How can NSW revive their State of Origin hopes?

State of OriginWith State of Origin Game 3 only days away, what can the Blues really do to reverse the trend in Game 2? While they won in Sydney – it was only by a small margin and the flood gates really opened up in Queensland for Game 2. The quality of the Queensland players shone through and the stop/start tactics – more based on prevention from NSW in the original game were now useless.

The NSW Blues should really look at starting the game with Kurt Gidley at fullback. Manly flyer Brett Stewart certainly hasn’t put a foot wrong, but his offensive impact has been limited at best so far in State of Origin.

Craig Bellamy could look to start Stewart on the bench and inject him when defence has tired, in a similar way Queensland smartly use Billy Slater.

Many believe that for Kurt Gidley to have a strong impact he needs to be out there for the full 80mins. This is how he does it for Newcastle on a weekly basis. The Queensland Origin side has four kickers in their team; Jonathon Thurston and Scott Prince on either side of the ruck and the Storm’s Cameron Smith can kick from dummy half, with Karmichael  Hunt as a fallback.

For Game 3, NSW have only two genuine kickers in the side with Braith Anasta and Mitchell Pearce. Danny Buderus is not a noted kicker therefore putting a lot pressure on the new halves combination.

Although he has a good kicking game, Pearce will be under a lot of pressure as an Origin rookie and probably doesn’t have the distance kicking game under pressure that others possess.

This is where Gidley can play a crucial role.

Gidley not only has a good kicking game but he has the options and speed, thus he can run the ball as well when the situation arises.

The Sydney Roosters do score the majority of their tries through kicks, however Queensland won’t be easily beaten in the air on the fringes. Pearce and Anasta will certainly give the Maroons more to think about on final tackle plays.

Queensland have worked overtime to ensure high balls won’t be a problem and developed a good counter-strike from these attempts in Game 2.With Gidley starting the match it will help relieve pressure on both Anasta and Pearce from the outset. The more options NSW have on tackle 5, the more difficult the situation is for the Queenslanders to defend against. Having defenders in two minds, unsure whether to stay in the defence line or drop back – this could prove very handy for NSW.

NSW will lose nothing with Gidley at the back; his defence is sound and he is a good positional player, his speed is also comparable to Brett Stewart. He is the ace up the sleeve for the Blues.

Another player who was unlucky to have missed out on State of Origin selection is Sea Eagle Anthony Watmough . He has a strong running game and can tackle with aggression. Anthony Tupo is lucky to have retained his spot after having never really fired up at Origin level, he has lost that running edge and does come up with the odd error.

From a NSW point of view, a new look side was always going to find it tough against the quality of Queensland right across the park. In Game 1, NSW had the right mix of players to frustrate the Maroons. A solid gameplan from Craig Bellamy, carried out to the letter by players – it all worked.

With several key members from that NSW side now suspended or injured; the new look side has a huge task at hand. It will probably take more than a few positional changes to get this NSW side home, they will need a full house at ANZ Stadium and the bounce of the ball to come their way all night. Buckle up NSW, this is going to be tough.

Fan Feedback: Suburban Home Grounds

Leichhardt Oval NRL Rugby League Suburban Home GroundsAt NRL News we are lucky to have a large group of active fans who regularly provide their feedback through the ‘Shout Box’ on the website. Any NRL enthusiast can quickly post their thoughts and discuss current Rugby League issues with fellow supporters of the NRL.

One of our more active users that goes by the nickname ‘HateQld’ has provided us with the first ever – ‘Fan Feedback’ article. We always encourage visitors to send us detailed feedback or articles, so if you’d like to have your article posted at NRL simply email:

Suburban Home Grounds

By HateQld

Think of the suburban home grounds etched in the memories of so many Rugby League players and supporters; the likes of Belmore Sports Ground , Kogarah Jubilee Oval, Brookvale Oval, Leichhardt Oval, North Sydney Oval,and the SCG.

I remember hearing stories about the home teams hosing down the
visitors dressing rooms before a game leave them feeling cold – trying to put them
off their game or leaving the grass slightly longer to combat a kicking game that might be employed by a certain team.

The atmosphere was always electric as you approached any of those grounds.Two to three vendors selling hot food outside the grounds, with young kids selling the big league programs as you filed into the ground.

Regardless of the suburban Rugby League ground, the opposition feared enemy territory. The fans from both teams loved to travel to those grounds to see the teams do battle. Some of those grounds would hold between 20,000 to 30,000
with an atmosphere strong enough to run a small power plant.

Where the seating capacity was smaller, you still felt the power of the hits and you were able to sit close enough to the game to provide the crowd support and cheering of twice as many people in a bigger venue.

Come September all the finals and grand finals would be played at the SCG or the Sydney Football Stadium. Teams from both sides would not an advantage due to the mutual venue.

I’ve been to ANZ Stadium (formerly Telstra Stadium) several times and it’s impossible to experience anything like the atmosphere a traditional venue can produce. The advantage to the home team is non-existent, even with a large home crowd – most of the players admit they can’t hear them at the large Homebush Stadium.

It’s simply hollow.

The ANZ stadium is now used by four clubs and it doesn’t feel like a home ground to any of them at all. Everyone you talk to says the same thing; they all want their clubs to have a specific local venue.

While corporate sponsors and amenities must be considered, the attraction of a suburban home ground still holds many advantages for clubs. When done right, a balance between a traditional ‘hill’ such as at Leichhardt Oval or Brookvale Oval combined with state of the art amenities, media and corporate areas – the best of both worlds could even be possible.

As clubs look for a quick cash grab and move operations to ANZ, they are failing to see the big picture – their future direction and earnings are being forfeited. The short sighted ‘stop gap’ solution is happening too often and hurting several clubs as the Sydney crowd squeeze continues.

After watching the NRL clash today between the Wests Tigers and the NZ Warriors at Leichhardt Oval, the venue was near full even before the preliminary matches got underway. The vibe, the roar and all the family atmosphere that Rugby League was built on was totally evident. Even the lower grade players got to experience it, the place was packed.

The strong local support was most evident when a Warriors player was attempting a sideline conversion. You could see and feel the roar’s and boo’s from Wests Tigers fans putting the the kicker off. Youngsters were literally metres away from their hero’s as they watched them do battle right before their eyes; a far greater experience than sitting in a deserted ANZ Stadium and trying to get a peek at the action on a TV Screen Replay.

As the clock winds down on Sunday afternoon at Leichhardt, the sun casting a shadow over the stand, the great Australian salute is in full cry as people on the hill shield the sun from their eyes, some of them making an early exit to avoid traffic.
Some say the game must only look to the future and build bigger stadiums. While progress is always important, you still need to give the fans what they want. With crowd figures so far in the NRL season being average at best, maybe it is time to truly go ‘Back to the Future’ and use suburban grounds albeit with some future proofing? Lets try for that ‘balance’.

All that was missing from Leichhardt Oval today was Laurie Nichols shadow boxing on the sideliens, as his team did battle right before the fans eyes.

Warriors upset Wests at Leichhardt 28-26

Wests Tigers NZ Warriors NRL Round 16 2008The NZ Warriors have held off a fast finishing Wests Tigers side 28-26 in a huge upset at Leichhardt Oval today. The Tigers missing an ideal chance to advance on the table and the NZ Warriors keeping their distant semi-finals hopes alive.

Tigers full-back Brett Hodgson missed a sideline conversion after the bell which, had it been successful, would have sent the match into golden-point extra time.

The Warriors, missing State of Origin stars Steve Price and Brent Tate, held on for victory in Ruben Wiki’s 300th match after the Tigers scored two tries in the final three-and-a-half minutes in an entertaining clash.

The rare away win boosts the Warriors’ play-off ambitions but harms the Tigers chances of making the finals.

Inspired by Wiki’s landmark game, the Warriors peeled open some feeble Tigers defence in the first half to lead 16-0 after only 29 minutes.

Hooker Ian Henderson scooted over from dummy-half for the first try in the ninth minute – barely being touched as he found plenty of space behind the ruck.

The Kiwis were in again 15 minutes later but this time the final pass from Grant Rovelli looked like it drifted forward before Sonny Fia crashed over in the corner.

Warriors half-back Nathan Fien then brushed off some ordinary goal-line defence five minutes later before Tigers playmaker Benji Marshall provided a touch of magic after collecting the ball in the middle of the paddock 30m out from his line.

With little on, Marshall danced around three defenders before shedding a fourth seven minutes from half-time.

Just as the defence looked to have closed him down, he delivered his trademark flick pass to barnstorming winger Taniela Tuiaki, who sprinted 50m to reduce the deficit to 16-6 at half-time.

The Tigers looked like making further inroads in the early minutes of the second half but Lance Hohaia shut down the long-range movement with a trysaving tackle on Liam Fulton.

The home side only had to wait until the 50th minute with Robbie Farah stretching out for the tryline following another controversial call with the ball appearing to go well forward from Mathew Head to Tuiaki.

Two minutes later, the Warriors looked like self-destructing with Aidan Kirk dropping the ball near his line but Head pushed the pass and the New Zealanders mopped up the mess.

But the Tigers were full of running by now and the 56th minute Chris Lawrence stormed over out wide.

The Warriors rallied eight minutes later with Marshall’s being caught out in defence as Hohaia sprinted clear to end a brilliant 75m movement.

Warrior Sam Rapira then capitalised on a Tigers error by bumping off opposite number Bronson Harrison close to the line and crossing near the posts for a subsequent 28-16 lead in the 69th minute.

Tuiaki breathed life back into the match after being put through a big hole by Marshall as the Tigers moved back within a converted try with three minutes remaining.

After plenty of adventurous play, Tuiaki scored his third try of the match in the corner but Hodgson pressure shot was off target.

The Tigers and Warriors both have the bye next week, each side receiving 2 NRL competition points.

Parramatta Eels hold off gutsy Storm 24-22

Parramatta Eels Melbourne Storm NRL Round 16 2008The Parramatta Eels had to work overtime today to get over the top of a rookie-laden Melbourne Storm; eventually holding out the visitors to win 24-22 at Parramatta Stadium today.

The Eels were forced to come from behind after the Storm, minus nine players due to Origin commitments, stunned the home side with two early tries for a 10-0 lead. While missing plenty of stars, Melbourne used their forward muscle to arm wrestle the Eels midfield and surprise the fancied locals with some opportunist tries.

The Storm took a leaf out of the Sharks book and slowed the Eels damaging ruck speed, keeping under the guard of referee Ben Cummins and perfecting a pre-game tactic of kicking dead in goal on the final tackle to ensure set restarts for the Eels to keep the pace controlled.

Parramatta eventually got going with 3 touchdowns in the space of 12 minutes to throw themselves clear, but there was more than a touch of controversy to their charge with the Eels benefiting from an apparent crackdown on kickers being hit by defenders.

A total of 3 penalties, all dished out after Eels halfback Brett Finch was taken down late, the last of which led to Krisnan Inu’s 64th minute match-sealer to put Parramatta’s finals hopes back on track. The contact with Finch was extremely light and surprised many when penalties were awarded to the Eels. However, the Storm continued to push their luck and kept hitting the kicker and feeling the consequences. Parramatta scoring directly from 2 of the 3 penalties awarded for late contact on Brett Finch.

This issue of penalties for kicker interference along with some bizare calls around the ruck, will keep the pressure squarely on NRL referee Ben Cummins. The whistle blower having a poor run of form in 2008 and somehow managing to keep his first grade spot.

Melbourne threatened a late upset when Cronk, arguably the best player on the field, stepped his way over from close range, but there was no miracle for the visitors who must be thankful the Origin period is just about over. Assisting Cronk was upcoming forward Sika Manu, the big man proving a handful all day and bagging himself 2 tries. Manu was busy and when he wasn’t carting the ball up at full speed, he was in perfect position to bag himself some tries and showing the way to his fellow rookies.

Kris Inu was a villain early for the Eels when his knock on gave the Storm an early opportunity to get on the board, Sika Manu crashing over out wide off a Cooper Cronk flat ball. Inu along with several Eels, looked to relaxed against a keen Storm and it took too long for the locals to ‘switch on’ and start creating opportunities. Frustration was a concern for the Eels, with Parramatta having 2 tries disallowed and seemingly had nothing going their way early on. However, the situation changed when the home side began receiving a long run of penalties from Ben Cummins – enough to get themselves on the board and back into the match.

It was still panic stations in the first 15 minutes of the match when rookie winger Joe Tomane raced 90 metres to make it 10-0, a Finch pass clipping Nathan Hindmarsh’s shoulder before the young Melbourne centre showed too much toe for the cover defence.

Parramatta while frustrated early, were eventually rewarded when they stopped running all their traffic mid-field and started working from one side to the other, Taulima Tautai doing exceptionally well to get the ball down in the corner after Joel Reddy had flopped out a Finch kick he had regathered.

Tony Williams crossed to give the home side the lead before the second penalty in Finch’s favour, for dubious contact from Storm debutant Sinbad Kali, put the Eels in position to send Reddy over out wide.

The Storm were unlucky not to close the gap just after halftime as Brett Anderson was taken out as he chased a Cronk kick down the touchline. Williams was binned for ten minutes for what referee Ben Cummins deemed to be a professional foul. Many feeling a ‘penalty try’ or a ‘no call’ was the best option, but Cummins came up with the professional foul call and Storm didn’t receive anything in the way of points from the lesser numbers in their opponents defence line.

Melbourne failed to take advantage of the one-man overlap several times, but when parity was restored they again gave the Eels a fright with Manu getting his second of the afternoon after Sam Joe had tapped back a Cronk bomb.

Brett Finch took out the man of the match honors for the home side, but the Eels will be concerned they couldn’t put a spare parts Storm side away on a day where they could have improved their points difference against competing sides. Opponents are beginning to heavily mark Eels pivot Feleti Mateo and the big man is finding it hard to generate his magic every game as opposing teams study his form. In saying that, the Eels have certainly found a quality replacement for forgotten winger Eric Grothe Jnr; new boy Tony Williams beginning to look at home on the flank and proving a handful for opposition players to stop.

The Storm and their coaching staff would be pleased with their efforts, massively undermanned – the Melbourne club showed they have massive depth and another batch of quality players coming through. The loss today is the 5th for the Storm in 2008 and while they will certainly be in the mix for a Top 4 finish – another minor premiership looks tougher now they have been so heavily hit by State of Origin requirements.

Next week the Storm are at home to the Raiders and should get back into the winners circle with their front line players back. The Eels have a local derby against neighbours Penrith, at Parramatta Stadium as both teams look to get themselves into the middle of the Top 8.

PARRAMATTA 24 (K Inu, J Reddy, T Tautai, T Williams tries; L Burt 4 goals) bt MELBOURNE 22 (S Manu 2, C Cronk, J Tomane tries; S Turner 2, C Cronk goals) at Parramatta Stadium. Referee: B Cummins. Crowd: 12,597

Bunnies make history, climb over Cowboys 29-28

South Sydney have written themselves into the NRL records books after completing the 2nd biggest comeback victory in NRL history with a miraculous 29-28 win over North Queensland at Dairy Farmers Stadium tonight.
Souths looked gone for all money with the lead blowing out to 28-4 in the 49th minute but put on four tries to level the scores in the 75th.
Rookie Chris Sandow then nailed a field goal in the last minute but the drama didn’t end there.
Cowboys fullback Anthony Watts managed to squeeze in a field goal attempt of his own after the siren, only to have it charged down by a Souths defender.
The comeback win was second only in the NRL to the Cowboys’ own effort in 1998 when they beat Penrith 36-28 after being down 26-0 at halftime.
Souths began well thanks to the return of star recruit Craig Wing however the visitors were unable to capitalise on the early attacking opportunities and the Cowboys were ahead 12-4 at halftime thanks to two converted tries.
In a nine minute blitz after halftime the Cowboys moved to 28-4 with Ash Graham scoring a double and centre partner Ben Harris bagging a four-pointer of his own. .
Souths then launched their comeback with three tries in quick succession to Fetuli Talanoa, Jamie Simpson and Wing to bring the lead back to just six points in the 61st minute.
Luke Capewell crossed in the 74th minute and Issac Luke levelled with a sideline conversion before Sandow’s clincher.
South Sydney coach Jason Taylor was pleased with the win but not with how his side came to be 24 points down in the first place.
“It was an amazing comeback and a great performance in the end but the last half an hour of what we did before that wasn’t good enough,” Taylor said.
“We won’t dwell on that here, it was a great victory in the end but we have got to play from the start and we certainly didn’t.
Despite the 24 point deficit Taylor never lost belief that his side could mount a comeback because of their recent penchant for putting on quick points.
“You never give up completely … because what we have done the last few weeks,” he said.
“We are showing that we can score some tries – earlier in the year we definitely would have been gone.”
North Queensland coach Ian Millward said his side, who are last on the ladder after nine straight defeats, were shattered.
“The boys are absolutely devastated, there is not much I can report on,” he said.    “If you have been involved in sport you can imagine how they feel.
“They played really well there for long periods and controlled the game and the momentum swung and we had to do a lot of defending in the second half.”
The Cowboys’ player crisis is set to worsen with representative forward Carl Webb taken to hospital for scans on a suspected broken right ankle sustained midway through the first half.

SOUTH SYDNEY 29 (R Asotasi F Talanoa C Wing J Simpson L Capwell tries I Luke 4 goals C Sandow field goal) bt NORTH QUEENSLAND 28 (A Graham 2 R Cashmere J Williams B Harris tries J Williams 4 goals) at Dairy Farmers Stadium. Referee: T De Las Heras. Crowd: 15,631.

Dragons raid Robina, beat Titans 26-22

St George handed Gold Coast its first loss on home soil for 2008 with a narrow 26-22 result in front of a disappointed Titans crowd at Skilled park in a highly contested NRL round 16 match-up on Saturday night.

The narrow victory gives the Dragons six wins on the trot and bumps them up to fifth on the competition ladder, while the Titans have now lost two in a row after going down to the Rabbitohs last Monday, much to the disappointment of the crowd of over 26,000 gathered on the Gold Coast.

The Titans are yet to record a win against the Dragons in the club’s short history, and the omissions of Scott Prince, Anthony Laffranchi and Ashley Harrison to Origin duties and Luke Bailey to injury did not make it any easier for the home side.

Titans livewire Preston Campbell refused to make excuses for the loss, and admitted the Dragons had outplayed them on their home soil.

“It was a tough game, we put in a good showing. We had a few blokes out but it’s no excuse obviously,” he told Fox Sports after the game.

“We’ve got players to replace but they are some big shoes to fill. The Dragons are playing well … they’ve got the wood on us at the moment.”

Neither side took control of the tough match-up, with Gold Coast’s opening margin of eight points after just 11 minutes the biggest for the match, with two Jamie Soward conversions proving the difference between the teams.

Both teams ran over for four tries, with Ben Hornby having his hand in the first two for the Dragons.

Hornby ran in a try from a magical off-load by Lagi Setu on the line for the Dragons’ opener in the 29th minute, then set up another later in the first half with a cut-out pass into space for Brett Morris to stroll over.

Soward was a standout for the visitors, playing a big role in setting up St George’s offensive forays and finishing with a perfect kicking record of five from as many attempts.

Mat Rogers kept the Gold Coast in the game throughout the match, his intercept in the 60th minute giving the home side a two-point lead after running in a try against the run of play. But his efforts proved fruitless as the Dragons secured the points when Michael Lett was awarded a simple try 11 minutes from time.

A high bomb from Soward towards the right side line was spilled after a clash between two Titans defenders, allowing Lett to snatch the ball from behind the play.

Dragons coach Nathan Brown says despite his team’s sixth win in a row, he was disappointed with its start to the game.

“Happy to win and happy that we fought back that was really good, I was just disappointed, I thought that we [were] a little bit slack and lacklustre in the first half and I think that probably helped them grow a leg,” he said.

Dragons: 26 (B Hornby, B Morris, C Stanley, M Lett tries; J Soward 4 conversions; J Soward 1 penalty)

Titans: 22 (B Jeffery, B Delaney, L O’Dwyer, Mat Rogers tries; M rogers 4 conversions; M Rogers 1 penalty)

Manly cruise to win over Knights 28-12

Manly has held their position at the head of the NRL table with a cruisy 28-12 victory over Newcastle in Saturday night’s round 16 NRL clash at Bluetongue stadium in Gosford.

In the night’s other match, South Sydney produced the second-biggest comeback in history from 28-4 down to defeat North Queensland 29-28 at Dairy Farmers Stadium in Townsville.

Trailing by 24 points in the 51st minute, the Rabbitohs piled on three tries in eight minutes to pull the margin back to a converted try with 20 minutes remaining, with the returning Craig Wing playing a crucial role in the fight-back.

Jason Taylor’s side then drew level via a Luke Capewell try five minutes from time, before young half-back Chris Sandow coolly slotted the match-winning field goal with just 30 seconds remaining.

The Cowboys had a late chance to send the match to golden point extra time but an Anthony Watts field goal was charged down by the Rabbitohs defence, handing Souths its third win on the trot.

Sea Eagles roll on

In Gosford, Manly took advantage of a Newcastle side missing Danny Buderus, Kurt Gidley and Ben Cross to Origin in a controlled performance that sees them join the Roosters on 24 points at the top of the ladder.

Leading 10-8 at the break, the Sea Eagles kicked clear with three tries in 15 minutes to kill off any chance of a Knights upset.

With the game in the balance after the break, centre Steve Matai received the ball on the Newcastle 40-metre line before jinking and fending his way past three Knights defenders and linking up with a flying Anthony Watmough to put the big second-rower in under the sticks.

Orford’s conversion put the Sea Eagles out 16-8 in the 50th minute and from there the home side was never threatened.

Manly put on two more tries through Jamie Lyon and Steve Bell to extend the margin against the Knights, who felt the loss of their Origin stars in the latter stages of the match despite a late consolation try to winger James McManus.

Both sides crossed for two tries in the first half, with Matt Orford landing one conversion from two attempts for the Sea Eagles and Wes Naiqama spraying his shots wide for the visitors.

Manly opened up a 6-0 lead after just five minutes through a David Williams try, before the Knights ran in for the next two four-pointers through Cooper Vuna and McManus.

But Manly hit back with a bullocking try to Matai nine minutes from the break to hold the advantage at the break.

Manly 28 (D Williams, S Matai, A Watmough, J Lyon, S Bell tries; M Orford 4 conversions)

Newcastle 12 (J McManus 2, C Vuna tries)

South Sydney 29 (R Asotasi, F Talanoa, C Wing, B Champion, L Capewell tries; I Luke 4 conversions; C Sandow field goal)

North Queensland 28 (A Graham 2, R Cashmere, J Williams, B Harris tries; J Williams 4 conversions)

Roosters charge ahead, beat Bulldogs 24-14

bulldogs-roosters-nrl-round-16-2008.jpgThe Sydney Roosters kept their impressive 2008 NRL run going, this time without 6 Origin stars as they moved to the top of the NRL ladder with a 24-14 win over the Bulldogs at the Sydney Football Stadium tonight.

Down 10-4 at the break, the Roosters scored four tries to one after halftime to consign the Bulldogs to their fourth straight loss, the defeat all but extinguishing their finals hopes.

The Roosters started their resurgence with a try to Brent Grose just before the break, but it was in the second half that they finally found some rhythm.

NSW stars Braith Anasta and Mitchell Pearce had been given much of the credit for the Roosters leading the NRL in tries scored from kicks, but stand-in playmaker James Aubusson and fullback Amos Roberts proved they were just as good.

Tries four minutes apart to Sam Perrett and Shaun Kenny Dowall came off smart short kicks to give the Roosters their first lead, and it was game over when Roberts reached out to score, despite the fullback shaking his head in apparent disappointment at dropping the ball.

He was reprieved by the video referee, but the same couldn’t be said for Bulldogs debutant Arana Taumata whose long ball landed in the waiting arms of Setaimata Sa for a runaway intercept try.

A tentative start from both sides gave little indication as to the imminent explosion of brilliance with Sonny Bill Williams marking his return from a month-long injury layoff with a sublime out the back flick for Hazem El Masri’s 11th minute opener.

It was a rare piece of skill over the opening half hour, with the Bulldogs’ lack of confidence showing through in their footy up against a Roosters side patched up with lower graders.

As happens when you lose three in a row, you find a way to make an error, and boy did the Bulldogs put on a smorgasbord of errors.

Taumata’s first touch resulted in the ball travelling 30 metres backwards, as a kicked skewed off the side of his boot.

Then Ben Roberts knocked on at the scrum to hand over possession before a mix-up between Nick Youngquest and Heka Nanai as they looked to defuse a bomb was only saved from finishing in a try by a Iosia Soliola knock-on off his shoulder.

The Roosters made plenty of breaks, but couldn’t finish them off, like when Sa powered for the line on the half hour.

Sa lost the ball a metre out, Youngquest picking up the loose ball and taking off downfield.

He linked up with Taumata on the 60 metre line, the 19-year-old making up for his earlier blunder as he outsprinted Roberts to punctuate a memorable debut.

SYDNEY ROOSTERS 24 (B Grose S Kenny-Dowall S Perrett A Roberts S Sa tries A Roberts 2 goals)

BULLDOGS 14 (H El Masri A Taumata T Winitana tries H El Masri goal)

Crowd: 9,271.

Broncos and Panthers fight out NRL draw

broncos-panthers-round-16-nrl-draw-2008.jpgBrisbane coach Wayne Bennett felt his side achieved more, even though an equally injury riddled Penrith fought out the NRL’s first draw of 2008 tonight, dead-locked at 12-12 after golden point extra time at CUA Stadium.After an 80-minute arm-wrestle had yielded the sides two tries each, they frantically fought out an extra 10 with 18-year-old Panthers debutant Lachlan Coote having at least three chances to win it with kicks.

Asked if he was entitled to be happier than Panthers counterpart Matt Elliott, Bennett said: “I think so, yeah. I would be in that situation.

“When I realised it was getting out of our reach, I was just happy to realise we could pick up a point and not panic about that.

“But I think in their case they’d be looking for the two at home and certainly with a lot more quality players.”

Both sides went into tonight’s match with nine first-graders on the sidelines due to injury and State of Origin duties.

Elliott was loathe to disagree with the legendary Broncos mentor.

“We probably had a couple of extra opportunities, didn’t we?” he said.

“As I said to the players if I express any dissatisfaction after the effort they put in, feel free to punch me in the head.”

Bennett said the one-point result was a positive because it took for-and-against out of the equation in his side’s run home to the finals.

“It’s better than your for-and-against, it just takes all that type of pressure off and you’re obviously going to be an odd one out now so it will just put you in a good position.”

Coote had the first opportunity to kick his side to victory but missed with a 43m penalty shot in the second minute of extra time, and then a long-range field goal attempt in the fifth.

In the second period of extra time, Brisbane halfback Shane Perry missed with a field goal attempt with three minutes left on the clock and Coote missed again in the final minute.

“I said sorry to the boys,” Coote said.

“I let them down, I couldn’t finish it off. No excuses but I just had nothing in my legs.”

The scores were also locked up at halftime, 6-6, and the Panthers went ahead 8-6 five minutes after the break with a Shane Rodney penalty goal.

But the Broncos took the lead for the first time in the match in the 47th minute when, on the back of a superb charge from David Taylor, Corey Parker beat a poor attempt at tackle from Luke Lewis and crashed over, Michael Ennis’ sideline conversion making it 12-8.

The Panthers looked to have hit back spectacularly in the 64th minute when Coote flew high to grab a Wade Graham bomb and prop Brendan Worth crashed over.

But video referee Phil Cooley ruled Worth had been in front of the kicker and disallowed the try.

A piece of individual brilliance from Michael Jennings, who flashed down the left touchline and beat four defenders, had the scores locked again, at 12-12, with seven minutes left.

Coote also had a regular time chance to make it 14-12 but his conversion attempt from wide out to the left missed.

“Although we didn’t get the two points, to walk into the shed and look your mate in the eye and just know everyone’s had a real big dig for each other … it’s pretty satisfying,” Broncos skipper Parker said.

NRL Round 16 2008 Preview and Tips

We’re up to round 16 of the NRL. Another 10 rounds to go after this one, so we are well into the second half of the season and it’s the last weekend where teams will be affected by state of origin selections.

So after this one you can expect the cream to begin to rise to the top, and for the pretenders to fade away.

Who is the cream? I think it’s Manly, Melbourne and the Sydney Roosters.

Who are the pretenders? I think Gold Coast, Cronulla, St. George-Illawarra and the Wests Tigers. But time will tell.

To the tips. In tonight’s games you can expected Rhys Wesser to play for Penrith against Brisbane.

The Panthers will beat an understrength Bronco’s team, which features the halves combination of  PJ Marsh and Shane Perry. They can’t win!

The Sydney Roosters, even without their origin players, should still beat the Bulldogs, even though the Doggies will be improved by the return of Sonny Bill Williams.

Tomorrow St. George-Illawarra will win its 6th game in a row, and become the first team to beat Gold Coast at Skilled Park.

The Titans have hit the wall. I don’t think they can make the finals and without Scott Prince, Luke Bailey and Anthony Laffranchi, they may even get towelled up.

In the 7.30 game tomorrow night Manly, on top of the table yet with only one state of origin player, should beat a Newcastle side minus Kurt Gidley, Danny Buderus and Ben Cross.

Plus South Sydney will make it three wins in a row. They should run up a big score actually in beating North Queensland, even though it’s in Townsville.

No Jonathan Thurston, no Cowboys. In fact even with Thurston in the team the Cowboys have been absolutely hopeless this year.

On Sunday the Wests Tigers should bounce back and beat the Warriors at Leichhardt, but the Tigers aren’t playing well, so don’t be surprised if there’s an upset.

Parramatta should flog a barely recognisable Melbourne team, without nine state of origin representatives.

And on Monday night, I’m going to stick with Canberra at home to upset Cronulla.

Good luck to your team, and have a great weekend.