What a weekend of results in NRL Round 8! After the City vs Country Representative game on Friday night, the players and clubs backed up well on the weekend soon after to put on some quality games with the likes of the Newcastle Knights upsetting the fancied Gold Coast Titans by a single point and the Eels clicking into gear to run down the Panthers at home.
The upsets continued into Sunday, with the South Sydney Rabbitohs getting their first win of the season over the North Queensland Cowboys. Anyway, here’s how the Grubber saw things this weekend:
1. Brisbane Broncos – Moving into outright first position now, the Broncos continue to have such good balance and patience. Even after defending several waves of Wests Tigers attack, the Brisbane side calmly marched down field and put on their own points. Boasting a great mix of creative attacking flair that scores them points, while knowing when and when-not to throw off-loads. Certainly setting the bench mark this year.
Grubbers Comment: Estimated additional weight added to the Brisbane Broncos scrum pack by Sam Thaiday’s head of hair? 5-10 KG
2. Newcastle Knights – Continue to surprise everyone, have been competitive in every NRL match in 2008 and are sitting pretty on 10 competition points. Shut down Scott Prince well, never gave him any breathing space at all. Coach Brian Smith deserves praise for his new look, young side. Defence is winning them games and they remain ice cool in the close contests. Win made even sweeter by the fact they did it without Danny Buderus. Looking good for a Top 8 berth this year.
Grubbers Comment: Odds that Brian Smith will win any friends even if he manages to steer the Newcastle Knights to an unexpected NRL premiership? 25/1
3. Gold Coast Titans – While beaten, the Titans certainly weren’t disgraced. Still played good footy and were unlucky in patches. Had plenty of energy in the home straight and were coming home the stronger, had the game gone 10 minutes more the Titans had it. Will be sweating on Luke Bailey to come back on board to keep their momentum going around representative time.
Grubbers Comment: Anthony Laffranchi is now officially referred to by Gold Coast officials as a ‘Titans’ player and not a ‘former Wests Tigers’ player – as the image damaging court case is now behind him.
4. South Sydney Rabbitohs – Showed plenty of desire and were easily the most committed side in NRL Round 8. Even with so many positional changes, the Rabbits still looked good and now they have the monkey off their back – they should go on with things. Defence still remains a concern in various areas, but they are finally scoring points – which has been their main problem.
Grubbers Comment: Likelihood that Russell Crowe was in the dressing sheds at ANZ Stadium – revving players up and telling them the best lines to run in attack? 3/1
5. Parramatta Eels – While the Eels still lacked direction for a good majority of this match, when they click – they do boast one of the most punishing attacks in the NRL. Their 5 minute burst was enough to blow the Panthers away and while not at their best – they did enough to win. With Kris Inu, Ben Smith, Mark Riddell and Josh Cordoba all to come back – things can only get better for the men from the Golden West.
Grubbers Comment: Odds that Nathan Hindmarsh will be immediately sent for a media relations course, after burying team-mate Brett Finch and coach Michael Hagan in scathing post-match comments in recent weeks? 2/1
6. NZ Warriors – The Kiwi boys are doing it well at home, even without a stack of stars – they continue to impress. Have an extremely impressive halves pairing and when they get their full compliment back in the engine room they have a side that will challenge both the Storm and the Broncos. Prior to today the Warriors had the worst defence in the League and they seem to be improving at least, if they can tighten the leaks – they are Top 8 material.
Grubbers Comment: Odds of the Warriors getting a bigger home crowd if they built an indoor stadium with heating, after only attracting 7000 people to a cold, wet Mt Smart – even with the advent of half-price tickets to Round 8. 100/1
7. North Queensland Cowboys – After their mini roll-on, the Cowboys have now slumped to back-to-back losses and away games remain a problem. To be fair, Souths were always going to be a danger game – but with so much talent in the Cowboys side, you get the feeling sometimes they just think they can turn up and win on ability. While their attack is first class, in particular the Ash Graham try a nice set play – the Cowboys need to start putting to much pressure on their attack. Once their defence is improved, the pressure valve will release.
Grubbers Comment: Chances of anyone having the guts to tell Carl Webb his unusual earings look ‘girly’? Slim to none.
8. Canberra Raiders – The Green Machine might have been ‘green’ but they were nothing like a ‘machine’ as they fumbled and stumbled to a poor loss across the Tasman. Completion was woeful and even though conditions were very similar to those in the ACT, the traveling Raiders never looked at home. Rarely troubled the Warriors when they had the ball, with their attack virtually non-existent. Things won’t get easier, they have a tough road-trip to Rooster town this coming Round and the rested Bondi boys won’t be easy.
Grubbers Comment: Chances of Raiders officials letting Todd Carney take the team hire-car for a few scenic laps of Auckland city during their away game? 500/1
9. Wests Tigers – The razzle dazzle of the week before wasn’t able to be replicated by the Tigers. They had some good runs of possession and field position at stages, but couldn’t find the killer blow. It seems to be lack belief at the moment, however they have a good run against sides losing players to rep duties – Newcastle and the Cowboys in coming weeks and could grab some more points.
Grubbers Comment: Odds of Royce Simmons upgrading his suit and thongs if the Wests Tigers can win another premiership? 100/1
10. Penrith Panthers – Were a tad unlucky to have two tries disallowed, however with the amount of possession they had in the first half they should have really put the Eels away. Coach Matt Elliott made a bad mistake in resting Luke Rooney and Luke Lewies, as the Eels backing up all proved to be match winners. Hard to gauge their prospects, they change from week to week at present.
Grubbers Comment: Chances of referee Ben Cummins every making first grade again after what was close to the worst refereeing performance in recent memory. Strong to Certain.