Burgess boys’ antics compound shock loss
Sam Burgess continues to skirt the line between enforcer and liability. His, and younger brother George’s, preoccupation with niggle and confrontation in Souths’ spiteful Friday night clash with Wests Tigers contributed significantly to the upset 25-16 result, while a number of Rabbitohs and Tigers players are facing judiciary action over a string of high tackles and nasty incidents.
Sam, already on the nose with many supporters over his impending departure to English Rugby Union, is undoubtedly one of the most dynamic game-breakers in the NRL – on both sides of the ball. But as he did during the loss to Manly, the marquee British forward overreacts particularly if any of his brothers are subjected to any curry on the field, whether illegal or not. Burgess is becoming an easy mark and putting pressure on his teammates.
The higher-profile Burgess’ squirrel-grip suspension and borderline eye-gouge on James Maloney late in 2013 highlighted his increasingly short fuse and questionable temperament. Souths’ coach Michael Maguire – a strict disciplinarian – is sure to be in Sam’s ear, because he is setting a poor example and young George is in danger of following him down the same path.
If he can’t keep his emotions in check, Sam Burgess risks the same fate as countryman Adrian Morley, whose suspension-riddled tenure with the Roosters ended prematurely via a seven-week ban for kneeing in 2006.
The double-edged sword for the Rabbitohs is they can’t break their 43-year premiership drought without Burgess at his aggressive, blockbusting best.
Weekend of cliff-hangers
One of the NRL’s greatest qualities as a product – the closeness of its games and the relatively small gulf between the best and worst teams – was in abundance in a nerve-jangling set of round three matches. Five of the seven games over the weekend were decided by four points or less, while the Roosters, Panthers and Sea Eagles broke the hearts of the Broncos, Bulldogs and Eels respectively with last-minute tries to cap three pulsating contests. The only game that didn’t go down to the wire, Friday’s Tigers-Rabbitohs encounter, provided the biggest upset and most explosive match of the season to date.
Cruel irony in Broncos’ heartbreaker
The biggest question mark hanging over Brisbane’s outstanding start to 2014 – the competence of new halves pairing Ben Hunt and Josh Hoffman – was answered emphatically on Friday night, with the under pressure pair producing consummate performances. Hunt was the best player on the field, scoring two tries and laying on two more, while Hoffman served up superb passes for two late Broncos tries. It wasn’t enough for the home side, however, who suffered a gut-wrenching defeat after conceding two Roosters tries in the final five minutes. But the loss may have provided the building blocks to the Broncos’ finals re-entry bid, more so than their wins in the opening two rounds.
Moylan’s goal up with the greats
Penrith fullback Matt Moylan added a glorious chapter to the annals of match-winning after-the-bell conversions, kicking his side to a 16-14 victory from the sideline. They are the moments every goalkicker dreams of, while it was another example of the poise and confidence of Moylan – realistically the Panthers’ third-string kicker – in just his 16th NRL appearance.
Week to remember for
The under-fire Warriors eased the mounting pressure on themselves and coach Matt Elliott by breaking a 12-year Townsville curse. Playing simple and uncharacteristically conservative football, the Warriors grafted their way to a 14-point lead midway through the second half – before threatening to implode with a string of lamentable errors. They let the Cowboys back in with two quick tries, before barely hanging on 20-16 after a crazy final quarter to secure their first away win over North Queensland since 2002.
Week to forget for
Greg Inglis won’t have much trouble forgetting his round three outing after being ko’d and carted off the field just five minutes in, while Souths’ upset loss to the Tigers was compounded further by a number of players being placed on report and star hooker Isaac Luke incurring a shoulder injury, which is likely to sideline him for a couple of months.
Play of the week
Brilliant passes by maligned halves – the Roosters’ Mitchell Pearce and Penrith recruit Jamie Soward – proved to be match-winners at the death of their respective games. Meanwhile, Brett Morris wrapped up try-of-the-year honours early with his Nofoaluma-esque effort for the Dragons.
Blunder of the week
Cowboys winger Antonio Winterstein tripped over his bootlaces with the try-line wide open, losing the ball in the process. He atoned with an outstanding try later in the first half, but not before cementing his place on the week’s blooper reels.
In a powder keg match, 19-year-old halfback Luke Brooks’ undeniable class shone through. Brooks is justifying the ‘next Andrew Johns’ wraps, with his pass for Bodene Thompson to score and his deft kick for James Tedesco’s try straight out of ‘Joey’s’ playbook.
Gold Coast skipper Greg Bird’s outstanding display also deserves a mention, inspiring the Titans to a gritty 12-point win at the inhospitable Canberra Stadium with tenacious defence and a series of rousing runs. Meanwhile, Nate Myles racked up an astonishing 53 tackles for the victorious Gold Coast.
Mitchell Pearce edged ahead of Adam Reynolds in the NSW No.7 battle, serving up the match-winning pass for the Roosters, while the Rabbitohs playmaker was outpointed by Tigers teenager Luke Brooks. James Tedesco continues to put himself on the radar for the Blues’ fullback spot while his main rivals battle injury.
Haunted by injuries and an uncertain financial situation, the Newcastle Knights head to Melbourne in a starkly different frame of mind to their semi-final boilover at AAMI Park last September. The clinical Storm are destined to inflict some revenge against the short-handed and short-changed Knights line-up.