All posts by ZachM

Sharks wallop spirited Titans

Cronulla Sharks halfback Shaun Johnson

A five-try second half blitz proved the difference as the Cronulla Sharks defeated the Gold Coast Titans 40-10. 

The Titans had a number of last-minute changes which saw new recruit Corey Thompson move to the wing to cover Phillip Sami.

Tyrone Roberts returned from injury at fullback and rookie Beau Fermor start in place of Kevin Proctor.

A surprise choice in Bryce Cartwright was named in the centres over Brian Kelly.

The changes looked like they might have paid off early in the game when Thompson made a break down the left-wing, beating several Sharks players on the way to the try line.

But the bunker ruled that Tyrone Peachey knocked on in the lead-up and the try was overturned.

Five minutes later, Braden Hamlin-Uele opened the scoring for the Sharks.

Halfback Jamal Fogarty shot out of the line in an attempt to shutdown Matt Moylan, who threw a deft pass to put Hamlin-Uele in a position to bust over the line.

It wasn’t long until the Sharks were on the attack again after Roberts failed to stop a brilliant 40/20 from Blayke Brailey.

However, the Titans had a stroke of luck when a Shaun Johnson pass hit the deck.

Thompson scooped up the loose ball and ran the length of the field to score.

The terrible string of luck for Sharks fullback Moylan continued when he pulled up with what appeared to be another hamstring injury.

Moylan shuffled to the centres briefly, pushing Josh Dugan back to fullback.

It wasn’t long until Moylan succumbed and had to leave the field.

The Sharks recovered quickly hitting the lead again when Andrew Fifita scored off a Wade Graham offload.

The Sharks appeared to be getting on top but right before halftime, the Titans scored when Roberts and Cartwright combined to put Anthony Don over in the corner.

Ash Taylor missed the conversion, sending the Titans into the sheds trailing by 2.

The second half started perfectly for the Sharks who crossed over through Briton Nikora within minutes.

Nikora was set up by Johnson who put on a pass at the line reminiscence of their 2019 combination.

It was Johnson’s swift stepping which created the Sharks next try as well.

Johnson took on the line to beat two Titans defenders and offloaded for Brailey who busted through a tackle to score.

The flood gates opened when Chad Townsend was able to step back inside and run through untouched for an easy try.

Brailey then put interchange prop Royce Hunt over for his first ever NRL try.

The Sharks capped off the demolition with a try to Bryce Goodwin set up by a beautiful long ball from Townsend.

It will be back to the drawing board for the Titans who have a good chance of picking up their third win of the season against the Warriors next week.

The Sharks are beginning to build momentum with a third win in a row.

Moving forward, they won’t be helped by the injury to Moylan with a date with the Panthers around the corner.

Johnson’s experience and guile shone through and Sharks coach John Morris made sure to mention it.

“He is just starting to get the balance right, Shauny,” Morris said.

“He has worked so hard on his game and had a really solid pre-season so I was confident that he was going to have a good year.”

Despite the loss, Titans coach Justin Holbrook was ecstatic with the performance of rookie back-rower Beau Fermor.

“He was fantastic for us, Beau,” Holbrook said.

“Ideally, 60 minutes would have been perfect for him after he has only played one scrimmage game, last week, in the past 12 months.”

NRL News Player of the Game

3. Shaun Johnson

2. Blayke Brailey

  1. Braden Hamlin-Uele
Cronulla Sharks hooker Blayke Brailey

 

 

 

Cowboys score much-needed win over Knights

North Queensland Cowboys half Jake Clifford

The North Queensland Cowboys came into Round 7 desperate for a win after losing the last three games straight and got the win over the Newcastle Knights.

They were quite rightfully underdogs up against a Knights side that he been on roll and looked like they might finally deliver on their potential.

After weathering some early pressure from the Knights it was the Cowboys who scored first.

Quick hands from Scott Drinkwater and rookie fullback Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow created an overlap that resulted in Justin O’Neill crossing over for an easy four pointer.

The Cowboys aggressive defence and ruck speed forced the Knights into making multiple errors.

They eventually giving up a penalty, allowing Kyle Feldt to give the Cowboys an 8 point lead.

As a result of the Cowboys momentum, hooker Reece Robson busted through the Knights ruck defence, drawing in Kalyn Ponga to set up Tabuai-Fidow for his first NRL try.

Five minutes later, Jake Clifford took advantage of some soft Newcastle defence to break the line, beating Ponga and Kurt Mann, on his way to a stunning solo try.

It appeared as though the Knights were finally getting themselves into the game as the wrestled back some control over the last 10 minutes of the first half.

But due to some poor last tackle plays, they weren’t able to capitalise on that field position.

It was then Clifford again who made the Knights pay with a pin point bomb.

A flying Feldt beat Knights winger Edrick Lee to the ball to give the Cowboys a 26 – 0 lead at halftime.

The Knights, who hadn’t really played from behind at all this season, needed to be first to score after halftime.

They managed to do that when Tex Hoy crossed over after a Lachlan Fitzgibbon line-break opened up the Cowboys.

Any chance of the Knights making a come back was put to bed when the Cowboys scored a crucial try through a rampaging Coen Hess only minutes later.

The Knights fought hard to chase down the Cowboys.

They kept the hope alive through tries to Hymel Hunt, Kurt Mann and Gehamat Shibasaki.

But ultimately, the Knights couldn’t convert their opportunities in the final ten minutes.

That was in large part thanks to Jason Taumalolo who put in another monster performance, running 297 metres and making 31 tackles.

The Cowboys were able to close out the game to record their second win of the season, relieving pressure on coach Paul Green, at least for now.

Although they won’t be able to dwell on this game with the Eels just around the corner.

The Knights will need to regroup quickly with Manly on the horizon.

Cowboys coach Paul Green was pleased with how his side bounced back, knowing the last few weeks have been poor.

“I’m extremely proud because a lot of people had a lot of questions over us and rightly so,” Green said.

“Our performance wasn’t acceptable last week.

“But if you really care then where you show it is out on the paddock and we did that today.

“We were completely dominant in that first half.”

Not one to mince his words, Knights coach Adam O’Brien lamented his side for their complacency.

“We had a nine-day turnaround [between games] so we gave some players time off, which they deserved,” O’Brien said.

“… But I reckon it probably set the tone for our week. We weren’t prepared to roll the sleeves up and credit to the Cowboys, they were.

“They were willing to fight really hard for everything and I just think we wanted to get to the end result too quick.”

NRL News Player of the Game.

3 – Jake Clifford

2 – Jason Taumalolo

1 – Josh McGuire

North Queensland Cowboys lock Jason Taumalolo

Warriors produce near flawless performance to overpower tepid Dragons

New Zealand Warriors utility Kodi Nikorima

A near perfect New Zealand Warriors Warriors broke an NRL record on their way to an 18 – 0 shutout of the St George Illawarra Dragons.

The Warriors came into their round 3 clash with the Dragons with entire NRL community’s admiration for the sacrifices they have made to help make sure the game could restart.

But it’s fair to say there wasn’t too much expectation on the NZ side after a two month hiatus involving isolation, an injury crisis and even the flooding of their Gosford training ground.

Despite that, the Kiwi side started with intensity in their running game and defence.

The Dragons appeared to be caught off guard and the Warriors capitalised when Matt Dufty spilled a regulation kick from Blake Green.

Young Warriors prop Jaymane Taunoa-Brown was there to pounce,  crossing for his first NRL try.

The Warriors then crossed again through another rookie, Elisa Katoa.

Kodi Nikorima took the ball to the line and executed a perfect no look pass.

The resulting conversion gave the Warriors a 12-0 lead.

The last 15 minutes of the first half were a bit of an arm wrestle.

The Dragons had the majority of the ball through this period but couldn’t crack the Warriors defence.

The Warriors didn’t give them any thing either, taking a 100 percent completion rate into the halftime break.

The Dragons started the second half on attack but when Josh Kerr knocked on inches from the Warriors line, the momentum swung back the Kiwi side.

Minutes later, the Warriors kicked a penalty goal when Corey Norman was ruled to have tackled Roger Tuivasa-Sheck in the air in a try-saving play.

Nikorima then broke the line from halfway to set up a quick play of the ball through Green.

The livewire half took the line on again and crossed over to push the Warriors out to 18 – 0.

With about 15 minutes remaining, the Warriors broke an NRL record when they become the first team to complete 40/40 sets.

It was the time the Warriors held an opposition scoreless in fourteen years.

It was a thoroughly deserved victory for a Warriors side who had been through so much.

However, as good as the Warriors were, they were helped by a Dragons side who offered very little in attack.

The Dragons are now under real pressure after their third loss of the season and will need to regroup quickly if they are to turn this season around.

The Warriors, who are forced to be away from family during the ongoing pandemic, quickly became everyone’s second team.

Their resolve and tenacity all on show, drew nothing but praise from Warriors head coach Stephen Kearney.

“I was pretty pleased for the boys; really proud of the way they’ve gone about the last couple of months and endured a great deal,” Kearney said.

“It didn’t stop today, Peta [Hiku] come off after half an hour, we had to put Karl [Lawton] out in the centres.”

The hard work and effort applied by his side is what pleased Kearney most.

“The way they’ve responded the last couple of months, just got on with the job, that’s what I was most pleased about,” the Warriors coach continued.

“Worked really hard prior to game today, worked really hard during game and got some reward for it. That’s what I was most pleased for.”

NRL News Player of the Game

3. Kodi Nikorima (WAR)

2. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (WAR)

  1. Eliesa Katoa (WAR)
Young New Zealand Warriors forward Eliesa Katoa

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.