They say that rules are made to be broken. In the they’re also made to be manipulated, misinterpreted and rorted.
In round five we saw all that and more.
The Broncos bought former Titans, Raiders and Bulldogs veteran Ryan James to add some experience to their young pack.
On Friday night against the Roosters, he showed the kids how to milk a penalty and get your opponent put on report.
It’s a pity the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences didn’t make Will Smith hand back his Oscar.They could have given it to James for the performance he put on when Jared Waerea-Hargreaves gave his leg a little twist as they lay on the deck after a tackle.
There hasn’t been a better portrayal of pain since the shark ate Quint in Jaws.
For a while there it looked like they were going to have to call for the vet and the screens.
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves got put on report for twisting Ryan James’ leg after the Bronco put on a show.Expect Meryl Streep to call the big prop for acting tips any day now
Luke Keary (left) politely inquires about the condition of James’ leg on Friday night.One second he looked like he’d been hit by a sniper after getting tackled by Waerea-Hargreaves, the next he was right as rain
Miraculously, James regained full use of his tortured limb within seconds of Waerea-Hargreaves being put on report, and managed to play on.
The big Rooster was justifiably furious, but it could have been worse.He could have gone to the sin-bin like Junior Paulo in the Eels’ 26-20 win over the Titans on Saturday night.
Paulo and Titans fullback AJ Brimson came together in a brutal collision that was clearly shoulder-to-shoulder contact, but the bunker disagreed, sending down word that Paulo should be binned for a head shot.
Given that Paulo is a 120-kilo wrecking ball and Brimson weighs 85kg wringing wet, you’d think that if Paulo’s shoulder had come into contact with Brimson’s head the smaller man would have been knocked cold.
Junior Paulo drives his 120kg bulk into AJ Brimson’s shoulder in a shot he got sin-binned for because the ref thought he hit the Titan in the head – even though Brimson grabbed at his shoulder straight away and wasn’t taken off for a head injury assessment
The Eels prop walks away in shock after getting his marching orders while his captain, Clint Gutherson, tries to explain the difference between someone’s shoulder and their head to referee Peter Gough
At the very least, cooking (you could look here) the independent doctor in the bunker would have ordered him off the field for an HIA, but no, he was allowed to play on, raising further questions about the bunker, the independent doctor system and the hardness of AJ Brimson’s head.
But all that, and even the controversy over the best front-on tackle of the round (the security guard on the partially dressed female ground invader), paled into insignificance against the Titans’ blatant rorting of the Captain’s Challenge.
Last Monday at his weekly briefing, NRL head of football Graham Annesley announced that the practice of purposely giving away penalties in order to stop play in order for a captain’s challenge to be mounted over an earlier infringement, would be addressed by the League.
His comment came after Souths’ hooker Damien Cook had deliberately held down a player in the Round 4 game against the Panthers so that a Captain’s Challenge could be instigated over a previous knock-on missed by the referee.
Last week NRL head of football Graham Annesley (pictured) laid down the law about players giving away penalties to launch captain’s challenges.It was a bigger waste of time than trying to get Michael Maguire to admit the Tigers are struggling
But while Annesley said the NRL would look into ‘parameters’ being put into place in the future, he didn’t say the practice was currently illegal, which must have had coaches like the Titans’ Justin Holbrook licking their lips.
In the NRL coaches’ handbook the term ‘not currently illegal’ reads as ‘currently legal’, an interpretation Holbrook evidently passed on to his players at training.
Either that or they spontaneously became students of the game on Saturday night because they used the loophole to maximum effect twice in their loss to the Eels.
The first time occurred midway the second half when referee Peter Gough missed Titans’ centre Patrick Herbert being held back by Dylan Brown. Herbert then deliberately lay too long on Mitch Rein in order to draw the penalty so play would be stopped, and a challenge could be mounted.
Titans centre Patrick Herbert (carrying ball) gave away a professional foul to get a captain’s call against Parramatta in what sideline eye Matt Russell called ‘a scourge on the game’
The next, eight minutes later, was when Titans’ forward Jarrod Wallace was ruled to have dropped the ball when it was in fact knocked down and fallen on by Eels’ hooker Reed Mahoney.As Mahoney was tackled by his opposite number Erin Clark, Titans halfback Toby Sexton ran over and lay on top of them, bringing the penalty to stop play and call for the challenge.
Referee Gough was not impressed, telling Sexton, weebly.com ‘If this is unsuccessful, you’re going to the bin.’
It was a warning not activated.Both challenges were successful, and the Titans scored tries in the next passage of play each time in a display of gamesmanship Fox League sideline-eye Matt Russell labelled ‘a scourge on the game’.
Not that it helped them in the end, and neither did one of the most spectacular individual tries seen in this or any other season, when Titans’ million-dollar-man David Fifita took the ball from dummy half, brushed Eels defenders away like flies and ran 70 metres to score in the corner.
Million-dollar man David Fifita looked like he’d been fired out of a Howitzer as he smashed through Parramatta to score an insane 70-metre try
The eye-popping display of aggression, power and pace was one of the best individual tries of this or any other season
It was one of two standout exhibitions of raw power and aggression in the round, with Broncos’ centre Kotoni Staggs roaring back to form with a display that will give his Roosters’ opponent Paul Momirovski nightmares for years.
As one rugby league journalist noted, ‘Every time Momirovski tried to tackle him it was like he stepped on a land mine.’
Fox League commentators Andrew Voss and Michael Ennis were just as descriptive in their praise of Fifita’s fearsome burst.
‘That was terrifying,’ said Ennis.
Added Voss: ‘He’s half man, half farm machinery.’
That might be the case, but Broncos and Titans supporters would be justified in having conflicting opinions about the weekend performances of their two high-profile players.
For Broncos’ fans it would be a case of, ‘Thank goodness Kotoni is back.’
For the Titans faithful it would be more, ‘Yeah, that was really impressive, but how about we see a bit less of the man and more of the farm machinery from here on.’
Kotoni Staggs hits Roosters half Sam Walker with a don’t argue for the ages on Friday night.He gave his opposite number Paul Momirovski nightmares all night, hitting him with one fend that made it look like the Chooks centre had stepped on a land mine
There was one other notable individual performance this weekend, and that was from poor little Kyle Flanagan, who had to play against those big bad bullies from Penrith.
Have you ever heard more rubbish in your life?
Flanagan is no rookie being thrown in the deep end.He’s 23 years old, a veteran of more than 40 NRL first grade games who is contracted to play for the Bulldogs, and that is what he wants to do.
To suggest that he was being ‘set up to fail’ against the Panthers was ridiculous.
Kyle Flanagan was at the centre of a media storm over his recall to first grade to face Penrith – and despite pundits making the ridiculous call that the Dogs were throwing him to the wolves, he was one of Canterbury’s best
Does anyone really believe that he wouldn’t have relished the opportunity to establish himself as the club’s number one halfback, no matter who it was against?
Did anyone expect him to say to coach Trent Barrett when told he was in the side, ‘Thanks anyway Baz, but I’d think I’d rather wait until Round 11 and play against the Wests Tigers if that’s okay with you.It’d be a lot easier.’
Of course not. He jumped at the chance and gave it a red-hot go.
He didn’t look too overawed when he smashed Viliame Kikau late in the first half, earning a turnover for his side, or when he put through a neat little kick for Joe Stimson to score a try in the 62nd minute.
Matter of fact, he was one of the Bulldogs’ best, more than justifying the decision to recall him made by Trent Barrett.
Or Phil Gould.