Referral rules must change
Anyone with any rugby league sensibility could see that Kane Evans didn’t score for the Roosters on Friday night, and the decision to award the try should sound the death knell for the ridiculous referral rules that force referees to make a decision either way before sending it upstairs.
The vision was a bit sketchy, so for the umpteenth time this season, the video ref didn’t have the confidence or bottle to overrule the original call, no matter how misguided it was. The NRL has to go back to simpler times: let the video referees rule on tries with a clear head, and if the footage is genuinely inconclusive, send it back for a ref’s call. It’s not perfect, but it’s far better than the current set-up.
It won’t happen, though, because rescinding the rule would mean the NRL has to admit something they implemented isn’t working. Few could begrudge the Roosters their eventual victory, but the fact of the matter is it was a match-turning try in a sudden-death semi – and there’s too much at stake to retain such an ambiguous system.
Meanwhile, ref’s boss Tony Archer’s support of the decision on Evans’ try was nothing short of pathetic, and there’s little hope for the game’s credibility if the NRL is going to blindly continue down this path.
Momentum v The Week Off
The age-old debate about whether the week off during the finals does more harm than good faces another litmus test in the coming days, with Sydney Roosters and North Queensland going into the preliminary final blockbusters as narrow favourites after recording big sudden-death semi victories. Outstanding week one winners Brisbane and Melbourne have been handed the underdog tag after cooling their heels last weekend.
Tellingly, the last eight NRL premiers have all sat out week two of the finals – but five of the last six grand final runners-up have done it the hard way, utilising the momentum of a do-or-die semi win to power through the preliminary final stage.
History tells us that at least one of the Broncos or Storm should progress through to the decider. In the eight-team finals series era, only twice have both teams that skipped week two been bundled out in the preliminary finals – but those sides have both qualified for the grand final on only three occasions.
Stairway to Evans
His career is only 34 games old, so understandably it has been defined so far by pole-axing Sam Kasiano with a shoulder-charge that had a massive domino effect across the code, and a highly controversial semi-final try. But Kane Evans has stamped himself as a genuine post-season wildcard in the Roosters’ premiership push. Moments after being awarded said try, the 23-year-old popped a brilliant offload to send Roger Tuivasa-Sheck away for a sensational four-pointer. At that point, it was virtually game-over for the Bulldogs. The young giant is playing a David Klemmer-type role for the Tricolours, and could be headed on a similar path to representative rewards.
ALL OVEROnce RTS gets in the clear – it’s goodnight. #NRLFinals#NRLRoostersBulldogs Highlights: http://bit.ly/SemiFinal1HLS
Posted by NRL – National Rugby League on Friday, September 18, 2015
Contenders to his No.1 prop mantle continue to rise and fall, but Matt Scott regularly produces performances that remind us he is a modern great. He led the way with 169 metres from 16 runs in North Queensland’s big win over Cronulla, while his line-break and offload from an early kick-off was arguably the highlight of the weekend. The Kiwi cavalry of Jesse Bromwich, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Ben Matulino have climbed to the top of the front-rower tree, but Scott – the 30-year-old veteran of 17 Tests, 19 Origins and over 200 NRL games – is still the best Australia has to offer.
BULLDOZER Matt Scott runs straight through these Sharks. #NRLFinals Week 3 Details: http://bit.ly/1LGjWN2
Posted by NRL – National Rugby League on Sunday, September 20, 2015
Sharks lay platform despite miserable exit
Cronulla’s disastrous 39-0 loss to North Queensland shouldn’t detract from a watershed campaign by 2014’s wooden spooners. The Sharks’ ability to pick themselves off the canvas and shape as a genuine contender – particularly after dropping their first four games this year – was one of the finest achievements in the club’s chequered history. Nothing went right for them in Townsville and they’re certainly not as far behind the heavyweights as that scoreline would indicate. The addition of James Maloney to the line-up and the continuing development of the likes of Jack Bird and Valentine Holmes should ensure the long-suffering Sharks are amongst the front-runners in 2016.
Mbye joins Bella and co. in play-the-ball Hall of Fame
If ever there was a signal the second half was not going to go the Bulldogs’ way on Friday night, it was Moses Mbye’s 180-degree play-the-ball snafu in the 43rd minute. One of the breakout stars of 2015, Mbye – the likely long-term Bulldogs No.7 – was found wanting in the finals cauldron, outpointed by teenager Jackson Hastings and unable to assert himself on the contest.
WRONG WAYMoses Mbye wanted a quick play the ball and he got it.Just one little problem though…#NRLFinals NRL.com’s #NRLCowboysSharks Preview: http://bit.ly/SF2Preview
Posted by NRL – National Rugby League on Friday, September 18, 2015
Abbey a big buy for Bulldogs
Brett Morris’ switch to fullback for Canterbury was a rousing success this season, but the club has recruited a potential blue-chip No.1 in the shape of Warriors NYC gun Brad Abbey. A superb ball-player and electric runner, the rangy Abbey has filled out this year and showed he is capable of coming up with crunching defensive plays as the defending premier Warriors bundled Brisbane out of the Under-20s finals in Brisbane, obliterating Broncos winger Dan Russell with a stunning try-saver.
Brisbane Broncos vs. New Zealand Warriors Under 20’s | Brad Abbey HitBroncos winger Dan Russell is hit in a bone-crunching tackle by Vodafone Junior Warriors fullback Brad Abbey in Saturday’s NYC finals clash at 1300 Smiles Stadium, Townsville. Source: Vodafone Warriors
Posted by Everything Rugby League on Monday, September 21, 2015
Underachiever of the week
In the wake of the Cowboys’ blistering start on Saturday night, the Sharks desperately needed wily veterans Michael Ennis, Jeff Robson, Luke Lewis and Paul Gallen to steady the ship. But none of the quartet was able to provide the visitors with any traction as their recent individual form slipped several notches on recent weeks.
Overachiever of the week
One of the more underrated forwards in the competition, Scott Bolton was magnificent for North Queensland, running for 175 metres from 16 carries and racking up 16 tackles in 40 minutes off the bench. Every team needs non-stop toilers like Bolton, and the 28-year-old Innisfail product is as worthy of a premiership ring as any club stalwart.
My new favourite player
Shaun Kenny-Dowall’s ability to return to the Roosters line-up after an eight-week break – and considerable mental torment – without missing a beat has been one of the more incredible stories of the finals. He’s never played better than this season, despite being shunted out to the wing by Blake Ferguson’s arrival, and was the best player on the field in the Roosters’ thrashing of the Bulldogs with a hat-trick and 155 metres from 16 runs. His 2015 tally is 17 tries in 19 games. A grand final hero in 2013 after playing 75 minutes with a broken jaw and finishing off a vital try, SKD is a real trump card for the Tricolours and can look forward to playing a key role on the Kiwis’ upcoming tour of England.
— Brett Costello (@Brett_Costello) September 18, 2015
FINALS TEAM OF THE WEEK
First published by Commentary Box Sports