsters. After falling at the final hurdle against Canterbury the previous week, the blue-and-golds turned on a near-perfect second half to down the premiership leaders at Pirtek Stadium on Friday. Jarryd Hayne and Chris Sandow were at their electric best in turning around a 0-12 halftime deficit, much to the delight of the near 18,000-faithful that filled the venue. With their last two clashes road trips against bottom three sides in Newcastle and Canberra, the Eels stand a real chance of making an impact in the finals with comfortable wins in each game.
Normally we're bagging performance or a particular incident in this section... this time it's a bit of sympathy. There was a bit of calamity late in the warm-ups for the Warriors-Roosters clash in Auckland on Sunday when head referee Shayne Hayne went down injured. This forced a change with Chris Sutton making his NRL refereeing debut after several games running the touchlines since his match official debut last season. Sutton had refereed the entire Holden Cup match earlier the same day - and we're betting he got a good night's sleep on Sunday night.
For those interested, Hayne is also out of this weekend's matches, listed only as video referee in the Holden Cup at Newcastle on Saturday.
On the field, the 40-20 rule re-write remains a point of interest after the drama in the Eels-Bulldogs clash the week before. Time will tell if the new referee interpretation will gain traction or cause just as many problems...
Bumps and Bruises
David Fusitu'a (Warriors) - shoulder - indefinite
Luke Brooks (Tigers) - hamstring - season
Keith Galloway (Tigers) - shoulder - indefinite
Heath L'Estrange (Roosters) - knee - finals
Nate Myles (Titans) - bicep - season
Jordan Rapana (Raiders) - skull - season
Brett White (Raiders) - groin - Round 25
Lloyd Perrett (Bulldogs) - ankle - finals
Josh Hoffman (Broncos) - ankle - finals
The Naughty Chair
Jonathan Wright (Sharks) - Grade 3 Dangerous Throw
Jason King (Sea Eagles) - Grade 2 Careless High Tackle - disputing grading
Jeremy Latimore (Panthers) - Grade 2 Dangerous Contact (Head/Neck) - disputing grading
Jorge Taufua (Sea Eagles) - Grade 1 Dangerous Contact (Foot/Lower Leg)
Adam Docker (Panthers) - Grade 1 Careless High Tackle
Around the Social Media Traps
Here at The Armchair Expert, we're a sucker for a good scenic photo. The mixed bag of weather over the weekend made for some sensational stadium shots - here are three of the best courtesy of the Dragons, Rabbitohs and Melbourne Storm:
— The Dragons (@NRL_Dragons) August 24, 2014
— South Sydney (@SSFCRABBITOHS) August 23, 2014
As always, come back next time for more analysis from the seat of my pants.
- The Armchair Expert