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Manly eventually run over Warriors
Manly Sea Eagles 13 def NZ Warriors 10

Brooky was the scene of a hard fought low scoring game of Rugby League today as the Eagles did battle with the NZ Warriors.

In a physical match-up that saw 5 to 6 tries disallowed, mostly for Manly – it was the intervention from referee Ben Cummins early in the second half that only really allowed Manly to win.

The Warriors dominated possession in the first half, and were able to touch down for first points, however the possession stats changed late in the half and the Warriors were successful in repelling wave after wave of Manly attack. It was extremely impressive defence, I was blown away at home many repeat sets Manly had only to be turned away by staunch Warriors defence.

The sides went into the sheds at 6-0 to the Warriors – but upon returning, 2 or 3 crucial calls by referee Ben Cummins really did hand the match over the Sea Eagles.

Cummins was actually having an impressive game, and refused to use video replays on several occasions and made correct no-try rulings in each. However, initially it was a blatent 2 on 1 strip on Michael Witt that was missed, then it was a 50/50 call on a Warrior play the ball infringement, then it was several missed Manly drop balls during tackles and finally it was ruthless whistle blowing late in the half that saw the Warriors see less than 40 percent possession in period 2.

I do not follow either of these teams personally, but if I was a Warriors fan I would surely be livid at the raw deal they copped in certain situations. To only lose the game by 3 points, when they saw less than 40 percent ball was simply amazing. The stats don’t actually tell the full story for this game, as the Warriors did miss something like 35+ tackles, but with 30 minutes to go – this stat was less than half that. Purely weight of possession prevented them from winning – however their strong defence will see them win plenty more games this year.

For Manly, probably not their best match. They really should have poured on more points with the ball they had. Mick Monaghan is to be congratulated again on an impressive match, he continues to be the form player for Manly and possibly the NRL 2007 season. He was always probing, organising and disciplined for his side – and he was ably backed up by some strong Manly forwards – with Brent Kite and Choc Watmough putting in big performances.

Manly really only need to work on some outside back attacking sequences. Most of the Eagles tries this year are coming from kicks – unusually highly rated centres Steve Bell and Jamie Lyon are playing well without being absolutely dominant as expected.

It has been interesting watching Jamie Lyon, as his fitness and skill is taking some time to catch up to current NRL standards – it points out that the UK Super League really is a few levels below NRL standards, and we can see this as Lyon is taking time to adapt.

The good work of Manly fullback Brett Stuart continues, with the speedster getting involved in everything and was unlucky not to have bagged 3 more tries, as he was denied this many times.

A little bit too much whistle blowing for my liking but overall a good old style defensive game was had at Brooky and Manly move to 4 games and 4 wins for NRL 2007.

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Slick Eels bath the Raiders at Parramatta Stadium
Parramatta Eels 38 def Canberra Raiders 6

How can anyone pick NRL results these days? After running riot against Newcastle last Monday night the young Canberra Raiders got absolutely bathed by the Eels tonight, losing by 32 points at the rainy and wet Parramatta dome.

The Eels saw some large scale changes prior to kick-off, after losing Cayless, Tahu and Finch to injuries. Coming into the side were debutants Blake Green at pivot and Kristian Inu at Centre. Also coming into the side was big bopper Richie Fa’oso. PJ Marsh got the nod in the starting side, and Riddell was pushed to the bench.

Both teams took an age to settle down after the kick off, with plenty of dropped ball and sloppy play. The Raiders enjoying 80 percent possession and all the field position in the first 10 minutes, but simply unable to score a try or even get a repeat set on their own merits.

The game finally saw some points, when Nathan Hindmarsh ran 70m through the middle of the ruck untouched to score under the posts. Raiders fullback Zillman was no where to be seen, and I think this try set the scene for the result tonight.

The Eels touched down again prior to half time through Ben Smith after a dropped ball from Zillman off a Tim Smith kick; but really niether side seemed keen to play safe, wet weather football.

In the second half the Raiders brain snapped from the opening play; after being gifted a ball 20m out from the Eels line – the Raiders dropped the ball from a bungled wedge scrum push play and then threw in a penalty to boot.

The Eels scored from the ensuing set and never looked back.

It was the confidence injection the Eels needed; suddenly Tim Smith cut out passes were sticking, Hayne was finding space and pulling off flick passes – all of this in shockling slippery conditions.

Debutants Green and Inu were sparkling in their first taste of the big time. Green, who plays half in reserve grade didn’t over play his hand and let Tim Smith steer the ship – a stark contrast to the ‘too many cooks’ situation when Smith and Finch play together. Green injected some well placed kicks and was faultless in defence.

Outwide Inu was always dangerous. Parramatta must have no worries with Tahu heading to Rugby Union, as Inu will comfortably slip into the vacant centre role. Inu beat his opposite Colin Best on several occasions and combined well with Jarryd Hayne who played junior grades with Inu in the Cabramatta ranks.

The Parramatta forwards finally put their hand up and all played well at once – the result saw Scott Logan and Neville Costigan battered and turned away on many occasions. Ben Smith must be wrapped for his marking of Costigan. Whenever the big former Bronco ran the ball – Ben Smith was all over him snapping his legs from under him on many occasions.

Even PJ Marsh got in on the act, putting an absolute massive hit on Scott Logan mid-way through the second half. Logan was never the same, spending the rest of the match hunting Marsh and getting penalised soon after.

The Eels did have some luck in attack and most plays they tried came off. Hindmarsh and Ben Smith bagged doubles and forwards Riddell and Cordoba both scored rare tries.

The Parramatta Eels really needed a win like this to boost confidence, and while Canberra played poorly – fortune favours the brave – and the Eels kicked away to a big win.

For Canberra, its back to the drawing board. Last Monday nights win seems worlds away now. Too much ball was dropped too easily and ruck defence was absolutely woeful. Apart from Michael Weyman and Dane Tilse – the Canberra forwards got towelled up by the much maligned Eels pack.

It’s not all bad news for the Raiders however, as they face the equally poor Roosters next week in what should be a battle of the cellar dwellers – this might be a good night to wash your hair.

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NRL Updates, Live Scores, Info – Knights v Storm

Knights let Storm off the hook
Melbourne Storm 22 def Newcastle Knights 12

The Newcastle Knights missed an opportune chance to bag a win against the powerhouse Melbourne Storm tonight at Energy Australia Stadium.

On the back of a massive penalty account against the Storm, the Knights raced away to a 12-6 lead and could have easily extended that to 18-6 had MacDougall chance come off midway through the first half.

Instead, the Storm snuck in for a try late in the half and somehow managed to enter the break locked at 12 all.

Completion rates and general play for the Storm was average at best in the first half – and their poor dicipline resulted in a 7-2 penalty count at the break. The Knights needed to take advantage of this gift and failed to do so.

The second half saw more of a battle of attrition, as the weather closed in and rain made handling extremely tough. Plenty of ball was dropped by both sides; but as possession evened out – the class of the Melbourne Storm shone through.

The Storm ran in 2 second half tries to secure the win, but apart from Israel Folau putting in another impressive game – the same couldn’t be said for his Storm team mates. The usually explosive Inglis and probing Smith were sloppy at times and the Knights did well to shut down Slater every time he had the ball.

The Knights obviously missed Joey at times, but Buderus made an impressive return to the big time and was interchanged effectively with young Seu Seu – which will be a handy combo for the Knights in 2007.

Apart from Steve Simpson, the Knights forwards did struggle to keep on top of the Storm and will face a torrid Souths outfit next week – so it doesn’t get any easier.

Overall in a game that didn’t reach any great heights, mainly due to restrictive weather – the class of Melbourne eventually shone through. The Storm are such a strong team these days, that even when they have a bad night at the office they are still able to fob off less talented opposing NRL teams.

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NRL News South Sydney vs Bulldogs Rugby League

Bulldogs bust the Bunny Streak
Bulldogs 34 def South Sydney 10

The big clash between new found rivals the Bulldogs and South Sydney turned into a one horse race tonight at Telstra Stadium as the Bulldogs totally outmuscled the Bunnies.

While the Rabbitohs did get on the board first with an impressive Peachy try, from there is was all one way traffic – with the Bulldogs forward pack really walking the talk and totally outshining the Souths equivallent.

Big Willie who this week featured heavily in the media to promote the match was at his passionate best. Blockbusting hit-ups and bone rattling hits in defence by Mason were encouraging his brothers in arms to do the same.

Souths never really looked like getting on top, and become increasingly frustrated with the up and in defence from the Bulldogs. The Rabbits forwards were starting to lose ground with the ball, the backs ran sideways and penalties began to be given away as they struggled to win the arm wrestle.

The Bunnies did need a big test like tonights match-up with the Bulldogs and Taylor will be able to learn more about his team from tonights showing. The scrumbase combination of Joe Williams and Jeremy Smith has been spoilt so far in NRL 2007; their forwards have been so far ahead of opposition packs that it gave the 2 halves so much time to pick and choose their plays. Tonight was different, the Bulldogs were winning the forward battle and the Souths halves must learn to play with much great reaction time and be able to alter attacking structures to suit the situation.

The Bulldogs will garner plenty of confidence and more importantly another 2 points from their outing. Sonny Bill Williams looked comfortable for his first run of 2007, and new young guns Darryl Millard and Kane Cleal both bagged tries and looked classy for the Bulldogs. Young winger Trent Cutler also continues to prove he is of first grade standard. Continuing to start in place of Matt Utai for the Bulldogs, Cutler was bulletproof in defence and scored 2 tries himself – in one of the tries he put a beautiful fend and spin on Mellor and beat 3 defenders to the line. I’m sure we’ll be seeing and hearing plenty more about Cutler.

I’m sure that Asotasi and Co. will also be hearing plenty from Wille Mason and friends all week – after the former team-mates finally settled their score tonight on the field.

Canterbury Bulldogs 34 (Trent Cutler 2, Kane Cleal, Daryl Millard, Hazem El Masri tries; Hazem El Masri 7 goals)
Defeated
South Sydney Rabbitohs 10 (David Peachey, Nathan Merritt tries; Joe Williams goal)

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NRL News Roosters vs Broncos Rugby League

Good Friday turns Bad as Roosters Rolled
Broncos 32 def Roosters 10

The scene was an interesting one at Aussie Stadium tonight as the battle of the winless teams for NRL 2007 got underway.

With both teams obviously having so much to play for; it was the Broncos who came out the more composed and played out a simple mistake free first half. For the Roosters, extremely poor discipline and basic errors with defensive reads cost the the Bondi boys any chance of laying an early platform.

The Broncos ran in 2 early tries, but their style was nothing flashy – it was simply the Roosters mediocracy that allowed the Brisbane Broncos to get off to a good lead. In one scenario, the Broncos attacked the Roosters line with 2 attackers on a short side – some how 3 defenders for the Roosters got it wrong, whether it be simple maths or distrust in their inside defenders – this is a serious problem.

As the rain arrived by the bucket-load in the 2nd half – the Broncos repelled a small Roosters comeback and kept their basic style in tact to cruise along for their first win of the season.

For Brisbane, Lockyer was at his silky best. His organisation and vision in attack was a delight to watch, running several blind side attacking plays to setup early tries and scoring one himself late in the match. Lockyer gave the young Roosters a lesson, and continued to follow-up with punishing defence. He was supported well by Hodges and Hunt who were also at the top of their game for the defending premiers.

Sydney City will learn more lessons tonight, and can take some heart from the performance of some key players. Anasta again put in a solid effort, the only fault lying with his kicking game which was a little off key, this kept reducing the pressure on Brisbane on 5th play attack sequences.

Mini again played impressively, as did Tupou who always looked like busting the line whenever he handled. Mitchell Pearce was heavily involved in much of the Roosters play tonight and surely will be better for the experience, it looks like the Roosters have made the right choice with him at no. 7.

Spare a thought for Rooster Danny Nutley tonight, who copped a massive falcon late in the game from a Darren Lockyer kick. On a cold and wet night, Nutley got his head in the way of a full tilt Lockyer kick – copping the knock at close range. The force nearly knocking hard man Nutley off his feet and looked like a mack truck hitting him when replayed in slow motion. Ouch!

The Roosters must now lick their wounds and prepare for next weeks assignment against the Knights on the Central Coast.

Brisbane Broncos 32 (Steve Michaels 2, Karmichael Hunt, Shaun Berrigan, Greg Eastwood, Darren Lockyer tries; Lockyer 4 goals)
Defeated
Sydney Roosters 10 (Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Joel Monaghan tries; Craig Fitzgibbon goal)

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How the mighty have fallen: Rebuilding the Rooster


In search of their 1000th victory for what seems like years, the once mighty Sydney City Roosters are living in the NRL cellar and merely a shadow of their former selves.

One could only imagine the rage of chairman Nick Politis – watching his team get belted on a weekly basis, by now he could probably write a thesis as to why the Roosters aren’t performing. Change the coach? Done. Make positional changes? Done. Inject youth? Done. The result – continuing losses.

New coach Chris Anderson must be wondering what he got himself into; when looking at the Roosters line-up on paper – one can understand why Anderson accepted the job. Braith Anasta, Anthony Minichiello, Nate Myles, Craig Fitzgibbon, Amos Roberts and Craig Wing are just some of the talent at the coaches disposal.

The overall Rugby League program at the Roosters is rated among the best in the NRL. Former coaches such as Phil Gould and Ricky Stuart strived hard to implement structured development programs and successful training systems, while nurturing confidence and a winning mentality.

Sadly, the current form slump has seen these traits lost all too quickly. When you look at the basic formula for a successful Rugby League team – which is to have supreme talent at the 1, 7 and 9 (Fullback, Half and Hooker) the Roosters have been or are currently lacking in these areas.

While fullback Minichiello is considered one of the best in the role of custodian, he has seen a full season on the sideline – which is where the slump started. His return couldn’t come soon enough, having Mini back will help no one can do it on their own.

The hooking role at the Roosters has been shared around too much in recent times. Craig Wing is also known as a star in this slot, but the Roosters have tried throwing Finch into the role and countless others and this revolving door policy at hooker has also shot the team in the foot.

Finally the all important position of half-back has been shared around like a town bike. The Roosters have tried Finch, Soward, Lewis and now Mitchell Pearce at the all important no. 7 – with virtually no success.

These problems in the main positions are compounded when you look at some of the surrounding roles. Fitzgibbon the respected hardworking forward has become easy pickings for opposition defensive lines as his attacking style has become very one dimensional and less potent due to his extra tackling work and when you look out wider some of the backs in Roberts and Soliola struggle with decision making in some situations.

The Roosters have dug such a hole for themselves now that in some instances they are actualy trying too hard. Watching Braith Anasta last weekend against Manly, he tried his guts out – but there doesn’t seem to be the enjoyment there and hence passes were forced, kicking length was out and the communication just wasn’t there.

Chris Anderson would be looking everywhere for the answers and leaving no stone unturned. Maybe the Roosters should forget about training for a week to clear their minds totally of football – this might be the clarity they need.

One thing is for sure, if the answers aren’t found soon – the Roosters might not get win 1000 in this Rugby League year.

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Round 4 – Who will win?

Well NRL News struggled last week and missed out on several predictions. We will attempt to redeem ourselves here and aim for plenty of improvement in round 4 – here are the expert Rugby League tips from the NRL News team

Souths v Bulldogs: Souths to keep their streak alive and beat the Dogs in a heavy forward battle.

Roosters v Broncos Both teams winless with their 2007 Rugby League campaign. Very tough to call but I think the Roosters lack firepower in attack. The Broncos should take the cake.

Knights v Storm Knights coming off a big loss will be keen to avenge their disgrace against Canberra. But the power of Melbourne is strong – you simply cannot tip against the Storm. Storm to win.

Cowboys v Tigers Tigers still winless and rudderless. Cowboys in a canter.

Eels v Raiders Eels at home face a fancied Raiders side that smacked the Knights last week. I think the home crowd and little confidence lift for the Eels should get them home. Eels.

Manly v Warriors Warriors still haven’t proved they can win away from NZ. Manly should do the job here.

Penrith v Titans Penrith will have too much confidence here. Penrith safely.

Sharks v Saints The local derby. Both teams fielding young sides. I think the Sharks will want this more after last weeks showing. Ricky will have them primed. Sharks in a close one.

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So, who can’t make the Final 8 in NRL 2007 ?

Ok, so we are only into the 3rd round of Rugby League for 2007 – but already we are able to see some small trends and get an idea of the formidable Rugby League teams for this year.

The best way to dertermine the final 8 – is to eliminate the teams who you think ‘cannot’ realistically make the finals cutoff.

As we look at the lower ranked teams so far; Sydney Roosters, Parramatta, Cronulla, Tigers, Raiders, Titans, Saints and Brisbane – which of these teams can realistically compete with the big boys? It’s really only the Brisbane Broncos who can be confident of breaking the shackles and forcing themselves into the top 8 come finals time.

That leaves 7 teams who don’t look like making the 8, and means we need to find another team to miss out.

The Roosters have no direction and simply have to many rookies to successfully make the finals, Parramatta Eels are lacking forward power and depth; they may improve their scrumbase combination over the coming weeks but forwards are key, so the Eels will miss the cut. Cronulla don’t have the big names to get them into the finals, Kimmorley and Dykes aren’t dominating because the forwards aren’t laying the platform, shoddy defence – no finals. Tigers were originally predicted by NRL News to make the finals; but poor results have seen their stature shattered – with the Tigers looking a shadow of their former 2005 selves – bye bye. The Raiders showed they can turn it on this week, by pounding the Knights – but their form and depth over the season surely is questionable. Don’t think so. The Titans are the new kids and have their first win on the board, but nervous attack and awfully low depth will see them exit stage left before finals time. Maybe next year. St George Illawarra were looking the goods before the season started, as always – but losing Gaz for the year and seemingly having millions of talent always injured they won’t make the finals in 2007. Sorry boys. And finally the last early leaver pass must go to the Warriors. The Warriors were electric in their 2 home games so far – killing off the Eels with ease and smashing the Broncos. However, their ability to travel still remains under a cloud and this factor along with shallow depth if injuries strike will see them hit mad Monday early in 2007.

That leaves a final 8 make up of:

Melbourne
Brisbane
Knights
Souths
Manly
Bulldogs
Penrith
North Queensland

That’s how we see things shaping up, and of course it’s only round 3 so don’t get too excited or disheartened about your team.

Enjoy your NRL Rugby League and keep the comments coming in.

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