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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 the fans, the botched field-goal, the underdog performance and crucial decision making. That, plus a wrap up of all the injuries and suspensions from the Round. Let's get into it....
Performance of the Round
This one goes to you guys - the fans. While there were a couple of low crowds at suburban venues (Kogarah, Gosford and Penrith, we're looking at you!), the turnouts for the public holiday games at ANZ Stadium were outstanding - a combined 93,000+ across two games alone. The NRL has come under fire for some of it's scheduling decisions this year with early rounds showing a marked drop in crowd figures, but they got much of this Easter weekend spot on. Watch for those big numbers to continue with ANZAC Day looking at a potential 100,000+ day across three matches.
The Paul Carige Award for the Worst Performance of the Round
It's a close one - we're going to *just* overlook the Knights inability to cross the line against Brisbane and elect Rabbitohs' pair Sam Burgess and John Sutton for this one. With scores level at 14-all late in the Good Friday clash against Canterbury, this pair drove the Bunnies' last two tackles inexplicably to the left edge (presumably thinking they could exploit the opposition defence), leaving halfback Adam Reynolds to have a stab at field-goal from a near impossible angle. The attempted shot went right across the face, was fielded in-goal by Canterbury and from the resulting 20m tap the 'Dogs surged upfield, found one-point-wonder Trent Hodkinson, and the rest was history.
The Wests Tigers were looking to be in struggle street early against a rejuvenated Parramatta side on Easter Monday - hampered by injuries to key figures Robbie Farah and James Tedesco, the side was forced to blood youngsters in Joel Luani and Kurtis Rowe. The Eels took advantage of that nervous start to race to an 8-0 lead, but the courageous Tigers clawed their way back, led from the front by an outstanding forward pack. Pat Richards' boot drove the Tigers home late with a penalty goal to give them a 3-point win and a share of top spot on the ladder, together with the Bulldogs, Sea Eagles and Titans.
You'd expect this column to bang on about obstruction - and let's face it - the call in favour of Manly against the Cowboys when Kieran Foran used Jamie Buhrer as a decoy runner was a horrid one... but that's not what we're going to go after today.
Instead, a bit of praise in spite of widespread reports of a "stuff-up" in the Raiders v Storm clash on Sunday. With ten remaining, Sisa Waqa crossed for what appeared a certain try. The on-field officials obviously saw it differently and sent it up to the men in the sky with the crossed arms no-try sign. On video review, just like the men on the field, they couldn't identify a frame where Waqa had grounded it with any certainty... even allowing for the protests of the host broadcaster's commentary team. And those same referees definitely couldn't be blamed for the Storm allowing Paul Vaughan to pirouette through their defensive line minutes later to win the home side the game!
Bumps and Bruises
Kieran Foran (Sea Eagles) - knee (medial ligament) - 4 weeks
Anthony Watmough (Sea Eagles) - elbow - may play this weekend
Sam McKendry (Panthers) - ankle - 2 weeks
Thomas Leuluai (Warriors) - groin - 1 week
James Gavet (Wests Tigers) - hamstring - 4 weeks
Bad news for Bulldogs' co-captain Frank Pritchard is now out for the season after surgery confirmed a 5 month recovery period. Good news for Sharks fans though, with Beau Ryan, Luke Lewis and Anthony Tupou are currently all expected to return this weekend.
The Naughty Chair
Adam Docker (Panthers) - Grade 1 Dangerous Throw
Tim Browne & Dale Finucane (Bulldogs) - Grade 1 Dangerous Throw
Nathan Friend (Warriors) - Grade 1 Dangerous Throw
David Shillington (Raiders) - Grade 1 Dangerous Contact, unnecessary head/neck pressure
Martin Taupau (Tigers) - Grade 1 Dangerous Throw
Kevin Kingston (Panthers) - Grade 1 Dangerous Throw
Around the Social Media Traps
One of the Sydney tabloids ran a quite divisive story on the weekend about how the NRL ladder would appear if it were amended to account for perceived refereeing mistakes against certain clubs. As such, we couldn't help but have a chuckle this morning when Twitter user @TrentSlatter came up with this gem:
Check back next week for more expert analysis from the seat of my pants.
- The Armchair Expert