NRL News This Week

What’s coming up this week on NRL News;

* Latest NRL Tables after Round 14 Finishes
* We discuss the Monday Night Football Match between Canberra and Newcastle
* The now famous ‘Grubber Report’ reviewing NRL Round 14
* We look at the NRL Top 8 and make some predictions for NRL season end 2007
* Penrith Panthers – we discuss why things are woeful in the west in 2007.

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NRL Round 14 Sunday Summary

Eels beat Dragons in an ugly one
Eels 20 def Dragons 12

The Eels accounted for the Dragons today at Parramatta Stadium after enduring a dour affair where both sides looked like Jim Beam Cup outfits battling for victory at a suburban park.

The Eels poor record in day games looked set to continue with limited possession early and a severe lack of focus during the first 3/4 of the match. Entering half time at 2-0 it was certainly a low scoring affair – and when the Dragons scored midway through the second half it looked like it might be enough to take the match.

However, a late surge from the Eels on the back of spirit from some tough Mark Riddell charges and an impressive match from young forward Josh Cordoba – enabled the home side to skip away from the Dragons by a safe buffer.

Its hard to say a lot of nice things about either side, with both guilty of bombing certain tries and taking poor options at crucial stages. The kicking game from both halves was average and the frustration nearly boiled over – with players coming together for several melees.

The Dragons can take heart in the fact that Jason Ryles completed a full game without injury and any major errors – hopefully the big forward can gain back the confidence that previously made him one of the best forwards in the country. Richie Rich played well again for the Dragons, and complemented Soward well – the combination looks to have a future if the forwards can lay better platforms.

The Eels looked to be carrying some minor injuries with Brett Finch and Eric Grothe hobbling at times and just doing enough to get by, the Eels also lost workhorse Daniel Wagon prior to kickoff with the veteran having a bad case of the flu. The Eels do miss the roving utility as he plays a good sweeping role in defence and is very settled in attack – allowing the Eels to get the most out of their set plays.

The Eels now move back into the top 4 and have 16 points with a bye still in hand. The Dragons remain alone on the foot of the ladder – with only 10 points for the year.

Titans tough it out, to pip Tigers
Gold Coast Titans 16 def Wests Tigers 14

The Wests Tigers were upset over at Campbelltown Stadium with the Gold Coast Titans just doing enough to take the points in a topsy turvey affair.

Ironically it was the return of Scott Prince and Anthony Laffranchi to Tiger town that caused the upset win. Prince was at his scheming best, and when he put on his trademark show and go 5 times across field to setup a Titans try – it was an old Tiger move that came back to burn them. Laffranchi was a workhorse up front, getting through a tonne of tackles and giving the Tigers forwards headaches all day.

The Tigers were looking good in the first period but seemed to go flat in the latter half of the game. Matt Rogers did his bit, with a double swag of tries to the visitors and in the end, the 16 point haul was just enough.

The Tigers attacked hard in the final 10 to close the 6 point gap, scoring a try through brutal winger – Taniela Tuiaki. Tuiaki is an awesome sight in full stride, Matt Rogers must have had nightmares as the big, strong winger charged at him to score in the final 10 minutes. There was no way anyone could have stopped the big unit from 10 metres out.

The Tigers then threw in Shannon O’Donnell to take the kick at goal, opting not to use sharp shooter Dean Collis. Collis had missed some earlier shots, but previously his 100% record showed he had the credentials to make the kick. The move proved to be the wrong one, with O’Donnell missing from the sideline – leaving the Tigers 2 points adrift.

It was the one that got away for Wests, they remain on 16 points and the Titans now move to the same amount. The NRL Points Ladder table now hosting a few teams on 16, Eels, Cowboys, Tigers, Titans. The winner of tomorrow nights match Canberra or Newcastle will also join the brigade on 16.

Roosters kill Panthers in last 30 seconds

A plucky Sydney Roosters side tonight ‘got out of jail’ – with Mitchell Pearce scoring a try in the final 30 seconds of the match to steal the win.

Pearce stripped Gower one on one and raced away to score a try that will surely tear the heart out of Matt Elliott and his Panthers.

In a match that didn’t really reach any great heights, it seemed Penrith would walk away safe winners after some controversy early on. Sadly we saw some ‘milking’ of penalities and Paul Aiton faking injury to get possession. The NRL must intervene now to prevent more of this.

The Roosters winning 24-20.

In North Queensland, the Melbourne Storm blew through the tropics and crushed all hope – with the Storm putting on a clinic, wiping the floor 58-12 with the hapless Cowboys. Graham Murray, still reeling from the NSW Origin loss must now try and rebuild confidence and keep the Cowboys season on the rails.

The Storm were brilliant across the park, with most players looking dangerous with every touch. The only blemish being a selfish charge from Israel Folaou which probably prevented more points. Folaou choosing not to pass to open support players in the hope he could score himself. The Storm rested Dallas Johnson and Brett White but were still formidable, new recruit Clint Newton having a strong game and scoring his first try for his new club.

Braith Anasta Origin Pressure

John Chelsea

NSW State of Origin five eight Braith Anasta continues to feel the media pressure along with former super star Jamie Lyon as the fallout from State of Origin 2 continues.

Anasta has been trashed publically by former Origin hooker Ben Ellias. Ellias claims that Anasta did not ‘put in’ during his game time for the NSW Blues. The media in Sydney went into frenzy after Ellias made the statement ‘Anasta and Lyon should hand back their paycheques for Origin 2.’

I think in this instance Braith Anasta has been hard done by. Regardless of performance, the committment of Braith Anasta simply cannot be questioned. Love him or hate him, the guy played his guts out and soldiered on with a broken hand for a good part of the match.

After Origin, there is always plenty of emotion. The NSW representatives were beaten by smarter, more skilfull opposition. The 26 players on the field at all times gave every ounce of their ability – but frankly from some that skill level wasn’t good enough to dominate.

The Anasta complaints from Ellias are ill-directed, Benny should be questioning coach Graham Murray as to why Anasta wasn’t told to leave the field once the hand was broken. While valliant of Braith to soldier on, an injury such as this – is just enough to give the opposition a slight edge. With Greg Bird sitting idly on the sideline, he should have been injected immediately after half time to give thrust and mongrel to a tiring backdrop.

There were a lot of coaching substitutions that were questionable during NSW Origin campaign in game 1 and game 2. When looking to next year and a possible new coach, who is there on offer that really has the nous?

Tim Sheens? Exceptional player management and rotation, but probably not the personality for Origin passion.

Brian Smith? Tactical Expert. His school teacher style may put doubt into Origin players.

Ricky Stuart? Perfectionst. Players respect Ricky, but would they die for him?

The only real choice is Phil Gould.

Gould is the only one who can combine the skill of correct selection, rotation and injection of pride and passion that NSW so dearly crave. Gould and his war stories are well known. It is said Gould can spin a yarn before a game, or at half time and have players eating up his every word. Gould lives and breathes NSW and Origin – his passion cannot be questioned.

Phil, we need you baby. Sign up and lead us back to victory.

Manly and Broncos win Friday Night NRL

The victorious Queensland Origin crew backed up for Brisbane tonight and accounted for the Bulldogs at Telstra Stadium. The Brisbane Broncos did the job with a 19-12 victory in front of a small Sydney crowd.

Over at Brookvale, the fortress that is – continued to be. With the gritty Manly side of 2007 staying rock solid and keeping a South Sydney side tryless for 80 minutes. Manly running out winners 14-2, and moving back to the top of the NRL 2007 Premiership ladder. The Manly side of 2007 continues to impress with bulletproof defence, and the rise and rise of Brett Stewart spirals on. Tonight veteran beaver Menzies was back in Maroon and scored off his first touch, a good confidence builder for Beaver – while conditions weren’t ideal, it was a good defence based game for the 33 year old to ease back into. Souths continue to struggle in attack, with limited options and a playing roster continuing to feel the effects of injury and limited depth. I feel Souths are beginning to realise the full impact of the David Kidwell loss, while Kidwell isn’t noted for scoring a tonne of tries – simply his presence and passion are able to drive the players around him. The next three weeks are huge for the Bunnies, they face the improving and solid Sharks, then the Knights away and finally the Melbourne Storm – games that Jason Taylor must already be worried about.

NRL News will bring you more detail on tonights games and other weekend matches in the coming days. We are also looking for more comments from readers, how is your side travelling? We want to hear your opinion, so send us more emails at: NRLfeedback@gmail.com

Brisbane 19 (T Carroll, J Hodges, S Michaels tries; C Parker 2 conversions, 1 penalty goal; D Lockyer 1 field goal)Bulldogs 12 (D Millard, S B Williams tries; H El Masri 2 conversions)

Manly 14 (S Menzies, B Stewart tries; J Lyon 2 conversions, 1 penalty goal)South Sydney 2 (N Merritt 1 penalty goal)

State of Origin 2 Reviewed

In the NSW camp, a devestated NRL News reporter ‘The Grubber’ – casts his eye over State of Origin Game 2.

The Grubber is angry and he wants answers, here is his expert review:

In the interests of full disclosure I should start by saying that I didn’t attend the game. Origin is best watched on TV, where you get a real sense of the physicality of the contest. And I hate the Olympic Stadium. Never feels like Origin out there. Too far from the action, too quiet, too sterile. Is there any way we can get this event back to the SFS? Imagine how good that would be? 45,000 people crammed in, great atmosphere and plenty of pubs to fill before kick-off.

The Homebush Hoodoo is dead now anyway so that can’t be an excuse anymore. Sure, we’d have to raise prices a bit, but with the additional corporate interest that would be attracted by having one of the biggest games of the year right next to the CBD, I think a premium could be charged.

Anyway, on to the game itself. Gus let loose with his usual pre-game spiel. “Origin is special, it is the pinnacle of human achievement, mankind will never do any better” etc and Tim Gilbert (whoever that is) was assigned the job of interviewing Brett and Glenn Stuart’s old man. Mr Stewart looked pretty uncomfortable in his Volcom “Hoodie”, which surely must have been a loaner from one of the Stewart boys. Predictably Dad came up from the Gong on the day and having been unprepared for the chill of the western suburbs must have borrowed the offending garment from one of his boys. Unfortunately, he is too old a man to be wearing a hooded sweatshirt. In fact, no man should probably ever wear a hooded sweatshirt.

The Blues got a great reception when they ran out and I almost allowed myself to think that the crowd might be able to have an impact on this one. I certainly hoped that they’d inspire the Blues into an old-fashioned Donnybrook in the opening exchanges. Of course, I was sadly disappointed.

Where was the biffo? Couldn’t Willie have thrown a haymaker to wipe the grin off Petrols-seventy-cents-a-litre’s face? The lack of mongrel all seems to stem from a “lack of hate” in Origin. It stands to reason I suppose. These guys are professional athletes. Where is the incentive in trying to split some other bloke’s skull open anyway? It could mean a suspension, loss of contractual payments, and perhaps more importantly, a target on your head for every other Origin game you play. Worse still, you could cop a lucky punch and miss some club games yourself, which might impact on your next deal.

Maybe we need to start drafting in some talented CRL (that’s Country Rugby League for the ignorant) players. Just a couple of blokes who could come off the bench and open a can of whoop-ass on the QLD forwards. Right hook to Carl Webb, uppercut to Tony Carroll. And as for you Brent Tate? Well no one wears a neck brace in Group 6, harden up!

The Blues were pretty solid in the first ten. The kicking game was much improved under Kimmorley and the forwards seemed to be going forward this time. Possession started to favour Queensland after that, but still, NSW kept their resolve and continued to make some solid gains on each set. Kevin “Shayne” Hayne kept things flowing (as his mentor Billy Harrigan would have it), and some brilliant awareness from debutant Brett Stewart opened the scoring. Unlike his father, Brett looked more than comfortable in his Blue jersey. In fact, he owned it last night. He might as well change his surname to “Steward” such was his excellent custody of all matters back field. He only proved what Manly-Warringah fans have known for a long time, the kid is something special. With a little bit more time in camp (and with a halfback willing to push the pass) he might have been able to inject himself into the backline on offence and raise some real questions.”

The Queensland try to Inglis was softer than the NSW forwards in game one. It was a real creampuff. I don’t know whether it was King again rushing in too soon from his wing, or Lyon rushing up and leaving a gap. Either way, it smacked of pretty poor coaching (but that’s a whole column in itself) and there is probably not much point in dwelling on it.

I thought the Blues were pretty lucky to get out of the half at 6-6. They never really looked like scoring (and that includes the King effort in the corner) and they suffered from a lack of creativity that obviously dogged them in the second half. There were some positive signs in the first half for NSW. Carroll was well subdued by the Blues and now looks like he is really just in the QLD team for novelty purposes. A kind of historical anachronism to give the fans some hope that there might be a fight. Likewise Carl Webb was contained, who with his African style earrings looks like a bogan Central Coast fashion victim.I don’t know what Graham Murray said to his side at halftime, but it can’t have been all that inspiring.

They continued to make the same mistakes in the second stanza and were pushing passes that were never on. Hoffman was horrendous on that front. He looked completely overawed. Cameron Smith continued to run like Todd Carney evading the Police and showed Buderus up as an old hack trying desperately to cling on to his former glory. The Johns brothers naturally did their best to talk up their mate “Bedsy” but I think most people probably saw through that. Farrah needs to be tested for Game III. If we can’t roll the dice then, when can we? Plus I’d love to see the Tigers have to suffer some kind of burden during Origin. They seem to get away awfully easy with their team of “almost quite there but not yet” players.

Thankfully the half-time interview with Ben Ikin was brief. It was in fact very brief for me. I switched the channel as soon as I saw his dopey face. Notice how he looks like a criminal whose just been busted on COPS? He has that same, deer in headlights, “what am I doing here?” expression.”

Overall I found the second half to be a pretty dour contest. There wasn’t a lot of creativity amongst the halves and heaps of dummy-half running and one-out play. And that was just the Queenslanders. NSW were worse with their flat play and almost no lateral ball movement when it counted. That’s what happens when you shove a bloke who doesn’t even want to play 5/8 at his own club into the number 6. Bird wasn’t much better at 5/8 but with a bit more game time he might have an impact.

Kimmorley found plenty of space with his long range kicking, but his 5th tackle options (when he managed not to get caught with the ball on the 4th) were pretty unimaginative and I just got the feeling that he was so concerned with not screwing up and losing the game that he wasn’t prepared to take the risks necessary to win the game. That probably sums up the NSW effort from my perspective. No one really tried to win it. Even in the dying stages (and they had about three attempts to try and win), every single member of the side was just desperately offloading the ball so that they wouldn’t be caught with it when time or tackles ran out.

Steve Price should have been found guilty of a professional foul for just generally trying to kill momentum and waste time. And his swan dive when marking Luke Bailey was a stunning bit of hypocrisy for a man who prides himself on playing the game tough. Perhaps the most despicable moment of the entire evening came after the match. I couldn’t believe Meninga getting stuck into the ref – after they’d won! I half expected him to break down and claim “I can’t do this anymore” before storming out of the press conference the same way he ended his political career.

Changes will be made. They have to be. All I wanna see is a little more aggression and a bit of flamboyance. Is that too much to ask?

Yours in league,
The Grubber

NRL Round 13 Review and Power Rankings

(For Round 14 NRL Team LineupsClick Here)

It’s that time of the week again, when we introduce ‘The Grubber’ – the man even the media fear. The Grubber reviews and power ranks each team from last weekends games. From predicting riots in Townsville to giving Paul Gallen the new title of ‘Lay Down Sally’ – The Grubber gives us the lot. For those that haven’t sent their feedback to the Grubber already – feel free to send in your thoughts via email: NRLfeedback@gmail.com

NRL Power Rankings Week 13
By The Grubber

1. Melbourne: Hung in without their stars to win a crucial away fixture. Have gone a long way toward securing the minor premiership with Sunday’s victory. Will only grow in confidence when Origin talent returns and still have bye up their sleeve. Power score: 9/10, Number of time delaying tactics employed by Clint Newton in first game with new club: 5.

2. Wests Tigers: Bounced back reasonably well to beat strong emotion from Newcastle in “feel good” encounter following weekend storms. Missing Hodgson at the back but on track for a top four finish. Power score: 8/10, Odds of Chris Lawrence cementing a regular start at 5/8: 40-1.

3. Cronulla: Showed poor discipline against Dragons in second half and so were unable to close out result against a 12 man outfit. Took a major step toward turning rugby league into soccer with spectular diving display. Power score: 7.5/10, Number of Sharks fans who have seen their side play in a venue other than “Shark Park”: 47 (all at Kogarah on Monday night).

4. Parramatta: Didn’t turn up to play against Canberra and were accordingly punished. Players seemed unwilling to put themselves on the line and hard-core-Cumberland-Oval-burning fans will be hoping this was a one off effort. Missed Hindmarsh. Power score: 7/10, Number of tackles missed by Luke Burt: 75.

5. Canberra: Were hot at home against weakened Parramatta side and took full advantage of their opportunities. Will be keen to break “away from home” hoodoo against inconsistent, Brian-Smith-coached and injury ravaged Knights on Monday night. Power score: 7/10, Odds of Michael Weyman ever playing a season free of serious injury or suspension: 100-1.

6. North Queensland: Were outclassed and outenthused by junior Roosters. Will relish return to Townsville, and return of Thurston in match of the round against Melbourne this weekend. Power score: 7/10, Odds that Townsville will be trashed “Macquarie Fields style” by locals if Thurston is injured by NSW forwards on Wednesday night: 2-1.

7. Roosters: Would normally take about 6 games to score as many points as they did on Saturday night. Were creative and hard working against the Cowboys but will need to be far better defensively to challenge the Panthers at Penrith. Power score: 6/10, Number of commentators who use every opportunity to say the full name of Shaun Kenny-Dowell: 20.

8. South Sydney: Turned up to play on Friday night and produced good wet weather football to beat the ill disciplined Panthers. Travel to Brookvale this Friday night and will draw inspriation from Penrith’s successful lateral ball movement which defeated Manly in their last start. Power score: 5.5/10, Odds of any council in Sydney giving planning approval for a new ground for Souths: 1000-1.

9. Newcastle: Hopeless around the ruck against Wests Tigers and now in tough middle of the table battle after promising start to season. Recovery sessions at “Nobby’s Beach” may need to be worked around grounded coal ship. Power score: 5/10, Odds that Jarrod Mullen will ever be picked for Origin again regardless of Kimmorley’s form on Wednesday: 60-1.

10. St George-Illawarra: Peek send off seemed to galvanise the Dragons when they looked in trouble. A gutsy effort and with a bit of luck could have at least forced the match into extra time. A good test of their credentials this weekend against Parramatta. Power score: 5/10, Odds that Nathan Brown will last out the season: 3-1.

11. Penrith: Offered another poor performance backing up from a decent win and may have suffered from over confidence. A chance of the wooden spoon if they cannot find some ball handling skills, wet or dry. Power score: 4.5/10, Likelihood of Luke Rooney being asked to join Clinton and Wallace at Brisbane: 80-1.

12. New Zealand: Probably the only side in the competition with less creative halves combination than the Dragons. Gave themselves a mountain of possession through good second phase play but barely looked close to scoring a try against Melbourne. Power score: 4/10, Odds that home crowd will rise about 10,000 (legitimately) again this season: 20-1.

Bye teams:

Ok, so I thought about including the bye teams in the regular power rankings, but there didn’t seem any point. With week to week form being what it is in the NRL – completely inconsistent – it was a waste of time trying to slot in the teams with a week off into what is becoming an extremely even competition. Almost reminiscent of 2005 really.

Manly: Face a serious test about Souths this Friday night. The Sea Eagles will have at least Kite, Lyon and Bell backing up. Souths, well, they’ll be “full strength”. The Rabbitohs will be keen to put two wins together and always seem to bring a bit extra against Manly.

Canterbury: Match against Broncos on Friday night at Homebush will surely produce headlines such as “Origin rematch” or “3-0?” (if Maroons have clinched the series by that point). May be keen to avenge loss to Brisbane which ended their 2006 campaign.

Gold Coast: Tend to travel very poorly and face Wests Tigers at Campbelltown. A kind of reverse exchange program whereby people will travel from the Gold Coast to the western suburbs of Sydney as opposed to the other way around. Forwards will need to muscle up against Wests enterprising ruck play.

Brisbane: Do the Bronco’s Origin stars just stay in Sydney after Wednesday night’s game? Surely they’d have to. What would be the point of going back to Brisbane only to return to Sydney two days later. Either way, it’s going to be pretty disruptive on them. May be riding high though if they can defeat NSW on Wednesday.

And…some quick “around the grounds”:

1. Paul Gallen – Before this issue gets completely done to death I want to have my say. On Monday night Gallen showed all the sportsmanship of an Italian soccer player with the way he layed down and then had the gall to wink after he milked the penalty. And his Lay Down Sally teammate Adam Dykes wasn’t much better. You could have fit a half of football into the time between the elbow he copped and the point that he hit the deck. Ricky Stuart has more blokes laying down for him than a gay man’s pimp. A lot of clubs were interested in signing Gallen when he came off contract. As far as I’m concerned the Sharks can keep him.

2. Rivalry scheduling – One issue that got a little bit of press last week was a proposal to amend the current scheduling system in the NRL. An idea that needs some serious consideration is that of a rivalry based conference system. Every team should have its five key rivals nominated and the draw should be structured so that each plays its rivals twice every year. This would result in higher crowds, more interest from fans and would end that annoying situation where you end up playing your worst enemy on their turf and not on yours.

3. Trouble in paradise One of the more interesting aspects of the Monday night game on Fox was witnessing cracks appearing in the usually loving relationship between Warren Smith and Laurie Daley. The dispute was over the clearly forward pass which set up Luke Covell’s try. Daley naturally toed his employer’s (St George) line and argued that it was forward (so I’m not saying Daley was right, he just happened to be on the side of right given that it was against the Dragons. Just so we’re sure here. I didn’t say Daley was ever correct about anything). Smith naturally took the side of the Super League side in the contest (the Sharks) and it was a frosty few moments while the two of them argued the toss. Smith tried to defuse the situation with a predictable “agree to disagree” line, but the damage was done. Daley’s silence (for a few seconds thank God) said it all.

Yours in league,
The Grubber.

State of Origin Game 2, 2007

Noddy the Key to NSW Firing, says Mini

NSW Origin fullback, Rooster Anthony Minichiello says returning NSW Blues halfback Brett Kimmorley will be the one to provide leadership and much needed experience in game two of State of Origin tomorrow night at Telstra Stadium.

Brett Kimmorley will play his first match for the Blues since his forgettable game one in 2005, when his spiral wide pass was intercepted by QLD fullback Matt Bowen who went on to score the winning try in golden point extra time.

Minichiello said the return of Kimmorley into the Origin squad had brought confident direction and leadership to the team.

“I’ve played with Brett a few times now, so I know what he’s all about,” Minichiello said.
“He brings a lot of talk to the field, which is what we need, so I’m sure he’ll be pushing us around.”

In other Origin news, NSW Blues interchange prop Luke Bailey said the NSW Blues would not rely purely on physical aggression alone to get over the top of the QLD Maroons tomorrow night.

Luke Bailey said yesterday that his team needed to play with much more spirit, but he warned his team-mates they need to do more than physically overpower the Queensland Origin side.

“I think there’s been a hell of a lot of talk about that (us playing with plenty of passion) but I think you can talk too much about that, we can rely on our talent to win the game” Bailey said.
“We’re not simply going to go out there and be crazy thugs and try to match it with them, we’re just going to go out there and play our own game, and I think we’ve got enough talent and experience and skill to win the game.”

The NSW Blues will train today at Telstra Stadium in Sydney in preparation for the big match, which they must win to level the series.

Sharks win soaked in softness

Cronulla Sharks 20 def St George Illawarra 16
The Cronulla Sharks defeated the St George Illawarra Dragons tonight under a cloud of controversy. In what should have been a much celebrated win for the Sharks, the victory was marred by Sharks players ‘feigning injury’ in an effort to get valuable penalties for their side.


The game reached boiling point, when 7 minutes into the second half – Dykes stayed down after copping an Adam Peek elbow after getting a kick away. Make no mistake, it was a brain explosion from Adam Peek and most certainly deserved a penalty and reporting of the incident.


As Adam Dykes continued to stay down, referee Tony Archer marched Adam Peek from the field. As stunned players from both sides looked on, Dykes soon got back to his feet and was continually booed by the OKI Jubilee Crowd – as the Dragons were left to play on with 12 men.

In the Canberra vs Parramatta game this weekend, we had Eel Josh Cordoba severely concussed by Raider Michael Weymann. Cordoba taken from the field, taking no further part due to injury – with Raider Weymann just copping a penalty. Tonight, we see Peek ‘clip’ Dykes on the way through and he is sent from the field. Simply dumbfounding.

Sadly, I feel this is a massive turning point for the game of NRL. For the remainder of tonights match, we saw players continuing to stay down and doing their best to get results from the officials. FOX TV Camera’s caught Paul Gallen red handed, when the Sharks forward feigned injury from a tackle and soon winked at players once the penalty had been given. This is a sad reflection on Paul Gallen, a tough and talented player – who will now be tarnished by this unsportsmanlike behavior. If the NRL doesn’t make urgent changes to the games rules, our game is surely going to suffer.

Moving back to the positives from tonights game, the Sharks defence ultimately won them the game. The Sharks have the second best defence in the NRL and the needed every ounce of their skill tonight. With the Dragons playing a man down, the referee continued to assist them with make up penalties, giving the Dragons plenty of possession in the second half. (Interestingly, NRL stats read that when a player is sent from the field – his team usually always win the penalty count)

The Dragons set completion was impressive, but they lacked good options on the last tackle. Too many times, the solid Sharks defence forced the Dragons to rush their kick plays and repeat sets were rarely achieved. Soward was involved in everything, and certainly looks to be a good signing for the Dragons. Ritchie Rich was welcomed back into the top grade and the motormouth let his skills do the talking, with some nice touches and an impressive try early.

The Sharks really missed Lance Thompson tonight, and after losing Phil Leuluai to injury early on – the signs looked ominous for the Shire boys. Adam Dykes played well in the absence of Kimmorley and organised the attack well. Dykes does seem to play much less inhibited when Kimmorley isn’t there. His commanding role settling the Sharks at crucial times.

Cronulla also got good service from Kevin Kingston and Issac De Gois – the two hookers pinching metres all night and forcing Saints on to the back foot. The Sharks have really steeled themselves under Ricky Stuart – their on line defence is top shelf. Each player knows their role, and is working overtime for each other.

The Sharks outside backs looked better for the positional reshuffle, with Luke Covell moving into the centres and having another solid night. Fullback ‘Tell your pappa’ again proving a real option for the Sharks, the new fullback is safe under the high ball and later pulling off a try saver by preventing Chase Stanley from scoring off a bomd – which would have tied the game for the Dragons. New boy Mitch Brown didn’t put a foot wrong for the Cronulla Sharks, at one stage pulling off a heart stopping intercept which stopped another Dragons surge.

Next week the Dragons travel to Parramatta Stadium in what should be a tough assignment for the Red Vee. Nathan Brown was understandably downcast in the press conference tonight and the pain looks like continuing for the young coach.

The Sharks are back at home to the Warriors, in what should be a very spicy game. As tonight Sharks coach Ricky Stuart told the waiting media of his frustration at Ivan Cleary – who believes that Stuart “Coaches his players to stay down.”

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