Knights home as Bunnies stumble 25-20

The Knights celebrated the 200th game of Steve Simpson in style, beating the South Sydney Rabbitohs 25-20 in front of nearly 15,000 Newcastle fans at the Monday Night NRL fixture.

The Knights opening with an uptempo style and aided by strong showings during the game from veteran Adam McDougall and half Jarrod Mullen.

For Souths it was the same old story in 2009, they show promise in patches, at one stage scoring a great try through several sets of hands – but are unable to consistently hang on to the ball and were forcing the pass way too often.

Souths were helped by workhorse signing Michael Crocker who has added some stability to their forwards, but simple errors continue to cost the Jason Taylor coached side as they struggle to remain in touch with the NRL leaders.

For Newcastle, another win was ideal – but the style in which they are winning must be pleasing coach Brian Smith. The Knights have been clinical in the victories and a smart snap field goal to Jarrod Mullen late in the piece ensured they would snare the 2 points as they virtually cement themselves into the Top 8 for the 2009 NRL season.

Barring injuries, the Knights will remain a force come semi-finals time and their strong but mobile outside backs are proving extremely potent as the likes of Mullen and Gidley run the plays around nicely.

For Souths, the final weeks of the competition will remain tough as the pressure will continue to build. With the likes of Jason Taylor, John Lang and Gordon Tallis all assisting – there is no excuse for the Bunnies not to make the Top 8 finals series.

They have the playing personnel and the coaching roster other clubs would kill for. They just need to put it all together.

Eels upset wounded Broncos 21-14

Just like it was for NSW State of Origin, it was the Jarryd Hayne show for the Parramatta Eels. At times, it looked like Jarryd Hayne versus the Brisbane Broncos, such was the impact of the flashy fullback as the Eels managed to get home 21-14 on the back of a Luke Burt field goal and Daniel Mortimer try in the final 2 minutes.

The Broncos were without the services of Israel Folau and Justin Hodges, but while they lacked punch on the fringe it seemed the Eels were giving them every chance to score – with some soft defence near the try line.

Parramatta took advantage of early possession, scoring a handy try from a Joel Reddy offload to find Eric Grothe and were again successful down that side as Grothe returned the favour and offloaded for Reddy to score.

When the Broncos got their chance in the attacking zone, they didn’t waste it – a successful 2nd man play setting up Steve Michaels on the wing and getting the Brisbane side into the game. With several new faces for Brisbane, you could see the confidence lift after the Michaels try.

With the scores 8-4 to the Eels at the break, the early confidence was key in the 2nd term and just as the Broncos looked set to score with a 3-2 overlap, Kris Inu intercepted and ran the length of the field to score for the Eels and nudge them ahead.

But the Broncos weren’t going away, a try right up the middle to Andrew McCullough exposed more poor Parramatta defence and when Michaels skipped over for his second try it was again a locked scoreline. Corey Parker proving unsuccessful with the boot at the key moment.

In the final period, the Brisbane side looked exhausted, but the Eels just couldn’t find the killer blow. Jarryd Hayne line breaking several times to be pulled down metres short, then Fui Fui Moi Moi breaking the line and failing to offload to an unmarked man.

But in the final minutes it was a wobbly field goal from Luke Burt under pressure that got the home side the breathing space. The short restart from Brisbane missing it’s mark and allowing Mortimer to score in the final play of the game.

Brisbane now slump to 4 losses on the trot and the Eels will be ruing their missed chances in other games as they get a slight sniff of the Top 8.

Raiders expose Storm 26-16

The Raiders not only jagged the 2 NRL points today, but in beating the fancied Melbourne Storm they blew away a 7 year hoodoo stretching back to 2002 where they had not beaten the Melbourne side on any occasion.

The star for the green machine was Joel Monaghan, the rangy centre bagging 2 tries and showing no ill-effects from his mid-week Origin game.

Most of the Raiders current playing group were unable to remember or experience the last time they defeated the Storm, something Monaghan was on-hand to do many years ago as they 27 year old continued to shine today.

For the Storm, it may be a little concerning entering the business end of the season. While they scored tries through Chambers and Inglis, they did look a little flat for the most part. Fill-in coach Stephen Kearney admitted there was plenty of work to do in the weeks ahead and the Storm lack that aura they once had in years gone by.

Unusually the Storm didn’t start to post points until seconds before half time, then not until the 1 hour mark did they cross the chalk again.

The win keeps the Raiders away from wooden-spoon land and they remain a long outside shot at the NRL Top 8.

Roosters edge out Sharks in cellar fight 19-12

A top shelf game from Roosters ace Mitchell Pearce has allowed the Bondi boys to edge out their cellar dwelling rivals the Sharks 19-12 in a close Round 16 NRL match tonight.

Everything Pearce touched seemed to work, he bagged a try for himself, laid on another and kicked the sealing field goal to give his side a much needed confidence boost after losing a stack of games on the trot.

The loss was a crucial one for the Sharks, they had been on a good winning streak and had secret hopes of sneaking into the Top 8 in the final section of the 2009 NRL season.

With the battle for the NRL wooden spoon heating up – the Sharks and Roosters were throwing everything at each other to avoid the dreaded end of year award. Aside from these teams, the Wests Tigers now sitting precauriously close to the dangerzone – drifting ever closer to last place on the NRL ladder.

Titans scalp Warriors 28-12 at Skilled

The Titans may have taken a while to find their straps, but they again had too much skill at home – overcoming a freefalling New Zealand side 28-12 to keep their strong home record in tact.

Both wingers David Meade and Kevin Gordon bagged doubles for the Gold Coast, with Gordon continuing his eye catching form on the fringes.

With so many big names out for the Titans, the likes of Harrison, Bailey, Rogers and Co – it was a huge effort from their junior ranks.

The Warriors had their chances, but continued to take the low percentage plays and their risks weren’t paying off as they continued to push the hard pass.

The Titans remain finals certainties, sitting high on the NRL ladder, while the NZ Warriors on 15 points remain in the balance. The Kiwi side will need to win the lions share of their remaining games or risk missing the NRL playoffs for 2009.

Ricardo: Team of Week 13

1. Fullback – Billy Slater: Back to his career best form with a strong performance against a poor Broncos team. Made great runs and kick returns as he generally does.

2. Wing – Joseph Tomane: Scored 24 points in the thrashing of the Broncos inclduing 3 tries and 6 goals. A phenomenal performance by an up and coming talent who is being approached by Union.

3. Centre – Setimata Sa: Despite the loss, the utility played one of his best games all year proving to be solid in defence and assisting in the attacking raids of the Roosters. Part of the core squad for the future.

4. Centre – Willie Tonga: Touted to replace the injured Hodges in SOO 2, the centre had a solid performance for the Cowboys in their crushing win over the Rabbitohs. Played strong football and used his strength and speed to weave around defenders.

5. Winger – David Williams: Did his Origin hopes no harm with a solid performance in the Eagles win. Needs consistency and he will be one of the form wingers of the competition.

6. Five-Eighth - Daniel Mortimer: Playing in only his second game, he was inspirational for the Eels providing the winning kick and chase for the winning try. Definitely a player of the future and possible NSW five-eighth.

7. Halfback – Jonathon Thurston: Back to his destructive best with a monumental performance against the Bunnies. Involved in every attacking raid and has improved on his game over the first half of the season.

8. Prop - Mark O’ Meley: Despite constant talks of being on the outer at the Roosters, O’Meley put those rumours behind him and had a very strong game despite the loss. One of the Roosters best players on the field.

9. Hooker – Nathan Friend: Another underrated player who is arguably the best defensive hooker in the game. Strong out of dummy half and a real workhorse.

10. Prop – Kade Snowden: An underrated forward of the NRL who always puts in the effort every game for the Sharks. Strong in defence and a workhorse on all levels.

11. Second Row – Frank Pritchard: Feared by many opposition, the beast is getting back to some very good form. He is very hard to tackle in attack and racks up solid metres and tackles.

12. Second Row – Brad Meyers: Given a rare starting berth, the former Brisbane man played solid in both defence and attack. He will be hoping for consistency.

13. Lock – Luke O’Donnell: Continued his strong showings with a solid performance and will undoubtedly retain his Origin spot.

14. Interchange – Aiden Tolman: The young Storm Lock is growing in confidence putting in consistent performances over the past few weeks. Solid ball-runner and a strong player. Mateo-like almost.

15. Interchange – Tom Symonds: Since getting his shot at First Grade a few weeks ago, the young utility has taken leaps and bounds to become a key figure in the Roosters side. A player of the future and one to look out for.

16. Interchange – Trent Barrett: Starting to slowly show the form that we all know he is capable of. Forming a good partnership with Halves partner Porter and together they could cause some headaches for opposition teams.

17. Interchange – Lachlan Coote: The young fullback is fearless. He has shown that when he fronts up guys twice his size and pulls off try-savers on them. A remarkable talent and a player for the future.

Eels sign Poore and Love Shack

Justin Poore Parramatta Eels 2010 NRLThe Parramatta Eels have wasted no time in cleaning up after Denis Fitzgerald, the club today announcing the signing of both Justin Poore and Shane Shackleton to boost their forward stocks for the 2010 NRL season.

Poore was being chased hard by the Sharks but the current financial state of that club apparently scared the NSW Origin forward. For Shackleton, the man they call ‘Love Shack’ it was a chance to set out of the shadows of Mason, O’Meley and Myles – possibly establishing himself as a genuine future rep forward prospect.

The Eels after parting ways with Denis Fitzgerald yesterday have quickly set about rebuilding the struggling club and seem to be smartly following the lead of the Bulldogs who recruited extremely well for 2009 and saw their fortunes change almost immediately.

With Poore believed to be on big money, wrapped up now until 2012 – it’s widely believed that Parramatta will look to open discussions with current captain Nathan Cayless to explore Super League options for 2010 so money can be urgently freed up. Another player at the club believed to be on the outer is Kris Inu, the former Rookie of the Year has struggled to get near his best form and is playing park football on a big dollar contract.

The Eels have a young halves pairing that should be approaching their peak in the latter stages of 2010 in Daniel Mortimer and Kris Keating and playing behind these new forwards will make their lives much, much easier.

Wests Tigers; the end of an era?

Wests Tigers Rebuilding Phase NRL 2009The Wests Tigers have basically been a protected species since they won the NRL Premiership in 2005, their young squad guided by the veteran clipboard man Tim Sheens and his assistant Royce Simmons to take the top prize in the game.

But what has happened since has been a constant frustration for the legion of dedicated fans.

There is no question the Tigers have some players that can absolutely cut their opposition to shreds on their day. They also can turn on electric attacking Rugby League on their day and impress even the most traditional of fans with their fast, unique and skillful play.

But consistency has escaped them for the last 4 years. They have failed to make the NRL finals since their impressive premiership in 2005 and they have seemingly had plenty of ‘bad hair’ days of late, not just losing, but losing in a frustratingly poor fashion – certainly considering the talent they have.

They’ve re-signed stars Farah and Marshall, but whats next?

The question no one wants to ask, what about the coach? Should there be pressure on Tim Sheens?

The veteran coach has done it all and some say deserves an open cheque, but time is flying by and 2005 is light years away now.

At the very least, the Tigers need a partial clean-out of the playing ranks. The likes of Bryce Gibbs and Dene Halatau have been good servants to their club, but are a yard shorter in terms of pace and are just not stepping-up like they once did.

There was a battle for the fullback ranks after Brett Hodgson left, it ended badly with McDonnell walking away from the club and Moltzen having mixed success in the custodian role.

Workhorse Johnny Morris has been such a reliable entity for the club, but the utility value is lost when Morris is a virtual full time stop-gap five-eighth and the club can’t afford to wait any longer – they must develop Chris Lawrence for that role right now.

The other boom rookie, Dean Collis showed so much promise for the club. The Campbelltown junior bursting into the centre ranks and looking like the next Origin star, but the young outside back has struggled to be a regular force through injury and inconsistency.

New buy Gareth Ellis has been a shining light, as has the reliable Chris Highnington. But the Tigers simply need more.

For starters their goal kicking needs sorting out. Benji Marshall is simply not kicking at a high enough percentage and it’s costing the Tigers games.

It certainly looks like time for some changes. The Tigers must bite the bullet and yes, friendships will strain and egos will be burst. The club needs to follow the lead of the Bulldogs and start afresh and buy the core group that can again take them to at least the finals and a possible second premiership.

This might mean culling some administrators and assessing what Sheens and his team have planned for the next few years. Something former CEO Scott Longmuir was looking at asking, but the former boss is now long gone after asking the hard questions.

Sponsors will start asking questions soon and before you know it, the Tigers could find themselves on the fast-train to Sharkies town – a club that knows all about hitting rock bottom.

NRL Teams, Round 14, 2009

Listed below are the NRL Teams and Squad Lineups for Round 14 of the National Rugby League. Friday Night kicks off with a New Zealand based game, the Warriors facing off against the Knights in tandem with the Bulldogs vs Brisbane game at ANZ Stadium, Sydney which should be a blockbuster. FRIDAY
BULLDOGS v BRISBANE at ANZ Stadium, 7:35pm

BULLDOGS: Luke Patten, Hazem El Masri, Josh Morris, Jamal Idris, Bryson Goodwin, Ben Roberts, Brett Kimmorley, Ben Hannant, Mick Ennis, Michael Hodgson, Greg Eastwood, Andrew Ryan (C), David Stagg. Interchange: Gary Warburton, Chris Armit, Yileen Gordon, Daniel Holdsworth.

BRISBANE: Karmichael Hunt, Antonio Winterstein, Steve MichaelS, Israel Folau, Jharal Yow Yeh, Darren Lockyer (c), Peter Wallace, Nick Kenny, Andrew McCullough, Josh McGuire, Sam Thaiday, Ben Teo, Corey Parker. Interchange: Alex Glenn, Lagi Setu, Ashton Sims, Palmer Wapau, PJ Marsh, David Taylor (two to be omitted).

Referees: Tony Archer, Shayne Hayne.

WARRIORS v NEWCASTLE at Mount Smart Stadium, 6.35pm

WARRIORS: Wade McKinnon, Kevin Locke, Patrick Ah Van, Simon Mannering, Manu Vatuvei, Lance Hohaia, Stacey Jones, Sam Rapira, Ian Henderson, Steve Price (c), Lewis Brown, Ben Matulino, Micheal Luck.  Interchange: Aaron Heremaia, Russell Packer, Jesse Royal, Jacob Lillyman.

KNIGHTS: Kurt Gidley (c), James McManus, Junior Sau, Wes Naiqama, Akulia Uate, Ben Rogers, Jarrod Mullen, Mark Taufua, Isaac DeGois, Chris Houston, Steve Simpson, Zeb Taia, Matt Hilder. Interchange: Con Mika, Danny Wicks, Sione Tovo, Keith Lulia, Richie Fa’aoso, Marvin Karawana (two to be omitted). Referees: Steve Lyons, Bernard Sutton.

SATURDAY

SYDNEY ROOSTERS v GOLD COAST at Sydney Football Stadium 5:30pm

ROOSTERS: Sam Perrett, Sisa Waqa, Setaimata Sa, Ben Jones, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Braith Anasta (c), Mitchell Pearce, Mark O’Meley, Jake Friend, Lopini Paea, Shane Shackleton, Willie Mason, Craig Fitzgibbon. Interchange: Nate Myles, Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Tom Symonds, Mitch Aubusson.

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

Referees: Ben Cummins, Alan Shortall

PENRITH v MANLY at CUA Stadium, 7.35pm

PANTHERS: Jarrod Sammut, Brad Tighe, Geoff Daniela, Maurice Blair, Shane Elford, Wade Graham, Luke Walsh, Petero Civoniceva (c), Paul Aiton, Frank Puletua, Trent Waterhouse, Frank Pritchard, Nathan Smith. Interchange: Lachlan Coote, Gavin Cooper, Matthew Bell, Tim Grant, Masada Iosefa, Joseph Paulo (two to be omitted).

SEA EAGLES: Michael Robertson, Tony Williams, Jamie Lyon, Steve Matai, David Williams, Chris Bailey, Matt Orford (c), Brent Kite, Matt Ballin, Josh Perry, Anthony Watmough, Glenn Hall, Glenn Stewart. Interchange: Heath L’Estrange, Jason King, George Rose, Shane Rodney, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (one to be omitted)

Referees: Jason Robinson, Tony De Las Heras.

SOUTH SYDNEY v MELBOURNE at Members Equity Stadium, Perth, 9.30pm

SOUTHS: Luke Capewell, Nathan Merritt, Colin Best, Beau Champion, Fetuli Talanoa, John Sutton, Chris Sandow, Scott Geddes, Craig Wing, Roy Asotasi (c), Michael Crocker, David Fa’alogo, Luke Stuart. Interchange: Issac Luke, Eddy Pettybourne, David Kidwell, Shannan McPherson, Jaiman Lowe, Garrettt Crossman (two to be omitted).

STORM: Billy Slater, Steve Turner, Will Chamber, Greg Inglis, Joseph Tomane, Brett Finch, Cooper Cronk, Jeff Lima, Cameron Smith, Adam Blair, Sika Manu, Ryan Hoffman, Dallas Johnson. Interchange: Ryan Hinchcliffe, Matt Cross, Aiden Tolman, Brett White.

Referees: Ashley Klein, Chris James

SUNDAY

CANBERRA v CRONULLA at Canberra Stadium, 2pm

RAIDERS: David Milne, Adrian Purtell, Jarrod Croker, Joel Monaghan, Phil Graham, Terry Campese, Marc Herbert, Dane Tilse, Glen Buttriss, Scott Logan, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, Bronson Harrison, Alan Tongue (c). Interchange: Trevor Thurling, Nigel Plum, Josh Miller, Troy Thompson.

SHARKS: Nathan Stapleton, Blake Ferguson, Matt Wright, Reece Williams, Luke Covell, Trent Barrett (c), Scott Porter, Kade Snowden, Tony Caine, Luke Douglas, Atelea Vea, Anthony Tupou, Paul Gallen. Interchange: Johnny Mannah, Grant Millington, Mitch Brown, Terence Seu Seu, Jacob Selmes, Ben Pomeroy (two to be omitted).

Referees: Shayne Hayne, Gerard Sutton

ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA v NORTH QUEENSLAND at WIN Stadium, 7pm

DRAGONS: Darius Boyd, Brett Morris, Beau Scott, Matt Cooper, Wendell Sailor, Jamie Soward, Ben Hornby (c), Justin Poore, Dean Young, Michael Weyman, Jarrod Saffy, Ben Creagh, Neville Costigan. Interchange: Dan Hunt, Mickey Paea, Chase Stanley, Jason Nightingale, Luke Priddis, Mathew Head (two to be omitted).

COWBOYS: Matt Bowen, Ty Willams, Ashley Graham, Willie Tonga, John Williams, Travis Burns, Johnathan Thurston (c), Shane Tronc, Aaron Payne, Matthew Scott, Carl Webb, Scott Bolton, Luke O’Donnell. Interchange: Anthony Watts, Steve Southern, Antonio Kaufusi, Steve Rapira, James Tamou, Grant Rovelli, Manase Manuokafoa (three to be omitted).

Referees: Tony Archer, Matt Cecchin

MONDAY

PARRAMATTA v WESTS TIGERS at Parramatta Stadium 7pm

EELS: Jarryd Hayne, Luke Burt, Krisnan Inu, Joel Reddy, Eric Grothe, Daniel Mortimer, Jeff Robson, Nathan Cayless (c), Matthew Keating, Fuifui Moimoi, Nathan Hindmarsh, Joe Galuvao, Todd Lowrie. Interchange: Kevin Kingston, Tim Mannah, Jeremy Latimore, Etu Uaisele, Jonathan Wright, Taulima Tautai (two to be omitted).

TIGERS: Tim Moltzen, Taniela Tuiaki, Blake Ayshford, Chris Lawrence, Beau Ryan, John Morris, Benji Marshall, Bryce Gibbs, Robbie Farah (c), John Skandalis, Todd Payten, Chris Heighington, Corey Payne. Interchange: Taulima Tautai, Rhys Hanbury, Danny Galea, Dene Halatau, Daine Laurie, Willie Mataka (two to be omitted).

Referees: Ben Cummins, Brett Suttor

Titans hold off Dragons 28-24

Gold Coast Titans Review Defeat Dragons NRL 2009The Gold Coast Titans have just managed to hold off a fast finishing St George Illawarra Dragons side tonight, winning 28-24 and defeating Saints for the first time since the young Gold Coast club entered the NRL in 2007.

In front of a vocal home crowd at Skilled Stadium, the Titans came out of the blocks hard and took advantage of several fortunate referee and video referee calls to bolt away from the Dragons and setup a strong early lead.

Sharp kicking from Titans captain Scott Prince and some vintage form from from forward Brad Meyers had the St George Illawarra side searching for answers as they struggled to gain any momentum and were visibly frustrated by some poor quality calls they received.

When Meyers crashed over for his 2nd try of the night right on the half time whistle, it looked all over for the visiting Dragons who were trailing 22-2 at the break.

But they came out for the second term with a different mindset – Bennett obviously getting his troops in the right frame of mind as they set about attacking the deficit.

The game certainly lifted a notch in the 2nd half, hits were getting harder and you could feel the tension rising between the two sides as the Dragons got themselves into the game with an early try.

Chris Walker and Preston Campbell were also standouts for their side, Walker was busy in attack and was hard to contain and the ever present Campbell was proving a rock in the fullback position – the little custodian pulling off some amazing bomb defusals, rising high above the pack and getting staggering hang time.

Neville Costigan was injured badly with what looked to be a breakage or dislocation in his arm or elbow region and Brad Meyers was brought crashing back to earth, knocked out by a Mickey Paea shoulder on the carry up. As the war wounds took their toll, next to fall victim was Mat Rogers who copped a rib injury – but managed to stay in the game albeit on the fringe, with some strong involvement late which helped his side home.

As the Dragons continued to build, coach Bennett threw Matt Head into the action for more points. It seemed to work, with the red and whites pulling off some sublime tries from set pieces, using kicks from scrums to totally bamboozle the Titans.

With 2 minutes to play Ben Hornby crashed over off a sharp grubber kick to get the Dragons within 2 points,  the Saints refusing the conversion as they raced back for a quick kick off. But time got the better of them and the wounded, but committed Titans did enough to ensure the win.