Friday 15 December 2017 / 03:17 PM

GOLDEN POINTS: NRL ROUND 21

No guts in golden point

The controversial golden point format has been under the pump all season, with the NRL even taking the step of reintroducing traditional extra-time for this year’s finals. But the game’s referees provided another reason to get rid of the system altogether after farcically refusing to blow offside penalties during two golden point matches in Round 21.

Teams know refs won’t pull up infringements in penalty-goal range during golden point and defenders are taking full advantage. Penrith’s Matt Moylan was the worst offender during the Warriors-Panthers clash on Saturday, repeatedly standing adjacent to the ruck and sprinting at Shaun Johnson as he set for a field goal, while other players were miles away from being back 10 metres. Moylan got his just desserts when Johnson eventually skipped around him and dived over for the winning try.

Both sides were guilty of flaunting the officials’ reluctance to blow a game-deciding, but legitimate, penalty in the Titans-Sharks Monday night epic, and the match ended in a draw.

GoldenPointOffside

Cronulla defenders offside as Gold Coast set for a field goal.

“It’s a difficult period to referee,” beleaguered refs boss Tony Archer said, admitting the Warriors should have received a penalty during their clash with the Panthers.

“But if there are clear breaches of the rules I expect the officials to blow penalties, as they have done in other matches this season.”

Archer acknowledging his charges got it wrong is a small mercy, but he insulted the intelligence of fans by saying refs have ruled golden point in a fair manner in recent times.

Just one golden-point game in the past three seasons has been decided by a penalty goal – the Dragons-Tigers clash in Round 26 last year. Ironically, the penalty was for Robbie Farah not being square at marking when charging down a field goal – and the ref was roundly applauded for his courage in making the call.

It’s a shame his colleagues don’t have the same bottle.

MRC loses the plot

The Match Review Committee’s decision to give serial offender Josh Reynolds a ridiculously light grade one tripping charge – thus allowing him to play next week via an early guilty plea – while rubbing out Tyson Frizell for innocuously touching referee Chris James highlights everything that is wrong with the current judiciary system and the NRL’s priorities.

Whether Reynolds’ actions were intentional or a reflex, they were dangerous and he has been pinched on the same charge numerous times in recent years when very few other players are guilty of tripping. Meanwhile, the blanket contrary conduct charges against players who touch referees are beyond a joke. Why not use discretion and punish players who touch officials in an aggressive manner?

The NRL looks set to cut off its nose to spite its face yet again because those in charge refuse to admit one of their ill-advised edicts has missed the mark.

The streak is over!

Cronulla’s winning run – the equal-third longest in premiership history in a season – is over at 15, courtesy of an 18-all draw with Gold Coast. The Sharks’ unbeaten streak still remains alive on 16, however, good for equal-seventh of all time, although they are still 19 games shy of the legendary Eastern Suburbs combination of the 1930s’ premiership record.

Last night’s match underlined the Sharks’ championship qualities, fighting back to level the match inside the final 10 minutes after the gutsy home side surged into the lead. Their composure in tight games is unparalleled, but the draw with the Titans also emphasised that the competition leaders will need to go to another level during the finals.

The Sharks have had some trouble in recent weeks with putting in a genuine 80-minute performance. They seem a bit tired and are enduring lapses in concentration and intensity. Their main challengers, the Cowboys and the Storm, are well-versed in timing their run to perfection, and the Sharks will need to recalibrate before September.

Welcome back, Koni

How good is it to see Konrad Hurrell back in first grade, smiling and terrorising opposition? The former Warriors enigma has been sensational in the past three weeks, averaging 186 metres – an extraordinary stat for a centre – and coming up with four line-breaks and three try assists. His flick pass to send Anthony Don over against the Sharks was exquisite.

In a gritty, unheralded line-up that punches well above its weight, Hurrell provides some much-needed strike and X-factor, and shapes as one of Neil Henry’s trump cards for the run home to the finals. Hurrell comes up against his old club this week in a fascinating subplot to a crucial encounter as seventh spot goes on the line, while his individual match-up with fellow wrecking ball Solomone Kata will be a belter.

Record-breaking Warriors

The Warriors will be relieved to have picked up the two points against Penrith in golden point, after losing three times in their previous four outings in extra-time. It was a result that potentially saved their season, but if they do come up empty in 2016 the club will at least have a couple of premiership records to look back on.

  • Last week the Warriors became the first team to be involved in golden point in three consecutive weeks.
  • The Warriors’ five golden point appearances in 2016 is a record for a club in a single season, beating the record of four set by Canberra (2006) and equalled by Parramatta (2011).
  • Prior to golden point’s introduction in 2003, no team had ever recorded more than four draws in a season, meaning the Warriors’ five tied results after 80 minutes is unprecedented in 109 seasons of premiership football.

Despite the run of last-gasp losses, the Warriors can take plenty of confidence from the last couple of months – they haven’t been beaten in regulation time since Round 11. Remarkably, coming into 2016 the Warriors had only been involved in nine golden point games, the equal-second lowest in the NRL.

The win over Penrith was just the third golden point match to be played at Mt Smart Stadium and the first since 2009, when Stacey Jones (against the Roosters) kicked one of only two Warriors field goals in golden point history (Jones also booted the other, against Souths in 2003).

Rampant Raiders confront true test

Canberra’s reward for a blistering 54-4 rout of a woeful Souths side was third spot on the ladder, but a true litmus test of their title credentials will come over the next fortnight with showdowns against Cronulla away and Melbourne at home. The Raiders deserve their lofty standing, but prior to last week’s cakewalk they had two fortunate golden point wins against the Knights and Warriors either side of a victory over a Cowboys line-up missing their Origin stars – all three successes coming at home. After a Round 24 clash with Parramatta, the Green Machine face tricky assignments against finals hopefuls Manly and Wests Tigers in the last two rounds.

Try of the week

This Houdini effort from Roosters trio Daniel Tupou, Blake Ferguson and Shaun Kenny-Dowall was a clear winner for Round 21 in terms of skill and enterprise.

Underachiever of the week

How low can the Rabbitohs go? Their defeat to the Raiders was their eighth straight – the club’s worst losing streak in a decade. But the manner in which they capitulated in front of their home fans was unacceptable. Souths played with a total lack of commitment and spirit, and paid the price with their heaviest loss since a 66-0 caning from the Warriors in 2006. It was just the 10th time in 108 seasons the Bunnies have been beaten by a 50-point margin or more, and things seem equally rocky off the field.

Overachiever of the week

It has to be the Titans. What a performance against a Sharks side on a 15-match winning streak, especially after falling 10-0 behind. Gold Coast’s limited array of big names are in top form, while the likes of Chris McQueen, Zeb Taia, Leivaha Pulu, Agnatius Paasi and Nene Macdonald are regularly outpointing their more fancied opposite numbers. It should also be noted that the Titans went into Monday’s clash with their top three hookers unavailable, forcing Ryan Simpkins and Cameron Cullen to share the dummy-half duties. The club deserves nothing less than a finals appearance for their overachieving efforts this year.

My new favourite player

Warriors utility-back David Fusitu’a is a megastar in the making, shining wherever coach Andrew McFadden slots him in. After a stellar month starting at fullback in a string of tight games, Fusitu’a played at centre for the first time this year and scored two fabulous tries, taking his season tally to 10 in just 13 games. On top of that, he’s arguably one of the NRL’s best finishers on the wing, as he proved with a clutch try against Canberra after switching to the flank during the second half. ‘Cappy’ might not be able to settle on his best backline, but the tall 21-year-old will surely be the first player picked every week.

[YouTube – VAC 2016]

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About the author

Will Evans

CBS’s Editor-in-Chief and lead rugby league, union and cricket writer, Will is a Christchurch-based freelancer, also writing for Big League and Rugby League Review magazines, and The New Daily website. Will has written four rugby league books.

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