First tackle: Eagles soaring
Manly eventually ran away with the game against the Cowboys to wrap up fourth position, but there was a moment when the result was still in the balance that really summed up the Sea Eagles season. With Manly leading 18-12 and 25 minutes remaining, a Daly Cherry-Evans cut-out pass ten metres out from the North Queensland line was intercepted by Cowboys winger Murray Taulagi. He took off downfield with a ten metre head start on his nearest opponent.
Jason Saab turned and chased and, together with Reuben Garrick from the other wing, caught up and dragged Taulagi down within metres of the line. Saab wasn't finished there, from marker he had to reach out and bat down a dummy half pass which also would have led to a Cowboys try. With the Sea Eagles defence in disarray it was fine example of never giving up and giving your all for the team.
Saab's efforts were followed shortly after by a miraculous Manly try. Cherry-Evans put through a grubber kick which looked well and truly too strong and destined to roll off into the fence at the Cowboys end of the field. Lanky Manly backrower Haumole Olakau'atu chased hard, left the ground just inside the dead ball line and somehow managed to tap it back to Jake Trbojevic who placed it down for his second try of the evening.
The Cowboys finished their season with a gutsy effort, but had no answer when Tom Trbojevic beat nine of them to score his second try with seven minutes remaining. Then to top the night off, instead of running a long Cowboys kick dead as the fulltime siren sound, Garrick decided to scoot along his dead ball line, cut up the middle of the field, veer left to hook up with Cherry-Evans near halfway, who then centre-kicked along the ground and into the waiting arms of Mr Hat-trick himself Tom Trbojevic. It was a spectacularly cruel end to the night for the Cowboys.
Second tackle: The circus comes to town again
The circus music was playing again late in the Roosters win over the Raiders. Deep inside Canberra territory, on the last tackle, the Roosters went close to scoring before a loose pass was picked up by Jordan Rapana. He took a couple of steps before passing it to centre Matt Timoko, who was promptly set upon by three Roosters and dragged into touch.
It is something seen at least three or four times a week, as defenders hold up a player before working him over the line. Inexplicably referee Gerard Sutton decided to yell "held" as he headed out.
Roosters captain James Tedesco approached Sutton wanting to challenge the call. Sutton told him the "held" decision was a judgement call which could not be challenged, so in effect all he could challenge was whether the winger went into touch, triggering the penalty. Tedesco was sure his side was being ripped off, so went ahead with his challenge.
Cue the circus music as the bunker went through the play confirming that held had been called and Timoko had indeed been dragged into touch. The bunker, was unable to question Sutton's judgement of whether the player was actually held. Mercifully the captains challenge was not taken from the Roosters and it had no influence on the final score.
Third tackle: Another mysterious bunker call
The Broncos nearly scored a brilliant try during their victory over the Knights, with centre Herbie Farnworth stepping through the Knights defence ten metres inside his own half before putting in a centering kick 40 metres out from the Knights line. Broncos fullback Tesi Niu won the desperate race, diving on the ball before standing to celebrate with it still in his hands.
The referee awarded a try, before the bunker stepped in to take a good hard look. Replay after replay showed the ball slip from Niu's grasp, but remain pinned to his side, before he grounded it and regained full control as he rose to his feet to celebrate.
So, based on last week's bunker circus ruling on a Tom Trbojevic try against the Bulldogs, one would assume this was also a try. Not so, said this week's bunker. Consistency is all fans really want to see.
Fourth tackle: Mind protection games for the Eels?
We'll have to wait until the upcoming weeks pass to see whether Eels coach Brad Arthur was right to rest his stars in the final game of the season against the Panthers. The Eels had very little chance of making the Top 4, so there was no real incentive, from a ladder perspective, to risk injuries to key players.
The Panthers on the other hand fielded their full strength team, with a chance of snatching the Minor Premiership from the Storm. As the teams took to the field, that hope had been dashed by a Storm victory over the Sharks, still the Panthers saw it as an opportunity to fine tune all parts of their game ahead of the finals and that they certainly did.
Chances are they would have beaten a full strength Eels team anyway and gained a psychological advantage ahead of a possible meeting in the weeks ahead. Had Arthur been protecting his players from the knowledge that at their best they are no match for the Panthers this year?
Fifth and last: Going away present from Warriors
It was really nice of the soon to be departing New Zealand Warriors to leave Queensland a thank you gift for all the hospitality shown them during the past few months. The gift took the shape of an appalling handling display which ensured the Titans would win comfortably and sneak into the finals. A Titans victory by at least 11 points was the only way the NRL's host state was going to be represented beyond this week.
The Warriors couldn't hold onto the ball in the first half, turning it over at every opportunity, allowing the home side to run in 16 unanswered points after the first 40 minutes. The second half didn't start any better for Sharks fans with the Titans crossing early to take the score to 22-0.
With the game and a spot in the finals in the bag at 28-0, the game turned ugly. Noted hotheads Matt Lodge and Jarrod Wallace were after each other and a running series of melees saw them both join Jazz Tevita and Kane Evans in the sin bin. Evans proving yet again that he missed the no punching memo that every other player received years ago.
The Titans kicked on for a convincing 44-0 victory, four times the margin they needed to make their first finals appearance in five years. They jumped the Sharks on the ladder and will face the Roosters next week.
Handover: Wild about Harry
With the Storm up 18-12 in the second half against the Sharks, we saw some Harry Grant magic. He jumped out of dummy half around half way, and skipped about looking like he had nowhere to go. Then he stepped again, threw a dummy and took off through the narrowest of gaps, with Ryan Papenhuyzen streaming through in support.
Grant streaked away before expertly drawing the fullback to put Papenhuyzen away under the posts.
There would be little argument that Grant is currently Australia's premier dummy-half, but such is the wealth of talent at the Storm that he has been starting on the bench behind Kiwi No.9 Brandon Smith. It will be interesting to see how coach Craig Bellamy balances the pair in the big games ahead, starting with the Sea Eagles this Friday.