Grubber’s Power Rankings for Round 3

NRL News GrubberThe Grubber has just posted his NRL News Power Rankings for Round 3, 2008. Our fearless reporter giving it to the likes of Paul Gallen, Michael Witt and the hapless Cowboys. How did your team fare in this weeks Power Rankings?

Read the full report by following this link: NRL Power Rankings

Feel free to send us your comments on NRL Round 3 and we will forward them to the Grubber, simply email: NRLfeedback@gmail.com

Manly smack Warriors 52-6

NRL Round 3, 2008 – Manly Sea Eagles vs NZ Warriors @ Brookvale Oval

It’s the Manly Sea Eagles of old tonight at Brookvale, the home side looking the goods as they ran up a handy lead over the possession starved NZ Warriors.

Manly having good success using Jamie Lyon in the centres, veteran Steve Menzies playing solidly mid field at five-eighth. Using their possession to good effect a busy Matt Orford has been running to the line and the Eagles have enjoyed the fruits of his efforts.

The Eaglesscored several tries attacking the Warriors right hand edge in period 1, attacking Patrick Ah Van and getting tries to Michael Roberston. A good kick chase producing one try and the other a nice movement setup by Jamie Lyon as he drew Tate and Ah Van to put Robertson away again. At 16-0 it seemed the Sea Eagles could really run away with this one.

The Warriors were dropping the ball at crucial times and some poor calls from referee Sean Hampstead cost the NZ Warriors dearly at times. However in one of only a few sets in attacking field position, the Warriors came up with a good try to Lance Hohia, the small man running hard at the line from 5m off a well timed Michael Witt pass. Hohia hitting Brent Kite and Josh Perry yet still spinning and scoring. With such little ball and virtually no field position somehow the Warriors were hanging in, now on the board at 16-6.

Witt went from hero to villian only seconds later, the half back dropping the ball from the restart and Orford happily collecting the scraps on the full to run 8m to score untouched. The try putting the Eagles safely ahead at 22-6. This miss from Witt the major turning point of the game, this really looked to have cost the Warriors any chance of staying with Manly as they hit the gas pedal.

The Warriors hoping to see more possession in the second half, but they simply didn’t hold on to it when it came. Manly had only scored 4 tries prior to tonight, but have come out and pinched 4 in a single half – easily their best half of football during the NRL 2008 season. But there was plenty more to come, the result getting embarressing for the Warriors as it dragged on.

Coming out after half time, Manly were immediately dominant. The Warriors being asked to secure the ball by coach Ivan Cleary, but treating it with no respect and giving away too many penalties to be competitive. Against Manly this red hot, they had no chance with the ball – let alone without it.

At the 54 min mark when Anthony Watmough went over the score, there was clear interference on defender Logan Swan by Ben Cuthbertson. Sent to the video referee, Steve Clark made an aboslute howler of a call – somehow he came up with a try ruling when it was a clear cut no-try to Manly. It’s simply amazing how video referee calls can still be made incorrectly, this was a ‘classic intereference play’ and ruled a try – it makes everyone wonder what the hell is going on. The score 32-6 after this call from Clark.

Fortunately the shocking video referee call didn’t really matter, even Bill Harrigan if he was involved somewhere couldn’t stop the Manly Sea Eagles from rolling on – the Eagles putting on a stack of tries, with Brett Stewart in vintage form and new winger Michael Bani playing out of his skin. With 20 minutes to go in the game, Manly were ready to make the score anything – getting out to 38-6 and looking ominous.

Things got really ugly for the Warriors, with Manly running absolutely riot. The Eagles having success on both wings and the try of the match coming with 7 minutes to go – Heath L’Estrange taking the ball from dummy half and crab running across field, throwing thousands of dummies and picking up a flying Brett Stewart – the fullback getting in front of his man and throwing an around the corner pass to Michael Robertson aka Jesus Christ Superstar – bagging 3 tries for night Robertson.

Stewart wasn’t to be outdone, the speedy fullback getting his third try seconds afterwards – taking full advantage of yet another Warriors mistake.

The numbers getting big, Anthony Watmough taking home 2 tries, Robertson and Stewart a triple each.

The Eagles hitting 52 points to 6 with five minutes to go.

Jason Taylor and the South Sydney Rabbitohs must be absolutely petrified about facing Manly at Brookvale next week – the Bunnies could be facing an 0-4 start to the season against a now in form Sea Eagles.

Bulldogs bounce back, beat tiring Tigers 32-12

Bulldogs beat Wests Tigers in NRL Round 3 2008The Wests Tigers’ golden run has been stopped by the Bulldogs today, Wests starting the better side and looking sharp early – only to fall away poorly in the second half and allow the Bulldogs to score an unlikely win. Bulldogs winning 32-12.

An improving Sonny Bill Williams was a handful all day, scoring a solid try and proving tough to stop for the Dogs. For the Tigers, Robbie Farrah looked only 50% fit after recovering late from the flu and the Tigers really started blowing as the game drew on. The Tigers playing a flat attack and Brett Hodgson throwing too many long balls that put too much pressure on his side. Dene Halatau the only real stand out for Wests, breaking the line and scoring a nice opportunist try.

In the end, the Bulldogs finished 4 tries to the Tigers 2, with Hazem El Masri getting one and potting 4 conversions to celebrate his record-breaking 273rd game for the Dogs – now registering more than club favourite Steve Mortimer.

The Tigers started well but were eventually overrun by the Bulldogs power game and some average final tackle and kicking choices late in their sets.

The 59th minute told the story of the Tigers day, when John Morris kicked straight into the legs of Sonny Bill Williams. The New Zealand juggernaut showed no signs of the calf troubles that had him in doubt for the match as he raced 80 metres to score beside the posts for a 20-12 lead.

Williams earned a standing ovation as he was taken off for the remainder of the game following the long-distance try. The Bulldogs confirmed the two competition points with tries to Heka Nanai and skipper Andrew Ryan in the final five minutes.

The Tigers opened the scoring after five minutes when Brett Hodgson – showing no ill-effects of last week’s concussion – handled twice as the ball hit the ground to put Beau Ryan over.

A Holdsworth grubber for Luke Patten locked it up at 6-all after 20 minutes, and there was even less resistance for his second try when he dummied his way past a stunned Chris Lawrence for a 10-6 lead.

The Bulldogs gifted the Tigers the lead when Michael Sullivan threw a pass from dummy half which rolled aimlessly across the field, from where Dene Halatau pounced.

But that was the last of the joy for the Tigers, the Bulldogs scoring 22 unanswered points after the break as the visitors wilted against the much bigger Bulldogs forwards.

Israel Folau signs with Broncos

Israel Folau signs contract deal with Brisbane BroncosBoom Melbourne Storm centre Israel Folau has signed today with the Brisbane Broncos after many felt he would remain in Melbourne with the club that nurtured him and took him to an NRL Premiership.

Reports put the contract value at around $2 million dollars for a term of 4 years, as the rookie spoke of reuniting with his family who are all Brisbane based.

The signing of Folau puts Brisbane in an awesome position, already playing amazing football and boasting a good batch of younger players – the only piece of the jigsaw puzzle left is the recruitment of Craig Bellamy. The former Broncos assistant makes no bones about his desier to return him and Brisbane have said they do not want anyone else other than Bellamy at the helm.

Penrith do enough to beat Bunnies 26-22

Penrith Panthers win NRL Round 3 2008 against South SydneyThe Penrith Panthers have come out firing in their Round 3 NRL clash with the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Both sides winless this year and under pressure to perform, somebody knew the outcome – the bookmakers installing the Panthers at $1.50 favourites in a motion that had many scratching their heads.

The money rarely lies and certainly there will be a few people thinking that game fixing might be possible as the Panthers came out like a team possessed. Having the majority of the early possession, outside back Brad Tighe was the stand-out – getting a try-scoring double and regularly making it hard for his opposite to contain.

Jarrod Sammut has been heavily involved with some good touches and his kicking has been impressive today. Interestingly though, the usually focused South Sydney side look disinterested and very lethargic at times – their lack of focus costing them a benefit of the doubt try to Maurice Blair late in the first half. Sammut creating the opportunities through good kicking and nice vision. After this touch down it was 16-0 to Penrith.

Souths started to get some ball late in the half, but their discipline was unusually poor early on and compounded their early problems. The Bunnies continue to look wayward in attack, unsure what plays to run and broadcasting their intentions most times.

Souths did get on the board in the 32nd minute, a brain explosion from Luke Priddis gifting them the possession that eventually gave them a try. Priddis giving away the worst flop in recent memory, after the Panthers totally had the upper hand.

Talanoa scoring for Souths off a nice right side attacking movement and getting themselves back into the match at 16-6.

The confidence was short lived however, Adam Woolnough getting a try for Penrith at the other end after a soft miss from John Sutton. The Souths star not looking ideal at pivot and I think Jason Taylor may have reacted too heavily to Round 1 and 2 losses. Sutton is best as a running back rower on the fringe.

At half time it was 22-6, with Penrith enjoying just under 60% possession. Souths hoping the strong wind at their back and more ball in the second half can help them home.

The second half showed an immediately change in fortunes, Souths coming out the better and getting early rewards through John Sutton after a nice charge at the line from 7-8m out. Sutton beating a poor Maurice Blair attempted tackle to score and run around behind the posts. Sutton looking better a little wider off the ruck. 22-12 the score.

Penrith did their level best to give Souths the game, their usual string of penalties arriving to give their opposition plenty of ball.

The Panthers did get some breathing space after a penalty goal just before 50 minutes to take them to a 24-12 lead, still only 2 converted tries ahead of the Bunnies.

Penrith suddenly lifted with the introduction of Paul Aiton. The livewire hooker, wearing the head gear today and like he usually does, gives them so much spark and thrust from the play the ball. I don’t know why Matt Elliott doesn’t use Aiton in the run on side, he provides the team that X-Factor at the play the ball.

Things got a little ugly in the next 10 minutes, Penrith missing tackles and giving away more penalties and Souths were struggling with the loss of Issac Luke with a suspected broken hand and captain Roy Asotasi with severe concussion, both back in the dressing sheds as their team was trying desperately to hang in. The only good news for Souths was the breeze at their backs and the continued improvement in the second half of John Sutton, warming to pivot and running that bit wider to the line.

Souths still looked flat footed and unlikely to pierce in attack even after several repeat sets, Jason Taylor needs to drastically do something with their attack and fast. Luckily an unsuspecting grubber ahead from prop field Michael Greenfield ricocheted off the post pads and he was able to grab it himself to score – referee Tony De La Heras interestingly going to the video referee to see if Greenfield was on-side from his own kick, a funny little error from the official.

At 24-18 Souths were coming home the stronger, the Panthers not scoring a try in the second half – but you still felt Souths lacked the constructive and structured attack to win the game. Souths reverted to the high bomb, but kept targeting the Luke Rooney wing – not smart considering the winger is a giant and was regularly defusing the raids.

Coming into the final stage of the game, the difference was only 2 converted tries – but when the Panthers got a penalty in good position, they wanted to go for the quick tap – but smartly Matt Elliott rushed Matt Adamson out with the message to take the two points and in the end it was the right move from the coach under the pump.

The final 10 minutes was tense with both sides nervously trading barbs. Dean Widders cracking first with a dumb strip that cost Souths possession and nearly saw the Panthers go in to wrap up the game. The Bunnies doing enough with their on-line defence to keep things solid. Widders made up for it soon after, despite a poor kicking game in the latter stages from Souths with Sutton kicking out on the full – he was the man to again make the big play setting up Widders for a try.

Sutton ran to the line wide off the ruck drawing two defenders in at about 5 m out from the Penrith line, the big paws of Sutton deliberately reaching around the tacklers before they impacted on him to curl the ball to Widders in a sweet play for a nice try. Souths were back, but had a hiccup when George Ndiara missed the conversion in easy position to leave the score at 26-22 in the Panthers favour.

The final 5 minutes were tense for the struggling Panthers. You could feel Matt Elliott’s shivers as Penrith gave away scrum penalties and made poor decisions to nearly give Souths a sniff, but overall it was the Panthers who still deserved the win and despite not scoring a single try in the second half – they won this game with an energetic and committed start that set the scene.

Titans too good for Sharks 18-4

John Cartwright Gold Coast Titans coach, gets win in NRL Round 3 2008 over DragonsThe game at Skilled Park got underway with a physical opening, the bash and barge Cronulla defence immediately visible and the Titans also packing some punch as the two teams came together. There were a few nerves early on, with both teams letting dangerous bombs bounce and the Titans unlucky not to score a quick try – with Ben Jeffery getting a nice bounce, but support player Luke O’Dwyer ruled to be inside the 10m.

The Sharks quickly recovered to have a crack themselves, putting up a spiral bomb that was also left to bounce by Scott Prince and fortunately for the Gold Coast, Jordan Aitkens picked up the scraps and saved the day.

The physical nature of the game continued, Matt Rogers looking very keen against his old club and getting involved in plenty of the early play. Anthony Laffranchi felt the hard head of Paul Gallen, the two clashing skulls – with Laffranchi coming off the worst, suffering a heavy forehead gash and eye socket damage, forcing his side to make an interchange to stitch him up.

Possession was heavily favouring the Titans early, the Gold Coast having nearly 70% of the ball after 10 minutes. The usually dynamic attacking side however was unable to crack that brick wall Sharks defence. Paul Gallen was running around like a man possessed in defence, tackling everything that moved and hitting it with brute force.

The Titans getting several sets of 6 around the 15 minute mark, but the Sharks were able to repel wave after wave of attack. Cronulla eventually getting some ball after a silly O’Dwyer mistake from the play the ball. You could see the frustration building in the local side – unable to pierce the Sharks line, even with mammoth amounts of possession.

It’s interesting to watch the Sharks of 2008, we know their defence is one of the best in the NRL – but their attack is now setup with such a deeper structure, they have previously played such flat lines with the ball – these days they look a lot better running the Ricky Stuart set plays. Their patient play was rewarded in the 25 minute mark, the Sharks working the play to their right and David Simmons bolted onto a nice Blake Green pass to score a smart try in the corner.

The Gold Coast were struggling to make any inroads with their attack, their last tackle plays were a little off the mark in the first half hour – things compounded by penalties to allow the Sharks out of their red zone. The Sharks no-name forwards making very few errors and allowing the side to get very quick play the balls, which in turn was allowing Kimmorley and Kearney so much time and space to run plays.

For the Titans, Preston Campbell was a stand-out. Heavily involved and comfortably defusing bombs and nearly forcing line-breaks around the rucks. He looks good in 2008 Campbell and tonight seemed most likely to penetrate for the home side.

Gold Coast seemed to channel a lot of their play at the Cronulla left hand edge defence. Centre Ben Pommeroy handling everything that was thrown at him and nearly picking off two intercepts off Scott Prince cut out balls. Half time coming around, the Titans had all the ball but were unable to use it to good effect – score 4-0 to Cronulla.

The wild Titans fans finally found their voice as dual international Mat Rogers overcame a controversial week to score a fine solo try in the 47th minute with a simple kick and regather. The home side getting a good early confidence boost through the Rogers try – setting the tone for the second half.

Eight minutes later Cronulla again buckled under the pressure when former international Brad Meyers stormed over following good lead-up work by Scott Prince and Nathan Friend to make it 10-4. The two tries in quick succession for the locals changed the game from an arm-wrestle to a more open affair and it seemed the more uptempo play was suiting the Titans much more than the Sharks.

By the 68th it was 12-4 after Sharks captain Paul Gallen’s facial massage on Laffranchi’s bandaged head led to a penalty and Prince did the rest. Any hope the travelling Sharks had eroded with Gallens poor play, forcing his team to defend and take more petrol out of the tank. Frustration continuing to build as the Sharks could feel things slipping away.

Flying Gold Coast winger Jordan Atkins than crossed for his fifth try in two games at Skilled Park when Prince and Rogers combined to send him over on the right sideline in the 74th. Mat Rogers noticably exactic with the try and keen to get the win over his old side – the pivot keeping busy all night and getting just rewards.

Cronulla had hoped to extend their surprise season start, but the Titans were good enough to make something of the second half and ensue the home win. The win ratio of 100% at Robina remaining in-tact for the Coast.

The Titans will again entertain their adoring home fans next Saturday when they play host to the Canberra Raiders, whilst the Sharks continue their road trip thanks to their home ground renovations, this time meeting the St George-Illawarra Dragons next Saturday night at ANZ Stadium.

Gold Coast Titans 18
Tries: Mat Rogers, Brad Meyers, Jordan Atkins
Goals: Scott Prince 3
defeated
Cronulla Sharks 4
Tries: David Simmons
Goals:

At Skilled Park

Referee – Jason Robinson
Crowd – 19,050

Raiders defy Dragons 21-14

Lincoln Withers gets Canberra Raiders the win in NRL Round 3 2008 over St George Illawarra DragonsThe Canberra Raiders fought back hard in the latter stages of the game against the Dragons in the ACT tonight to get home 21-14 on the back of a Lincoln Withers led revival. The Raiders getting two second-half tries through the re-recruited Joel Monaghan and the the lead proved enough to kill off the inconsistent Dragons.

Canberra local Monaghan capped his first home game back with the Raiders following three seasons with the Sydney Roosters with a try-saving catch in the 60th minute that helped ensure the victory.

The loss is a setback for the Dragons, who earned their first win of the season against Gold Coast last week, their woes compounded by a biting report against interchange forward Jarrod Saffy.

Canberra half-back Todd Carney made the complaint against Saffy in the first half, although replays were inconclusive.

Carney said he was willing to front the judiciary to repeat his allegation.

“I hit him around the chest and tried to rotate him and my hand must have been around his mouth,” Carney said.

“I reckon it will be pretty obvious on the video. Obviously if it’s that clear on the TV and the judiciary needs me obviously I’d have to go.”

Raiders skipper Alan Tongue backed Carney’s claim.

“He said it straight away and there were marks on his arms,” Tongue said.

“I don’t think he was lying about that one.”

Underfire Dragons coach Nathan Brown was philosophical about his side’s second loss in three weeks.

“You do what you do and things will work out,” Brown said, before praising his side for “hanging in”.

“We are not going to make any drastic changes.”

Brown was, however, mildly critical of Chase and Soward.

“Our young halves float in (to) the game and out (of) the game,” he said.

For the Raiders, centre Phil Graham was helped off the ground with a serious ankle injury in the opening half, while utility forward Lincoln Withers was placed on report by referee Gavin Badger for a late and high shot on Rangi Chase in the 72nd minute.

The Dragons dominated the opening exchanges, skipping out to a 10-0 lead.

St George Illawarra winger Jason Nightingale starred early, plucking a deft cross-field chip from half-back Jamie Soward out of the sky and falling over the line.

Nightingale bagged another four-pointer late in the half when he again showcased outstanding aerial skills off the back of a Chase bomb.

But lazy defence close to their line cost them with Raiders prop Troy Thompson bashing his way over for a try and five-eighth Terry Campese also scampering over in the opening 40 minutes.

The Dragons still led 14-12 at the break, but it was all Canberra in the second half as they earned their second victory from three games this season.

The Raiders forwards, led by Michael Weyman, laid an impressive foundation for the halves pairing of Carney and Campese to swing the ball from side-to-side all night long.

At the back, Bronx Goodwin passed the test of replacing ace youngster William Zillman, showing safe hands under the high ball and a willingness to put his body on the line.

Carney sealed the win with a 78th minute field goal.

AAP

Roosters hold out scrappy Storm 10-6

Mitchell Pearce Sydney Roosters Halfback NRL Round 3 vs Melbourne StormThe Sydney Roosters are putting on a brave showing at the SFS, coming out very energetic to lead the Melbourne Storm 8-0 at halftime. As expected, the Storm ran with Greg Inglis from the bench and started with Matt Geyer at five eighth.

As in Round 1 and 2, the Roosters have been impressive with their deep attacking set plays. Their second man and decoy plays are possibly the best in the NRL at present, but it was a smart Mitchell Pearce bomb that got them over the line after Shaun Kenny-Dowall got up to reef it back to Sam Perrett, the little Perrett wrestling with 4 Storm defenders to off-load to Dowall from 1m out to send the rangey kiwi over the line for the Roosters.

With a good share of possession the Roosters attacked for a good majority of the half. Another Pearce bomb in the 12m saw Kenny-Dowall come up with the ball and from 5m out and no defenders he looked sure to score, but a brain explosion from the Kiwi saw him kick ahead and send it dead.

The Storm were defending OK, but it’s hard to predict the bounce of a good bomb and the sheer weight of possession was helping the Roosters keep the upper-hand.

When Melbourne finally saw some ball, their handling was letting them down. Even the usually safe Billy Slater was coughing up ball and while their forwards were making good metres, the halves combination is still not ideal for the Storm – Cooper Cronk not getting much support from utility Geyer in a similar fashion to Aitken last week.

Greg Inglis came on for the Storm late in the half and certainly looks to have added plenty of weight to his tall frame. Bulky and full of muscle, he looks more like a Willie Mason style back-rower than a back-line maestro.

Mentally, Inglis might have given his side a boost – but the Roosters just look so eager in defence. They are rushing out of the line and late in the half Dave Shillington has put on two of the biggest hits of the year – burying the Storm forwards and giving his side a huge boost. The Storm fell away with their handling again in the back end of the half and were killing themselves with penalties – the count at 6-1 against them at one stage.

Cooper Cronk nearly stole his team a late try after some smart kicks saw Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Braith Anasta spill some ball over their own try line, but the clean up job by Perrett and Tupou saved the day. The ensuing defence sets by the Roosters on their lines typifies thier new outlook under Brad Fittler – solid, scrambling well and fit.

Roosters running into the sheds happy at 8-0 and the Storm lucky to be only behind by 8 after a poor first half. Craig Bellamy firing up in the box and letting fly with a tonne of expletives. Rain has just started to fall at the SFS as the teams run on the second half.

The second half quickly developed into a major arm wrestle. Both sides playing safety first, one off the ruck footy. Fewer errors and each side getting to their kicks, but the kicking game of the Storm was unusually off the mark, kicks from Cronk and Smith going dead or finding Minichiello on the full.

Both sides proving solid in defence with very few missed tackles. An early chance to the Roosters was snuffed out by Billy Slater – the Storm fullback running down a flying Minichiello to save a certain try.

Apart from this opportunity the chances for the 4 pointers were few and far between. The first points coming in the 60th minute from a Fitzgibbon penalty goal.

Soon after, Roosters half back Mitchell Pearce was knocking out by a soaring Billy Slater. Slater taking a high bomb a metre off the ground and clipping Pearce’s head in mid-air and rocking the rookie no.7’s head back and sending him to the turf.

The Storm getting their first chance soon after this play, they got a penalty for Pearce being off-side on the kick chase and went length of the field only to see their hard-nosed forward Jeremy Smith ruled to have knocked on over the try-line as he reached out to score. The missed try proving costly, the Roosters getting possession and a piggy back penalty soon after, to be on the attack themselves.

Brad Fittler extremely visible in the box, riding every play and clapping his team with that trademark Fitter smirk.

Entering the final 10 minutes, the Storm forwards especially Clifford Manua having a strong period. The rookie Manua being a game stand out for his side, always making massive metres and running very hard, straight and dragging defenders along with him.

In the 71st minute, the Roosters received a penalty and could have taken the lead to two converted tries at 12-0. But unsure of the angle, they elected to run the ball – nearly scoring but the tiring Storm defence was doing just enough to snuff their raids.

The Storm really don’t seem to have anyone wanting to take charge at this period, Anasta is doing his bit for the Roosters – taking the initiative and looking most likely to break this game open.

Even as Melbourne get some quality possession in good field position off a Willie Mason high shot on Greg Inglis, their attacking plays lacked depth and set plays were easily read – the Roosters looking good even though tired in defence.

Kick chase remaining enthusiastic for the Roosters nearing the final 5 minutes, all the team coming up in a line to pressure and harass the Storm.

As they so often do, the Storm somehow came up with a try against the run of play. A nice wide play involving Cooper Cronk, saw him put Israel Folau into a gap and the big centre sucked in Kenny-Dowall to position Steve Turner nicely. Turner kicking ahead for Slater to re-gather and score, the Storm amazingly in with a shot to win this arm wrestle after looking dead and buried.

With 5 minutes to go, the Storm get the shot in the arm they needed.

Amazing scenes from the kick-off, Braith Anasta booting the return kick deep and the catch from Matt Geyer was a shocker – the veteran making a meal of it and crashing into the corner post. In a staggering call, the officials somehow ruled out on the full – simply amazing it could have been ruled that way.

The Roosters having to defend immediately on their line, the Storm getting a chance to steal the match with a full set inside the enemy 20m line. The usual precision left the premiers and they again coughed up a simple play and turned the ball over, some justice cutting in for Sydney.

The final 30 seconds seeing Craig Fitzgibbon lose the ball and the Storm yet again getting a chance to take the game. But in a play that summed up their night, Melbourne tried a poor kick over the top that was easily taken by Amos Roberts.

The Roosters hanging on for an upset win 10-6 and the Storm losing back to back games for the first time in 2 years of NRL Rugby League. Man of the match honours shared between Braith Anasta and Mitchell Pearce, the two hard to split with Anthony Minichiello coming in a close third.

Will the Storm get a dent in their usually rock solid confidence now? The upcoming weeks will be interesting viewing; whats your thoughts on Melbourne and the Roosters in 2008 – two sides playing very different football from the year before.

Referee decisions; did it cost Knights?

Michael Hagan Eels defeat Knights in Golden Point NRL Round 3 2008Interestingly there has been plenty of talk after the Eels golden point win over the Knights writes John Chelsea – but were the officials really in the wrong? Were the Knights worse off for the decisions?

The first dubious call came as the Knights were winning 12-10 and about to get possession in good field position after Eel Taulima Tautai knocked on. After the knock-on was checked by the video referee, it was ruled Knights half Scott Dureau knocked the ball out. The Knights were probably slightly hard done by here, it was an unintentional knock by Dureau and was more a case of Taulima Tautai not securing his carry as he was rising to his feet.

This call turned out to be fairly crucial, the Eels scoring two tries after this to break away to a comfortable lead before half-time.

The Eels had their frustrations with officials when Mark Riddell was denied a certain try, ruled held by Tony Archer before the tackle completed. Piggy spinning out of a 3 man Knights tackle to score a try. This costly blunder by the referee certainly evened up the stakes; the Knights and Eels even in terms of critical calls.

The next complaint came soon after from the Knights, when captain and hooker Danny Buderus was stripped of the ball by Jarryd Hayne. Immediately ruled a knock-on by referee Archer, the Knights complained and wanted the strip checked by the video referee. It was hard to understand what the Newcastle side was complaining about here, either way the Eels would have got possession. Hayne stripping the ball back towards his line, then Hindmarsh gathering it before play even stopped – so the Knights weren’t hard done by in this situation as some may have said.

As the game got to the final 15 minutes, both sides got a bit scrappy and there was a period with plenty of dropped ball. From the lead-up to the Keith Lulia try where a possible forward pass was thrown, to several knock-on’s that were missed against the Knights; Newcastle should probably count themselves lucky these weren’t picked up and the critical calls certainly worked out even for both sides.

The ending to the game simply proved how close these two teams were. The lead chopping and changing as field goal snaps came into play.

The frustrating thing for the NRL and Officials – is that no matter what they do, they cannot win. Last season, there were complaints about ball security in the rucks. Acting on the outcry, the NRL innovate and introduce a new rule to ensure that ruck infringements where the ball is affected can be reviewed by the video referee and yet the public and TV commentators have done nothing but complain about the new rule and delays that occur.

Lets think positive and move with the times. Occasionally a rule introduced maybe wrong and might need tweaking, but lets give things a chance and stop complaining.

With such passion and consistently close results almost weekly in the NRL – we are sure to see tempers flared and much more complaining yet I feel. We’d love to hear your thoughts on the game, please comment below and we will review and publish each and everyone.

Greg Inglis to play for Storm tonight

The Melbourne Storm are preparing to throw Inglis and Crocker into the mix tonight and although the Storm went down by a point to the Sharks last Sunday, their first loss at the “The Graveyard” for 18 months, their efforts after that uncharacteristic opening 15 minutes was exceptional. After conceding 14 early points, they only conceded three more for the match, all in the second half. Unfortunately one of those points was a late drop goal to win the match from former Storm halfback Brett Kimmorley.

The big talking point for tonights clash; will Inglis and Crocker return for the Storm side?

The Roosters also suffered a defeat last week, going down to the Brisbane Broncos 14-20 at the Sydney Football Stadium. The major talking point from that game was the shoulder charge on Braith Anasta by Karmichael Hunt which left the Roosters’ five-eighth with a broken nose. Although Hunt was charged with a careless tackle, he successfully defended himself at the tribunal. It will be interesting to see how Anasta plays with a broken nose.

INS AND OUTS

Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy has named an 18-man squad for this Saturday’s clash against the Sydney Roosters. With Brett White to miss this week after being suspended following a striking incident during the game against the Sharks, Adam Blair has been elevated to the starting line-up in the front-row. Antonio Kaufusi has been brought back into the squad for the first time in 2008 to take Blair’s place on the bench.

Former Brisbane Bronco Clifford Manua has been named as 18th man – there is however plenty of speculation that the Storm could sneak Greg Inglis and Michael Crocker into their line-up. Inglis has apparently been moving well and could be ready to go – coach Craig Bellamy probably keen to use them to stop any confidence drain from last weeks shock loss.

NRL NEWS FACTS

Melbourne has not lost consecutive games since Rounds 3-4, 2006. has lost four of their past five games against Melbourne. Melbourne has only won two of their past 11 games at the Sydney Football Stadium has scored just 10 second-half points in two games in 2008

KEY MATCH UPS

With Brett White being rubbed out for four weeks for striking, Antonio Kaufusi has been named to make his long-awaited return to the Storm’s squad of 17. After severely injuring his knee during last year’s State-of-Origin series, and catching a bug on the plane back from the World Club Challenge, Kaufusi is finally ready to play in the NRL. He will be looking to put in a big performance over the coming weeks to cement his spot in the side, even when White eventually does return. Kaufusi’s partnership with Jeff Lima will be critical to the Storm’s chances of winning.

The Roosters have recruited heavily in the forward pack and are now one of the most formidable in the competition. In a beaten team, Lima was once again impressive last week. He had 17 runs for 171 metres, 20 tackles and seven tackle breaks in his 41 minutes playing time. Along with fellow front-rower Adam Blair, and the backrow brigade of Jeremy Smith, Ryan Hoffman, Sika Manu and Sam Tagataese, the Storm big men will need huge games to combat the Roosters’ forwards.

Willie Mason and Mark O’Meley were both recruited from the Bulldogs in the off-season, and they have added some much needed firepower to the Roosters’ pack. Add those impressive names to the likes of representative Nate Myles, Australian international Anthony Tupou, and David Shillington, and it’s little wonder the Broncos were singing their praises after their Round 2 clash last week.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Total: Played: 16, Storm: 8, Roosters: 8 At Sydney Football Stadium: Played: 6, Storm: 2, Roosters: 4

FOR AND AGAINST 2008

Points for: Storm: 48, Roosters: 48Points against: Storm: 35, Roosters: 40Tries for: Storm: 8, Roosters: 8 Points differential: Storm: +13, Roosters: +8

LAST ROUND MATCH:

Storm: def. by Sharks 17-16 @ Olympic Park

PREDICTION TIP: Originally I liked the Roosters at home in this one, the Storm are down on forward depth a little and their halves have been good without being great so far. However, should Greg Inglis and Michael Crocker be late starters – this would certainly sway my tip the way of the Melbourne Storm.