All posts by Thomas Beauchamp

Panthers confirm Minor Premiership with win over Cowboys

The Penrith Panthers have secured the 2020 minor premiership following a comprehensive 32-12 victory over the North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville.

On the night that the Cowboys farewelled Gavin Cooper after over 300 NRL games, Penrith left their opposition in their dust after a fast and furious start to the match.

The Panthers’ first try of the night was set up by Dylan Edwards, who placed a deft grubber kick into the in-goal for Brian To’o to score.

They would then double their lead through Viliame Kikau, who broke the Cowboys’ defence with a trademark charge before passing off to Stephen Crichton.

Three minutes later, the Panthers were in again as Josh Mansour grounded a rolling kick from Jarome Luai just centimetres from the dead ball line.

The try provided Luai with his seventeenth try assist of the season, bettered only by Luke Keary at the five-eighth position.

The Panthers almost had their fourth through Viliame Kikau but he was miraculously stopped by a strong one-on-one defensive effort from Daejarn Asi.

Unfortunately for Cowboys fans, Penrith’s left edge attack simply refused to be silenced as Jarome Luai crossed for one of his own with six minutes left in the first half.

The try extended the lead to twenty, where it remained until half-time.

The Penrith ambush looked set to continue in the second half with Kikau catching a cross-field kick from Nathan Cleary to score after just five minutes of play.

Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow finally got the Cowboys on the board with their first try of the match fifteen minutes later.

Ayny faint comeback hopes were squashed when Nathan Cleary streaked away down the right-wing before sending Brent Naden away to score.

With the result sealed, a late try to Kyle Feldt was little more than a consolation effort.

Penrith has now moved five points clear of Melbourne and will lift the J.J. Giltinan shield for the third time in franchise history.

On both previous occasions that they won the minor premiership, they went on to win the premiership.

Panthers’ coach Ivan Cleary expressed his satisfaction at wrapping up the minor premiership but admitted there is still plenty of improvement left in his side as they build towards the finals.

“I’m obviously very proud of everyone at the club and everyone who has been involved in getting the minor premiership because that’s no mean feat”, he stated.

For the Cowboys, Josh Hannay was disappointed that his side wasn’t able to send Gavin Cooper out a winner in his last home game, but credited their opposition for their relentlessness in attack.

“There’s a reason why they sit where they sit, and why we sit where we sit. They didn’t overdo it out there tonight, they were just happy to build pressure and control the football”, he said.

Penrith will advance to face the Bulldogs in their final match of the regular season, while the Cowboys will play Brisbane in a bottom-of-the-table clash on Thursday night at Suncorp Stadium.

NRL News Player of the Game

3 Points – Viliame Kikau – The Penrith right-edge absolutely dominated the Cowboys tonight and Kikau was involved in everything with one try and a try assist.

His run that set up Crichton’s try was everything we’ve come to expect from the damaging edge runner throughout his career.

2 Points – Jarome Luai – If Kikau was the star, then Luai was the director as he dictated all the play down the right edge.

He chimed in with one try assist and a try of his own.

1 Point – Nathan Cleary – He’s used to playing the lead, but Nathan Cleary won today’s award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

While most of the attack was sent down the right, Cleary still managed two try assists and a line-break in an indication that he’s still in red-hot form with the finals just two weeks away.

Penrith Panthers five-eighth Jarome Luai

Canberra Raiders Spoil Ramsay’s Dream St George Illawarra Dragons Debut

The Canberra Raiders have put on a clinical display to defeat the St George Illawarra Dragons by a scoreline of 37-8 at WIN Stadium in Wollongong.

Young Dragons debutant Cody Ramsay was the hero for his side in the first half with two tries, but the Canberra halves pairing of Jack Wighton and George Williams proved too strong in the second half as the Raiders ran away with the game.

Much to the elation of the forty family and friends gathered on the sideline, Ramsay scored the first try of the match with his first touch in first grade.

Hudson Young quickly hit back for the Raiders three minutes later, crashing through some lacklustre defence from Dragons props Kaide Ellis and Paul Vaughan.

Matt Dufty looked set to re-take the lead for the hosts but a diving intercept from Nick Cotric squandered the Dragons’ attacking raid. Instead, Jordan Rapana would clean up a horror bounce on the ensuing kick and send Jack Wighton over for his first of the night.

Dufty soon got his revenge as he sent a lofted cut-out pass to Cody Ramsay, who spectacularly reached behind to collect the ball before planting it over the line in the South-Western corner of WIN Stadium.

Ramsay almost had a remarkable first-half hat trick when he took an intercept on the stroke of half-time and ran the length of the field, but was denied as Zac Lomax was deemed offside.

Jarrod Croker slotted the resulting penalty-kick from the sideline to give the Raiders a 14-8 lead as both sides hit the sheds.

Unfortunately for the Dragons, Ramsay’s first-half double represented the full extent of their scoring for the match as they struggled to maintain any momentum in the second half.

Jarrod Croker collected a deft Elliott Whitehead grubber to open Canberra’s second half account before the Wigan-bound John Bateman weaved past Cody Ramsay and Jackson Ford to score.

Jack Wighton got his second try off a succulent set piece from George Williams, who double-pumped before sending his halves partner over for the tenth try of the season. It is the first time Wighton has reached the double-digit milestone in his career.

With the result all but confirmed, Semi Valemei crossed for his second career try before George Williams finished the match with a field-goal.

With the win, the Raiders have drawn level with the fourth-placed Roosters, who will face Newcastle later tonight. The Dragons’ mathematical finals chances are now non-existent.

Following the match, Ricky Stuart was impressed with how his squad were able to back up their strong first-half effort to seal the result in the second, which they were unable to do against the Roosters last Saturday.

“This week we kept our foot on their throat. While It’s very easy for a coach to say you’ve got to be ruthless and play eighty minutes, executing that is very difficult.” he said.

For the Dragons, interim coach Dean Young also drew similarities with his side’s performance last weekend as they failed to capitalise on their chances to seize the game when the result was still in the balance.

“We’re down on confidence, we’ve been losing a lot this year and we’re just not nailing our (opportunities) with the ball when we need to”, he stated.

Both sides will now enjoy an eight day turnaround as the Raiders will advance to face a desperate Warriors outfit next Sunday afternoon, while the Dragons can look forward to a tough match against the Knights.

NRL News Player of the Game:
3 Points – Jack Wighton – The Raiders’ five-eighth was seemingly involved in everything tonight as he chimed in with two tries and a try-assist in a superb outing for his club.

2 Points – George Williams – Williams played the perfect supporting role to his halves partner with three try-assists and a field goal to round out the match.

1 Point – Hudson Young – With a try, one try assist and two line-breaks in a monster sixty-minute performance, Young appears set to play a major role in the Raiders’ premiership push come October.

Canberra Five-Eighth Jack Wighton

Bulldogs edge towards wooden spoon with loss to Manly

The Manly Sea Eagles have kept their mathematical finals hopes alive with a 32-20 victory over the Canterbury Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium.

The Bulldogs appeared set to snag their third win of the season after a strong side to the match but squandered their early ten-point lead through several poor defensive efforts.

Jake Averillo made an impressive start in his return to the starting squad, making a half-break before passing off to Matt Doorey for the first try of the night.

Nick Meaney extended the lead to eight with a penalty goal three minutes later.

Manly looked set to score their first points of the night with fifteen minutes to go in the first half but were denied when Martin Taupau ignored the free players on his outside and instead cut back inside following a line-break.

Thankfully for Manly fans, the Sea Eagles didn’t have to wait much longer for their first try of the night.

Taniela Paseka split the Bulldogs’ defensive line to breathe some hope into an otherwise flat first half for his team.

The Bulldogs had a prime chance to further extend the lead before the break with three consecutive set restarts inside Manly territory, but they couldn’t convert.

Instead, the Sea Eagles would go the length of the park in the following set to score and level the match through Curtis Sironen’s third try of the year.

Brad Parker then gave his side a 16-10 lead on the stroke of half-time by running onto a flat pass thrown by Cade Cust at the line.

Manly continued their momentum at the start of the second half as Jack Gosiewski crossed after just four minutes of play.

Despite their dominance on the scoreboard, the Sea Eagles continued to struggle with their discipline and found themselves down 10-3 in the penalty count after fifty minutes.

It would eventually prove costly as a deft Jake Averillo kick fell nicely into the arms of Lachlan Lewis for the halfback to score.

However, it took Manly just two minutes to negate the Lewis try with Morgan Harper splitting the Bulldogs’ left-side defence to score against his former club.

When Martin Taupau picked up the scraps of his own kick and scored with twelve minutes to go, the result was all but sealed.

A try to returning Bulldogs winger Jayden Okunbor proved little more than a consolation effort as Manly held onto their twelve point lead until full-time.

With the win, the Sea Eagles move within two wins of the Cronulla Sharks, who currently sit in eighth place. They would require the Sharks to lose all three of their remaining matches in order to have a shot at making the finals.

Following the match, Des Hasler joked that his side had enjoyed singing the team song for the first time in seven weeks, stating that it’s been ‘far too long’ between victories.

“It was good to get the result tonight. We had to defend for some long periods and we showed some real enterprise in attack” Hasler said.

Bulldogs interim coach Steve Georgallis was left to lament a series of injuries that crippled his side’s chances this week.

Ofahiki Ogden and Luke Thompson missed tonight’s clash due to injuries at training, while Matt Doorey suffered a suspected PCL strain in the first half.

“I was really happy with the way they started the game, but missed tackles – particularly one-on-one tackles on the edge – really hurt us” he stated.

Manly will advance to play the Titans next Saturday afternoon at Lottoland.

The Bulldogs will have another chance to avoid the wooden spoon when they play arch-rivals South Sydney on Thursday.

NRL News Player of the Game

3 Points – Daly Cherry-Evans – With his team missing several of their playmaking stars, Cherry-Evans stepped up tonight and was unsurprisingly involved in everything for Manly.

Three try-assists and a line-break topped off a fantastic outing for the half.

2 Points – Morgan Harper – Harper has been electric since returning to first-grade two weeks ago and the strike centre had his second strong outing in as many weeks.

He had one try, two line-breaks, six tackle-busts and looked dangerous every time he touched the ball.

1 Point – Tevita Funa – He’s no Tom Trbojevic, but Manly’s interim fullback has been much improved over the past two weeks after his up-and-down start against the Rabbitohs in Round 15.

Didn’t cross for a try but had three line-breaks tonight to go with seven tackle busts.

Manly Sea Eagles centre Morgan Harper

Townsend hit mars Knights win over Sharks

The Newcastle Knights have demolished the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks in a fiery, high-scoring encounter at McDonald Jones Stadium that saw Cronulla half Chad Townsend sent off in the second half.

Cronulla’s finals hopes now appear uncertain as the 38-10 loss provides the in-form Warriors with the opportunity to move within one win of the top eight.

The Sharks will also be sweating on the availability of Wade Graham, Toby Rudolf and Braden Hamlin-Uele, who will all join Townsend at the judiciary this week.

David Klemmer was denied an early try by the bunker as the Newcastle forward failed to clean up a kick that ricocheted off the upright.

Instead, the Sharks scored first through Ronaldo Mulitalo, who capitalised on an error from Kalyn Ponga to score his sixth try of the season.

It took the Knights less than four minutes to hit back, with Kurt Mann throwing a succulent cutout ball for Starford To’a to score on a clinical short-side raid.

The Knights doubled their advantage four minutes later through Kalyn Ponga, who beat four would-be-tackles to score his first career try against Cronulla.

Starford To’a then scored his second of the night by grounding a Mason Lino grubber kick to extend the lead to ten points.

Despite the attacking onslaught, Kalyn Ponga’s goal-kicking woes continued throughout the first twenty minutes and the star fullback was eventually replaced by Mason Lino.

Lino extended the lead to twelve points after an ugly spear tackle from Wade Graham and Toby Rudolf.

Not satisfied with a twelve point advantage going into the break, Kalyn Ponga once again dismantled Cronulla’s right-side defence to score his second of the night and extend the scoreline to 22-4.

Both sides struggled to gain any momentum through the first fifteen minutes of the second period, but the game erupted when Chad Townsend was controversially sent off for a shoulder charge on Kalyn Ponga.

Townsend becomes the second player to be sent off in 2020 after Kevin Proctor’s bite on Shaun Johnson in Round 14.

Townsend’s replacement Connor Tracey wasted no time leaving his mark on the game, scoring a try to reduce the deficit to two converted tries.

However, Kalyn Ponga would put all comeback hopes to bed with his third try of the night.

Josh King then crossed for his first career four-pointer with less than a minute remaining to kickstart the celebrations in the Hunter.

Post-match, Cronulla coach John Morris described the match as a ‘nightmare’ for his squad right from the opening kickoff, which sailed out on the full.

“I didn’t think I’d be in this position apologising to our fans, but I have to after that,” said Morris.

(Our performance) was so outside of the standards that we set ourselves at the club.”

Knights coach Adam O’Brien was pleased with the way in which his players were able to turn the club’s fortunes around after last week’s loss, pointing particular praise to fullback Kalyn Ponga.

“He gets a lot of wraps for how talented he is, and rightfully so, but he’s such a tough kid”, O’Brien replied when asked about what pleased him most about Ponga on the night.

Both clubs will now advance to two crucial clashes next weekend, with Newcastle facing the Roosters in the race for the top four, while Cronulla could secure a finals berth with a win against the Warriors.

NRL News Player of the Game

3 Points – Kalyn Ponga – There was no competition for the Man of the Match honours in this one as Ponga put up a game labelled as ‘one of the best individual performances of the season’. The fullback had three tries, over 220 metres and a whopping thirteen tackle busts.

2 Points – Kurt Mann – The Newcastle utility has been exceptional this year in the five-eighth role, but Adam O’Brien should have no concerns with playing Mann at hooker after tonight’s performance. Played a terrific supporting role with two try-assists to go with thirty-five tackles in the middle of the field.

1 Point – Mitchell Barnett – Barnett has been superb in the lock role and has played eighty minutes in all but one game since his return from injury. He earned himself an early shower tonight with thirty-five tackles, fourteen hit-ups and a try contribution.

Newcastle Knights utility Kurt Mann

Gold Coast Titans Overcome St. George Illawarra Dragons in Kogarah Thriller

The Gold Coast Titans have sensationally scored two tries in the final five minutes to come back and steal a 16-10 victory over the St. George Illawarra Dragons at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium.

In what was a dour affair for much of the clash, the Dragons appeared set to claim victory before a late capitulation saw Justin Holbrook’s side steal the win from the jaws of defeat.

Both sides struggled on attack through the early phases of the match, with neither team registering a try in the first forty minutes.

The only first-half points came courtesy of a penalty goal from Zac Lomax, who has scored over 40% of the Dragons’ points this season.

Adam Clyne had the best chance of the opening thirty minutes but was denied of his first NRL try by a desperate tackle from Keegan Hipgrave.

Eight minutes later, the Titans had their chance to score but were controversially denied by the bunker.

Brian Kelly appeared to have capitalised on a lost ball from Mikaele Ravalawa, but it was decided that Ravalawa was held upon first contact and further play was deemed illegal.

With a scoreline better suited to the A-League matches held at Jubilee Oval, the Dragons would maintain their 2-0 lead into the break.

An early second-half onslaught from the Dragons led to a mountain of possession and Jacob Host took full advantage by crossing for the first try of the match.

It didn’t take the Titans long to hit back however, with Phillip Sami splitting four Dragons defenders to score his fourth try in his last four matches against St George.

Despite the setback, the Dragons continued to control the ball with 42 tackles inside the Titans’ 20-metre zone through sixty minutes. The Titans had just four.

With nine minutes to go, Zac Lomax extended the Dragons’ lead to six by adding another two points following a penalty from Keegan Hipgrave.

Against all odds, the Titans levelled the score with just five minutes to go as Tyrone Peachey collected the scraps of a grubber kick that ricocheted against the upright.

The Titans then travelled the length of the field off the following kickoff, with Jamal Fogerty crossing to remarkably give his side their first lead of the contest with three minutes to go.

The Dragons’ last-ditch efforts to regain the lead were snuffed out, with the Titans holding on to claim their fifth victory of the year.

The loss cripples the Dragons’ finals hopes as they sit four points out of the top eight with Cronulla expected to extend the gap to six when they face the Cowboys on Saturday night.

Post match, Dragons interim coach Dean Young stated that his team ‘competed hard’ but admits that his side are struggling to meet the expectations that they set for themselves on a week-to-week basis.

“As a team we come up with three focus points each week and at the moment, we’re not getting the job done… tonight we met zero of the three”, he said.

Meanwhile, Justin Holbrook was extremely pleased with his side’s effort across the park and ‘loved every minute’ of watching his side come back to snatch victory.

“As a team, we had six key guys missing tonight and whoever we put out there was desperate to play. I just wanted us to be proud of our performance and be proud to represent our club”, he stated.

The Dragons will face off against the Cowboys in a must-win clash next Sunday, while the Titans will fancy their chances to snare back-to-back wins when they face off against the out-of-form Bulldogs on Saturday.

Man of the Match:
3 Points – AJ Brimson – The lads on the NRL News Take the Two podcast spoke about how Brimson has revitalised the Titans’ attack since his return, and the fullback delivered tonight with two line-breaks and a try assist. Genuinely looked dangerous every time he touched the ball.

2 Points – Jamal Fogerty – Captained the side for the first time last week and had a stellar performance tonight as he streaked away from the defenders to score the match-winning try. Justin Holbrook commended his halfback for his performance, stating that Fogerty overcame significant personal turmoil this week to put in one of the best games of his young career.

1 Point – Jarrod Wallace – The Queensland representative was solid tonight with 27 tackles and 14 hit-ups in a fifty-two minute performance. Wallace hasn’t had the best year on-field, but tonight’s performance demonstrated the strong work ethic that has earned him an origin berth in each of the past three years.

Panthers Demolish Johnson-less Sharks

The Penrith Panthers have dismantled a depleted Cronulla Sharks lineup with a clinical 38-12 victory at Panthers Stadium.

With the win, Penrith have now won ten straight games for the first time in franchise history. The last team to achieve that feat was the Sharks in 2016.

Signs were ominous for John Morris’ side before the game with star halfback Shaun Johnson ruled out before kickoff.

His replacement, Braydon Trindall, experienced an unhappy start with Villiame Kikau absolutely manhandling him to score and open the scoring for the night.

Josh Mansour then crossed for the Panthers second, benefitting from a succulent Jarome Luai bullet pass to score in his 150th NRL match.

Brent Naden was the next to score, pushing Penirth’s lead out to sixteen points by supporting a sixty-metre break from second-rower Liam Martin.

Cronulla centre Jesse Ramien was able to reduce the deficit with a powerful dummy-half effort.

His try came off the back of a length-of-the-field effort from Josh Dugan and Will Kennedy that ended just ten metres from the line.

The Sharks appeared set to carry the momentum into the break, but Stephen Crichton improved his side’s buffer with the last play of the first half.

The strike centre rose above the Sharks defenders to catch and score off a nicely placed kick from Nathan Cleary. The try gave the Panthers a 22-6 break at the intermission.

The Sharks appeared to have re-started the scoring just two minutes into the second period but were denied by the bunker due to a knock on from Braydon Trindall.

The Panthers then punished Cronulla for their errors with Liam Martin stepping through the defence for his first of the night.

Jarome Luai extended the lead to 28 points following a contentious six-again call against Aaron Woods.

When Josh Mansour scored his second of the night eight minutes later, the scoreline began to get ugly.

A successful dummy-half scoot by Connor Tracey gave Sharks fans something to cheer, but it was little consolation.

The Panthers’ win pushes them three points clear at the top of the table, while the Sharks’ top eight buffer could be cut to just two points should Manly or the Tigers win tomorrow night.

Post-game, Panthers coach Ivan Cleary was pleased with his side’s effort but believed they are still chasing their best form despite the winning streak.

“It was very good but there’s still some things in there that we need to fix.” he said.

On the other side, John Morris said that his side entered the clash with ‘a plan to start well’, but that was quickly thrown out the window after conceding eight first-half errors.

“We know that Penrith start fast… and we just put so much pressure on ourselves. They’re just too good of a team (to concede eight errors against)” Morris stated.

He also criticised his team’s ball control, with the Sharks maintaining their title of the ‘most stripped team in the comp’ by losing three balls to Penrith defenders tonight.

Penrith will advance to play a desperate Wests Tigers side next Saturday night, while the Sharks will look to better their grip on a top eight spot with a win at home against North Queensland.

NRL News Player of the Game:

3 Points – Liam Martin – The former Temora Dragon had arguably his best game in first grade tonight, chiming in with one try, one try-assist and two line-breaks to go with 25 tackles

Stellar performance.

2 Points – Nathan Cleary – He’s taken control of games all year long and tonight was no different.

He was quieter than usual for much of the match, but popped up whenever his side needed him. Snagged two try-assists and two line-break assists.

1 Point – Josh Mansour – Two tries, three line-breaks and six tackle busts for the man coined ‘The Sauce’.

It was a typical workmanlike performance from the Penrith winger, who is enjoying a great season for his club.

Penrith Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary

Panthers down Warriors in the wet

The Penrith Panthers have defeated a gallant New Zealand Warriors outfit 18-12 in a soggy affair at Central Coast Stadium in Gosford.

In claiming their victory, the Panthers have extended their winning streak to nine games – breaking the previous club record set by the premiership-winning Penrith side of 2003.

The Panthers have scored sixteen points or more in all but one of their last ten matches and wasted no time getting on the board through Brent Naden, who ran onto a beautifully placed rainbow pass from in-form halfback Nathan Cleary.

Naden has now scored in each of the four games that he has been named on the wing throughout his career.

The wet conditions stifled much of the attacking impetus in the opening stages of the match, with both sides opting to grind their opponents down through the middle.

After fifteen minutes without a score, Stephen Crichton broke the game open by intercepting a wayward pass from Lachlan Burr.

Apisai Koroisau was able to convert on the favourable field position, scooting out of dummy half and ducking under three tacklers to score.

Even though the Warriors managed to keep the scoreline tight, Penrith continued to control every aspect of the match throughout much of the first half.

Through the first thirty two minutes, Penrith held 68% of the ball, completed each of their first twenty two sets and made just 100 tackles in comparison to the Warriors’ 205.

The Warriors eventually succumbed to the weight of pressure as Dylan Edwards grounded a rolling kick from Josh Mansour with four minutes remaining in the half.

Penrith looked likely to retain their 16-0 lead into the break, but Warriors skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck had other ideas – rising above the pack to catch and score on the last play of the first half.

Patrick Herbert opened the scoring in the second period with a nice finish to a slick, left-to-right attacking shift.

His try cut the lead to just four before Nathan Cleary slotted a penalty goal in the sixtieth minute to push the buffer back out to six points.

Those who expected a fast, free-flowing second-half were left disappointed in the remaining twenty minutes as both sides struggled to put points on the board.

Viliame Kikau was denied a try by the bunker due to an obstruction, while Chanel Harris-Tevita attempted to inspire his side with a monster collision with the much-larger Liam Martin.

However, the Warriors were unable to break the stout Penrith defence and mount a late comeback.

With the win, the Panthers have moved back into pole position on the ladder (pending the result of the Eels-Dragons clash), while the Warriors finals hopes have all but faded as they now sit four points outside the top eight.

Post-match, Ivan Cleary was pleased with his side’s performance but believed that his team lacked the killer instinct to close out the match earlier in the second half.

“We just couldn’t land the knockout punch tonight. I thought we did a lot of good things, we controlled the game really well in really difficult conditions and hats off to the Warriors, because they just didn’t go away” Cleary stated.

On the other side, Todd Payten was ‘proud’ of his side’s effort but unsurprisingly disappointed in the final result.

“We played a team that’s at the top of the ladder, they had 160 more plays with the ball, 12 more sets, 9 repeat sets and a lopsided penalty count, but we just kept turning up and that’s what the game is all about” Payten said.

The Panthers will advance to face the Sharks next Friday evening, while the Warriors will play the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium on Sunday afternoon at 2:00pm.

NRL News Player of the Game:
3 Points – Nathan Cleary – Dominated the clash yet again with one try assist, one try contribution and six forced drop-outs.

2 Points – Apisai Koroisau – He’s been touted as the signing of the season, and it’s not hard to see why. Nabbed a try after the Crichton intercept in addition to forty tackles made throughout the match.

1 Point – Josh Mansour – The Penrith winger hasn’t had as many touches of the ball since Stephen Crichton moved to the left centre position, but Mansour had several important plays in this one. One try assist off a kick and two linebreaks for the man dubbed ‘The Sauce’.

Gallant Warriors Ruin Hasler’s Milestone Game

The New Zealand Warriors have held on to defeat Des Hasler’s Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles in a high-octane, end-to-end clash at Brookvale Oval.

Both sides traded points as the momentum swung throughout the clash, but the Manly side wasn’t able to triumph for their coach in his 400th NRL match.

The Warriors retained control of over 95% of the ball in the first six minutes of play and reaped the rewards through a diving try to Patrick Herbert.

They soon extended their lead through Elisea Katoa, who latched onto a deft grubber kick to score the Warrior’s second of the night.

Repeated ruck infringements continued to haunt Manly in the early exchanges as the Warriors completed three times as many sets as Hasler’s men through twenty minutes.

The Warriors were able to cash in on the extra possession with George Jennings slicing through the defence for his first try in Warriors colours.

Manly failed to go away however, and their comeback hopes were ignited when Karl Lawton was sent to the sin bin for a professional foul.

Tevita Funa crossed the line in the following set to cut the deficit to ten points before Moses Suli capitalised on the man advantage to score on the right flank.

After an action-packed first half that included the loss of Addin Fonua-Blake to a leg injury, Manly appeared set to carry the momentum into the break. Todd Payten’s men had other ideas however, failing to give up on the play in their final set of the half.

This lead to a spectacular four-pointer from Patrick Herbert with just seventeen seconds remaining.

The second-half followed the trend set in the first, with the Warriors opening the scoring through Pita Hiku.

Jack Hetherington then found himself in the sin-bin following a nasty high-shot on Manly enforcer Martin Taupau. Taupau was forced off the field for a head-injury assessment.

Haumole Olakau’atu scored in the ensuing set, crossing for his first NRL try.

When Jorge Taufua crossed with fourteen minutes to go, the Warriors’ lead was cut to four and the game was given a grandstand finish.

However, the gallant Warriors were able to hold on for the remainder of the half and secure their fifth win of the season. Remarkably, the win puts Payten’s team just one win behind eighth spot (pending the remaining results from Round 13).

Post-match, Des Hasler acknowledged the torrential rain that threatened to stifle his side’s attack throughout the night, but stated that there were no excuses for his side’s performance.

“Yeah it was a terrible start and we didn’t recover from it well… it’s something that we need to fix pretty quickly” Hasler said.

On the other side, Todd Payten was extremely pleased with the way in which his squad played, stating that there was ‘no doubt’ that it was the best performance that the team have put together since he took the reigns.

The task gets no easier for the Warriors next week as they face the competition-leading Penrith Panthers on Thursday night, while Manly will face Newcastle in a crucial clash that could determine the fate of their finals chances.

NRL News Player of the Game

3 Points – Kodi Nikorima – There wasn’t much to separate the two Warriors halves tonight. They both played well with two try assists, over forty touches of the ball and one goal from two conversion attempts. Nikorima’s kicking game and threatening runs got him over the line for the 3 points.

2 Points – Chanel Harris-Tevita – The man dubbed ‘CHT’ was the perfect foil to Kodi Nikorima as the pair combined well in their first game after the sudden departure of Blake Green.

1 Point – Daly Cherry-Evans – 2 try assists and a try contribution tonight for the Manly halfback. He’s doing everything he can to drag his side into finals contention but unfortunately the injuries to Tom Trbojevic, Curtis Sironen, Dylan Walker, Joel Thompson and now Addin Fonua-Blake are threatening to derail their 2020 campaign.

Smith Injured as Storm Defeat Knights

The Melbourne Storm proved too strong for the gallant Newcastle Knights, prevailing 26-16 in an entertaining match to round out Indigenous Round.

In their second home game at Sunshine Coast Stadium, the Storm seemingly had an answer to everything Newcastle threw at them as they scored three first half tries and defended their lead without their captain in the second period.

Suliasi Vunivalu has an outstanding record against Newcastle and wasted no time getting his side on the board with a try in the fifth minute.

The Melbourne winger has now scored in eight straight games against the Knights and has ten tries in his past eight matches this season.

Bradman Best hit back three minutes later, slicing through three Melbourne would-be tackles to cross the stripe and level the match.

Cameron Smith was the next to score after receiving a pass from Kenny Bromwich to scoot away for his first four-pointer of the season.

Ryan Papenhuyzen then spectacularly doubled Melbourne’s lead by cleaning up a Kalyn Ponga kick, beating four defenders and running eighty metres to score.

Both sides were left counting the cost of a tough first half with Newcastle duo Chris Randall and Lachlan Fitzgibbon requiring halftime head-injury assessments while Melbourne skipper Cameron Smith suffered a shoulder injury.

The Storm would take a twelve point lead into the break.

The scoring slowed in the initial stages of the second period, with a Cameron Munster penalty goal being the only points registered through twenty minutes of play.

Newcastle found themselves down a player for ten minutes after interchange forward Pasami Saulo found himself in the sin bin after tackling the legs of an airborne Jahrome Hughes in the fiftieth minute.

Melbourne couldn’t convert however, and Newcastle were instead the next to score through veteran Aidan Guerra.

The Knight’s comeback claims were unfounded though, and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui ran onto a Brandon Smith pass to give Melbourne an unassailable fourteen-point lead.

Enari Tuala capitalised on a Kurt Mann grubber to score with five minutes to go but it was simply too little, too late for the Newcastle side.

Post-match, Adam O’Brian labelled his side as ‘brave’, but admitted that his side’s performance lacked the polish required to defeat a clinical side like Melbourne.

“On a whole, I couldn’t be more proud of them this week. I was really disappointed last week with our attitude, but I’ve now gone full-scale the other way” he stated.

Craig Bellamy praised his team’s efforts in overcoming the loss of Cameron Smith to win what he described as a ‘tough’ match that ebbed and flowed throughout much of the proceedings.

He then confirmed Smith’s initial diagnosis of an AC Joint injury, stating that he suffered a grade two sprain when scoring the try and will be out for ‘two to three weeks’.

With their win, Melbourne have advanced to second spot on the ladder and cemented their spot in the top four. Newcastle now sit precariously in seventh, just one point ahead of ninth placed Manly.

Both sides will now enjoy a six-day layoff as Melbourne will advance to face the Bulldogs next Saturday afternoon while Newcastle will play the Tigers in a crucial home match.

NRL News Player of the Match
3 Points – Tino Fa’asuamaleaui – Big Tino dominated the Newcastle pack, running for 195 metres off 18 runs (2nd to Papenhuyzen, who had an 80 metre try in the first half). Nabbed a try at a crucial stage in the second half to seal the match.

2 Points – Brandon Smith – Was required to fill in at hooker when Cameron Smith left the field and ultimately set up the try that secured the win. The man nicknamed ‘The Wombat’ received great praise from coach Bellamy after the game.

1 Point – Ryan Papenhuyzen – The Storm fullback was solid at the back but broke the game apart in the first half with a sizzling run, leaving Kalyn Ponga in his wake on the way to the line.

Sea Eagles Too Strong for Gallant Cowboys

The Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles have prevailed 24-12 against the North Queensland Cowboys in an entertaining affair at Queensland Country Bank Stadium.

Josh Hannay was given a tough challenge in his head coaching debut with his young side matching up against a much-fancied Sea Eagles lineup who are fighting for a top eight spot.

The Cowboys looked set to defy an early onslaught from Manly but Curtis Sironen crashed over after seven minutes to land the first blow of the match.

Neither side gained any clear momentum through the following twenty minutes with errors stifling the attack of both sides.

However, Manly slowly began to regain control of possession and reaped the rewards through a Danny Levi dummy-half scoot.

Jack Gosiewski looked to have further extended the lead in the following set but was denied by the Bunker.

Kyle Feldt would have no such issues at the other end of the field, rising above Jorge Taufua to score. He then slotted the sideline conversion to cut the lead to six.

It was Feldt’s tenth four pointer of the year, making it five consecutive seasons with a double-digit try tally for the Cowboys winger.

Both sides struggled to break through following the break, but Brendan Elliot was fortunate to remain on the field after a potential professional foul on Kyle Feldt.

It was Manly who struck first however, with Daly Cherry-Evans crossing for his second try in as many weeks to extend the lead to 12.

As time ticked down the Cowboys weren’t without their chances, the greatest of which came through a Daejarn Asi grubber that was inexcusably spilled by Coen Hess over the line.

When Cade Cust crossed on the following set, the result appeared to be confirmed.

Francis Molo crashed over with ten minutes to go but his efforts proved to be little more than a consolation try for the Cowboys.

The luckless North Queensland fans in attendance were treated to the sight of Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow in full flight, gliding his way downfield in an impressive 80-metre run.

Unfortunately, his efforts were unrewarded.

Following the match, Manly coach Des Hasler was pleased with his team’s efforts, directing praise to his side’s ability to ‘weather a couple of difficult patches’ throughout the match when the Cowboys gained momentum.

Despite the loss, Josh Hannay remained upbeat in his first press conference as head coach. He said that his team’s performance was encouraging, but just not enough to get the job done on the night.

“I’ve been harping on the need to become more consistent around the tough parts of the game… we need to make sure that the last fortnight’s effort and attitude are the standard for us for the rest of the year” Hannay stated.

With tonight’s victory Manly will sneak back into the top eight, while the Cowboys remain in twelfth position.

Both clubs will now enjoy an eight day turnaround with the Sea Eagles playing against the Panthers and the Cowboys facing off against Canberra next Saturday night.

NRL News Player of the Match:
3 Points – Cade Cust – One try and a try assist was enough for Cust to secure the player of the match honours. He’s been exceptional since taking the place of Dylan Walker and will certainly challenge for the starting role moving forward.

2 Points – Addin Fonua-Blake – His addition was somewhat controversial, but there’s no doubting that Manly are a much better side with Fonua-Blake on the pitch. He racked up 228 metres on 17 runs to go along with 33 tackles.

1 Point – Jason Taumalolo – Taumalolo put in a typically tough performance tonight, putting the team on his back for 212 metres on 22 carries in addition to 43 tackles.