First tackle: COVID makes for different times
What a strange weekend we had thanks to the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant through Sydney. With the Bulldogs giving the Roosters an unexpectedly tough time at Bankwest Stadium on Saturday night, the news filtered through that Game 3 of the State of Origin series would be relocated from Newcastle to the Gold Coast. It was deemed too risky to allow any fans to gather at MacDonald Jones Stadium, so a new location had to be found.
Just a few hours later Ashleigh Barty became the first Australian woman to win the Wimbledon singles title in 40 years. Barty held the prized trophy aloft in front of a full stadium in London. England that day had recorded a little over 30,000 new COVID cases as the Delta variant runs wild throughout the land. In New South Wales there were 77 cases recorded. England has managed to vaccinate greater than 60% of the population and have moved away from ongoing restrictions.
On Sunday, during the Sharks clash with the Warriors, news filtered through that the NRL would relocate all teams to South East Queensland. Players and officials from 12 clubs quickly packed their bags with instructions to take up residence across the border by Wednesday. Queensland Health authorities were hurriedly working through the details and approvals process. If it all goes to plan it is unknown how long it will be before rugby league returns to New South Wales or the ACT.
Second tackle: Walker runs around like headless Rooster
With the Roosters holding a six-point lead and the clock running down, halfback Sam Walker took the ball deep inside Bulldogs territory and momentarily considered a shot at field goal, before turning around to sprint all the way back to his own try line.
He nearly messed up as the clock still showed 12 seconds remaining when he arrived, with Bulldogs five-eighth Lachlan Lewis hot on his tail. He turned to run towards the sideline as the siren sounded a little early, running out to seal the victory. After the game he wasn't sure what coach Trent Robinson would think of the play, but explained it was something he did instinctively.
"I was just running the clock down... just trying to finish the game off. I was thinking about taking a shot at field goal, but didn't want to miss and give them seven tackles with the ball," he said.
Whether or not it was a bad look for the game or just a very unusual one, it worked, as the Roosters won and the Bulldogs were left to further rue their misfortune. Coach Trent Barrett was of the view that the lop-sided tackle restarts and penalties were destroying any chance his struggling team had of upsetting better teams like the Roosters.
Third tackle: Cracking Cowboys try awakens napping Bunnies
The Cowboys scored one of the best tries seen this year midway through the first half against the Rabbitohs in Newcastle. Inspirational forward leader Jason Taumalolo went for a one-out charge on halfway straight at the the heart of the Rabbitohs defence, props Mark Nichols and Thomas Burgess. He embarrassed the both of them, cutting through like a 110kg hot knife through red-and-green butter to find himself in the clear.
Souths fullback Blake Taaffe's life flashed before his eyes on debut as Taumalolo decided that the best way past him was through him. The young man did an admirable job in stopping the runaway Taumalolo, but the Cowboys lock managed a flick pass to hooker Reece Robson who stepped around the converging cover defence to find another youngster in Daejarn Asi. Asi progressed the ball as far as he could before running into a defender and laying it back for Robson who had looped around in support.
Robson summed up the situation perfectly and lobbed an arcing pass to back-rower Shane Wright who had two further Cowboys in support as he dashed the short distance to dive over for their second try and a 12-2 lead.
It seemed to shake the Rabbitohs from their slumber and on the back of a mountain of tackle restart possession they charged back into the game to score four tries and lead 22-12 at the break. Unlike last week against the Tigers, a halftime spray from coach Wayne Bennett saw the Bunnies go on with the job in the second half to win 46-18.
Fourth tackle: Woods' NRL days are numbered
Sharks veteran prop Aaron Woods is off contract at the end of the year and has let it be known through the media that he is not finished and feels as though he still has plenty to offer to the right club.
Twelve minutes into the second half against the Warriors he took a hit-up deep inside his own half. Warriors back-rower Eliesa Katoa raced out of the line, hit him one-on-one and drove him back three metres by himself. It was an embarrassing example of how Woods' low impact, trundling, running style is ineffective against an aggressive defence. Woods should look no further than his lock Toby Rudolf to see how a middle forward should be hitting the line in the new, faster NRL.
Woods' best hope of extending his career could come in the English Super League, where his experience and ability to offload could still be seen as valuable assets.
Fifth and last: Swimming pool at Bankwest
Bankwest Stadium seemed to have developed a peculiar drainage problem during Saturday's clash between the Bulldogs and the Roosters. Despite Parramatta experiencing intermittent showers during the day, and a couple of downpours during the game, the playing surface remained immaculate thanks to the modern drainage system. Immaculate everywhere apart from the in goal area in which Joseph Manu scored his 29th minute try.
Manu sent up a plume of water as he dived behind the posts for the four-pointer. He looked shocked as he was nearly required to break into some breast stroke to clear the enormous puddle.
Handover: Sea Eagles manage a falcon
The Sea Eagles were pretty ordinary without Daly Cherry-Evans or Tom Trbojevic on Thursday, after a promising start where they hit the Raiders with everything they had in defence. It didn't help Manly that they managed to find new ways of conceding points on the night.
With 23 minutes remaining in the game Raiders half Sam Williams put up a bomb which came down five metes out from the Manly line. Under it was Sea Eagles winger Moses Suli who was jogging back to provide cover for his fullback. Problem was, Sui wasn't watching the ball and it came down on his head well short of Reuben Garrick. It bounced off his face and dribbled into the in goal area where Raider Sebastian Kris was able to pounce and score.
It summed up the night for the Sea Eagles, with absolutely nothing going right. It might pay for Suli and others to at least look skywards as they head back towards their line under a high kick.