ROUND 25 Canberra Raiders 18 v Melbourne Storm 22at Canberra StadiumReferee: Shayne HayneMatch Summary:The Melbourne Storm has defeated a gallant Canberra Raiders in the Nation?s Capital by 22-18.Farewelling six of their veteran star players, the game began at a furious pace with the Raiders out to ambush the Storm early. And ambush they did as captain Clinton Schifcofske instigated a break in just the 4th minute for Jason Smith who drew Storm fullback Billy Slater before flicking the ball inside to workhorse forward Alan Tongue to score next to the posts.The Storm hit back with a gem of their own in the 21st minute as boom youngster Greg Inglis made a huge bust up the middle of the ruck and just about ran the length of the field to gift centre Matt King a try in the corner as the cover came across.A brawl erupted in the 28th minute of the game after Jason Croker was ruled to have tackled Slater in the air and to be fair it looked a bit awkward. King took issue with Croker before Canberra?s man mountain Michael Weyman steamed into the fracas, which was just simmering down, and pushed King heavily. King reacted by landing a punch on Weyman?s noggin and caused a bit of claret to flow before the situation was calmed down and both were sent to the sin bin.Inglis backed up his earlier effort ten minutes later when he took an intercept of a long pass by Smith and dashed 85 metres to score under the posts with Matt Geyer offering a good shield against Raiders winger Adrian Purtell. And then in the final minute of the first half Storm no.7 Cooper Cronk rammed home the advantage with a great flat ball to back-rower Ryan Hoffman who barged across close to the line to extend their halftime lead to 16-6.The second half opened a bit poorly with the Raiders making mistakes and the Storm bombing a few tries and failing to capitalise on opportunities. The visitors finally crossed the stripe in the 67th minute after a penalty allowed them to setup camp in the Raiders 20m zone. Nathan Friend delivered a short pass to Dallas Johnson who strolled over under the posts unopposed to push the lead out to 22-6.After several failed attempts, the Raiders mounted an attacking raid in Melbourne?s territory and hooker Lincoln Withers found a way over the line by way of burrowing to score and with Schifcofske?s conversion the gap was narrowed to 10 points and the home side had their tails in the air.Tensions were raised five minutes later as Tongue scored his second after Todd Carney gave a super inside pass to Marshall Chalk who stormed upfield and grubbered to the fiery-haired lock and he scored under the posts.The late surge nearly cam off as Canberra had several chances to score in the remaining six minutes of play, including a passage where Carney kicked from a 20m tap downfield to force a scrum 35m out from the Storm line.But it wasn?t to be as the minor premiers hung on to claim the two points and get back in the winners circle following last week?s loss. They host the Sea Eagles next week with the JJ Giltinan Shield heading south.For Canberra, I think this loss shows that they won?t be easy-beats in the finals and it?s probably good practise for them as they will more than likely face the Storm in Melbourne in week 1 of the semis. They play Cronulla next week at Shark Park and will hope to win there as they still need a few results to go their way.Scorers:Canberra Raiders: 18Tries: Alan Tongue(2), Lincoln WithersGoals: Clinton Schifcofske 3/3Melbourne Storm: 22Tries: Ryan Hoffman, Greg Inglis, Dallas Johnson, Matt KingGoals: Cameron Smith 3/4Crowd: 21,255Halftime: Storm 16-6By the Clock:Cool but sunny late afternoon down here in the Nation's Capital as the Raiders host the Storm in what should be an entertaining game.Canberra will be looking to secure a finals berth in ernest whilst farewelling six of the club's veteran players.Melbourne should be keen to bounce back after last week's surprise loss to the Warriors even with the minor premiership wrapped up.Changes: Jake Webster drops off the bench for the Storm who are otherwise unchanged. For Canberra, Todd Carney will start with Lincoln Withers moving back to the bench.1 min: NEWS The Raiders kick-off in the first half.4 min: TRY Canberra RaidersThe Raiders have come to play tonight, scoring a fantastic try in the opening minutes. After some expansive footy, Schifcofske ducks and weaves before flicking an inside pass to Smith who carries it towards Slater before finding Tongue for a try next to the posts. Brilliant Stuff. The Schif converts and the Raiders take an early lead. Raiders 6-08 min: NEWS Canberra are finding plenty of yards down the western flank where Inglis and Geyer are defending.13 min: NEWS This game is being played at a very fast pace. The Storm look a little shell-shocked to be honest. I'm not sure they expected such commitment from Canberra. 18 min: NEWS Canberra enjoying a whole lot more possession and better field position.21 min: TRY Melbourne StormThis game just keeps getting better. Inglis makes a break mid-field after a big kick buries the Storm in their own half. He beats no less than six men, including fullback Schifcofske with a huge palm, before offloading to King who beats the attention of Mogg to score in the corner. Smith hits the post with the conversion from the sideline and the Raiders cling to a slim lead. Raiders 6-425 min: NEWS A near thing there as the Storm start to warm to the contest. Kidwell made a break and found Cronk in support who looked for Geyer out wide only to butcher it with poor positioning from both halfback and wing.28 min: NEWS A massive brawl has broken out after Croker was penalised for tackling Slater in the air. King took issue with Croker before Weyman ran a good 10-15 metres to push King and keep the fury alive. King threw the first punch and he is joined in the sin bin by Weyman.33 min: TRY Melbourne StormAs the Raiders pressure the Storm line Smith throws a long ball which is intercepted by Inglis and he runs 85m to score. It's exciting stuff down here tonight. Smith adds the extras to open up a 4-point lead. Storm 10-638 min: NEWS Another neart miss as Kidwell loses the ball close to the line with a try begging.39 min: TRY Melbourne StormThe Storm extend their lead with Hoffman receiving a nice short ball close to the line by Cronk and crashing over about 20m in from touch. Smith boots the conversion and the Storm have a handy 10-point lead. Storm 16-640 min: NEWS The Storm head into the sheds leading by 10 after a surge in the second half.I'd say beither coach would be very happy right now. Bellamy is probably a bit upset with King and the poor start his team had.Elliot is probably a bit angry with the way the Raiders folded in the final ten minutes of the half to allow the visitors back in.The game is still wide open but Melbourne appear to be getting their stride.41 min: NEWS Melbourne restart the match and we've got a pulsating 40 minutes remaining.43 min: NEWS Slater catches Smith with a high shot but it's not placed on report. 45 min: NEWS The Raiders have been caught with the ball on the last in the second half twice now. Silly stuff.50 min: NEWS Canberra making a few errors here and handing more possession to the Storm.52 min: NEWS The Storm bombing another opportunity as Inglis makes a bust and offer an atrocious pass to Cronk who grasses it.55 min: NEWS Jason Smith leaves the field with a lateral ligament injury.62 min: NEWS Melbourne hooker Cameron Smith is denied a try after sneaking out of dummy half but being held up. The Storm are awarded a penalty for Canberra's markers not being square.64 min: TRY Melbourne StormIt didn't take too long and the Storm capitalise on their field position. Nathan Friend goes from dummy half and gives Johnson an easy try under the posts unopposed. Smith adds the extras. Storm 22-668 min: TRY Canberra RaidersWithers is in for the Raiders, burrowing over close to the line to offer some hope of a revival. The Schif converts. Storm 22-1273 min: TRY Canberra RaidersWe're setting up for a grand finale here as Tongue scores his second following a great inside ball to Marshall Chalk who burst up the middle and grubbered to find the hardy red-head. The Schif converts and the Raiders are back in the hunt. Storm 22-1876 min: NEWS Carnery finds the line from a 20m tap and the Raiders have a scrum in Melbourne territory.80 min: NEWS The Storm hang on here to win but Canberra threw absolutely everything they had at them. The visitors are being booed from the field as the Raiders veteran's go down in style.-----------------------------------------Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Alan Tongue2 - Greg Inglis1 - Cooper Cronk-----------------------------------------
MATCH report for today's QLD Wizard Cup elimination semi final between Easts and Tweed Heads.
WITH just a few rounds remaining in this year?s Telstra Premiership, the Canberra Raiders find themselves in a position that has most 'experts' scratching their heads for answers.
ROUND 25 Manly Sea Eagles 21 v Canterbury Bulldogs 20at Brookvale OvalReferee: Sean HampsteadMatch Summary:The Manly Sea Eagles have claimed a thoroughly exciting 21-20 win over the Canterbury Bulldogs at Brookvale Oval tonight. The Sea Eagles led 18-12 at half time.Manly opened the scoring inside two minutes off a fairly lucky bounce. Monaghan put in a clearing kick, El Masri let the ball bounce allowing Orford to recover the ball and race away to score. The lead was extended to 12-0 after seven minutes after winger Michael Robertson out jumped Bulldogs defenders to dot down out wide.The Bulldogs came storming back however, with Nate Myles crashing over from close range. Andrew Ryan tied the game up with another close range try after 25 minutes. Matt Orford landed a penalty goal near the end of the half, while Shayne Dunley scored a contentious try just on half time.The try scoring for the night was completed just after half time, with Emelio running through a large gap to score. On 65 minutes Andrew Ryan was denied a try by the video referee, despite it being quite similar to the Dunley try in the first half.Manly retook the lead with 12 minutes to go after the Bulldogs were found offside after a Patten error. An El Masri penalty goal meant that the 20,163 crowd would get their moneys worth. After Brett Stewart was denied a try from dummy half, Orford was able to set easily for a field goal, and with two minutes to go he slotted him the winning point.Next week Manly make the tough road trip south to Melbourne to face the Storm, while the Bulldogs travel west to face the Panthers.Scorers:Manly Sea Eagles: 21Tries: Shayne Dunley, Matt Orford, Michael RobertsonGoals: Matt Orford 4/5Field Goals: Matt OrfordCanterbury Bulldogs: 20Tries: Nate Myles, Andrew Ryan, Andrew EmelioGoals: Hazem El Masri 4/4By the Clock:Good evening from Brookvale Oval. Tonight we have the Sea Eagles hosting a depleted Bulldogs team.Last week Manly dealt to Souths 38-16, while the Bulldogs were hammered 30-0 by the Broncos.Earlier in the year the Sea Eagles destroyed the Dogs 40-14.The Bulldogs will play 1-17. Rose is on the bench for Manly.1 min: We're underway at Brookvale. There is the possibility of thunderstorms tonight.2 min: TRY Manly Sea EaglesThe Sea Eagles put in a clearing kick, El Masri lets it bounce, Orford recovers the ball and darts away to score. Orford converts. Sea Eagles 6-05 min: The Bulldogs have a kick partially blocked, it is ruled not to have been played at and Utai gets tackled on the last.7 min: Watmough and Miles have a bit of a push and shove in backplay.7 min: VIDEO REF - For a Manly try...7 min: TRY Manly Sea EaglesOrford puts up a cross field kick, Robertson outjumps El Masri and dots down out wide. Orford converts from touch. Sea Eagles 12-09 min: Maitua penalised for a high tackle on the try scorer.10 min: Manly have the Bulldogs overawed at the moment.14 min: TRY Canterbury BulldogsAfter a magnificent Patten kick return the Bulldogs get a penalty. Myles gets a short ball to crash over next to the posts. El Masri converts. Sea Eagles 12-618 min: During a great hitup by Kite, Sonny Bill knocks the ball out of his grasp.20 min: The Bulldogs get a lucky six-again call off a non-existant charge down, the Bulldogs get a dud call on a knock on a play later. Orford makes a break from the scrum base.21 min: While Manly are hot on attack, Burns is penalised in possession for an improper play the ball despite Sherwin knocking him off his feet.22 min: The Bulldogs go very close on the last tackle.23 min: INJURY - Matai looking very groggy after being tackled. Manly are running through the Bulldogs like a good curry. The Manly defence isn't much better.25 min: TRY Canterbury BulldogsRyan gets across in similar fashion to Myles. This time it is a long pass from dummy half that had Ryan inside his defender and he crashed over. El Masri converts. 12 all.30 min: Orford puts in a banana kick, Ryan takes it on the full and returns in with great strength.31 min: 40/20 - Sherwin kicks fromm just inside the 40, finds touch just inside the 10.32 min: Utai spills the ball with the line begging.33 min: Matai breaks and kicks ahead. Penalty Manly as he was taken out after kicking.34 min: Stewart attempts to dive over from dummy half, but he loses the ball in the process.36 min: PENALTY GOAL Manly Sea EaglesThe Bulldogs are penalised for slowing down the play the ball. Orford nails the penalty goal. Sea Eagles 14-1237 min: Holdsworth penalised for a high tackle on Dunley.38 min: VIDEO REF - For a Manly try...38 min: TRY Manly Sea EaglesDunley runs right through the Bulldogs defence and score. Very questionable call. Orford misses. Sea Eagles 18-12Halftime: The Bulldogs did well to recover from trailing by 12 very early, but faltered late in the half and trail 18-12.40 min: Back underway at Brookie, and the rain comes down.42 min: Another clearing kick bounces brilliantly for Manly, but they get penalised for being offside.43 min: TRY Canterbury BulldogsWith Orford down injured, the Bulldogs find a gap in the defensive line and Emelio strolls across the tryline. Yet again very similar to the first two Bulldogs tries. El Masri converts. 18 all.45 min: Menzies forces a Bulldogs error right in front of the posts just after the restart.47 min: INJURY - Orford off the field after picking up a knee injury.49 min: INJURY - Brad Morrin (Bulldogs) out for the night with a partial dislocation of his kneecap.51 min: INJURY UPDATE - Orford getting his knee strapped. He may be able to return tonight.53 min: It is really hosing down at the moment.57 min: Plenty of errors in the game, not helped by the rain. McIlwain smashed by Matai.59 min: 40/20 - Monaghan picks up a 40/20 for Manly. Manly waste the attacking chance by knocking on on tackle two.60 min: NEWS - Orford back on the field.64 min: Bulldogs starting to play their normal game, trying to force the error.65 min: VIDEO REF - For a Bulldogs try...65 min: NO TRY - BulldogsRyan ruled to have knocked on over the goal line. Odd decision given the Dunley try earlier tonight.68 min: PENALTY GOAL Manly Sea EaglesPatten loses the ball and it is recovered by an offside player. Orford slots the two from 25 out, right in front. Sea Eagles 20-1870 min: CROWD - 20,16372 min: PENALTY GOAL Canterbury BulldogsThe Bulldogs catch the Sea Eagles offside. El Masri nails the penalty goal. 20 all.74 min: Bulldogs lose the ball 40 out from their own line.76 min: Manly look to score a try instead of the field goal, the ball goes dead.78 min: FIELD GOAL Manly Sea EaglesOrford lands a field goal. Sea Eagles 21-20-----------------------------------------Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Matt Orford (Sea Eagles)2 - Steve Menzies (Sea Eagles)1 - Andrew Ryan (Bulldogs)-----------------------------------------
NORTH Queensland coach Graham Murray has thrown his support behind the club's decision to tear up the contract of disgraced prop Mitchell Sargent.
DRAGONS veteran Shaun Timmins has today been cleared by medical staff to play in tomorrow night?s clash with the Sharks at WIN Stadium.
SO here we are, well and truly at the business end of the Auckland Rugby League Lion Red Fox Memorial competition. The final five has sorted itself out and a closer finish has rarely been seen in the long history of this competition.
BARTERCARD CUP PREVIEWRound 18 Deferred Games and Finals Week OneDEFERRED MATCHESSunday, 27 AugustWAICOA BAY STALLIONS vs AUCKLAND LIONSResthills Park, Hamilton2:30PM Kick offThe Stallions will be looking out to finish their season on a high in this deferred fixture against the Lions in Hamilton. If the Stallions can win the match they will jump the Falcons into 7th place. The Lions can't be touched at the top of the table, and if they lose they will have to handle finishing three points clear of their nearest challenger, Canterbury.WAICOA BAY STALLIONSTUHOEA WATENEMICHAEL MOOREJUNIOR AURUSAULA FIFITADREW FLETCHERISAAC JOHNHAYDEN KARENA (C)SIMON BEALEPETER PRIMELINDSAY WILSONMARRIN HAGGIEGEORGE KINGINICHOLAS STANDENBENCHTANGATA MOEAKIANARU GRANTTROY WATERSMOKONUIARANGI McGRATHCoach: Hiki RuteneAUCKLAND LIONSPAUL FISI?IAHIMALOFOU SOLOMONAMIGUEL STARTANTHONY SWANNWILLIAM SORENSON(C) STEVE BUCKINGHAMKELVIN WRIGHTSIONE PUHAREGAN WIGGDYLAN DAVISEDDIE PURCELLFABIAN SOUTERWAYNE McDADEBENCHLUI TOIMOANASAM McKEDNRYPALETASALA ALEPAUL CAMPBELLCoach: Brian McClennanWELLINGTON ORCAS vs NORTHERN STORMWhakatikai Park, Wellington3:00pm KickoffThe second deferred match sees the wooden spooner Northern Storm travel to the national captial to take on the Orcas, who are only a spot ahead of them on the ladder. If the Orcas claim a win, they can jump right up into seventh.WELLINGTON ORCASALEHANA MARAJACK LOPAMELI KOLIAVUOMPALUS KUADESTA BUCHANANASHLEY PARKERBEN TARAEKAMATTHEW FITZGERALDLEON BOYDDALLAS RENNIE (C)HAYDEN DAVISJAMES MOALABEN MATULINOBENCHNATHAN McNAMARAPATRICK MATULINODANIEL MISADESMOND MITICoach: Paul BergmanNORTHERN STORMBRENDAN HIKAKARAYMON WALLACEHENRY TEOFILAMASON PUREINOKE TAUFADALEY JOHNSONTORY McKAYVINCENT MAFILINTON PRICESTEVE RAUADAM DONALDSONVICTOR TUTUILAJOE RAUBENCHHENRY GODINETDYLAN WEREERIC ABRAHAMJOE TOOTU-IOANECoach: Geoff MortonWEEK ONE PLAYOFFSSaturday, 26 August2nd vs 3rdCANTERBURY BULLS vs WAITAKERE RANGERSRugby League Park, Christchurch6:00pm KickoffThe first game of the playoffs looms as an interesting clash. The last time the sides clashed in Christchurch, the Rangers claimed a 30-18 victory. Since then however, the Bulls have been in a good vein of form, including running up 60 points at the Central Falcons in their final regular season game. A potential upset looms, however Canterbury are unlikely to slip up at home twice against the same team.CANTERBURY BULLSLUSI SIONESCOTT HURRELLDONAVAN AITKENLEE FIDOWLUCAS TAMAKAHAJOSH REUBENDUANE WINETIVINCE WHARESHANE BEYERSALEX TIMOJONNY LIMMERDANIEL METCALFCOREY LAWRIEBENCHGARETH COOKCLINTON FRASERROSS TURILOUIS FANENECoach: Philip PrescottWAITAKERE RANGERSCLIFFORD BEVERLEYBILLY CLARKENLEE TAMATOAROBINSON GODFREYMANA TUIPULOTU(CO-C) GAVIN BAILEYBERNARD PERENARAKARL EDMONDSONDEAN SHEPHERDHAMISH BARCLAY(CO-C) HENRY TURUAKARL GUTTENBEILSCOTT JONESBENCHJUNIOR FIUMARK TOE?LAUJAYE PUKEPUKEROB SEUALACoach: Bernie PerenaraMonday, 28 August4th vs 5thTAMAKI LEOPARDS vs COUNTIES MANUKAU JETZMt Smart Stadium, Auckland8.00pm Kick Off An interesting clash between two Auckland sides come up here. The Leopards have been flying under the radar the last few weeks, while the form of the Jetz has been inconsistent to say the least. TAMAKI LEOPARDSPAUL ATKINSTAAVILI LEAUNOAAIROE BOAZACONSTANTINE MIKAISAAKO HAGAITOAWILLIAM HETA (CO-C)MANA ASHFORDGEORGE TUAKURATROY BECROFTSINAVE FAITALE (CO-C)LEESON AH MAUISAAC LIAVAAGEOFFREY RUAPORODARIN KINGIBENCHRICHARD JOHNSON(KOTISI FAKALATA)SIONE NIUILAFRED TURUWHENUACOOPER VUNACoach: Dean ClarkCOUNTIES MANUKAU JETZDAVE HEKETOAJUNIOR TAVAGALIU FALEONOMARVIN FILIPOTALIVAKAOLA TUIFUA(C) ANDREW WHARTONELIAKIM UASIANDREW TAUAILEIMONI MOALATALIPOPE TUIFELASAIROMAN HIFOJAMES TAVAGASONNY FA?IBENCHJEFFREY MATAI(MAURICE AH VOA)WILLIAM WOLFGRAMMIRO TEARIKIJOHN VAIMAUGACoach: Gary Kemble
MANLY coach Des Hasler is the latest mentor to call on the NRL to employ a second referee during matches.
HUDDERSFIELD captain Chris Thorman is "extremely doubtful" for the Challenge Cup final with a hamstring injury and is undergoing acupuncture to get fit.
TWO weeks left and last round proved a rare commodity with five away teams coming away victories in a round of upsets, particularly in the northern end of the ladder.I?m pretty proud this week as I picked five winners from last round including the upset of the year with the Warriors toppling the Storm at home. It takes me to 102/166 (61%) and I?ve finally cracked the century for the year. And not before time either!This round poses a few threats and also very little value unless you?re a Sharks fan. But still, they are well overpriced at $4.50 for the win even with last week taken into consideration.Sea Eagles v BulldogsThe weekend kicks off in fine fashion up at Fortress Brooky in probably the most important game of the round.Canterbury are out to restore some faith in their legion of fans and themselves after last week?s humiliating 30-nil loss to Brisbane. They had a few excuses like injuries to Tonga, Asotasi and Myles, but unfortunately two of those guys appear gone for the season. Mason has been suspended as well, compounding the damage, and whilst Myles is starting this week he is sure to be a little ginger from his knock last week. I like SBW in the backs but whereas earlier he was able to float on the fringes and become the extra forward, this no longer applies. Grimaldi?s absence is also a worry as his value cannot be underscored. He?s a real worker and will be sorely missed in this pack.Strangely, Manly have not defeated Canterbury at Brookvale since 1996, the year Manly last won the comp. They did enough to beat Souths last week whilst playing within themselves for the first half. They can really turn it on when they want to, but can they beat the Doggies here? They will need put in a clinical display if they are to stand any chance as Canterbury?s discipline will be the key. But I?m tipping Manly will go to the air as their wingers have a significant height advantage and overall they have a much faster team. The Manly backrow should stand-up even without BK and the bench looks healthier than Canterbury?s.I?m going to tip the Sea Eagles here but it will be a close one. Orford should shine, and if he can?t then I think all this talk of him in Green and Gold can be laid to rest. Manly also got them earlier in the year by 40-14.Raiders v StormSuper Saturday kicks-off in our Nation?s capital as the Storm head up the Hume looking to bounce back after their first loss in 11 games and only fourth all year.The Storm were a bit ordinary last week and I think the signs were there in their match against Brisbane. They got rolled by the Warriors forwards and out-enthused in the backs which is surprising considering that?s usually the Storm?s caper. They welcome back Slater into the custodial role, pushing Inglis to centre and Webster to the bench, which I find a little strange. I?m sure it?s all part of Bellamy?s master plan though, but with Crocker still out their forwards lack some firepower even with White?s return. Melbourne overwhelmingly have the wood on Canberra after winning their past eight matches against one another.Canberra head into this game with a slightly uncertain future. They are more likely than not to make the top 8 but they could miss it if they lose both their remaining games. This game will be good practise for the semi?s because given their shabby for-and-against they could face off against the Storm in a fortnight down at Olympic Park. They?re fielding a pretty strong and under-rated side with biggish forwards that won?t take a backward step against Melbourne. I?ve been impressed with Carney of late and again the team are playing to their potential.Whilst I proved last week that I?m not afraid to pick against the Storm, it?s pretty hard to take the Raiders here. Whilst the visitors give away a bit in the forwards, I think they?ll hit back in style and with Canberra coming off the bye they might struggle a bit.Dragons v SharksHeading north and a little closer to the coast, the Sharkies descend upon Wollongong Showground to play the Dragons in a local derby away from home. I would have thought they?d get a better crowd at Kogarah.Cronulla undid 65 minutes of solid work last week to come tumbling down like a house of cards to Penrith. When you lead by that much you should never lose but Raper hasn?t made as many changes as you?d expect. Cronulla?s backs will struggle to keep up here I think with Gasnier and Cooper facing off against Pomeroy and Bailey. Gaz made a mess of a few Tigers last week and if he plays anything like that again the Sharks could be in for a bath. In the forwards, Scott in the second row is a bit unusual. He does have some size and it worked with Bird, but I can?t see this causing the Dragons any problems. The bench is reasonable though, with a good mix, but I?d drop Vagana as he has added very little lately.The Dragons finally hit back last week after sustaining five consecutive losses and dropping to seventh on the ladder. But it was against a depleted Tigers outfit who have struggled for consistency recently. I think it?s enough for them to turn a mental corner now, and the Dragons have a good opportunity to get back into the mid-section of the top 8 and stake a claim for the premiership. Head is still out leaving the team unchanged from last week and I think they have the right mix of forwards on the bench. Hornby has been doing well in the playmaker?s absence and it begs the question of how badly they need him.Cronulla haven?t won at WIN since defeating Illawarra 26-6 in Round 7 1989. I can?t see any reason why that would change this week given the circumstances each team finds themselves in.Knights v PanthersOur final game of the satellite city Super Saturday bonanza kicks off in the Hunter where the Knights do battle with Penrith in an interesting little contest.If they?re any chance at all, the Panthers need to win, and win big. It could happen with Joey out but the home ground advantage up at Marathon is always hard to overcome. It doesn?t seem to worry Penrith too much travelling up there. They made a remarkable comeback against the Sharkies last week which will give them plenty of confidence heading into this game. Their team is unchanged and not a bad line-up to be honest. They do what they can with the ball and the forwards are tough yet unexplosive. I thought Stapleton went well last week. Campbell is the key here ? his freakish darts around the rucks could prove Newcastle?s undoing if they fail to wrap him up.The Knights need to be careful here and I think they might pay for not doing so. If they win then they?re happy as they take a week off with the bye next week and then welcome Joey back for the semi?s. but their record without Joey is very poor and although they beat the Cowboys at home, well who hasn?t? They only won by 7 points and their penetration of the line was a bit pedestrian. They really do need to win here as they stand some chance of a home final if they do. Then they can spend the last round watching other bash each other whilst preparing to face off against them.But I smell a bit of an upset here. I think the Panthers might jag a win here even if it?s arguable who has more to play for. The forwards look stronger and whilst Mullen did well last week I think his ribs might get a bit of a workout this time around - Panthers in a close one.*Craig Gower has been ruled out, but I'll stick with the Panthers in any case.Warriors v RoostersWe cross the Tasman next for the early Sunday game where the Chooks are up against the Warriors in a bit of a dead rubber, but I expect there to be some feeling between the clubs.Easts have been unimpressive recently and tend to drop their bundle a bit. After leading against Parra early on the failed to pressure them for most of the rest of the game, but admittedly there were a few dodgy ref?s calls. The Roosters are fielding the same team as last week minus Harrison who?s gone with a serious knee injury. Finch and Lewis are working well at the scrumbase and Soliola an Cross are going strongly in the centres. This is probably one area where the hold an advantage over the Warriors, with Hohaia likely to be targeted whilst Mannering goes pretty well. Easts would also be stupid not to kick-off in Vatuvei?s direction after he spilt three over the sideline against Melbourne.Hopefully Cleary has worked on that with the big cougar throughout the week because when he gets into some space he?s an exciting player, laying on the winning try against the Storm. The Warriors have proved they are capable of taking the best in the business and the Roosters are a long way short of that. At home I think they are a pretty good thing here with their forwards likely to lay the platform for victory. They are fearless up front with Wiki, Anderson, Guttenbiel, Tuimavave and Rapira off the bench with the steadying influence of Price invaluable. Cleary might have the 2002 GF in the back of his mind and as such will work the boys into a frenzy in the sheds.Even with Easts? solid record across the ditch I think the home side are playing much better and should win the contest.Rabbitohs v CowboysAnother dead rubber as the Cowboys fly to Sydney to take on the Rabbitohs out at League Headquarters in homebush.The Cows have recorded three wins in their last 16 outings and have faded dismally in the premiership reckoning. And now one of their fellas has been caught sniffing the white powder. Well, can it get any worse for them? Probably not is the answer. I expect the Cowboys to turn up and at leat have a crack but that might be a bit over the top for them. With hindsight one can only assume that the victory against Brisbane was an aberration and they were lucky to beat Souths a fortnight before. Their team is looking a little shabby and I?m not sure they can even get close.Souths on the other hand have plenty to play for. They?ve finally sorted out who wants to have a go and who doesn?t. Injuries aside they are fielding their top team and it doesn?t look too bad at all. I think the forwards can get stuck in and dislodge their more fancied rivals and there?s plenty to talk about in the backs where the teams are very much different in size and skill. One thing?s for sure though, I bet Merritt scores a try or two!Souths are favourites for the first time in living memory and I?m going to back them here to win at Homebush in front of potentially a new all-time low crowd for Rugby League.Eels v BroncosThe final match of the round sees the irrepressible Broncos travel out to central Sydney to face the Eels in what should be a fabulous game of footy.Brisbane finally bounced back against Canterbury last week after several below par submissions that had their end-of-season ?slumps? under the microscope once more. But in all seriousness, the forwards finally stood up against a good pack, Hodges had a blinder and the rest was academic. A few Doggies went down thanks to some exuberant defence giving rise to the return of the Broncos. Hunt is on the wing and that?s probably a good thing but I?d be tempted to play him at first receiver. I suppose those guys play there most of the time these days anyway. Where Brisbane will win the game is in the forwards though.Parra are a good team and I?ve enjoyed watching them over the past two months. If they can win here I?ll take my hat off to them and award them the premiership. But unfortunately they are missing a few players that are difficult to replace. Props don?t grow on trees these days and the loss of Cayless is significant. They simply don?t have the depth in the front row to combat what Brisbane have up front and I?m not the only one who will point it out. Cordoba goes alright but he?ll need to have a 200% lift to carry Parra. Hindmarsh, Morrison and Riddell are the ones that need to put in that bit more.I?m tipping Brisbane in this one but Parra will make it hard for them. I can?t wait to sit back on the lounge and watch this game following on from the other two earlier live matches on Fox. At $2.08 Brisbane are good odd and you should take them this week even with the likely strong home crowd.The Tigers have the bye in Round 25 as they look to wind down their season. It hasn?t exactly gone to plan for the reigning premiers but the number of injuries they?ve sustained has taken its? toll. They take on the Bunnies at Leichhardt next week and I?m sure a few more youngsters will see first grade.
ENGLAND Rugby League have named a 20-man train-on squad to begin preparations for this autumn?s 2006 Federation Shield tournament.
NORTH Queensland prop Mitchell Sargent has reportedly been sacked from the NRL club after returning a positive test to cocaine.Sargent returned a positive in-house test to the recreational drug earlier this month, according to News Limited. The Country Origin prop's future remains unclear, with the NRL expected to impose the mandatory two-year ban on Sargent.The 27-year-old's positive drug test is the latest drama to engulf the Cowboys, who earlier this year denied a sex scandal and the club and will miss this year's playoffs after contesting last year's grand final.Sargent is the first NRL player since?s Manly?s Andrew Walker in 2004 to test positive to a recreational drug.
THE true value of loyalty
DRAGONS Supporters, After last weeks annihilation of the reigning premiers at Oki Jubilee, this week the Dragons take on local rivals the Sharks in a Saturday night derby at WIN stadium. Using Ben Hornby closer to the ruck and demonstrating more patience with the ball were both critical factors in the win. Clearly we are back in the race. The MBDS were invited to the Melbourne-based West Tigers Fanatics group's screening at the Rising Sun Hotel at Richmond last Sunday . A great afternoon was had by all. Plenty of light hearted banter was flying between both groups, and the Tigers fans certainly felt confident right up until kick off when they realised who they were actually up against and that it was all in vain. Watching the game with another opposing local supporters group added that extra spark to the day and we look forward to the next clash with the Tigers. This week?s screening is at the Grosvenor Hotel on Saturday night against the Sharks. With 2 rounds to go this is another crucial match to boost our run to the semi finals. Get along to the Grosvenor to show your support for the Dragons, and why not enjoy a meal in the restaurant before the game as many of us did last time. See you there! WHAT: Dragons v Sharks WHERE: Grosvenor Hotel, 10 Brighton Road East St Kilda WHEN: Saturday 26th August, 7:30pm LIVE. GO THE DRAGONS!