NRL Round 12 Power Rankings

The Grubber gives his NRL News power rankings below. How is your team faring? Is your NRL team losing or gaining players? Read on, and see the Grubbers ‘Around the Grounds’ article:

NRL Round 12 Power Rankings:

1.Melbourne: Did well to back up from gruelling encounter with Manly to defeat a gallant Homebush Rabbitohs side. Still the team to beat in this competition and are dangerous from anywhere on the park. Power score: 9/10, Odds of Manu Vatuvei being named against them this weekend: 30-1.

2. Parramatta: Out powered, outplayed and out enthused the hapless Tigers. Halves seem to be getting the job done behind a powerful forward pack. Looking like a serious contender. Power score: 8.5/10, Odds of Mark Riddell being able to parlay recent success of Eels into “third party” fast food endorsement deal: 3-1.

3. North Queensland: Impressive comeback in victory against Cronulla. Showed patience and composure that will serve them well in September. Important victory during disruptive Origin period. Power score: 8.5/10, Odds that Thurston’s street brawling opponent from Saturday night made reference to last year’s scandal which derailed Cowboy’s season: 2-1.

4. Manly: Poor choices in defence and wasteful offensive execution contributed to sub-par performance against Penrith. Will surely come back strongly after the bye this weekend. Power score: 8/10, Odds that opposition teams will now be studying (and planning) the Nick Youngquest backline movement before taking on the Sea Eagles: 2-1.

5. Wests Tigers: Suffered a set-back against Parramatta and may have begun to believe their own hype. Despite the hammering, this may be the loss they needed at this stage of the season. Power score: 7.5/10, Odds of Tigers ever having another player picked for Origin: slim, for some reason.

6. Cronulla: Bounced back from poor performance against Roosters to give a solid account against North Queensland. Will now need to manage unusually high number of Origin stars (2). Power score: 7/10, “Over-Under” on “Number of Interceptions thrown by Kimmorley in Origin II”: 5.

7. Penrith: Got the job done against Manly behind a powerful forward pack and control of the ruck area. Time will tell whether they have more of these performances in them. Power score: 6.5/10, Number of metres Panthers players crawled off the mark against Manly: 230 (go ahead, ask Middleton).

8. Canterbury: Got squared up for ludicrous SBW send-off against Newcastle and showed commitment that has been lacking in recent times. May still be suffering from front-office issues. Power score: 6.5/10, Odds that the Hughes family will continue to support the incestuous “family club”: 100-1.

9. Gold Coast: Demonstrated superb execution against Canberra to race away to early lead. Will surely start to suffer from massive forwards injury toll though. Power score: 6/10, Odds of some NRL player (other than Chris Walker) getting busted in a Gold Coast nightclub before the end of the year: 4-1.

10. Brisbane: Simply didn’t turn up against Jersey Flegg Dragons side and may now officially be suffering from “Premier’s Curse”. Fortunate to have Bye this weekend in order to regroup. Power score: 5.5/10, Odds that Wayne Bennett will blame poor form of Broncos side on recent distraction of player movements: 2-1.

11. Newcastle: Luke Walsh may have proved correct Brian Smith’s statement that Jarrod Mullen is not even the best half at the Knights (but evidently he is somehow the best half in NSW. Weird). Power score: 5/10, Odds that either Johns brother would ever concede that NSW side should not entirely consist of Newcastle players: 1000-1.

12. St George-Illawarra: Shocked the monkey with massive upset win over a partially Lockyer-less Broncos side. Soward may have found a home where surnames are not as important as form. Power score: 5/10, Odds that militant Dragons fans will be sporting witty “Soward is a Coward” signs following eventual and inevitable poor performance from their new signing: 2-1.

13. New Zealand: Were always going to struggle one man down. Have now signed Brisbane cyborg Brent Tate for next year so perhaps better things ahead for them with their inconsistent backline. Power score: 4.5/10, Odds that Tate will eventually wield a cast on his arm (David Barnhill style) to complement his bionic neck brace: 2-1.

14. South Sydney: Were reasonable in defeat against non-testicle grabbing Storm outfit. Cannot be too far away from a good performance, or another wooden spoon. Power score: 4/10, Odds of Russell Crowe remaining interested in team beyond ’07: 10-1.

15. Roosters: Started well, but didn’t quite do enough to beat determined Newcastle side. Forwards starting to show some positive signs. Power score: 4/10, Previous number of occasions where a team running last has had three players picked for NSW Origin: Zero (probably, I mean I didn’t check).

16. Canberra: Hot and cold side that never fails to deliver inconsistency. Had no luck against Gold Coast however and will be out for revenge this weekend against Parramatta side which flogged them earlier this year. Power score: 3.5/10, Odds of sacked Raider Steve Irwin being awarded Order of Australia medal in manner of late Crocodile Hunter: 10,000-1.

And…some quick “around the grounds”:

1. Player movements: There’s been plenty written and said in the last week about the recent spate of player movements. We’ve heard that they’re disruptive, demonstrate a lack of loyalty and that they distract from the game itself. All of those statements are probably true. The movements are disruptive – but then again, so is trying to balance salary cap payments and manage a roster, that’s just a part of the challenge. Take the “disruption” out of running a team and you’d lose the unpredictability of the NRL – which has made the game so interesting in the last few seasons. Sure, there is a lack of loyalty, but as Bob Sugar said in Jerry Maguire “it’s not show friends, it’s show business“. Do player movements distract from the game? No doubt about it. But so does every nightclub/drinking indiscretion too. Would any of us seriously want to give that up? Part of the reason we love league is the off-field drama. The NRL is the singularly most interesting code in the country. The stuff that happens off the paddock is almost as good as the game itself. This new approach to player trading is just the next evolution in the madness that is rugby league.

2. Injuries and the cap: Word this week that the Dragons may soon find themselves in salary cap trouble due to the number of players that they have already had to use this year. Apparently they have reached beyond their top 25 on several occasions and may find themselves having fielded a playing rotation whose value exceeds the salary cap. Now, if there’s any certainty in rugby league these days, it’s that St George-Illawarra will always whine about injuries wrecking their season. This time however they may have a point. The Dragons couldn’t really do much about the injuries. These things happen. But perhaps it’s time for the NRL to consider providing concessions to teams in this situation. This could be achieved through the development of a “disabled list”, much the current rule in Major League Baseball. Teams would have to name a 25 man “active roster” and any injured players would be exempt from this roster and would be listed on the Disabled List. Players listed on the “DL” would not be eligible to play for a period of either 15 or 60 days (depending on the severity of the injury and the club’s assessment of their absence and would stay on a 15 day or 60 day DL regardless of whether the injury heals more quickly than expected) and would be exempt from the team’s cap. This would allow teams to call up players from the lower grades with little salary cap impact.

3. Penalty count: Ok, once and for all, here are the rules regarding discussing a lopsided penalty count. 1) If you didn’t see the game, you can’t comment. End of story. You’re relying on what you read in the paper, or what you heard Andrew Voss say on Sunday morning and therefore you don’t know whether that heavy count may have been justified. This rule should be really obvious. 2) Sometimes a heavy penalty count in favour of one team is actually justified. Take Penrith on Friday night for instance. An ill-disciplined side who well and truly deserved the 13 whistles blown against ’em. 3) A lopsided count can be misleading. Again, on Friday night, Manly were awarded 13 penalties, but many of those came early in the tackle count and late in the game when Manly were already in the Penrith red-zone. Given the margin of 6 points (i.e. Manly needed a try) those additional penalties didn’t do the Sea Eagles any favours and instead just killed their momentum. The Bulldogs pulled the same trick against the Warriors on Sunday. I hope that ends the debate. The key message to take away is this: watch the game (so you know what you’re talking about) and consider the context of the game when penalties are given. Makes a world of difference.

Yours in league,
The Grubber.

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NRL Round 13 Team Lineups

ALL the team lineups – round 13 of the NRL premiership (all times AEST):

David Peachey, Nathan Merritt, Nigel Vagana, Fetuli Talanoa, Paul Mellor, Ben Rogers, Jeremy Smith, Peter Cusack (captain), Stuart Webb, Roy Asotasi (Captain), Luke Stuart, David Fa’alogo, Dean Widders. Interchange: Shane Rigon, Issac Luke, Manase Manuokafoa, Scott Geddes, Joe Galuvao (one to be omitted).
PANTHERS: Rhys Wesser, Michael Gordon, Michael Jennings, Luke Lewis, Nick Youngquest, Peter Wallace, Craig Gower (captain), Joel Clinton, Luke Priddis, Frank Pulletua, Frank Pritchard, Tony Peletua, Nathan Smith. Interchange: Brendan Worth, Junior Moors, Tim Grant, Paul Aiton.

CANBERRA RAIDERS v PARRAMATTA EELS at Canberra Stadium, 5.30pm

RAIDERS: William Zillman, David Milne, Marshall Chalk, Brad Cross, Bronx Goodwin, Terry Campese, Michael Dobson, Dane Tilse, Lincoln Withers, Scott Logan, Ben Jones, Glen Turner, Alan Tonhue (captain). Interchange: Josh Miller, Troy Thompson, Ryan Hinchcliffe, Michael Weyman.
EELS: Luke Burt, Joel Reddy, Ben Smith, Krisnan Inu, Eric Grothe, Brett Finch, Tim Smith, Nathan Cayless (captain), PJ Marsh, Aaron Cannings, Chad Robinson, Feleti Mateo, Daniel Wagon. Interchange: Mark Riddell, Josh Cordoba, Ian Hindmarsh, Fuifui Moimoi, Weller Hauraki (one to be omitted).

Amos Roberts, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Sam Perrett, Joel Monaghan, John Williams, Setaimata Sa, Mitchell Pearce, David Shillington, Craig Wing, Danny Nutley, Anthony Tupou, Craig Fitzgibbon (captain), Ashley Harrison. Interchange: Shane Shackleton, Lopini Paea, Mitchell Aubusson, Danny Williams.
COWBOYS: Matt Bowen, Brenton Bowen, Scott Minto, Ashley Graham, Ty Williams, Justin Smith, Jason Smith, Shane Tronc, Aaron Payne (captain), Ray Cashmere, Steve Southern, Sam Faust, Matthew Bartlett. Interchange: David Faiumu, Scott Bolton, Matthew Scott, Ben Vaeau.

NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v WESTS TIGERS at EnergyAustralia Stadium, 3pm
Nathan Hinton, James McManus, Luke MacDougall, Brad Tighe, Adam MacDougall, Chris Bailey, Luke Walsh, Josh Perry, Riley Brown, Adam Woolnough (captain), Kirk Reynoldson (captain), Cory Paterson, Daniel Tolar. Interchange: Michael Young, Reegan Tanner, Mitchell Sargent, Kade Snowden.
TIGERS: Shannon McDonnell, Daniel Fitzhenry, Dean Collis, Jason Moodie, Taniela Tuiaki, Chris Lawrence, John Morris, Todd Payten, Robbie Farah, Bryce Gibbs, Ben Galea, Chris Heighington, Dene Halatau. Interchange: Liam Fulton, Ben Te’o, Bronson Harrison, Keith Galloway.

Wade McKinnon, Patrick Ah Van, Tony Martin, Lance Hohaia, Manu Vatuvei, Michael Witt, Grant Rovelli, Ruben Wiki (captain), Nathan Fien, Sam Rapira, Simon Mannering, Logan Swann, Micheal Luck . Interchange: George Gatis, Evarn Tuimavave, Epalahame Lauaki, Wairangi Koopu.
STORM: Steve Turner, Will Chambers, Sika Manu, Anthony Quinn, Israel Folau, Matt Geyer, Cooper Cronk, Ben Cross, James Aubusson, Garret Crossman, Clint Newton, Sam Tagataese, Jeremy Smith. Interchange: Jeff Lima, Ian Donnelly, Adam Blair, Matt Rua, Anthony Perkins (one to be omitted).

DRAGONS: Josh Morris, Jason Nightingale, Beau Scott, Keith Lulia, Chase Stanley, Rangi Chase, Jamie Soward, Justin Poore, Simon Woolford, Jason Ryles (captain), Danny Wicks, Chris Houston, Ben Creagh. Interchange: Adam Peek, Ben Ellis, Lagi Setu, Ricky Thorby, Dan Hunt (one to be omitted).
SHARKS: Misi Taulapapa, Mitch Brown, Ben Pomeroy, Reece Williams, Luke Covell, Anthony Watts, Adam Dykes, Luke Douglas, Kevin Kingston, Craig Stapleton, Dayne Weston, Phil Leuluai, Paul Gallen. Interchange: Jacob Selmes, Henry Perenara, Paul Stephenson, Isaac De Gois.

NB: Brisbane Broncos, Bulldogs, Manly Sea Eagles and Gold Coast Titans all have a bye.

State of Origin Lineups Game 2

We’ve had a massive bundle of emails today from NRL News readers, regarding State of Origin Game 2 Lineups and who should and shouldn’t be there.

NSW halfback spot was a big talking point, as was the bench. Many also thought Brett White and Jamie Lyon didn’t earn their keeps in Game 1. Obviously the emails regarding the Queensland Maroons State of Origin side centered around keeping the same side, however some mentioned Matt Bowen to be fitted in somewhere.

Here are some samples of comments in the emails we have received:

Ryan T (NSW): “Kimmorley is a smart choice, he has experience and is a tough and durable no.7”
Ben M (QLD): “The aggression from us in Game 1 was perfect, will be hard to replicate in Sydney.”
Chris L (QLD): “Matt Bowen had to be given a run somewhere, he is a super star or even sub”
Matt N (NSW): “Lyon didn’t do enough in game 1. He isn’t quite up to NRL fitness and nous yet”
Peter W (NSW): “Brett White needs to really lift after getting bashed in game 1. Last chance”
Daniel T (NSW): “Selectors got it right, Toupu had to go and Bird is a good scrapper. Happy!”
Andy K (QLD): “Telstra is a hard task, regardless of Teams – 82,000 cockroaches! Scary!”

State of Origin Teams for Game 2

NSW and Queensland have announced their State of Origin Rugby League sides for game 2.

NSW Blues: Anthony Minichiello; Matt King, Jamie Lyon, Matt Cooper, Jarryd Hayne; Braith Anasta, Brett Kimmorley; Brett White, Danny Buderus (capt), Brent Kite, Willie Mason, Nathan Hindmarsh, Andrew Ryan.
Bench: Luke Bailey, Steve Simpson, Ryan Hoffman, Greg Bird.

The NSW Origin side has made limited changes, with Sharks Kimmorley and Greg Bird getting the nod and also the Storms Ryan Hoffman gets a spot on the bench. Pushing Anthony Tupou out of the side.

QLD Maroons: Karmichael Hunt, Brent Tate, Steve Bell, Justin Hodges, Greg Inglis, Darren Lockyer (capt), Johnathan Thurston, Steve Price, Cameron Smith, Petero Civoniceva, Tonie Carroll, Carl Webb, Dallas Johnson. Bench: Shaun Berrigan, Jacob Lillyman, Nate Myles, Neville Costigan.

Queensland will go into Origin II with the same side that was originally named for the series opener.

Cowboys forward Carl Webb, a late withdrawl from Origin I with a hamstring injury, comes back in to the team in place of Antonio Kaufusi.

Kaufusi has been ruled out for the remainder of the Origin series and NRL season with a ruptured patella tendon.

Parramatta Ruthless in Disposal of Tigers

A dominant and creative Parramatta Eels outfit tonight totally and utterly disposed of the fancied Tigers side at Telstra Stadium. The Eels running out winners, 38 – 8.

Knocking on from the kick-off – Eel Nathan Cayless looked to start on the wrong foot, however the Eels regathered immediately after Burt stabbed a 10m dropout for his team to regain and they did, from there they were in control. Dominating possession and killing the Tigers with their second phase play. It was a much different style from the usually simple Eels game of single phase, one out.

As the Eels rolled forward and dominated the ruck, it was showtime out wide with the right edge of Ben Smith and Eric Grothe giving the Tigers defenders nightmares. Grothe was explosive and clinical in scoring an early try and gaining valuable metres all night.

Wing partner and NSW State of Origin winger Jarryd Hayne, got in on the act also – with a scintilating backline injection; scoring at speed and leaving speedsters O’Donnell and Collis in his wake. Good support from centre Ben Smith and fullback Luke Burt – it was a good effort throughout the ranks for the Eels.

The Tigers will still be trying to work out what hit them, it was one of those nights where the Eels would have disposed of any team put in front of them. The Telstra crowd of 22,000 – mostly Tigers faithful were deadly silent as the game wore on, as Parramatta kicked away on the scoreboard, they followed it up with some powerful hits by Jarryd Hayne and PJ Marsh. The two small men pulling off 2 of the biggest hits of the year, the second leaving Brett Hodgeson dazed and wounded with a bleeding nose and mouth region and a massive shiner under his left eye.

The Tigers had limited opportunites, and as such they probably tried to push the pass or rush the play – gifting possession to the Eels at key moments in the match. After 3 sets, attacking the Eels line – the Tigers handed the ball back cheaply after a Todd Payten failed tunnel ball pass, a coach killer without doubt.

The Tigers showed promise through Chris Lawrence who again was a standout for the Western club. As he develops, his speed is complimented by a much bulkier build – making the young star an even more scary prospect for opposition.

The Tigers forwards tonight were really outplayed, and this obviously makes it hard for the backline to prove dangerous, even the usually probing Robbie Farrah was quiet and prevented from dominating at dummy half.

The Eels face the Raiders away next Saturday night and the Tigers are at Gosford against the Newcastle Knights.

Jonathan Thurston Brawl, Assault

Leading North Queensland Cowboys and Queensland State of Origin halfback Jonathan Thurston has reportedly been involved in an incident in Townsville last night. The NRL’s leading player, Thurston seems to have been unluckily in the wrong place at the wrong time.

An investigation is underway into the alleged street brawl in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Police were called to a street fight involving four people on Sturt street at 4am, with one man sent to Townsville hospital suffering tooth damage before being discharged.

Apparently Jonathan Thurston was walking home with three females; one of those being his ex-girlfriend Nikki Suey and a second female companion.

It’s reported that another group of males have become embroiled in a verbal slanging match with the Jonathan Thurston group; it’s then alleged one of the males has punched one of the female’s accompanying Jonathan Thurston and from there Thurston has become involved.

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NRL: Bulldogs 40 def NZ Warriors 20

The Bulldogs have been able to find some form in a comfortable manner today, after disposing of a 12 man Warriors outfit in Auckland.

The Warriors lost Australian winger Michael Crockett to a send off after 4 minutes, when the stocky outside back clashed with Dogs rookie Cameron Phelps in a head on tackle. While the tackle was slightly high, the impact point was Crockett’s head and shoulder – and while illegal, there is simply no way this was a send off offence. It seems every time an opposing player is injured from a borderline high shot – the accused is immediately sent off.

Sean Hampstead continued to give the Warriors make up penalties as the game wore on, but this simply made him look even poorer in the whole situation.

To the Warriors credit, they used 12 men and a swag of possession to their advantage, and managed to hit the lead through some impressive tries. One particular try, the Warriors somehow managed to create an overlap with less men, and used every inch of the field to send Mannering over for a nice 4 pointer.

The eventual burn out cut in for the Warriors, and the Dogs began to overrun the disadvantaged Kiwis. Simple handling errors and poor ruck security saw more ball gifted to the Dogs as the Warriors began to self destruct.

The Bulldogs took full advantage, Sonny Bill Williams playing probably his best game in several years and his move to the lock position was an exciting one for Bulldogs fans and local kiwi supporters alike. Williams was at his blockbusting and offloading best early in the match, but as it wore on – we saw a silky smooth ball playing Williams who laid off some nice gap passes before the line, in one instance putting Kane Cleal into score untouched. Williams capped off his man of the match performance with a 2 try haul.

The Dogs halves combination of Roberts and Sherwin really worked today, and we should see the Dogs persist with this option- meaning Daniel Holdsworth will be trapped in premier league in the short term.

Shrek played solidly and put his hand up for Origin, the big unit coming up with some of his fearless runs – however in my eyes, O’Meley shouldn’t be a shoe in for the prop role for NSW. Rounding out the day for Dogs, they had good showings from Corey Hughes and Lee Te Mari, the latter leaving the field late with a knee injury.

The Warriors are left in struggle street now, with fellow losing streakers South Sydney – both teams on 5 game losing runs.

NRL: Titans 28 def Canberra Raiders 8

FORMER Australia halfback Scott Prince steered Gold Coast Titans to a commanding 28-8 win over a woeful Canberra in at Carrara.

Prince had a hand in four of the Titans’ five tries as the home side raced to a 28-0 lead at the half-time break to virtually seal victory.

In-form winger Matt Petersen bagged two tries, despite suffering a dislocated finger early in the match.

He went close to grabbing another in the 75th minute but his arm touched the corner post just before he grounded the ball.

The Titans are edging closer to making Carrara their fortress after securing their fourth win from five matches at the ground but they were disappointing in the second half as they failed to put the Raiders to the sword.

Queensland coach and Raiders legend Mal Meninga was among the crowd of 13,644 to monitor Origin hopeful Brad Meyers but the Titans prop limped off the field in the 21st minute with a right knee injury and didn’t return.

Canberra had no answer to Prince’s bag of tricks as the scheming halfback had a hand in tries to Petersen, five-eighth Josh Lewis and centre Mat Rogers in the opening stanza.

Lewis helped keep the scoreboard ticking by setting up a 19th minute try for recalled winger Jake Webster.

Canberra didn’t post its first points until the 54th minute when fullback William Zillman, who earlier had gifted a try to Lewis after an in-goal error, crossed out wide.

The second half degenerated into a farce as both sides made fundamental errors and failed to complete their sets.

Raiders back rower Ben Jones scored a soft try from a penalty tap after a Zillman break to reduce the deficit to 28-8.

About the only excitement in the second half was a scuffle between Petersen and Raiders centre Marshall Chalk which resulted in a penalty to the home side.

Utility David Myles made his debut for the Titans after former Raiders forward Michael Hodgson hurt his groin in the warm-up.

Canberra was missing centre Adrian Purtell, who was diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis this week, and second rower Glen Turner (back).


NRL Super Saturday Results

Knights Outslug Roosters
Knights 22 def Roosters 18

Newcastle put a horror week behind them with an upset 22-18 win over Sydney Roosters in tonight’s round 12 NRL fixture at Bluetongue Stadium in Gosford.

After being thumped 71-6 by the Broncos last Sunday, the Knights then endured a tumultuous week with club veteran Clint Newton departing for Melbourne in acrimonious circumstances and Adam Woolnough announcing he would leave at season’s end.

Brian Smith’s side headed into the match as rank outsiders and after conceding the first try of the match after just three minutes their backs were firmly to the wall.

But they hit back with the next two tries to lead 10-6 at half-time and scored the last 12 points of the match to seal a brave win.

New South Wales full-back Anthony Minichiello posted the first points of the match after he chased down a Mitchell Pearce grubber kick close to the line for an early 6-0 lead.

But Newcastle hit back with a try to winger James McManus in the 16th minute. McManus was put in space on the right wing and beat two Roosters defenders to touch down.

The Knights then hit the lead with three minutes left in the half, with second rower Cory Paterson spectacularly outleaping Amos Roberts to bring down a bomb from debutant half-back Luke Walsh on the left wing.

Braith Anasta finished off a brilliant team try in the 48th minute to put the Roosters back in front, fielding a chip ahead from Roberts who had sprinted 50 metres down the sideline after good ball movement on the right side.

Pearce then plucked an intercept from a Walsh pass and raced 80 metres to score his first try in the NRL for a 16-10 lead in the 53rd minute.

After a penalty goal from Craig Fitzgibbon, the Knights got to within two points with a four-pointer to Brad Tighe and took the winning lead in the 70th minute when full-back Nathan Hinton crossed under the sticks thanks to a neat offload from Woolnough 20 metres out.

Cowboys pushed all the way
Cowboys 26 def Sharks 24

A miraculous try to winger Ty Williams gave North Queensland a last-gasp 26-24 win over Cronulla in a see-sawing round 12 NRL battle at Dairy Farmers Stadium in Townsville tonight.

With the Cowboys trailing 24-20 with just three minutes on the clock, Williams, who missed the early part of the season through injury, touched down in the 78th minute to hand his side an unlikely win in front of a jubilant home crowd.

In tonight’s other fixture at Olympic Park in Melbourne, the Storm scored four tries to two in a 26-10 win over the Rabbitohs.

In Townsville, the Cowboys went 90 metres to score the match-winning try, which came when a Jason Smith chip deflected off Sharks full-back Misi Taulapapa and was picked up brilliantly by a flying Williams and placed down under the posts. Johnathan Thurston then slotted the straightforward conversion to seal the win.

North Queensland scored the opening three tries of the match and led 16-6 at half-time, but the visitors gained the ascendancy early in the second stanza when tries to Isaac De Gois (50th minute) and Greg Bird (53rd minute) gave them an 18-16 lead.

When Bird posted his second for the match in the 57th minute, the Sharks were out by eight points and looked to have all the momentum going into the final quarter.

But Williams scored his first try of the match with 15 minutes left on the clock to draw the Cowboys to within four points, veteran pivot Jason Smith providing a brilliant cut-out ball close to the line to put his winger over.

Both sides had half-chances in the ensuing 10 minutes, but it was Williams’ opportunist try that eventually sealed the game for the Cowboys and lifted them to third on the competition ladder.

To add insult to injury for the Sharks, centre Fraser Anderson left the field in the second half with a suspected dislocated shoulder.

Melbourne Storm inflict more pain on South Sydney
Storm 26 def South Sydney 10

The Storm tonight jumped back to the top of the NRL table with a hard fought 26-10 win over a desperate South Sydney at Olympic Park on Saturday night.

Souths have now lost 5 games in a horror stretch for the club; who only weeks ago was promising so much.

The home side opened the scoring in the 12th minute through a bizarre try to renegade winger Steve Turner. With television replays suggesting some doubt as to whether Turner grounded the ball legally, Video referee Pat Reynolds needed nine replays to determine that the diminutive winger had cleanly grounded the ball. Storm skipper booted a majestic sideline conversion to put the premiership favourite ahead 6-0.

Turner was denied a second try just six minutes later, with Reynolds this time ruling that Storm centre Matt King had obstructed opposition centre Nigel Vagana in the lead up.

Souths replied through a dubious try to Dean Widders in the 23rd minute, with replays suggesting that Jeremy Smith’s pass to Widders was marginally forward. Rabbitohs winger Nathan Merritt duly converted to level the scores at 6 all after 25 minutes.

Melbourne started to dominate both field position and possession in the closing stages of an exciting first half, but to their merit, the Rabbitohs defence held strong.

King had a chance to extend the home sides lead right on the stroke of halftime, but the lanky Origin centre failed to hold onto a Matt Geyer cross field bomb, leaving the scores tied at 6 all at the break.

The Storm extended their lead in the 43rd minute, with a simple backline movement allowing King to cross unopposed. Another booming sideline conversion from Smith edged Melbourne out to a 12-6 lead.

A 50/50 penalty against rookie Souths centre Fetuli Talanoa for an incorrect paly the ball saw Smith kick his third goal of the night to extend their lead to 14-6 after 55 minutes.

The Storm looked home and hosed when makeshift five-eighth Geyer jinxed his way over the line in the 62nd minute, with another Smith conversion handing the home side an unassailable 20-6 advantage.

However, Souths weren’t done for the night, with a 70th minute try to Shannon Hegarty getting the visitors to within six points with ten left on the clock.

But Melbourne whiz kid Greg Inglis sealed the 16 point victory with a now customary freakish try in the final minute, with the dynamic Maroons winger flying high above the pack to ground the ball in sensational fashion. Smith completed a perfect night with the boot with his fifth goal of the night, keeping the Storm’s perfect record against Souths at Olympic Park intact.

Melbourne now faces the daunting road trip of travelling to Mt Smart Stadium next Sunday to take on the inconsistent New Zealand Warriors, whilst the South Sydney Rabbitohs host the Penrith Panthers at Telstra Stadium next Friday night.

Dragons 11 def Brisbane Broncos 4

Ok, so which NRL News readers took our advice and grabbed the juicy odds available on the Saint George Illwarra Dragons?
Well if you did, enjoy the $4.40 or $4.50 you were able to return on every $1 invested! Remember to shout NRL News a beer soon.
Now on to the game, it was a contest that had it all. A war of attrition, with the babies from Dragon town up against the might of golliath like Brisbane – coming off a 71-6 thumping of Newcastle.
After a nervous start, the Dragons weathered the early Broncos onslaught to gradually get into the game. Enthusiastic and patient play from the Dragons, saw them gain set after set – content to play simple and gain repeat sets off the Jamie Soward boot.
Soward was like a Saints old boy. Looking very comfortable in the half back role, his team mates responding to his calls and a five eighth beside him in Rangi Chase – who played nicely in unicen.
With Cooper in a livewire mood outwide, the Dragons when they got a glimpse of the opposition line – played expansive. Nightingale was solid outside Cooper and at the back Josh Morris was outstanding. Morris defused everything the Broncos sent his way, and was damaging whenever he chimed into the backline.
Injuries really hampered the Broncos efforts, with Darren Lockyer sustaining a painful back injury from the accidental knees of Adam Peek. Lockyer was in agony, and left the field for the remainder of the match – however soft tissue damage is the diagnosis and he should be fine for Origin in the coming weeks. The Broncos also had scares with Karmichael Hunt hurting his arm and Ennis also looking to be struggling with injury.
The Saints had injuries of their own, with standout Simon Woolford copping the stray boots of a linesmen – with the ‘studding’ ripping the flesh from Woolford’s head. Woolford left the field in a bath of blood, the hard working hookers face barely recognisable under the cover of claret.
The young Dragons held on grimly at the end, with new buy Jamie Soward managing to secure a medium range field goal to ensure the Saints won the war. It’s been a whirlwind few days for Jamie Soward, with the young half changing clubs – moving from Bondi to Kogorah and looking like a true professional.
In post match, Wayne Bennett was back to his introverted self. The grandfather of NRL didn’t give much away, but did admit to “not being frustrated anymore – but now angry” Bennett snapped.
Its a tough period still ahead for the Broncos with Origin committments meaning more time away for big name stars.

Penrith Panthers 22 def Manly Sea Eagles 16

NRL Competition leaders Manly went down tonight at the hands of a determined and gutsy Penrith Panthers outfit at CUA Stadium.

The Panthers; who started on the backfoot after conceeding an early try (55 seconds) – battled Manly and referee Steve Clark all night; winning dispite all odds and a penalty count of 14-5 in favour of Manly.

Peter Wallace. How good is he? The Panthers should setup a tent outside his house and not leave until he signs a multi-year contract. Wayne Bennett is on the money to be chasing the Penrith young gun. Tonight, Wallace was everywhere – he ran the attack plays for his team, produced sublime kicks and defended stoutly even with Watmough running at him all night.

Wallace’s quality game is assisting team mate Craig Gower; who is under much less pressure with the young player maker at his side.

The game swung both ways early, with Penrith and Manly going try for try. Manly through piercing forward runs; Watmough and G. Stewart proving a nightmare for the Penrith line. Apart from the Tony Puletua try for Penrith, where he scored from a penalty tap and swatted 3 defenders to score all himself, the Penrith attack was stunning – with deep, sweeping backline movements – putting Youngquest in for two early tries that looked identical.

Penrith gained the confidence they have been craving and controlled possession until half time. Early in the second period, Penrith got on the board again and looked to be cruising. Then Steve ‘Terminator’ Clark stepped in. Clark blew penalty after penalty against the Panthers, and at one stage allowed Manly to play out 4 sets of 6 back to back. Full credit to Penrith who remained headstrong, even after some poor calls from Clark and his officials.

Manly suffered from frustration as their stack of possession wasn’t converted, with the Panthers somehow scrambling to defend – set after set.

Looking at Manly, they are really missing Travis Burns. Lyon is no doubt a solid player with sound defence and constructive attack – but the former centre is not a ball player or organiser and Manly should think twice before discarding Travis Burns to the Titans or Cowboys.

Monaghan was quiet tonight, and Orford had a mixed bag – with strong early kicking, but some poor, careless errors in the backend.

Watmough was again the standout for the Sea Eagles. This guy must be in the NSW Origin side, he is almost impossible to tackle, at one stage carrying both Puletua brothers on his back for 5 metres. Brett Steward was contained well by the Panthers, as was Hicks and Robertson out wide. Steve Bell managed to find some room tonight, and in my eyes – it’s the best Bell’s looked in 2007, he was speedy and slippery in attack, shrugging plenty of tackles off a la his Storm days.

While Penrith’s Peter Wallace was a stand out for man of the match, he had good help from Panthers veteran Tony Puletua, Michael Jennings who was busy all night and the livewire Paul Aiton. When Paul Aiton moves to dummy half for the Panthers they are simply a different team, they are faster, and so much more constructive through the extra room. Priddis continues to play a ‘slow motion’ game, which at times is smart – but not every play. I tried hard to look for positives in Priddis’ game, but things were compounded with a brain snap late in the game, with the Panthers clinging to their 6 point lead, Priddis kicked dead in goal with an open Gower waiting for the field goal.

The Panthers savour their 2 points and could be back into contention with only a handful of wins, due to the fact that the cellar dwellers and only 4 points adrift from the top 8.

Manly dust themselves off and will be better for the experience tonight, it may be the slap in the face they needed to kick on with their impressive season. Hey Des, just don’t forget Travis Burns, the guy is a genuine match winner and is worth keeping on the roster!

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