Round 15 saw plenty of debate around the crusher tackle and whether players were staying down deliberately to earn their side a penalty.
The debate reared its ugly head on Thursday night with Craig Bellamy suggesting some Parramatta Eels players milked penalties for their side.
Milking of penalties has been around for a long time, but it seems more prevalent now and many are keen to see it eradicated from the game.
In results on the field, we saw the Panthers record their tenth straight victory, a stellar performance from the Rabbitohs, and Josh Papalii produced one of the highlights of the season as he showcased his electric pace to run down a halfback.
Parramatta Eels 14 – 0 Melbourne Storm
The Eels took advantage of a heavily undermanned Storm side but were far from convincing in victory.
The Eels have struggled for points in recent weeks and again could only manage two tries despite having plenty of attacking opportunities.
Mitchell Moses hasn’t been able to find his best form since returning from injury and they are relying on Clint Gutherson for a lot of their attack.
The Storm were missing a host of first choice players, so the 14-0 scoreline was hardly an embarrassing defeat.
The Storm always seem to turn up ready to play no matter how many stars they’re missing, but they just lacked the class to be able to worry the Eels.
Their injury concerns were made worse with Ryley Jacks expected to miss a week with a hip injury and Brandon Smith suffering a nasty broken jaw that could see him out until finals.
There was some controversy after the match with Storm coach Craig Bellamy accusing some Eels players of milking penalties during the game.
The NRL has decided to crack down on crusher tackles with harsher suspensions for anyone found guilty.
Albert Vete and Cooper Johns were both penalised for crushers during the match after Eels players stayed down following the tackle, but they were not charged by the tribunal.
The Johns one was particularly unusual with Maika Sivo launching himself backwards at Johns while being tackled. It prompted Gorden Tallis to say that Sivo has a habit of staying down to win his side penalties.
Penrith Panthers 38 – 12 Cronulla Sharks
The Panthers cruised to their tenth straight win with a dominant performance over the Sharks.
The win means the Panthers have outscored the Sharks 94-36 in their two matches this season and are now three points clear on top of the ladder.
The Panthers continue to play outstanding football with every player seemingly in career best form. If they can stay injury free, they are going to be mighty hard to beat this season.
For the Sharks, it was another disappointing loss to a top 8 side and casts more doubt on their ability to contend in the finals.
They missed Shaun Johnson dearly in attack, but it’s their leaky defence that is their main concern.
They have conceded 344 points this season, 72 points clear of the next worse team in the top 8, so they’ll need to fix that quickly if they want to match it with the best teams come finals.
Brisbane Broncos 24 – 28 St George Illawarra Dragons
This was a much-improved performance by the Broncos on their previous losses and showed they can compete for the whole match.
When the Dragons jumped out to an early 12-0 lead after just six minutes, there was a feeling of dread that the Broncos might suffer another horror loss, but they managed to regroup and almost came away with the victory.
The highlight of the match was a brilliant solo effort by Kotoni Staggs, who ran 75 metres to score the try of the season.
Staggs sent Euan Aitken flying with a perfect fend before shrugging away from two more defenders and beating the fullback with ease. It was a special play from a special talent who will no doubt be exciting fans for the next 10 years.
The Dragons recorded a win in Dean Young’s first game as interim coach and have kept their slim finals hopes alive.
It wasn’t always pretty from the Dragons, but their opponents were up for the fight and they showed plenty of resolve to hold on for the win.
The Dragons are just two games outside the top 8 but will need to be flawless to play finals from here.
Gold Coast Titans 16 – 36 Canberra Raiders
The Titans have been competitive against some of the better teams in recent weeks but were unable to go with the Raiders in this one.
They scored the first try of the match, but the Raiders scored four quick tries to race out to a 22-4 lead at half time and were never seriously threatened.
Jamal Fogarty and Alex Brimson have forged a nice combination and they looked dangerous in attack with Brimson recording four linebreaks and a try.
The Raiders have now scored 74 points in the last two weeks with their attack finally starting to click.
Jack Wighton was at his best all game, scoring two tries and looking dangerous when he ran the footy.
The highlight of the match was easily the chase down from Josh Papalii on Jamal Fogarty.
Fogarty took a quick tap from a 20 metre restart and looked likely to score before a desperate chase and dive from Papalii saw Fogarty fall to the ground and lose the ball.
Papalii reached a top speed of 31.7 km/h which was equal fastest for the match with Jack Wighton and eclipsed his previous best of 28.4 km/h.
Papalii’s effort epitomised his career and summed up the Raiders’ never say die attitude.
Wests Tigers 16 – 38 Sydney Roosters
The Tigers needed a win against the undermanned Roosters to make ground on the 8th placed Sharks but fell behind 20-0 early on and could never fully recover.
They scored two tries early in the second half to make it 20-12 but fell away badly to all but rule them out of finals contention.
They are a frustrating team to watch as their best football has been competitive this season, but they somehow manage to come up with basic errors that cost dearly.
The Roosters had plenty of stars out with injury, but it didn’t seem to matter with James Tedesco running amok through the middle of the ground.
While Tedesco found plenty of space through the middle, the Tigers edge defence wasn’t much better as the Roosters outside backs had a field day, scoring six of their seven tries.
It was an important win for the Roosters as they look to hold on to 4th position from the in-form Raiders and Knights.
South Sydney Rabbitohs 56 – 16 Manly Sea Eagles
There was plenty on the line for both teams heading into this match, but the Rabbitohs dominated their opposition from go to whoa.
The Rabbitohs scored six tries in a blistering first-half performance that stunned a shellshocked Manly side.
Latrell Mitchell, Alex Johnston and Campbell Graham all scored two tries in the romp, while Adam Reynolds put on a masterclass with the boot as he nailed nine from nine.
It was a performance that would have put other finals teams on notice as the Rabbitohs start to play their best football as the business end of the season nears.
It was a disappointing loss from Manly as they simply had no answer for the Rabbitohs’ onslaught in a game that was so important to their finals chances.
They have now slipped to 11th on the ladder after four straight losses and you can just about rule them out of making the top 8 from here.
Canterbury Bulldogs 14 – 20 New Zealand Warriors
The Bulldogs have been competitive in recent weeks, but just can’t seem to secure that elusive victory.
They got off to a great start in this match with two classy tries but were unable to continue with it.
Jeremy Marshall-King has been a real positive for the Bulldogs and looks to have secured the starting hooker position.
The Warriors have defied the experts all year and managed to get themselves another well-deserved victory.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck was the star of the show, running for a massive 334 metres and scoring a try.
Kodi Nikorima has stepped up since Blake Green left the club and had three try assists, while big man Jack Murchie scored a double.
Newcastle Knights 12 – 0 North Queensland Cowboys
This was an ugly match to watch as the Knights came away with a scrappy victory, but at a hefty cost.
Their new recruit Blake Green suffered an ACL injury in the first half that will see him miss the remainder of the season and has the left the Knights scratching their heads as to how to replace him.
The Knights used Kurt Mann and Phoenix Crossland at five-eighth once Green went off, but Adam O’Brien will bring Mason Lino or Tex Hoy into the side next week.
The Knights had plenty of the ball in this match, but they couldn’t convert their field position into points as their attack broke down close to the line on numerous occasions.
Fortunately for them, their defence was back to its best as the Cowboys didn’t look like scoring points all game.
The Cowboys have now lost eight straight matches and this loss was made even worse by a calf injury to Jason Taumalolo.
They look like they have completely run out of steam this season and are looking forward to the off season already.