TWO down, six to go. The Canberra Raiders and Parramatta Eels, as expected, have been eliminated from the 2006 NRL competition following losses to the Bulldogs and Melbourne respectively. I guess that begs the question as to what relevance the other two matches had. But that?s another story. We?ll now take a look at where each team stands after the first weekend of the play-offs.Melbourne: They have lost only four matches this season and were by far the best side in the minor premiership, but I?m sorry to say for Melbourne fans that the bubble could be well on its way to bursting at the wrong time of the year. While their defence was still intact on Sunday against the Eels, their options in attack, particularly in the second half, lacked any real desire. They limped to the finish line against the eighth placed side and the effort they displayed on the weekend won?t be good enough to beat any of the remaining sides in the premiership. Back to square one for Craig Bellamy over the next fortnight.Canterbury: A classic example of why you only need to turn up on the day in finals matches and produce the goods. They looked a shadow of themselves in the last three weeks of the premiership but all of a sudden they find themselves one game away from a grand final appearance, just two seasons after their last premiership. With injured players likely to return for the Preliminary Final, they?ll do the same thing ? turn up on the day and try to produce the goods. And who is to say they can?t at this stage?Brisbane: What is it about their abysmal record come September in recent years? I thought this season may have been different given that they had a winning run of three matches going into the finals, but it?s the same old story for the Broncos. They?ll have their work cut out against the Knights this weekend and a straight sets elimination will yet again ask questions of Wayne Bennett. Newcastle: They did well to come back against the Sea Eagles but something still doesn?t seem right about the Newcastle side. Danny Buderus is sure to be suspended for a lengthy period and Brisbane will be looking to make amends for their poor showing against the Dragons. Jarrod Mullen is certainly a find for them but Andrew Johns will need to step up if they?re to account for the Broncos minus Buderus.Manly: A spirited effort up north in Newcastle and were unlucky not to come away with the victory. Should have won the match after holding an 18-6 lead at one stage. A very strong defensive effort which is a positive they can take into this week?s match against the Dragons. But even if the Dragons are minus Mark Gasnier, it?ll take a superhuman effort from Manly given the form the Dragons are in at the moment.St George Illawarra: Certainly the most likely of the four sides playing this weekend to dismantle the Storm or Bulldogs from a title decider and ultimate supremacy. They showed the Broncos how to play finals football on Saturday night and maybe this could be the year their supporters have been waiting patiently for. They needed to win that match in case one of the top sides dropped their bundle and they made sure that they?d stick around for another week. I get the feeling it will be much longer than just one week, though. Mark Gasnier will be missed but when Mathew Head is on his game, no side can match the Dragons for creativity.A massive weekend of finals approaches as Manly play St George Illawarra on Friday night and Newcastle take on Brisbane on Saturday night. The winner of Friday night?s clash will meet Melbourne in week three, whilst Saturday night?s victor will play the Bulldogs on the following Friday for a spot in the Grand Final.I?m tipping the Dragons in the opening match. They were clinical in dismissing the Broncos last weekend and they should prevail despite the loss of Gasnier. Manly?s defence will need to be on and if it is, they?ll give themselves a chance at an upset. But the Dragons? form last weekend was irresistible and they could go all the way to the Grand Final given the shakiness of the Storm on Sunday.As for Saturday night?s clash, I?ll stick with the Broncos but only because Buderus will be missing from the Knights? line-up. The men north of the Tweed have a lot to prove in finals but I?ll give them the benefit of the doubt and say that they?ll beat Newcastle in a close game. This game will be an absolute cracker and Canterbury will be awaiting the winner.That?s all for this week?s rant. Enjoy the finals matches this weekend and I?ll catch you next weekend with a review of those games and a look ahead at the Preliminary Finals.
DRAGONS Supporters, Oh, what a night! In what was one of the most enjoyable evenings in MBDS history we ventured to the Station Hotel in Prahran where Dragons fans were greeted with a venue that is quite honestly the best we have seen in this town. Two massive projector screens; audio beamed loud and clear; great food and drink and a large crowd of red and white supporters - it was the perfect venue for finals rugby league - the business end. And what a fantastic effort! The Dragons we have wanted to see all season turned up on Saturday night to blow the Bronco's off their own turf with a great display of patient, gritty and at times breath taking Rugby League. 3 more display's like we saw last week and we could well and truly have the finals monkey off our back come the first Sunday in October. Led by some inspirational play by the Bookends Ryles and Bailey, the Dragons backs were able to take advantage of the space and field position they were given in a match the Saints never looked like losing. This week's match is against the Manly Sea Eagles on Friday night and we are hoping to smash the MBDS attendence record. Join us for what promises to be another thrilling episode of knockout rugby league. WHAT: Dragons v Sea Eagles, LIVE AND LOUD!! WHEN: 7:30pm Friday 15th September, 2006 WHERE: The Station Hotel Prahran, 96 Greville St Prahran. Let us know if you?re thinking of attending and how many you are bringing along. We want to make sure the Station Hotel is ready for a big night. GO THE DRAGONS!!
NEWCASTLE hooker Danny Buderus is to contest the severity of his grade three dangerous throw charge in an attempt to play again in this year's finals series.
THE Sharks have thrown Brett Seymour an lifeline by signing the troubled ex-Brisbane halfback to a two-year deal.
MANLY centre Steve Bell is expected to overcome a foot injury in time for Friday's semi final against St George Illawarra.
THE Canterbury Bulls have booked a spot in the Bartercard Cup grand final next Monday night.The Bulls thumped the Tamaki Leopards 30-6 in the sudden death semi-final at Auckland?s Mt Smart Stadium last night.The Phil Prescott-coached side will now face Brian McClennan?s Auckland Lions side in a rematch of last season?s grand final. The Leopards started the game at full pace and enjoyed plenty of possession.But it was the Bulls who collected the first points of the game.After weathering the early storm they exploited a few holes in the Tamaki defence to send centre Lee Fidow in for the opening try in the 17th minute.In a sign of the standard of the defence from both sides the next points didn?t come until the 30th minute when Canterbury second rower Jonny Limmer crashed his way over. With the Bulls on a roll the Leopards needed to show some composure.Instead they gifted possession back to Canterbury with a simple handling mistake and it cost them dearly.Their defence looked weak and it wasn?t long before Donovan Aitken found his way through to add another four points to the Bulls? advantage.With Scott Hurrell on target with the boot the Bulls held a 16-0 lead at halftime.Whatever coach Dean Clark said to the Leopards at halftime obviously worked.They came back from the break and again applied plenty of pressure to the Bulls.And it paid off in the 56th minute when Paul Atkins burrowed his way through the Canterbury defence to grab their first points of the game.William Heta collected the extras to reduce the gap to 16-6.That sparked the Leopards into action.But it was only a brief fight-back and with a little over 10 minutes to run on the clock the Bulls added another nail in the coffin when winger Lucas Tamakaha shot over the try line.Hurrell again made easy work of the conversion and then added a penalty to extend the lead to 18 points and put the game out of reach of the Tamaki side.In a show of their ruthless professionalism Canterbury continued to pound the Leopards defence in the dying minutes and added another try to interchange player Ross Turi to their final score. Canterbury Bulls 30 Tries: L. Fidow, J. Limmer, D. Aitken, L. Tamakaha, R. Turi Goals: S. Hurrell (5)Tamaki Leopards 6 Tries: P AtkinsGoals: W. HetaHalftime Score: 16 - 0 To Canterbury Bulls
ALL the results from the weekend's NSWRL VB Premier League, Jersey Flegg Cup and Jim Beam Cup finals. VB Premier League: Final Series - Week OneFriday, September 8Newtown Jets 22 defeated St Mary's-Penrith Cougars 20 at Henson ParkSaturday, September 9Parramatta Eels 28 defeated Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 16 at Parramatta StadiumCanberra Raiders 30 defeated Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 4 at Telstra StadiumSunday, September 10St George-Illawarra Dragons 10 lost to Balmain-Ryde Eastwood Tigers 12 at WIN StadiumCronulla-Sutherland Sharks and St Mary's-Penrith Cougars eliminatedJersey Flegg Cup: Final Series - Week OneFriday, September 8Newcastle Knights 40 defeated Canberra Raiders 10 at EnergyAustralia StadiumSaturday, September 9Balmain Tigers 10 lost to Penrith Panthers 28 at Leichhardt OvalSydney Roosters 14 lost to Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 18 at Parramatta StadiumSunday, September 10St George-Illawarra Dragons 8 lost to Bulldogs 12 at WIN StadiumBalmain Tigers and Canberra Raider EliminatedJim Beam Cup: Final Series - Week TwoSaturday, September 9Newtown Jets 22 defeated Wentworthville Magpies 20 (Minor Semi Final) at Leichhardt OvalSydney Bulls 18 defeated Cabramatta Two Blues 0 (Major Semi Final) at Leichhardt OvalWentworthville EliminatedSource: nswrl.com.au
NEWCASTLE has until midday to decide how to handle the dangerous throw charge that threatens to end the season of hooker Danny Buderus.
JETS Edge Out Cougars in Qualifying Final ThrillerThe Newtown Jets have advanced to the 2006 VB Premier League Preliminary Final following their narrow 20-18 win over the Penrith-St Marys Cougars, in the Qualifying Final match played at Henson Park on Friday night. The Jets have also gone through to the Preliminary Final stage in the Jim Beam Cup next Saturday (September 16th), in the wake of an exciting 22-20 victory against Wentworthville at a rain-lashed Leichhardt Oval on Saturday afternoon.The Jets did it all the hard way against the Cougars, trailing by 18-4 after thirty minutes of the first half before pulling back to 18-10 in arrears through a morale-boosting converted try right on half-time. Newtown gained the lead for the first time in the match with only 18 minutes left to play, and then had to defend desperately for extended periods to preserve that margin. Outgoing Penrith Panthers coach John Lang praised the Cougars after the match, saying that they had stuck to their game plan and made full use of the strong southerly breeze in the first half. He added that the Cougars had done everything that could be asked of a team playing in what was their own elimination semi-final.The Newtown team might have lacked cohesion in the first forty minutes but they struck all the right chords when they really needed to in the nerve-racking second half. They now have two clear weeks to fine-tune their combination for whichever team they will face up to in the Preliminary Final. The Jets best forwards were hooker Heath L?Estrange, front-rowers Glenn Hall and Mickey Paea, second-rower Adam Schubert (who made a great return from the injured list) and in-form lock forward Mitch Aubusson. Fullback Aidan Kirk gave another solid performance at full-back, included a much-needed try in the first half. Winger Troy Malcolm had an excellent second half, claiming one try for himself and positioning Mitch Aubusson for the try that gave Newtown the lead. Halves Jamie Soward and Josh Lewis took some time to ?click? back in the Premier League ranks but both showed what they will be capable of in the remaining finals matches. Newtown?s 22-20 win over Wentworthville in the Jim Beam Cup Elimination Semi-Final at Leichhardt Oval on Saturday was based on a strong, disciplined performance from the entire forward pack. The Jets led 18-6 at the break and extended this to 22-6 early in the second half. As the Jets? mistake rate started to rise, Wentworthville hit back with three quick tries to trail by two points with a full twenty minutes left to play.To say that Newtown had a mixture of good and bad fortune in this match is somewhat of an understatement. With his team trailing by 22-20, the Wentworthville goal-kicker dispatched what looked like being a successful conversion attempt only for the football to be carried back from the air space between the uprights by a massive wind gust ? what one awe-struck Newtown supporter described in Biblical terms as ?the Breath of the Lord?! The misfortune came right on full-time when plucky little Jets half-back Luke Millwood suffered a broken jaw in an appalling off-the-ball incident only seconds before the final siren, one that the NSWRL Judiciary members are sure to look at very closely this week. Newtown?s best forwards were Ritchie Parker, Zoran Ilijoski, Billy Baleilomaloma and Rimini Reweti, while Anton La Vin and Charlie Herekotukutuku had strong games in the backs.The Jets Jim Beam Cup team now moves on to a Preliminary Final appointment against Cabramatta, with this match being played at Leichhardt Oval next Saturday (September 16th) at 3.00pm. Newtown?s VB Premier League side will be playing in the Preliminary Final on either the 22nd or 23rd September. Further match details will be on the Newtown Jets website as soon as they become available.
WEEK One of the Finals has thrown up just the one ?surprise? with the Dragons traveling to Suncorp to take the chocolates from the Broncos, but the rest of the games saw the favourite emerge victorious. League Player Ratings is the only non-newspaper/magazine affiliated Ratings service covering the NRL and after completing the regular season for subscribers, NSC is covering the Finals for League Unlimited.
The LPR is a ranking out of 10, as a guide 3 is the lowest score and for a very early injury, 4 is for an mid-game injury if nothing significant was done or a player has a very poor performance, 5 is a poor performance below standard, 6 is a standard performance, 7 is a very good performance, 8 is an excellent performance, 9 is an outstanding performance and 10 is an unbelievable performance.
Here is the LPR for every player in Week One of the Finals, and for those who like the 3-2-1 method (which is sketchy at best in providing the games best and most consistent player) it is included after each Team List incorporating the LPR.
1st Qualifying Final
NEWCASTLE 25 def MANLY-WARRINGAH 18
Man of the Match ? Andrew Johns, NEW
XXXX STATEWIDE SCORE WRAP
WARRINGTON ensured they will be in the Super League play-offs for the second season in a row after handing out a rare defeat to second-placed Hull.
LEE Hopkins? two tries inspired Harlequins RL to a narrow 31-30 win over Wigan Warriors in a dramatic game at The Stoop, ending any relegation worries for the London side.
HUDDERSFIELD Giants celebrated their engage Super League survival with a 20-12 victory over French outfit Catalans Dragons in Perpignan.
REFEREE'S coach Robert Finch says match day officials were right in not awarding a try to Parramatta forward Glenn Morrison in the Eels narrow finals loss to Melbourne.