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What a tremendous comeback to the NRL by Jarryd Hayne for the Gold Coast and what a fabulous win by Wests Tigers over North Queensland. I can’t split the two for quality, so I’ll give each a nine out of 10.
Yes, Hayne’s Titans team didn’t win, and he did make a big mistake with an intercept pass that eventually led to a Warriors try, but when you look at his performance in context it can only be described as extraordinary.
Hayne hadn’t played league since 2014, having spent last year in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers before this year’s failed attempt to break into the Fiji Sevens team for the Rio Olympics.
His signing with Gold Coast was only announced on Wednesday and he was able to get just a couple of training sessions in with his new teammates before starting off the bench at Cbus Stadium on Sunday.
Hayne’s backside should have been dragging, considering the minimal amount of playing time he has had in any code of football this year, but he is an incredible athlete.
He made an impact almost immediately he came off the bench at centre, with a phenomenal try-saving tackle in which he stopped a charging Bodene Thompson one metre out from the line.
And it continued from there, with Hayne’s involvement increasing once he was moved into the halves. There was some great passing, pin-point kicking, brilliant catching and clever running from him.
The intercept pass he threw was unfortunate, but all things taken into consideration it was amazing how great an impact he was able to have.
It would have made more much sense for a player, under the circumstances, to have been more hesitant and to take a bit longer to get involved – and to not try so many things.
But it was Jarryd Hayne. He has never lacked confidence. He has got stacks of self-belief.
The Titans were beaten 24-14, and lost their place in the top eight as a result, but they may well be back in there for the finals. Hayne is going to give them a big push in that direction.
As if the Titans-Warriors match wasn’t interesting enough, the Tigers-Cowboys game that followed was equally engrossing.
Mitchell Moses is going from strength to strength every week for the Tigers at the moment. His level of involvement, with regular halves partner Luke Brooks out injured, has shot through the roof. He has taken on an enormous amount of responsibility and is clearly thriving on it.
Are there still people out there claiming Robbie Farah should be in the Tigers’ team? I’m not saying the whole saga has been handled well by the people involved, but the decision to leave Farah out of the team recently has already been proven to be the right one.
Moses is now running the show. He gets the ball whenever he wants it. Tigers coach Jason Taylor wanted a functional hooker and he has now got that, whether it’s Dene Halatau at dummy-half or Jordan Rankin.
But it’s not like Halatau and Rankin aren’t allowed to run from dummy-half. They are, and they did at times yesterday. But when they run it’s at pace, with the aim of gaining valuable metres. It’s not about ambling out of dummy-half and then passing the ball to a receiver when the space between him and the advancing defence has already been significantly reduced.
Moses has been criticised for his defence, but he was great in that area against the Cowboys as well. He made some important tackles.
The Tigers won 26-14. It was their best performance in the two seasons Taylor has been coach and it put them in the top eight pending the result of tonight’s game between Penrith and Sydney Roosters.
Moses is obviously a huge part of the future at the Tigers and if they can make the finals this year it should significantly increase the chances of the club re-signing Moses, Brooks and fullback James Tedesco, who are all off contract at the end of next season.
That’s what these young players want, they want to know their team is capable of playing finals football.
Probably only two teams out of the Warriors, Wests Tigers, Gold Coast and Penrith will make the top eight. It’s going to be fascinating to see which ones survive the last four rounds.