Crusaders organise coaches from the Valleys

CELTIC Crusaders, who won their first match 50-10 on Sunday, announced this week that they are looking to organise coach trips to home matches from the Welsh valleys.At the Crusaders? press launch on Monday, their chief executive, Chris O?Callaghan said that there had been considerable interest to do this from fans from all areas of the valleys including Rhondda, Merthyr and Aberdare.O?Callaghan said: ?We are looking at possibility of running coaches from the valleys to the Brewery Field for our first game at home on March 5th. We?ll be having two matches at the Brewery Field that day, a Northern Rail Cup match against London Skolars and an Academy match against Super League side Widnes Vikings. We?ll be putting on a good day for the whole family with entertainment for the kids as well as the rugby. We want to make it as easy as possible for fans to come and see us as we are a team for the whole of Wales.?O?Callaghan also emphasised that rugby league is no longer there to compete with rugby union.?Those days are gone,? added O?Callaghan, ?We are a summer sport ? it fills the gap left by union in the sporting calendar. We must work along side the local rugby union clubs such as Aberavon, Neath, Maesteg and Bridgend, there is simply no point in the two codes going head to head.?We are the fastest growing sport in Wales. Over 600 people played rugby league last year in Aberavon alone. The Challenge Cup Final also proved that, as over 15,000 people spectators were Welsh. This is a sport on the up but not necessarily at the expense of any other.?The Crusaders next turn out on Sunday with an away match at London Skolars.

NZ Maori squad for 2006 Pacific Cup

THE New Zealand Maori and their selectors are happy to announce the following 18-man squad to participate in the 2006 Pacific Cup.PAUL ATKINS (Tamaki Leopards)KARL GUTTENBEIL (Waitakere Rangers)WILLIAM HETA (Manurewa Marlins)SHAMOS HUNTER (Waicoa Bay Stallions)JASON KAMAREIRA (Harbour League)SHANE KURU (Waicoa Bay Stallions)DION LAULU (Wellington Orcas)JONNY LIMMER (Canterbury Bulls)CHEYENNE MOTU (Manurewa Marlins)BOYCIE NELSON (Waitakere Rangers)JASON PAIKEA (Waicoa Bay Stallions)BERNARD PERENARA (Waitakere Rangers)PHIL SHEAD (Lions)STEVE SKINNON (Waicoa Bay Stallions)DAMON TROTT (Harbour League)JARED TROTT (Harbour League)MATT WANOA (Wellington Orcas)DYLAN WERE (Northern Storm) Coach: Dean Clark The NZ Maori team are in Pool B of the Pacific Cup and in the round games will play Tonga at Waitemata Park on Sunday 26 February (2.30pm Kick Off) and New Caledonia at Ericsson Stadium No.2 on Thursday 2 March (6.00pm Kick Off).

Storm start training for season ahead

SOUTH London Storm Rugby League Team will begin the defence of their Southern division title in a repeat of last year?s grand final on April29th against the West London Sharks.With the game at the end of April Storm will be beginning their pre-season training on Tuesday 7th March, sessions continue each Tuesday & Thursday from 7.30 to 9.15 at Streatham-Croydon RFC, Thornton Heath, Croydon.The week before this the junior clubs of South London Storm will start their training also. The Croydon Hurricanes under 12's, 14's and 16's start training at Frant Road on Tuesday 28th April at 6.15pm and the Brixton Bulls under 12's will start training at their Brockwell Park ground.Storm run 2 adult teams, their 1st team competes against sides from across the South in the Rugby League Conference Premier South Division, whilst their 2nd's play in the London League against other teams 2nd's.

Gower named in Panthers trial

STAR playmaker Craig Gower has been named in the Penrith Panthers line-up to take on the Newcastle Knights in their NRL trial this weekend.It will be Gower's first appearance for the 2003 NRL premiers after being stripped of the captaincy following his alcohol-fuelled incidents on the Sunshine Coast during a charity golf tournament.TEAM: Rhys Wesser, Nick Youngquest, Danny Galea, Luke Lewis, Lee Hookey, Preston Campbell, Craig Gower, Joel Clinton, Luke Priddis, Matthew Cross, Frank Pritchard, Tony Puletua, Trent Waterhouse.Interchange: Frank Puletua, Craig Stapleton, Shane Rodney, Luke Swain, David McLean, Mark O'Halloran, Michael Gordon, Peter Wallace, Paul Aiton.

Dragons and Rabbitohs teams for Charity Shield

ISEMONGER, Bickerstaff and Mundine Debut for Dragons in Charity ShieldFrom Dragons mediaExperienced recruits Sam Isemonger and Matt Bickerstaff along with a man from the Dragons bloodline Beau Mundine, will make their debut for the Dragons in the 23rd Charity Shield against the Rabbitohs at Telstra Stadium this Saturday night.Isemonger, 27, has impressed in pre-season training and will debut in the second row, while Bickerstaff will make his return to rugby league in Australia from the interchange bench along with Mundine."I'm really looking forward to this first game with the Dragons," said Isemonger. "The Charity Shield appears to be more than your average trial game and will be a good first up test for me".Reece Simmonds, Chris Sheppard, Daryl Millard and Aaron Gorrell have along with the new recruits been given the opportunity to establish a regular place in the NRL team.Dragons Coach Nathan Brown is also eagerly awaiting Saturday's game."It has been a long pre-season and everybody is ready to get on the field, the atmosphere will be great," said Brown. "It is an opportunity to test what we have been practicing in training and we can try some different combinations".This is the first time this traditional clash will be played at Telstra Stadium and advanced ticket sales are in line with that of last year where a crowd of over 20,000 turned out in the rain to watch the matches."Moving the game to Telstra Stadium has had its critics however, it does take the game to the geographical centre of Sydney," said Dragons CEO Peter Doust. Both Clubs of course are known to have widespread support and I know our fans will get out there for what will be a great day of rugby league".In the 22 Charity Shield matches contested since 1982, the Dragons have won 13 times; Rabbitohs 6; draws 3. Since St George Illawarra was formed in 1999, the Charity Shield has been played five times ? Dragons 2 wins, Rabbitohs 2 wins; 1 draw.In keeping with the tradition of the Charity Shield, proceeds from the 2006 Charity Shield will go towards Wollongong and St George Public Hospitals in the local Dragons' communities.The Dragons second and final NRL trial match is against the Roosters at WIN Stadium on Sunday, February 26.2006 CHARITY SHIELD TEAM LISTSNRLv South Sydney8:00pm Saturday 18 FebruaryTelstra StadiumCoach: Nathan Brown1. Ben HORNBY2. Reece SIMMONDS3. Mark GASNIER4. Daryl MILLARD5. Wes NAIQAMA6. Trent BARRETT (c)7. Chris SHEPPARD8. Luke BAILEY9. Dean YOUNG10. Jason RYLES11. Corey PAYNE12. Sam ISEMONGER13. Shaun TIMMINS14. Ashton SIMS15. Justin POORE16. Michael HENDERSON17. Matt BICKERSTAFF18. Aaron GORRELL19. Beau MUNDINEPremier Leaguev South Sydney6:00pm Saturday 18 FebruaryTelstra StadiumCoach: Steven Price1. Brett MORRIS2. Josh MORRIS3. Bryson GOODWIN4. Beau RYAN5. Tom HEWITT6. Reece BLAYNEY7. Willie PETERS8. Andrew PRICE9. George NDAIRA (c)10. Chris HOUSTON11. Tom HABERECHT12. Lee TE MAARI13. Danny WICKS14. Charlie LEAENO15. Jamie DUNNING16. Willie TUPOU17. Lagi SETU18. Dane KERSHAW22. Scott MACDOUGALLJersey Fleggv South Sydney4:30pm Saturday 18 FebruaryTelstra StadiumCoach: Corey Pearson1. Jason NIGHTINGALE2. Peter REEVES3. Rota SETU4. Junior SEUMANUTAFA5. Tyson MUSCAT6. Shannon STITT7. Matt SEAMARK8. Jhi TANNER9. Brad DAVIDSON10. Luke YOUNG24. Matt PRIOR12. James GREHAN13. Brian WEST (c)14. Luke HOWELL15. Jason WHITE16. Daniel JARVIS17. Jess CRAWLEY18. Francis LANGIFISI19. Ian CATANIA20. Luke IRWIN21. Blake DUREAU22. Nathan WYNN23. Greg NICHOLS11. Peter WAKLEY25. Chris FARRELLCharity Shield Program ? Saturday, February 181:45pm - Gates Open1:50pm - Harold Matthews (Under 16's) (30 mins per half)3:05pm - S.G. Ball (Under 18's) (35 mins per half)4:30pm - Jersey Flegg (Under 20's) (35 mins per half)6:00pm - Premier League (40 mins per half)8:00pm - NRL-------------------------------------------------Rabbitohs Teams for 2006 Charity ShieldFrom souths.com.au The South Sydney Rabbitohs are pleased to announce their side to take on the St George Illawarra Dragons in the 2006 Charity Shield to be played this Saturday, February 18 at Telstra Stadium.Five grades of Rugby League action will be played on Saturday, with the NRL fixture kicking off at 8pm. Gates open at 1:45pm in time for the Harold Matthews game at 1:50pm. The SG Ball clash commences at 3:05pm with Jersey Flegg starting at 4:30pm and the Premier League game beginning at 6pm.The Rabbitohs have named their strongest possible 20-man squad for the game, including 2006 recruits Joe Galuvao, Nathan Merritt, Paul Mellor, Jaiman Lowe and Stuart Webb.The NRL match will be refereed by Steve Clark.Tickets for the match are available through any Ticketek outlet, by calling 132 849 or visiting the Ticketek website at www.ticketek.com.au.The Rabbitohs NRL side is:1) Todd Polglase2) Nathan Merritt3) Shannon Hegarty4) Yileen Gordon5) Paul Mellor6) John Sutton7) Ben Walker8) Peter Cusack ?9) Shane Walker10) Scott Geddes11) Joe Galuvao12) David Fa?alogo13) Luke StuartInterchange:14) Jaiman Lowe15) Manase Manuokafoa16) Stuart Webb17) Shane Rigon18) Beau Champion19) Michael Greenfield20) Shannan McPhersonCoach ? Shaun McRaeThe Rabbitohs Premier League side is:1) Nathan Gilchrist2) Joven Clarke3) Balin Cupples4) Germaine Paulson5) Troy Boston6) Rhys Hanbury7) Joe Williams8) Dale Newton9) Trent Young10) Joe Falemaka11) Ray Moujalli12) Anthony Kiro13) Joe LichaaInterchange:14) Daniel Jimenez15) Dane Woods16) James Donlan17) Luke Roberts18) Willie Gordon19) David RymanCoach ? Mark EllisonThe South Sydney Juniors Jersey Flegg side is:1) Alex Patallis2) Isaac Tautaiolefua3) Michael Woodlands4) Fetuli Talanoa5) Ricky Fojt6) Beau Falloon7) Chad Isles8) Aaron Firman9) Michael Goward10) Jack Rampling11) Justin Rogers12) Dean Peters13) Jacob BuckInterchange:14) Thomas Cook15) Albert Tuara16) Matt D?Agostino17) Chris Hyde18) David Wynyard19) Shane Lewis20) Finau Makamaka21) Jack Burke22) Steve Coleman23) Jake NowlanCoach ? Darren BrownThe South Sydney Juniors SG Ball side is:1) Jamie Ingram2) Sam Huihahai3) Anga Moli4) Raymond Tafokitau5) Addulla El-Zbaidieh6) Trent Trotter7) Edmond Paea8) Edward Pettybourne9) Brock Molan10) Sione Tovo11) Fonua Leao12) Arthur Scott13) Luke McGaugheyInterchange:14) John Joseph15) Jason Clark16) Andrew Powell17) Petros Thanos18) Joseph Matapuku19) Chris Toplis20) Wesley ManutaCoach ? John AmattoThe South Sydney Juniors Harold Matthews side is:1) Jordan Tozer2) Charles Vicente3) Brad Manton ?4) Kane Morgan5) Garri Brennan6) Mark Kheirallah7) Adam Reynolds8) Sione Vai9) Nathan Peats10) Jacon Nansen11) Hayden O?Donnell12) Brendan Barnes13) Tim BennettInterchange:14) Alex Folino15) Tyronne Marr16) Justin McKenzie17) Jason Haider18) Dominic Walsh19) Haydn Donoghue20) Kenny EdwardsCoach ? Kyle Parker

Cowboys and Eels name trial teams

NORTH Queensland coach Graham Murray has named a 20-man squad for the NRL trial between the Cowboys and New Zealand Warriors at Barlow Park, Cairns on Saturday night.The match kicks off at 8pm (AEST).North Queensland: Matt Bowen, Brenton Bowen, Ty Williams, Paul Bowman, Matt Sing, Johnathan Thurston, Brett Firman, Matthew Scott, Aaron Payne, Mitchell Sargent, Luke O'Donnell, Jacob Lillyman, Travis Norton (c).Interchange: Russell Aitken, Justin Smith, David Faiumu, Gavin Cooper, Robert Tanielu, Rod Jensen, Ray Cashmere.Meanwhile, Parramatta coach Brian Smith has named a 21-man squad to take on Melbourne in Saturday's NRL trial at Exies Oval, Griffith.The match kicks off at 7pm (AEDT).Parramatta: Joel Reddy, Krisnan Inu, Brett Delaney, Ashley Graham, Matt Petersen, Dean Widders, Jeremy Smith, Aaron Cannings, Marcus Perenara, Justin Tsoulos, Henry Perenara, Zeb Taia, Feleti Mateo. Interchange: Blake Green, Luke O'Dwyer, Jack Afamasaga, Drew Dalton, Peter Lewis, Weller Hauraki, Adam Peek, Brendan Oake.

MBDS - Charity Shield Details

FIRST and foremost.............WELCOME BACK RUGBY LEAGUE FOR 2006!! After a LOOOOONG off season of tennis, cricket, some sailing and the World Club Challenge (doesn't it have to be close to be called a Challenge??), we finally welcome the Dragons back to the paddock to begin season 2006. 2005 finished with many of us left wondering what could have been, and eagerly anticipating how far St George Illawarra can go in 2006. Our first chance to see the team go round is in the Annual Charity Shield clash against the South Sydney Russell's Rabbitohs. THE CHARITY SHIELD WHEN: Saturday 18th FebruaryWHERE: The Grosvenor Hotel, 10 Brighton Rd East St KildaWHAT: Dinner at 6pm in the restaurant (Please RSVP to [email protected] if you will be coming for dinner so I can confirm numbers) Charity Shield Dragons v Rabbitohs 7:30pm

Norths Premier League go from strength to strength

IN their second trial match of 2006 the Bears Premier League side have matched the Newtown Jets 6 tries apiece. In a fiercely competitive match the Bears showed intensity and purpose and performed admirably under a high penalty count.Against a Newtown side that boasted no less than 10 players with NRL experience, halves Ben Black and Daniel Russell led the side well. Both players are great communicators and they gave the newly formed side direction around the park. Also on hand were Melbourne Storm players Sam Tagataese and Ryan Shortland.Despite the strong showing Josh White believes they can improve. ?It was a roller coaster performance and you know what, that?s good because there?s room for improvement. You don?t win Grand Finals in February?.Also played at Henson Park prior to the Premier League the Bears Flegg side faced the Roosters while the Jets Jim Beam Cup side defeated Asquith 22-10.PHOTO: Hard running Karl Johnson barges through the Newtown defence.Picture by Steve Little.All four grades trial again this weekend. The Premier League will fly up to Tweed Heads to play the Tweed Heads Seagulls on 18th February. The Flegg will play Parramatta at Cabramatta Sports Ground also on the 18th while the Junior Reps will trial against Mt Annan also on Saturday the18th.For more action photos of the North Sydney Flegg and Premier League over the weekend go to the photos section -http://www.northsydneybears.com.au/Photos/Premier%20League/PremierLeague.htmThe North Sydney Rugby League Football Club can be contacted on 9466 8860, by e-mail [email protected], or check out the website athttp://www.northsydneybears.com.au.

Broncos trial team to play Canberra

THE Brisbane Broncos have named their team to play against the Canberra Raiders at the Regional Sports Stadium in Port Macquarie on Saturday night.Broncos: Nick Parfitt, Scott Minto, Justin Hodges, Steve Michaels, Tame Tupou, Casey McGuire, Karmichael Hunt, Shane Webcke (c), Michael Ennis, Corey Parker, Neville Costigan, Brad Thorn, Dane Carlaw.Interchange: Ben Hannant, Petero Civoniceva, Darius Boyd, Greg Eastwood, Shane Perry, Leon Bott (emergency).

Newtown Jets show promising form in win over Bears

THERE were plenty of Rugby League celebrities on hand when the Newtown Jets took on North Sydney in the opening VB Premier League trial match at Henson Park on Saturday evening. Sydney Roosters Chairman Nick Politis and several of his fellow Board members kept a close eye on proceedings, while former Balmain Tigers greats Wayne Pearce and Steve Roach were also interested spectators. The Roosters NRL and newly installed Australian coach Ricky Stuart and Newtown Jets head coach Paul Young carefully monitored the form of triallists in all three games during the afternoon. The Newtown Jets, reinforced by quality players from their new partners the Sydney Roosters, had to stage a come from behind victory in their VB Premier League trial against the North Sydney Bears. The Jets won an entertaining match by 28-26, after Norths had led 14-0 at the end of the first quarter. The injection of multi-talented half-back Jamie Soward after quarter-time reaped immediate dividends for Newtown, with Soward being directly involved in all three of the Jets second quarter converted tries. Newtown Jets coach Paul Young reports that he regarded this as a very useful trial match indeed. It was his first opportunity to observe his new charges under match conditions, and despite the inevitable untidiness associated with using 28 players in a match, he is confident that there is a very solid basis to work with as the first round of the 2006 premiership competition rapidly approaches on the 12th March. Roosters NRL coach Ricky Stuart addressed the Premier League players at half-time in their match, no doubt the first time that the current Australian Test team coach has spoken to Newtown players in the Henson Park dressing rooms for many years. In the Jim Beam Cup curtain-raiser match, Newtown trailed Asquith by 10-4 at half-time but finished strongly to take out this trial game by 22-10. Coach Greg Matterson was mindful of Newtown?s early-season mistake rate but praised his players for their willingness to defend determinedly for extended periods of the game. Newtown utilised 27 players in this game and showed there was a useful body of material to work with for the new season. Several Sydney Roosters officials commented favourably on the quality of Newtown?s reserves talent on display. Jim Dymock?s Sydney Roosters Jersey Flegg squad showed what a formidable proposition they are going to be for their opponents this year, when they demolished North Sydney by 56-12 earlier on Saturday afternoon. The Newtown Jets have a busy program of trial matches next weekend. One squad will travel to the Central Coast Stadium, Gosford next Saturday (February 18th) to play as the main curtain-raiser to the Roosters v Manly-Warringah official NRL trial. The VB Premier League trial against the Sea Eagles kicks off at 5.30pm. On Sunday (February 19th), the full-strength Newtown VB Premier League squad is at home at Henson Park to the Bulldogs, with this popular local derby trial match due to start at 5.00pm. Given the excellent attendance at Saturday?s match against North Sydney, there?s bound to be even greater interest in the Newtown-Bulldogs local derby trial at Henson Park this Sunday. Caption:Giant Newtown second rower David Vial, pictured scoring in a 2005 Jim Beam Cup game, impressed Roosters officials at Henson Park on Saturday. Photo courtesy of Gary Sutherland Photography.

Sonny Bill Williams out for six weeks

INJURY-PRONE Bulldogs forward Sonny Bill Williams has suffered another setback in his bid to get back on the field in the National Rugby League.His club issued a short statement this morning saying the 20-year-old Kiwi international will be sidelined for six weeks after scans revealed stress fractures in his foot. Williams is still on the road to recovery from a serious knee injury suffered last year.The NRL season starts in less than a month's time, with the first round on March 10-12.It's a bitter pill to swallow for Williams, who's still undergoing rehabilitation for a serious knee injury suffered in round 13 last season. He was expected to play in the season opener against Penrith on March 11 before his latest setback.Williams played just five NRL games last year after tearing cartilage in his right knee. The Dogs take on Cronulla in Mollymook on Saturday and New Zealand Warriors on the Gold Coast a week later in pre-season trials.Here's a rundown of Sonny Bill's injury woes:April 26, 2004: ankle v South Sydney - 12 gamesNovember 6, 2004: shoulder v Great Britain - two TestsApril 3, 2005: ankle v Cronulla - 7 gamesJune 4, 2005: knee cartilage v South Sydney - 12 gamesFebruary 13, 2006: stress fractures in both feet pre-season - expected to miss six weeks.

ESL Round 1 Review

RESULTS:CASTLEFORD Tigers 18, Hull FC 42. Att: 10,188Harlequins RL 16, St Helens 40. Att: 8,213Catalans Dragons 38, Wigan Warriors 30. Att: 11,122Leeds Rhinos 20, Huddersfield Giants 12. Att: 16,119Wakefield Wildcats 14, Bradford Bulls 20. Att: 9,157Warrington Wolves 6, Salford City Reds 24. Att: 10,845Engage Super League XI got underway at the Jungle on Friday night when Hull FC convincingly defeated newly promoted Castleford Tigers. Hull ran in eight tries with new signing Sid Domic being the game?s most outstanding player. His explosive running caused the Tigers numerous problems and was credited with been the first try scorer of Super League XI. Kirk Yeaman also scored twice for Hull. Although the result was disappointing for the Tigers they still managed to breach the Hull defence on four occasions with Gray Viane scoring two tries, the others coming from Ryan McGoldrick and Richard Fa'aoso.Saturday afternoon saw title favourites St Helens easily dispose of new boys Harlequins RL at the Twickenham Stoop in front of a bumper crowd. Saints ran in seven tries with Great Britain full-back Paul Wellens scoring a hat-trick and former Rooster Jason Cayless scoring on debut. Jamie Lyon contributed sixteen points with a try and six goals. Harlequins suffered a pre match blow when influential skipper Mark McLinden did not make the starting line up due injury. However they did score three consolation tries against an awesome looking Saints.Super League new boys Catalan Dragons stunned Wigan Warriors in a pulsating debut in southern France on Saturday night. The Dragons side produced a stirring display to send the Warriors to an unlikeley defeat. Playing with assured confidence Les Catalans kept it tight all the way in their first ever Super League game and got off to a fantastic start when on their first attack ex-Knight Mark Hughes scored their first ever try. In a ding-dong battle the lead changed hands on six occasions and the Dragons appeared to be heading for defeat when the Warriors lead 30-26 with only a few minutes left on the clock. But two converted tries from Ian Hindmarsh and Julien Rinaldi gave the Les Catalans victory and a dream start to their campaign.Leeds Rhinos opened their campaign with hard fought victory over a much-improved Huddersfield Giants before a near capacity card at Headingley Carnegie Stadium. Former Manly Sea Eagle winger Scott Donald produced a good all-round display by scoring the Rhinos second try and a making a last ditch try saving tackle on the Giants Chris Nero. The Giants withstood a second half barrage by the Rhinos but only conceded a late Danny McGuire Try. For the Giants Brad Drew was busy as ever and newcomer Albert Torrens scored on his debut. The game was played on heavy, sandy surface and with persistent rain throughout made handling difficult.Super League champions Bradford Bulls came from behind to defeat a spirited Wakefield Wildcats at Belle Vue. A sock was on the cards until a late try by Kiwi star Shontayne Hape put Bradford in front for the first time and despite Wildcats pressure the Bulls held on for a hard fought victory. Paul Deacon playing his first game since being severely injured for Great Britain in the Tri-Nations series kicked four goals, which proved to be the difference between the teams.Under strength Salford City Reds stunned much-fancied Warrington Wolves with a shock win at the Halliwell Jones Stadium. Papua New Guinea International, John Wilshire, scored two first half tries to put the Reds in a commanding position. Warrington Wolves scored early in the 2nd half when Henry Fa?afili went over to cut the deficit, but further tries by the City Reds sealed a most unlikely victory for the visitors. Salford were missing four key players including their main first choice halfbacks but a disappointing new-look Warrington Wolves never troubled them.Looking back at the first weekend of Engage Super League XI the most encouraging signs were the overall match attendances, which averaged nearly 11,000 and the two unlikely results at Warrington in southern France, where new boys Les Catalans made a terrific start to life in Super League.

Raiders squash a Warriors comeback

THE Canberra Raiders have shaken off a second-half comeback by the New Zealand Warriors to win 28-16 in a wet pre-season NRL match in Auckland.The Raiders had a 22-0 lead early in the second half but three successive tries by the Warriors made it a contest before the visitors closed out the game of four 20-minute quarters.Canberra Raiders 28 (L Withers C Schifcofske R Hinchcliffe D Milne A Purtell tries, C Schifcofske 4 goals) def. New Zealand Warriors 16 (T Byrne T Martin C Vuna tries T Martin 2 goals) at North Harbour Stadium.

Cronk shines in Ballina trial

MELBOURNE halfback Cooper Cronk has steered the Storm to a 38-18 victory over the Parramatta Eels. The pre-season trial was played in humid conditions over 20 minute quarters at Kingsford Smith Park in Ballina.In a first half where referee Gavin Badger handed out 13 penalties, the Storm were able to stamp their authority on proceedings with tries to Billy Slater, Steve Turner and Matt Geyer, Cronk's kicking game was instrumental in setting up Geyer's try. Parramatta replied with tries to Luke O'Dwyer and Tim Smith, O'Dwyer's try being set up by new five-eighth Brett Delaney. The only injury in the first 40 minutes was Parramatta's Peter Lewis who was carted off after being flattened by Storm recruit Michael Crocker. Lewis was able to return to put in a strong performance in the second half.At half time, Melbourne held a 16-12 lead.The second half saw Parramatta experimenting with new combinations which resulted in numerous handling errors. Melbourne extended their lead and tries to Cronk in the 45th and 54th saw the score blow out to 28-12. Chris Walker, who limped off with cramp late in the match, and Kiwi international Jake Webster crossed as well to make in seven tries for the Storm. Jarryd Hayne scored Parramatta's only try in the second half.Best player on the park was Melbourne's Cooper Cronk. Five-eighth Geyer and fullback Slater were standouts as well as Nathan Friend who came on to replace Cronk in the second half. Parramatta's Delaney, who appears to have 'bulked up' in the off-season played strongly. Halfback Tim Smith and utility Dean Widders who, along with Delaney, was trialed in the five-eighth position put in strong performances. Rookie forward Zeb Taia was also a standout for the Eels.Scorers:STORM 38Tries: Cronk 2, Slater, Turner, Geyer, Walker, WebsterGoals: Inglis 3, C Smith 2EELS 18Tries: O'Dwyer, T Smith, HayneGoals: Burt 2 , DelaneyHalf time: Storm 16-12Three quarter time: 28-12Kickoff: 5:45pm.Kingsford Smith Park, Ballina. Crowd: Approx 7,000Referees: Gavin Badger and Steven ClarkLeagueunlimited Players of the match:3 - C Cronk (Storm)2 - M Geyer (Storm)1 - B Slater (Storm)Pic: Cooper Cronk (melbournestorm.com.au)

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