NRL Power Rankings Round 15 by The Grubber

The Grubber continues to like what he sees from the Melbourne Storm, with the southerners still perched high on the Power Rankings.

Big movers this week in the Rankings are the Bulldogs and Brisbane – both having solid wins against fancied opponents.

1. Melbourne: Clearly missed the control and direction of Cronk, but right now there is nothing stopping this outfit. Hard to see any team topping them at this point. Power score: 9/10, Number of Storm players who will use bye weekend to escape Melbourne media attention: 0.

2. Parramatta: On track for a top 4 finish and were explosive in the first half against the Roosters. Clocked off in the second stanza however and against a better side this may cost them. Power score: 8/10, Player who was happiest that Brett Finch was playing against him and could absorb the hatred of Roosters fans: Craig Wing.

*3. Brisbane: Were devastating in the first and second halves against the Tigers. Looking like the team that won a premiership last year. Power score: 7.5/10, Odds of Seventycentsalitre ever missing an Origin game through suspension: 100-1.

4. Canterbury: Dominating display against Manly may have set up season revival. Were simply devastating in the forwards on Friday night and remain a premiership force. Power score 8/10, Increase in police presence at Brookvale last Friday night: 400%.

5. Manly: Were very ordinary against Canterbury and 4th minute try to Watmough may have been the worst possible opening. Will be without numerous stars this weekend and face a real test against the Dragons. Power score: 7/10, Number of times NSW Police will send “riot squad” van to Brookvale again this year: 0 (unless of course Manly draw the Bulldogs in a home final).

6. Gold Coast: Welcomed the return of Preston Campbell and did enough to win at home. Hard to see them being a force in this premiership but may still have some surprises left in them. Power score: 7/10, Odds of Chris Walker seeing any NRL action in 2007: 20-1.

7. Wests Tigers: Had their pants pulled down by the resurgent Broncos. Did well to fight for 80 minutes though and thankfully didn’t just throw in the towel at half time. A better team than the score line suggested. Power score: 6.5/10, Most recent entrant to the “Willie Mason Haterz” club: Robbie Farah.

8. New Zealand: Belted the “Ill-disciplined Panthers” through solid execution and good ball movement. Will be eager to make it three in a row against the Titans this weekend. Power score: 6.5/10, Odds of Michael Witt ever scoring 20 points in a game again: 100-1.

9. North Queensland: Somehow managed to hold on against the Raiders through the individual brilliance of several of their star players. Not really looking like a top 4 outfit at this stage but there are still 10 rounds to go. Power score: 6.5/10, Odds that the Warriors would have lost two points had they fielded a 14th man: 2-1.

10. Canberra: Will need to arrest recent slide in order to stay in touch with the rest of the top 8. A more solid effort around the ruck will be required to notch up their next win. Power score: 6/10, Odds of “play the ball” drills being upped at Raiders training this week: 2-1.

11. South Sydney: Executed well and defended solidly to beat Cronulla in another scrappy effort. Still struggling to score points however and on any other day Covell’s boot would have probably been the difference. Power score: 5.5/10, Excuses left for Ricky Stuart in defending Sharks form: 1, maybe 2.

12. Cronulla: Still struggling massively to put points on the board and season will soon be reaching a crisis point if they cannot arrest this slump. Halves look genuinely lost. Power score: 5.5/10, Number of Sharks halves combinations who have lined up for NSW: 0.

13. Newcastle: Couldn’t quite do enough to challenge the Titans but there are still some positives in their performances of late. Buderus is rising to the challenge of taking over Joey’s mantle. Power score: 5.5/10, Number of times Matthew Johns drops the F-bomb in The Final Winter: 2,345.

14. Roosters: Didn’t muscle up in defence against the Eels and off-field issues may have started to take a toll on the transit lounge club. Power score: 5/10, Most interesting clash remaining this year: Round 25, Roosters v Rabbitohs at Homebush.

15. St George-Illawarra: Outclassed for 70 minutes by the Storm however will back themselves as a good chance of defeating a massively depleted Manly side at home this weekend. Power score: 4.5/10, Odds that Nathan Brown’s top 8 prediction for Dragons will come to fruition: 20-1.

16. Penrith: Struggled again to mount pressure and are probably the easy beats of the NRL at the midpoint of the season. Must improve handling and offensive execution if they are to avoid the spoon. Power score: 4/10, Odds of Matt Elliot lasting out the season: 5-1.

Yours in League,
The Grubber

(PS – Stay Tuned for my Around the Grounds Article Tomorrow!)

Brisbane Broncos bury Wests Tigers

Brisbane Broncos 48 def Wests Tigers 18

It was the Brisbane side of late 2006 revived. The Broncos lived up to the hype in front of their home fans, on a cold and wet night at Suncorp. Amazing that 30,000+ Brisbanians still turned up in shocking conditions. Monday night footy has been a massive success.

When the Broncos scored off their first set, it always looked like being a long night for Wests Tigers lovers – but to their credit, the young Tigers hung in. They scored from their own kick off and tried hard to make a game of it.

The Broncos were simply too hot, on the back of Tonie Carroll magic they charged in for try after try. Carroll was simply impossible to tackle, the big unit hitting the line at speed and defenders barely able to lay a hand on him let alone stop him.

The left hand edge defence for the Tigers was extremely poor. Brisbane smartly kept peppering this side, with Carroll setting up 2 tries then scoring 1 himself soon after.

Whenever the Tigers got a sniff, discipline let them down. Giving away silly penalties and thus throwing away any field position they had.

Referee Shane Hayne had a night he’d like to forget, not playing advantage to the Tigers early in period 1, where they would have scored and then giving the Tigers an obvious ‘make up’ call soon after when Tuiaki was clearly bundled into touch, with the referee actually blowing his whistle – then changing the call (both Hayne and touch judge getting it wrong).

While the match was over early, with the Broncos running riot – a minor blow up between Petero Civoniceva and Bryce Gibbs injected some excitement. The crowd got right into the mood, and gave Civoniceva a standing ovation as he was sent to the sin bin for 10 minutes (for being the third man into a flare up)

The Broncos face the Panthers next week (minus their Qld Origin Component) and the Wests Tigers have a horror road trip. Facing Canberra in the ACT on a cold wet night.

State of Origin Game 3 Talk

As we move closer to State of Origin Game 3 in Queensland, at the home of Rugby League ‘Suncorp Stadium’ – don’t let anyone tell you this game is a dead rubber.

The Queensland Maroons will want the perfect end to the series by enforcing the clean sweep and NSW Blues Selectors have hinted they will use the best available talent rather than using the game as a ‘testing ground’ for younger players.

NSW Blues selectors are reported to be deciding between Greg Bird and Jarrod Mullen at five eight, with Bird said to have a slight edge after his gutsy performance for the Sharks on the weekend. Bird proved he is not only a mongrel type of player, but has plenty of stamina and took one hell of a beating as the match with South Sydney got spiteful in the back end. This is the stuff the Blues need for the final State of Origin match.

The Maroons have selections issues of their own, with Brent Tate walking the injury tight rope and selectors knocking on Gold Coast Titans doors to get to Mat Rogers. The Queensland Maroons selectors have even gone as far as asking Steve Price and Petero Civoniceva to make themselves available next year for selection, due to their faultless displays in 2007 State of Origin.

If NSW Origin selectors are serious about winning this one, they need to get some grunt into the forward pack. Now this time, lets not ‘talk’ grunt. Lets actually select guys that will enforce. A few names that spring to mind are: Lance Thompson, Anthony Watmough and Paul Gallen. All these guys can go the distance and can handle themselves when needed.

And what about the refereeing; do we want a referee trying to do a Bill Harrigan impersonation where only 3 penalties the whole match are blown? Or do we want a tad more discipline to keep the sides apart enough so some attacking League is played?

Let us know who’d you pick for NSW or QLD for State of Origin Game 3. Email: NRLfeedback@gmail.com

Cowboys cop fine only for Interchange Breach

The Cowboys find themselves extremely lucky today, to only cop a $25,000 fine imposed by the NRL for last weekends interchange breach.

Amazingly the Cowboys escaped deduction of NRL competition points, mainly because the NRL sideline official made an error in the provision of replacement cards.

Had the sideline official done his job correctly, the Cowboys most certainly would have lost points as the official rule from the NRL states:

“If a 14th player is on the field in any circumstances and for any reason, the club will lose the points it earns from the match.”

The Cowboys breathe easy now, as they consolidate their points from the win against Canberra combined with a bye this weekend – putting their previous slide behind them.

Cowboys confident of clearance

North Queensland Cowboys officials are confident that the NRL hearing into their substitution bungle on Saturday night will be favorable.

The Cowboys had 14 players on the field in Canberra for around 20 seconds or 3 tackles. Unlike the previous bungle by the Brisbane Broncos several years ago, where Corey Parker was the additional man and scored a try – the Cowboys duo of Faiumu and Smith took no part in the match.

The Cowboys are claiming that the NRL substitution sideline official took the sub card from Faiumu thereby clearing the player to run on to the field.

It will be interesting to see what the NRL hearing produces, will they blame their sideline official? If the NRL go after the Cowboys and attempt to dock competition points and / or fine the North Queensland club, expect the Cowboys to fight the penalty through legal avenues.

As the Broncos did in 2004, they fought and successfull won their appeal and had 2 points returned to them.

Peter Parr from the Cowboys has also stated that docking of 2 points is extremely severe. In comparison he pointed out that the Warriors were only docked 4 points for a salary cap breach in excess of half a million dollars.

We wait with interest.

(Cowboys CEO Peter Parr Pictured)

NRL News Sunday Rugby League

Bunnies in the money over Sharks
South Sydney 16 def Cronulla 12

A vibrant and enterprising Bunnies outfit today got home against the usually hard defending Sharks. It was 3 tries a piece, but an out of sorts Luke Covell missed his 3 goal attempts – 2 shots being from close range.

As NRL News reported and predicted earlier this week, it was a desperate Souths side that did everything they could to ensure they won this match. Jeremy Smith was at his scheming best, and Dean Widders kept most of his kicks in his kit bag for once and just did the hard running. Scoring a try himself and looking solid. Roy Asotasi was machine like at prop – the big man playing 80 minutes and breaking the Sharks line several times, something other teams have struggled to do. Asotasi needs to continue shouldering the load, with fellow hard man David Kidwel leaving such a hole.

The Cronulla Sharks looked to have improved slightly with their attack formations, especially Dykes when he got out of dummy half directly a few times. The Sharks were also aided by Lance Thompson – who as always, was just tireless in attack and defence. Thompson getting through the line early to setup his teams first try. Lance Thompson would not be out of place in a NSW Origin jersey, the guy is choc full of experience, rarely injured and hard as nails.

Ricky Stuart and his team will rue the missed opportunities today, and Covell will spend the next 2 weeks practising goal kicks as the Sharks have the bye. Stuart was unusually softly spoken in the press conference after the loss, the usually firey coach refusing to blame to loss on Covell and was upbeat about the improvement in the Sharks attack.

Souths desperately bag the 2 points, taking them to 14 and giving them some confidence as they face the Knights in Newcastle and then take on the might of Melbourne.

Birthday win for Storm over Dragons
Melbourne Storm 28 def Dragons 6

Thankfully for Nathan Brown and the Dragons, the Melbourne Storm didn’t click into gear until the 2nd half and also missed 5 conversion attempts to flatter the St George Illawarra side today.

In reality it was a 6 try romp for the Birthday boys. The Storm celebrating 10 years in the NRL and having a crowd of just under 14,000 to cheer them on at Olympic.

The Dragons started confidently and led early, with an enterprising try to Beau Scott – who brushed through some average Storm defence. The confidence grew with the Dragons, the young side looking impressive for a period. The loss of Jason Ryles really took the wind out of the Dragons, with the rangy prop going down with knee problems in what seems like a weekly occurrence for the former rep star. Why St George Illawarra re-signed Ryles I will never know, simply no value due to constant injuries.

The Storm also lost Dallas Johnson and will monitor his problems over the week ahead. The Storm do miss Cooper Cronk and his organisation skills mid field, but when they got going it was a sight to see.

Clearly several classes above every other NRL team, the Storm totally dominate in attack. Their deep and sweeping attack plays move from one side of the park to the other – very similar to the Canberra Raiders green machine in the early 1990’s for those that can remember.

Greg Inglis looks to be able to break the line at will and the timeless Matt Geyer again proved his versatility scoring a tough try in the corner.

The baby Dragons got another lesson in how to play, but at least they have another supporter next week – with Jason Ryles set to join the thousands of red and white players in the stands, cheering on the young squad.

St George Illawarra face the Manly Sea Eagles next week in a home game for the Dragons and the Storm enjoy the week off to consolidate their place on top with a bye.

Parramatta Eels crush Baby Roosters

Parramatta 36 def Roosters 16

The Eels punished the baby Roosters last night, without really having to get dirty at Aussie Stadium. The Roosters minus Braith Anasta, Nate Myles, Amos Roberts, Anthony Minichiello and Chris Flannery were always going to find it tough against the 3rd placed Eels.

Parramatta continue to prefer Night matches with the team once again looking different under lights. Even missing their form forward and captain Nathan Cayless the Eels had plenty of punch, with Gold Coast bound Aaron Cannings leading the way with some dynamic busts.

Burt was again close to the Eels best, cleaning up in defence and was ever willing in attack – scoring a nice try from a Finch kick directly from an Eels scrum win. Finch continues to find his feet with the Eels after struggling earlier in the year.

While coach Hagan would be happy with the big win, it’s hard to gauge the improvement in the Eels as playing against such a young side isn’t a massive test. The Eels will enjoy the bye next week and look for speedy injury recovery from Tahu and Cayless.

The Roosters are not only in a big rebuilding phase, but they are struggling as their senior players aren’t really showing the way to the young guys. Wing and Fitzgibbon were both only average for the Roosters last night, but Kenny Dowell, Paea and Sa were all showing plenty of promise. Sadly for Soliola his comeback was marred by missed opportunities and dropped ball.

The Roosters will find it tough again next week, as they travel to Bulldog town to fight the improving Dogs of war.

North Queensland Cowboys win but lose

North Queensland Cowboys 28 def Canberra Raiders 24

The struggling Cowboys stopped the recent rot, snapping their two game losing streak and holding out the unlucky Canberra Raiders to win in the ACT.

The win looks to have come at a massive cost, with the Cowboys having 14 players on the field at one stage and the NRL sure to investigate, meaning 2 points could be deducted.

The Cowboys improved their leaky defence of late, and had nice spark in attack. Thurston is surely still hampered by his hand injury, as he seemed to nurse it at times and was good without being his usually brilliant self.

Thurston also needs to work on his referee relations. The firey halfback again clashing with the referee and risking a sin bin at a crucial time. The super star needs to curb his hot head or risk costing his team dearly in the future.

The Raiders were very unlucky last night. They had good structure, and looked good in the halves with Dobson being partnered by the dynamic Terry Campese. Campese had a top game, and but for a few minor mistakes – he took some wrong options and occasionally ran himself a little too much, but the kid has plenty of potential. He was a handful for the Cowboys all night and looks to be a perfect partner for Todd Carney when he returns.

The ref calls seemed to favour the Cowboys, and to Canberra’s credit they kept fighting on and still nearly stole the match in the last 60 seconds.

For the Cowboys, the Bowen brothers were great, with Ty Williams also putting in a big game and in the forwards Shane Tronc toiled hard all game, geting his workrate right up.

The Cowboys have a bye next week, and the Raiders stay at home to face the Wests Tigers.

Gold Coast Titans just beat Knights

Gold Coast Titans 28 def Newcastle Knights 22

A stunning last ditch tackle from Titans centre Matt Rogers prevented Knights forward Cory Paterson from scoring with 30 seconds remaining. The bullocking Knights prop looked absolutely certain to score, and send the game into golden point – with Rogers save one for the ages. Rogers getting under the ball and lifting the prop back into the field of play.

In a match that went tit for tat in terms of tries, the Titans were hampered by early injury to Preston Campbell and a case of the dropsies for the returning fullback. The Titans have also lost Anthony Laffranchi for at least a month, due to the right knee damage.
The Titans have now won 4 NRL games in succession and continue to surprise everyone. The new club overcoming depth problems and continuing to bag wins.

Sideshow Bob Matt Petersen scored a triple swag of tries, and goes into the history books as the first to get a triple for the young club.

For the Knights, coach Brian Smith was still pleased with the effort. The Knights were hit heavily by injuries with up to 5 players having needles before the match to get on to the field. They toiled hard, and the halves combination of Walsh and Mullen continues to build.

The Titans face the NZ Warriors next week and the Knights face the Rabbits at EA Stadium.

Bulldogs Upset Manly, Warriors win

Bulldogs 27 def Manly 8

A solid first-half effort from the Bulldogs set up an upset 27-8 win over second-placed Manly and ended the Sea Eagles’ 10-game Fortress Brookvale streak on Friday night.

The under siege Bulldogs leapt out of the blocks to a 20-8 lead at the break, scoring a converted try and a field goal in the second half to put an end to Manly’s long running dominance at Brookvale, where they had not lost a match since round 16 last year.

“We’re now four points out of the eight and we all knew if we lost again we were going to drop way out so we knew coming here [we needed a] big effort [to] get a win,” he said.

Recalled Centre Willie Tonga said the team has had to change its tactics to be more competitive.

“In the first couple of NRL rounds with our highly forward pack we used to go into every game thinking we were going to out-muscle them but that wasn’t the case so we had to change things,” he said.

The Bulldogs’ 1/2 time advantage remained in tact throughout a dead-locked second stanza in which no points were scored until forward Nick Kouparitsas crossed in the 70th minute to put the finishing touches on a sweeping move that ran almost the length of the field.

Bulldogs captain Andrew Ryan set the ball in motion when he passed off to Sonny Bill Williams who managed to find former Queensland centre Tonga in space on the left-hand edge with an off-load.

Willie Tonga then spiraled a pin-point overhead pass to once again pick up Ryan on the inside, who shaped to pass left before finding Kouparitsas inside to his right, leaving the interchange player with little to do but put his head down and storm to the line.

El Masri converted the try to add to his first-half tally of three conversions and a penalty goal.

Kiwi five-eighth Ben Roberts, who recently signed a two-year contract extension with the Belmore-based franchise, then had the final say with a deft field goal four minutes from time, calmly slotting home under little pressure.

Earlier in the match, in-form Manly back rower Anthony Watmough, who this week extended his stay with the club until 2010, opened the scoring in the fifth minute, with Jamie Lyon converting successfully for an early lead.

Willie Tonga collected a first-half brace for the Bulldogs while Corey Hughes also touched down for a four-pointer.

El Masri extended the lead marginally with a penalty shot on the stroke of half-time to add to his three successful conversion attempts, while Manly could only manage a penalty shot through Lyon in response.

Bulldogs 27 (W Tonga 2, C Hughes, N Kouparitsas tries; H El Masri 3 conversions, penalty goal; B Roberts field goal)
Manly 8 (A Watmough try; J Lyon conversion, penalty goal)


Warriors 54 def Panthers 14

The Warriors continued their stunning return to form with a massive 40-point demolition of a hapless Penrith Panthers outfit in their round 15 NRL clash at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland last night.

Two tries apiece from 5/8 Michael Witt and fullback Wade McKinnon gave the New Zealand-based side the foundations to race to a 54-14 victory to hand the club back to back wins for the first time since round 7 this year.

Michael Witt opened the scoring account in just the second minute and scoring a second in the 18th minute, then slotting three conversions to bag 14 first-half points as the Warriors raced to a 36-10 lead at the break.

Wade McKinnon also crossed for a double haul of four-pointers either side of the interval, with George Gatis, Wairangi Koopu, Epalahame Lauaki all scoring first-half tries, Manu Vatuvei and Louis Anderson joining the scorers during the second period.

Michael Witt then added a further three conversions to finish with six from six, while usual kicker Tony Martin also made three from as many attempts early in the match.

The Warriors scored an amazing six tries to two in the first half, with Luke Lewis and Nick Youngquest the only players to cross for the visitors during a forgettable opening period.

Keith Peters got himself on the scoreboard for Penrith in a woeful second-half display, the Panthers suffering their worst of 10 losses in NRL 2007 to remain in 15th place with a chance of dropping to the very bottom of the ladder should the Dragons win in their match against the league-leaders Melbourne Storm on Sunday afternoon.

The victory gives the Warriors their sixth win of the year and their second on the trot after a 12-2 victory over Cronulla last week to snap a six-match losing streak.

Ivan Cleary’s team has an opportunity to rise as high as ninth on the ladder should other NRL results go their way over the course of the weekend.

Warriors 54 (M Witt 2, W McKinnon 2, G Gatis, W Koopu, E Lauaki, M Vatuvei, L Anderson tries; M Witt 6 conversions, T Martin 3 conversions)
Penrith 14 (L Lewis, N Youngquest, K Peters tries; M Gordon conversion)

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