Every team’s run home: Who has toughest schedule for rest of NRL season after Round 19
We’re down to the final six rounds of the regular season which will determine more than just who misses the playoffs. Careers are on the line for players, coaches and administrators as the 16 NRL teams jockey for position over the closing weeks of the schedule. A few match officials should be potentially be cleaning out their desks after Sunday night’s horrendous call which got the Cowboys home by a point against the poor old Tigers.
Storm forward Nelson Asofa-Solomona is in the firing line yet again for another grubby act which could have caused serious damage to Warriors hooker Wayde Egan in Melbourne’s Friday night 24-12 win in Auckland.
Asofa-Solomona, who was placed on report three times in the previous two games but evaded suspensions to receive fines under the new judiciary system, was placed on report but did not get marched even for a sin bin despite a blatant forearm to the head of Egan in the first half at Mt Smart Stadium.
Fox League analyst Greg Alexander was bemused that the Storm prop escaped with only a penalty for the hit.
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“Head contact with force, that’s why players go to the bin,” Greg Alexander said on Fox League.
“If [Jared] Waerea-Hargreaves was charged with grade-one contact [the night before], you know he just had his elbow and pushed down.
“Nelson’s come from a height and come down on the head of Wayde Egan. That’s got to be a grade-three dangerous contact.
“That could have quite easily broken his jaw and I thought he did when he walked off.”
Fellow Fox League commentator Gorden Tallis said NAS knew what he was doing when he launched his elbow into Egan’s head while he was on the ground and was stunned he didn’t at least get sent to the sin bin by referee Peter Gough.
It wasn’t the only unsavoury incident involving a Melbourne player with lock Josh King also put on report in the 20th minute for grappling with the face of Jazz Tevaga in a similar incident to the one which led to Bulldogs forward Corey Waddell getting a five-week ban during the week.
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It’s been a pretty straight line for South Sydney since their nightmare Thursday night in the Wollongong rain on June 16th. That night, they found themselves 32-0 down at the break, and nobody suffered more than rookie halfback Lachlan Ilias, who was hooked midway through the first half debacle. Since that night, the Bunnies have gone 4-0, averaging 32.5 points per game in the process. They’ve also bounced from barely clinging onto the top eight to genuine top four contenders, beating Parramatta, Canterbury, Newcastle and Melbourne on the way.
King and Asofa-Solomona face a nervous wait before the match review committee announces its findings on Saturday as both players should face hefty bans for their respective incidents.
Thankfully, Egan – who left the field to have his jaw checked – and Tevaga were not seriously injured and able to play on.
Nelson Asofa-Solomona. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy said he wasn’t sure about the severity of each incident.
“I didn’t watch them closely, I watched one replay of each of them. I didn’t think there was a whole heap in it but that’s someone else’s decision, not mine,” he said.
Warriors interim coach Stacey Jones was disappointed his team was unable to hang with the Storm.
“The game’s about moments. And the moments that mattered, we didn’t quite get. I thought the effort from the boys was outstanding, I thought they dug deep at times,” he said.
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“Melbourne were always going to come with aggressiveness in their game. He [Asofa-Solomona] got put on report and the judiciary will look after it. It wasn’t nice, what happened to Wayde because it could have been a lot worse than what it was.”
The match itself followed the script of the Storm ending their four-game losing streak by accounting for the struggling Warriors.
Melbourne centre Justin Olam crashed over in the eighth minute for his eighth try of the season and the visitors should have gone further in front but Grant Anderson bombed a certain try when he fumbled a pass after a Marion Seve break.
The hosts hit back via winger Edward Kosi before Storm hooker Harry Grant touched down in the 28th minute to make it 10-4.
Kosi crossed for a second time in the left corner to cut the gap to two points at the break before Storm half Jahrome Hughes made it 16-8 soon after the restart when he dived over.
A Nick Meaney try in the 53rd minute stretched Melbourne’s lead to 14 but the fullback, in the role after Ryan Papenhuyen’s fractured kneecap, was forced off midway through the second stanza with a shoulder injury.
“It’d be a cruel blow to lose Nick, he’s been one of our best this year. Just how bad it is, I’m not sure,” said Bellamy.
Kosi slid over for his treble with 15 minutes left to reduce the Storm’s lead to 22-12 and give the Warriors a sniff of victory.
A penalty goal made it a 12-point buffer to the Storm heading into the final 10 minutes as they went on to record their lucky 13th straight win over the Warriors.
Every team’s run home: Toughest schedule, predicted finish for rest of NRL season after Round 20 .
There’s little more than a month left in the regular season, five weeks which will determine more than just who misses the playoffs. Careers are on the line for players, coaches and administrators as the 16 NRL teams jockey for position over the closing weeks of the schedule. Premiers Penrith are now not so certain to finish first after Nathan Cleary was sent off and banned for the rest of the regular season after his spear tackle on Dylan Brown in the loss to the Eels on Friday night.