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Warriors too strong for lacklustre Knights

ROUND 15 New Zealand Warriors 30 v Newcastle Knights 18at Ericsson StadiumReferees: Jarred MaxwellMatch Summary:The New Zealand Warriors have continued on their stellar winning run with a 30-18 victory over the Newcastle Knights at Ericsson Stadium in Auckland this afternoon.The 12-point margin flattered the visitors somewhat - the men from the Hunter Valley scoring two consolation tries late in the piece after Warriors winger Patrick Ah Van was sent to the sin bin with just three minutes remaining.It was all the Warriors in the first 20 minutes, battering the Knights from pillar to post, illustrating a strong physical presence. A 14-0 lead was just reward for their efforts and it was clear from the outset that any Newcastle side minus Danny Buderus is almost as disorganised as one without Andrew Johns.Newcastle kept themselves in contention with a try just prior to halftime ? the Warriors holding a 14-6 advantage at the break.But the Warriors snuffed out any possible Newcastle comeback with three tries in the first 20 minutes after halftime.Kiwi international Sione Faumuina was outstanding this afternoon, wreaking havoc for the Newcastle defenders and seemed to make it his own personal mission to dominate the Knights? pack physically. His offload proved to be very difficult for the Knights to shut down.Other performances of note today came from halves Grant Rovelli and Jerome Ropati who steered the Warriors in the right direction for the full 80 minutes, something their Newcastle counterparts ? Andrew Johns and Kurt Gidley, failed miserably at doing.Both sides appear to have escaped this match with a clean bill of health but a few spiteful incidents will come under close video examination by the match review committee tomorrow.Three straight losses now for Newcastle, who are staring down the barrel of missing the top eight this season if they don?t improve their attacking cohesion any time shortly. They meet Cronulla next Saturday night at home and the way the Sharks are playing, that won?t be any easy task.The Warriors will be thinking what might have been if they weren?t forced to start season 2006 on minus four competition points. They can still play the spoiler though and they really should focus on rectifying their poor record on home turf. After today?s performance, it appears that steps have already been taken in that regard.Scorers:New Zealand Warriors: 30Tries: Sione Faumuina, Nathan Fien(2), Steve Price, Jerome RopatiGoals: Tony Martin 5/6Newcastle Knights: 18Tries: George Carmont, Todd Lowrie, Brian CarneyGoals: Andrew Johns 3/3Halftime: Warriors 14-6Crowd: 6,240By the Clock:Ericsson Stadium is the venue for this round 15 clash between the New Zealand Warriors and the Newcastle Knights. Changes: Warriors: Just one change for the home side with Awen Guttenbeil reverting to the bench; Michael Luck comes into the starting side.Knights: A Couple of changes: Nathan Hinton and Kirk Reynoldson come in for Danny Buderus and David Seage.KICKOFF! Match underway in Auckland6 min: NEWS NO TRY: The Warriors deny the Knights early on as Manu Vatuvei manages to force the ball in-goal before Anthony Quinn could score for Newcastle. The Knights are still on the attack here. Still 0-all.14 min: TRY New Zealand WarriorsSimple try for the Warriors. Nathan Fien scoots from dummy half on the last tackle and plants the ball down near the posts. Poor defence from Newcastle there. Warriors 6-020 min: NEWS Some heavy contact between both clubs with Davico and Perry in the mix for the Knights, whilst Faumuina and Wiki playing hard for the Warriors.25 min: PENALTY GOAL New Zealand WarriorsMartin puts the home side ahead by a further 2 points after slotting a goal from a penalty. Brent Webb was shaken pretty hard as Newton came across in a tackle and made contact with his head. Warriors looking solid as light rain begins to fall. Warriors 8-028 min: NEWS NO TRY - Hinton denied a four-pointer due to a blatant double-movement. After some good hands from Johns and Gidley, Carney cruised down the flank before kicking in-field for the rookie back, who got a bit too excited.30 min: TRY New Zealand WarriorsFien scores his second for the day as a good bust up the middle by Gettenbeil who finds Webb in support, who in turn off loads to the flying hooker. Martin adds the extras and the Warriors are looking good. Warriors 14-035 min: NEWS Another chip into the ingoal from Johns fails as Gidley misses it completely only for Carney to make a meal of it as well.37 min: TRY Newcastle KnightsThis time it comes off for the Knights down the eastern side with Johns flicking to Gidley who offers Carney a clear passage to the line. Johns kicks it from the sideline and the Knights strike back just prior to the break. Warriors 14-640 min: NEWS Halftime: The Warriors hold off a late charge by the Knights to go into the sheds with an 8-point advantage. The home side are playing well and their forward pack is certainly taking it up to the Knights. They've created a few opportunities and are certainly the better side at the moment. They would be a bit disappointed that they let the Knights in, but they've been targeted down Vatuvei's wing all day.For the Knights, they're probably a bit surprised at the plucky Warriors who appear rejuvenated after last week's victory over the Roosters. On top of that they look a bit rusty coming off the bye. Newcastle have more points in them but it's a matter of how well they their execute their plays, which has been pretty ordinary. I think we're in for a cracker of a second half, but the Warriors have to be careful not to protect a lead.RESTART! Second half underway.45 min: NEWS Newcastle diffuse a testing situation with a precise cross-field kick from Rovelli finding Vatuvei who comes within inches of scoring. Both teams scoping opportunites early in the second half.50 min: TRY New Zealand WarriorsRovelli puts in another pin-point kick close to the line after being flagged by Faumuina who rushes through and claims the footy, evading the cover to score next to the sticks. Martin converts and the Knights are looking in real strife. Warriors 20-655 min: NEWS The Knights are struggling to penetrate the Warriors line coming up short after several minutes pressing the stripe. New Zealand look the better all-round side with some scrambling defence proving too good for the Knights attackers.57 min: TRY New Zealand WarriorsRopati stands-up Johns pointlessly as he motors 35m to score in the corner and go a long way to securing the match for the Warriors. Martin fails from the sideline and the home team are three converted tries clear. Warriors 24-660 min: NEWS I haven't seen the Knights play this poorly for a while, but full credit to the Warriors who are putting them under plenty of pressure and are very enthusiastic today.62 min: NEWS Riley Brown (Knights) leaves the field with a shoulder injury.63 min: TRY New Zealand WarriorsSteve Price celebrates his 250th game in style by scoring a try next to the posts without a finger laid on him. The Warriors are all over the Knights today and thoroughly deserve this victory. Martin adds the extras and it's getting a little embarrassing for Newcastle and there's still a shade over 15 minutes left. Warriors 30-667 min: NEWS Crowd: 6,240. That is terrible!72 min: NEWS The game is turning a bit scrappy here as both sides throw the ball about with gay abandon. It's not sticking though.75 min: TRY Newcastle KnightsThe Knights bag a consolation try through Todd Lowrie after a neat blindside play involving Johns and Carmont. Joey kicks his second from a difficult position today. Warriors 30-1277 min: NEWS Patrick Ah Van gets 10 minutes in the bin for a professional foul on Anthony Quinn.78 min: TRY Newcastle KnightsAnother late try to the Knights through George Carmont adds a bit of credibility to the scoreline. Johns adds another beauty from the sideline. Warriors 30-1880 min: NEWS And the Warriors cause an upset here in Auckland, running out good winners despite the Knights rallying late to score two tries.-----------------------------------------Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Sione Faumuina2 - Grant Rovelli1 - Jerome Ropati-----------------------------------------

Rammo's rant

SO the Roosters told Ryan Cross to get stuffed?good on ?em I say!

Warriors down disappointing Roosters

ROUND 14 Sydney Roosters 12 v New Zealand Warriors 22at Aussie StadiumReferees: Russell SmithMatch Summary:Former Rooster Grant Rovelli has produced a commanding performance for his new club, the New Zealand Warriors, to dispose of the Sydney Roosters by 22 points to 12 at Aussie Stadium in Sydney this afternoon.A depleted Roosters side - minus 11 players through either state of origin representation, injury or suspension, were no match for a physical Warriors side which were far superior close to the line in attack.Manu Vatuvei opened the scoring this afternoon, taking advantage of the first of halfback Rovelli?s try assists to score out wide. The Warriors gained a 4-0 advantage early in the piece.The Roosters managed to hit back through debut five eighth Josh Lewis soon after, Lewis grubbered the ball for himself before scoring under the posts. The Roosters led 6-4 after just 12 minutes of play.But it was the Warriors who had the advantage at halftime with the only other first-half try coming to their much-improved fullback, Brent Webb. And with Tony Martin?s conversion a successful one the Warriors found themselves 10-6 leaders at the break.The Warriors created further misery for the Roosters when play resumed, with Vatuvei crossing for the second of his tries this afternoon, extending the lead to eight at 14-6.Subsequent Warriors? four-pointers to Tony Martin and Nathan Fien sealed the Roosters? fate 15 minutes from time, holding an imposing 22-6 advantage.Roosters? debutant fullback, Shaun Foley, scored a well-deserved try after strong first-up performance for the club. But the try was nothing more than a consolation for a team which is struggling for cohesion in attack. No apparent injuries or reports to come out of this game which is a plus for both sides, but the Roosters will again lick their metaphorical wounds after another patchy display.Next weekend, the Warriors host Newcastle on Sunday afternoon while the Roosters are set to meet the Wests Tigers on Saturday evening at Telstra Stadium.Scorers:Sydney Roosters: 12Tries: Shaun Foley, Josh LewisGoals: Craig Fitzgibbon 2/2New Zealand Warriors: 22Tries: Nathan Fien, Tony Martin, Manu Vatuvei(2), Brent WebbGoals: Tony Martin 1/5By the Clock:A Chilly Aussie Stadium is the venue for this round 14 clash between two of the NRL's struggling sides, the Sydney Roosters and the New Zealand Warriors. Just 13'C is the current temperature at the ground and with a greasy surface from this week's rain, both sides will look to play a low-risk brand of football.Changes:Sydney Roosters: as-per-programNew Zealand Warriors: Just a positional change for the Warriors with Awen Guttenbeil moving back to the bench, and Michael Luck coming into the starting side.The Roosters will be minus 11 players through either State of Origin representation, injury or suspension.The Warriors are close to full strength apart from the absence of Steven Price to State of Origin duty. 4 min: TRY New Zealand WarriorsWarriors halfback Grant Rovelli gets one-up on his old club with a magnificent set play, breaking through the Roosters' defensive line and putting Manu Vatuvei over in the corner with a lofting cut-out ball. Conversion unsuccessful from Tony Martin. Warriors 4-012 min: TRY Sydney RoostersStand-in Roosters five eighth Josh Lewis has impressed early in his debut first grade appearance, regathering his own grubber kick which rebounded off Warriors captain Ruben Wiki to score under the posts. Conversion successful from Craig Fitzgibbon. Roosters 6-418 min: TRY New Zealand WarriorsRovelli again uses his outside men to great effect. Manu Vatuvei put the foot on the accelerator and then linked up with Brent Webb. Webb crossed under the posts for the try. Successful conversion from Tony Martin. Warriors 10-625 min: NEWS This match has ebbed and flowed all over the place and has been highly entertaining thus far. The two teams have turned up to play defensively and either side could come away with the victory. Still 10-6 the Warriors lead.34 min: NEWS Both sides look disoriented in attack, throwing passes which aren't finding the chest of outside runners. The commitment of these sides cannot be questioned but the execution can. Still 10-6 the Warriors in front.HALFTIME: While this match has been entertaining, it has to be said that poor execution in attack has let these sides down. Defensively they have both been sharp but scoring points is where the problems lie for both these sides. Difficult to pick a winner from here but whichever side can develop better cohesion in attack will win the game. The Warriors lead 10-6 and this match is there for the taking.Second half underway at Aussie Stadium45 min: TRY New Zealand WarriorsVatuvei gets a double, taking advantage of a freakish offload from Sione Faumuina. He did well to stay inside the corner post, scoring right near the touchline. Martin fails to convert from out wide. Warriors 14-652 min: NEWS The Roosters have bombed another crucial opportunity close to the Warriors' line with a marginal forward pass. They will need to get a move on if they want to win this match. Their attack has been atrocious thus far.55 min: TRY New Zealand WarriorsMartin forces a tremendous Brent Webb grubber kick in the Roosters' in-goal area for another Warriors try. The decision was referred to the video referee for the first time today, and he gave the try the green light. Martin misses again and his goalkicking is keeping the Roosters in this match. Warriors 18-661 min: NEWS Controversial decision from referee Russell Smith. Iosia Soliola had the ball stripped by Brent Webb and Smith ruled six more tackles, beefore reversing his decision and ruling a change-over to the Warriors. The Roosters fans are up in arms and have reason to be. Warriors 18-6.65 min: TRY New Zealand WarriorsNathan Fien finishes a 70-metre effort from the Warriors to score out wide and seal the deal this afternoon. Martin misses again but the Warriors should have too much for the Roosters now. Warriors 22-671 min: NEWS No hope of a Roosters' revival now. Too many opportunities wasted in a very disappointing performance from the Bondi Junction club. Warriors 22-6 and both sides are playing out time.74 min: TRY Sydney RoostersThe other Roosters' debutant, Shaun Foley, has crossed for a try. It shouldn't be anything more than a consolation for the Roosters with just six minutes remaining. Fitzgibbon converts. Warriors 22-12FULLTIME: The New Zealand Warriors have recorded their fifth win of season 2006, accounting for a depleted Sydney Roosters outfit by 22 points to 12. -----------------------------------------Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Grant Rovelli (Warriors)2 - Brent Webb (Warriors)1 - Sione Faumuina (Warriors)-----------------------------------------

Rammo's mid-year Report Card

WE?RE smack bang in the middle of season 2006, and I thought I?d take the opportunity this week to draw up a mid-season report card. Let?s now take a look at how your team is faring currently, and just how they might finish up come September and October.

Rammo's Rant

ON any given day, when speaking about Willie Mason or Brett Finch, we?d probably be snarling at another off-field misdemeanour or on-field tantrum, but not this week.That?s right Blues fans. These two bad boys delivered victory for NSW in State of Origin I and they should receive just credit. But perhaps this wasn?t just a one-off never to be seen again movie spectacular type thing. Maybe they have turned the corner ? for good.I remember a day back in 2004. I went into my room and sat down on my chair on a Sunday afternoon as I do. Having a read of the Sunday morning newspapers, while at the same time, eagerly awaiting the afternoon?s matches as I?m sure most leaguies can relate with. I turned on the radio and began listening to Ray Hadley?s Continuous Call Team. They were holding their regular talkback segment. I must point out; this was around the time the NSW Blues had a late night out which turned into front page news the next day ? enough said.A group of NSW players were at fault, but the main player scrutinised was Mason ? given that his whole ADHD debacle had surfaced.I remember salivating to myself. I could not believe the torment which was being directed at Mason, not necessarily whether he deserved it or not, but to me, the extent of the ridicule seemed unprecedented. To this day, I cannot remember any individual being subjected to such scrutiny on a talkback radio station. I wondered how Mason would fight back from such stout criticism from all sections of the rugby league community. Caller after caller were shouting for his expulsion from the game. Even John Hopoate wasn?t exposed to disparagement of this extent when his antics reached their heights.Mason subsequently won the Clive Churchill medal in 2004. But at that stage he had only earned the rugby league community?s respect as a footballer ? not a person or ambassador for the game.Brett Finch could be regarded as an on-field version of Willie Mason?s off-field behaviour ? if you get my drift.For years, Finch has been subjected to Mason-like criticism ? although in Finch?s case, it was for a lack of on-field performance. Finch?s is unique given the fact that his harshest critics are his own supporters. And when he made the comment that ?those so-called supporters can kiss my arse,? the Roosters? patience had almost reached boiling point.Now I can hear people saying: ?Sure, they played great football but how does that illustrate a change in character?? This is where it gets interesting.After being awarded with the $2000 man of the match award on Channel Nine, Willie Mason donated his winnings to the Cancer Council. And yesterday, Finch, inspired by crash victim Sophie Delezio, decided to auction off his field-goal kicking boot ? with the proceeds to be donated to the Children?s hospital at Randwick.This previously controversial pair has cleaned up their act. It?s terrific to see and good luck to them both. But it does beg the question: Do the good have evil in them? Or do the evil have good in them? You can be the judge of that. Here?s to Willie and Brett for their changing in fortunes. RR salutes you both.Now to a few other issues in and around the rugby league world.- I think I?ve criticised South Sydney enough this season. So I?ve decided to let Adam MacDougall do that for this week. Here are a few things he had to say after his team was thrashed 44-4 by last year?s premiers, the Wests Tigers. ? ?If I knew it was going to be like that today I would have just turned the oven on at home to 500 degrees and jumped in it.?? ?I should have given my friends and family tickets behind the goal posts; they could have seen more of me.?? ?When you have your bad days out wide it feels like you?re in the bottom row of the Titanic, all the water?s coming in pretty quick and there?s not a lot you can do.?MacDougall has been sacked for these comments, and by the sounds of it, Mad Dog wouldn?t have too many qualms about getting the tap on the shoulder. - Just when I thought the Dragons were back after a scintillating 38-12 demolition of then competition leaders Newcastle, Trent Barrett is charged with grade five striking and may be on the sidelines for up to six weeks. A huge blow to a club that were starting to gather momentum and cohesion as a unit. Also on the Dragons, their decision to keep Mark Gasnier was a good one, but why at five eighth? I think that?s a big mistake and if that?s the case, they?d better put more emphasis on winning this season because it could be their only opportunity for a while.- One position we have worked out so far is the competition?s pretenders, namely the Bulldogs. They have absolutely no hope this season and the only reason they?re fifth on the competition table is that they have had simple opponents to this point. Pundits rave about the strength of their forward pack but when they come up against a pack with any real substance, they don?t aim up. Brent Sherwin just doesn?t seem to have fired like his coach would have wanted on his lengthy break from first grade. The Bulldogs could very well miss the top eight this season. Look no further than the Canterbury club for the season 2006 Pretenders? Award.- I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Cronulla club on its swift handling of the Tevita Latu debacle. The club was informed of the news early last Monday morning, and they didn?t even see out the remainder of the day before sacking Latu. The NRL also didn?t waste any time, de-registering Latu on the same day. Applause all-round for both parties. Perhaps the Bulldogs could take a leaf out of the Sharks? book. Although we must outline some positive Bulldogs? publicity when it becomes apparent. Billy Ngawini was the player who came to the girl?s aid after she had been struck by Latu. A nice touch there.That?s all for this week. Come and have a read next week of my mid-season report card. Assessing where each team is at the halfway mark, and where you can expect them to be after 26 rounds and leading into the 2006 finals series.Until next week, enjoy your footy!

Cronk field goal seals Golden Point thriller

ROUND 12 Melbourne Storm 17 v Penrith Panthers 16at Olympic Park MelbReferees: Shayne HayneMatch Summary:Cooper Cronk has produced a Brett Finch-like field goal to deliver a heart-stopping 17-16 victory to the Melbourne Storm over Penrith at Olympic Park this afternoon.A Greg Inglis try at the 69th minute was the final points during regular time, as both sides battled out the last 10 minutes to no avail.Penrith fans must have had their hearts in their mouths after the kick-off for extra time almost found touch. Luckily for the Panthers, they recovered and when Melbourne?s Steve Turner steered an 88th minute field goal attempt wide, it looked as though a draw was the most likely result.But The Panthers? Tony Puletua made a costly error just 90 seconds from time, creating an opportunity for Melbourne to finally capitalise on a mountain of possession in useful field position.Cronk took full advantage, slotting the one-pointer just 50 seconds away from what would have been season 2006?s first unbroken deadlock.Earlier, the Panthers were off to a flyer as Luke Lewis came up with a crafty chip over the top before linking up with winger Nick Youngquest who scored out wide.Melbourne winger Matt Geyer came up with a try completely against the run of play. Geyer intercepted a Luke Lewis pass to scamper 90 metres and subsequently lock the scores at 6.Both sides traded blows for the remainder of the first half and Melbourne went into the sheds two points the better at 12-10.Michael Gordon put the Panthers back in front at 16-12, and the succeeding Inglis try led to the golden point debacle. No consolation for the Panthers on the injury front. Luke Lewis sustained injuries to both calf muscles at the 60th minute, while Frank Pritchard appears to have suffered a broken hand which may have occurred early in the extra-time period.Melbourne seems to have come through this game unscathed.Next weekend, Penrith meet Manly on Sunday afternoon at CUA Stadium whilst Melbourne will play the Sydney Roosters next Saturday evening at Olympic Park. Scorers:Melbourne Storm: 17Tries: Matt Geyer, Greg Inglis, Jake WebsterGoals: Matt Geyer 1/1, Cameron Smith 1/2Field Goals: Cooper CronkPenrith Panthers: 16Tries: Rhys Wesser, Nick Youngquest, Michael GordonGoals: Preston Campbell 2/3By the Clock:Olympic Park, Melbourne is the venue for this afternoon's round 12 meeting between the Melbourne Storm and the Penrith Panthers.A bit of a reshuffle in the Panthers' line-up and that is as follows:- Preston Campbell moves from five eighth to halfback for the injured Craig Gower.- Luke Lewis moves from the centres to the vacated five eighth position.- Luke Rooney moves from wing to centre.- Lee Hookey comes into the side on the wing.Melbourne are as-per-program.KICKOFF! Match underway in Melbourne4 min: TRY Penrith PanthersPenrith are over already thanks to a crafty chip over the top from Luke Lewis, who re-gathered and found support through Nick Youngquest who scored in the corner. Panthers 6-012 min: NEWS Promising start here from Penrith with the likes of Joel Clinton and Matthew Cross pushing the Panthers over the advantage line, and the creativity of new five eighth Luke Lewis has been of a high quality. Melbourne look tired and disorganised at this stage.15 min: TRY Melbourne StormA try completely against the run of play as Matt Geyer runs 90 metres off an intercept to score for Melbourne. Could be a big play in the context of this game. 6 all.22 min: TRY Penrith PanthersTremendous decoy run from Joel Clinton results in a wide open gap for a blistering Rhys Wesser to capitalise and score out wide. Penrith now leading 10-6 and this match could certainly go either way. Panthers 10-632 min: TRY Melbourne StormBrilliant ball from Melbourne halfback Cooper Cronk who linked up with centre Jake Webster to cross out wide for the Storm's second try. Storm 12-10Halftime: min: NEWS A real armwrestle developing here and at the break, Melbourne lead Penrith by 12 points to 10. The half has been evenly poised and with only one penalty awarded from referee Shayne Hayne, the players have been able to sort things out themselves. This match could go either way.50 min: NEWS Still no change to the halftime score and the arm-wrestle continues here in Melbourne. Storm 12 Panthers 10.55 min: NEWS A number of controversial decisions from Penrith here. They were awarded three penalties in succession but decided to go for the try, despite the fact that they trail by two points. Could be a real turning point with some tremendous Melbourne defence to dispell the raid.60 min: NEWS Luke Lewis appears to have a calf problem although it could just be a cramp. Still no change to the halftime score, Melbourne 12 Penrith 10.63 min: TRY Penrith PanthersMichael Gordon races in to score after a freak offload from Tony Puletua. Slight controversy with the try as Rhys Wesser appeared to be tackled in the lead-up but was allowed to get an offload away. Panthers 16-1269 min: TRY Melbourne StormGreg Inglis scores an unbelievable try untouched for Melbourne in the corner. Terrific backline movement from the Storm and the decoy run from Matt King clearly fooled the Panthers' defence. 16 all.73 min: NEWS Wesser misses an attempt at field goal and we could now be entering a field goal shoot-out. 16-all and a grandstand finish in prospect. 78 min: NEWS Matt Geyer pushed into touch with Melbourne on the attack. Poor discipline from the Storm who should have settled for the field goal as it was only the second tackle. Golden point looking likely now.80 min: NEWS For the second time this weekend we go to golden point with these teams locked at 16 at the end of regular time.Extra time kicks off83 min: NEWS Melbourne have bombed two chances to kick a field goal. Cameron Smith missing a shot from point blank range. Deadlock still not broken.85 min: NEWS Halftime in extra-time now. Still 16-16, Penrith to kick off.88 min: NEWS Steve Turner misses another shot at field goal for the Storm and we could be headed for the season's first draw.89 min: FIELD GOAL Melbourne StormCooper Cronk kicks a field goal after a mistake from Tony Puletua. An unbelievable game of football here today. Melbourne run out winners by 17 points to 16. Match report to come... Storm 17-16-----------------------------------------Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Greg Inglis2 - Luke Lewis1 - Matt Geyer-----------------------------------------

Rammo's Origin Rundown

IT?S that time of year again people. Time to pull out the true colours for your state, but more so, illustrate your personal hatred for the opposing state.That?s right. State of Origin is upon us again and with only a day until league?s fiercest of rivalries kicks off, I?m feeling more and more like a stray dog on a leash.It?s difficult to pick a winner in Origin, as historically things are never decided on paper or in the stat book. But I?ll do my best for you now.Backs: You?d have to favour the Maroons here. They boast a far more potent backline than the Blues. The likes of Steven Bell and Greg Inglis will wreak havoc for the Blues? outside defenders if given early ball from the halves, while Justin Hodges will continue to terrorise his opposites as he has done for the Broncos all season. And Matt Bowen, as most Origin fans know, can win a game for his state with one play. The Blues have a far more conservative backline. Brett Hodgson won?t let his State down but whether NSW can expect knockout plays from him, as has been the case with Anthony Minichiello in recent years, remains to be seen. Matt King hasn?t been outstanding this season but earns his place on reputation. Great to see Eric Grothe in the side but his defensive defects may be exposed if he doesn?t aim up to the likes of Inglis and Hodges. Mark Gasnier is the main card in the deck, if he can get on the outside of Brent Tate early it may shatter the Queenslander?s confidence ? which could lead to a long night for the former Test centre. But if Gasnier gets off on the wrong foot, NSW will need to rely solely on Timana Tahu for their spark out wide. Personally I think Tahu has yet to prove his worth at this level. It will be interesting to see whether he eats buttered crumpets before this representative game or not.Halves: Again, the Maroons hold the upper hand in this area. A rejuvenated Darren Lockyer has enjoyed a fantastic start to the 2006 season and from that, Queensland will benefit immensely. Johnathan Thurston?s tremendous start to 2006 has been well-documented and rightly so. These two marvels will hurt NSW if Queensland?s forwards can push themselves over the advantage line regularly. I don?t mind Craig Gower?s selection at halfback as NSW didn?t have much choice after the Andrew Johns? representative retirement. Gower won?t let anyone down tomorrow night and will continue playing even if every bone in his body has broken. The big unknown is the five eighth position for NSW. Braith Anasta has shown nothing to suggest that he deserves his spot and was selected purely on reputation. I wonder how he?ll go. Origin should be about picking the best 17 players possible in order to win the series. It may come back to bite NSW on Wednesday night.Forwards: This is where NSW should be looking to play the game. They are definitely the stronger and with Queensland unveiling three debutants in the starting back-row, NSW should be looking to intimidate Queensland from the outset. I think Danny Buderus and Cameron Smith cancel each other out ? if Buderus plays that is. If Luke Priddis is a late inclusion, it?s advantage Queensland. In the front row, I think NSW have a slight edge. Willie Mason has been playing tremendous football as has Manly?s Brent Kite. Steven Price and Petero Civoniceva will get the Queenslanders forward but I think in the front row it?s favourable to NSW.We?ll have to go with NSW in the back row as well. There will be three debutants in those positions for Queensland whereas NSW boast Nathan Hindmarsh who is now an established representative player, Steve Simpson who has been in outstanding form for the table-topping Newcastle Knights, and Luke O?Donnell who was a certain selection for the Australian side against the Kiwis. David Stagg, Matthew Scott and Dallas Johnson will definitely earn their money.Bench: As was the case with the forwards ? advantage NSW. The utility position is filled by Craig Wing who admittedly hasn?t been in his best form but has a tremendous track record in representative matches. Expect him to come on around the 50 minute mark and try to dart out of dummy half at the tired Queensland forwards. Steve Menzies and Andrew Ryan will be a steadying influence off the bench, both solid defenders and can cause trouble on the edges of the ruck ? especially given the inexperience of Queensland?s outside defenders. And Mark O?Meley will be given a license from coach Graham Murray to run onto Telstra Stadium and explode tomorrow night. He?ll no doubt be looking forward to a potential running battle with Queensland hit-man Carl Webb. Those wanting some good old-fashioned biff tomorrow night, just watch these two giants go at each other, they won?t disappoint.Other than Webb, the Queensland bench is a little suspect. Nate Myles has a big shoulder-charge on him and Sam Thaiday is a devastating ball-runner but the major selection which has raised eyebrows is that of Shaun Berrigan on the bench. It seemed that after last year?s Origin series Queensland would be reluctant to pick Berrigan in Maroons colours again. Major back-flip there and it will be intriguing to see how he performs.Verdict: NSW by 14. As we?ve seen, Queensland has the upper hand in the outside backs and the halves. But these games are traditionally won in the forwards and New South Wales look as though they have too much for Queensland in that department. The bench will also benefit NSW and after some tight early exchanges and a close score-line at halftime, expect the Blues to run over the top of the Maroons in the second half. As we know with Origin, predictions don?t always work out and if NSW are complacent they will be in for a rude shock. The Blues though haven?t been beaten at Telstra Stadium in 10 matches and there?s no reason why that won?t be 11.With only a day to go, all I say is bring it on!

Warriors stun the Tigers in Auckland

ROUND 11 New Zealand Warriors 34 v Wests Tigers 12at Ericsson StadiumReferee: Jarred MaxwellMatch Summary:The New Zealand Warriors have comprehensively defeated the Wests Tigers this evening in Auckland ? the home side winning 34-12.The Warriors were off to a dream start when Sione Faumuina crashed over the line from close range after just two minutes ? the result of an ill-disciplined early penalty against the Tigers. The Warriors led 6-0 after the Tony Martin conversion.The Tigers looked as though they had the momentum, but successive tries to the Warriors? Brent Webb and Simon Mannering made life very difficult for the Tigers. The Warriors held a 16-0 advantage with 10 minutes remaining in the first half.Then a piece of Benji Marshall brilliance, reminiscent of his freakish flick pass in last year?s grand final, created the Tigers? first try and the first in the career of debutant Taniela Tuiaki. The Tigers hit back for what looked like the final points of the first half at 16-6 with the Marshall conversion successful.But the dagger was forced into the Tigers? heart just seconds before halftime, with another breakaway try, this time it was halfback Grant Rovelli. The conversion ensured a tough road ahead for the Tigers if they were to force their way back into this one, the score 22-6 at halftime. The Auckland-based outfit pressed their foot onto the accelerator after the break, with successive tries to Louis Anderson and Evarn Tuimavave ? both converted by Tony Martin. The Warriors led 34-6 with 25 minutes on the clock and at that stage, any scoreline looked possible.But the Tigers managed to hold the Warriors out for the remainder of the half and Tuiaki crossed for a consolation double late in the match to save face for the premiers.The Warriors meet the Sharks next Saturday evening at Toyota Park, whilst the Tigers travel across town to meet the struggling Rabbitohs at Aussie Stadium.Scorers:New Zealand Warriors: 34Tries: Louis Anderson, Sione Faumuina, Grant Rovelli, Simon Mannering, Evarn Tuimavave, Brent WebbGoals: Tony Martin 5/6Wests Tigers: 12Tries: Taniela Tuiaki(2)Goals: Benji Marshall 2/2Crowd: 8,210By the Clock:The second match in Round 11 sees the hapless New Zealand Warriors playing host to premiers the Wests Tigers. Both sides will be slightly affected by origin representation, with Steven Price and Brett Hodgson the two absentees from this match.0 min: NEWS KICKOFF! Match underway at Ericsson Stadium2 min: TRY New Zealand WarriorsThe Warriors fulfill the benefits of an early penalty and Sione Faumuina crashes over the line from close range. The decision was referred to video referee Phil Cooley for a possible lost ball but the try was awarded on benefit of the doubt. Warriors 6-08 min: NEWS The Warriors bomb a certain try after a mid-field break from fullback Brent Webb. They moved the ball through the hands but centre Tony Martin was unable to control it.20 min: NEWS The Warriors bomb another try after another Webb break. Evarn Tuimavave had support on his left but elected to hold back the pass and go with the offload, which culminated with Jamaal Lolesi coming up with the ball for the Tigers. 25 min: TRY New Zealand WarriorsThird time lucky for Brent Webb who capitalises on a freak offload from Faumuina to dart through the Tigers' defensive line and stand up fullback Daniel Fitzhenry - who in-turn scored the try. Warriors 12-030 min: TRY New Zealand WarriorsSimon Mannering crosses for a simple try in the corner after a poor attempt at tackle from Dene Halatau. Warriors 16-034 min: TRY Wests TigersA grand-final-like flick pass from Benji Marshall has generated the Tigers' first of the night and debutant Taneila Tuiaki has scored under the posts. Absolute magic from the Kiwi international. Warriors 16-640 min: TRY New Zealand WarriorsGrant Rovelli crosses after a last-minute raid from the Warriors, a stinging blow to the Tigers' chances just on the break. That signals halftime and the Tigers had a look-in for a moment there but after that late try to the Warriors it's a long way back for the Tigers now. Warriors 22-6Second half underway in Auckland50 min: TRY New Zealand WarriorsLouis Anderson gathers up a loose ball after a Nathan Fien bomb to score in the corner. Manu Vatuvei batted the ball down to Anderson. Ominous signs for the Tigers here. Warriors 28-656 min: TRY New Zealand WarriorsTuimavave barges over from dummy half. Pathetic defence from the Tigers and the scoreline is getting embarrassing. Warriors 34-661 min: TRY Wests TigersTuiaki crosses for his second on debut but it's nothing more than a consolation for the Tigers. Warriors 34-1268 min: NEWS Still 34-12 here. Both sides just playing out time now.Fulltime min: NEWS The Warriors have defeated the Wests Tigers by 34 points to 12 in a comprehensive victory. Match report to come...-----------------------------------------Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Brent Webb (Warriors)2 - Evarn Tuimavave (Warriors)1 - Tony Martin (Warriors)-----------------------------------------

Origin special - NSW line-up

THIS week Daniel Ramus takes a look at the NSW Origin line-up for next Wednesday's clash against Queensland, giving his thoughts on each player.

Rammo's rant

I?VE seen some embarrassing refereeing performances in my years following the game, but I?m not sure that too many can compare with the dilapidated efforts which British referee Russell Smith displayed at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday.

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