NRL Round 8 Preview

The saga surrounding the Melbourne Storm continues to take up plenty of headlines, but despite the bad news – the Storm continues to soldier on, with increased memberships and solid support in Victoria.

Despite them not earning any points, “the show must go on” and Round 8 gets underway on Friday night with 2 big match-ups.

The Broncos after copping a dusting last week at the hands of the Dogs will like their chances against the Knights at Suncorp Stadium.

Bookies too think the Broncos are good things, at $1.50 and the Knights at $2.65 showing little value.

In Sydney, the big derby takes place with the Eels meeting the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium. These two teams were the best backed to win the competition in the off season, but early hiccups cost them points. Both teams have hit some form in recent weeks, but injuries to key personnel at the Bulldogs swings things in the Eels favour slightly.

Bookies have the Eels at $1.46 which is surprisingly short and the Bulldogs are great value and worth a nudge at $2.75

On Saturday expect the Warriors to be primed at home after their debacle against the Storm. The Raiders don’t travel well and the NZ road-trip is the toughest of the, this could be a big scoreline here – so look to take the home side at 13+.

The much anticipated clash of Round 8 is the Titans at home to the Panthers. The Titans enjoy playing at Skilled Park and were on the money defensively when sneaking a win over Manly last week, but they will need to repeat that performance against the Panthers who are on a winning streak and looking to make it five straight. This is a great test for Penrith, if they can win this game on the Coast – then they has seriously stamped themselves as the real deal in 2010.

Given that the Titans $1.75 have been patchy in some of their wins, Penrith $2.10 are a real shot at taking this game out.

The Cowboys are seriously desperate for a win and are at home to the Storm with the question being on how long the passion will remain with the under siege Melbourne? Even if Melbourne take this game lightly, I still cannot see where the next North Queensland win will come from. Stay with the Storm for this game.

North Queensland are paying $2.25 and the Storm remain favourites at $1.67. The Cowboys have not beaten the Storm since 2006 and the Melbourne men have a great record against the Cows.

The Dragons should handle the Sharks easily. With bookies chalking up the Saints at $1.17 and the Cronulla boys at an amazing $5.25. Given the long odds, it might be worth throwing a lazy $100 on Ricky Stuarts men as they do lift for the Southern Derby.

The Wests Tigers at Campbelltown Stadium are always a strong show. Despite plenty of injuries, the reshuffle by Tim Sheens in shifting Farah to the halves will help. The Roosters are without Pearce which takes away from their structure.

Wests $1.52 are solid with the bookies and the Roosters $2.70 on the outer.

For the 3rd week in a row Manly are on Monday Night Football and punters are expecting them to bounce back against the Rabbitohs although it won’t be easy, the “Bunnies” knowing a win here can send a clear message to the rest of the teams that should be taken seriously.

Given this games at ANZ Stadium and that Manly have had some bad blood at training, the Bunnies should just have the edge.

Bookies have the Sea Eagles $1.70 favourites, but the Bunnies are a good choice at $2.15

Matai Watch: Training Drama

It seems even the Manly team-mates of Steve Matai are getting fed up with his antics, the Kiwi representative is apparently now performing his ‘cry wolf’ antics at training.

Click here to read our recent article on ‘Matai-watch’ – this was a follow up to a initial article on Matai’s constant on-field injury dramas last year.

Matai’s reputation was initially one of a hit-man, but its quickly turned to humpty-dumpty as the in-form centre continues to live in cotton wool around questionable injuries.

After supposedly having a serious injury during Monday nights game against the Titans, Matai was down receiving treatment and wriggling in agony, then suddenly jumped up in support as his team went on an attacking raid. Manly did score on that play, and rather than return to his treatment – Matai jumped with his team mates in celebration – seemingly forgetting the injury, but then quickly remembered to clutch at the problem.

Most think Matai is pulling the stunt to achieve penalties for his team, but referees and commentators alike have been a wake up to this for over 6 months.

Perhaps his pretend injuries are a ploy to get himself on lighter training duties through the week?

Now his ridiculous antics are causing flare up’s at Manly training.

Matai was running a training drill today in a ‘black shirt’ – indicating no contact from team mates. But apparently Glenn Stewart tackled him unknowingly and Matai lashed out in anger.

When asked about Matai, Hasler simply said it was a cork.

No wonder Stewart and the squad are fed up with the Kiwi centre. Anyone that cries at training over being accidentally hit on a cork – probably needs to have a good look at themselves.

The best thing for coach Des Hasler to do would be to get some former players to visit Matai and explain the pain they played through. Although it’s hard to imagine someone like John Sattler having any time for the likes of Matai, Sattler famously playing 80 minutes with a broken jaw.

At the moment, it seems Matai would call for a stretcher with even the hint of a toothache.

If he doesn’t sort this out quickly, it will continue to eat away at Manly team mates – who obviously have noticed what the public have been seeing for a long time.

Gould: Don’t Debate the Cap

Let me start by saying that I have the utmost respect for Phil Gould. The Channel 9 and SMH commentator has a great Rugby League eye and is generally on the money with most of his comment.

But after the Melbourne Storm saga broke, Gus probably let his emotions get the better of him.

In the first instance, I agree with Gus in that the Storm must be a realistic part of the 2010 NRL competition.

Having the Storm compete for the rest of the year for no points makes no sense. I don’t have all the answers about how this can be achieved, but it needs to happen. we simply need the Storm playing for real.

Where Gus has disappointed me, is that he has turned this into a debate over the salary cap.

Gould loves the game of Rugby League. His heart is in the right place. But his stinging attack on David Gallop on the Sunday Footy Show was way out of line. Even Gus would probably admit, he left a few boardroom manners at the door and tipped over the edges of respect.

Gus let the emotions overrule the problem at hand.

Lets not worry about the past, lets deal with whats happened now.

Given the conflict of interest with News Limited, David Gallop and his leadership team did a commendable, swift job of dealing with this serious problem.

Gallop and his immediate team had to push forward without the assistance of the NRL board in the first instance, but have since confirmed the full support of News Limited. On this note, News Limited have to be commended for offering their full future support to the Storm who are in a world of hurt and have a long way to go to come out of this drama.

Now back to Gus.

Phil has wrongly turned this into a debate about the salary cap. The cap might be tight and it has problems, but forget that for now – the Storm have cheated and deserve to be punished.

I respect the fact that Cameron Smith, Greg Inglis, Dallas Johnson, Billy Slater and Brett White to name a few were local products and came out of the Storm machine from a young age.

But …

This is not and should not be a debate about players not earning enough.

Please, please – Gus – don’t turn this into a debate about the salary cap.

The Storm have been punished big time.

The problem at hand that Melbourne and the rest of the NRL sides face – is that one single team in the NRL Premiership is now playing for no points and they need to be competitive right away.

Gus – you picked up on this early, keep your energy focused on this. We need you to help sort this out.

Don’t get sidetracked by debating the salary cap and trying to probe into the past about how this problem came about.

Lets deal with the here and now.

Melbourne came out firing on the weekend and hammered the NZ Warriors, but what about the next few months? How can any player be expected to keep backing up week after week and realistically trying their best?

What scares me even more, is what about players not taking full interest in the game? While betting has been suspended on the Storm, what about when Melbourne plays the Panthers for example – if Slater, Smith or Inglis are 50percent chance of playing.

They wouldn’t be too motivated to take the field would they? Who could blame them?

This really opens pandoras box big time!

Lets get the Storm and the rest of the NRL on an even footing right away and get this comp competitive for 2010.

NRL Teams, Round 8, 2010

This weeks teams and squad lineups for Round 8 of the Telstra NRL Premiership 2010. Starting with a classic Sydney clash of the Eels, Bulldogs on Friday Night – then ending with another epic in the Bunnies vs the Sea Eagles on Monday Night Football:

FRIDAY

PARRAMATTA v CANTERBURY at ANZ Stadium, 7.35pm

EELS: Jarryd Hayne, Luke Burt, Joel Reddy, Timana Tahu, Krisnan Inu, Kris Keating, Daniel Mortimer, Nathan Cayless (capt), Jeff Robson, Fuifui Moimoi, Nathan Hindmarsh (capt), Ben Smith, Feleti Mateo. Interchange: Matt Keating, Tim Mannah, Justin Horo, Justin Poore.

BULLDOGS: Luke Patten, Steve Turner, Junior Tia-Kilifi, Jamal Idris, Bryson Goodwin, Blake Green, Brett Kimmorley, Chris Armit, Michael Ennis, Michael Hodgson, Gary Warburton, Andrew Ryan (capt), David Stagg. Interchange: Tim Browne, Mickey Paea, Jarad Hickey, Ben Barba.

Referees: Tony Archer and Shayne Hayne

BRISBANE v NEWCASTLE at Suncorp Stadium, 7.35pm

BRONCOS: Josh Hoffman, Denan Kemp, Ben Teo, Israel Folau, Jharal Yow Yeh, Darren Lockyer (capt), Ben Hunt, Shane Tronc, Alex Glenn, Mitchell Dodds, Dunamis Lui, Sam Thaiday, Corey Parker. Interchange: Lagi Setu, Scott Anderson, Corey Norman, Steve Michaels.

KNIGHTS: Kurt Gidley (capt), Akuila Uate, Junior Sa’u, Keith Lulia, Cooper Vuna, Ben Rogers, Jarrod Mullen, Ben Cross, Isaac De Gois, Dan Tolar, Cameron Ciraldo, Cory Paterson, Mark Taufua. Interchange: Matt Hilder, Zeb Taia, Evarn Tuimavave, Richie Fa’aoso, Con Mika (one to be omitted).

Referees: Steve Lyons and Matt Cecchin

SATURDAY

WARRIORS v CANBERRA at Mt Smart Stadium, 5.00pm

WARRIORS: Lance Hohaia, Patrick Ah Van, Brent Tate, Jerome Ropati, Bill Tupou, Joel Moon, James Maloney, Sam Rapira, Aaron Heremaia, Russell Packer, Lewis Brown, Ben Matulino, Micheal Luck (capt) Interchange: Wade McKinnon, Jesse Royal, Ukuma Taai, Jeremy Latimore, Ian Henderson (one to be omitted)

RAIDERS: Josh Dugan, Brett Kelly, Jarrod Croker, Joel Thompson, Daniel Vidot, Terry Campese, Adam Mogg, Dane Tilse, Alan Tongue (capt), David Shillington, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, Bronson Harrison, Josh Miller. Interchange: Glen Buttriss, Trevor Thurling, Shaun Fensom, Scott Logan, Marc Herbert, Troy Thompson (two to be omitted)

Referees: Ben Cummins and Adam Devcich

GOLD COAST v PENRITH at Skilled Park, 5.30pm

TITANS: William Zillman, Kevin Gordon, Clinton Toopi, Joseph Tomane, David Mead, Greg Bird, Preston Campbell, Luke Bailey (capt), Nathan Friend, Brad Meyers, Anthony Laffranchi, Mark Minichiello, Ashley Harrison. Interchange: Matt White, Michael Henderson, Sam Tagataese, Jordan Atkins.

PANTHERS: Lachlan Coote, Michael Gordon, Michael Jennings, Adrian Purtell, Brad Tighe, Travis Burns, Luke Walsh, Tim Grant, Kevin Kingston, Petero Civoniceva (capt), Trent Waterhouse, Frank Pritchard, Luke Lewis. Interchange: Nathan Smith, Matthew Bell, Wade Graham, Sam McKendry, Masada Iosefa (one to be omitted)

Referees: Jared Maxwell and Bernard Sutton

ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA v CRONULLA SHARKS at WIN Stadium, 7.30pm

DRAGONS: Darius Boyd, Brett Morris, Beau Scott, Matt Cooper, Jason Nightingale, Jamie Soward, Ben Hornby (capt), Dan Hunt, Luke Priddis, Michael Weyman, Neville Costigan, Ben Creagh, Dean Young. Interchange: Jon Green, Nick Emmett, Trent Merrin, Ricky Thorby.

SHARKS: Nathan Stapleton, Blake Ferguson, Dean Collis, Taulima Tautai, Isaac Gordon, Trent Barrett (capt), Tim Smith, Kade Snowden, John Morris, Luke Douglas, Grant Millington, Anthony Tupou, Paul Gallen. Interchange: Luke Harlen, Broderick Wright, Paul Aiton, Siosaia Vave, Stuart Flanagan (one to be omitted).

Referees: Gavin Badger and Gerard Sutton

NORTH QUEENSLAND v MELBOURNE, at Dairy Farmers Stadium, 7.30.

COWBOYS: Shannon Gallant, Ashley Graham, Will Tupou, Willie Tonga, Michael Bani, Grant Rovelli, Johnathan Thurston (capt), Matthew Scott, Anthony Watts, James Tamou , Scott Bolton, Willie Mason, Steve Rapira. Interchange: Clint Amos, Steve Southern, Leeson Ah Mau, Antonio Kaufusi, Dane Hogan (one to be omitted)

STORM: Billy Slater, Matt Duffie, Willie Isa, Greg Inglis, Anthony Quinn, Brett Finch, Cooper Cronk, Bryan Norrie, Cameron Smith (capt), Jeff Lima, Adam Blair, Ryan Hoffman, Todd Lowrie. Interchange: Ryan Hinchcliffe, Kevin Proctor, Ryan Tandy, Jess Bromwich, Hep Cahill (one to be omitted).

Referees: Jason Robinson and Tony De Las Heras

SUNDAY

WESTS TIGERS v SYDNEY ROOSTERS at Campbelltown Stadium, 2pm

TIGERS: Beau Ryan, Lote Tuqiri, Blake Ayshford, Chris Lawrence, Daniel Fitzhenry, Benji Marshall, Robbie Farah (capt), Bryce Gibbs, Liam Fulton, Keith Galloway, Mark Flanagan, Gareth Ellis, Chris Heighington. Interchange: Junior Moors, Andrew Fifita, Mitch Brown, Nathan Waters.

ROOSTERS: Anthony Minichiello, Phil Graham, Ben Jones, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Sam Perrett, Braith Anasta (capt), Todd Carney, Lopini Paea, Nick Kouparitsas, Frank Paul Nuuausala, Aidan Guerra, Mitchell Aubusson, Nate Myles. Interchange: Daniel Conn, Jason Ryles, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Sam Brunton.

Referees: Ashley Klein and Matt Cecchin

SOUTH SYDNEY v MANLY at ANZ Stadium, 4pm

SEA EAGLES: Ben Farrar, Michael Robertson, Jamie Lyon (capt), Steve Matai, Tony Williams, Kieran Foran, Trent Hodkinson, Jason King (capt), Matt Ballin, Josh Perry, Anthony Watmough, Shane Rodney, Glenn Stewart. Interchange: Joe Galuvao, Brent Kite, Matt Cross, Chris Bailey.

SOUTHS: Rhys Wesser, Nathan Merritt, Colin Best, Beau Champion, Fetuli Talanoa, John Sutton, Chris Sandow, Scott Geddes, Issac Luke, Luke Stuart (capt), Sam Burgess, David Taylor, Ben Lowe. Interchange: Garret Crossman, Shannan McPherson, Eddy Pettybourne, Jason Clark.

Referees: Tony Archer and Alan Shortall

Ricky Ricardo: Team of the Week

As always, some interesting choices from the man around the grounds Ricky Ricardo. Our boy Ricky might wear some heat over his choice of Cayless in the team of the week. Do you agree with Ricky? Comment on this article and any other at the end of the page.

Ricky’s Team of the Week Rd 7

Fullback: Preston Campbell – Despite playing in the halves in the absence of Scott Prince, Campbell has shown of his bag of tricks, guiding the Titans to a come from behind win against the Sea Eagles. Instrumental in all their tries, the little master has a knack for keeping a cool head and executing a play with success. Shame he’s never considered for Origin though.

Winger: Bryson Goodwin – Following his injury that resulted in him missing the first few games, Goodwin is back with a vengeance and scoring lots of points while he’s at it. For someone who has only taken up the kicking duties this year, he’s doing a fantastic job. It’ll be interesting to see if his attacking flair ceases with the man on his inside, Josh Morris, out for 6 weeks.

Centre: Steve Matai – As a player, many regard him as one of the dirtiest in the game, as a person, it’s much the other way around. Despite his ‘dirtiest player in the game’ tag, Matai had a good performance in the narrow loss to the Titans. Big hits as usual and he scored two tries. Whether or not the dirty tag stays with him remains to be seen.

Centre: Timana Tahu – Tahu is back baby! He may have started off slow but my goodness is he lifting the tempo. Massive hits! Sublime runs! Most importantly though, plenty of tries and he didn’t disappoint in that department bagging two tries of his own in the Eels win over the Cowboys. If he keeps this up, then NSW can expect some fire in the belly this year against QLD.

Winger: Matthew Duffie – Following the Storm’s recent cap scandal as well as injuries, there are some positives to come from all this, and that’s the debut of this man, Matthew Duffie. What a game to have on your debut. On just his second attempt at scoring a try, he succeeded, but he didn’t stop there scoring another to cap off a memorable debut for the young man. Look out for him in the future.

Five-Eighth: Tim Smith – Whilst Smith has had his problems in the past, he seems to have put them behind him and is dedicated to playing good footy. He showed just what he can do with a strong display in the Sharks win over the Knights. They’re an outside chance for finals football, and if any man can take them there, it’s Tim Smith.

Halfback: Cooper Cronk – He hasn’t even been back in the side that long, but it’s almost as if he hasn’t missed any games at all. Cronk is without a doubt, the form halfback in the NRL, and surely has to be considered for a utility role in the QLD side at the very least. The man is eveeywhere. Tackles galore, runs galore, try assists galore. You name it, and Cronk has most likely done it.

Prop: Nathan Cayless – Retiring at the end of the year, the Eels veteran is determined to go out on a high and see his team take out the premiership at season’s end. Having been criticised over the last month for poor form, he’s proved his critics wrong following his stellar performance in the Eels win over the Cowboys. If anyone deserves a premiership, it’s Nathan Cayless.

Hooker: Nathan Friend – The matchwinner! The game-changer! The crowd-pleaser! All of these describe Nathan Friend, and two of them stand out this week more than any other. Match-winner and game-changer. He single-handedly took the bull by the horns, and delivered the killer blow to give the Titans a dramatic come from behind win against the Sea Eagles. We could see him on the bench for QLD in this form.

Prop: Luke Douglas – Whilst he is only young, he’s had a mountain of experience in the League and he’s played a large amount of games in a row showing his durability to last in the tough game of NRL. One of the best young props for NSW and in a few years, we could see both he and Aiden Tolman in the front row for NSW.

Second Row: Willie Mason – Everybody thought that he couldn’t cut it. Everybody though that he didn’t have it left in him. Everybody thought that Willie Mason sucked. He sure proved them wrong didn’t he? Perhaps in the form of his career, he’s become leader of the Cowboys pack and is setting the platform for the others to follow. With form like this, he’ll be hard to ignore for a bench spot for NSW.

Second Row: Sam Thaiday – When you see long flowing hair and a bushy beard playing for the Broncos, who do you think of? Israel Folau you say? Perhaps only in his dreams, hehe. Sam Thaiday is the man you’re after, and my goodness is he in some scintillating form. Game after game, year after year, you can always expect passion, devotion, dedication and commitment from this man. The leader of a young Broncos forward pack and he sure as heck never disappoints!

Lock: Nate Myles – He weighs less and runs faster, but he’s still the Nate Myles Roosters fans love. The one that always gives it all, and never gives up. The one that is committed to the Roosters for the long-term, and the one that wants to ensure success at the club. Great player, and he’s almost guaranteed an Origin berth.

Reserve 1: Isaac Luke – He gets better and better, it’s as simple as that. He can only get even better which is scary for opposition sides.

Reserve 2: Lachlan Coote – He bulked up in the off-season, and whilst he may have lost some speed, he sure hasn’t lost the skill. Two tries in a good performance and is part of the core of the Penrith side.

Reserve 3: Ben Creagh – The Dragons most consistent performer for the last few years. Good metres, good defence, good attack, he does it all.

Reserve 4: Matt Cooper – The man previously regarded as ‘The hottest man in League’ is back. Two tries, and that’ll only climb as he looks to stay around for quite some time this season without injury.

Titans Steal Show

The Gold Coast Titans have pulled yet another rabbit out of their hats, this time defeating Manly 24-22  in the final minutes at Brookvale Oval, despite the Sea Eagles enjoying the run of play.

The Sea Eagles looked to be enjoying the home game, with halves Foran and Hodkinson again looking good early and hitman Steve Matai having a good game, despite playing his usual injury-card every 10 minutes.

But the problem for the Manly side, was that they couldn’t convert good possession into points.

They had plenty of chances, but they could have easily had 30 points on the board in this game given their run of play.

The Titans looked a yard short on pace all game.

Somehow they managed to snuff out the odd chance, with Preston Campbell ever-present to snap up a ball, generate some spark or get his team out of trouble.

The brilliance of Campbell was evident when he snapped up a short drop out from his own boot to secure possession for his side.

It would be hard to give Manly a spray for this, they actually had a defender 11m out from the Titans like – but somehow the nimble Presto still managed to delicately drop out and regather.

The good news for the Titans, is that they continue to be able to win – even when they’re aren’t at their best, and win away from home.

Coach John Cartwright knows they have a few things to work on, but he’ll be very happy with where things are at.

For Dessy Hasler and the Sea Eagles, they need to look at securing more high balls.

Ben Farrar remains a little shaky under the bomb, and the option of moving Robertson to fullback is also not effective.

Robertson played solidly on the flank and remains a good winger, thats where he should stay.

Farrar is a centre and just looks all at sea when at the back by himself.

The Sea Eagles are away to the Bunnies next week and this should be a great game, the Bunnies forwards could really buckle the Manly men at this rate.

For the Titans, they’re at home to the in-form Penrith, in what should be the match of the round.

Matai a Joke

Matai-watch was all clear only days ago, but the boy who cried wolf is back to his best it seems.

For those who haven’t been following our coverage, Matai is the most injured player on the football field.

We’re not talking about injuries that put someone out of a game, we’re talking the kind of injuries that will see Matai clutch at an injury in what looks like agonizing pain – only to see him jump up seconds later in a laughable recovery.

It seems Matai uses this ploy to generally achieve penalties.

But what made things so laughable in the Manly game tonight, was Matai was down on the ground clutching at a shoulder – he was putting on such a big act, you thought he was ready to be stretchered off.

However, as the Eagles rallied and went on the attack – suddenly Matai jumped up in support and ran freely. Then jumped in the air to celebrate the Manly try, all but forgetting a seemingly serious injury.

The referees have obviously woken up to Matai’s cry wolf claims, the fans are well aware of it and even the commentators make light of Steve Matai injuries now.

It’s such a shame, Matai had a great game and is in good form – but he needs to cut the crap out of his game.

If you’re injured, you are genuinely injured. You either come off the field or soldier on without being soft.

This business of playing dead, jumping up and running freely, then playing dead again belongs in soccer.

What makes it even more unusual is that Matai is a hard hitter in defence. He doesn’t seem soft, but his business of crying wolf for penalties or attention is making him a laughing stock.

Sort it out Steve, or get off the field.

NRL Power Rankings Rnd 7

The NRL News Power Rankings have been thrown into disarray with Melbourne now playing for zero points.

However, we simply cannot write-off the Storm to last position. They were so good against the Warriors, they’re playing for pride and we’re going to give them the respect they deserve.

1. Storm – Pumped on emotion, playing for pride – can they keep it up? No reason why they cannot continue to play with total freedom – if desire remains, they could tear teams apart.

2. Dragons – The new public enemy number 1 after the Storm have been toppled from their perch. The Dragons are playing consistently good footy and are solid in most departments. Their only enemy seems to be injury.

3. Panthers – Are surprising manly with their upbeat brand of footy, learning to play with each other and defence is improving weekly. Home crowds on the rise, all looks to be on the up at the foot of the Mountains. The key to their success remains with Frank Pritchard – when he arrives to play, this team wins.

4. Titans – As we’ve said before, they have an ability now to win when they aren’t at their best. Played only average footy, but hung in there. They stuck solid and stole a win from Manly at Brookvale. This side is build a good reputation and has great depth.

5. Sea Eagles – Manly will be crying in their weetbix at the moment, but they did virtually everything right. They held onto the ball for the most part, they just couldn’t convert it into more points. Had they had Brett Stewart on deck, they would have walloped the Titans. Looking OK despite this loss.

6. Roosters – They may have been pipped on Anzac Day, but the Bondi boys are a totally different outfit this year. They toiled hard and we’re far off the pace in this game, they know what they need to do and they will continue to improve each week. Don’t fret Roosters fans.

7. Wests Tigers – Have hit a rough patch after a hot start. Sure, injuries have slowed them somewhat – but in previous years, they’ve had a habit of falling away mid-season. Sheens needs to put a rocket under these guys now and ensure there is no drop in intensity in the coming weeks.

8. Bulldogs – Are back with a bang, turned on a show against the Broncos and will have gained plenty from this game. Ennis and Kimmorley remain key, however Ben Roberts is the weak link in defence and continues to be targeted. Big test against the Eels, but have seemingly turned the corner.

9. Eels – Carbon copy of the Bulldogs, they are building to something now after a horrible start to the season. Justin Poore hasn’t hit top gear and seems to be trying too hard to prove himself – but in the halves, the new combo of Mortimer and Keating looks to have more spark with the ball.

10. Souths – Remain frustratingly inconsistent, they have an endless array of talent but it seems to be simple errors that are killing them. Halves Sutton and Sandow still need to assertion in attack, however Issac Luke can help them out here by taking more responsibility.

11. NZ Warriors – Were always going to face a tough ask against a Melbourne Storm outfit that was going to punish whoever was put in front of them. They need to forget about this game and simply move on to next week. They have a good squad of players and up until now, have been going along OK.

12. Canberra Raiders – I feel for David Furner. I just don’t know what is missing at the Radiers. They have an exciting bunch of players, they can hurt almost any team from anywhere – but they just cant seem to close out a game when they are in the clutch. Seemingly stole defeat from jaws of victory this week against the Bunnies.

13. Broncos – Have improved in the past few weeks, it seems to be on the back of Folau returning. What concerns my about the Broncos is that Darren Lockyer seems in second gear these days. With respect, he has been one of the greats – but he has just slowed a little and the side cannot rely on him as much as they once could. Still a long road ahead for this mob.

14. Knights – Are lucky to secure 13th spot on the Power Rankings, they were extremely poor against the lowly ranked Sharks. What would be more of a worry for Rick Stone would be the non-existent desire. There was no passion, there was nothing. Even with Gidley on board, this side looked lost. Real worries here.

15. Sharks – Miracles do happen, the Sharks managed to find some attack when up against an out of sorts Newcastle. Naturally, they’d be looking to build on this and score back to back wins, but a game against the Dragons looks like a massive task away from home.

16. Cowboys – Its time to hit the panic button up North. The Cowboys lost to the Eels who haven’t won at Dairy Farmers since 2000. Thurston looked underdone, they’ve got Bowen on the sidelines – they need full thrust right away. Things haven’t been right up there since Murray was ousted. The problem obviously wasn’t Graham Murray – maybe its time for a serious clean out. However, Willie Mason remains in quality form.

Souths Overcome Raiders

The Bunnies were on life support. Thats how bad it was, the more fancied South Sydney side were under the hammer as the Raiders turned on their unpredictable style in their own backyard.

It took the visitors over an hour to haul in the Canberra side, with the Green Machines good home record over the Bunnies looking like remaining as John Lang’s men searched for answers.

Souths eventually getting home, just, 26-24 at Canberra Stadium.

The Canberra side started well, but for Souths, they played much as they did against the Eels last week – very patchy and unable to hang on to the ball at the best of times.

Besides John Sutton scoring an early try, it was all the Green Machine.

In one of the most spectacular tries ever seen at Canberra Stadium Josh Dugan somehow managed to get the ball down in the corner before going over the sideline, after Brett Kelly put him away down the left hand flank. Campese converted from the sideline and the Green Machine was up 12-6.

But while Canberra looked to be cruising at half time, they ran out of gas in the back end.

Is it fitness? Is it achieving focus for the full 80 minutes? It’s something that coach David Furner will want to quickly address.

It was very similar to a few weeks ago, when the Raiders had the Wests Tigers on the rack – but collapsed to let the joint-venture club take the points late in the piece.

Amazingly it was 24-6 to the Green Machine at half-time, but they weren’t able to score any 2nd half points – as Souths restored lost confidence and went about chipping away at the lead.

Lead by their respected forward pack, the Bunnies continued to rack up points – eventually coming home 26-24 after a late Rhys Wesser try with 10 minutes remaining.

Wesser getting a much needed touchdown after some poor reads both last week and early in this game at the back.

The Bunnies need to back this win up with a good performance against in-form Manly next week and the Canberra Raiders face a tough road trip over to NZ to face the Warriors.

Dragons too Cool for Chooks

With the Storm being cast aside in 2010, the St George Illawarra Dragons now find themselves as the hunted ones – but after todays win 28-6 over the Roosters, they are more than comfortable being favourites for this years NRL it seems.

The Chooks came out with good intentions in this ANZAC Day clash – but it seems they don’t quite have the full 80 minute game just yet.

It was an arm wrestle early, with  Brian Smiths men going with the Dragons up until the halftime break – but the class and more settled Dragons outfit shone through by fulltime.

Its amazing how this Saints club keeps producing quality props, they have seemingly fed the whole comp off their forward stocks – yet keep growing more talent.

Some basic errors at critical times in the back end of this game cost the Roosters dearly, the longer than game went on – you got the feeling the Dragons patience was certainly going to pay off.

The Roosters will however continue to improve, they are still learning to play as a team – and their go-to man Todd Carney remains a raw fullback. Give them time and they’ll produce even more.

The only concern for the Dragons now is being the tall poppies. While they are seemingly coping fine at the moment, just like 2009, they sometimes get a little nervous when the business end of the season rolls around.

Especially now with the Storm out of commission, the Dragons will need to quickly deal with being the League leaders and mentally shape up for a finals series where a lower ranked team could hit form at the right time.