Tigers and Bunnies stumble, Cowboys sneak home

Tonights NRL games have seen several upsets; with the Wests Tigers getting burnt by the Gold Coast Titans in a solid display at Carrara. The Titans snapping a 5 game losing streak to put the shakes through th Wests Tigers finals charge. The Tigers looking good when on a roll – but not focused enough to shut down the eager Titans.

Over at CUA Stadium – the highly fancied South Sydney Rabbitohs were humbled by the Penrith Panthers in a late comeback. A young and lively Panthers team; led by Gower and Priddis showed what they can do when they switch on.

The Cowboys just managed to get home in their game, poor goal kicking from North Queensland allowing the Canberra Raiders to nearly get away with the points after a fairly sloppy affair at Dairy Farmers Stadium. Injuries hurting both sides and will worry the coaches as the finals approach.

The results tonight leave the NRL Top 8 finals race wide open – with a chance that several teams can now realistically sneak into 7th or 8th spot if they win their remaining games. Tomorrow on NRL News we will look closely at the NRL Table as Round 21 of the NRL continues.

Full Match Reports from AAP below:

Gold Coast Titans 30 def Wests Tigers 14

Not even the brute force of Taniela Tuiaki could lift the Wests Tigers tonight – Chewy’s try one of the best of the year. The man mountain stomping through tackler after tackler to score an Eric Grothe like try before half time.

It was the local side that were able to restore some pride and confidence, snapping a five-match losing streak and keping its National Rugby League finals hopes alive with an impressive 30-14 victory.

The home side held a commanding 24-6 half-time lead but failed to capitalise on its opportunities in the second half as the ill-disciplined Wests Tigers threatened a comeback but were hampered by errors and a lopsided penalty count.

The Titans are now just two points outside the top eight but face daunting road trips to Melbourne and Auckland over the last four rounds.

“It was great to get a win,” Titans prop Luke Bailey, who produced 28 tackles and gained 228 metres in another barnstorming performance, said.

“We were celebrating like we’d won the grand final but it’s just good for team confidence.”

The Tigers are stuck on 22 competition points – two ahead of the Gold Coast – but will stay in the top eight regardless of the other round 21 results.

Titans coach John Cartwright summed up the victory in front of 17,257 fans: “Yeah a bit of relief and very pleased with the first-half performance.

“On the back of five losses it was probably our best half of footy we’ve put together and we only came up with one error with the ball.”

Tigers hooker Robbie Farah was superb in his team’s 54-10 victory over North Queensland on Monday night but was well contained at Carrara.

“I think any side that wants to beat the Tigers, you have to close him down,”
Cartwright said.

“In the second half we give him a bit of free reign and they’re a very different side.

“For 90 per cent of the game we did a good job and kept them to three tries.”

Tigers coach Tim Sheens refused to blame the short turnaround for the loss but he did imply that his team had been treated unfairly under referee Steve Clark this year.

“We don’t win the penalty count much with Clarky,” lamented Sheens, who was missing captain Brett Hodgson (knee) tonight.

“We are the least penalised team in the comp according to the NRL stats but we don’t seem to be able to get on his best side so we have to work on that because we must have some issues.”

Cartwright said it helped that halfback Scott Prince, back from a collarbone injury, and Anthony Laffranchi were former Tigers players.

“It’s always handy having guys who come from that club,” he said.

“A little bit extra goes into their preparation and the other boys know that they lift.”

Prince made a successful comeback from a three-week lay-off and set up the opening try with a pinpoint bomb that hit the crossbar and bounced into the grateful hands of back-rower Gavin Cooper, who took on fullback Shannon Gallant to score.

The Titans led 14-6 after 30 minutes before scoring two tries in the dying stages of the first half through Brett Delaney and Josh Lewis, who had set up an earlier try for winger Jake Webster with a clever kick.

Human steamroller Taniela Tuiaki bagged two tries for the Tigers to keep them in the hunt as they trailed 24-10 just after the break.

The visitors’ defence was strong in the second half but the Titans, although lacking cohesion at times, held on for a deserved victory ahead of a daunting clash with the New Zealand Warriors at Mt Smart Stadium next weekend.

North Queensland Cowboys 28 def Canberra Raiders 22

NORTH Queensland snapped a near month-long winless streak as hobbled captain Johnathan Thurston piloted his side to a come-from-behind 28-22 victory over Canberra in Townsville on Saturday night.

Shocking goal-kicking from the home side kept the Raiders well in the contest as the Cowboys finished off both halves strongly in the six tries to four win.

Centre Ashley Graham scored twice for the Cowboys but missed his first three conversion attempts to finish with two from five, while Thurston missed his only shot at goal.

Ben Farrar, named at five-eighth during the week but shuffled out to centre to make way for veteran Shane Muspratt, also ran in two tries, while Thurston was an inspiration, crossing once himself and having a hand in three other four-pointers, including Graham’s 74th minute match-winner.

Trailing 12-4 six minutes from halftime, Farrar raced in twice within three minutes to lock the scores up at 12-12 at the main break.

But rather than carry momentum from that flurry into the second half, the home side looked flat as little-known Raider Joe Picker crossed after latching on to a miracle ball from centre Phil Graham for the visitors to go ahead 18-12.

An increased defensive effort led by back-rower Steve Southern and Thurston saw momentum swing back to the Cowboys and two tries in six minutes had the 15,000-plus crowd daring to believe their team would snatch its first win since an unconvincing 18-12 triumph over the Warriors on July 7.

But when Raider forward Matt Bickerstaff forced his way over the line in the 69th minute to lock the scores at 22-all, a golden point finish looked likely.

Enter Thurston – who has been playing with shoulder and knee injuries for several weeks – to deliver yet another inch-perfect pass for Graham to cross for the winning try.

North Queensland coach Graham Murray said relief was the overriding emotion following the victory, the team backing up from an embarrassing 54-10 hiding by the Tigers at Leichhardt Oval last Monday night.

“I thought our blokes played really good tonight. They’re (Canberra) a tough side, committed and they don’t give you too much, but we hung in there in defence particularly,” Murray said.

Having been under plenty of pressure to fix his side’s leaky defence, Murray was pleased that improvement in the area had led to some “pretty clever tries” and “getting back to what the Cowboys were about”.

Canberra coach Neil Henry lamented a lack of polish from his young charges, the mentor admitting they had their chances to win the match.

“We found different and inventive ways not to make the most of it,” Henry said.

He added a bad face injury to captain Alan Tongue, who spent long periods off the field getting treatment, hurt the Raiders.

“With four forwards coming off the bench, we had back-rowers playing in the centres and the Cowboys were pretty good at exploiting that,” Henry said.

Canberra (8-12) was dealt a further blow with explosive fullback William Zillman leaving the field in the first half with what appeared to be a knee injury.

For the already injury-hit Cowboys (11-9), Farrar aggravated a foot problem, while reserve forward Ben Vaeau (hamstring) was also added to the casualty ward.

Penrith Panthers 32 def South Sydney 16

PENRITH threw a spanner into South Sydney’s National Rugby League top-eight hopes after coming from behind to beat the Bunnies 32-16 at CUA Stadium.
JARROD Sammut is hard to miss at the best of times with his head of bleached white hair, but the Penrith youngster made sure no-one would forget his National Rugby League debut as he sparked the Panthers to a 32-16 upset of South Sydney last night.

From his first touch, when he ran headlong into the Rabbitohs defence on a kick return, it was obvious there was something a bit different about this kid, his courage complemented by some deft playmaking as he set up two tries for the wooden-spoon favourites.

“I heard that Matty (Panthers coach Matt Elliott) just loves fullbacks that gain metres and all I knew was that I was running straight,” Sammut said of his initial run.

“I couldn’t ask for anything more – debut at home, get a win and man-of-the-match.

“Words can’t explain how I feel at the moment.”

The Panthers remain rooted to the bottom of the ladder despite the win, while for Souths the loss – after they had led 10-0 after 17 minutes – puts a dent in their top eight hopes.

“We just dropped our intensity, we just didn’t play with the control that we needed to play with,” Rabbitohs coach Jason Taylor said.

“Maybe we thought it was happening a bit too easy and then just went into our shell.

“We talked about lifting it in the second half but we went backwards.”

On the other side of the fence the smile returned to the face of Elliott as he watched his side outscore the Bunnies 22-6 after the break.

But Elliott admitted playing the role of finals spoiler didn’t sit comfortably.

“It’s hard for me to admit and even swallow down on that to be honest with you,”
Elliott said.

“I had other aspirations for the season. I’m not someone that gives up on things very easily.”

Looking to avoid their first wooden spoon since 2001, the last-placed Panthers got themselves back to 10-all at half-time, only to shoot themselves in the foot shortly after the restart with Fetuli Talanoa pouncing on a floating Peter Wallace pass for an 85-metre intercept try.

The Panthers locked it up again when video referee Russell Smith awarded Matthew Cross a dubious four-pointer three minutes later – the back-rower appearing to make a second movement before reaching out for the line.

It was just the sort of luck that had deserted the Panthers all year, and they capitalised with Jennings picking up the crumbs from a Wallace bomb for a 20-16 lead.

Souths pair Shannon Hegarty and Shannan McPherson were put on report for a lifting tackle on winger Mark O’Halloran, before Wallace and Jennings combined again, with Maurice Blair wrapping up the win with a try on the bell.

Penrith’s rugby union-bound skipper Craig Gower said the win was all the sweeter after a midweek newspaper article had questioned his commitment to the side when he was spotted on the sidelines at Wallabies training.

Gower will leave to take up a three-year deal to play in the French rugby union championship at the conclusion of the NRL season.

“I’ve been at the club for 12 years and I’ve got more respect for the club than to be like that,” Gower said.

“You’ve got to be pretty stupid to not get any information off the game’s best when you’re an amateur at something.

“Maybe we should have been performing that way all year but obviously it’s very satisfying to come out and win.”

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