Souths, Titans and Storm win

Dragons lose to Souths ROund 25 2009 NRLSouth Sydney were red hot tonight, sadly it didn’t help their 2009 finals cause with a 41-6 annihilation of St George Illawarra that sent the NRL ladder leaders crashing to their third successive defeat.

On the Gold Coast, the Titans may have nailed the coffin on the Tigers’ 2009 season with a cativating 36-24 win which leaves the Tigers having to beat the Bulldogs next week and hope for a few miracle results to go their way.

At the Graveyard, it was a return to the wniners circle for the Melbourne Storm who regained their attacking mojo as Greg Inglis put a horror fortnight behind him to steer his side to a 38-4 win over Sydney Roosters at Olympic Park on Saturday night.

Inglis claimed a double as the Storm scored seven tries to one to claw their way back into the NRL top four after being temporarily overtaken by Brisbane Broncos

The NRL Table now sits as follows, with a handful of games remaining for Round 25:

1 Dragons 16 7 0 2 182 36
2 Bulldogs 17 5 0 2 149 36
3 Titans 16 7 0 2 81 36
4 Storm 13 9 1 2 127 31
5 Broncos 13 10 0 2 -67 30
6 Eels 12 10 1 2 40 29
7 Sea Eagles 12 10 0 2 54 28
8 Knights 12 10 0 2 -2 28
9 Panthers 11 11 1 2 -39 27
10 Tigers 11 12 0 2 53 26
11 Rabbitohs 10 12 1 2 15 25
12 Cowboys 10 13 0 2 68 24
13 Raiders 8 14 0 2 -35 20
14 Warriors 7 13 2 2 -138 20
15 Sharks 5 17 0 2 -205 14
16 Roosters 5 18 0 2 -283 14

Civoniceva could return for Eels clash

Panthers Petero Civoniceva Return from INjury NRL 2009 round 25There has been speculation out of the Penrith Panthers that injured forward Petero Civoniceva could make a sneaky return for this Friday Nights big clash at Parramatta Stadium against the in-form Eels.

Civoniceva was injured in State of Origin Game 2, where the big prop had the tendons ripped apart inside his big toe. With the tendons apparently ripped from the bone, the Queensland and Australia prop didn’t seem likely to play again in 2009.

However a speedy recovery and an urgency to get back to assist the Panthers into the semi-finals could see the talented front rower sneak onto the bench at the 11th hour.

Coach Matt Elliot and Panthers officials are tight lipped about the move, however there is no mistaking how big this game is for both Panthers and Eels; locked on 27 competition points and virtually needing to win both remaining games each to confirm a finals spot.

Parramatta Stadium is a sell-out and the Eels are riding a hotstreak of 6 games. Out to stop the roll is the likes of Luke Lewis who is back to career best form, as is workhorse backrower Trent Waterhouse. But while Michael Jennings is the real go-to man for the Panthers it seems big rampaging forward Frank Pritchard holds the real key.

The Eels will look to smother Jennings, as the Panthers will Hayne. But with Pritchard, when he is ‘on’ he is a player that simply cannot be stopped.

It all depends what mood big Frank the Tank turns up in.

He can turn up some nights and tear other teams apart with his blockbusting runs. Leaving defenders in his wake as he crashes through the line or hits a gap and delivers a sizzling offload to a speed man like Jennings.

However, on other nights Pritchard can turn up with his mind obviously elsewhere. He will run at half pace, drop the ball from simple takes and you’ll see him turn around and laugh about the mistake.

A massive case of Jeckyl and Hyde, but if the big boy has his mind on the job – then this game will go right down to the wire.

Statistically, there is a lot between these teams since they last met a few months ago. The Eels are standouts in all categories from attacking points, line breaks, offloads and less breaks conceeded than most teams.

The Panthers however have had issues with their defence. They are a hot side with ball in hand and can really score a try, but without possession their concentration can drop away and the chinks in the armour appear, much like what happened in Brisbane only a fortnight ago.

The scene is set, the race to the finals continues and this will be yet another hot match up to kick off Round 25 of the 2009 NRL.

Inglis set to take field

Greg Inglis Court Case Sally Robinson NRLIsolated Storm star Greg Inglis is set to take the field shortly, possibly this weekend – subject to NRL confirmation – with his court hearing being postponed until well after the 2009 NRL season is over.

Storm boss Brian Waldron incidcated his team would make a call within the next 48 hours however the Melbourne powerbrokers had a teleconference last night to iron out details and decide a way forward. Some sources say that a decision on Inglis returning was made last night.

The defence case built by Inglis’s legal team regarding charges of recklessly causing injury and unlawfully assaulting his partner, Sally Robinson, has paved the way for the talented 22-year-old to hit the playing field again after sitting on the sidelines for several weeks.

While still needing the official no from the NRL, Inglis now won’t sit in front of a court until October 14, few believe that the NRL would move to block the return – the boost couldn’t come sooner enough for the Melbourne Storm who have been extremely wobbly, much like fellow contenders St George Illawarra in the past fortnight.

The Storm were outclassed by Newcastle 2 weeks ago and more recently by Manly in the usually secure graveyard of Olympic Park.

Storm boss Waldron is believe to have already had dialogue with NRL chief executive David Gallop the court hearing yesterday and would likely chat again in the next 24 hours.

”We will consider the information put to us today and discuss the matter with all of our stakeholders, and we’ll make a decision based on that,” Waldron confirmed.

Melbourne chairman Rob Moodie also spoke, confirming ”We just want to take into account what happened today and then do what is the best thing after that. As I say, we’ll be making a determination within the next 48 hours.”

Gallop said he would ”wait for the Storm to decide their position in the next day or so” before his administration decided whether the two-match suspension was sufficient.

Gallops comments looked positive for the Storm and Inglis, saying the National Rugby League doesn’t have ‘hard and fast rules on these kinds of things’
The situation surrounding Inglis is interesting given information provided by his legal rep Michael Croucher. Inglis’ legal team said in court that charges against him weren’t valid as he acted to simply protect the woman he has been accused of assaulting.

Charges of recklessly causing injury and unlawful assault should be withdrawn, based on a second statement made by Robinson, which contained ”crucial information that exonerates Mr Inglis”. If they were not, Inglis would be pleading not guilty, Croucher said.

Croucher said the information, which was not available to police at the time Inglis was charged, showed that the centre ”acted as a right-thinking member of society would; that is he protected her from harm.”

The Storm face the Roosters this weekend and will surely play themselves well and truly back into form given the progress of the Roosters in recent times. The Sydney outfit have been as woeful as any NRL team in recent memory and will get touched up by the Storm with or without Inglis.
Croucher said it was understandable that Robinson did not reveal the information in her first statement to police and that the fact Inglis ”did not disclose the same information reflects his compassion and decency and his respect for her privacy”.

Anasta: Chooks can still avoid spoon

Braith Anasta Wooden SpoonInjured Sydney Roosters captain Braith Anasta has declared that his side’s form over the past two months does not warrant the spoon making an appearance at Bondi.

Currently the Tricolours sit in last place with two rounds to play, with a points differential of 44 the only thing separating themselves from the Cronulla Sharks on 14 competition points.

Anasta, who is recovering from a horror ankle injury, said he was disappointed to see his side in the position they were but stopped short of passing on the dreaded prize.

“You look at other teams and I feel we’ve played better than some of them, which makes it unfortunate that we are in this position,” the 27-year-old said.

“There’s not much we can do about that now, it’s of our own doing. The boys just have to turn up for the remaining games and give it their best shot.

“I can’t really say that we don’t deserve the spoon because we haven’t played the best footy. If you look at other teams you’d think that we are better than a few of them,” he said.

A combination of untimely injuries to key players and the inability to close out tight contests has seen the Roosters and fans alike suffer painful defeats on an almost weekly basis.

Anasta wears his heart on his sleeve on-field so there is little surprise that he admits his time on the sidelines has proved that he is not a great onlooker.

“It’s been a bit of a disaster year,” Anasta declared.

“It’s been hard for me because the game I got injured in was probably around the time we really started to put some better performances together.

“Some serious injuries to other players and losing close games has been frustrating to watch. It’s a year we’d all rather forget.

“I would have liked to be a part of the last 10 weeks to try and help contribute to a couple of wins so we could avoid the spoon. I do feel helpless and I wish I could have done more to get us out of this position but I couldn’t,” he said.

The Roosters face a tough ask travelling to the graveyard this weekend when they take on the Melbourne Storm in what could be their last game at Olympic Park.
The last game at the Sydney Football Stadium beckons as the Tricolours best chance to snare a win.

Anasta said it is too hard to call given the game is a fortnight away but insists the players will be up for the match as it marks the end for Craig Fitzgibbon and several other Roosters.

Snaring a dramatic win on the last day to avoid the unwanted tag of seasons worst could be the best chance to give the departing a fitting farewell.

“That would be good and the least the boys good do for Fitzy,” Anasta said.

“Fitzy’s been a stalwart and some that every player looks up to. He deserves more and deserves more than what everyone has presented over the last couple of weeks.

“If everyone played as hard as Fitzy does in the last couple of games there is a good chance we can get the win needed to send him out on a positive.”

NRL Teams for Round 25, 2009

NRL Teams and Squad Lineups round 25 of the National Rugby League

FRIDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL

NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS v BRISBANE BRONCOS at Dairy Farmers Stadium, 7.35pm

COWBOYS: Ty Williams, Shannon Hegarty, Ashley Graham, Willie Tonga, Michael Bani, Grant Rovelli, Johnathan Thurston (capt), Shane Tronc, Anthony Watts, Matthew Scott, Carl Webb, Scott Bolton, Luke O’Donnell. Interchange: Travis Burns, Steve Southern, Antonio Kaufusi, Manase Manuokafoa, Ben Harris, Steve Rapira (two to be omitted).
BRONCOS: Karmichael Hunt, Antonio Winterstein, Israel Folau, Justin Hodges, Jharal Yow Yeh, Darren Lockyer (capt), Peter Wallace, Nick Kenny, Andrew McCullough, David Taylor, Tonie Carroll, Sam Thaiday, Corey Parker. Interchange: Lagi Setu, Ben Teo, Ashton Sims, Alex Glenn, Josh McGuire, Joel Clinton (two to be omitted).

Referees: Ben Cummins, Matt Cecchin

PARRAMATTA EELS v PENRITH PANTHERS at Parramatta Stadium, 7.35pm

EELS: Jarryd Hayne, Luke Burt, Krisnan Inu, Joel Reddy, Eric Grothe, Daniel Mortimer, Jeff Robson, Nathan Cayless (capt), Matthew Keating, Fuifui Moimoi, Nathan Hindmarsh, Joe Galuvao, Todd Lowrie. Interchange: Kevin Kingston, Feleti Mateo, Ben Smith, Tim Mannah.
PANTHERS: Jarrod Sammut, Junior Tia Kilifi, Michael Jennings, Brad Tighe, Michael Gordon, Wade Graham, Luke Walsh, Matthew Bell, Paul Aiton, Frank Puletua, Trent Waterhouse (capt), Frank Pritchard, Luke Lewis. Interchange: Nathan Smith, Joseph Paulo, Maurice Blair, Adam Woolnough, Tim Grant, Gavin Cooper (two to be omitted).
Referees: Shayne Hayne, Jason Robinson

SUPER SATURDAY RUGBY LEAGUE

GOLD COAST TITANS v WESTS TIGERS at Skilled Park, 5.30pm

TITANS: Preston Campbell, Kevin Gordon, Sam Tagataese, Jordan Atkins, David Mead, Mat Rogers, Scott Prince (capt), Luke Bailey (capt), Nathan Friend, Matthew White, Anthony Laffranchi, Mark Minichiello, Ashley Harrison. Interchange: Michael Henderson, Brad Meyers, Luke O’Dwyer, Kayne Lawton, Josh Graham, Will Matthews, Chris walker (three to be omitted)
TIGERS: Tim Moltzen, Blake Ayshford, Dean Collis, Chris Lawrence, Beau Ryan, Benji Marshall, Robert Lui, Bryce Gibbs, Robbie Farah (capt), Keith Galloway, Gareth Ellis, Todd Payten, Chris Heighington. Interchange: John Morris, Danny Galea, Corey Payne, John Skandalis, Dene Halatau (one to be omitted).
Referees: Tony Archer, Bernard Sutton

MELBOURNE STORM v SYDNEY ROOSTERS at Olympic Park, 7.30pm

STORM: Billy Slater, Steve Turner, Will Chambers, Dane Nielsen, Joseph Tomane, Brett Finch, Cooper Cronk, Scott Anderson, Cam Smith (capt), Brett White, Aiden Tolman, Ryan Hoffman, Dallas Johnson. Interchange: Ryan Hinchcliffe, Adam Blair, Ryan Tandy, Wairangi Koopu.
ROOSTERS: Sam Perrett, Iwi Hauraki, Mitchell Aubusson, Setaimata Sa, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Anthony Minichiello, Mitchell Pearce, Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Jake Friend, Shane Shackleton, Sia Soliola, Willie Mason, Craig Fitzgibbon (capt). Interchange: Stanley Waqa, Nate Myles, Riley Brown, Ben Jones, Nick Kouparitsas (one to be omitted).
Referees: Jarrod Maxwell, Brett Suttor

SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS v ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS at ANZ Stadium, 7.30pm

RABBITOHS: Nathan Merritt, Jamie Simpson, Colin Best, Junior Vaivai, Chris McQueen, John Sutton, Chris Sandow, Luke Stuart (capt), Issac Luke, Scott Geddes, Ben Lowe, Eddy Pettybourne, David Fa’alogo. Interchange: Beau Falloon, Shannan McPherson, Dave Tyrrell, Jaiman Lowe.
DRAGONS: Darius Boyd, Brett Morris, Beau Scott, Matt Cooper, Wendell Sailor, Jamie Soward, Ben Hornby (capt), Justin Poore, Dean Young, Michael Weyman, Matt Prior, Ben Creagh, Neville Costigan. Interchange: Dan Hunt, Jeremy Smith, Nathan Fien, Jarrod Saffy, Jason Nightingale, Jon Green (two to be omitted)
Referees: Ashley Klein, Steve Lyons

SUNDAY FOOTBALL

MANLY SEA EAGLES v CRONULLA SHARKS at Brookvale Oval, 2pm

SEA EAGLES: Brett Stewart, Michael Robertson, Ben Farrar, Steve Matai, David Williams, Kieran Foran, Matt Orford (capt), Jason King, Matt Ballin, Josh Perry, Anthony Watmough, Chris Bailey, Glenn Stewart. Interchange: Heath L’Estrange, Brent Kite, George Rose, Glenn Hall, Tony Williams (one to be omitted).
SHARKS: Nathan Stapleton, Blake Ferguson, Ben Pomeroy, Mitch Brown, Luke Covell (capt), Blake Green, Scott Porter, Kade Snowden, Corey Hughes, Luke Douglas, Grant Millington, Anthony Tupou, Paul Gallen. Interchange: Ian Donnelly, Matt Wright, Jak Afamasaga, Lancen Joudo.
Referees: Jason Robinson, Phil Haines

BULLDOGS v WARRIORS at ANZ Stadium, 3pm

BULLDOGS: Luke Patten, Hazem El Masri, Josh Morris, Jamal Idris, Bryson Goodwin, Ben Roberts, Brett Kimmorley, Ben Hannant, Michael Ennis, Michael Hodgson, Greg Eastwood, Andrew Ryan (capt), David Stagg. Interchange: Jarrad Hickey, Chris Armit, Yileen Gordon, Gary Warburton.
WARRIORS: Wade McKinnon, Kevin Locke, Lance Hohaia, Jerome Ropati, Manu Vatuvei, Joel Moon, Stacey Jones, Sam Rapira, Aaron Heremaia, Evarn Tuimavave, Lewis Brown, Ukuma Ta’ai, Micheal Luck (capt).
Interchange: Ian Henderson, Russell Packer, Jacob Lillyman, Ben Matulino
Referees: Gavin Badger, Alan Shortall

MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL

CANBERRA RAIDERS v NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS at Canberra Stadium, 7pm

RAIDERS: Josh Dugan, Daniel Vidot, Jarrod Croker, Joel Monaghan, Phil Graham, Terry Campese, Josh McCrone, Dane Tilse, Alan Tongue (capt), David Shillington, Joel Thompson, Bronson Harrison, Josh Miller. Interchange: Trevor Thurling, Travis Waddell, Troy Thompson, Joe Picker, Glenn Buttriss (one to be omitted).
KNIGHTS: Kurt Gidley (capt), Keith Lulia, Junior Sau, Adam MacDougall, Cooper Vuna, Ben Rogers, Jarrod Mullen, Mark Taufua, Isaac DeGois, Chris Houston, Steve Simpson, Zeb Taia, Matt Hilder. Interchange: Wes Naiqama, Marvin Karawana, Richie Fa’aoso, Danny Wicks, Cory Paterson (one to be omitted).
Referees: Ashley Klein, Matt Cecchin

Dogs cruise home over Chooks

NRL Round 24 Bulldogs Roosters Game ReviewIt was the Bulldogs prized recruit Brett Kimmorley who shone tonight, the tireless Noddy in everything to ensure the Bulldogs went to the joint lead of the NRL table courtesy of a 28-4 win over the lowly and extremely disappointing Sydney Roosters at ANZ Stadium on Monday night.

The Roosters were so bad it was horrible. Consistent dropped ball, lack of intensity in defence – you name it, they did it wrong.

According to sources close to the Bondi camp, apparently Freddy has allowed the players to ‘run their own sessions’ this week as the changing of the guard nears in 2 weeks time.

It certainly looked that way tonight, the headless Chooks easily accounted for by a Bulldogs side in cruise control.

Kimmorley kicked, ran and dummied to perfection to run the Roosters side ragged, the old school no.7 given a well earned rest by  Kevin Moore after involvement in 4 of the 5 Canterbury tries tonight. The in-form half also shining with the boot, kicking a handy 40/20 for his side.

While only a training run for the Bulldogs, it does bring them level with Saints on 36 competition points, the only difference is the points for and against.

The other stand-out for Dogs fans was another veteran, Luke Patten. The general involved regularly in attacking raids and playing very well positionally in defence.

Luke Patten touched down for tries twice in the opening quarter, the custodian running off Kimmorley well and having a double to his name in no time at all.

At times it looked like the Dogs could rack up a cricket score, but so bad were the Roosters – that the continuous stop start just killed everybody, fans included.

Kimmorley nailed a nice 40-20 kick only 6 minutes after the restart and, shortly after setup Daniel Holdsworth to eventually put Josh Morris over.

He completed the job when he put Greg Eastwood into a gap for Hazem El Masri to score to go ahead of Dragons rival Jamie Soward at the top of the points scoring charts.

NRL Power Rankings, Rnd 24 2009

NRL TrophyThe jostling for NRL Top 8 positions continued with a Round of upsets in some cases. There is a but a glimmer of hope for a few teams to scrape into the finals. While the Bulldogs and Dragons have been standouts, most of the leading sides can beat each other on their day –

After Round 24, 2009.

1. Bulldogs – probably right on par with Dragons now. Cruised home over the Roosters and look calm with Noddy at helm.

2. Dragons – yet another stumble for the front runners? The Broncos followed the Raiders plan and roughed them up.

3. Titans – again tradesmen like, outlasting a gritty Sharks side on the Gold Coast. Really flying under the radar and have home final.

4. Eels – hitting form at business end and have climbed the charts. Still outside Top 8, face yet another massive game against Penrith. At home though.

5. Manly – defence improved out of sight, their test against Storm was exactly what was needed. Here they come, so is the snake.

6. Panthers – burst back into contention with a strong win. Again sublime attack with Jennings and Pritchard, but have they patched defence up?

7. Tigers – did everything right considering their injuries, scored the same amount of tries but just couldn’t get home. In top form, but injuries will hamper.

8. Knights – back to back wins and while no at the 100 percent best, have again played with commitment. Will be tough to beat in next fortnight.

9. Broncos – as above, have really pulled their finger out in the past 2 weeks. Dave Taylor the key. Need to remain injury free.

10. Cowboys – flew out of the blocks under the wing of Jonathan Thurston, but just couldn’t keep it going. Good night, poor year for team under Henry.

11. Souths – smashed by injury and had very little ball, but really didn’t show enough heart in this one. Not a consistent week to week team it seems.

12. Storm – have lost back to back matches now and their problems in forwards evident. No thrust, highly predictable. Attack now flatter, trying to reignite.

13. Warriors – positive win at home, some great tries through many hands. Need to win for confidence and for coach Ivan Cleary.

14. Raiders – again possessing a promising batch of rookies in 2009, but never consistent enough. Need 1-2 big names next year to compete.

15. Sharks – toiled hard against the table topping Titans and showed some ticker, need to keep battling to avoid the wooden spoon.

16. Roosters – no heart, probably deserve spoon more than Sharks. Rudderless shambles at the moment.Brian Smith has his work cut out.

NRL Ladder, Points Table Round 24, 2009

The competition for Top 8 spots in the 2009 NRL is getting even hotter. Every year, it seems the National Rugby League gets even more competitive – certainly as it gets to the business end of the season.

The re-shuffled started on Friday Night Football, the Eels beating the Tigers and leap frogging them into the Top 8 albeit temporarily. The Broncos upset the Dragons at WIN Stadium, Wollongong to rocket to 28 points after looking dead only a fortnight ago.

Things didn’t stop there. The desperate Cowboys didn’t do enough in Newcastle, the Knights bursting to life to get themselves onto 28 points and also completing a sparkling return to form under new coach Rick Stone. Then it was the Panthers turn. The men from Penrith applied the after burners to the melting Bunnies to jocky into 8th position after repairing their points differential.

But wait theres more! The Manly Sea Eagles completed a tough road trip to Olympic Park Melbourne to defeat the Storm and notch up 28 competition points in yet another upset.

Here’s how the NRL Points Table and Ladder stands – (prior to Bulldogs vs Roosters tomorrow night)

NRL LADDER ROUND 24 2009

Manly, Titans and Warriors win

MANLY SEA EAGLES REVIVE 2009 NRL FORM FINALSThe Manly Sea Eagles have pulled off a huge upset win over the Melbourne Storm at Olympic Park to shoot back up the NRL Ladder and force themselves into 5th spot on 28 competition points.

Facing a Storm side coming off a loss to Newcastle, the task was always going to be a tough one and the Sea Eagles hung in for long periods in tough weather conditions to secure their victory.

The Storm looked ‘up’ for the game, and lead for the majority of the match despite running into a strong gale force wind in the first half.

Leading by 4 points midway through the second term, the Storm may have been guilty of ‘coasting’ at times – certainly switching off a little and not looking like the killer team they did in past seasons.

With the wind continuing to play havoc, an attacking Jamie Lyon kick bounced horribly for the Storm defence – and the Sea Eagles centre swarmed on the bouncing ball to give his side a 2 point lead.

Cameron Smith and Billy Slater clicked into gear and both worked hard to spark something in the dying periods, by the Manly defence was brilliant at times. Scrambling sensationally, the Sea Eagles thwarted raid after raid. At one stage, Billy Slater broke into the back field at full back with 20m left and was somehow cut down in a last ditch tackle as the Manly defence refused to budge.

Then Cooper Cronk carried 4 Manly defenders near 6m to get over the try line, only to drop the ball as he attempted to force it.

It wasn’t to be for the Storm, the out of sorts Grand Finalists remaining on 29 points and looking very fragile and the Sea Eagles rocketing back into the Top 8 in 5th spot and gaining even more confidence.

Titans v Cronulla:

Surprisingly down on the scoreboard 6-0 in the opening period of the clash, favourites the Titans recovered to nudge ahead 14-6 at the break.

Early, it was a really enthusiastic Ricky Stuart coach side – with the Sharks impressing their coach, the passionate Stuart fist pumping on the sideline as things went their way.

For the Titans, they begun to ensure it would be  no-contest as classy second rower Anthony Laffranchi bullocked over the chalk off a handy Scott Prince just prior to the 1 hour mark in the clash. The touchdown making it 20-6 and any chance of a Cronulla miracle was long gone.

Some positives could be taken away for the Shire side however, with rookie back Blake Ferguson getting over in the 72nd minute. The away side remaining committed until the final whistle which would have pleased coach and supporters.

Gold Coast veteran Mat Rogers marked a milestone, with his touchdown today making it his 100th try since debuting for Cronulla some 14 years ago.

The Gold Coast side were also knocked back on 3 occasions by the officials with former Storm forward Sam Tagataese, called back in the second half after a 40-metre run.

Halfback Scott Prince’s flat pass however was deemed forward much to the dislike of a a majority of the 13,714 fans who roared their disapproval.

Titans centre Esi Tonga was forced from the field in the second half with a shoulder or arm injury and could be in doubt for the heavyweight showdown with a desperate Manly.

Cronulla’s other try was scored by lock Paul Gallen who chased down halfback Scott Porter’s sixth minute grubber for a soft try.

Warriors v Raiders:
Out of form NZ Warriors were out to impress at home today, needing a win badly for next years confidence and to keep the doubters at bay over coach Ivan Cleary.

It was going well early, with the Warriors going to the break 16-10 in the lead despite giving away two poor tries to Raiders Josh McCrone and Jarrod Croker.

NZ Warriors man Heremaia launched the home side into action prior to the 10 minute mark, by making a good line break to position Lance Hohaia for the try.

Only a few minutes later, Heremaia was at it again – this time for himself. Launching out of dummy half as the Warriors came out of the blocks fast to earn a 12-0 advantage.

The Raiders hit back when McCrone strolled through a big hole in the Warriors defensive line in the 27th minute then Croker stretched over the line after Warriors errors enabled Canberra to surge on to attack.

Given their dominance the Warriors should not have found their lead slashed to 12-10, particularly not when they butchered two near-certain tries because of sloppy passing.

But Simon Mannering edged them further clear shortly before the halftime break when Canberra were caught short on the left flank after conceding a repeat set in their own 22.

The Warriors scored first after the interval too, as centre Jerome Ropati added their fourth try in the 52nd minute when he leapt high to haul in a bomb from standoff Joel Moon before scampering to the line.

Ahead 22-10 entering the final quarter many would consider the match safe for the Warriors, but it remained a nervous period for those who have watched the side implode on a number of occasions this year.

But with regular captain Price on deck again after an injury-enforced layoff, the Warriors did not flinch, and the game was made safe with 19min remaining by Hohaia.

The utility showed exemplary handling for his second try as he latched on to a nicely floated kick by halfback Stacey Jones which drifted between the uprights.

Moon then completed a fine performance by nabbing a deserved try just minutes later when he sold a dummy and darted between two defenders.

Canberra scored late consolation tries to Croker and Joel Thompson as the minutes ticked down but they were never in a position to end a losing streak in Auckland which stretches back to 2001.

Visiting coach David Furner said his side’s recent standards dropped today.

“We’ve challenged each week in last six weeks and this was a good challenge,” he said.

“We obviously didn’t come up to that challenge and against a Warriors side that was desperate we missed a couple of chances.

“We spoke about their stars. They’ve got some good-sized men who can offload and I don’t think we handled that quite well.”

The Warriors have two matches remaining, away to Canterbury in Sydney next Sunday ahead of a home game against Melbourne Storm.

Panthers bounce back well

Easy beats only a week ago at the hands of the Brisbane Broncos, the never say die Panthers have hit back well this week against the Bunnies at CUA Stadium, romping home 40-10.

The South Sydney side may have been riddled with injury, but the Penrith side too had their hiccups – with leader Luke Lewis struggling on occasions and with a heavy assault by Souths early on – it looked like it might have been a long night.

But their at times turnstyle defence was much improved this week and the Panthers grew in confidence on the back of a rampaging Frankie Pritchard. This guy is oozing with talent, but you just never know when he will be ‘on’. Well, it was Frankies night last night and with the likes of Michael Jennings chiming in – the Panthers set about correcting their for and against to brush into 8th place as it stands today.

Penrith enjoyed a good amount of possession and their forwards had a highly impressive game; giving their outside men more than enough room on the back of a consistent roll forward. Brad Tighe had a highly improved game, however fullback Jarrod Sammut must remain a concern for coach Matt Elliott.

Sammut can do some amazing things on the Rugby League field, but he is certainly prone to some mishaps too. For every good turn, he seems to spill the ball only moments later and no doubt enemy sides will target this in the weeks ahead.

For Souths, they just ran out of petrol before the first whistle. Limping to the game was injuries to several key players including Asotasi, Crocker, Champion and Talanoa – it was always going to be an uphill battle.

Rookie outside back for Souths Chris ‘Lightning McQueen’ was quickly targeted by the Panthers and they had good success as the new kid spilled several high balls and coughed most that came his way early.

While naturally coach Jason Taylor was dejected with his side eliminated from the NRL Top 8 finals race, he did have something to smile about with rookie NYC player Junior Vaivai promoted to the top grade and having a decent enough showing to give confidence for next year. The Bunnies will need nothing less than a solid start to 2010, with coach Jason Taylor now moving under the spotlight after another year where things fell short.

The Bunnies have a great roster, possibly the envy of the NRL with the likes of Asotasi, Wesser, Crocker, Wing, Sutton and Best all big name experienced players. Their rookie ranks too are very hot with Issac Luke (admittedly a poor 2009 season by his standards), Jamie Simpson and Fetuli Talanoa all great prospects.

In the coaching ranks the Bunnies have big names Gordon Tallis and John Lang assisting and they need to start providing results sooner rather than later.

For Penrith, the win sets up another juicy clash for Top 8 finals honours this week, the Panthers traveling to Parramatta Stadium to meet the in-form Eels. With 35,000 in attendance at the Sydney Football Stadium, there will surely be a near capacity crowd at Parramatta Stadium Friday Night for yet another regular season blockbuster.