Ricardo: NRL Team of Week 3

NRL Team of the Week, Week 3 2009With the NRL season well underway, Ricky Ricardo gives his view on the best players from Round 3.

1. Fullback – Billy Slater Tore the Cowboy’s to pieces. Pierced the line on with most of his runs and was influential in most of the Storm’s attacking plays.

2. Winger – Taniela Tuiaki Currently the form winger of the competition. Five tries in three games and destined to get more. Solid performance in the Tigers win over the Roosters. Used his size and strength to overpower the Roosters backs.

3. Centre – Mitchell Aubusson One of few standouts for the Roosters in their loss to the Tigers. Always in the right place at the right time and finished with two tries in a solid performance.

4. Centre – Luke Capewell The stand-in Bunny more than held his own with some key defensive plays. Enthusiastic and gritty, with speed sprinkled in.

5. Winger – Akulia Uate  Amassed an incredible 234 metres and scored a try for the Knights. With Gidley, was the stand-out for the Newcastle team.

6. Five-eighth – Terry Campese Canberra’s best players by far. Kicking game was highly impressive, with several 40/20’s and ran with the ball when needed.

7. Halfback – Benji Marshall The coach said it was his best ever performance, set up 3 tries and who could forget the reverse flick set up Tuiaki.

8. Prop – Sam Thaiday – Massive effort from the Brisbane bombshell. Extremely physical in defence and tireless in attack. Should get an Origin jersey in 2009.

9. Hooker – Masada Iosefa The rookie Panthers hooker played uptempo and was influential in the Panthers win. Scored the try to put the Panthers ahead.

10. Prop – Jeff Lima Turning in tradesman like performances each week. Possbily in career best form. Making good metres and proving to be a tough player for opposition players to deal with. Could make the NSW Origin side.

11. 2nd Row – Ben Creagh Strong defensive showing and always threatened in attack. Bagged the winning try and had several other chances to score. Should get a bench spot for NSW.

12. 2nd Row – Nathan Hindmarsh Again he has proved that he is a total workhorse amassing 50+ tackles and screaming out to be reconsidered for State of Origin.

13. Lock – Nathan Smith A quiet achiever, makes a tonne of tackles and always rolls the sleeves up for Penrith. Was a key man as the Panthers defended for their lives in the back-end of their game against Manly.

14. Bench – Preston Campbell Very strong performance from the often underrated player in the absence of Scott Prince. Scored one try and set up another in the Titans win against the Bulldogs. Could be a darkhorse for an Origin spot.

15. Bench – Craig Wing Mr Universal. His injection from the bench changed the game. Started at hooker, but his move to pivot was a masterstroke.  Looked dangerous every time he touched the ball and will be a key asset for Souths.

16. Bench – Dave Taylor The young man has really matured in such a short space of time. Solid ball running, great on-field passion, his all-round game has improved and he could get a bench spot for QLD.

17. Bench – Chris Bailey: The Sea Eagles best player in an otherwise poor performance by the Eagles. Scored both tries and put in a gallant effort.

NRL Teams Round 4

NRL Teams Round 4 2009The NRL Teams and Squad Lineups for Round 4 of the 2009 season have been announced and are as follows;

FRIDAY NIGHT NRL MATCHES

BRISBANE BRONCOS v ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS at Suncorp Stadium, 7.35pm

BRONCOS: Karmichael Hunt, Antonio Winterstein, Steve Michaels, Justin Hodges, Israel Folau, Darren Lockyer (capt), Peter Wallace, Nick Kenny, Aaron Gorrell, Joel Clinton, Sam Thaiday, Ben Te’o, Corey Parker. Interchange: Andrew McCullough, David Taylor, Lagi Setu, Alex Glenn, Ashton Sims, Josh McGuire (two to be omitted)

DRAGONS: Ben Hornby (capt), Brett Morris, Beau Scott, Darius Boyd, Wendell Sailor, Jamie Soward, Mathew Head, Jarrod Saffy, Dean Young, Michael Weyman, Matt Prior, Ben Creagh, Jeremy Smith. Interchange: Dan Hunt, Neville Costigan, Luke Priddis, Trent Merrin, Nick Emmett (one to be omitted)

Referees: Shayne Hayne, Matt Cecchin

SYDNEY ROOSTERS v PARRAMATTA EELS at Sydney Football Stadium, 7.35pm

ROOSTERS: Sam Perrett, Sonny Tuigamala, Mitchell Aubusson, Sia Soliola, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Braith Anasta (capt), Mitchell Pearce, Mark O’Meley, James Aubusson, Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Shane Shackleton, Craig Fitzgibbon, Setaimata Sa. Interchange: Lopini Paea, Martin Kennedy, Ben Jones, Jake Friend, Sisa Waqa (one to be omitted)

EELS: Luke Burt, Joel Reddy, Ben Smith, Krisnan Inu, Eric Grothe, Jarryd Hayne, Brett Finch, Nathan Cayless (capt), Matthew Keating, Fuifui Moimoi, Nathan Hindmarsh, Weller Hauraki, Feleti Mateo. Interchange: Kris Keating, Joe Galuvao, Tim Mannah, Broderick Wright, Todd Lowrie (one to be omitted)

Referees: Tony Archer, Steve Lyons

SATURDAY NIGHT NRL MATCHES

PENRITH PANTHERS v WESTS TIGERS at CUA Stadium, 5.30pm

PANTHERS: Lachlan Coote, Michael Gordon, Michael Jennings, Brad Tighe, Shane Elford, Wade Graham, Jarrod Sammut, Matthew Bell, Paul Aiton, Petero Civoniceva (capt), Trent Waterhouse, Nathan Smith, Luke Lewis. Interchange: Masada Iosefa, Frank Pritchard, Frank Puletua, Gavin Cooper, Tim Grant, Adam Woolnough, Joseph Paulo, Maurice Blair (four to be omitted)

TIGERS: Tim Moltzen, Taniela Tuiaki, Dean Collis, Chris Lawrence, Beau Ryan, John Morris, Benji Marshall, Bryce Gibbs, Robbie Farah (capt), Keith Galloway, Gareth Ellis, Chris Heighington, Todd Payten. Interchange: Rhys Hanbury, Dene Halatau, Corey Payne, Danny Galea, Rocky Trimarchi (one to be omitted)

Referees: Ben Cummins, Phil Haines

MELBOURNE STORM v GOLD COAST TITANS at Olympic Park, 7.30pm

STORM: Billy Slater, Steve Turner, Will Chambers, Willie Isa, Anthony Quinn, Greg Inglis, Cooper Cronk, Jeff Lima, Cameron Smith (capt), Adam Blair, Wairangi Koopu, Ryan Hoffman, Dallas Johnson. Interchange: Ryan Hinchcliffe, Kevin Proctor, Aiden Tolman, Scott Anderson, Joseph Tomane, Matt Cross (two to be omitted)

TITANS: William Zillman, Kevin Gordon, Esi Tonga, Brett Delaney, Chris Walker, Mat Rogers, Preston Campbell, Luke Bailey (capt), Nathan Friend, Michael Henderson, Anthony Laffranchi, Mark Minichiello, Ashley Harrison. Interchange: Matt White, Brad Meyers, Luke O’Dwyer, Josh Graham, Aaron Cannings (one to be omitted)

Referees: Ashley Klein, Brett Suttor

SUNDAY NRL MATCHES

WARRIORS v SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS at Mt Smart Stadium, 12pm

WARRIORS: Wade McKinnon, Denan Kemp, Patrick Ah Van, Jerome Ropati, Aiden Kirk, Joel Moon, Stacey Jones, Sam Rapira, Ian Henderson, Steve Price (capt), Simon Mannering, Jacob Lillyman, Micheal Luck. Interchange: Nathan Fien, Russell Packer, Jesse Royal, Ukuma Ta’ai, Lewis Brown, Daniel O’Regan (two to be omitted)

RABBITOHS: Rhys Wesser, Nathan Merritt, Colin Best, Shaune Corrigan, Fetuli Talanoa, John Sutton, Chris Sandow, Luke Stuart, Issac Luke, Roy Asotasi (capt), Ben Lowe, Shannan McPherson, David Fa’alogo. Interchange: Craig Wing, Eddy Pettybourne, Jaiman Lowe, David Kidwell

Referees: Tony De Las Heras, Gavin Badger

BULLDOGS v CRONULLA SHARKS at ANZ Stadium, 2pm

BULLDOGS: Luke Patten, Hazem El Masri, Josh Morris, Jamal Idris, Bryson Goodwin, Ben Roberts, Brett Kimmorley, Ben Hannant, Michael Ennis, Michael Hodgson, Gary Warburton, Andrew Ryan (capt), David Stagg. Interchange: Chris Armit, Greg Eastwood, John Kite, Yileen Gordon, Matt Utai (one to be omitted)

SHARKS: Mitch Brown, Misi Taulapapa, Ben Pomeroy, Blake Ferguson, Luke Covell, Trent Barrett, Brett Seymour, Kade Snowden, Corey Hughes, Luke Douglas, Reece Williams, Anthony Tupou, Paul Gallen (capt). Interchange: Reni Maitua, Jack Afamasaga, Bryan Norrie, Tony Caine

Referees: Jason Robinson, Gerard Sutton

NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v MANLY SEA EAGLES at EnergyAustralia Stadium, 3pm

KNIGHTS: Kurt Gidley (capt), James McManus, Junior Sau, Adam MacDougall, Akuila Uate, Ben Rogers, Scott Dureau, Mark Taufua, Isaac De Gois, Ben Cross, Chris Houston, Zeb Taia, Matt Hilder. Interchange: George Ndaira, Marvin Karawana, Richie Fa’aoso, Danny Wicks.

SEA EAGLES: Michael Robertson, Michael Bani, Jamie Lyon, Steve Matai, Shane Neumann, Chris Bailey, Matt Orford (capt), Brent Kite, Matt Ballin, Josh Perry, Anthony Watmough, Glenn Hall, Glenn Stewart. Interchange: Heath L’Estrange, Jason King, Adam Cuthbertson, George Rose, Shane Rodney (one to be omitted)

Referees: Jared Maxwell, Alan Shortall

MONDAY NIGHT NRL MATCH

CANBERRA RAIDERS v NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS at Canberra Stadium, 7pm

RAIDERS: Josh Dugan, Adrian Purtell, Jarrod Croker, Joel Monaghan, Justin Carney, Terry Campese, Marc Herbert, David Shillington, Stuart Flanagan, Josh Miller, Joe Picker, Bronson Harrison, Alan Tongue (capt). Interchange: Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, Trevor Thurling, Glen Turner, Nigel Plum, Travis Waddell (one to be omitted)

COWBOYS: Matt Bowen, John Williams, Ashley Graham, Ty Williams, Ben Farrar, Travis Burns, Johnathan Thurston (capt), Shane Tronc, Aaron Payne, Antonio Kaufusi, Carl Webb, Ben Harris, Luke O’Donnell. Interchange: Clint Amos, Scott Bolton, Matthew Scott, Manase Manuokafoa, Steve Rapira (one to be omitted)

Referees: Tony Archer, Steve Lyons

Gareth Ellis proving himself in NRL

Gareth Ellis Wests Tigers NRLGareth Ellis, the English backrower who walked away from Leeds last year to test himself in the NRL, received his unofficial inauguration in the last Round of NRL matches when he was sledged by star Sydney Roosters big man Willie Mason.

Channel 9 microphones at the Wests Tigers’ match against the Sydney Roosters allegedly caught Mason saying: “Let’s rattle that f**king Ellis. He’s a faggot.”

But the calm and collected Ellis eventually came off the winner, impressing all with a complete performance in the Tigers’ 40-24 win. The former Super League forward seemingly adapting to the faster paced NRL very easily and barring injury, will be a vital park of the Tigers mobile forward unit.

“I’m loving every minute of it,” beamed Ellis who is only 27, the goal for the man from Yorkshire is to emulate that of former Pommy import Adrian Morley, who also arrived from Leeds and was the last big Super League convert to make a massive name for himself in the NRL.

“Willie’s a big bloke and he wanted to run over the top of me – I love playing against players like that.”

Ellis, who spoke with the waiting media at the Tigers’ Monday recovery session, said: “How good is this? It’s almost winter – I got up and there was sunshine. And we’re swimming in an open air pool. This is the life.”

Mason, who is well known not only in the NRL but in the greater Rugby League world for his clashes with both David Kidwell (NZ) and Stuart Fielden (England) was today suspended for the upcoming Roosters clash against the Eels for breaking the club’s new booze rules.

Mason along with fellow forward Nate Myles, have both been cut from the lineup after they were drinking at home on Sunday, which is not allowed under new club rules.

“We try to put these rules in order to give players less grey area, so it’s black and white,” said Fittler. “We’re disappointed with the two players. Given today’s climate … what we try to do is make our discipline as tough as possible.”

The Roosters recently had to deal with other booze related incident when a rookie, Jake Friend, was caught by police with a high-range of booze while driving.

Mason’s manager is believed to be already scouting the UK and France for Super League options given that the Roosters have hinted they may cut his contract short.

NRL Power Rankings, Round 3

NRL Power Rankings1. Brisbane Broncos – Proving early wins weren’t a fluke. Attack remains very positive. Away win makes it even sweeter. Travelling well.

Grubbers Comment: Chances of Ivan Henjack going the year with a perfect record? 50/1

2. Wests Tigers – Subdued start, but came out of their shell and produced a vintage Tigers performance. Fired on all cylinders and have sent warning shot to opponents in the weeks ahead.

Grubbers Comment: Odds that Tuiaki could take the ‘most feared man’ award from Vatuvei this year? 10/1

3. Gold Coast Titans – Massive effort considering Prince was missing. Preston Campbell stepped up and Mat Rogers finding form too. Well coached and remain good at home.

Grubbers Comment: Chances that Scott Prince was using ESP to control his side from the stands? 15/1

4. Melbourne Storm – Warming to the season, still only in 2nd gear – but are doing it fine. Tough away opponent in Cowboys and they dealt with them well.

Grubbers Comment: Amount of years the beard and hair add to Greg Inglis’ age? 10+

5. South Sydney – Found the answer to attacking problems; Craig Wing. Extra weapon is just what they needed. Have the ingredients there, just need to bake the right cake this year and they’ll be in the finals.

Grubbers Comment: Odds of Craig Wing naming his first son ‘Chicken’? 25/1

6. Dragons – Again gritty and committed, getting better with each week. Soward being hidden well in defence. Wendell Sailor is getting better too, fitness and position wise.

Grubbers Comment: Odds that Kograh locals filed 100’s of noise complaints after the bizzare ‘kazoo’ world record attempt at Jubilee? 10/1

7. Cowboys – Hard to tell with these guys, had some flashy moments and tested the Storm but their defence needs some work. May need time to gel under Neil Henry. May have been flattered by the Tigers the week before, errors made them look better than they were.

Grubbers Comment: Odds the Cowboys removed the air-conditioning from opposition dressing sheds to increase heat factor in Townsville? 3/1

8. Parramatta Eels – Played like mugs for 65 minutes, but pulled on the superman cape afterwards. When they clicked, looked dangerous on most plays. Motivation remains the key to their chances this year.

Grubbers Comment: Chances of Daniel Anderson calling in Denis Fitzgerald for half-time motivation speeches? 150/1

9. Penrith Panthers – While they may have won ugly, a win at Brookvale can never be underestimated. Were probably unlucky in terms of referee decision too, with Wade Graham int he side – remain a chance.

Grubbers Comment: Odds of Matt Elliott ever leaving Wade Graham out of the side again? 200/1

10. Canberra Raiders – Deserved the win, their willingness to chance their arm remains their best weapon. Have a good bag of trick plays such as the scrum split, lack overall experience to be a consistent force – but will trouble some sides on their day.

Grubbers Comment: Odds the Raiders had secret ‘Gridiron’ training sessions, after their unique split-scrum play? 10/1

11. Bulldogs – Another close one, this time they couldn’t pull off a miracle. Jury still out on these guys, but Kimmorley and Morris again looked good.

Grubbers Comment: Odds that the Idris vs Barba fight at Wenty Leagues after the win over Penrith was the biggest ever boxing mis-match? 2/1

12. NZ Warriors – Shell shocked after 15 minutes, the loss not only brings them to earth but reality of losing Tate sets in. Shows the Storm and Broncos are a class above the next ranked sides.

Grubbers Comment: Odds of Ivan Cleary trying to invent a time machine to go back 1 week, getting Tate back and erasing the loss? 5/1

13. Sydney Roosters – Another game they will want to quickly forget. Lack focus and really aren’t playing as a team. In saying that, have a good array of talent – just need direction. Whether thats from Freddy or Braith, it’s hard to tell.

Grubbers Comment: Chances that Willie Mason, Craig Fitzgibbon and Minichiello can’t find their lockers next time they return to training? 20/1

14. Newcastle Knights – Good showing early, but halves again a problem with Mullen out of action. Had plenty of possession but couldn’t score, in the end fitness got them. Could be a long year.

Grubbers Comment: Chances Kurt Gidley will play every single position for his side next week? 5/1

15. Cronulla Sharks – Can’t take a trick, toiled well even after losing Barrett. But these guys just don’t know how to score points. Can’t keep carrying Luke Covell as a ‘kicker only’ player. Need speed and tryscorers, fast!

Grubbers Comment: Odds that the Sharks will be fined for overloading local Hospitals with their injured players? 10/1

16. Manly Sea Eagles – Not only is the Brett Stewart saga sidetracking the players, missing links Menzies, Bell, Williams, Bryant, Stewart and now Lyon is rendering this side a shadow of it’s former self. No cohesion to be seen.

Grubbers Comment: Odds that Manly’s new major sponsor might ask for a refund in the next few weeks? 25/1

Penrith add to Manly pain 12-10

Penrith Panthers win NRL Round 3 2008 against South SydneyThe Penrith Panthers have added to Manly’s pain so far in 2009, upsetting the Premiers at Brookvale in Monday Night Football tonight 12-10.

In a scrappy affair that looked more like park football at times, both the Panthers and Sea Eagles continued to make basic errors in wet, windy conditions on the Northern Beaches.

Neither side was prepared to play a simple game and the persistent expansive passing made for a stop start affair in the horrible conditions. Adding to the painful exhibition was a tonne of penalites from referee Ben Cummins who at times provided conflicting instructions to his pocket referee.

Despite the distractions, there was some footy played and while Manly had small patches of brilliance very early in the first half they could only manage 6 early points through an opportunist Chris Bailey try. The new pivot bullocking over from short range.

To their credit, the Panthers scrambled well in defence. There were a few times they looked shot, but they were able to pull off a last ditch tackle or force the ball loose when Manly loomed near the line.

With Wade Graham on the bench for Penrith, it wasn’t long before coach Matt Elliott hooked starting half Jarrod Sammut and replaced him with Graham. Sammut had an unhappy start, with some basic errors and poor decisions at times.

The injection of Graham saw an immediate improvement in Penrith. While they weren’t immediately in the points – Graham provided stability and crisp, selective passing that suddenly gave his team some thrust.

Prior to Graham coming on they looked flat footed and devoid of ideas in the attacking zone.

For Manly, it’s hard to tell whats wrong. They were at Fortress Brooky on a Monday Night and it doesn’t get any better for a home side. Maybe they took the Panthers too lightly, as at times they were guilty of trying to play too fancy – which cost them valuable possession.

While Penrith were still ill-disciplined at the ruck, giving away a truckload of penalties – the Manly side were lucky not to have received the same treatment. Several times the Manly players held, swung and wrestled on the ground – Adam Cuthbertson in particular, but they seemed to escape the wrath of referee Ben Cummins more than the Penrith side.

When Manly got a roll on, their quick play the ball speeds allowed them to give Jamie Lyon and Michael Bani space, but the play was falling down at the final hurdle. When the Sea Eagles lost Lyon to a knee injury mid-way through the first half, the raids soon dried up and it was left to Chris Bailey to forge any attack.

While Orford put in some deft little kicks, Bailey who got a double for the night – was the only player who looked like finding the line. His second try, coming off a deep passing movement to the right was a classic Manly play that they do for Brett Stewart. The runner angling away at speed to slide over.

At 6-0 at half time, both coaches were frustrated but when the heavens opened up just after the break – it was always going to be a slugfest.

It took Penrith near 60 minutes to score their first points, but it was worth the wait. Frank Pritchard hitting the hole hard off a superb Wade Graham selective pass and offloading well to Lachlan Coote who trailed well and fell over the line.

The confidence injection for the Panthers didn’t last long, with Frank Puletua spilling the ball from the restart set and immediately putting the heat back on his side.

You wanted the cameras to pan to Matt Elliott so his reaction could be seen, the poor guy must surely by now have an irregular heart beat after matches that push his patience to the limit.

Fortunately for Penrith, Manly just weren’t up to it. They went through the next period only completing 2 from 10 sets of six. Putting their own coach through hell, and lip readers could easily see that Dessie Hasler was spitting out every expletive known to man.

As both sides traded errors, it went from bad to extremely scrappy. Obviously the first side to tuck the ball under the arm and play safety first would win.

It was possession and field position that got Penrith over for their second, replacement hooker Masada Iosefa doing his best ‘Darren Senter’ impersonation, literally dropping over the try line from dummy half as the Sea Eagles had no one there to stop him.

With Michael Gordon nailing the conversion and the score now 12-6 to the Panthers, it looked like it was game set and match.

But we should know by now, that when watching Penrith – take nothing for granted. They starting getting the jitters and when Manly got a sniff they raced down field and setup for a late attacking raid.

With the Sea Eagles rolling with lightning speed, Penrith simply couldn’t get numbers back. Manly worked it well, playing the numbers as they spun it wide through Orford and eventually to Bailey who hit the hole and slid over untouched.

Kicking from his less preferred side, with rain streaming down – Orford’s conversion from out wide was always a long shot. He did miss, but at 12-10 the Panthers were still shaky – Manly were too again throw more attack at them.

The last 5 minutes saw the game come to life, Manly throwing it around at will as they played catchup footy and Penrith surprisingly seemed reluctant to play safe – even while they were leading, with such a little way to go.

The Sea Eagles going within a whisker again as Bani was held up over the line. With the clock ticking down, Penrith refused to kill the ball and decided to attack yet again. They offloaded several times to send Wade Graham over to score – only for the play to be called back for a forward pass.

Referee Ben Cummins making another mistake, missing the touch from Michael Bani that knocked the ball forward. It should have been play on the Penrith, but it didn’t effect the result – the away side pulling off a massive upset, albeit ugly as hell.

So after Round 3, the Premiers remain equal last on the ladder – they face another desperate side next week, as they travel to Newcastle to clash with the Knights.

The Panthers host the in-form Wests Tigers at Penrith Park.



Trent Barrett OK after neck injury

Trent Barrett Neck InjuryNew Sharks pivot Trent Barrett has been cleared of any major neck problems after he was injured upon his return to WIN Jubilee Oval today.

Nearing the end of the close match between the Saints and Dragons, Barrett collided awkwardly with a teammate and was carried from the field after bending his neck badly.

“It’s all been good news,” confirmed Cronulla Sharks medico David Givney – his comments coming through a Cronulla club media spokesmen.

“The CT and MRI scans have come back normal. There’s no boney or ligamentous injury and symptoms (are) slowly resolving.

Barrett is expected to be released tonight and it will be a matter of monitoring his comfort levels over the next week or two.

Saints march over Sharks 10-6

WIN Jubilee Oval Dragons 2009The local derby was as tough and close as expected, with the St George Illawarra Dragons getting a gritty 10-6 win at their newly redeveloped WIN Jubilee Oval in front of just over 20,000 fans.

The return to Kogarah wasn’t a happy one for Trent Barrett, the new Shark copping an ear full from local fans and eventually succumbing to a nasty neck injury after colliding with a team mate.

When Barrett was felled, there was serious concern – the match halting for over 5 minutes as medicos attended to the injured player. The new Sharks pivot eventually carted from the field on a stretcher, as fans new and old gave him a standing ovation as a mark of respect.

The match was littered with injuries, both sides having limited bench players by the end of the game. The departure of Trent Barrett however was the last hope the Cronulla side had, they weren’t at their best – but their gritty defence was keeping them in the game and prior to going down, Barrett was looking dangerous in attack.

Both the Saints and Sharks have similar attacking problems, the sides have quality defence and work themselves into good field position – but so often rely on kicks to get any points.

In the heat, player fitness was a crucial element. And while the Dragons side looked to be blowing harder under the torrid conditions, they had enough in the tank to get home.

It seems coach Wayne Bennett has worked hard to protect playmaker Jamie Soward, the little half regularly switching defensive positions to ‘hide’ from probing Cronulla attackers who were obviously searching him out in the line.

Paired with Sailor for a major portion of the match, Soward was well protected by the veteran and Wendell extinguished several attempted raids down his and Sowards side.

Other stand outs for the Saints, were speedster Brett Morris who was constantly dangerous with the ball. As was new boy Darius Boyd. Boyd must have had spiders on him, so many times he fielded the ball at fullback and beat 2, 3 and sometimes 4 attempted tackles.

Boyd looking to have well secured the custodian role, meaning Morris will remain on the flanks and Hornby can concentrate exclusively on the halves.

Soward kicked well and got his side out of trouble several times with a good distance kicking game.

Ben Creagh was his usual hard working best, getting the sealer try after the scores had been locked at 6-6 from not long after half time.

Both sides had their issues with poor handling the heat again playing a part here no doubt, the Dragons did look most likely to score eventually getting a touchdown in the 12th minute when playmaker Ben Hornby slipped through.

With only a 6-0 lead after halftime the Saints would have wanted to be ahead by more given their field position and likelihood to score.

The Sharks surprisingly got their try after Barrett left the field, Blake Green taking over as chief play maker and kicking to the corner for a high leaping Dave Simmons to take a quality mark and touch down – Covell converting from the edge to lock things up at 6-6.

With some possession going their way after this try, the Sharks probably should have at least nabbed a try. The pressure was falling on Blake Green to create something and with their hands failing, he resulted to kicks which at times were disappointing.

The shining light would no doubt be Anthony Toupu, as their other major offseason buy – Toup’s was proving his worth with some good runs. It wasn’t only his off-loads that threatened, but he was making massive metres on most carries and broke the line numerous times.

But Toup’s lacked support, even earlier in the day when he charged at the line from 5m – he had the big arm free but couldn’t find a Cronulla support player quick enough, another chance went begging.

The win by the Saints the first time in 5 local derby clashes against the Sharks.

Looking ahead, the Dragons will be happy to just get another win under their belts. They again have improvement left in them – but they are looking much more resolved, their grit proving a new characteristic under Bennett and the new buys.

Their big test will come next week, with the St George Illawarra side off to Brisbane to face the table topping Broncos. Not only will the flair and attacking prowess of the Broncos test them, it will have added meaning with the Bennett vs Brisbane factor creating a new juicy grudge match.

For the luck-less Sharks, well they simply can’t take a trick. Their gritty defence remains, but their attack is still no where to be found and their players are dropping like flies. With Barrett suffering a serious injury, there will be immediate concern for his well being, followed by plans to plug the massive gap he leaves.

The Cronulla side are away to the Doggies next week and at the rate they are going, every match will be an up-hill battle.

Souths click to burn Knights 22-12

NRL Round 3 2009It took them a good 40 minutes to warm up, but when they did the South Sydney Rabbitohs turned on the afterburners to wipe the floor with the Knights 22-12 – in front of nearly 16,000 fans at Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford.

With the Knights suffering a growing injury toll leading up to the game, including Ben Rogers and Adam McDougall suffering heat stroke – many felt they would be cannon fodder from the first whistle, but this wasn’t the case.

With a good majority of possession early, the Knights played expansive footy with Scott Dureau calling the shots nicely. They were uptempo and threatened the Bunnies immediately – soon racing away to a two try lead.

At 8-0 the Knights were looking good and the Bunnies were struggling to finish any attacking raids which would have been a major concern for coach Jason Taylor. Souths were quickly frustrated at their inability to puncture the Knights defence, at this point they had played 120 minutes of football without scoring a try – and it was telling on them.

For Newcastle, as they have done all year – they looked great in patches, usually through Kurt Gidley, James McManus and more recently Junior Sau but they just can’t maintain their focus and intensity for the complete 80 minutes.

As Souths continued to be frustrated and gave away a stack of penalties, they needed a miracle.

Enter Craig Wing.

Coach Jason Taylor throwing Wing in at dummy half for some sort of spark and it didn’t take long before the returning Bunny paid his coach back. As soon as Souths got some field position, Wing was there to show the way to the line.

Playing more as a pivot / second receiver at times, Wing knows how to sniff out a try and any broken defence allows him to use his good footwork and acceleration to do the job.

He left Scott Dureau in his wake as he stepped and pinned his ears back for the line, flying over to give Souths the heart start they needed. The experience of Wing and the ability to jag points will be a guiding light for his team if he stays fit.

The injection of Wing was easily the turning point in this match.

The Knights had plenty of ball but weren’t able to convert it all to points and once Wing came on, Souths started running rampant.

Suddenly Issac Luke was cutting the Newcastle side to shreds in the middle and getting away miracle offloads to his running forwards. The horse had bolted and the Knights didn’t know which shed to start looking for it.

So disappointed was coach Brian Smith he hooked playmaker Scott Dureau with 20 minutes to go and when the little half got another run with less than 10 minutes remaining he knocked the ball on from the first touch, his confidence obviously shot to pieces.

The win a good confidence booster for Souths who needed to reaffirm they could turn on the points, with Craig Wing available – they can push Sutton wider and let his loose on the fringes.

Sutton showed his ability to stand, suck in multiple defenders and offload all at once – while Sandow and Wing could rotate the first and second receiver positions mid-field. It gives Souths plenty of freedom.

The Knights who were already in the midst of an injury crisis – will be hurting from this one. If Kurt Gidley wasn’t there, it could have been much worse. The ‘everywhere’ man for the Knigths cleaning up several times and saving at least 2 certain tries with his cover defence.

They badly need a win otherwise the season will be slipping away before they know it. With Mullen, Simpson and Ciraldo already sitting out with injuries and backup half Scott Dureau having a mixed bag today – they may be ruing the decision to cut Luke Walsh loose to the Penrith Panthers.

The Knights are at home to the Manly side next week and the Bunnies make the big trip to New Zealand to face the Warriors.

Storm dominate Cowboys 26-12

Melbourne storm 2009 NRLThe Storm have continued their winning ways, pulling off a strong win in Townsville over the fancied North Queensland Cowboys 26-12.

While still only in second gear so far in 2009, the Storm were still able to overcome the home side and remain in touch with the NRL leaders.

With the rangy Greg Inglis now being seen more at his traditional centre position, he is able to produce his absolute best. The big Queenslander proving a major handful for the Cowboys all night.

While Inglis didn’t have a lot of touches, when he did – they were all class. Plenty of talk has centred around possible injuries and fitness concerns – but the talented ball runner was hard to stop when he put the foot down.

As usual Billy Slater too was a dynamo whenever he got any ball.

Statistically it’s been all the Storm over the Cows in recent times, their 5th consecutive win over Nth Queensland and the 3rd in a row at Dairy Farmers.

Coach Craig Bellamy will be particularly pleased with Melbourne’s re-focus on defence. Their attention to detail was back and despite a 7-2 penalty count against them, the held strong and kept a 6 point lead at the break.

All the usual suspects for Melbourne were touching down, Greg Inglis roaring away over the line, as did Cronk and Quinn to give the Storm an 18-12 lead early in the second half.

It probably could have been a larger margin for the Storm, but the Cowboys to their credit were also defending stoutly during some periods of the match.
With the Cowboys still having a sniff nearly 20 minutes into the second half, it took a Cameron Smith penalty goal to get the Storm to a safer 8 point lead – this probably taking the wind out of the local sides sails.

Moments later it didn’t matter anyway, Billy Slater playing ball for Steve Turner to score on the right hand edge. The out of sorts Turner needing the try for confidence sake.
The try however wasn’t without controversy, with some feeling that the video ref should have been called upon after Jonathan Thurston was felled in the defence line.

More drastic goal line defence was needed from the Cowboys, with the Storm again peppering late – looking to make the score even worse for the home side, but last ditch efforts from Bowen and Williams kept some respectability about things for the Cows.

While there may have been some positives in defence for the North Queensland side, they did still concede 26 points and their usually unstoppable attack failed to materialise as they allowed the Storm to control possession and tempo for most of this clash.

Eels ride luck, beat Raiders 18-16

Parramatta Eels TryNot even the most dedicated Parramatta fan would have thought victory was possible after 60 minutes of this match against the Raiders, the Eels somehow escaping certain defeat to get home 18-16 over the Raiders at Parramatta Stadium.

The Raiders led for virtually the whole match and certainly looked the better side, until a late burst from the Eels with 15 minutes to go brought the crowd of just under 12,000 to their feet.

It took a Jarryd Hayne 80m intercept try to fire up the locals, who for the most part looked disorganised and disinterested as they were touched up by an enthusiastic but unlucky Canberra side.

The Raiders were in control for most of this match, their young speedy outside backs proving a handful whenever they got into space.
The ruck was a major frustration for both sides tonight, with the referees maintaining a skinny 10m and allowing both sides too much time in tackles. With the game frustrating even the most traditional of Rugby League fans.

Canberra played with much greater depth in their attacking line, and their kicking game was forcing the Eels back for the most part.

While the Eels kicking game wasn’t at it’s best – they did manage to apply pressure several times to rookie fullback David Milne who began having nightmares as spiral bombs rained down, the plucky fullback spilling several from Burt and Finch.

After Hayne nabbed the intercept try late in the piece, the Eels lifted a gear and were over again soon after through Eric Grothe Jnr – the veteran flanker getting his 30th Eels try and a double for the night.

Both teams would agree this game may have featured in the Grand Finals for the worst ever. Slow, full of errors and lacking spark at times – it just wasn’t pretty.

Eels’ prop Nathan Cayless confirming afterwards that it was a “pretty scratchy effort”.

“It was very ugly, but our defence kept us in the game,” confirmed the Eels and Kiwi captain.

“In the first half we repelled them for a number of sets on our line and at the end we paid them back.

“The guys showed good desperation”

The positive Cayless said, was the fact his team didn’t put the cue in the rack when trailing by 2 tries for most of the match.
“Thankfully Jarryd Hayne took that intercept, it was probably going to be a try the other way if he didn’t.

“We knew the Raiders were desperate, they were probably the better team for most of the game but we were able to snatch the win.”

Parramatta no. 7 Brett Finch probably didn’t have the best game, his passing was off tonight and he lacked any cohesion with his halves partner through various periods. At one stage, Finch, Hayne and Keating were having a committee meeting during a set – with no one knowing what the other was doing.
Finch confirming the side just wants consistency for now.

“We know the coach won’t be happy with it, but we still won,” he said.

Finch preferring to forget the first 65 minutes of this match, where his side were extremely poor.

“We’re not looking good but it’s a win, we got to continue to build.

For the Raiders, their control of this match for the most part was only interrupted by some dropping bombs from fullback Milne.

It wasn’t the best night for Milne, the livewire custodian lying on the tackled player as the Eels were on a major bust – the penalty against Milne costing him 10 minutes in the sin bin.

Terry Campese again performed well, he has time in attack as players stand off him and his kicking game is close to the best in NRL at present. He has distance off the foot, reeling in a nice 40/20 and his short attacking kicks were impressive too.

Joel Monaghan was dangerous in attack, looming under the high ball – although the Raiders probably needed to send more air attacks his way.





Eels: 18 (K Inu, E Grothe 2, J Hayne tries; L Burt conversion)

Raiders: 16 (J Croker, J Monaghan, J Picker tries; T Campese 2 conversions)