ROUND 21 Parramatta Eels 31 v Manly Sea Eagles 18at Parramatta StadiumReferee: Steven ClarkMatch Summary:The Parramatta Eels continued their winning run tonight, disposing of the Manly Sea Eagles by 31-18 in a fiery game at Parramatta Stadium.The game contained several big hits but the talking point of the match came in the 49th minute when Fuifui Moimoi hit Brent Kite around the head as the Sea Eagles were on the attack close to Parramatta?s line.Kite was knocked senseless and eventually hobbled from the field but took no further part in the action. Referee Steven Clark sent the barnstorming Eels frontrower from the field when the game resumed, opening the way for Manly to come back into the match.The Eels began on fire, scoring in the 4th minute through outgoing centre Luke O?Dwyer who snapped up the ball in the in-goal area after Manly fullback Michael Robertson failed to clean up a kick. Try-scoring freak Jarryd Hayne crossed about ten minutes later after a good cut-out pass from John Morris found the unmarked winger.From there it was punch and counter-punch as Manly scored through Matai and Stephenson either side of another Eels try to Luke Burt. The home side hit the sheds up 18-8 and looking pretty comfortable.They continued to lead from the front with O?Dwyer crossing again just after the break to lead 24-8 and the game was seemingly in the bag for Parramatta.Shortly after Moimoi was sent from the field and Manly smelt blood in the water, piling on tries to Chris Hicks and Luke Williamson to set the stage for a dramatic final quarter of the game with the scores poised at 24-18.Parramatta held their resolve though, even with a man down, and pushed further ahead late in the game with a second try to Luke Burt in the 72nd minute followed shortly by a field goal from Morris.The victory consolidates Parramatta?s chances of gaining a top 8 spot and the Eels now face the Dragons at home on Friday night in what should be a bell-ringer.For Manly, they enjoy a bye week but probably feel a bit disappointed with the result. They?ve been going well up until now and a win here would have had them pushing for a top 4 spot.Scorers:Parramatta Eels: 31Tries: Luke Burt(2), Luke O'Dwyer(2), Jarryd HayneGoals: Luke Burt 5/5Field Goals: John MorrisManly Sea Eagles: 18Tries: Chris Hicks, Paul Stephenson, Luke Williamson, Steve MataiGoals: Matt Orford 1/4By the Clock:Brett Stewart is out for the Sea Eagles with Michael Robertson dropping back to fullback.Steve Bell returns to the centres with George Rose coming on to the bench.Luke Burt replaces Wade McKinnon in the fullback role.1 min: Kickoff!2 min: An early penalty against Steve Matai in the play the ball.4 min: TRY Parramatta EelsA grubber through by Jeremy Smith that deflects off Robertson and O'Dwyer is there to score the try for the Eels.Burt converts on his return to First Grade. Eels 6-08 min: The crowd getting behind both sides in what looks close to be to at its full capacity.11 min: A penalty on the last tackle against the Eels for a grapple tackle puts the Eagles on the attack.13 min: Going to the video for an Eels try...13 min: TRY Parramatta EelsOh no it's him again!A long cutout by John Morris is picked up on the half volley by the whizkid Jarryd Hayne who strolls away to score in the corner.Burt from the sideline puts it over the black dot. Eels 12-018 min: TRY Manly Sea EaglesA short ball from Orford puts Matai in to a gap who scores the Sea Eagles first try of the night.Orford from the sideline just misses to the left. Eels 12-420 min: From the kickoff,MoiMoi and Cayless hit King in a bell-ringer.30 min: Eel Jeremy Smith gives away his second penalty of the night and the Sea Eagles go on the attack.31 min: The toughjudge is in on a report - Shayne Dunley is on report for putting his knees in to Jarryd Hayne who did well to take a cross field bomb.34 min: Checking for an Eels try...34 min: TRY Parramatta EelsJeremy Smith threads a grubber through and Luke Burt wins the race to the ball and scores the Eels' third.Burt converts his own try. Eels 18-436 min: Play is stopped for quite some time as Steve Matai gets a knock to the head.40 min: TRY Manly Sea EaglesA grubber through by Matt Orford and Paul Stephenson comes from out of the clouds to score in the corner.Orford hits the uprights from the sideline. Eels 18-8Halftime - The Eels have entertained their crowd with an excellent first half of football.The Sea Eagles have stuck with the Eels for the whole half and a try right on half time to Paul Stephenson has given the visitors a sniff.Second half underway...43 min: Somehow Dean Widders gets the ball off a deflected kick,he struggles to pick the wobbling ball up,had he,he would have had a 2 on 1 overlap.46 min: TRY Parramatta EelsThe ball is shifted to the right and centre Luke O'Dwyer goes over in the corner untouched.Burt puts it over from the sideline. Eels 24-849 min: Brent Kite down after a horrible high tackle from MoiMoi.He is knocked out cold and it could be the end of MoiMoi's night.49 min: Sent Off - Fui Fui MoiMoi becomes the third player to be sent off in 2006.52 min: TRY Manly Sea EaglesSome scrappy ball movement from the Sea Eagles and Chris Hicks scores in the corner to make a game of it.Orford misses again from the sideline. Eels 24-1253 min: Checking for a Manly try...54 min: NEWS NO TRY - Michael Robertson drops a bomb in the Eels ingoal area but then scores,he is ruled to have knocked the ball in to an Eels player before that.57 min: TRY Manly Sea EaglesSome good ball movement and from an offload,Luke Williamson dives over next to the uprights.Only moments earlier,Luke O'Dwyer dropped a pass cold and would have had a free run to the tryline.Orford converts. Eels 24-1862 min: NEWS Williamson hit by a beauty from Ben Smith66 min: Kylie Leuleuai goes from dummy half on the last tackle but is held up by Hindmarsh.70 min: Steve Matai goes on a thirty metre run down the sideline before being taken into touch by O'Dwyer.72 min: A crowd of just over 15500 is announced as we go the video for an Eels try...72 min: TRY Parramatta EelsA grubber through from Mark Riddell is pounced on by Luke Burt who gets his second of the night.Burt converts his own try. Eels 30-1873 min: Crowd - 1540475 min: FIELD GOAL Parramatta EelsJohn Morris seals the clash tonight with a field goal between the posts. Eels 31-1876 min: From the short kickoff,Jarryd Hayne sprints down the touchline,passes the ball back on the inside to Luke Burt who runs away to score,but it was ruled to be a forward pass,good call by Clark.Fulltime in an epic contest which had September like proportions.-----------------------------------------Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Luke O2 - Ben Kennedy1 - Nathan Hindmarsh-----------------------------------------
ROUND 21 South Sydney Rabbitohs 21 v Canberra Raiders 8at Telstra StadiumReferee: Jason RobinsonMatch Summary:The South Sydney Rabbitohs have staged a remarkable upset at their home ground of Telstra Stadium, defeating the Canberra Raiders by 21-8.In a game they were never supposed to win, Souths showed commitment and skill to negotiate their second win of the season over the Raiders who last week knocked off St George Illawarra in spectacular fashion.If this was horse racing you?d ask for a Steward?s inquiry. The Rabbitohs came out of the blocks well, taking the ball up the middle of the park strongly and using their options either side of the ruck to create problems for Canberra from word go.The Raiders struggled to find their feet which ultimately lead to dropped ball, missed tackles and an unusually high error rate. They were nothing like the team who humiliated the Dragons last week down in the Nation?s Capital.Souths raced to a 20-nil lead in the first half, setting up the victory through their quick backs. Flamboyant fullback David Peachey opened the scoring in the sixth minute after making a nice break and sailing towards the tryline.Soon after it was huge winger Paul Mellor?s turn, barging his way to the chalk in strong fashion. Then speedy winger Nathan Merritt put two tries back-to-back towards the end of the half and with Williams adding two goals things were looking very positive for the Bunnies.Queensland Origin hero Adam Mogg added a try just before the break and again in the 64th minute of the game, but neither were converted by captain Clinton Schifcofske, leaving the Raiders still well behind the 8-ball.Replacement Ben Rogers chipped a field goal through the sticks with six minutes before time to seal the victory, taking the game beyond doubt and perhaps adds credibility to the sacking of centre Adam MacDougall from the club.Souths take on Penrith next week at Telstra Stadium and are sure to have their tails in the air. Meanwhile, the Raiders will need to regroup before hosting the Broncos on Sunday week.Scorers:South Sydney Rabbitohs: 21Tries: Nathan Merritt(2), Paul Mellor, David PeacheyGoals: Joe Williams 2/4Field Goals: Ben RogersCanberra Raiders: 8Tries: Adam Mogg(2)By the Clock:It's a cool night out here at Telstra Stadium as we await the Raiders and Rabbitohs clash. The game is vitally important to Canberra's chances of securing a top 8 spot and they are expected to win. Souths may prove to be a capable spoiler however.Both teams are as per the program.1 min: NEWS And we're underway in the first half with the Bunnies kicking off.6 min: TRY South Sydney RabbitohsThe Rabbitohs open the scoring for the night, with enigmatic fullback David Peachey loping across the tryline after making a good break. Returning halfback Joe Williams lifts the touch judges flags and Souths are off to a good start. Rabbitohs 6-012 min: NEWS Both teams fighting it out in the middle of the park here, with Souths holding their own. They've had a bit more possession than the Raiders and are making fewer mistakes.14 min: TRY South Sydney RabbitohsAnd Souths are in again, this time through big winger Paul Mellor, who's made a habit out of scoring tries lately. Early signs are very positive for the Bunnies here. They look more settled and capable than previous weeks. Williams misses the goal. Rabbitohs 10-020 min: NEWS Souths are dominating out here. They're enjoying the lion's share of possession and are making better use of the ball, unlike Canberra are showing no respect to the ball whatsoever.22 min: TRY South Sydney RabbitohsBoy oh boy, the Bunnies are killing them right now! Try-scoring freak Nathan Merritt runs in a four-pointer as Souths up the tempo against the Raiders. Could be a big upset on the cards here. Williams misses the goal. Rabbitohs 14-028 min: NEWS Souths playing much better footy here at the moment, making better yeards, kicking well and they're hardly making any errors.33 min: TRY South Sydney RabbitohsThe Rabbitohs are all over them at the moment, with Merritt crossing for his second try of the night. They're looking much improved and by contrast the Raiders are well below the effort they submitted last week against the Dragons. I doubt Canberra can come back from this position. Williams converts and it's looking very good for Souths. Rabbitohs 20-035 min: NEWS Bunnies still going strong here. They're taking the Raiders up the middle of the park and playing well. You could also say they're getting the rub of the green with the ref.38 min: TRY Canberra RaidersThe Raiders are finally on the board through Origin hero Adam Mogg. They really needed something before halftime if they were going to entertain thoughts of a comeback. Schifcofske fails to convert from out wide and the gap is 16 points heading into the break. Rabbitohs 20-440 min: NEWS Halftime - This has been a sensational first half effort by the Bunnies. They've played great footy, tried hard and come up with excellent results. They're dominating the bigger Canberra forwards and things are looking very promising as they chase their second victory of the season.The Raiders are a different story, what's happened since last week? They're making all sorts of errors and failing to reproduce the sort of form that blew the Dragons off the field last round. I think they might be guilty of taking Souths a little too lightly.41 min: NEWS Canberra restart proceedings out here at Homebush.48 min: NEWS Both sides easing their way into the second part of this contest here. Canberra starting to make a few more yards up the middle of the ruck.53 min: NEWS The game's grinding away out here. Souths need to be careful not to protect a lead and continue the attacking footy which they displayed in the first half. 60 min: NEWS Souths are starting to dominate in the forwards again. Plenty of big gains up the middle of the park and they are starting to drop off a few tackles. Completions have been sensational though. 64 min: TRY Canberra RaidersThe Raiders narrow the gap by a little more with Mogg notching up his second for the night. The Schif fails from out wide again, but with only 12 points separating the two teams, stranger things have happened. Rabbitohs 20-870 min: NEWS Ten to go and the Bunnies are closing in on their second victory for the year.74 min: FIELD GOAL South Sydney RabbitohsThe Bunnies seal the game with a field goal to Ben Rogers. With a 13-point margin they look home and hosed. Rabbitohs 21-880 min: NEWS The Rabbitohs have clinched a terrific victory here at Telstra Stadium, downing the Raiders by 21-8 and claiming their second victory for the year.-----------------------------------------Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - David Peachey2 - Nathan Merritt1 - Joe Williams-----------------------------------------
ROUND 21 Penrith Panthers 36 v New Zealand Warriors 6at CUA Stadium PenrithReferee: Tony ArcherMatch Summary:The Panthers have extinguished the New Zealand Warriors last hopes of making the finals by defeating them 36?6 at CUA Stadium. Starting well in the first half, the Warriors looked like they would really take it to the 11th placed Penrith team, but their second half performance was dismal. They dropped a lot of ball, made wrong decisions (especially on the last tackle) and executed most plays poorly. The home side on the other hand looked like the Panthers team of old, with impressive runs from the forwards and great ball handling from the backs. Their defence was also effective, making some of the Warriors players frustrated. Five-eighth Preston Campbell played an important part in his side?s victory, kicking 6 from 7 conversions and setting up a few tries. But the star of the night was Rhys Wesser who bagged a hat trick and played a first-class game at fullback. The ultimate downfall for the Warriors was the amount of mistakes and poor decisions they made. 52 missed tackles and 12 errors is something that Ivan Cleary would be disappointed with. Ruben Wiki may find himself in some trouble with the judiciary this week after a dangerous high tackle that put Joel Clinton on the ground. Matthew Cross may also be in some hot water after placing his hands between a player?s legs. Craig Stapleton is also expected to be out for at least 2 ? 3 weeks with an injury.The Panthers will hope to gain a further two points next week when they take on the Souths at Telstra Stadium and the Warriors will hope to redeem themselves against the Sharks back in New Zealand. Scorers:Penrith Panthers: 36Tries: Tony Puletua, Luke Rooney, Rhys Wesser(3), Matthew CrossGoals: Preston Campbell 6/7New Zealand Warriors: 6Tries: Manu VatuveiGoals: Tony Martin 1/1By the Clock:The Penrith Panthers host the New Zealand Warriors at CUA Stadium tonight in what should be an exciting encounter. Both teams are outside the top eight but are mathematically in contention for a finals spot, so a win tonight is a must.No changes for the Penrith Panthers but Brent Webb drops out for the Warriors and Cooper Vuna comes in to the side. Michael Luck also moves from the bench to the run on squad. We have great conditions for a football match tonight. It's warm and there's only a slight breeze.KICKOFF - The Panthers get play under way off Preston Campbell's boot. 2 min: NEWS Warriors on the attack now 10m out from the Panthers line after a mistake from Wesser. 4 min: TRY New Zealand WarriorsVatuevi scores off a cross field bomb from Rovelli. Martin converts. Warriors 6-06 min: NEWS Ruban Wiki penalised for being off-side at marker. Panthers now have some momentum. 7 min: NEWS Preston Campbell takes an intercept close to the Panthers line, crosses half-way, but has no support. Panthers recieve a penalty. 11 min: NEWS Gower looks for a 40/20 but kicks the ball out on the full. Warriors now have the ball inside the Panthers half.20 min: TRY Penrith PanthersTony Puletua crosses the line after a switch ball from Gower. Campbell's kick is successful. 6 all.24 min: NEWS Warriors have the scrum-feed after Matthew Cross loses the ball carelessly. 26 min: NEWS Grant Rovelli puts a grubber kick in through to Wesser who knocks on. Warriors now attacking the Panthers line. 31 min: NEWS Priddis goes to the blind side from dummy-half on the last tackle and it finds Rooney. Rooney puts a kick into the Warriors in-goal and secures a repeat set of six.32 min: NO TRY Video referee Phil Cooley denies Michael Gordan a try and rules a goal line drop-out. 33 min: NEWS Simon Mannering recieves a shocking pass from George Gatis and knocks on giving the Panthers a chance close to the Warriors line.36 min: TRY Penrith PanthersLuke Priddis puts a grubber kick in out of acting-half towards the goal posts and Wesser dives on the ball and scores. Campbell adds the extras. Panthers 12-6HALF TIME STATSPENALTIES: PEN 3 WARR 2TACKLES: PEN 135 WARR 179MISS TACKLES: PEN 7 WARR 27ERRORS: PEN 7 WARR 5POSSESION: PEN 54% WARR 46%COMPLETIONS: PEN 14/19 WARR 13/18KICKOFF - Warriors get us underway in the second half. 45 min: PENALTY GOAL Penrith PanthersCampbell converts from right in front after Koopu was penalised for taking Campbell out. Panthers 14-647 min: NEWS The Warriors almost looked like scoring after making good metres and ending up close to the try line but it was not to be as Mannering, after almost heading in to touch, passes the ball to Campbell.50 min: NEWS Priddis gets smashed by Wiki. He eventually finds his feet and play resumes. 52 min: NEWS Gower is denied a chance at catching a bomb by Anderson and the Panthers recieve a penalty. 53 min: TRY Penrith PanthersAfter spreading the ball through the hands out to Gordan, the winger busts through two tackles and finds Wesser who crosses the white line. Campbell puts a further two points on the board. Panthers 20-656 min: TRY Penrith PanthersLee Hookey hands off a brilliant pass to Luke Rooney on the wing who manages to stay inside the field of play and ground the ball. Campbell fails to convert from the sideline. Panthers 24-661 min: NEWS Wesser and Ah Van collide after going for a kick. Archer rules a knock on and Warriors get the feed. 63 min: TRY Penrith PanthersMatthew Cross scores after recieving a cut out pass from Campbell with help from a decoy runner. Campbell doesn't miss. Panthers 30-666 min: TRY Penrith PanthersRhys Wesser scores his third for the night after a Priddis pass found Campbell who managed to keep it alive and give a miraculous pass to the try scorer. Panthers 36-670 min: NO TRY New Zealand WarriorsJerome Ropati was denied a try by the video ref after he was found to be off-side when the ball came off one of his team mates. 73 min: NEWS Joel Clinton has hit the ground after a dangerous high tackle by Ruben Wiki. The tackle is placed on report.74 min: NO TRY Penrith PanthersA grubber kick from Gower just crosses the dead ball line before Gordan could ground it.75 min: NO TRY New Zealand WarriorsThe video ref is once again called upon despite the referee being in perfect position. The ball was not grounded and the video ref rules a 20m restart for Penrith.FULL TIME STATSATTENDENCE: 9,725PENALTIES: PEN 7 WARR 2TACKLES: PEN 234 WARR 369MISS TACKLES: PEN 13 WARR 52ERRORS: PEN 10 WARR 12-----------------------------------------Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Rhys Wesser2 - Preston Campbell1 - Luke Priddis-----------------------------------------
LION Red Fox Memorial
HULL KR will be without half-back Scott Murrell for their Powergen Challenge Cup semi-final against St Helens.Murrell, who was injured in training on Thursday, has suffered ankle ligament damage, although fears he had broken his ankle have proved unfounded.Jason Hooper joins Paul Sculthorpe and Mike Bennett on the Saints injury list.Jamie Lyon has been cleared to play despite being sent off last week while Sean Long is expected to return after missing the last two matches.Rovers coach Justin Morgan said: "It is a blow to Scott to miss out on a big occasion like this and also the club as he has been playing well."He could be out for something like a month but hopefully it will be less."Murrell reverted to stand-off when skipper James Webster returned to the side from injury against Widnes last Sunday.Morgan is likely to turn to either Gareth Morton or Tommy Gallagher to fill the number six shirt against Saints.The Robins, looking to reach their first Challenge Cup final for 20 years, are also without New Zealand second rower Michael Smith as well as loan duo Jon Whittle and Matty Brooks, who are both ineligible.Challenge Cup semi-final, Saturday, 29 JulyGalpharm Stadium, HuddersfieldKick-off: 1230 BST, live coverage on BBC 1St Helens (18-man squad): Wellens, Gardner, Lyon, Talau, Meli, Pryce, Long, Fozzard, Cunningham, Cayless, Gilmour, Wilkin, Roby, Anderson, Anderson, Graham, Hardman, Fa'asavalu.Hull KR (18-man squad): Cockayne, Steel, Couturier, Goddard, Ford, Morton, Webster, Aizue, Fisher, Tangata-Toa, Morrison, Netherton, Gallagher, Barker, Garmston, Ellis, Joseph, Stephenson.Source: bbc.co.uk
THE St George Illawarra Dragons today announce that NRL Assistant Coach Kurt Wrigley has accepted an offer to extend his tenure with the Club for a further 12 months. Wrigley was contracted at the Dragons until the end of 2007 but has accepted an offer to remain with the Club until the end of 2008. Wrigley has established himself as an integral part of the Dragons Coaching staff after spending time with the Adelaide Rams (1998) and the Cronulla Sharks (2001-2003) in different roles from Junior Reps through to NRL level. He joined Head Coach Nathan Brown at the Dragons for the 2004 season and has since helped Nathan with the side?s attack, kicking, statistical analysis and forward planning. ?Kurt is a wonderful coach who has helped me considerably since joining the club in 2004. I have no doubt that he himself will become a Head Coach in the near future,? Brown said. Wrigley was recently offered the opportunity to join the Canberra Raiders under Neil Henry but has decided to stay with the Dragons. ?Whilst the offer from the Raiders was attractive. Nathan and the Management are pleased with my input,? Wrigley said. ?Staying at the Dragons will further my development as a Coach and I look forward to continuing my role at the club until the end of 2008?
DRAGONS Vs Storm - OKI Jubilee Stadium - Important Train Information - Sunday 30 July, 2006 Dragons supporters travelling to the Storm match at OKI Jubilee Stadium on Sunday 30 July should be aware that buses will replace trains on the Eastern Suburbs and Illawarra Line due to major trackwork.Supporters travelling to the match should catch a replacement bus service to Carlton Station, which is a short walk from OKI Jubilee Stadium.CityRail advises supporters plan their journey ahead of travelling and allow an extra 45 minutes travel time. Click here for detailed trackwork information including alternative travel arrangements and bus timetables.Buses will also replace trains on the Bankstown Line between Sydenham and Central.Other CityRail services will operate to normal weekend timetables.For other event and public transport information visit www.131500.com.auSource: dragons.com.au 26/7/2006
GEE whiz, the bloke that wrote this column last week needs to take himself outside and give himself thirty uppercuts. He picked one from four and that was the Lions over the Hawkes. He reckoned the Sea Eagles would walk it in over Marist. Marist beat them 36/28. He spouted on about how the game between the Tigers and Roosters would probably be a draw, if not, the Roosters would win. Final score in that game Tigers 22, Roosters 18. Finally, he put the mockers completely on East Coast Bays, by suggesting the Bays would win a narrow one over the Otahuhu Leopards. The Leopards kicked their butt 34/14.
CANBERRA playmaker Jason Smith has rejected an offer from the Gold Coast Titans and agreed to play for North Queensland next year.
WHY is it that in a competition featuring fewer teams than during the 1988-1994 era, the NRL persists with a Finals System that allows more teams now to have a shot at the Premiership come September?
Sure we all know the current format is solely about money but isn?t the NRL cheapening the achievement of simply making the Finals?
From memory the key reasoning (again it was all about money but this was the line trotted out) behind starting the whole Super League era was the intent to reduce the number of teams which would then increase the quality of games week in week out. And lets be fair dinkum, that was the same reasoning trotted out by the NRL when they decided to punt a few teams during the early post-Super League years.
So why with the teams reduced, did the NRL decide to stick with the clearly inferior McIntyre System, enabling over half of the teams in the competition to qualify for the Finals? again it was all about money.
With the Gold Coast Titans entering the competition next season the NRL will mirror the old NSWRL?s number of teams who competed in that that 1988-94 period when the game experienced one of its truly golden eras both on and off the field. This 16th team creates a great opportunity to return to the days of the Final Five and bring some credibility back into simply making the month of September. And with the elimination of meaningless Finals games (which DO exist in the McIntyre format) the crowds and TV ratings (the two biggies financially) will increase and the achievement of making the Finals will be once again meaningful.
The beauty of the Final Five is the fact it creates blockbuster games over four weekends and in doing so makes the road to glory as tough as possible ? as it should be.
Given the current NRL Table there is a clear cut Final Five and although the media loves to talk up and talk down sides every second week during the year, there is only one side that has had a great season and that is the Melbourne Storm and they will as a result win the Minor Premiership.
Incorporating the Byes still to come this would be the table (sorted by Differential):
1. MELBOURNE STORM 34
2. BULLDOGS 30
3. BRISBANE BRONCOS 28
4. MANLY SEA EAGLES 28
5. ST.GEORGE-ILLAWARRA 28
Leaving the following teams just outside the Final Five after good but quite frankly not outstanding seasons:
6. NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS 24
7. CANBERRA RAIDERS 24
8. NTH QLD COWBOYS 22
9. CRONULLA SHARKS 22
Given the up and down nature of the teams just outside the Top 5, the process of sorting the contenders from the pretenders is done before September and the teams that truly deserve to be in a position to win the competition are rewarded with a ticket to the big games.
Also in reverting to a Final Five there is no longer the need to have Home Finals because like in the ?good old days? the Finals were a separate animal entirely and only the teams in the Top 3 deserved a second bite at the cherry in the form of any advantage for finishing high on the table. As a result the six games of football could be split between the three best Rugby League stadiums in Australia with no preference to any team and a set schedule to avoid favourable ground draws.
? And for those who argue no one will show up to games featuring out of town sides, check out the crowd figures for the 1993 and 1994 Finals Series in which Brisbane and Canberra featured heavily in the games played. All the games were played at the Sydney Football Stadium (capacity 42,000) and in 1993 a total of 222,288 people attended 6 games at an average of 37,048 and in 1994 a total of 230,383 people attended 6 games at an average of 38,397.
With the Final Five decided how about this for a mouth-watering month of football.
? Friday Night - Minor Preliminary Semi Final
#4 Manly Warringah Sea Eagles v #5 St. George-Illawarra Dragons
@ Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
? Saturday Night - Major Preliminary Semi Final
#2 Bulldogs v #3 Brisbane Broncos
@ Aussie Stadium, Sydney
? Friday Night - Minor Semi Final
#3 Brisbane Broncos v #5 St. George-Illawarra Dragons
@ Aussie Stadium, Sydney
? Saturday Night - Major Semi Final
#1 Melbourne Storm v #2 Bulldogs
@ Telstra Stadium, Sydney
? Friday Night - Preliminary Final
#1 Melbourne Storm v #5 St. George-Illawarra Dragons
@ Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
? Sunday Night - Grand Final
#2 Bulldogs v #5 St. George Illawarra Dragons
@ Telstra Stadium, Sydney
* Friday Night games are far bigger events than Sunday Afternoon fixtures and are the perfect way to end the working week and the Preliminary Final in particular must be a Friday Night so there is truly a Grand Final week and the team who plays in the Preliminary Final gets enough rest to take on the well rested team which won the Major Semi Final.
If a lineup of games like that can?t get the fans off the couch and to the stadium then they are just too hard to please.
A Final Five has to return as the game needs to bring the glory back to the month of September when the best of the best fought for the Premiership.
SIX rounds to go and the Top 8 equation is becoming more complex than Sunday?s monster Sodoku puzzle. And looking ahead you get the feeling that there?s going to be more bends in the road before we end up with our McIntyre Maze.Last week I rebounded somewhat with a mediocre 5 from 7, taking me to 86/138 (62%) for the year so far, but that?s only just keeping pace with everyone else. I didn?t have the guts to take the Raiders even though it was on the cards and Brisbane?s flat nature was a surprise.Again we?re faced with a challenging task this round and with a few each way games it?s difficult to go in full of confidence. I hope all those people out there saying that this year?s comp has been boring are tipping 7 on a consistent basis because the unpredictability each week is as thrilling for the punter as it is frustrating.Sharks v KnightsYou can tell they picked this one a month ago, although with the current state both sides are in, desperation should lift the quality of the game to a level befitting Friday Night Football.Newcastle head south to Woolooware Swamp to play the Sharkies who have the wood on them lately. Whilst Newcastle has proven they can win at this ground in the past it is also the scene of many defeats including a 64-14 drubbing back in 2002 when Kimmorley turned on a show against his arch rival Johns. With the champion halves set to go at it again this round it makes for mandatory viewing across the nation as the two little generals strive for bragging rights. The Knights are more or less unchanged and possess a willing forward pack that need to put in a bit more this time around. Their backs are quality and so is the bench, but gee whiz they were ordinary in the second half against Souths.Cronulla need only to cast their memory back to Round 16 when they travelled up to the Hunter and laid siege to the Knights on their home turf. That victory should provide them with the belief they need to snap a four game losing streak which has taken hold of the club. They played much better against Storm last week, and let?s just get one thing straight, no one was going to beat Melbourne in that game. Kearney at the back adds a bit of unpredictability but they still miss the reliability of Simmons. If their props can hold Newcastle?s then Cronulla will compete favourably in the backrow with Thompson, Bird and Gallen. The big question is can Kimmorley and Dykes finally strike up a partnership in the halves capable of winning them the game?Is say yes, I think they will and the Sharks should win. Let?s hope Carney and the boys steer clear of Northies.Panthers v WarriorsAn all Western Sydney Super Saturday kicks off at Penrith as the Warriors cross the ditch with aspirations of clawing two points out of the Panthers.Here?s another example of a team having the wood on another in recent seasons, with New Zealand suffering 6 losses from the past 7 games. They did snap a six game losing streak against the Panthers at home in round 17, but they seem to be averse to travelling against the Panthers. Across the board though I like the look of the Warriors outfit and with Webb returning at the back I think that should provide plenty of strikepower for them to have a crack. Their centre combination is also superior to that of Penrith?s after Lewis pulled out through injury with Mannering and Martin in better form than O?Halloran and Hookey. One has to wonder what sort of motivation they?ll be taking with them though.It?s not often you lose a game after leading 24-6 at halftime, but the Penny have made an art form out of it against Manly in recent years. So, I think you can consider last week?s loss an aberration in the grand scheme of things. They still have a strong line-up with Gower, Campbell and Wesser being the key players here and all three went well last week, or so I thought. All Panthers fans will be hoping Clinton keeps his mouth shut because if there?s one pack you don?t want to encourage a bashing from it?s the Warriors.Overall I?m leaning towards Penrith in this one. Home ground advantage and needing to make up for last week should see them take home the chocolates.Eels v Sea EaglesWe head back up the M4 to Parra Park for a real treat as the Manly Ferry heads up the River to greet the Eels. They should post the ?full house? sign at some point throughout the night.This game will be a cracker. Manly?s comeback last week was nothing short of miraculous and it takes a lot of heart to do something like that. This game is a great opportunity for them to consolidate their position on the ladder ahead of the bye next round. I?m sure Dessy will have hammered that point home throughout the week. Bell is on the bench which is a good thing and Stewart is back, although they did well without him last week. Kennedy is still suffering from a few aches and pains which won?t help out and the rest of the forwards need to have a real dig if they?re going to stand any chance of winning.Speaking of forwards, I think this is where Parra have the edge. Hindmarsh and Cayless were very good last week but Moimoi and Morrison need to come to the party as well. Riddell will add a bit to their attack after last week?s omission through a gut-buster and Widders off the bench provides some great versatility and impact. The Eels are another team with a bit of wood over their opposition, having won 8 of the past 11 encounters between the two clubs. And Manly haven?t won at Parra since 1997. The clash in the backs will be keenly anticipated and depending on who takes the field for Manly there could be a few big hits out there.But I think all signs point to an Eels victory in this one. Across the park with what should be a massive home ground advantage, it?s difficult to see Manly winning this one. If they do it will be by very few points and could signal the beginning of things to come.Rabbitohs v RaidersIn our final Saturday game we travel a little further east where the Bunnies are up against the Raiders at League Headquarter in Homebush.Canberra make the trek up to Sydney after dispatching the Dragons to the boundary in fine fashion last week. They scored their third highest points total of the season last week and conceded their third lowest points against. This resulted in their third highest winning margin for the year and for a team who sometimes struggle to score points they well and truly put one of the so-called ?big guns? of the competition away. Their forwards are hulking and their backs under-rated, but the real wisdom here has been the use of Smith, Carney, Schifcofske, Withers and Woolford. It?s amazing how Elliot has managed to get these five unlikely suspects to run the team and few clubs have any clues on how to shut them down.I don?t think that will bother the Bunnies though, they seem to just run out onto the field with little or no game plan and hope for the best. Then when they have a sniff they put in a big 15-20 minute effort and the scoreboard reflects a close game. Having said that, this is a big danger game for Canberra. Souths can play attacking footy and they enjoy throwing the ball around. It will be interesting to see if the stigma attached to MacDougall reflects in the player?s attitudes on the field. If anything I think his departure will help them.But they?ll need plenty of help to topple the Raiders. They should win comfortably an have demonstrated in previous game that they can put away teams they are expected to (Easts 42-10).Broncos v TigersWests wobble up to Bris-Vegas with a black-eye, fat lip and a nasty limp. They?ll be welcomed by a Broncos pack keen to get back into the winner?s circle after a disappointing game last week.It?s hard to see many positives for the Tigers here, other than the fact their season has been ruined more by injuries than poor form. Perhaps all that karma from last year?s magical run without a single serious grievance has finally caught up on them. The Phat is out with a hammy opening the door for another rookie. Jeffrey and Lawrence are making their grade debuts whilst it?s Metuisela?s first game for his new club. They still pack a good scrum the Tigers, but I fear they will get run over in this one.Last week hurt the Broncos? pride deeply and they?ll want to exact some revenge for that loss up in FNQ. Webcke still played the house down but their cohesion in attack wasn?t extra good. Part of their problem was their wing defence though, with Tupou exposed on countless occasions. Berrigan to halfback is a bit of a gamble, I prefer him in the centres but it?s probably time they tried something to take the pressure off Lockyer. Looking at their forward pack and bench, they just have too much for Wests.In the 12 encounters between these two teams Brisbane has won 9 times plus a draw. That?s a big stat in favour of the home side and let?s not forget that the last time they met Wests gave them a 34-6 touch up in the semis. I think Brisbane will be out to exorcise a few demons on Sunday.Dragons v StormThe Sunday blockbuster sees Melbourne travel to Kogarah Oval for the very first time in the club?s history. They also boast an excellent record against the Dragons all over the shop, winning 10 out of their 15 matches, with a draw in there, including the Dragons biggest ever loss (70-10 in 2000) and only Grand Final defeat (20-18 in 1999).So we?ve got a bit of history between these two clubs and I bet that gets fleshed out over the course of 80 minutes. Melbourne were in sparkling form against the Sharkies, I was simply in awe of how enthusiastic their forwards were particularly in defence, but also attack. With significant firepower in the backs they just blow teams off the park when they get into a groove. They are also an incredibly fit and skilful team, so it?s not a big surprise when you?re told they?ve only lost 3 games this year.You could say the Dragons are in a spot of bother. They?ve dropped their last two and have their backs against the wall here. I think the game against Canterbury took plenty out of them and they have struggled to recover through additional injuries and fatigue. Plus, they?re now selecting an unusual pack with Bailey at lock, Wicks in the second row and Young replacing Gorrell at hooker, who?s been doing well lately. I?m expecting some sort of late changes in there but overall I?m not sure the Dragons can get them, even if they are at home. Head still looks a bit shabby and Barrett might take a few more weeks to get back into the swing of things.Based off form and the fact that Melbourne?s pack is savaging their opponents at the moment, I have to tip them. The Dragons look like they want to take them up the middle of the park with their selections, but I?m not sure that will work. The Storm will be content on the fringes exposing any lazy defenders who set up plays for their inside men to run riot. The Storm to win, Inglis?s return will be a highlight.Roosters v CowboysThe final game of the round sees the Cowboys pile into the SFS where they will meet the Roosters who are sure to be smarting over the Morley incident.North Queensland capped a remarkable victory last week against the Broncos, to whom they were expected to lose. But desperate times call for desperate measures and the Cowboys pulled together a great team effort when Thurston went down early in the match. They?re moved Payne to halfback, which is probably for the best, Norton is still at five-eighth and Bowman at lock worked last week but I wouldn?t push my luck if I was coach Murray. I still think Williams deserves a recall but this is the most consistent side they?ve had in weeks and the inclusion of Rockin? Rod Jensen on the bench is tops.The Roosters are in a bit of a spin. Losing to the Bulldogs last week was bad enough, given they didn?t rack up a single point, but to then have Morley suspended is a real headache. Anasta is out injured, but I?m not sure that?s a bad thing, with Finch playing five-eighth in the position he?ll most likely cover at Parramatta next year. Their pack and bench look a little weak in comparison to the Cowboys.I?m tipping the Cows here, I think they can get the job done and besides which, Easts were ordinary last week and if they manage to turn it around in this game, well then they deserve the two points.The Bulldogs have the bye in Round 21 and will sharpen their pencils in the week off. They have been looking very menacing of late and deserve their favouritism in the comp. it will be interesting to see how they go against the Cowboys in Round 22 as a week off at this end of the year is not always a great thing.
NO Superleague games this weekend, as instead we focus attention on the Challenge Cup Semi Finals. This year?s knockout competition has eliminated amateur teams, club sides from Russia and France, lower division British sides, and Superleague clubs, and now we are left with our final four. Who will win through to the Challenge Cup Final at Twickhenham on 26 August?Semi Final One: Hull Kingston Rovers (NL1) v St HelensSaturday 29 July, 12:30pm, Galpharm Stadium (Huddersfield)Hull Kingston Rovers are the sole National League One side to win through to this year?s semi-finals, having defeated Warrington, Featherstone (NL2), Hunslet (NL2), and York Acorn (amateur) along the way. Hull KR are sitting undefeated on top of the NL1 table, however recently lost the National Leagues knockout cup final to promotion rivals Leigh. Coach Justin Morgan came to Hull KR after success with French side Toulouse, who made last year?s Challenge Cup semi-final only to go down to Leeds. He has a well drilled side including players with NRL or Superleague experience in half back Jimmy Webster, winger Leroy Rivett, props David Tangata-toa and Francis Stephenson, and backrowers Michael Smith and Iain Morrison.However the firm favourites will be St Helens, who sit atop the Superleague ladder three wins clear of their nearest rivals. On their way to this year?s semi-finals they have beaten Catalans, Bradford, and Doncaster (NL1). St Helens have named a near full strength squad for the match, missing only their captain Paul Sculthorpe through long-term injury, and halfback Sean Long tipped to make a return after missing the past two matches with a leg problem. Jamie Lyon was cleared to play after being sent off for a late tackle last week against Leeds and not receiving a suspension. Hull KR will definitely take the game to St Helens, but it will be a tough ask for the underdogs to get the victory here. Semi Final Two: Leeds Rhinos v Huddersfield GiantsSunday 30 July, 3:00pm, Grattan (Odsal) Stadium (Bradford)Huddersfield have overcome Salford, York (NL1), and Halifax (NL1) on their way to this year?s semi-finals, and a victory here and a place in the Challenge Cup Final would come as a huge highlight for a club that has struggled during the Superleague years. Currently sitting seventh on the Superleague table, the club will hope to continue its momentum towards a possible top six finish with a win over their more fancied rivals. Huddersfield have lost to Leeds twice in league matches this season, but are more than capable of the upset, having been the team to put an end to leaders St Helens? undefeated run. They will be looking to their forwards to match the Leeds pack and then for the creativity of Chris Thorman, Robbie Paul and Brad Drew to bring some points.Leeds were runners up in the Challenge Cup final last year, and will be looking to go one better with a win to qualify for this year?s final. The Rhinos are in equal second on the Superleague ladder and having beaten Harlequins, Rochdale (NL1) and Leigh (NL1) along the way to the semi-finals, need to bounce back after recent losses to Castleford and St Helens. Leeds are without Gold Coast bound fullback Richie Matthers due to long-term injury, but otherwise have named a full-strength squad with some concern over stand off Danny McGuire who copped a knock last week. Recent recruit Clinton Toopi will not arrive in time to be considered for this game, and prop Jamie Thackray is ineligible having played a Cup match for Hull earlier in the season. Leeds at their best are a creative and fast paced team, will be favourites here but it?s a match that could easily go either way.Broadcast DetailsBoth matches are televised live on BBC free-to-air across the UK, with radio commentary for Saturday?s game on BBC Radio Five Live, and for Sunday?s game (probably) on BBC Radio Leeds. In NZ on Sky Sports Hull KR-St Helens is a delayed telecast at Sunday 1:30pm, Huddersfield-Leeds is broadcast live at Monday 2:00am, with replays on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively at 8:00am. In Australia both games will be delayed telecasts on Fox Sports: Hull KR-St Helens at Sunday 12:30pm, Huddersfield-Leeds at Monday 6:00am.
BURLEIGH v NORTH QLD
Pizzey Park, Saturday July 29, 2pm *Live on ABC TV at 2pm
Referee: Brett Suttor
WESTS Tigers run of injuries continued today with centre Paul Whatuira likely to miss the rest of the regular season with a hamstring complaint.
LAST weekend saw the Dolphins lower grades suffer convincing defeats at Kirby Park against Aspley while the Wizard Cup side bounced back with a satisfying win over the Toowoomba Clydesdales at Clive Berghofer Stadium.