Promising Cronulla Sharks back-rower Jack Williams re-signs

Cronulla Sharks back-rower Jack Williams

Although a season-ending injury has ended his season, the Cronulla Sharks have re-signed back-rower Jack Williams on a 2-year deal.

Making his debut in round 11 of this season, injury unfortunately struck for the promising Williams.

However, his performances in those four games were enough to convince the club that he was deserving of a new deal.

“Unfortunately, Jack has a season ending injury,” said Sharks coach Shane Flanagan.

The few games he had in the top grade confirmed our belief that Jack is NRL player of the future.”

“The game time he had this year will only make him stronger and train harder in the off season ready for a big 2019.

I am excited about the future for Jack in a Sharks jumper.”

Making his debut was great for Williams but he also had a goal of re-signing with the club.

“It’s something I’ve been looking forward to for a bit now,” Williams said.

“Making my debut this year, I had a goal that I wanted to re-sign at the end of the season.

“I’m glad I’ve got this done and it makes it a bit sweeter after having this injury.”

His injury was a torn pectoral muscle that required surgery.

Suaia Matagi makes the move to England after signing with Huddersfield

Parramatta Eels prop Suaia Matagi

After a few seasons with the Parramatta Eels, Suaia Matagi will depart and head to England and join the Huddersfield Giants. 

Coached by former NRL player Simon Woolford, he was after a player with size, grunt and power.

“I was looking for some real grunt and aggression in the front row and Suaia will bring that and a whole heap more,” Woolford said.

“The fans will love his action packed style and he is a man that won’t take a backward step and he relishes the tough stuff up front.”

With more than 100 NRL games to his name, the Kiwi and Samoan international brings a wealth of experience to the Giants.

“We have a number of relatively younger front rowers in Dickinson, Smith and English who will benefit enormously from having a man like Suaia around them at training,” Woolford continued.

“On the pitch, his presence will bring confidence and leadership to the forward group.”

Matagi is pleased at the new adventure and looks forward to donning the Giants colours.

“I am extremely excited to take my football to the next level under the leadership of Coach Simon Woolford and I’m also looking forward to the challenge of playing in the English Super League,” Matagi said.

“Joining a proud Club like the Huddersfield Giants is a privilege and I will represent our fans to the best of my ability.”

Robbie Farah’s Wests Tigers return spoiled by Gold Coast Titans victory

Gold Coast Titans forward Jai Arrow

It was all about the triumphant return to Leichhardt Oval for Wests Tigers hooker Robbie Farah but it was the Gold Coast Titans who got the win.

With both sides needing wins to remain in touch with the top eight, it was a largely clinical Titans side that responded.

Moses Mbye also made his Tigers debut having signed mid-season and also played his last game against the Titans when at the Bulldogs.

It was the Wests Tigers who opened the scoring as Kevin Naiqama sliced through the Titans defence and raced away to score.

The Titans responded soon after, though, as Ryan James scored yet again, barging over from close range.

The teams then went tit-for-tat; first Tigers five-eighth Josh Reynolds produced a run of his own, confusing defenders to score.

This was then followed by a crafty run by Gold Coast Titans half and QLD hopeful Ashley Taylor, who opened up the Tigers defence.

The lean period then ensued as no try was scored for 33 minutes before young Titans half AJ Brimson broke the deadlock.

Try as they might to get back in the game, the Tigers had no answers for the Titans defence.

Instead, their defence failed to hold the Titans out, who scored two more tries.

Winger Anthony Don raced away to score a long-range try before Jai Arrow got a rare meat pie.

Tigers coach Ivan Cleary admits that the occasion got to his team and they failed to handle it.

“It was a big crowd and big occasion today and it must have got to us,” Cleary said.

“You’d think as some point we’d be able to correct it throughout the game. That second half we just couldn’t.”

“Any possession we had, we usually gave it back and usually in an encouraging position where we’d made a half-break.

“We weren’t prepared to take the tackle in many instances… not prepared to build pressure.”

Titans coach Garth Brennan says Taylor could do with some fine-tuning despite leading the NRL in try assists.

“For Ash, I think he’s more than capable of handling that role, you never even know until you get thrown in there,” Brennan said.

“He leads the competition with try assists which speaks for itself, to be honest.

“Ash is still working on that balance.

“I thought he was patchy at times tonight.

He came up with some good plays, he ran the ball for that try which is great and when he does that he exciting to watch, but a couple of plays he came up with, he’d probably like to do again.”

Player of the Game:

3. Jai Arrow

2. Ashley Taylor

  1. Ryan James

Milford the man as Broncos come-from-behind against Raiders

Brisbane Broncos five-eighth Anthony Milford

He has the talent and ability but this Brisbane Broncos win v the Canberra Raiders was special; because Anthony Milford stepped up.

It was not straight away, though, as the Brisbane Broncos had to overcome a 16-0 deficit to win.

The Raiders went into the break leading 16-0 with tries to Elliott Whitehead and Nick Cotric, and four goals to Jarrod Croker.

This is where the Jekyll and Hyde performance took a turn for the better.

After frustration brewed with errant kicks and woeful passes, the second half was the opposite.

Milford started proceedings with a lovely weighted floater to Corey Oates who did the rest to score.

The enigmatic half then turned provider again, this time kicking for back-rower Alex Glenn.

Jordan Kahu added a third out wide before the man of the moment did it all himself.

He jinked, weaved, darted and dodged his way over the line in a tremendous solo effort.

There was a special moment in the game; David Fifita became the first player born in the 2000’s to play in the NRL.

Despite their win, there is a lot for the Broncos to improve on in the eyes of Wayne Bennett.

“The season still has a long way to go and if we play like we played in the first half we won’t be in the competition towards the end of it, so we’ve got to get our act together for two halves,” Bennett said.

“We’ve been coming back all year. That’s not the first game we’ve come back in but it was probably one of our poorest performances in the first half.

“[The second half] reminded me of what we are capable of when we play the way we can play.”

The loss of Jack Wighton due to his off-field indiscretions were no issue in coach Ricky Stuart’s eyes.

“You saw the way we played tonight,  wasn’t a distraction.

“I’ve got a very tough bunch of kids there that handled the change late in the week.

“It had no bearing on the result. We should have won that game tonight. It was our doing in regards to why we didn’t.”

Player of the Game:

3. Anthony Milford

2. Josh Hodgson

  1. Corey Oates

Bulldogs regain winning feeling as Ponga is injured for Newcastle

Canterbury Bulldogs utility Kerrod Holland

The Canterbury Bulldogs may have won the game but the talking point will be about Newcastle Knights fullback Kalyn Ponga and his injury.

Ponga will still undergo further scans midweek, with the early diagnosis a possible hamstring tear.

For the Bulldogs, the mass overhaul and cultural shift got off to the best start possible.

With no Ponga for the Knights from the 15 minute mark, the Bulldogs were able to take advantage.

It was Reimis Smith and Kerrod Holland who combined, the latter scoring the first of his two tries.

The Knights did hit back and level things up, as Jack Cogger’s kick bounced back towards them before Connor Watson scored.

Newcastle were then their own worst enemy; a dropped ball and a penalty gifted a bullocking Holland his second try.

There was a second leveler for the Knights but it came at an agonising cost.

Slade Griffin, passing to Herman Ese’ese who scored, hyperextended his knee and suffered an ACL injury.

The Knights would then hit the lead as Watson sliced through brittle Dogs defence to give the Novocastrians the half time lead.

The Bulldogs went back-to-back upon the resumption; Smith getting a try of his own before Jeremy Marshall-King scored his first NRL try.

Two further tries in the half iced the game; Fa’amanu Brown scoring before captain Josh Jackson scored in the corner.

The Knights had their chances but a lack of execution and errors cruelled their chances.

Despite going on to lose the game, there were some positives for Knights coach Nathan Brown.

“I thought we competed and our forwards worked really hard to force errors and get us back in the game, but it was more our decision-making in attack that cost us,” Brown said.

“We gave ourselves some opportunities to score, and we probably didn’t get our decision-making quite right and Canterbury held us out for a relatively lengthy period.

“At 16-12 at half-time, I was really happy given we lost what we did.”

For Bulldogs coach Dean Pay, there were just too many positives to mention.

“It’s been a long time coming for sure,” Pay said.

“That game against the Gold Coast at Belmore, it wasn’t us – tonight we spoke about it and prepared better.

“There was a lot of them [positives]. There was two kids there playing their first game of NRL tonight [Lachlan Lewis and Ofahiki Ogden] and they contributed at a high standard.

“We have got some young blokes. Reimis Smith played well and Will Hopoate was fantastic at fullback.

Player of the Game:

3. Kerrod Holland

2. Connor Watson

  1. Reimis Smith

Further injuries overshadow Manly’s upset win over Penrith

Manly Sea Eagles fullback Tom Trbojevic

Their injury toll is astronomical as it is but the Manly Sea Eagles have suffered more, despite an upset win over the Penrith Panthers.

Dylan Walker was the main casualty, suffering a knee injury. Although, he was cleared of an ACL which is some solace.

Penrith themselves were hit by injury as form back-rower Viliame Kikau went down clutching a knee after a collision.

The game itself was a comedy of errors as both sides struggled to hold onto the ball.

Veteran back-rower Joel Thompson showed everyone how it is done, though, charging over to score the game’s first try.

Prior to that, the only scoring chance was a penalty goal to Penrith five-eighth James Maloney.

Try as they might to score, both sides were simply calamitous with the ball in hand.

There was eventually more points as Dallin Watene-Zelezniak charged like a front-rower to barge over and score.

Another Penrith error proved costly as Tom Trbojevic’s cut-out ball found Matthew Wright to score.

Another Maloney penalty goal locked the scores up at 18-10.

Manly half Trent Hodkinson then scored the next eight points; first a penalty goal and then a converted try.

Manly’s cause was helped when Nathan Cleary was sent to the sin-bin.

Penrith coach Anthony Griffin lamented his side’s performance and admits they have some soul-searching to do.

“Today was a poor performance for us as a club, it’s not what we pride ourselves on,” coach Anthony Griffin said.

“We need to get together and regroup, believe in ourselves and play better than what we did today.

“We’ve just got to have a really honest review and I think next week in a way, we’ll have a group of guys that are together the whole week, it’ll be an uninterrupted week.”

Manly coach Trent Barrett admits that his side’s performance was not pretty but it was dogged and determined.

“It was really gutsy,” Barrett said.

“It wasn’t pretty.

“We turned over a lot of footy. But we hung in and hung in and hung in.

“I’m just really proud of the players that they’ve stuck together over the past month. It’s been difficult.”

Player of the Game:

3. Tom Trbojevic

2. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak

  1. Joel Thompson

 

Late Smith field goal gives Storm victory over Roosters in Adelaide

Melbourne Storm prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona

Cameron Smith has stepped up when it matters, slotting the winning field goal to give the Melbourne Storm a narrow victory over the Sydney Roosters.

The Adelaide Oval fans thought they were in for a dour contest with a 2-all half-time scoreline.

This quickly changed, however, as the second half pace livened up and became more frenetic.

Although the Storm won, the big talking point will be injuries to several Origin players.

Roosters and QLD prop Dylan Napa strained ligaments in his knee, with Blues winger Josh Addo-Carr injuring an ankle.

Field goals are the norm at Adelaide Oval; the last clash between the two sides at the venue was also decided by a point (25-24).

With defence holding firm for sixty minutes, a penalty goal apiece were the only points scored up until then.

Hulking Storm prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona had one thought in his mind; scoring a try.

He barged over and Smith converted to give the Storm an 8-2 lead.

The Roosters answered soon after as Matt Ikuvalu scored a try with Mitchell converting.

The Roosters and Blues centre will be disappointed, though, for he missed a penalty goal from right in front that hit the upright.

From there, Smith stepped up. 40m out, his side wanting the win and he calmly slotted the field goal.

Despite making a few errors that could have cost them the match, Storm coach Craig Bellamy praised Asofa-Solomona.

“Nels [Asofa-Solomona] has a bit of game like that every now and again,” Bellamy said.

I thought other than his errors, he was really strong for us to be quite honest.”

“We’ve got a couple of big guys out for us at the moment like Jesse [Bromwich] and Sam [Kasiano]. So I thought he did a pretty good job.

“They were pretty critical drops but he battled on hard after that considering what he’s been through this week.”

The missed penalty goal from in front did not leave Roosters coach Trent Robinson impressed.

“They are the small moments in game, where you need to take them,” Robinson said.

“In a tight game, a point or two can make a big difference in the end.”

Player of the Game:

3. Nelson Asofa-Solomona

2. Sio Siua Taukeiaho

  1. Cameron Smith

Last-gasp Lee try gives Sharks win over Warriors

Cronulla Sharks five-eighth Matt Moylan

From villain to hero; Edrick Lee saved the day for the Cronulla Sharks with a late try to help defeat the New Zealand Warriors.

The 18-15 win at Mt Smart Stadium gives the Sharks some great momentum.

It almost did not happen, though, as a Shaun Johnson field goal put the Warriors up 15-14.

An offside call in favour of the Sharks than ensued and the rest, as they say, is history.

It was the Warriors who burst out of the blocks early, catching the Sharks off guard.

Tries to Solomone Kata and Anthony Gelling gave the Warriors a 12-0 lead.

The Sharks refused to lay down, though, going on to score two tries of their own.

The first from boom centre Jesse Ramien before Lee scored the first of his two tries.

The back and forth continued as both sides tried to break the deadlock.

It eventually came courtesy of a Chad Townsend penalty goal before Johnson levelled it up yet again.

Johnson’s field goal put the Warriors ahead but it would be the Sharks day courtesy of Lee’s late try.

There was a further blow for the Warriors with Bunty Afoa forced from the field with an elbow injury.

Warriors coach Stephen Kearney lamented the short turnaround that his players had to endure.

“It is tough, I’ll just leave it at that,” the Warriors coach said.

Kearney was also miffed about some of the decisions made during the game.

“I will need some explaining about a few calls … my opinion doesn’t count though, it is the person right next to it [touch judge] who matters,” he continued.

“In key moments, we need to better … we came out of the box early, but overall we didn’t execute as we would have liked.

“We were very unlucky in the end.”

Sharks coach Shane Flanagan is pleased with the resiliency shown by his side to get the win.

“I thought we gave them 12 points early, but after that we were outstanding for 70 minutes,” he said.

“I knew it would be a tight game and I felt it would come down to the last 10 minutes.

“It was a cracking game of footy, thankfully we won it.”

Player of the Game:

3. Matt Moylan

2. Isaiah Papali’i

  1. Paul Gallen

St George Illawarra Dragons use their get-out-of-jail free card to defeat Parramatta Eels

St George Illawarra Dragons fullback Matt Dufty

It was a game the Parramatta Eels should have won, but didn’t. Instead, the St George Illawarra Dragons snatched victory at the death.

Two tries in the final three minutes gave the Dragons a narrow 20-18 win over the Eels at Wollongong’s WIN Stadium.

The Eels came out with the fire in the belly and were on top of the Dragons, winning the forwards battle.

Unable to capitalise early on, the Dragons then took the lead after Gareth Widdop slotted a penalty goal.

Both sides had chances to score immediately following that but it was a play that no-one saw coming that produced the first points.

Tim Mannah, the Eels much maligned prop in the eyes of their fans, made a rare line-break and found Bevan French inside to score.

The Eels then made it a quick-fire double; Corey Norman and Nathan Brown combining with the forward scoring.

Just before half-time, though, the Dragons would hit back with a try involving luck and some razzle-dazzle.

Tim Lafai started it with a break, Nene Macdonald then kicked infield before Widdop won an aerial battle.

His tap-back found Lafai before a neat pass back on the outside allowed Matt Dufty to score.

The Dragons started the second half as they did the first; flat and in all sorts.

The Eels extended their lead further when Jarryd Hayne powered his way over to score.

The Dragons dug deep and showed resolve, though, with Euan Aitken scoring and then Dufty nabbing his second.

Eels coach Brad Arthur says his side were the better team, they have just forgotten how to win.

“It was outstanding from the boys tonight, I thought we were the better team but it is probably why we are sitting last at the moment because we managed to lose that game,” Arthur said.

“We have got eight games to go, we need to make sure we play with plenty of pride, and that effort and intensity I saw them play with tonight, that needs to happen all the time.

“That is a must, that is non-negotiable and we have spoken about it. If we don’t do that, if we don’t play with that effort we saw tonight and that attitude, we don’t give ourselves a chance.”

Eels co-captain Mannah said despite the loss, the side will take confidence from their performance heading into bye week.

“For 70-75 minutes ,we felt like we were in control of the game. It would have been awesome if we could have won that game heading into a bye next week,” Mannah said.

There was nothing but praise for his side’s resolve from Dragons coach Paul McGregor, who knows they refused to give in.

“Big moments; big players. They got the job done when it was needed so that was great,” McGregor said.

“There are a lot of blokes who have played some high level footy in the last few days.

“Gareth and the boys have been travelling from a different country, with different time lines and dates, and Leeson didn’t play because of that.

The Origin guys played four days ago in the toughest environment and had to back up on a Thursday. ”

Player of the Game:

3. Matt Dufty

2. Jarryd Hayne

  1. Euan Aitken

Panthers retain Campbell-Gillard on new long-term deal

Penrith Panthers prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard

In a boost for the Penrith Panthers, prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard has signed a new long-term deal. 

The deal will run until the end of the 2024 season, with its length worrying some fans.

For the man nicknamed RCG, it was an easy decision. He wants to play for the Panthers his entire career.

“Panthers is the club I’ve always wanted to play for and I’m so thankful to have the opportunity to make a long-term commitment,” Campbell-Gillard said.

“The fact my future is now secure means I can completely focus on building and improving my game moving forward.

Eager to repay the faith the club has shown in him, Campbell-Gillard looks forward to playing alongside the club’s youngsters.

“The club has shown a lot of faith in me with this deal and now it’s up to me to repay that faith with my performances,” the prop continued.

“There is so much young talent coming through the ranks here at Panthers.

“It’s going to be very exciting over the next few years and I can’t wait to be a part of it.”

A local junior, Campbell-Gillard has won premierships at the NYC level in 2013 and the NSW Cup level in 2014.

Making his debut in 2015, he won the Ben Alexander Rookie of the Year Award.

More recently, he has represented both Australia and NSW.

There was nothing but praise for Campbell-Gillard from the club.

“Reagan Campbell-Gillard is a tremendous story for our club,” Panthers Executive General Manager Phil Gould AM said.

“He is a local junior who has come through the Panthers development pathways and is now playing the game at the very highest level for NSW and Australia.

“The club is delighted that Reagan has made such a significant commitment to Panthers.”

Gould sees leadership qualities in Campbell-Gillard and knows he will be an asset for the next generation of juniors.

“He is developing outstanding leadership qualities and will be a source of inspiration for all youngsters in the Panthers system,” Gould continued.

“We are blessed to have him in our club.”

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