NZ Warriors: Silent Assassins

The men from over the ditch continue to climb the NRL 2007 table; with the New Zealand side now winning 5 from their last 6 games – to blast out of their previous mid season slump.

The Warriors while not quite as fortunate as the Melbourne Storm; do enjoy a similar level of media exclusion to the leading NRL club. The Warriors continue to play second fiddle to the Rugby Union loving Kiwi’s – but should they continue their current NRL form in 2007; a premiership title and massive local interest could follow suit.

Once again Ivan Cleary has done an exceptional job in not only getting quality talent into the NZ Warriors squad; but running a highly processed and disciplined outfit. Previous NZ sides have rarely achieved consistency and focus for prolonged periods in the NRL.

The addition of Wade McKinnon at fullback has been a relevation. The former Eel running for plenty of metres and proving a dangerous strike weapon in attack; more than ably taking over from the exciting Brent Webb. The form of Steve Price has also helped the Warriors. The Queensland veteran has had a stunning year for club and state and has carried the team on his back at times.

While Ruben Wiki hasn’t had his best year, injury may possibly hampering the Kiwi international and he again moves into the second row this week. He just can’t seem to find his feet and achieve the thrust he usually has in his hit-ups; or strike fear into opposing teams with his defence that he was famous for.

Probably best evidence of the Warriors healthy position is how many quality players they have playing in Premier League. While other NRL clubs struggle to field teams; the Warriors have the following troops playing for the Lions feeder club: Todd Byrne, Louis Anderson, Patrick Ah Van, Lance Hohaia and Tony Martin.

The NZ Warriors have also have some impressive stats from the past 5 weeks. Scoring a total of 144 points and only conceding 56, pivot Michael Witt has now kicked 25 consecutive goals (only 10 short of the Hazem El Masri NRL goal record)and back rower Michael Luck becomes only the 2nd NRL player this year behind Craig Fitzgibbon to notch up 600+ tackles; as the impressive backrower notches up 42 consecutive games for the NZ Warriors club.

All this makes for happy times at the Warriors and should they do the job against the injury ravaged Wests Tigers this weekend, things look good for a finals berth and decent tilt at the NRL 2007 title for the Kiwi crew.

NRL Teams and Lineups Round 19

All the NRL teams and lineups are here for NRL Round 19, with many teams struggling to field a first grade quality lineup due to severe injury problems. Its money time in the NRL; as the Sharks, Rabbitohs and Raiders have a last chance to make their claim for the Top 8. The Bulldogs throw a 27 year old debutant from park football ‘Fred Briggs’ into their lineup – more info in the video below:


FRIDAY
SHARKS v MANLY SEA EAGLES at Toyota Park, 7.30pm
SEA EAGLES:
Brett Stewart, Michael Robertson, Steve Bell, Steve Matai, Chris Hicks, Jamie Lyon, Matt Orford (captain), Mark Bryant, Michael Monaghan, Brent Kite, Anthony Watmough, Glenn Stewart, Luke Williamson. Interchange: Travis Burns, Glenn Hall, Adam Cuthbertson, Steve Menzies, Jack Afamasaga. SHARKS: David Simmons, Mitch Brown, Ben Pomeroy, Fraser Anderson, Dane Nielsen, Henry Perenara, Brett Seymour, Luke Douglas, Kevin Kingston, Craig Stapleton, Cameron Ciraldo, Dayne Weston, Reece Williams. Interchange: Eddie Su’a, Jacob Selmes, Paul Stephenson, Isaac De Gois. Referee: Shayne Hayne

GOLD COAST TITANS v BULLDOGS at Carrara Stadium, 7.30pm
TITANS:
Preston Campbell, Jake Webster, Josh Graham, Brett Delaney, Smith Samau, Matt Hilder, Josh Lewis, Luke Bailey (captain), Nathan Friend, Ian Donelly, Gavin Cooper, Mark Minichiello, Luke Swain. Interchange: Daniel Conn, James Stosic, Kris Kahler, David Myles. BULLDOGS: Luke Patten, Hazem El Masri, Daryl Millard, Willie Tonga, Heka Nanai, Ben Roberts, Brent Sherwin, Jarrad Hickey, Corey Hughes, Chris Armit, Sonny Bill Williams, Andrew Ryan (capt), Reni Maitua. Interchange: Adam Perry, Nick Kouparitsas, Brad Morrin, Fred Briggs. Referee: Sean Hampstead

SATURDAY
PENRITH PANTHERS v ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA at CUA Stadium, 5.30pm
PANTHERS:
Michael Gordon, Geoff Daniela, Michael Jennings, Maurice Blair, Nick Youngquest, Richie Williams, Craig Gower (captain), Joel Clinton, Keith Peters, Bryan Norrie, Frank Pritchard, Tony Puletua, Nathan Smith. Interchange: Frank Puletua, Matthew Bell, Peter Wallace, Luke Lewis, Paul Aiton, Brendan Worth (two to be omitted). DRAGONS: Ben Hornby (captain), Jason Nightingale, Chase Stanley, Matt Cooper, Josh Morris, Mark Gasnier (captain), Jamie Soward, Dan Hunt, Simon Woolford, Jason Ryles, Beau Scott, Chris Houston, Ben Creagh. Interchange: Adam Peek, Rangi Chase, Lagi Setu, Corey Payne. Referee: Gavin Badger

NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v SYDNEY ROOSTERS at EnergyAustralia Stadium, 7.30pm
KNIGHTS:
Kurt Gidley, James McManus, Brad Tighe, Adam MacDougall, Cooper Vuna, Daniel Abraham, Luke Walsh, Mitchell Sargent, Danny Buderus (captain), Adam Woolnough, Steve Simpson, Zeb Taia, Reegan Tanner. Interchange: Michael Young, George Carmont, Jesse Royal, Matthew White, Jarrod Mullen (one to be omitted). ROOSTERS: Sam Perrett, Amos Roberts, Mitchell Aubusson, Iosia Soliola, Joel Monaghan, Braith Anasta, Craig Wing, David Shillington, Heath L`Estrange, Lopini Paea, Anthony Tupou, Craig Fitzgibbon (capt), Ashley Harrison. Interchange: Danny Nutley, Nate Myles, Setimata Sa, Shane Shackleton. Referee: Tony Archer

MELBOURNE STORM v CANBERRA RAIDERS at Olympic Park, 7.30pm
STORM:
Billy Slater, Steve Turner, Matt King, Matt Geyer, Israel Folau, Greg Inglis, Cooper Cronk, Ben Cross, Cameron Smith, Brett White, Jeremy Smith, Ryan Hoffman, Dallas Johnson. Interchange: Jeff Lima, Adam Blair, Clint Newton, Anthony Quinn, James Aubusson, Garret Crossman (two to be omitted). RAIDERS: William Zillman, David Milne, Phil Graham, Colin Best, Bronx Goodwin, Todd Carney, Michael Dobson, Troy Thompson, Lincoln Withers, Scott Logan, Nigel Plum, Glen Turner, Alan Tongue (captain). Interchange: Marshall Chalk, Dane Tilse, Josh Miller, Michael Weyman, Joe Picker. Referee: Jared Maxwell

SUNDAY
WESTS TIGERS v NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS at Campbelltown Stadium, 2pm
TIGERS:
Shannon Gallant, Daniel Fitzhenry, Dean Collis, Paul Whatuira, Chris Lawrence, John Morris, Robbie Farah, Todd Payten, Dene Halatau, Keith Galloway, Taniela Tuiaki, Liam Fulton, Chris Heighington. Interchange: Ben Te’o, Stuart Flanagan, Bronson Harrison, Ben Galea, Jarrod Saffy, Ryan O’Hara (two to be omitted). WARRIORS: Wade McKinnon, Michael Crockett, Jerome Ropati, Simon Mannering, Manu Vatuvei, Michael Witt, Grant Rovelli, Sam Rapira, George Gatis, Steve Price (capt), Ruben Wiki, Logan Swann, Micheal Luck. Interchange: Wairangi Koopu, Evarn Tuimavave, Epalahame Lauaki, Nathan Fien. Referee: Paul Simpkins

SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS v NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS at Telstra Stadium, 3pm
RABBITOHS:
Nathan Merritt, Fetuli Talanoa, Nigel Vagana, Shannon Hegarty, Paul Mellor, Ben Rogers, Eddie Paea, Peter Cusack (captain), Issac Luke, Roy Asotasi (captain), John Sutton, David Fa’alogo, Dean Widders. Interchange: Shane Rigon, Luke Stuart, Manase Manuokafoa, Eddy Pettybourne, Shannan McPherson (one to be omitted). COWBOYS: Matt Bowen, Ashley Graham, Scott Minto, Paul Bowman, Ty Williams, Ben Farrar, Johnathan Thurston (captain), Ray Cashmere, Aaron Payne, Carl Webb, Steve Southern, Justin Smith, Sione Faumuina. Interchange: David Faiumu, Jacob Lillyman, Matt Bartlett, Matthew Scott, Sam Faust (one to be omitted). Referee: Steve Clark

MONDAY
BRISBANE BRONCOS v PARRAMATTA EELS at Suncorp Stadium, 7pm
BRONCOS:
Karmichael Hunt, Steve Michaels, Darius Boyd, David Stagg, Craig Frawley, Tonie Carroll, Michael Ennis, Ben Hannant, Shaun Berrigan, Petero Civoniceva (captain), Corey Parker, Dane Carlaw, Greg Eastwood. Interchange: Brad Thorn, Dave Taylor, Nick Kenny, Nick Emmett, Joel Moon, Shane Perry (two to be omitted). EELS: Jarryd Hayne, Krisnan Inu, Ben Smith, Timana Tahu, Eric Grothe, Brett Finch, Tim Smith, Nathan Cayless (captain), Mark Riddell, Fuifui Moimoi, Nathan Hindmarsh, Chad Robinson, Feleti Mateo. Interchange: PJ Marsh, Josh Cordoba, Ian Hindmarsh, Aaron Cannings, Weller Hauraki. Referee: Ben Cummins

NRL Dangerzone – Total Fight Ban

The NRL today heads into very scary territory after the 2-week suspensions handed out to Cronulla Sharks players Anthony Watts and Misi Taulapapa for their part in the brawl with the Roosters last weekend.

Most of us know the circumstances from the Roosters vs Sharks game; but to set the scene – Shark Paul Gallen headbutts and then charges at Rooster Shane Shackleton; which turned into a larger brawl in which Watts and Taulapapa became involved.

The NRL got their decision on Paul Gallen absolutely correct. Gallen was the frustrated aggressor who initiated the whole thing and Shane Shackleton was right in being able to defend himself and was rightly not suspended.

Where the problem lies is with Anthony Watts and Misi Taulapapa, these guys becoming involved in the melee in an attempt to defend their teammate.

Now let me say first and foremost, I do not condone outright violence in the NRL. If someone lashes out and strikes someone, they should be penalised in the least. However when the NRL turns their focus onto the group participants in a brief melee and these participants are then charged and banned for multiple weeks – it sets a scary precedence for our premier competition.

The AFL some years ago went down a similar path and totally outlawed minor participants in any form of melee. The AFL bosses thought it would really enhance their game. Sadly for supporters of AFL, they now see incidents of push and shove or should we say ‘cat fights’ every week.

The AFL now sees: shirt grabbing, chesting, rolling around on the ground, slapping, hair pulling just to name a few – the AFL players will not strike; so they dance around like girls instead making the situation a laughing stock to all and sundry.

The melee that took place between the Sharks and Roosters is very rare these days, the players sorted themselves out very quickly. No one was injured and both teams got back to playing footy right away. The NRL is obviously a heavy contact sport; from time to time passion and emotion overflows and guys will let off steam.

I urge the NRL to tread very carefully with future citings in minor melees. Of course we want to see a clean and fair game for ourselves and our kids, but the path we are taking may lead us further down the path towards AFL and Soccer – in which the rate of ‘diving’ ‘simulation’ and general ‘softness’ is sadly evident regularly.

NRL Round 18 Power Rankings

By The Grubber

Some things never change; Melbourne continue to camp on top of the NRL Power Rankings and The Grubber continues to tell it how it is. This week has seen the Titans fall by the wayside, Cronulla left with no hope except the stats book and a Brisbane side perched up high but really to come back to earth after losing Locky. Here’s how the Grubber sees things after Round 18:

1. Melbourne: Simply brilliant in their win against the hapless Knights. Could do nothing wrong in scoring their 9 tries and will be hoping that this victory wasn’t the high point of the season for them. Probably the most dominant team in the last decade. Hand ’em the premiership now? Power score: 9.5/10, Odds that Cameron Smith will be the next Australian captain: 2-1.

2. Brisbane: Have taken a massive hit with the loss of Lockyer and therefore will take little comfort out of their excellent victory on Friday. Still boast a devastating forward pack though and their fate in well within their control heading into the crucial stages of the premiership. Power score: 8.5/10, Odds of “All Golds” now calling Brett Finch to replace Lockey: 1000-1.

3. Manly: Negative press reporting provided ample motivation against Tigers. Will be flat out securing second spot ahead of a fast finishing Parramatta and North Queensland though and have a tough stretch home. Defence solid and attack getting better with each game. Power score: 8/10, Odds of Manly overcoming the “Curse of the Cement Truck” and beating Cronulla at Cronulla for the first time since 1986: Slim.

4. Parramatta: Bounced back well from shock loss to Newcastle to record a good victory against a resurgent Souths. Look every inch a top 4 side and will back themselves to knock Manly out of second place. Power score: 8/10, Odds that Russell Crowe will challenge Denis Fitzgerald and Michael Hagan to a pub fight: 2-1.

5. New Zealand: Looking like a top 4 side at last and seem to be developing the consistency desired by all sides. Halves pairing will be key to their late success. Wade McKinnon is one of the form players of the NRL right now. Power score: 7.5/10, Odds that the Warriors will find some way to lose enough competition points to keep them out of the finals: 5-1.

6. Penrith: Took advantage of a Mason-less Bulldogs to show what their attack is capable of. May be able to claim a few big scalps before the season is over. Their forward pack can be devastating on their day. Power score: 7/10, Odds that Greg Alexander will take over coaching role in manner of Brad Fittler: 10-1.

7. Canterbury: Run home looks to have been slightly derailed with key injuries. Probably cannot win at the business end of the season without Mason. Still boast an excellent forward pack though and are far from out of this race. Power score 7/10, Odds that Canterbury will stage a miraculous run and wind up in the top 4 despite the injuries: 3-1.

8. Wests Tigers: Suffered a real setback against Manly and desperately need more experienced talents such as Marshall and Hodgson to return. Need to concentrate on setting up go forward first and then spreading the ball to the edges. Have an easy run home and should be able to take advantage of that. Power score: 7/10, Odds that Robbie Farah will continue at number 7 this season: 50-1.

9. North Queensland: Top 4 hopes still looking good despite loss to Broncos, however as mentioned last week Thurston will need to be 100% fit. Will be hoping for a resounding win against Souths this weekend to give weight to their premiership claims. Power score: 7/10, Odds that Russell Crowe will really struggle for something to insert into his “Book of Rivalries” before the North Qld clash: Pretty high.

10. South Sydney: Could have been flogged against Parramatta and were certainly well below their best. Completion rate needs improvement as does attacking flair. Halves don’t quite seem to be doing the job at the moment. A loss this weekend will have them battling to be in finals contention. Power score: 6.5/10, Odds of Brian Smith weighing in to ego battle between Hagan and Taylor: Would be great, but realistically, it ain’t gonna happen.

11. Roosters: Change of coach had immediate impact in terms of communication and attacking prowess. Not a finals chance (despite only being two wins outside the eight), but will look forward to belting a few high flyers, and the Bunnies. Power score: 6.5/10, Odds that there really were 8,000 people at Saturday night’s game against Cronulla: 100-1 (admittedly it was cold).

12. Canberra: Got things back on track with devastating victory. Could sneak into finals if they can continue to replicate home ground form however still have trouble backing up from wins and playing on the road. Power score: 6.5/10, Odds of Canberra winning in week 1 if they do make the finals: 10-1.

13. Cronulla: Really battling at the moment and current spate of injuries and suspensions has not helped their cause. Will no doubt get their season back on track this Friday night with a “backs-against-the-wall, season-deciding, haven’t-lost-to-them-at-home-in-21-years” victory against Manly. Power score: 6/10, Who is enjoying the Sharks slump more? Gus Gould or Stuart Raper: Tough call. Probably Raper.

14. Newcastle: Were woeful against Melbourne and never really looked like scoring. Will battle without Buderus if he isn’t fit and may need to consider recreating their premiership winning performance enhancing program from the mid to late 90’s. Power score: 5/10, Odds that Clint Newton’s family will probably need to leave Newcastle very shortly: 2-1.

15. Gold Coast: As predicted last week, the Gold Coast were understandably drained from last week’s golden point effort. Lack of depth is now hitting home and it is hard to see them claiming enough victories necessary to push into the 8. Power score: 5/10, Odds of “Remember the Titans” headline surfacing if losing streak continues: 2-1.

16. St George-Illawarra: Were as bad this week as they were good last week. Season is beyond salvation but will hope to form some useful combinations for next season when Gasnier returns. Power score: 6/10, Odds that the Dragons will still start the 2008 season premiership as favourites: 2-1, they always do.

Yours in League,
The Grubber

NRL Ladder and Points Table Round 18

The NRL table movers and shakers continue to be the Brisbane Broncos, now on 20 points and entrenched in the Top 8. The NZ Warriors also continue their late run up the NRL table – now on 18 points and with a healthy for and against.

The major losers this week on the NRL Table are the Cronulla Sharks and the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Both the Bunnies and the Sharks made things much harder by losing this week, remaining on 16 points and the Bunnies now have a sorry looking points differential.

For the Full NRL ladder and points table after Round 18 – Click Here

Melbourne Machine Rolls Knights

Melbourne Storm 44 def Newcastle Knights 0

The well oiled NRL machine that is the Melbourne Storm threw a party tonight for former Knights Clint Newton, Anthony Quinn and for the 50th game of Steve Turner.

It was oh so sweet for Clint Newton, not only to get a win over his former club and coach Brian Smith; but to touchdown for a late try to rub salt into the wounds.

It was a carbon copy of last Monday nights NRL game, only this time the Knights were the team half a yard off the pace. From the outset the Knights lacked timing, discipline and ruck muscle to stop the Storm rolling forward.

The Knights tried hard to slow each play the ball, but the wrestling matches were being lost and penalties followed – 3 inside the first 5 minutes against the Knights.

For the Storm, they were their usual clinical selves. Crisp passing and initially deep backline movements were the winners for the Storm, scoring tries near the edges. As the game wore on, the gaps opened in the middle and the Storm took full advantage – blowing the score right out and virtually allowing them to put the cue in the rack for the rest of the regular NRL season in 2007. They could sit back and not win a game and still make the top 2 at this stage.

Cameron Smith and Dallas Johnson were rested at various stages and coach Craig Bellamy hinted at possibly resting Smith and others from upcoming games where possible.

The Knights need to lick their wounds quickly, as what was going to be a training run against the Roosters next week – now looks a tough ask; with Freddy injecting new life into the Bondi club. The Storm remain at home to the Raiders in Round 19.

Bob Fulton Darryl Brohman 2GB Feud

2GB Continuous Call members Bob Fulton and Darryl Brohman are reportedly not talking over heated words exchanged recently over Darryl Brohmans decision to sue Les Boyd over the elbow from Boyd that broke Brohmans jaw in Origin.

Darryl Brohman is reported to be in crisis talks with 2GB power brokers to work out a solution; as his co-worker Bob Fulton has repeatedly called him a ‘coward’ and someone that doesn’t have wider NRL respect.

Watch this footage (with audio coverage) of Bob Fulton and Darryl Brohman giving it to each other:

Jason Taylor verbals Michael Hagan

By John Chelsea

Everyone has finally seen how much Jason Taylor wanted the coaching job at Parramatta this year; when yesterday he let loose at Michael Hagan in front of least a dozen bystanders at Parramatta Stadium.

It started to heat up early on, when Jason Taylor and his Rabbitohs wanted to use the warm-up facilities at the Southern end of Parramatta Stadium. This is the area Parramatta themselves have warmed up on for years – so there were two problems, Parramatta usually prefer this area and due to recent heavy rains; this council parkland was closed anyway.

Jason Taylor obviously read into it all too much; thinking conspiracy he simply ordered his team to jump the fence and train on the closed park (Old Kings Oval). (Even though Parramatta officials had offered South Sydney access to the Stadium itself to warm-up.)

So the mood was a firey one from early on, much credit must now be given to Tony Archer for keeping the two sides apart. It would have been very easy for this game to boil over like the Roosters / Sharks match on Saturday night.

When Parramatta held on to defeat Souths 18-12 in a thriller – the NRL post match media conference was set to be an emotional one. It didn’t disappoint. As Jason Taylor caught sight of Michael Hagan he locked on and unloaded verbally “How f*cked are you?” Taylor lashed out. (Believing that Hagan was responsible for the warm-up conspiracy). Taylor kept going “Brian Smith’s rebuilding what you f….d up in Newcastle!” raged Taylor.

Hagan replied: “At least we won without Joey (Andrew Johns) today.”

The Eels coach’s comment was in response to Taylor previously questioning Hagan’s ability to coach wins at the Knights without star player Johns. (At an NRL awards night)

Taylor was always going to be up against it after losing the match, winners are grinners and even the best sledger couldn’t dig themselves out of this one.

Both coaches refused to elaborate more deeply on the matter and club bosses Denis Fitzgerald and Shane Richardson later weighed into the debate.

However, it seems crystal clear that Jason Taylor obviously has a complex over Michael Hagan and the Eels and badly wanted the win not just for his team but for himself – as the amount of fireworks that exploded from young Taylor yesterday suggests he badly wanted to be captain of the Eels ship.

Parramatta Eels outlast Rabbits

Parramatta Eels 18 def South Sydney 12

The Eels withstood a late flurry from South Sydney at Parramatta Stadium today to hang on 18-12 in a fairly defence oriented game from both sides.

It was a game where the Eels were dominant in the first half and should have led by more than their 14 points, after a staggering 65% possession rate and a completion stat that read 95%.

Timana Tahu was back and at his best for the Eels, initially putting his fierce shoulder into the defence then scoring a scintillating solo try; the second of the day for the Eels. Tahu looked to be moving freely and to be sure; coach Hagan rested the star centre early – pulling him off with 15 minutes to go.

The Eels first try was scored by the late returning Nathan Cayless, after a nice bomb catch, hang and pass in the air from Kris Inu. Nathan Cayless sniffing around to get the offload and reach out to score near the posts.

Both sides started cautiously; but the Eels grew in confidence with some possession off the back of some shocking calls from referee Tony Archer. There were some real mind boggling decisions for boths teams today which will have referees both Robert Finch doing some over time.

When Souths did have the ball in the first half, they looked very predictable in attack. Playing a much deeper line this week, the Souths runners were easily picked and tagged by the Eels defence – rushing and shutting down most raids.

The second half was a different story, the Eels coming out initially and playing like millionaires and not respecting the ball. Their incomplete sets giving Souths some momentum and the thrust they needed – Shane Rigon scurrying over from dummy half on 50 minutes to make a game of it.

The Eels went into their shells a little, but finally were able to execute a nice backline play to put Joel Reddy into the corner. The Eels had threatened with similar plays all day, but this time they pulled it off. Missing the kick proved a worry for the Eels – the score 18-6 with still half an hour to go.

When Souths finally stopped going side to side in attack and attacked the line on the fringe, Ben Rogers busted through and setup Nathan Merritt for a nice score and a heart stopper finish for the locals.

Parramatta able to hang on for several sets in defence to turn South Sydney away and just hold out for the win. For the Eels Kris Inu was a clear man of the match, the young Kiwi rep was dangerous with the ball most of the day and pulled off some try savers for the home side. He was ably helped by fellow junior ranks team mate Jarryd Hayne, playing at fullback the NSW Origin rep was busy all day – rushing up to make some seriously heavy tackles that snuffed out multiple South Sydney raids. Michael Hagan will be happy with the improved defence the Eels showed after last weeks debacle.

For South Sydney, the halves pairing again performed well Ben Rogers and Jeremy Smith, the only criticism being their final tackle kick options – too many times they made it easy for Parramatta by kicking dead or not giving runners enough time to chase. Shane Rigon was also hard for the Eels to stop as was the always impressive Roy Asotasi who was tireless for the Rabbits.

After the match there were reports of a verbal slanging match between Jason Taylor and Michael Hagan – reportedly over warm-up facilities. We’ll pass on a full report as the information comes to hand.

Warriors Kill off Dragons revival
NZ Warriors 44 def St George Illawarra 16

NEW Zealand Warriors reignited their finals hopes with a crushing 44-16 win over St George-Illawarra in Auckland today.

The Warriors were never headed after running in three tries in the opening 13 minutes before cruising home to bring the Dragons’ two-game winning streak to an abrupt end.

The convincing win helped erase the disappointment of last week’s controversial loss to the Cowboys and lifted the Warriors back into the NRL top eight.

“It is getting down to the business end of the year … it’s just important we prepare as well as we can every week,” Warriors coach Ivan Cleary said.

“It’s pretty obvious we needed to win today.

“We had a good run a couple of weeks ago and it was disappointing last week. It was important to get into a good frame of mind for this game.”

After a horrendous start in which they gave up three unanswered tries to the Cowboys last week, the Warriors made sure they were ready to go from the opening whistle today.

Centre Simon Mannering opening the scoring after just four minutes as the home side ambushed the Dragons, and by the time the Kiwi international had his second on the half hour the game was as good as over at 26-0.

“We were obviously disappointed with our start last week,” Warriors captain Steve Price said.

“We have got to get that consistency because it is that tight at the moment that you don’t want to look back and have any regrets by not turning up.”

The disappointment was obvious on the face of Dragons coach Nathan Brown, his side’s slim finals hopes now all but extinguished.

They threatened an unlikely comeback when Josh Morris scored four minutes after the break to close to within 32-16, but the home side kicked away again when Evarn Tuimavavae went over under the posts six minutes later.

“They were too good for us at the start of the game. They were a bit hungrier than we were and got off to a great start,” Brown said.

“It was good play by the Warriors, it was just dumb play by us – dumb kicking.

“When we kick the ball for them to score two length-of-the-field tries, it’s poor play by us.

“Our attack has been good in the last three weeks, now our defence has gone a bit backwards, which has been a bit disappointing.”

Despite his side’s dire predicament, Brown refused to give up.

“The season is not dead and buried, but it just makes it hard, that is all,” Brown said.

The Dragons sustained another injury blow with prop Justin Poore damaging his shoulder, while back-up hooker Ben Ellis strained his hamstring.

Warriors five-eighth Michael Witt continued his hot streak with the boot as he landed eight goals from as many attempts, taking his tally of successful kicks to 25.

AAP

Raiders crush Titan hopefuls
Canberra Raiders 56 def Gold Coast Titans 10

CANBERRA has a fighting chance of making the NRL final eight after a stunning 56-10 demolition of Gold Coast Titans.

The Titans had taken an 10-6 lead midway through the first half thanks to centres Luke O’Dwyer and Brett Delaney but from there it was all one-way traffic with the Raiders amassing 50 unanswered points.

The forwards, especially man of the match Troy Thompson, laid a solid foundation for halfback Michael Dobson who racked up 18 points through a cheeky try and seven goals.

For the Titans the loss was compounded by an injury to skipper Scott Prince.

The halfback came from the field early in the second half with a recurrence of the collarbone injury that he suffered in last weekend’s loss to Brisbane.

Despite the dominant win Raiders coach Neil Henry was far from overjoyed with the result, offering praise and criticism of his side in equal doses.

He said the half-time score of 24-10 was not a fair symbol of the closeness of the first half.

“Realistically, we hadn’t been great,” Henry said.

“Our kicking game wasn’t great in the first half and to their credit Todd (Carney) and Dobbo (Dobson) took that on board and territorially we were much better in the second half.

Skipper Alan Tongue, who put his season on the line by playing with damaged knee cartilage, admitted there were plenty of smiles in the dressing shed.

“In the context of the season we needed to win and to win with a healthy score like that is going to do the confidence a lot of good,” he said.

An exasperated Titans coach John Cartwright accepted the loss as an experience most teams had to go through in a competition as tight as the NRL.

“A scoreline like that doesn’t come down to one or two areas,” Cartwright said.

“When the game got out of reach the most disappointing thing (is that) the floodgates just opened and there’s no excuse, there’s no reason to get a score line like that against you.

Skipper Luke Bailey was equally frustrated.

“I don’t know if they played real flash, I think we just played pretty terrible,” he said.

“I think it was the worst defensive effort in the second half we’ve had all year.

“They’re a big side and you can’t be on the back foot when you’ve got the size of those fellas coming at you.

Bailey said the loss of Prince didn’t affect the result.

“Whether Scotty Prince was fully fit today or not we would have lost because the forwards lost it through the middle.”

The Raiders levelled the score in the 34th minute through a try to hulking prop Michael Weyman, his first of the season.

From there Canberra ran away, eventually piling on 10 tries to move to 16 points on the ladder and just two shy of the struggling Titans who have now lost three games in a row and face the increasingly desperate Bulldogs on Friday night.

For Canberra the win was vital but it now has to keep winning and against superior opposition.

In the next four rounds it has matches against Melbourne Storm, North Queensland and the Bulldogs.

AAP

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