NRL News Sunday Review
Wests Tigers 27 def St George Illawarra 8

Today’s Rugby League saw the in-form Wests Tigers make it 4 wins back to back and amazingly shoot to 5th position on the 2007 NRL Points Ladder. This has been a stunning turn around for Tim Sheens’ men – considering they lost their first four matches of NRL in 2007.

Not only are Wests winning, but their style has improved considerably. They are executing impressive set plays – most notably the late switch play against the Dragons today. A beautiful angled dummy run from Payten sucked half the Dragons defenders in and Hodgson threw a nice ball wide which eventually got to Fitzhenry who scored untouched 7 metres in from the sideline. Chris Lawrence continues to grow and grow for the Tigers, the young winger fielding a late kick on the full about 20m out from his own line, and proceeded to charge upfield – showing good strength to beat a Saints tackle and streak away – out sprinting Morris and several other Dragons to score a try to seal the match.

The Dragons today were simply a team so woefully low on confidence. While the fact they have been fielding so many youngsters has hurt them in recent games, they really can’t blame the loss on this today. With Woolford a late starter and helping things, poor play from experience Ryles and Head were the catalyst for the loss. The Matt Head failed try put-down was a major turning point in the game, momentum swings in NRL these days can happen off penalties, basic errors and even heavy defence – when something like Head’s failed put down occurs its the equivalent of giving the opposition 4 points it hurts that much.

The St George Illawarra Dragons face the Gold Coast Titans next week at WIN Stadium – and they will need a huge home crowd to help them get over the line. The form of Chase Stanley and the ever willing Ben Hornby were the only positives for the Dragons today. Good luck Browny you’re going to need it.

Sydney Roosters 24 def Gold Coast Titans 18

Roosters fullback Anthony Minichiello, who along with hooker Craig Wing were the standouts in the gritty Roosters win – with the cellar dwellars getting an injection of confidence with a much needed win.

A referee blunder was the talk of this match with Sean Hampstead aka Mr Bean overruling a touch judge call as a forward pass allowed the Titans to score and a Scott Prince engineered fightback was on the cards.

The other talking point in the this game was the shockingly low crowd attendance at Aussie Stadium. Mothers day combined with poor Roosters form of late – saw a crowd of just over 6,000 people turn up.

The face of the NRL 2007 points table is starting to change now, with the points table looking much better for the likes of the Wests Tigers, Sharks and Knights who all move firmly into the top 8.

With the bye being handed out to 4 teams next week, all eyes will be on State of Origin and how the impact of injuries affects the NRL teams.

Exciting games next week should be the Warriors vs Wests Tigers in New Zealand, and the Bulldogs vs Cronulla Sharks at Telstra Stadium.

NRL Upsets Galore

Panthers and Raiders cause boilovers

The NRL matches last night threw up some amazing results, with the hot to trot Cowboys getting beaten by the Penrith Panthers 22 to 12. The Panthers who have been horribly out of form, were paying an amazing $3.90 with bookies to win in North Queesland. Juicy Juicy odds.

Sadly for the Panthers, they look to have lost Craig Gower to injury and he is in doubt for Origin selection.

In the other match last night the maligned Canberra Raiders grabbed a late try to beat South Sydney Rabbitohs 16-10. The stats read badly for the Bunnies now, having lost 5 of their last 6 games – possibly the missing Kidwell factor is hurting. The other problem Jason Taylor and the Rabbitohs face is their inability to score points – while turning in good defensive efforts, the Bunnies are not crossing the line enough.

The Rabbitohs will glady take the 2 points next week from the bye and will hope to recover in time to face the Titans in Queensland.

The Panthers also get a week off, as do the Raiders. Amazingly the Raiders will move to 10 points, and well away from their suggested Wooden Spoon zone and the forgotten Penrith Panthers will head up to 8 points. Once again showing that a week is a really long time in football and 2 weeks is an eternity.

In further NRL games today, the in form Wests Tigers take on the rookie brigade from St George Illawarra. The cellar dwelling Roosters face the inconsistent Titans in what should be an interesting battle between Cartwright and his old mentor club.

On Monday night its the blockbuster between the high flying Storm and the gritty Bulldogs.

In other NRL news, former Canberra Raiders custodian and captain Clinton Schifcofske has spoken out about his transfer to Rugby Union. The fullback has admitted his change to Union hasn’t been a happy one and has desires to return to the greatest game of all. We watch with interest as the likes of Tahu head to ARU land and see if the grass is greener.

NRL News Knights vs Warriors

Knights wake from Slumber to shock Warriors

Knights 24 def Warriors 18

In tonights 5.30 game the Knights have finshed strongly to overtake the Warriors with 2 minutes remaining. Down 18-6 at one stage the Knights held strong and were patient in their play to eventually run down the Warriors.

The Warriors simply surrendered possesstion too easily in the second period, and their completion rate read 31 from 42 sets. The dropped ball invited the Knights into the game and they took the offer with open arms.

Jarryd Mullen was at his best and the boom rookie may have just won himself a NSW Origin Jersey. His short and long kicking game was top shelf and some of his selective passing was equal to that of his mentor – the great Andrew Johns.

The Warriors will go home hurting from this one, they did everything right early on and looked to have a vital away win in the bag at half time. A second loss on the trot now, and Cleary will be desperate to get McKinnon back from suspension.

NRL News – Rugby League

Sharks win, as Locky limps off
Cronulla Sharks 16 def Brisbane Broncos 8

Cronulla came out firing in the second half of their round nine fixture against the Broncos at Shark Park on Friday night, putting on eight unanswered points to win the match 16-8.

After a lacklustre start to the match where they just managed to draw level with Brisbane at half-time, the Sharks put the Broncos’ defence to the test as they turned up the heat.

The Cronulla attack came up trumps, crossing the line once and slotting a penalty to keep Brisbane in the bottom half of the table.

The Broncos were lucky to keep the second half scoreline to what it was, with their defence constantly being left in the dust as the Sharks launched raid after raid up the middle of the park.

Greg Bird was the lone try scorer after the break, crossing the line in the 55th minute.

Some poor discipline around the ruck from Brisbane then gave up a penalty, which Luke Covell had no trouble with as he secured the extra two points.

The Broncos will need to reassess their game during the week after handing over momentum to the home side late in the first half.

They were unable to turn things around after the break and when captain and playmaker Darren Lockyer left the field in the 57th minute with an ankle injury, the visitors were left unable to answer the Sharks’ attack.

The Broncos could have taken a lead into the break, but both of Lockyer’s conversion attempts drifted wide of the posts.

NRL News – Rugby League

NRL News Friday Night Football

Agressive Manly Punish Parra
Manly 22 def Parra 12

A physical Manly Sea Eagles side tonight stormed home in the second half to overrun the tiring Parramatta Eels – who surprisingly led 6-2 at half time.

The Eagles were brutal in their approach to the game and ‘rolled the dice’ in relation to the judiciary. Even if the Eagles lose Matai to suspension for a fierce high shot on Ben Smith – the tactics employed by Des Hasler were perfect for the conditions and the opposition.

Matai’s tackle on Ben Smith in the first half was a throw back to the rough days of Rugby League many years ago. A firey swinging arm connecting with Smiths head and breaking his nose instantly; the Parramatta centre’s nose spewing claret out by the bucket-load.

Parra were unable to show the same muscle and could not fire back and ended up passengers in the end as Orford and Monaghan got the space they needed and setup Stewart and co out wide.

Brett Steward was at his speedy best, and was even more impressive considering the tough conditions. Brooky resembled a quagmire and was extremely heavy underfoot.

The confrontation with Jamie Lyon never eventuated. Lyon being sent to pivot with Matai in the side, and while he did score a try off a Parramatta spill – he was rarely seen in attack and spent most of the night tackling. I don’t think Manly will stick with the combo of Orford and Lyon in the halves. Lyon is a good player, but isn’t an out and out pivot.

As Monaghan slipped into second receiver the Eagles stepped up a notch and were able to eclipse Parramatta midfield. Their attack looked much more dangerous and well orchestrated with Monaghan involved; and it’s still a mystery why the Eagles will not give the talented utility they position he wants. The Tigers are pushing very hard behind the scenes to secure Monaghan and keep him from heading to the UK Super League next year. Phil Gould on the channel 9 commentary suggested Monaghan would be of great value to the NSW Origin side as a bench utility man – comments NRL News tend to agree with.

Eric Grothe had an off-night for the Eels, dropping his fair share of ball and taking some poor options. His younger wing partner Jarryd Hayne however may have played himself into Origin after a faultless performance in defence and attack. Regularly defusing Manly bombs and getting yardage on most plays. The Eels still carry a passenger in Brett Finch; while not disgraced – Finch struggles to be a power on a weekly basis and his style of play is hampering that of Tim Smith.

The Eagles now stay atop of the NRL Season 2007 ladder; having lost only the one game. Orford probably didn’t do enough to secure an origin spot but certainly hasn’t thrown his chance away. The Eagles aren’t a team of superstars – but they are a superstar of a team. They play for each other and compliment each other extremely well – and they continue their ascendancy in 2007.


NRL Tips and Predictions Round 9

Manly must be tipped at home to Parra. The stats read something like only 13 wins from 50 games at Brookvale for the Eels.

Sharks and Broncos are hard to split, the bookies have both teams paying $1.90 for the win. Home advantage and last weeks form swings the tip the Sharks way.

Knights v Warriors at the Knights Dome. Another game that is very hard to pick, Knights were patchy last week and the Warriors will be keen to make amends for their shock loss. Expect Warriors to come out firing – and should get home.

Cowboys should easily account for the awful Penrith pack up north. A tough trip for the Panthers and they will come home with their tails between their legs.

Rabbits will be extremely keen to notch up a win, after some indifferent form. Rabbits have been losing by tiny margins and will have too much fire power at home for the young Raiders – out of their nursery.

Roosters are my tip for the upset of the round. They face the exciting Titans at Aussie stadium. The Titans copped a dusting last week, but they faced a hot hot North Queensland outfit. Expect the Roosters to win through enthusiasm more than anything else. They’ll be fired up.

Tigers get my tip over the young and wounded Dragons. Saints are on the improve but won’t have enough for the inform Tigers this week

Storm at home, always a *must* tip – but the Bulldogs won’t be pushovers. The Doggies love these tough battles and will relish the challenge. Just impossible to tip against the Southerners at home.

The young kiwi, Benji Marshall is again the talk of the town in NRL Rugby League circles, as he has broken his collarbone and will sit out until late in the NRL season.

Surprisingly the Tigers grew a leg when Benji Marshall left the field last week and even more surprising was the fact that Brett Hodgson was missing in action too. The Tigers, who were big outsiders in this match up – kept up the pace and raced away for a nice win against the fancied Melbourne Storm.

As NRL news reported, Tigers hooker Robbie Farrah continues his climb to the top of the rake ranks as he puts his classy stamp on the modern game. Insightful, energetic and choc full of guile – he is a dynamic meter eater and sets such a good platform for the Tigers outside backs and makes the task of those mobile forwards so much easier.

The Tigers have found form in the last few weeks and knocked off some decent scalps. The thing that impresses me about the Tigers is the fact that the players in the top squad are of the ideal age for competing in the NRL competition.

Rugby League internationally and more specifically the NRL have moved towards younger players and certainly blooding them much earlier. The Tigers were sprinkled with youngsters when they took the title in 2005 and so many of the mob are now at their peak.

Guys like Bryce Gibbs, Bronson Harrison, Dean Collis and also Liam Fulton – who gets his time to shine in the big boots of Benji at five eighth. The Tigers are littered with these kinds of guys who have the physical ability to perform and the mental strength and experience which will allow them to compete and win the big matches.

A perfect example of the opposite is St George Illawarra. Currently fielding a young side due to massive injury woes, the current squad is certainly not low on talent – guys like Chase Stanley and Richie ‘Rich’ Williams will certainly be future stars, but simply haven’t had enough time in first grade to compete week in, week out.

Back to the Tigers, in addition to these players in their prime – you have seasoned campaigners in the mix who just know how to get the job done and rarely lose their heads. Guys like Todd Payten, Jason Moodie and Ben Galea. Sure, these boys might be a yard slower than the youngsters – but don’t doubt their value every week. Knowing where to position themselves in defence, knowing the habits of regular opposing players and more importantly knowing when the slow the game down or lift the tempo to grab a penalty.

Time will tell us soon enough, but I think the Wests Tigers will continue their upward spiral in form and won’t suffer too much without Benji Marshall. They are fortunate to be able to inject Fulton into pivot and now have the boom rookie Chris Lawrence who slots in out wide and yet again he showed how talented he is in finding that try line.

NRL News predicted the West Tigers to snatch a top 8 spot this year, and yes we copped a lot of criticism. This latest Benji Marshall saga is still only a minor setback for the Tiggers – and I believe they will continue to go from strength to strength.

NRL News

State of Origin NSW Halfback

The forgotten man – Monaghan

As debate rages over who should be the NSW half back for this years Origin – one man who hasn’t been mentioned, the form half of the first 5 rounds Michael Monagahan.

Talk has revolved around Brett Kimmorley, Matt Orford, Craig Gower and even young gun Jarrod Mullen. NSW needs to get the decision 100% right as they face the might of Queensland’s Lockyer and Thurston.

Monaghan’s form this year in the absence of Ox Orford has simply been stunning. Deft kicks, superb organisational play and an uncanny knack of deciding the best time to run to the line or pass – has been his trademark. Who could forget his classy chip and chase to setup the Manly win over the Bulldog’s earlier this season.

Monaghan is a tough, durable player who would cope with the pressure of the big game. He has been in spotlight since leaving Canberra several years ago and has handled himself very well since.

Give the journey man a chance I say, he wouldn’t let anyone down.

Who should be the NSW no. 7 ? We’d love to hear your feedback.

NRL News Monday Night Football

No Sideshow for Bob as Titans fail
Cowboys 24 def Titans 10

A forgettable game for Titans winger Matt Petersen was one of many lowlights for the Titans as they went down badly to a high flying Cowboys side tonight on the Gold Coast.

Big Carl Webb was back for the Cowboys and stamped his authority on the match, firing up at Mark Minichiello at one stage and giving the former Rabbit a nice facial and don’t argue towards the end of the game.

The Cowboys led by a dominant Thurston were never really going to lose after a confident start in wet conditions. Old man Smith was again at his scheming best; as was Cowboy old timer Paul Bowman who was rock solid in defence and scored a nice try from a delightful Thurston hold, pump and pass.

The North Queensland boys have their confidence back and needed the win close to Origin time as they lose their contingent of stars and it sees them move to 12 points and the Titans stuck on 8.

Titans centre Matt Rogers continued his good form, him and Bailey the only real stars for a very flat Titans side. Tonight showed how much they really miss Preston’s spark in attack, they looked lost and 1 dimensional. Prince also missed the chance to dominate rival Thurston, after failing to impress with attack and kicking in play – the 2 halfbacks actually coming together for argey bargey in the 2nd half – ending in a slap across the face for each other.

The game completes Round 8 of the NRL with the following outcomes for your team:

Broncos: Building on form, the win for premiers really helps their cause close to Origin time. Look to have turned the corner.

Souths: Have lost the last 2 games by very small margins. Jeremy Smith out of form at present – team will not be affected by Origin.

Saints: Extremely lucky to sneak a win, playing poorly and no end in sight. Dean Young helped but can’t do it on his own. Face the Tigers this week and should be nervous.

Penrith: Nothing nice to say here, so won’t say anything at all.

Warriors: Slipped up at home, lost players to suspension from it. Out coached by Ricky Stuarts side. Looks to only be a minor speed hump for Cleary’s men. Seem to be ok.

Cronulla: Jeckyl and Hyde – consistency a real issue. Got the points, on the back of smart coaching and good kicking. Need to perform at home, Dykes may be the answer at half.

Parramatta: Strong win at home, when half Smith plays well the Eels win. Finch still not pulling his weight. Look to only be in 3rd gear, if can find spark will stay in top 8.

Roosters: No enthusiasm, simple errors cost them dearly. Simply not winning the play the ball battle. Long Long year continues. Chris Anderson needs to keep taking his heart pills or he might suffer another stroke!

Tigers: Sweating on the outcome of Benji tests. Look to have built nicely with wins over Dogs and Storm. Showed they are a true force. Farrah is hitting the top of his game. Impressive.

Storm: Speed bump only. The slap in the face they needed to get angry and motivated. Bellamy won’t worry too much.

Manly: Sloppy start, but clicked into gear late. Attack needs more polish and defence was shown up a touch. Expect them to be hot this Friday night against the Eels at home.

Canberra: Showed signs they can compete, but lacked the experience to put the Eagles away. Should improve on this, won’t get the spoon this year – that’s for sure.

Bulldogs: Won ugly, and had help from Steve Clark. Need to find the problems, or might drop some games. Sherwin going well and Patten kept the opposition out.

Knights: Too many kids to be competitive – put in a massive effort in the circumstances. Miss Mullen. Tough few weeks ahead. McMannus is a star in the making – nice replacement for Brian Carney.

Cowboys: Look the goods again, confident and streamlined. Forwards back on top with Webb on deck. Look out opposition in weeks ahead.

Titans: Woeful effort from the new boys. Missed Presto and need to be cautious not to get down heartened. Home ground loss is a concern. Unknown how they will respond.

NRL Toyota Cup to have a NSWRL Rival Comp

With the NRL’s National under-20 competition, the Toyota Cup, being introduced in 2008, the Newtown Jets are planning to throw their support behind a new independent open-aged competition run by NSW Rugby League (NSWRL).

The NRL’s streamlined under-20s competition will run parallel to the main competition. The under-20s matches are set to be the main curtain raisers to NRL fixtures, which will leave the current Premier League competition and clubs such as Newtown, Balmain and Western Suburbs in the lurch.

NSWRL is currently taking submissions from clubs about the new stand-alone competition, and will allow the clubs a period of time to complete negotiations regarding joint ventures before it makes a final decision.

Newtown director Glen Dwyer said the Jets were confident the club would remain a viable entity in the new competition, and maintain their links with the Roosters.

“It is the firm opinion of the Jets that we will participate at the highest level NSWRL competition – whatever form of competition that may be and we will be maintaining our current relationship with the Roosters,” Dwyer said.

With clubs such as the Jets, Balmain, Wests, Norths and Auckland already indicating their desire to be involved in the competition, Dwyer said there was a need for the competition to support players over the age of 20.

“There has to be a comp because where do those guys play that are over 20? We will have a connection to the NRL through the Roosters and I imagine that most of the NRL teams would want to have that link for their older players.”

Dwyer said the Jets’ main concerns were the make-up of the competition and the fact that the competition would no longer be the curtain raiser for NRL matches.

“The first problem is will the comp be big enough because if there is less than 12 teams, will the spread of teams be enough for a strong competition? And what will the make-up of the teams be? We generate a lot of interest because we can market matches against teams like Parramatta, Balmain and Wests who we have an old rivalry with. If there are joint ventures and new teams that are part of the competition, it will be harder for us to get people interested.

“We already play all of our home games at Henson Park but when we play away most of the time we are on before first grade and people who get out to watch the lower grades still see the royal blue jumper running around. It looks like we won’t have that anymore and we will be relying on the games with our old rivals to get people to the games,” he said.

NSWRL general manager Geoff Carr said the new competition would give NSWRL a chance to streamline all its competitions.

“We’ve been given a chance to streamline our competitions and further improve the pathways we already have for kids wanting to progress through to the elite level of football,” Mr Carr said.

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