The NSW Blues have been named for the first game of the 2017 #Origin series.
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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.
This week he looks at a couple of the crazy results from Round 5, as well as a surprise performance from an almost forgotten man. That, plus a wrap up of all the injuries and suspensions from the Round. Let's get into it....
Performance of the Round
The Performance of the round goes to the Canterbury Bulldogs, for their gritty 9-8 win over the Sydney Roosters on Friday night. Points were hard to come by, not just because of the defensive performance of the two sides, but also because the pouring rain meant that natural flair went out the window - in favour of a more controlled performance... somewhat. Both teams went to the break at 8 all, and it wasn't until the 70th minute that a Josh Reynolds field goal split them. The Bulldogs will be buoyed by that win, proving that not only can they match it with the top teams, but also that they are able to grind out the tough wins, not just rely on blowing teams off the park.
The Paul Carige Award for Worst Performance of the Round
Both on and off the field, the New Zealand Warriors look a shambles. After a very slow start to the season, the Warriors put the Tigers to the sword in Round 4, belting them 42-18. Many thought this would be the turn around that they needed - a jump start into season 2014. But it was far from the case. The Warriors slumped in Round 5, getting almost 40 points put on them by the Cronulla Sharks - who had previously not won a game. And that was just the beginning. Reports came out during the weekend about things not being well behind the scenes at the Warriors, and the rumour was that coach Matt Elliott was being shown the door. On Monday, Matt Elliott resigned with immediate effect, leaving Andrew McFadden as acting head coach for 2014. And then the barbs started getting thrown via media releases. Embarrassing for all concerned.
I picked out two surprise packets for this week. Firstly, the Gold Coast Titans are currently on top of the table. Yep, you read that correctly. The Titans are coming first. With 4 wins from 5 games, the Titans currently sit on 8 points, outright first - ahead of eight teams on 6 points. They'll need to keep winning though, as their for and against is the worst of just about any team in the top eight, and one loss will see them drop as far as the bottom half of the eight. Still, first is a vast surprise based on where many punters tipped them to finish during the preseason.
The second surprise is Parramatta Eels 'saviour' Chris Sandow. Whether it was the fact that the Broncos defence made him look like a superstar, or if he really did perform well, the fact remains he looked very comfortable on Friday night. And for a nice change, it wasn't just Sandow's attack that was the talk of the game. At one point, Ben Hannant lined Sandow up and attempt to run over the top of him, and little Chris just chopped in half. And then on the very next play, someone else tried to run at Sandow, and he just pinched the ball of him. Turned the play for his side. Fully deserving of his LeagueUnlimited.com Player of the Match award.
One glaring issue stood out to me (and most of the Rugby League community) during the round. Jordan Mclean's 7 match suspension for his dangerous lift on Alex McKinnon outraged many fans. I was of the opinion that this suspension was apt, if, IF, it was used as a discouragement for players to lift in future. That is, if the players were being threatened with a similar penalty for any similar tackles in future. Unfortunately this wasn't the case. I'm not a fan of the Storm, far from it in fact, but I can 100% sympathise with their position, when they're without their key forward for seven weeks for a tackle that is no worse than many I saw in Round 5. In fact, there were several tackles during the round that were potentially even more dangerous than the McKinnon tackle - and it was purely through luck that nothing worse happened. The NRL needs to come down hard on lifting tackles, and punish them severely. One neck injury is one too many.
Bumps and Bruises - the injury ward
Bulldogs: Chase Stanley (shoulder - Round 9)
Raiders: Joel Edwards (concussion - indefinite); Sam Mataora (QLD Cup, ribs - Round 10)
Titans: Brad Tighe (shoulder - Round 10)
Panthers: David Simmons (hamstring - Round 10)
Tigers: James Tedesco (ankle - Round 12 to 15); Sauaso Sue (ankle - Round 10)
The Naughty Chair - the match review results
Storm: Jordan McLean - Dangerous Throw (7 weeks - commenced Round 5)
Storm: Dayne Weston - Grade 2 Dangerous Contact (Head/Neck - 1 week)
Dragons: Jack de Belin - Grade 1 Dangerous Throw (1 week)
Dragons: Jason Nightingale - Grade 1 Careless High Tackle (0 weeks)
Tigers: Braith Anasta - Grade 2 Shoulder Charge (1 week)
Around the Social Media Traps
Greg Bird is front and centre in our Social Media spotlight this week. After the Titans' controversial win over the Storm in Round 5, Bird was visibly giving it to Cooper Cronk on the field. Later, Bird posted up a photo of his match-winning penalty goal, along with the following caption:
"Every sinew in my body came together in one perfect whole. Haha these are the scariest and greatest moments in Rugby League! #Nailbiter."
In case you don't recognise the quote, Cooper Cronk gave a very similar quote after beating the NSW Blues in the 2012 origin series.
Also, the Robbie Farah/Beau Ryan Twitter battle that we brought you a couple of weeks ago is still in the news, with both FoxSports and TripleM running stories during the week.
Check back next week for more expert analysis from the seat of my pants.
- The Armchair Expert