Clash lives up to the billing as Eels win in gritty performance over rivals

Brad Takairangi

With a lot happening off the field at the Parramatta Eels – including the ongoing salary cap talk and the recent Kieran Foran incident that has seen him address his personal issues and thus have time away from the game – on it, against rivals the Canterbury Bulldogs, they dug deep and fought hard to secure a 20-12 win.

In front of a crowd of over 31,000 at ANZ Stadium, it was the second time the Eels defeated the Bulldogs this season, in yet another gritty display from the blue and gold.

Injuries both pre-game and during the game resulted in numerous re-shuffles, with the absence of Kieran Foran resulting in Brad Takairangi playing in the halves.

On the field, the injuries also continued, with Tim Mannah (shoulder blade), Michael Gordon (corked thigh) and Danny Wicks (concussion) all off the field at one point.

Wicks did eventually return but for long portions, the Eels were forced to play with just one fit player on the bench.

It was the Bulldogs who burst out of the blocks, after they capitalised on some poor Eels defence out wide for Curtis Rona to score in the corner.

The Bulldogs almost had a second soon after to Rona, but some spirited goal-line defence managed to hold up the hulking winger when it mattered.

Many fans were left disappointed with the performance of the referees, who missed forward passes from both sides, with the Eels late first-half try clearly involving a forward pass yet it was not called.

The changes to the Eels side proved a downfall to begin with as players became accustomed to the roles but they fond their mojo as the game wore on.

The Eels first try came from a spectacular offload by Beau Scott close to the line, who then found Brad Takairangi storming through to score.

With the Dogs pressing hard for points as the game wore on, the Eels defence held firm as it has many times this season, restricting the Dogs attack.

Working hard for each other to win, the Eels team is not about excuses. Coach Brad Arthur knows in past weeks, they could have made some but they did not and fought hard instead.

“I’m very proud of our playing group at the moment,” said Arthur.

“There’s been ample opportunities over the last four, five, six weeks where we could find excuses if we really wanted to and again this week there’s a couple of excuses. At half-time there’s a couple of excuses if we really want to find them and it was a tough game.”

Arthur knew he had a decision to make and opted for Takairangi at five-eighth, a move which paid dividends.

“He’s been itching to get in there for a while. ‘Takas’ is a really good footballer, he’s got a good footy head. He kept it nice and simple tonight, he stuck to his strengths and it worked for us,” Arthur said.

Halves partner Corey Norman, who also enjoyed a quality game of his own, praised the efforts of Takairangi.

“He’s good, I thought he played out of his skin, he did his job and didn’t try too much. He played really well for the team and that’s what we needed from him,” said Norman.

Bulldogs coach Des Hasler was pleased with elements of his side’s performance but admits that their defence was soft at times.

“I thought we contained them pretty well in the first half, I thought we dominated pretty well, I thought we did pretty well in the first half and they didn’t make much metres,” Hasler said.

“Probably the try right on half time hurt a little bit, 12-6 to 12-10. We’re a little bit disappointed with the tries they scored. From our point of view, a defensive point of view they were reasonably soft tries.”

3. Brad Takairangi
2. David Klemmer
1. Clinton Gutherson/Corey Norman

Parramatta Eels 20 (Takairangi, Gutherson, Norman, Toutai tries; Gordon, Gutherson goals) defeated Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 12 (Rona, Morris tries; Holland 2 goals) at ANZ Stadium. Half-time: Canterbury 12-10. Crowd: 31,815.

Tigers snap six-game losing streak but lose Tedesco to injury

Sam Burgess

Snapping a six-game losing streak, the Wests Tigers deserve to celebrate their win but it has come at a cost, with the in-form James Tedesco – who has been a revelation in season 2016 – injuring his shoulder in the clash.

A catalyst for the Tigers in the first half, he left the field and did not return in the second. Scans await Tedesco and Tigers fans will be holding their breath that it is not serious.

The Tigers were dealt another blow right before kick-off, with Mitch Moses straining a quad in the warm-up, resulting in a re-shuffle.

The win is a welcome relief for the Tigers, who just five days ago were obliterated by a rampant Raiders side.

The pressure that built up on the club was something they handled and the efforts of the team drew praise from coach Jason Taylor.

“We brought all of the pressure on ourselves from a performance that was absolutely not good enough last week,” Tigers coach Jason Taylor said.

“We can take that pressure straight away with a win and that’s what we did. But it was in such a great fashion.

“I’m really excited about the way we won that game. It was a tough performance, we wanted to be tougher and that was a really strong win in the circumstances and there were plenty going against us.”

The South Sydney Rabbitohs, who are going through a similar down-patch, were their own worst enemies. Conceding 20 points in a 20 minute period in the first half, they were on the back foot from the get-go.

After 36 long minutes, Souths scored their opening try, to give them a fighting chance.

Whilst their second half produced more fluidity among the team, it was not enough in the end as the Tigers had pushed the lead out to an insurmountable deficit.

The pride of his team was the difference for Taylor.

You don’t get to this level if you’re not passionate about doing well and succeeding. You don’t become an NRL player if you haven’t got pride in your performance and a desire and a passion to win,” Taylor said.

“We didn’t have to work too hard this week to get that out of the guys. We just had to get them together and keep them positive which was great.”

The loss has Souths coach Michael Maguire questioning the attitude of his side and captain Greg Inglis admits that giving up that many points early is not good form.

“We shouldn’t have been in that situation in the first place,” Inglis said.

“Attitude is a big thing. We can’t be dipping the toe in and then try and play catch up footy.”

Playing only 63 minutes, Sam Burgess was back to his barnstorming best but he did leave the field injured and needs scans on an injured ankle.

“His ankle is quite stable from what the doctors have told me but we’ll have to have some scans and have a look and go through the process there,” Maguire said.

After the loss, Maguire was incensed with his side and their lack of attitude.

“We need to sort out the players’ attitudes very quickly. To have simple tries scored against us like that, I thought our defence was very ordinary,” Maguire said.

“Our players, and I don’t normally make comment about it, but we need to make sure we’re a lot better than that or we’re going to end up staying in exactly the same place as where we are right now.

“After 20 minutes, that’s not acceptable at this club. We need to make sure we’re accountable for what we put out there because it was garbage really.

“People didn’t want to put their bodies in front, plain and simple. We have a team there where they commit throughout the week but they have to commit through the 80 minutes too and they didn’t do that.”

Player of the Game:

3. Sam Burgess
2. Robbie Farah
1. David Nofoaluma

Wests Tigers 30 (Jordan Rankin 2, James Tedesco, Kevin Naiqama, Luke Brooks, David Nofoaluma tries; Jordan Rankin 2 goals) defeated South Sydney Rabbitohs 22 (Bryson Goodwin 2, Kirisome Auva’a, Dane Nielsen tries; Adam Reynolds 3 goals) at ANZ Stadium. Crowd: 11,229. Half-time: Wests Tigers 20-6. Injuries: James Tedesco (Wests Tigers) – shoulder; Sam Burgess (Rabbitohs) – ankle.

Tipping Point’s View: Rd 9 Tips

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Here is again, the tipping guru, Tipping Point. Coming off a ripper 7 tips from 8 last week, he’s back in business and ready to help you make that crucial choice that can make or break your own tipping season. So sit back, read, and enjoy the tips.

Round 9 Tips
Season: 41/64 (64%); last week: 7/8
At a glance: Rabbitohs, Eels, Panthers, Roosters, Cowboys, Dragons, Storm, Sharks

Rabbitohs v Tigers, ANZ Stadium

Seems like only yesterday these two sides blitzed the opening rounds of the competition and looked certainties for the top eight – but the early optimism for both sides has been replaced with rumours of player unrest and poor team culture, and plenty of coach-sacking speculation for Wests. Since round three these two sides have mustered just one win between them, which is a dismal result for sides with this much talent. The Tigers in particular look shot, with last week’s 60-6 hiding against the Raiders bringing the axe closer to coach JT. I don’t expect life to get much easier for the Tigers against the Bunnies, who gave a decent account of themselves against the Broncos last week and will be primed for a big game. Their superior pack will get them home, though I do expect the Tigers to respond after last week’s capitulation.

Tip: Rabbitohs

Eels v Bulldogs, ANZ Stadium

Ah the quirks of the NRL draw. These two sides met just six weeks ago at the same venue on the same night – yet here they are again duking it out in another even money contest. The Eels got the chocolates in round three, and I expect them to get home again this week. While the two sides are separated by just eight points on differential, the Eels have been significantly more impressive this season and look the better choice, especially coming off a narrow loss to the Cowboys. The Dogs have spluttered their way to five wins in 2016 but they’ve been far from convincing. Based on this year’s win-loss-win-loss trend, they’re due for a loss.

Tip: Eels

Panthers v Raiders, Carrington Park (Bathurst)

Another fixture repeating an early season match-up with the Panthers and Raiders locking horns once again. The Raiders got the job done in round one, but the Panthers look red-hot in this Bathurst clash. With James Segeyaro and Dean Whare returning to first grade the Mountain Men look primed for a massive performance. They were desperately unlucky against the Sharks and in fact have been desperately unlucky most of the year. They’re due for a win, and I think the Raiders will struggle backing up their thrilling victory over the Tigers last week. The Green Machine tend to struggle stringing wins together and the Panthers ought to reverse the round one result.

Tip: Panthers

Roosters v Knights, Allianz Stadium

While I love matches between the game’s elite teams, nothing quite beats a bottom-of-the-ladder desperation slugfest. While these sides have been appalling in 2016, both will throw the kitchen sink at the other in an effort to get off the bottom of the ladder and bring some joy to their fans. There’s no doubt that the Knights will have a crack, but surely the Chookies win this game. With Jared Warea-Hargreaves and Mitchell Pearce back on deck, they are specials to win the game, and probably a good bet to win the penalty count, too.

Tip: Roosters

Sea-Eagles v Cowboys, Brookvale Oval

This is one of those awkward tips where you want to take the default option and side with the Silvertails at Fortress Brookvale, but the form of the Cowboys just stops you in your tracks. With Brett Stewart and Tom Trjbojevic in massive doubt, the Cows look like good things to romp home. Outside of the Broncos they’re easily the best team in the competition and I don’t think Manly can match it with them, even with some decent form on the board and Daly Cherry-Evans back on deck.

Tip: Cowboys

Warriors v Dragons, Mt Smart Stadium

Despite a 42-0 drubbing last week and injuries to Simon Mannering and Tui Lolohea, the Warriors are strong favourites against the Red V who, after stringing together two wins, find themselves just outside the eight. This just seems crazy to me, especially given the fact that the Warriors haven’t beaten the Dragons since 2007. While the Dragons aren’t flashy, they are a tough, grinding side that tend to get the job done against lesser opponents. There’s enough starch in their defence and commitment in their performance to get them over the line and heap more misery on Andrew McFadden’s men.

Tip: Dragons

Titans v Storm, Cbus Super Stadium

It’s déjà vu all over again with the NRL draw dishing up another repeat fixture. The Storm and the Titans went toe-to-toe in round two and it was Melbourne who got the two points that night, however it wasn’t the cakewalk that the 34-16 score line would indicate. The Titans have brought massive physicality and effort to every game in 2016 and they keep sides honest, even though they don’t often get the victories. Tipping-wise this is the perfect example of when you just have to take the away favourites – the Storm are professional enough to knock over the Titans but it’ll definitely be a scrap.

Tip: Storm

Sharks v Broncos, Southern Cross Group Stadium

Easily the match of the round, despite my earlier praise for the battle of the cellar-dwellers. The Sharks and the Eels loom as the main threats to the comp south of the border and this Sunday afternoon clash will give a good indication of Cronulla’s premiership aspirations. This is Brisbane’s first day game all year and with five Broncos set to line-up in Friday’s test match, I give the Sharks a real chance of nailing the upset. With Andrew McCullough missing through injury the Broncos are definitely vulnerable, and I can see the Sharkies bashing their way to a close win in front of their home fans.

Tip: Sharks

Raiders re-sign injured veteran forward

Sia Soliola

Currently out injured but set to return soon, Sia Soliola has re-signed with the Canberra Raiders for the next two seasons.

The veteran forward, who joined the Raiders last year and excelled during his time in the back-row, has made the most of the opportunities presented to him.

With the arrival of other forwards, his role this year changed, playing off the bench as a prop and performing well before he suffered a fractured arm.

With the Raiders performing well as a unit and a team, Soliola was keen to put pen to paper and remain at the club that is going places.

“I’m excited, relieved and really happy to be staying here for another couple of years,” said Soliola.

“Obviously this is a great club and it’s a great place for me and my family. We love this place and it’s got a great pool of talent.

“It was pretty silly not to consider this club because it’s such a great club with a great history.”

As a veteran player now, Soliola has been regarded as a leader of the pack to guide their younger generation and he looks forward to embracing that role even more moving forward.

“There’s a great optimism around the joint at the moment,” said Soliola.

“I think a lot of the boys are excited about how they’ve started the year and how they’re going to progress, and I just want to be a part of that.

“Hopefully I can contribute as much as I can on and off the field.”

His leadership exploits have not gone unnoticed by the club, with Soliola drawing praise from CEO Don Furner for how he goes about his footy on and off the field.

“Sia leads by his actions in everything he does and the respect he receives amongst the players and staff here at the club shows what a wonderful asset he is to our organisation,” Furner said.

“In terms of his playing ability, he can play both on the edge and in the middle of the field, with his experience and knowledge of the game a valuable tool for our younger players.

Off the field efforts are just as important for the Raiders and Furner praised Soliola for the things he has done across the board.

“What he does for this club off the field is equally important, whether it be amongst the players providing leadership, advice and feedback or the work he does in the community, you could not ask for a better role model and quality individual,” added Furner.

It’s a pleasure to have him as part of the Raiders and he’s a player other players can aspire to become.”

Former Knights utility extends Warrington stay

Kurt Gidley

A prodigal son at the Newcastle Knights during his time there, the start of the 2016 season saw Kurt Gidley embark on a new challenge with Super League side, the Warrington Wolves.

Now, after an impressive start to the year from the veteran, the club have opted to re-sign the 33-year old for a further two seasons.

Making a big impression on the Warrington club, its fans and coach Tony Smith, they were keen to retain him for his versatility and his experience.

“I’m pleased for Gids,” said Smith.

“He’s already shown his experience, knowledge and temperament.

“His professionalism off the field has been fantastic as well as on the field. He’s been a really good contributor for us and we are confident he’ll be able to produce that again for another year after this.

Embracing his role and producing good form, the transition has been a smooth one for Gidley.

“He is loving it and has embraced the challenge over here. He and his family enjoy living here too and the challenge that can bring,” Smith added.

“When players settle as quickly as he has it makes it easy to look at the future.”

In the short time Gidley and his family have been in Warrington, they have enjoyed it. For the man himself, staying for two years was always the goal that he set himself.

“I’m excited to be staying for another year. My plan was always to play for two years. My family – my wife and two girls – and I have been really enjoying our time here in Warrington. It’s been really enjoyable for the short time we’ve been here so far and we are looking forward to staying longer.

“I’m really enjoying having Tony as head coach as well as working with Rich Agar, Lee Briers and all the performance staff at the club. Everyone has been really helpful and it’s been a great transition for us.”

Veteran Manly centre announces retirement at end of season

Jamie Lyon

A long-standing veteran of the game, an elite centre and one of the greatest players to don the Manly Sea Eagles jersey in recent years, Jamie Lyon has made the decision to retire.

Informing his team-mates of the decision prior to their clash against the Newcastle Knights this past weekend, Lyon has played 285 games to date and scored in excess of 1500 points.

Confirming his decision today at a press conference, Lyon admitted that he was thinking about the decision for a while.

“I’ve been thinking about it for a little while,” Lyon said.

“I just felt like it was the right time. Physically and mentally, I knew it was time to hang them up.”

When any player retires, the decision is made based around family and Lyon says his family have been great in supporting his decision.

“The kids wanted me to keep playing and a few of the guys wanted me to keep playing as well,” the veteran said.

“But I’m happy with the decision made and I can’t wait to start the next chapter.”

His team-mates were not acutely aware of the decision Lyon had made before he told them and admits they were surprised.

“They were a bit shocked at the start and they probably didn’t see it coming,” Lyon said.

“I’m not really young anymore so I didn’t think it’d be much of a surprise to them.

“They were all happy that I’ve made a decision and that I can move forward. It’ll be hard not seeing the boys every day but it’ll be something different.”

Boost for high-flying Cowboys as key custodian re-signs

Lachlan Coote

There was a lot of talk about a potential departure from the North Queensland Cowboys for Lachlan Coote but their fans can rest easy, with the live-wire fullback signing on for two more years.

The custodian, who has become a crucial part of the Cowboys side from fullback in their 2016 premiership charge, signs a new 2-year deal.

Coote himself was thrilled to sign on with the club for years to come.

“I’m extremely pleased to remain a Cowboy,” Coote said.

“I’ve had a memorable time here so far; we won the premiership last year; and I just love playing with these boys.

“Greeny (head coach Paul Green) and the coaching staff have played a big role in helping me improve my game, and they were all tremendous after a tough first year at the club.”

With 33 games to his name as a Cowboy, Coote will add to that in the years to come and coach Paul Green is excited to retain the in-form fullback.

“He’s been really good for us, both last season and to start 2016,” Green said.

“His positional play at fullback is second-to-none and he gives us a genuine attacking option alongside our halves. I know his teammates love playing beside him and he’s a pleasure to coach.”

NRL Rd 9 Teams

Another week and another round of footy! Can you believe?! Round 9 already. That’s come around very quickly and what a great round of footy it promises to be. Some teams need wins desperately, some teams want to cement their spots and other teams want to get their season back on track.

Just who will get the wins this week, we shall soon find out. In the mean-time, here are the teams for Round 9 of the NRL Telstra Premiership:

South Sydney Rabbitohs v Wests Tigers (#NRLsouwst); ANZ Stadium, Olympic Park; Thursday April 28. Kick-off: 7:50pm.

Bunnies: 1. Greg Inglis (C) 2. Dane Nielsen 3. Kirisome Auva’a 4. Bryson Goodwin 5. Aaron Gray 6. Luke Keary 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Thomas Burgess 9. Damien Cook 10. David Tyrrell 11. Chris Grevsmuhl 12. Kyle Turner 13. Sam Burgess.

Interchange: 14. Cam McInnes 15. Jason Clark 16. Nathan Brown 17. George Burgess.

Coach: Michael Maguire.

Tigers: 1. James Tedesco 2. David Nofoaluma 3. Tim Simona 4. Kevin Naiqama 5. Jordan Rankin 6. Mitch Moses 7. Luke Brooks 8. Ava Seumanufagai 9. Robbie Farah 10. Tim Grant 11. Curtis Sironen 12. Chris Lawrence (C) 13. Sauaso Sue.

Interchange: 14. Josh Aloiai 15. Dene Halatau (C) 16. Kyle Lovett 17. JJ Felise.

Coach: Jason Taylor.

Parramatta Eels v Canterbury Bulldogs (#NRLparcby); ANZ Stadium, Olympic Park; Friday April 29. Kick-off: 7:50pm.

Eels: 1. Michael Gordon 2. Semi Radradra 3. Michael Jennings 4. Brad Takairangi 5. Clint Gutherson 6. Corey Norman 7. Kieran Foran 8. Junior Paulo 9. Nathan Peats 10. Daniel Alvaro 11. Manu Ma’u 12. Beau Scott 13. Tepai Moeroa.

Interchange: 14. Issac De Gois 15. Peni Terepo 16. Danny Wicks 17. Kenny Edwards.

Coach: Brad Arthur.

Bulldogs: 1. Will Hopoate 2. Curtis Rona 3. Josh Morris 4. Kerrod Holland 5. Sam Perrett 6. Josh Reynolds 7. Moses Mbye 8. Aiden Tolman 9. Michael Lichaa 10. James Graham (C) 11. Josh Jackson 12. Tony Williams 13. Greg Eastwood.

Interchange: 14. Sam Kasiano 15. Tim Browne 16. David Klemmer 17. Craig Garvey 19. Lloyd Perrett 22. Raymond Faitala-Mariner (Two to be omitted).

Coach: Des Hasler.

Penrith Panthers v Canberra Raiders (#NRLpencan); Carrington Park, Bathurst; Saturday April 30. Kick-off: 3pm.

Panthers: 1. Matt Moylan (C) 2. Josh Mansour 3. Dean Whare 4. Peta Hiku 5. Dallin Watene-Zeleziak 6. Jamie Soward 7. Peter Wallace 8. Leilani Latu 9. James Segeyaro 10. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 11. Bryce Cartwright 12. Isaah Yeo 13. Trent Merrin.

Interchange: 14. Tyrone Peachey 15. Jeremy Latimore 16. Suaia Matagi 17. James Fisher-Harris 20. Sam McKendry. (One to be omitted).

Coach: Anthony Griffin.

Raiders: 1. Jack Wighton 2. Edrick Lee 3. Jarrod Croker (C) 4. Joey Leilua 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Aidan Sezer 7. Sam Williams 8. Shannon Boyd 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Paul Vaughan 11. Josh Papalii 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Shaun Fensom.

Interchange: 14. Kurt Baptiste 15. Luke Bateman 16. Clay Priest 17. Joseph Tapine 18. Frank-Paul Nuuausala (One to be omitted).

Coach: Ricky Stuart.

Sydney Roosters v Newcastle Knights (#NRLsydnew); Allianz Stadium, Moore Park; Saturday April 30. Kick-off: 5:30pm.

Roosters: 1. Latrell Mitchell 2. Joe Burgess 3. Mitch Aubusson 4. Blake Ferguson 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall 6. Jackson Hastings 7. Mitch Pearce 8. Sam Moa 9. Jake Friend (C) 10. Dylan Napa 11. Boyd Cordner 12. Aidan Guerra 13. Isaac Liu.

Interchange: 14. Kane Evans 15. Eloni Vunakece 16. Ryan Matterson 17. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 18. Connor Watson (One to be omitted).

Coach: Trent Robinson.

Knights: 1. Dane Gagai 2. Nathan Ross 3. Sione Mata’utia 4. Pat Mata’utia 5. Akuila Uate 6. Will Pearsall 7. Trent Hodkinson 8. Sam Mataora 9. Danny Levi 10. Daniel Saifiti 11. Tariq Sims 12. Korbin Sims 13. Jeremy Smith (C).

Interchange: 14. Tyler Randell 15. David Bhana 16. Jacob Saifiti 17. Pauli Pauli 18. Brock Lamb 19. Jack Stockwell 20. Mickey Paea (Three to be omitted).

Coach: Nathan Brown.

Manly Sea Eagles v North Queensland Cowboys (#NRLmannql); Brookvale Oval; Saturday April 30. Kick-off: 7:30pm.

Manly: 1. Brett Stewart 2. Brayden Wiliame 3. Jamie Lyon (C) 4. Steve Matai 5. Tom Trbojevic 6. Dylan Walker 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Darcy Lussick 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. Nate Myles 11. Tom Symonds 12. Marty Taupau 13. Jake Trbojevic.

Interchange: 14. Lewis Brown 15. Addin Fonua-Blake 16. Brenton Lawrence 17. Siosaia Vave 19. Matt Parcell (One to be omitted).

Coach: Trent Barrett.

Cowboys: 1. Lachlan Coote 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Justin O’Neill 4. Kane Linnett 5. Antonio Winterstein 6. Michael Morgan 7. Jonathan Thurston (C) 8. Matt Scott (C) 9. Jake Granville 10. James Tamou 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Ethan Lowe 13. Jason Taumalolo.

Interchange: 14. Rory Kostjaysn 15. Pat Kaufusi 16. Scott Bolton 17. Ben Hannant 18. John Asiata (One to be omitted).

Coach: Paul Green.

New Zealand Warriors v St George Illawarra Dragons (#NRLwarsgi); Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland; Sunday May 1. Kick-off: 12pm (AEDT).

Warriors: 1. David Fusitu’a 2. Jonathan Wright 3. Blake Ayshford 4. Solomone Kata 5. Manu Vatuvei 6. Thomas Leuluai 7. Shaun Johnson 8. Jacob Lillyman 9. Issac Luke 10. Ben Matulino 11. Bodene Thompson 12. Ryan Hoffman (C) 13. Charlie Gubb.

Interchange: 14. Jazz Tevaga 15. Sam Lisone 16. Albert Vete 17. Shaun Lane 18. James Gavet (One to be omitted).

Coach: Andrew McFadden.

Dragons: 1. Josh Dugan 2. Kalifa Fai Fai Loa 3. Euan Aitken 4. Tim Lafai 5. Jason Nightingale 6. Gareth Widdop (C) 7. Josh McCrone 8. Leeson Ah Mau 9. Mitch Rein 10. Mike Cooper 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Joel Thompson 13. Jack de Belin.

Interchange: 14. Russell Packer 15. Will Matthews 16. Dunamis Lui 17. Siliva Havili 18. Taane Milne (One to be omitted).

Coach: Paul McGregor.

Gold Coast Titans v Melbourne Storm (#NRLgldmel); Cbus Super Stadium, Robina; Sunday May 1. Kick-off: 4pm.

Titans: 1. Will Zillman 2. Anthony Don 3. Josh Hoffman 4. Nene Macdonald 5. David Mead 6. Tyrone Roberts 7. Cam Cullen 8. David Shillington 9. Nathan Friend (C) 10. Ryan James 11. Zeb Taia 12. Chris McQueen 13. Greg Bird.

Interchange: 14. Luke Douglas 15. Leivaha Pulu 16. Agnatius Paasi 17. Kierran Moseley 18. Lachlan Burr (One to be omitted).

Coach: Neil Henry.

Storm: 1. Cam Munster 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. Richard Kennar 4. Young Tonumaipea 5. Marika Koroibete 6. Blake Green 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cam Smith (C) 10. Jordan McLean 11. Kevin Proctor 12. Tohu Harris 13. Dale Finucane.

Interchange: 14. Kenny Bromwich 15. Tim Glasby 16. Felise Kaufusi 17. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 18. Ben Hampton (One to be omitted).

Coach: Craig Bellamy.

Cronulla Sharks v Brisbane Broncos (#NRLcrobri); Southern Cross Group Stadium, Cronulla; Sunday May 1. Kick-off: 4pm.

Sharks: 1. Ben Barba 2. Sosaia Feki 3. Jack Bird 4. Ricky Leutele 5. Val Holmes 6. James Maloney 7. Chad Townsend 8. Andrew Fifita 9. Michael Ennis 10. Sam Tagataese 11. Jayson Bukuya 12. Wade Graham 13. Paul Gallen (C).

Interchange: 14. Gerard Beale 15. Chris Heighington 16. Matt Prior 17. Luke Lewis.

Coach: Shane Flanagan.

Broncos: 1. Darius Boyd 2. Corey Oates 3. Jack Reed 4. James Roberts 5. Jordan Kahu 6. Anthony Milford 7. Ben Hunt 8. Josh McGuire 9. Kodi Nikorima 10. Adam Blair 11. Alex Glenn 12. Matt Gilett 13. Corey Parker (C).

Interchange: 14. Jarrod Wallace 15. Sam Thaiday 16. Joe Ofahengaue 17. Travis Waddell.

Coach: Wayne Bennett.

Fast finish sees Cowboys down Eels to maintain perfect home record in 2016

Michael Morgan

Arguably the match of the round, in many respects, it lived up to the billing. Ultimately, it was the North Queensland Cowboys who maintained their 100% record at home, with a 32-16 win over the Parramatta Eels.

The game was a closely fought affair as expected for 66 minutes, before the game was mired in what many deem as a controversial moment and a game-changer.

With an opportunity to score in sight for the Cowboys, the Eels five-eighth Corey Norman raced through and impeded the Cowboys attacker from getting to the ball and making an effort to score.

As a result, referee Gerard Sutton did not hesitate and sent Norman to the bin for professional foul. Fans were up in arms with the decision not because it was the wrong call, but because it has been inconsistent.

Even Eels coach Brad Arthur wanted clarity on the incident and the consistencies involved with it.

“I just need to ask [Tony Archer] what the ruling is and if it is going to happen continually,” he said.

“It’s disappointing, with 14 or 15 minutes to go, that we couldn’t see two really good teams fight it out to see who could get on top at the end.

“Everyone has been robbed of a good game of football.”

Before that incident, it was level-pegging, as both sides challenged each other. The Cowboys raced to a 14-0 lead at the break, before the Eels had a resurgence of their own at the start of the second half.

In the end, down a man for ten minutes, the Cowboys pounced with some solid attacking play, scoring two tries to seal the win and maintain their top 4 spot. Despite the Eels loss, they do remain in the top four due to their for and against.

Whilst the game did have that controversy, Arthur also lamented his side’s poor ball control.

“The second half we made eight errors and all of them out of red zone, so that was disappointing,” coach Brad Arthur said post-game.

“That first half we only made a couple of errors and completed above eighty per cent but in the second half our completions were 50 per cent and you just can’t do it against any team, let alone a very good side like the Cowboys.”

In a sign as to how confident the Cowboys are as a unit, prop and captain Matt Scott thought they were in the drivers seat and would go on to win regardless.

“I thought when I got back on the field with about 20 minutes to go, with Jimmy (James Tamou) and Jase (Jason Taumalolo), I felt us get a bit of ascendency again,” Scott said.

“I felt pretty comfortable, I think that was probably a bit of a turning point. Of course it’s hard to defend with 12 [players], but I felt like before that we were getting on top of them.”

Player of the Game:

3. Michael Morgan.
2. Kieran Foran
1. Johnathan Thurston

North Queensland Cowboys 32 (Michael Morgan 2, Gavin Cooper, Lachlan Coote, Antonio Winterstein tries; Johnathan Thurston 6 goals) def. Parramatta Eels 16 (Semi Radradra 2, Michael Jennings tries; Michael Gordon 2 goals) at 1300SMILES Stadium. Half-time: Cowboys 14-0. Crowd: 19,308. Holden Cup: Cowboys 54-12. Sin bin: Corey Norman (Parramatta Eels – obstructing kick-chaser), 65th minute.

Raiders put on a master-class and record highest win over Tigers

Josh Hodgson

It was one-way traffic from the very start and it only got worse from there for the Wests Tigers, as they were demolished by a rampant Canberra Raiders side, losing 60-6 at GIO Stadium. The loss was the Wests Tigers worst ever at the hands of the Raiders, with Jason Taylor left dejected and disappointed by the effort.

Even at 12-6 after a quarter of the way through the first half, the Raiders had all the control but it was the second half that saw them kick away. Joey Leilua, Josh Hodgson and Jordan Rapana were the standouts, firing on all cylinders.

Hodgson, who has been a revelation since joining the NRL, has continued to surprise many and currently leads the Dally M leaderboard.

Even at 22-6 at the break, Tigers fans may have been hopeful that if they dug deep, there was a chance to salvage something. That was not be, however, as the Raiders went on a rampage and scored 38 straight points in the second half.

In what was a true all-round performance by the Raiders, the forwards laid the platform – and scored tries of their own to boot – before Hodgson and the halves executed to perfection, resulting in a landslide win for the Raiders.

There was a blow for the Raiders, though, who lost the in-form Joseph Tapine due to an ankle injury. Earlier, the Tigers lost Dene Halatau to a dislocated thumb.

Taylor put the loss down to the lack of mental toughness after a narrow golden point last week to the Storm.

“It wasn’t good enough from us tonight. It was a game that we were completely outplayed physically and it starts and ends there,” Taylor said.

“Mentally we couldn’t pick ourselves up after last week’s golden point game. It’s not good enough from us. Our fans deserve better.

“The opposition are a big, strong team. They were up for it on the back of some big losses and we couldn’t go with them.

“It’s a really poor showing from us. We’re better than that and we know we’re better than that and the only thing we can do now is respond.”

The club has little time to toil over the heavy defeat, though, with a five-day turnaround looming for their clash v the Bunnies.

“We play again in five days against Souths. They’re in the same boat as us. It’s bloody tough,” he said.

“We’ll have a team out there and we’ll be ready to represent the Wests Tigers’ jersey in the fashion it deserves to be represented because it wasn’t done in the fashion it should be tonight.”

After critcising his team last week for their effort, Ricky Stuart was pleased this week, especially with the brilliant performances from Leilua and Rapana, two players he praised last week also.

“They were two blokes I spoke about last week that really stood up for our team in a very poor performance. When they had the opportunity they just put a great show on,” Stuart said after the game.

“They asked who should be man of the match tonight and there were a number of guys who played well but those two boys deserved joint man of the match.”

Player of the Match:

3. Josh Hodgson
2. Jordan Rapana
1. Joey Leilua

Canberra Raiders 60 (Jordan Rapana 4, Joseph Leilua 2, Elliott Whitehead, Shannon Boyd, Jarrod Croker, Paul Vaughan, Aidan Sezer tries; Jarrod Croker 8 goals) defeated Wests Tigers 6 (Chris Lawrence try; Jordan Rankin 1 goal) at GIO Stadium. Half-time: 22-6 Raiders. Crowd: 13,420. Injuries: Joseph Tapine (ankle) and Dene Halatau (thumb).