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Melbourne no. 1 after defeating Cowboys

ROUND 10 Melbourne Storm 18 v North Queensland Cowboys 6at Olympic Park, MelbourneReferee: Steven ClarkMatch Summary: The Melbourne Storm are our new competition leaders after an 18-6 victory over the North Queensland Cowboys. In what was a fantastic game of rugby league with only three penalties being awarded throughout the match, the Storm were strong in every area of the game and put on a near perfect performance in front of a strong crowd at Olympic Park.The game started off horrible for the home side with an error being made before a tackle was made in the match. The Storm defence held strong in the first set and that set the tone for the rest of the match. Another chance went begging when Origin centre Paul Bowman went extremely close to posting the first points on the board in the 12th minute, but again the Storm defence held strong from the home side. The first try came in superb fashion, with Cooper Cronk starting it off by putting in a cross field kick inside his own half which found winger Matt Geyer. On the next play Cameron Smith put up a massive torpedo bomb which was collected by the Storm and from that the ball went wide and Kiwi international David Kidwell scored. 15 minutes later the Storm were in again through Australian winger Matt King and that set up a handy 12-0 lead for the Storm going into the half time break.The second half didnt start well for Storm five eighth Scott Hill, with a head clash with Dallas Johnson busting open the former international. Cameron Smith slotted over a penalty goal in the 47th minute after Greg Inglis made a line break from a kick return. The Cowboys couldnt transform their opportunities into points which frustrated them straight out of the game. The free-flowing game continued throughout the second half with many breaks and expansive football being on show. The Storm then put the game out of reach of the Cowboys with Cameron Smith finishing of a fantastic performance and scoring out of dummy half. The Cowboys did everything possible to get on the board in the final stages of the match and were successful through Brenton Bowen and Jonathon Thurston adding the extras out wide.For the Storm, Cameron Smith and Greg Inglis were tremendous. Smith tackled his heart out and scored a nice try and proved why he is one of the games great hookers. Smith's likely Origin team mate Greg Inglis was also superb with him making constant breaks and always causing trouble for the Cowboys.Scorers:Melbourne Storm: 18Tries: David Kidwell, Matt King, Cameron SmithGoals: Cameron Smith 3/4North Queensland Cowboys: 6Tries: Brenton BowenGoals: Johnathan Thurston 1/1By the ClockWelcome ladies and gentleman to Olympic park for a top of the table contest between the hard-hitting Melbourne Storm and the high-flying North Queensland Cowboys. The Cowboys are coming of a solid win against the Penrith Panthers are looking for an even better performance after a couple of weeks of being below their best. The Storm on their other hand have won their past 4 in a row but face a tough task with out International back Jake Webster, Queensland back-rower Michael Crocker and Country Origin prop Brett White. Cameron Smith and Greg Inglis have been in scintillating form for the Storm and will look to continue that sort of form just before the Origin series starts. Matt Bowen is another player who is looking to push his claim for the Queensland number 1 jersey, so expect a big performance from the electrifying fullback.These two teams clashed earlier this year at Dairy Farmers stadium in Townsville, where the Cowboys put the Storm to the sword with an impressive 40-8 victory.The Changes:The Melbourne Storm have lost Kiwi winger Jake Webster Craig Bellemy has brought in Adam Blair as the replacement.The North Queensland Cowboys have lost Australian forward Luke O?Donnell and Country forward Mitch Sargent. They call in big Gavin Cooper to move into the centres and that pushes Paul Bowman into the back row. Rob Tanielu comes on to the bench as we are ready to get under way here in Melbourne.KICK OFF here at Olympic Park! 2 min: NEWS The Storms goal line defence holds out the Cowboys off in the first attacking set of the game. The crowd here at Olympic park is very vocal.6 min: NEWS A kick gets put up by Cameron Smith that Bowen fumbles and a goal line drop out is awarded to the home team. 10 min: NEWS A fast paced game in the early going here. Both defences have been tested and both have held strong. 12 min: NEWS Paul Bowman goes extremley close in putting the first points on the board. A short ball from Thurston hits Bowman on the chest who hits the hole but just tackled short of the line. Great stuff!18 min: NEWS Lost ball from Kiwi forward David Kidwell and the Cowboys have the scrum in good field position.However, from the scrum Travis Norton knocks on and the Storm now have the ball. 21 min: TRY Melbourne StormA great try from the Melbourne Storm! A cross field kick from Cooper Cronk deep in their own territory finds Matt Geyer and from the next play Cameron Smith puts the ball high in the air, taken by the Storm who spread it out and find David Kidwell who scores a fantastic rugby league try. Smith converts the try.Storm 6-025 min: NEWS Matty Bowen on a kick return steps his way through the defence and runs a nice 45 meters to get some momentum back for the Cowboys.32 min: NEWS The Storm defence is excellent at the moment. The Cowboys playing razzle dazzle but scrambling defence from the Storm has been fantastic. Incredibly, there has not been one penalty yet in the game. Just adds to what has been a fast free flowing game of rugby league.37 min: TRY Melbourne StormAnother great try from the Storm! Winger Steve Turner goes down the sideline but Matty Bowen puts on a big hit that stops the play. In the next play origin winger Matt King barges over and the Storm now have a two try lead here at Olympic Park.Cameron Smith adds the extras. Storm 12-0HALFTIME here at Olympic Park!What a half of football! The Melbourne Storm have been terrific in all areas of the game, especially in their defence. Some great tries from the home team, both of which have both come from in their own half. Thurston and Bowen have been looking dangerous but havn't been able to put that into points as of yet.A nice fast game of football, thanks to the fact that referee Steven Clarke has not given one single penalty. It's added to what has so far been a great spectacle and the good news for all of us fans is that it's only half way in being complete.Halftime stats: Possession: Melbourne Storm 51% North Queensland Cowboys 49Penalties: Melbourne Storm 0 North Queensland Cowboys 0Completion Rate: Melbourne Storm 11/21 North Queensland Cowboys 10/17Line Breaks: Melbourne Storm 4 North Queensland Cowboys 2Cameron Smith gets us under way here in the Second half of this top of the table clash! 45 min: NEWS Scott Hill coming of the field with blood pouring out of his head. The Cowboys have a repeat set after a nicley weighted kick from Jonathon Thurston. 46 min: NEWS Greg Inglis from a kick return breaks the Cowboys line and makes a 50 metre run but was pulled down by Ashley Graham! Thurston then strips the ball of Matt Geyer later on in the set to give the Storm the first penalty of the game. 47 min: PENALTY GOAL Melbourne StormCameron Smith converts the penalty conceded by Jonathon Thurston from right in front. Storm 14-052 min: NEWS Ian Donnelly offloads to Greg Inglis who makes another break, puts a chip over the head of Bowen but cleaned up by Thurston but the Cowboys halfback is trapped in goal. Repeat set to the Storm! 57 min: NEWS Again Inglis from a kick return makes another 40 metres. This kid is an absolute freak! The kick chase from the Cowboys must improve dramatically. 60 min: NEWS An error from Jonathon Thurston puts the Storm right back on the attack and now have a chance to wrap this game up.61 min: NEWS The Cowboys recieve their first penalty after an hour of football. They must score soon to have a chance of winning this match. 68 min: NEWS The Storm recieve their second penalty of the game and look to have this won. Looking for a try to put it out of reach from the Cowboys. 70 min: TRY Melbourne StormCameron Smith on last tackle throws a dummy out of the dummy half position and scores the Storms third try. Smith can't convert his own try and the scoreline remainds the same. Storm 18-075 min: NEWS Matty Bowen makes a 60 metre break down the touch line only to be pulled down by Greg Inglis. 76 min: NEWS The Cowboys get a repeat set after forcing five eight Scott Hill back into the in goal line. 78 min: TRY North Queensland CowboysIt has taken the Cowboys 78 minutes but they finally go over through Brenton Bowen. Thurston passes to Bowman on last tackle who offloads to Bowen who scores the try.Thurston nails the conversion from the sideline. Storm 18-6FULLTIME here at Olympic park! Melbourne Storm 18 defeats the North Queensland Cowboys 6.A great game of football has come to a close. These two teams showed why they are on the top of the table with both teams putting in some good performances. For the Storm, Greg Inglis was excellent. Always looked dangerous with the ball and made a couple of nice line braeks. Cameron Smith was also fantastic making 40+ tackles, scoring a try and kicking 3 goals. The Cowboys tried hard all night but just couldn't break the Storm defence. Matty Bowen always looked dangerous with ball in hand, but not even Matty Bowen and Jonathon Thurston could lead the Cowboys to a victory here at Olympic park. -----------------------------------------Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Greg Inglis (Storm)2 - Cameron Smith (Storm)1 - Matt King (Storm)-----------------------------------------

Manly thrashes disappointing Bulldogs

ROUND 7 Canterbury Bulldogs 14 v Manly Sea Eagles 40at Telstra StadiumReferees: Sean HampsteadMatch Summary:An impressive Manly Sea Eagles have thumped a disappointing Canterbury Bulldogs 40-14 at Telstra Stadium. The Bulldogs were dominated in the first half and never recovered as a Ben Kennedy and Matt Orford led Manly side stormed home with the 2 points. The first half started superbly for the Manly Sea Eagles with halfback Matt Orford scoring an early try thanks to some nice lead up work from young pivot Travis Burns. Orford got his second try not that long after when Matt Utai made a critical mistake in his in goal. The Dogs hit back in short time when former Queensland centre Willie Tonga scored out wide. However, that was all the glory that the Dogs would have in the first half with centre Steve Matai and winger Paul Stephenson scoring tries in the first half to make the score line 28-6 going in the halftime break. Second half started off with a lot of errors from both teams which resulted in some sloppy football. The Dogs scored the first try through Matt Utai and one soon after to Sonny Bill Williams, but that was all the joy the Bulldogs will have in the second half with Manly scoring two tries to Ben Kennedy and Steven Bell for a 40-14 victory.Ben Kennedy and Matt Orford were excellent for the away team, with both being inspirational in their team?s victory. Kennedy made plenty of meters and a heap of tackles while Matt Orford created many opportunities for his players and scored a couple of early tries himself. The Bulldogs were disappointing and never looked like being in the match. They made too many errors early at the start of their sets and hence couldn?t apply any pressure to the Manly defence. The halves combination of Reni Maitua and Daniel Holdsworth struggled by lacking direction and lacking any creative spark.Next week the Dogs tackle the Warriors at Erricson Stadium on Sunday afternoon, while the Eagles take on the Eels at the Sydney Cricket Ground in what is sure to be a terrific match.Scorers:Canterbury Bulldogs: 14Tries: Willie Tonga, Matthew Utai, Sonny Bill WilliamsGoals: Hazem El Masri 1/3Manly Sea Eagles: 40Tries: Ben Kennedy, Paul Stephenson(2), Matt Orford(2), Steve Matai, Steve BellGoals: Matt Orford 6/8By the Clock:Welcome to Telstra Stadium for the much anticipated contest between the Bulldogs and the Manly Sea Eagles. Both teams have been in decent form coming into today?s contest, with the Bulldogs having a solid win over the Bunnies whilst the Eagles battled hard for 80 minutes against the Dragons. The Dogs definitely have the advantage in the forward pack with the likes of O'Meley, Mason, Asotasi and Sonny Bill Williams in the team. However the Eagles have the advantage in the creativity apartment with Matt Orford and Travis Burns forming a solid halves combination. Great conditions here at Home bush with what looks like a fairly disappointing crowd considering the weather, the form of the teams and the fact this is the only Sydney game today.The changes:Manly speedster Brett Stewart is out with a hand injury. Winger Chris Hicks moves to fullback and Paul Stephenson comes in on the wing.The Bulldogs have a huge boost coming into the game with Kiwi winger Matt Utai being cleared of a rib injury and coming in on the wing at the expense of Trent Cutler. Brad Morrin has also come on to the interchange bench to replace suspended forward Nate Myles.0 min: KICK OFF at Telstra Stadium for this Round 7 clash between the Dogs and the Eagles!2 min: TRY Manly Sea EaglesThe Eagles have got off to the best start possible with Monaghan, Orford and Burns heavily involved. Monaghan offloads to Orford, who gives it off to Burns then throws it back to Orford who scores under the posts. Orford converts from an easy position. Sea Eagles 6-08 min: VIDEO REF - Orford looking for a second try. Video Referee looking to see if the Manly halfback has grounded the football correctly. The video ref awards the try to the Manly Sea Eagles.8 min: TRY Manly Sea EaglesA lovely placed kick from former Manly captain Michael Monaghan forced Matt Utai to attempt to return the ball from the in goal only to be met in a great tackle which forces the ball loose and Matt Orford pounces on the loose ball to get his second try. A great start from the Eagles here at Telstra Stadium. Orford converts his own try. Sea Eagles 12-011 min: NEWS Manly are dominating the Bulldogs at the moment. Brent Kite and Ben Kennedy have had a solid starts to the game and the Dogs forward pack is not getting that roll on we are used to seeing.13 min: NEWS The Dogs have their first real attacking opportunity and need to take advantage of the possession. 14 min: TRY Canterbury BulldogsThe Dogs do take advantage of the good field possession with Willie Tonga scoring out wide after some nice offloading Willie Mason. This is shaping up to be a fantastic game of rugby league. Hazem kicks it from the sideline. Sea Eagles 12-617 min: NEWS Watmough makes a break down field then is stripped of the ball in a 2 man tackle. The Eagles kick for touch and are applying pressure to the Dogs defencive line.19 min: TRY Manly Sea EaglesPaul Stephenson scores untouched after some great lead up work from Steve Menzies. The Beaver throws a beaut pass to Steve Bell who draws and passes to send the winger in to score.Orford converts for a 12 point lead. Sea Eagles 18-627 min: NEWS Exciting stuff from the Eagles who nearly score on last tackle. Sonny Bill Williams has come in to the game and immediately makes an impact with a nice shoulder charge. The momentum is starting to swing back in the way of the Doggies. 31 min: NEWS The Dogs attacking in the Eagles 20m zone. The Dogs looking very dangerous at the moment but let the Eagles of the hook with a mistake to Sonny Bill Williams. 34 min: NEWS VIDEO REF - Possible Steve Matai try. Video Ref looking to see weather Matai grounded the ball before Bulldogs winger Hazem El Masri. The Video Ref awards the try.34 min: TRY Manly Sea EaglesA grubber kick from Matt Orford is not cleaned up by Luke Patten and Steve Matai pounces on the ball and grounds the ball at the same time as El Masri and the try is awarded.Orford converts and notches up 1000 Career points. Sea Eagles 24-639 min: TRY Manly Sea EaglesMatt Orford puts the ball in the air and Paul Stephenson takes a great catch looking into the sun. Manly have possibly just blown the game out of reach of the Bulldogs.Orford misses the conversion from out wide. Sea Eagles 28-640 min: Halftime here at Telstra Stadium. Manly Sea Eagles 28 Canterbury Bulldogs 6A half that has been dominated by the Manly Sea Eagles. Ben Kennedy has been leading from the front by making 99 meters. Matt Orford is playing excellent and in the process scored his 1000th point in the NRL. Paul Stephenson has been impressive out on his wing and Michael Monaghan and Shane Dunley have been giving good service from dummy half. For the Dogs, Willie Mason has been great. Always looking dangerous with the ball in hand. Sonny Bill Williams needs to be on the field for most of the second half for the Dogs to have a chance of winning. Willie Tonga needs to see more ball in the second fourty minutes as he always looks like making something happen on that left hand side. 40 min: SECOND HALF IF UNDERWAY and from the kick off Anthony Watmough knocks on. Exactly the start the Dogs need. 40 min: NEWS From the scrum Sonny Bill Williams stands at pivot and looses the ball in the tackle.46 min: NEWS Andrew Emelio attempts to step and looks to have suffered a knee injury. Willie Mason back into the game as the Eagles make another mistake in this second half.48 min: NEWS Errors galore at the moment! The Dogs are in great a attacking position but Sonny Bill Williams is controversy ruled to have knocked on.50 min: NEWS Great defence from the Eagles holds the Dogs of yet again. The Eagles have only completed one set so far this half.53 min: PENALTY GOAL Manly Sea EaglesOrford is taken out late after putting in a kick and recieves a penalty. Orford slots the penalty goal over from an easy position. Sea Eagles 30-655 min: NEWS Orford puts in a great chip, regathers and passes to Brent Kite who throws a speculator to Travis Burns who looses the ball. Entertaining stuff from the Manly Sea Eagles.58 min: TRY Canterbury BulldogsThe Bulldogs relise they need to start throwing the ball around and they get rewarded for their efforts. Roy Asotasi makes a great break and is finished of by Willie Tonga who gets a great ball to Matt Utai to score.Hazem misses the kick from the sideline. Sea Eagles 30-1063 min: NEWS VIDEO REF - Possible try to Sonny Bill Williams. Looking to see if he grounded the ball correctly. Video ref awards the try. 63 min: TRY Canterbury BulldogsSonny Bill Williams some how gets the ball over the line with 4 Eagles players attempting to stop him. The Dogs are starting to get back into this match. Hazem misses another goal. Sea Eagles 30-1467 min: TRY Manly Sea EaglesThe Dogs gift the Eagles with another try when Daniel Holdsworth throws the ball up straight into the hands of the Manly captain Ben Kennedy who has a free run to the try line.Orford converts from under the posts. Sea Eagles 36-1470 min: NEWS Fill in fullback Chris Hicks seems to have suffered an injury and has come off the field.72 min: TRY Manly Sea EaglesTravis Burns throws a long pass to centre Steven Bell who continues his great run of scoring tries for his new club.Orford misses the conversion to the left. Sea Eagles 40-1479 min: NEWS The Eagles fighting till the death with another try nearly going to winger Michael Robertson.80 min: NEWS FULLTIME - Manly Sea Eagles 40 Canterbury Bulldogs 14-----------------------------------------Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Matt Orford2 - Ben Kennedy1 - Steve Menzies-----------------------------------------

Scrappy Broncos defeat disappointing Souths

ROUND 5:Brisbane Broncos 30 v South Sydney Rabbitohs 12 at Suncorp Stadium.Referee: Gavin BadgerMatch Summary:The Brisbane Broncos have cruised to a 30-12 victory against a disappointing South Sydney Rabbitohs side at Suncorp Stadium. The Broncos were not at their best at any point of the game but still managed to be too good for the South Sydney side who simply turned over too much ball. The first half started well for the Broncos with Tame Tupou scoring outside after a nice kick from Broncos fullback Karmichael Hunt. Everything seemed to be going the Broncos way with another try soon after to captain Darren Lockyer under the post after some nice work from rookie winger Darious Boyd. Not everything went well for the Broncos though with new recruit Michael Ennis suffering crucial ligament damage to his leg which will see the goal kicking hooker out for the 2006 NRL season. The tide started to turn midway through the first half though when Rabbitohs centre Paul Mellor created a superb solo try running 65m of a sloppy pass from the Broncos to make the score line less then a converted try. The Broncos started the second half on fire with Karmichael Hunt and Darren Lockyer heavily involved. They then orchestrated a try for rookie winger Darious Boyd for the score line to be pushed out to 18-6. The Rabbitohs continued to gift the Broncos with penalties and errors and the Broncos punished them for it with Justin Hodges continuing his great form to score the next try for the home team. Broncos still had more points in them however with Tame Tupou grabbing a second which saw the score line blow out to 30-6. The Broncos continued to dominate possession and the Bunnies eventually had no hope in reducing the deficit. Nathan Merritt continued his great run of scoring the last try in games this season with him supporting a break from David Fa?alogo but it made no different to the end result with the Broncos making their record 3-2 in 2006. Scorers:Brisbane Broncos: 30Tries: Justin Hodges, Darren Lockyer, Tame Tupou(2), Darius BoydGoals: Corey Parker 5/7South Sydney Rabbitohs: 12Tries: Paul Mellor, Nathan MerrittGoals: Nathan Merritt 2/2By the clock: Welcome to Brisbane for the clash between the Brisbane Broncos and the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Both clubs are looking for a win after both suffering disappointing losses last week against the Dragons and the Sharks respectively.Sam Thaiday comes into the Broncos team for Brad Thorn, while the Bunnies are as per program but they are now using their 4th different halfback so far this year. Kick off is approaching. 0 min: The Broncos get us underway here at Suncorp Stadium!4 min: NEWS Sloppy start from the Broncos which eventually leads to a 5th tackle hand over to the Rabbitohs. The Bunnies are now in a good attacking position. 7 min: VIDEO REF - The Video Referee has been called in to see if Shaun Berrigan has got his first try in his last 12 games for the Broncos. The replays tell us that Shaun Berrigan has lost the ball. No try is the call and the Rabbitohs will get a feed 10m from their own line.9 min: NEWS Shane Walker has hit Michael Ennis high and the Broncos recieve a penalty. Ennis however is being carried off the field with a leg injury.10 min: ATTEMPTED PENALTY GOAL Brisbane BroncosBrett Seymour takes over the goal kicking with Ennis off the field and misses a penalty goal attempt. 0 all.13 min: TRY Brisbane BroncosA perfect grubber kick from Karmichael Hunt sees big Tame Tupou score outwide. Brett Seymour hooks the conversion to the left of the uprights. Broncos 4-014 min: NEWS News from downstairs is that Michael Ennis may have some Crucial Ligament damage to his leg. News doesn't look good for Michael Ennis. 16 min: TRY Brisbane BroncosBen Rogers throws a miss-directed pass to Darious Boyd, who then breaks through the Rabbitohs line and links up the captain Darren Lockyer for him to score under the post.Corey Parker takes over the goal kicking and slots his first one over from right in front. Broncos 10-018 min: NEWS Broncos recieve a cheap penalty and are on the attack yet again. They are hungry for the points and the Bunnies are struggling to hold them out.20 min: TRY South Sydney RabbitohsA sloppy pass from the Broncos is picked up from Paul Mellor who shows some great pace to run 65m and score a desperately needed try for the Bunnies.Nathan Merritt converts from right in front. Broncos 10-624 min: NEWS Rabbitohs receive a penalty on the last tackle. The momentum is starting to swing here in Brisbane. 25 min: NO TRY - John Sutton takes the ball to the line before gifting a short ball to Adam McDougall which was ruled forward by the near side touch judge.26 min: NEWS Michael Ennis season looks to have ended with confirmation of Crucial Ligament damage.34 min: PENALTY GOAL Brisbane BroncosBroncos recieve a penalty for McDougall stripping the ball out of the hands of Hannett. Corey Parker lines up the penalty goal and strikes it well. Broncos 12-639 min: NEWS Souths get a repeat set of 6 tackles in the Broncos 20m zone. Rabbitohs looking very dangerous with the ball.HALFTIME: Brisbane Broncos 12 South Sydney Rabbitohs 6Second half is underway here at Suncorp Stadium! 46 min: ATTEMPTED PENALTY GOAL Brisbane BroncosNathan Merritt is called offside and the Broncos elect to go for the two points. Corey Parker misses the conversion but the Broncos will get the ball back. Broncos 12-648 min: TRY Brisbane BroncosKarmichael Hunt and Darren Lockyer getting more involved and the attack looks more crisp now. Karmichael Hunt makes a half break and links up with the rookie winger Darious Boyd for him to score.Corey Parker adds the extras. Broncos 18-654 min: NEWS Broncos on the attack yet again after the Bunnies make another mistake in their half. They now recieve a penalty right in front.54 min: PENALTY GOAL Brisbane BroncosCorey Parker from right in front has no trouble with conversion. The Broncos now have a comfortable lead. Broncos 20-658 min: TRY Brisbane BroncosHodges continues his great form in the new season with some great footwork and strength for him to score the fourth try for the Broncos. Parker hooks the conversion to the left. Broncos 24-662 min: VIDEO REF - A possible Corey Parker try. No try is the call and there will be a 20m restart to the Bunnies.69 min: TRY Brisbane BroncosA repeat set to the Broncos sees quick hands shown for Tame Tuopu to score his second try of the night. Flood gates beggining to open here at Suncorp StadiumCorey Parker slots a great kick from the sideline. Broncos 30-676 min: NEWS Errors galore at the back end of the game. Neither coach will be jumping with joy over their teams performance tonight.80 min: TRY South Sydney RabbitohsNathan Merritt continues his great run of scoring tries in the 80th minute with another one here tonight at Suncorp Stadium.He converts his own try. Broncos 30-12FULLTIME: - Brisbane Broncos 30 South Sydney Rabbitohs 12A scrappy win from the Broncos here tonight at Suncorp Stadium. They still haven?t shown us what they are capable of but I?m sure that Wayne Bennett will be happy to get the 2 points. Solid performances from Karmichael Hunt, Justin Hodges, Tame Tupou and Sam Thaiday saw the Broncos run away with the game for the final score line showing 30-12. The Bunnies were very disappointing with them conceding a high penalty count and making too many errors for them to be competitive in the contest. -----------------------------------------Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Karmichael Hunt (Broncos)2 - Justin Hodges (Broncos)1 - Tame Tupou (Broncos)-----------------------------------------

Warriors outplay Benji-less Tigers

FULLTIME score:Round 3New Zealand Warriors 26 v Wests Tigers 10Match summary:The New Zealand Warriors have created their first win of the new season by defeating the rusty West Tigers 26-10 in cold conditions at Jade Stadium. The first half started of with a tonne of errors from both teams, but the Warriors were the first team to put the points on the board with a nicely worked try to Jerome Ropati. Another try was on the horizon as Brent Webb capitalised on some nice work from birthday boy George Gatis who found some lazy defenders around the ruck area. Clinton Toopi scored the last try of the half and the Tigers found themselves in all sorts of trouble at half time with the score at 14-0.The second half started the way Tim Sheens would of liked for it to start with the Tigers getting on the board first with rookie Michael Crockett scoring right on the touch line. However the Tigers continued to turn the ball over and the Warriors punished them with a quick try to big Kiwi winger Manu Vatuvei. When Awen Guttenibeil crossed in the 61 minute mark the game was all but over, with the Tigers scoring a late try to Daniel Fitzhenry. Steve Price and Rubin Wiki were very strong up front for the Warriors, while George Gatis was very strong out of that dummy half position causing all sorts of troubles for the Tigers. Clinton Toopi terrorized the Tigers defence out wide as did winger Manu Vatuvei and fullback Brent Webb.Not too many shining lights for the Tigers with Brett Hodgson being the only player who looked dangerous with ball in hand. The Tigers looked lost without Benji Marshall at five eight and Robbie Farah at hooker and if tonight?s performance is any indication, the Tigers will struggle for the next few weeks without those key players.Scorers: Wests Tigers: 10Tries: Daniel Fitzhenry, Michael CrockettGoals: Brett Hodgson 1/2New Zealand Warriors: 26Tries: Awen Guttenbeil, Jerome Ropati, Clinton Toopi, Manu Vatuvei, Brent WebbGoals: Tony Martin 3/5Sat 6:30pm(NZ) 5:30pm(Syd) 25 Mar 2006Jade Stadium NZReferee: Paul SimpkinsLive commentaryWelcome to Jade Stadium for a battle between the West Tigers and the New Zealand Warriors. The Warriors are looking for their first win of the season while the Tigers are trying to find a win with some key players missing.One change with Bronson Harrison on the Tigers bench in replace of Sam Harris.KICK OFF: We are underway here at Jade Stadium with the Warriors kicking off.5 min: NEWS Some early mistakes from both teams. Warriors have been in a good position to score on a few occasions but have turned the ball over both times.10 min: NEWS Ryan O'Hara gives the Warriors a cheap penalty and the Warriors find themselves in good field position11 min: VIDEO REF - Decision for a Manu Vatuvei try. Video Referee looking to see if the big Kiwi winger has planted the ball down. Held up is the decision and the Warriors continue their set on the 10m line.15 min: TRY New Zealand WarriorsGood set move from the Warriors sees the pivot Jerome Ropati go into score. Warriors looking the good early on in this match with them having plenty of possession.Tony Martin misses the kick from a difficult angle.Warriors 4-024 min: TRY New Zealand WarriorsGeorge Gatis sets up a nice try for the Warriors fullback Brent Webb. Gatis spotted some lazy defenders around the ruck area and found a supporting Brent Webb to put the Warriors up by two tries. Conversion successful from Tony Martin Warriors 10-029 min: NEWS Tigers making to many simple mistakes right now. They are playing without confidence and the Warriors have a huge roll of momentum with them at the moment. 30 min: NEWS Rookie winger Michael Crockett drops a high bomb from Nathan Fien. The Warriors looking for more points with the Tigers looking very vulnerable 35 min: TRY New Zealand WarriorsAnother try to the Warriors, this time to the centre Clinton Toopi. Soft defence from the Tigers with 3 players not being able to stop Clinton Toopi.Conversion missed from Tony Martin. Warriors 14-038 min: NEWS Another mistake from the Tigers, this time from Paul Whaturia. The Warriors looking for one more try to close this first half of football.HALF TIME: New Zealand Warriors 14 - West Tigers 0Very dissapointing first half from the Premiers here at Jade Stadium. They have hardly been in a good position to post points with them turning the ball over constantly. The Warriors have played fairly well but need to keep it going to go on with the victory. Possession: Tigers 40% - Warriors 60%Completion: Tigers 11/19 - Warriors 18/24Missed Tackles: Tigers 26 - Warriors 2Tackles: Tigers 162 - Warriors 105Errors: Tigers 9 - Warriors 6Second Half underway here at Jade Stadium!!46 min: NEWS A oppurtunity for the Tigers is gone with Dean Collis knocking the ball on 5m away from the Warriors try line. 48 min: VIDEO REF - Possible try to Michael Crockett in the corner. Video Ref looking to see if the rookie has put a foot in touch.48 min: TRY Wests TigersMichael Crockett picks up his second try in his NRL career. The Tigers find the Warriors short down the blindside and Michael Crockett sneaks in to find the try line. A fantastic conversion from Brett Hodgson from the sideline. Warriors 14-652 min: TRY New Zealand WarriorsA nice break from Clinton Toopi who suckers in Brett Hodgson with a nice dummy then finds the big winger Manu Vatuvei to score next to the posts. Tony Martin converts from in front of the posts Warriors 20-655 min: VIDEO REF - Another video referee decision for Phil Cooley. The question is weather Louie Anderson grounded the ball or if he was short or even knocked the ball on. Decision is that Anderson lost the ball in attempting to ground the ball.55 min: NEWS The Tigers throw away a golden opportunity with halfback Reynolds throwing a forward pass to captain Hodgson close to the line.61 min: TRY New Zealand WarriorsA barnstorming try from Awen Guttenbeil nearly seals the victory for the Warriors here at Jade Stadium. Guttenbeil palmed off John Skandalis and Brett Hodgson with ease to get a 4 pointer.Tony Martin converts the try. Warriors 26-669 min: NEWS A drop-a-thon here at Jade Stadium now. The Warriors playing some silly football with nothing to lose, while the Tigers are throwing the ball around in hope for a try. 71 min: NEWS VIDEO REF - Another possible try to the Warriors. Manu Vatuvei is claiming the try and the question is weather he knocked the ball on from a Nathan Fien bomb. No try is the decision and a the ball is turned over to the West Tigers.74 min: TRY Wests TigersA video referee decision goes to the Tigers with 6 to go. Some good ball movement followed by a nicely weighted kick sees Fitzhenry score a fine try. All little to late from the Premiers. Hodgson misses his first kick of the evening.Warriors 26-10FULL TIME - New Zealand Warriors 26 def West Tigers 10The Warriors have won comfortably against a dissapointing Tigers team. Birthday boy George Gatis was solid from the dummy half position, while the two big men up front in Wiki and Price were fantastic up the middle. Clinton Toopi looked dangerous out wide as did Manu Vatuvei. The Tigers dropped too much ball and looked lost without their star five eight Benji Marshall. Next week the Tigers have the Storm at home, while the Warriors travel to Newcastle to tackle the red hot Knights.Possession: Tigers 45% - Warriors 55%Completion: Tigers 24/38 - Warriors 29/43Missed Tackles: Tigers 40 - Warriors 18Tackles: Tigers 301 - Warriors 250Errors: Tigers 16 - Warriors 14 -----------------------------------------Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Ruben Wiki2 - Clinton Toopi1 - Steve Price-----------------------------------------

Thuga?s Thoughts on 2006

AFTER the unpredictability of the 2005 National Rugby League season the question remains, can 2006 be even better then the previous year? Here?s my preview to how each team shapes up for the new season, which includes their strengths, weaknesses and my final verdict on the team. Brisbane BroncosLikely Team1. Karmichael Hunt2. Brent Tate3. Justin Hodges4. Shaun Berrigan5. Leon Bott6. Darren Lockyer (c) 7. Brett Seymour8. Shane Webcke9. Barry Berrigan10. Petro Civoniceva11. Brad Thorn12. David Stagg13. Tonie Carroll14. Sam Thaiday15. Corey Parker16. Neville Costigan17. Michael EnnisStrengthsObviously Darren Lockyer is still their main attacking weapon. Had a form slump towards the end of last season but will be back better then ever in 2006. They still have strong power in their pack with Shane Webcke, Petro Civoniceva, Corey Parker, Brad Thorn and Tonie Carroll.Two of their big problems over the past year or two have been their hooker position, and their goal kicking. With Michael Ennis into the squad he makes those problems into a strength with his sharp dummy-half skills and his pinpoint goal kicking. The forwards on the bench are solid as well, with Thaiday, Parker and Costigan all capable of doing the job. Attacking flare on the wings and a strong centre combination has the Broncos in good stead for 2006. WeaknessesAgain Darren Lockyer is the key here. Lockyer must stay fit and fresh from burnout, as Brisbane still heavily rely on him and rightfully so. Brett Seymour still hasn?t been as consistent as you would like a halfback to be and must realise his potential. The Broncos suffer more than anyone from representative football, and can continue to put major dents into their end of season form. Gains: Michael Ennis, Ben HannantLosses: Tom Learoyd-Lars, Darren Mapp, Stuart Kelly, Berrick Barnes.VerdictDefinitely a top 8 team and I like the inclusion of Michael Ennis to the team. If they can survive the burnout stage then they will be big premiership contenders. Consistency over 26 rounds is what they need and is what they will strive for. 4th PositionCanterbury BulldogsLikely Team1. Luke Patten2. Hazem El Masri3. Reni Maitua4. Willie Tonga5. Matt Utai6. Daniel Holdsworth7. Brent Sherwin8. Mark O'Meley9. Adam Perry10. Roy Asotasi11. Willie Mason12. Andrew Ryan (c)13. Tony Grimaldi14. Nate Myles 15. Corey Hughes16. Chris Armit17. Sonny Bill WilliamsStrengthsOne of the strongest forward packs going around today. O?Meley, Asotasi, Mason, Ryan and Sonny Bill Williams are all international forwards, then throw in the veteran Grimaldi, the young blood in Nate Myles and that?s one hell of a forward pack. Great strike power out wide with El Masri, Utai and the forgotten man in Willie Tonga and to add to all that they have the best goal kicker in the game. WeaknessesThe loss of Braith Anasta to the Sydney Roosters is a big loss, and will have to give the number 6 jersey to the inexperienced Daniel Holdsworth. He is well capable of doing a great job, the question is can he and Sherwin form the combination that Anasta and Sherwin did in the 2002-2004 stage. Injuries hit them hard last season, and they?ll need their fair share of good luck this year to stay in touch with the top teams in the competition. Gains: Daniel Holdsworth, Namila Davui, Jon Green, Chris Tuatara, Nick Kouparitsas, Billy Ngawini, Ben Roberts, Jamie Small.Losses: Braith Anasta, Charlie Tonga, Trevor Thurling, Jamaal Lolesi, Filinga Filiga, Jamie Frizzo.VerdictIf injuries are good to them this year they could go a long way in this competition. A lot depends on the halves and how fit the forward pack can stay. They posses one of the best centers in the game in Willie Tonga, and the best goal kicker in the game. Will be a force in season 2006.7th Position Canberra RaidersLikely Team1. Clinton Schifcofske (c) 2. Marshall Chalk3. Phil Graham4. Adam Mogg 5. Craig Frawley6. Jason Smith7. Todd Carney8. Josh Miller 9. Simon Woolford 10. Michael Weyman 11. Dane Tilse12. Tom Learoyd-Lahrs13. Jason Croker 14. Alan Tongue15. Andrew Lomu16. Troy Thompson17. Lincoln WithersStrengthsClinton Schifcofske is one of the most dependable fullbacks in the game, and is a solid goal kicker to boot. The veteran five-eighth Jason Smith proved last year that he can still match it with the best in the NRL and his organisational skills last year guided the Raiders to many victories. A young forward pack that has potential, and could lay a good platform for the likes of Withers, Woolford, Smith and Schifcofske to take advantage of. Josh Miller impressed last year, and Michael Weyman when fit has the potential to be anything. While it wasn?t a strong point of their game last year, teams still fear to head down to play in the nations capital. The Raiders always seem to lift a gear or two at home and will have to bring back that ?graveyard? philosophy when playing at home. WeaknessesLost a fair share of experience with the likes of Matt Adamson, Ian Hindmarsh and Ryan O?Hara, and don?t appear to have the ?x-factor? in their team. Don?t have that consistency you need to be a top team in the competition and have an inexperience forward pack. Their halfback Todd Carney is getting better with every match he plays but hasn?t shown us his true potential as a halfback. Gains: Tom Learoyd-Lars, Trevor Thurling, Dane Tilse.Losses: Matt Adamson, Ian Hindmarsh, Michael Robertson, Ben Cross, Ryan O'Hara, Michael Howell, Damon Alley-Tovio.VerdictAre going through a rebuilding phase and will fight for one of those lower positions in the top 8. I like the buys of Learoyd-Lahs and Dane Tilse, they will add that young fire power into the team. Will go well at the start of the season then will tumble down the ladder.11th PositionCronulla SharksLikely Team1. David Simmons2. Darren Albert3. Nigel Vagana4. Beau Scott5. Luke Covell6. Adam Dykes7. Brett Kimmorley (c) 8. Ben Ross9. Kevin Kingston10. Hutch Maiava11. Matt Hilder 12. Lance Thompson13. Paul Gallen14. Reece Williams15. Greg Bird16. Phil Bailey17. Phillip LeuluaiStrengthsThe number 7 and captain is still the strongest part of the team, and will again need to have a big year. Kimmorley can worry any team on the back of some quick play the balls and along with Adam Dykes formed a strong combination at the start of last season. The Albert ? Vagana combination has the ingredients to become one of the deadliest in the game. Ben Ross adds that star power in the front row, and they have a workaholic back-row with the new inclusion of Lance Thompson.WeaknessesThe loss of Danny Nutley, Jason Stevens and David Peachey are a big blow to the team. A lot of experience lost with their departure, particularly in the front row. Nigel Vagana seems to be getting starved of attacking opportunities, and needs more ball for the attack to be more dangerous. Sometimes have the habit of conceding too many penalties in a match, which in today?s game needs to be sorted out. Gains: Ben Ross, Ben Pomeroy, Lance Thompson, Darren Mapp, Darren Albert, Tevita Latu, Brett Kearney.Losses: Jason Stevens, David Peachey, Danny Nutley, Michael Sullivan, Nathan Merritt, Paul Mellor, Keith Galloway, Bryson Goodwin, Jon green, Russell Aitken, Ryan McGoldrick, Vince Mellars.VerdictWith the tragedy of Steve Rogers passing away, the Sharks have a big motive to win their first premiership this year. They definitely have the line up, but the question remains can they be consistent enough to make it to the finals. Could be a dark horse come the back end of the season.10th Position Manly Sea EaglesLikely Team1. Brett Stewart2. Michael Robertson3. Steven Bell4. Ashley Alberts5. Chris Hicks6. Michael Witt7. Matt Orford8. Jason King9. Michael Monaghan10. Brent Kite11. Steve Menzies12. Anthony Watmough13. Ben Kennedy14. Luke Williamson15. Shane Dunley16. Mark Bryant17. Kylie LeuluaiStrengthsThe back-row is one of the best going around, with all 3 having represented New South Wales last year. Ben Kennedy was in career best form last year and if he fires again this year Manly will be a thorn in the side of many teams. Picked up some big buys in Matt Orford and Steven Bell and they will add that flare they need in the backline. Michael Monaghan in my view plays better at hooker then he would in the halves, and him being played at hooker would suit the Eagles game more in my view. A great attacking fullback and solid outside backs has the Eagles in good stead for next year.WeaknessesI don?t see toomuch strike power in their bench to be honest. Luke Williamson and Shane Dunley are both solid players, but nothing spectacular. The halves/hooker combo is yet to be seen, and the Eagles have proven over the years to be a little ill-disciplined and inconsistent. A better defence work ethic is required as well, as that proved to be one of their down points towards the end of season 2005.Gains: Matt Orford, Steve Bell, Michael Robertson, George Rose.Losses: Terry Hill, Chad Randall, Scott Donald, Sam Harris, Jye Mullane, Nathan Hollingsworth.VerdictThe Sea-Eagles look very strong this year, with that superb back-row and great halfback they could be anything. Brett Stewart is improving with every year he has in the top grade, and could play a Billy Slater type role with Matty Orford. A team that should perform well with the line up they have, question is can they meet their potential? 8th PositionMelbourne StormLikely Team1. Billy Slater2. Matt Geyer3. Greg Inglis4. Matt King5. Jake Webster6. Scott Hill7. Cooper Cronk8. Ben Cross9. Cameron Smith10. Brett White11. David Kidwell12. Michael Crocker13. Dallas Johnson14. Antonio Kaufusi15. Garrett Crossman16. Dennis Scott17. Ryan Hoffman StrengthsThey have an exciting backline filled with speed and attacking brilliance. Billy Slater and Matt Geyer have both had represented their states, and Matt King and Jake Webster have done the same for their countries. Young exciting rookie Greg Inglis looks to have found a permanent first grade spot in the centres, and they have the experienced head of Scott Hill in the number 6. They have a very smart dummy half in Cameron Smith and a hard tough back-row.WeaknessesThe Storm has lost a great deal of experience and quality in Matt Orford, Steven Bell, Robbie Kearns and Alex Chan. The loss of Matt Orford is the biggest, with him being their best player for a number of years now. Depth and experience in the forwards is skinnier than in previous years particularly in the front row. There is a lot of pressure on young Cooper Cronk, who has huge boots to fill and needs to guide this team around the paddock.Gains: Michael Crocker, Chris Walker Ben Cross, Garrett Crossman, James Aubusson.Losses: Matt Orford, Steven Bell, Robbie Kearns, Alex Chan, Peter Robinson, Josh Graham, Robert Tanielu.VerdictHave lost a lot of good talent and it?s hard to see them making the finals. A lot will rely on how young Cooper Cronk adapts to the number 7 jersey and how good of a combination he can form with Scott Hill. The front row lacks experience but their back row is extremely strong. I can?t see the Melbourne Storm being a huge threat this year. 13th PositionNewcastle KnightsLikely Team1. Milton Thaiday2. Brian Carney3. Matt Gidley4. Brad Tighe5. Anthony Quinn6. Kurt Gidley7. Andrew Johns (c) 8. Josh Perry9. Danny Buderus10. Craig Smith11. Steve Simpson12. Clint Newton13. Daniel Abraham14. Kirk Reynoldson15. Adam Woolnough16. Luke Davico 17. Dustin CooperStrengthsThe worlds best halfback in Johns, the best hooker in Buderus and one of the best wingers in the world in Brian Carney. They have bought experience in the front-row with Luke Davico and retained the services of Craig Smith for this year. An ever improving back row and a solid bench have the Knights engine room looking bright. Brad Tighe proved to Knights fans that he is the future of the backline, and Milton Thaiday showed his attacking brilliance many times last year. WeaknessesInjuries have played a major part in the Knights seasons of late. The key to the team is Andrew Johns and it seems as if he can?t play a full season without an injury coming along. Danny Buderus suffering from burnout is a concern for the Knights as no player has endured the physical workload he has in the past 3 seasons. Gains: Brian Carney, Luke Davico, Luke Hession, Chris Bailey.Losses: Mark Hughes, Dane Tilse, Craig Hall, Andrew Price, Blake Mueller.VerdictIt will come down to injuries like it has in the past. If they can keep the nucleus of their players on the field they?ll be a big contender for the title, if they lose big name players like Johns and Buderus throughout the season they will be fighting for a spot in the finals. With the financial troubles behind the Knights, all they have to concentrate on is their football. 5th PositionNorth Queensland CowboysLikely Team1. Matt Bowen2. Ty Williams3. Josh Hannay4. Paul Bowman5. Matt Sing6. Jonathon Thurston7. Brett Firman8. Carl Webb9. Aaron Payne10. Shane Tronc11. Luke O?Donnell 12. Steve Southern13. Travis Norton (c)14. Mitchell Sargent15. David Faiumu16. Justin Smith17. Ray CashmereStrengthsEveryone in the backline (except Brett Firman) have played for Queensland. The back 3 are phenomenal in scoring tries, and all have a good understanding of each others game. Add to that they have two great defensive centres and a high-quality five-eighth, the Cowboys backline looks very strong. A strong pack upfront with Webb and Tronc leading the way, along with Steve Southern, Travis Norton and Luke O?Donnell who represented Australia last season. Good rotation in the hooker position with Payne and Faiumu, and a fine bench which included Sargent, Justin Smith and the large Ray Cashmere. WeaknessesThe loss of Paul Rauhihi leaves a dent in their forward pack, and more players are being picked to play rep footy. Graham Murray has been given the coaching job for NSW, which will put a speed bump in the premiership road of the Cowboys. Not many weaknesses along the board at the Cowboys, and they are looking good to go one better this year. Gains: Ray Cashmere, Brett Anderson, Robert Tanielu, Leigh Coghill, Russell Aitken, Jamie Frizzo, Scott Smith, Mark Henry.Losses: Paul Rauhihi, David Myles, Leigh McWilliams, Jaiman Lowe, Michael Luck.VerdictWith the team they have they can win this thing. Matty Bowen is my early tip for player of the year, and Jonathon Thurston will only get better the more footy he plays. I like the buy of Ray Cashmere and believe he could become a real weapon off the bench if they use him that way. Their backline is pure class and I like the look of the back row. 1st PositionParramatta EelsLikely Team1. Wade McKinnon2. Luke Burt3. Ben Smith4. Timana Tahu5. Eric Grothe6. John Morris7. Tim Smith8. Nathan Cayless9. Mark Riddell10. Paul Stringer11. Nathan Hindmarsh12. Glen Morrison13. Chad Robinson14. PJ Marsh15. Dean Widders16. Michael Vella17. Fui Fui MoimoiStrengthsTheir bench is the best in the competition. They have the dynamic hooker in PJ Marsh, then hard front-rowers in Vella and Moimoi and a blockbusting second-rower out on the flanks in Dead Widders. Great pace and attacking venom out wide with Ben Smith, Timana Tahu, Luke Burt and the much improved Eric Grothe has their backline looking like one of the most deadly in the competition.WeaknessesNot many physically, but mentally there seems to be that problem. They fell just short again last year and were dominated by the Cowboys. A couple years before they were favorites in the Grand Final against Newcastle, but again just weren?t switched on mentally. This situation has been addressed by the Eels, the question is can they make amends in 2006? Gains: Nil.Losses: Brett Anderson (Cowboys), Chris Muckert (Toowoomba).VerdictThe Eels will finish in the top eight, they?ve got the class and their forwards at full strength are up there with the best of them. I don?t think the coaching dramas will faze them too much and a top 6 finish should be their minimum expectation. With them being able to field the same team as last year the combinations will already be there, which is a huge plus. 6th Position Penrith PanthersLikely Team1. Rhys Wesser2. Brett Howland3. Luke Lewis4. Mark O'Halloran 5. Luke Rooney6. Preston Campbell7. Craig Gower8. Joel Clinton9. Luke Priddis10. Bryan Norrie11. Trent Waterhouse12. Tony Puletua (c) 13. Shane Rodney14. Frank Puletua15. Matthew Cross16. Frank Pritchard17. Danny GaleaStrengthsThe halves are very strong with Preston Campbell and former captain Craig Gower. Great speed on the flanks with Howland and Rooney and an electric fullback in Rhys Wesser. They have one of the best hookers in the game in Luke Priddis and a very solid back row. Ended last season on a high and will be looking to continue that form into the new season.WeaknessesAll of the drama surrounding their playmaker Craig Gower doesn?t help them kick off the new season too well. They have lost some young players that could have been the future of the club in Rogers, Pomeroy and Crossman, and lost the representative players like Ben Ross and Joe Galuvao. Their start to the season reminds me of the Newcastle Knights from the previous year, with off field dramas and them having lost a great deal of talent and we all know how the Knights finished last year. Gains: Bryan Norrie, Nick Youngquet, Mark O'Halloran, Bob Blair, Matt Bell, Wayne Bond, Liam Georgetown, Chris NewtonLosses: Ben Ross, Joe Galuvao, Ben Rogers, Ben Pomeroy, Garrett Crossman, Shannon Donato, Trent Clayton, Paul Franze.VerdictThey lost so many players who had great potential and that could have been the foundation for the club. The off field dramas in the off season always puts that dent in the clubs new season and with them having so many away games early in the draw might rock their confidence around. I?m going to have to tip the Panthers to come last, but bear in mind I tipped them to come last in 2003 and look what happened.15th Position South Sydney RabbitohsLikely Team1. Todd Polglase2. Luke MacDougall3. Adam MacDougall4. Yileen Gordon5. Shannon Hegarty6. John Sutton7. Ben Walker8. Peter Cusack (c) 9. Stuart Webb10.Scott Geddes11.Joe Gulavao12.Luke Stuart13.Mark Minichiello14.David Fa'alogo15.Manase Manoukafoa16.Jaiman Lowe17.Beau ChampionStrengthsA strong and enthusiastic forward pack, mixed with Ben Walker who really steadied the Bunnies ship at the end of last season. They have a wonder kid in John Sutton, who showed last year that he has what it takes to become one of the games best players. They have lethal attacking weapons out wide with the McDougall Brothers, Buddy Gordon and former Queensland winger Shannon Hegarty all capable of scoring tries. They possess a smart coach who is heading the team in the right direction. They have bought well for the new season as well. WeaknessesThe Bunnies lost two of their best players in the off season with Ashley Harrison and Bryan Fletcher packing their bags. They can never seem to find that winning formula enough throughout the season. The Bunnies don?t have that great of depth particularly in the forwards, which has to be a concern to Shaun McRae. South?s simply don?t have the players to cover for injuries in most positions. Gains: Joe Galuvao, Jaiman Lowe, Stuart Webb, Nathan Merritt, Ben Rogers, Paul Mellor, Balin Cupples, Jack Rampling. Losses: Ashley Harrison, Scott Logan, Bryan Fletcher, Glen Hall, Brett Kearney, Garth Wood, Lee Hookey.VerdictThe Rabbitohs will definitely fight for one of those top 8 spots, but I just can?t see them making it to the finals. A lot depends how their halves combine this year, and if they can keep the same team on for most of the season. Souths have the team to chalk up their best season yet since making their return, it?s just a matter of can they play to their potential. They have a good mix of young talent but with that youth comes inexperience. 12th PositionSt George Illawarra DragonsLikely Team1. Ben Hornby2. Colin Best3. Mark Gasnier4. Matt Cooper5. Wes Naiqama6. Trent Barrett7. Matt Head8. Luke Bailey9. Dean Young10. Jason Ryles11. Ben Creagh12. Ashton Sims13. Shaun Timmins14. Justin Poore15. Michael Henderson16. Corey Payne17. Clint GreenshieldsStrengthsStar power mixed with youth is an ingredient for success. Ben Hornby is one of the best fullbacks going around, and Gasnier and Cooper are the Australian centre combination. Trent Barrett has improved his game and they have the two big boppers up front with Jason Ryles and Luke Bailey, who will play his final year for the Dragons. The young blood like Ben Creagh, Ashton Simms, Justin Poore and Michael Henderson are improving with every game they play and they have Matt Head coming back into the team after that knee injury last season. WeaknessesThey seem to struggle with the pressure of finals football. Last season they had an unconvincing win over the Sharks and a loss to the Tigers and the year before they let the Panthers get a huge lead and they weren?t able to recover in time and were eliminated. The Dragons are a top contender every year with the squad they have, they just never seem to perform the way they should in September. Gains: Bryson Goodwin, Matt Bickerstaff, Damon Alley-Tovio, Sam Isemonger, Lagi Setu, Andrew Price.Losses: Lance Thompson, Michael Ennis, Albert Torrens, Daniel Holdsworth, Willie Manu, Bryan Norrie, Nick Youngquest, Shane Marteene.VerdictThey?ve been thereabouts for long enough without going on with it in the finals and it?s time for that to change if you?re a Dragons fan. Breathtaking strike power out wide and rock-hard defence, it is clear that the Dragons time has to come sooner of later. Question is, will that time be in 2006?2nd PositionSydney RoostersLikely Team1. Anthony Minichiello2. Amos Roberts3. Iosia Soliola4. Ryan Cross5. Joel Monaghan6. Braith Anasta7. Brett Finch8. David Shillington9. Craig Wing10. Adrian Morley11. Craig Fitzgibbon (c) 12. Chris Flannery13. Ashley Harrison14. Charlie Tonga15. Anthony Tupou16. Mark Edmondson17. John Doyle StrengthsThey have finally found a suitable replacement for Brad Fittler with Braith Anasta heading to Bondi. They boast the meanest defence in the competition, have the best fullback in the competition in Anthony Minichiello and great attacking flare out wide with Ryan Cross and Amos Roberts. They bought hardworking lock forward Ashley Harrison to add to their impressive list of forwards. Fitzgibbion and Morley are world class players and will lay a solid platform for the playmakers. WeaknessesThey have lost some big players with the likes of Ricketson, Crocker and Cayless all moving on. Forward pack doesn?t look as intimidating as it has in the past and will need to re-gain that aggression that they missed last year. The halves are yet to prove themselves as a combination, and Brett Finch must take a stand this year and lead this team around the paddock. Gains: Ashley Harrison, Braith Anasta, John Doyle, Charlie Tonga, Mitchell Pearce, Glen Hall, Mark Edmonson.Losses: Michael Crocker, Luke Ricketson, Chris Walker, Jason Cayless, Ben Hannant, Stuart Webb, George Rose, Ned Catic, Grant Rovelli, James Aubusson, Jack Rampling. Richard Fa?osoVerdictRoosters ended last year on a high note and have bought well and would want to continue that end of season form into the new season. They are the benchmark in the NRL in the way they train and go about their football, but it doesn?t look as if they have that forward aggression they once had. Will miss the top 8 by a kitten?s whisker.9th PositionNew Zealand WarriorsLikely Team1. Brent Webb2. Manu Vatuvei3. Tony Martin4. Clinton Toopi5. Todd Byrne6. Sione Faumuina7. Nathan Fien8. Ruben Wiki9. Lance Hohaia10. Steve Price (c) 11. Wairangi Koopu12. Awen Guttenbeil13. Louis Anderson14. Richard Villasanti15. Micheal Luck16. Sonny Fa'i17. Jerome RopatiStrengthsThey have a strong and experienced front-row with Ruben Wiki and Steve Price, and a good back-row with the improving Wairangi Koopu and Louis Anderson. Nathan Fien moves to his more preferred position at halfback and Brent Webb and Manu Vatuvei will look to continue their superb Tri-nations form into the new season. WeaknessesThe Warriors really struggle mentally more then anything. When their confidence is down they seem to fall into a heap and the discipline goes out the window. The loss of Stacy Jones and Iafeta Palea?aesina are big blows, with both men performing at a consistent level last year. They are a club that has so much potential, but just never fulfill that potential. Gains: Michael Luck, Grant Rovelli, George Gatis.Losses: Stacey Jones, Monty Betham, Tevita Latu, Frances Meli, Karl Temata, Iafeta Paleaasina.VerdictStrong enough to make the 8, but the way we have come to know the Warriors they will slip up short and be towards the bottom. Nathan Fien has a great kicking game and could become a star in the number 7 jersey, and they have two of the best front rowers in the competition. They will end up towards the bottom of the table though, with them not having a strong enough mindset to be consistent. 14th PositionWests TigersLikely Team1. Brett Hodgson2. Daniel Fitzhenry3. Shane Elford4. Paul Whatuira5. Jamaal Lolesi6. Benji Marshall7. Scott Prince (c)8. Ryan O'Hara9. Robbie Farah10. John Skandalis11. Ben Galea12. Sam Harris13. Dene Halatau14. Liam Fulton15. Anthony Laffranchi16. Bryce Gibbs17. Todd PaytenStrengthsTheir team is young and they have great enthusiasm and skill around the park. Brett Hodgson and Scott Prince both hit career best form last year and will be looking to back that up with another great year. The whiz kid Benji Marshall, the dynamic hooker Robbie Farah and strong backline have them in good shape for 2006. Have bought well in the off-season with Jamaal Lolesi, Keith Galloway and Ryan O?Hara joining the premiers and will be looking to go back to back in ?06.WeaknessesA young team defending the premiership can put huge pressure on your players; the Tigers will have to overcome that to be successful this year. It?s never easy when your playmaker is off-contract mid season and the Tigers are looking down that barrel with Scott Prince. Prince will wait to see what the open market can offer him and that can sometimes distract a player from his football which can cause heavy defeats. Not too many weaknesses in their team, with them proving last year that they are scintillating in attack and rock solid in defence. Gains: Sam Harris, Keith Galloway, Jamaal Lolesi, Ryan O'Hara, Filinga Filiga.Losses: Pat Richards, John Wilson, Mark O'Neill, Matthew Rieck, Ray Cashmere.VerdictWill be up there again this year, and have the squad to go back to back. Whether they can handle the pressure is yet to be seen, but these young enthusiastic Tigers can do anything they put their minds to. Many of their players will now come into rep calculations, and that may put a big speed bump in their season (ala Penrith in 2004). 3rd Position

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