All posts by ZachM

Storm grind out tough win over the Sharks

Melbourne Storm captain and hooker Cameron Smith

The Melbourne Storm grind out a 12-10 win against the Cronulla Sharks, off the back of a brilliant defensive display.

The first 40 minutes was dominated by big hits and hard running as both teams tested each other and battled for ascendancy in the middle.

The Storm took an early penalty goal to take the lead in the sixth minute.

But for the rest of the half, the Sharks had the better of the field position, helped in part by penalties and errors from the Storm.

While Melbourne couldn’t get out of second gear with the ball, in hand they didn’t miss a beat in defence.

The Storm defended their line set after set, frustrating the Sharks.

Shaun Johnson, who looked dangerous when he ran the ball, couldn’t execute his passing game and had to settle for two penalty goals for a two-point lead at halftime.

The arm wrestle continued in the second half with the Storm taking an early penalty goal to level the scores.

Mid-way through the second half, fatigue set in and the game opened up.

Off the back of a linebreak from fullback Will Kennedy, Sharks hooker Blayke Brailey set up Billy Magoulias for the first try of the game.

It was a smart piece of play from Brailey who grubbered through the line after recognising that there was no fullback behind the line.

The Storm were able to draw level 10 minutes later when Cameron Smith put front-rower Tui Kamikamica over right next to the posts.

When the Sharks were penalised with four minutes left to play, Smith coolly slotted the goal to take the lead and the win.

NRL News Player of the Game

3. Cameron Smith

2. Blayke Brailey

1. Aaron Woods

It’s the Benji show as Tigers open season win over Dragons

Wests Tigers veteran half Benji Marshall

A Benji Marshall masterclass sees the Wests Tigers edge out the St George Illawarra Dragons 24-14 in a see-sawing final match of Round 1.

In what will be the last game for the foreseeable future where fans are permitted to attend, the Dragons didn’t take long to give them something to cheer about.

In the Dragons first set of the game, hulking winger Mikaele Ravalawa busted out of two tackles to make a length of the field break down the right flank.

After kicking, he beat Tigers fullback Corey Thompson to the ball but couldn’t quite control the putdown.

The bunker ruled Thompson had illegally interfered with the Ravalawa resulting in a penalty try.

The Tigers had to defend their line for the next period of the game before a momentum change saw them go down the other end.

An offload under the posts by interchange prop Thomas Mikaele saw a quick shift to the right where Benji Marshall was able to grubber for David Nofoaluma who scored in the corner.

Marshall converted from the sideline to level the scores at six all.

The wet weather brought with it handling errors and the game descended into a bit of an arm wrestle before Thompson let the ball slip out of hands in front of the posts.

His opposite number Lomax scooped it up for an easy try.

Lomax didn’t stay far from the action, knocking on from a Marshall bomb to put the Tigers on the attack just before halftime.

The Dragons survived a couple of sets defending their line to retain their 12 – 8 lead going into halftime.

The Dragons took a penalty goal early in the second half to push their lead out to 6 points.

It didn’t take the Tigers long to level things up.

Off the back of some quick play of the balls from Twal and Mikaele, Marshall took on the line and crashed over himself to score.

The Tigers then struck again through ex-Dragon Luciano Leilua who managed to beat Lomax, and the dead-ball line, to score off another pinpoint Marshall grubber.

A frantic final 20 minutes saw the Dragons have a number of chances to come back, but due to errors and good defence from the Tigers’ they couldn’t convert any of them.

In the end, the Tigers capped off a 24-14 win when Nofoaluma strolled over for his second try of the game with 30 seconds left to play.

NRL News Player of the Game

3. Benji Marshall

2. David Nofoaluma

1. Thomas Mikaele

Warriors 2020: reason for hope or misplaced faith?

2019 was a year to forget for the New Zealand based club.

A messy off-season divorce with superstar Shaun Johnson was always going to make it difficult to build on a 2018 finals berth.

While a 13th place finish is well below expectations, there were some glimmers of hope for Kiwi fans.

2019 saw the emergence of Ken Maumalo who had a breakout season, averaging 190 metres per game and scoring 17 tries on his way to Dally M winger of the year.

Captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck took his game to another level by shouldering much of the attack on top of his already brilliant yardage and defensive efforts.

New Zealand Warriors captain and fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck

Unfortunately, a quiet off-season on the recruitment front hasn’t given fans much to get excited about for the 2020 season.

The roster is largely unchanged with Wayde Egan the only signing after Blake Ayshford’s retirement and the departure of Isaac Luke, Tevita Satae and Ligi Sao.

There were several high profile recruitment bids that failed.

Most notably a monster offer to Brisbane Broncos second-rower David Fifita and a rumoured $500,000 per season offer to untested Melbourne forward Tino Fa’asuamaleaui.

The forward pack has been a problem area for the club over the last few seasons.

New Zealand Warriors utility Jazz Tevaga

Failure to recruit a big name forward in combination with off-season surgery for Jazz Tevaga means that the pack looks to be a key area of concern again to start 2020.

The return of Tohu Harris to full fitness is one thing that does offer some hope.

Harris’ creativity and defence on the left edge were missed in the back half of the season after he suffered a foot injury in Round 14.

The departure of Isaac Luke leaves a selection headache at hooker.

Nate Roache has been touted as the future in the 9 jersey for a few seasons now but hasn’t been able to keep on the park after a terrible run of injuries.

If fully fit, he is likely to be the first choice. Karl Lawton and new recruit Egan will also be pushing for the starting spot.

The good

Kodi Nikorima provided some spark after a mid-season switch from the Broncos.

After his first full pre-season with the club, he will hopefully be able to take a bigger role in the attack.

New Zealand Warriors half Kodi Nikorima

Although the first step for Nikorima is beating out young gun Chanel Harris-Tavita to partner Blake Green in the halves.

We can also expect RTS, who has been visiting training facilities in the USA during the off-season, to turn in another quality year and lead by example.

The bad

The Warriors conceded on average 23.9 points per game in 2019.

Grand finalists the Sydney Roosters and Canberra Raiders conceded 15.2 and 15.6 respectively.

Kearney must overhaul the defence massively if the Warriors are to be any chance to making the finals, let alone challenging for the premiership.

The ugly

Speaking of Steven Kearney, the head coach finds himself under pressure going into the 2020 season.

While he publicly has the support of CEO Cameron George, that could all change very quickly if the season starts poorly.

New Zealand Warriors coach Stephen Kearney

Kearney is going into his 4th season as head coach and the on-field results seemed to go backward in 2019 after the club re-signed him on a 3-year deal.

While chopping and changing coaches hasn’t exactly worked for the club in the past, new owners demand results.

Kearney may find himself out of the job before seasons end if the club is looking like missing the eight.

Predicted finish

There is enough spark in players like RTS, Harris-Tavita, and Nikorima to ensure they will play some exciting footy at times this season.

But the unsettled halves, lack of experience at hooker and a forward pack that doesn’t stack up against the best sides in the competition mean that another bottom four finish is on the cards for the Warriors.