LEEDS got their season back on track by ruthlessly disposing of local rivals Castleford by 66-14 in their rearranged engage Super League clash.Following the postponement of the tie on Friday night due to freezing conditions in West Yorkshire, Leeds wasted little time in reapplying the heat on current leaders St Helens, making a mockery of the close battles these two clubs have shared over the years and in the process subjecting Terry Matterson?s men to a record Super League loss.Coach Tony Smith was able to hand a Leeds debut to forward Ian Kirke, while Danny Williams retained his place on the wing at the expense of Lee Smith.Castleford were able to welcome Matt Whitaker back from an ankle injury, although a knee problem ruled Danny Ward out of making an instant return to the club which sacked him just over a month ago.Despite securing their first win of the season against Catalans last weekend, any hopes the Tigers may have had of backing up that win were well and truly over by the interval.Aside from their poor discipline, conceding eight first-half penalties, they also shipped seven tries to trail 42-8 at the break.Chev Walker and Rob Burrow were the main architects of their downfall, the former bagging a hat-trick and the latter a brace as Leeds ran riot. They had taken an early lead through Burrow, who collected Williams? pass to race over, before Willie Poching breezed into a gap to score in the corner.Walker then posted a length-of-the-field score after a Paul Handforth pass went astray with Leeds camped on their own line, quickly followed by Kirke marking his debut by cantering into a gap to score under the posts.With Castleford visibly wilting, Burrow outfoxed their defence to jink over for his second, before Walker registered a quickfire double, the second of which came right on the half-time hooter to secure his treble. Kevin Sinfield converted all seven tries, while Castleford?s contribution came via a try from Tom Haughey and two Craig Huby goals. All their points were scored while down to 12 men, with Danny Sculthorpe in the sin bin for dissent.The second half began in similar fashion with Danny McGuire racing clear of the defence after collecting Richie Mathers? pass, before Ryan McGoldrick provided some respite for the visitors, collecting Gray Viane?s offload to cross the line.With the scores set at 48-14, any hopes of a comeback were somewhat fanciful, and that was confirmed when Mathers helped Leeds pass the 50-point barrier with his first try of the season, stepping past the Tigers? defence with ease.After a quiet period, Ali Lauitiiti restored order with a typically rampaging effort, before Ryan Bailey followed suit after charging down the middle of the field. Sinfield converted both and ended with a 100% record from his 11 goal attempts.Leeds: Mathers, Donald, Walker, Senior, Williams, McGuire, Burrow, Bailey, Diskin, Peacock, Lauitiiti, Poching, Sinfield.Replacements: Millard, Feather, Kirke, Ablett.Castleford: Platt, Pryce, Shenton, Dyer, Viane, McGoldrick, Handforth, Sculthorpe, Henderson, Nutley, Huby, Whitaker, Haughey.Replacements: Bird, Kain, Blanch, Boyle.Leeds (42) 66.Tries: Burrow 2, Poching, Walker 3, Kirke, McGuire, Mathers, Lauitiiti, Bailey. Goals: Sinfield 11.Castleford (8) 14.Tries: Haughey, McGoldrick. Goals: Huby 3.Referee: Phil Benson (Bolton)Att: 16,650
ALBERT Torrens crashed over in the dying moments as Huddersfield snatched victory by 18-16 in a tense engage Super League encounter at Wakefield on Saturday night.The Wildcats spent most of the second half on the back foot at Belle Vue but had been clinging on to a two-point lead until Torrens sneaked over with three minutes remaining.Two tries from David Solomona had helped the Wildcats open up a 16-8 interval lead but the Kiwi forward allowed the Giants back into the game when he was sin-binned in the second half.Semi Tadulala also crossed for the Wildcats while Chris Thorman scored 10 points for the Giants.It was another freezing night in West Yorkshire but the Belle Vue pitch was in good condition after spending much of the week under cover to protect it from snow and frost.Huddersfield drew first blood as two penalties allowed Thorman to gain good ground and then kick the first goal of the match.The Wildcats responded well and quickly switched play to the other end but David March almost inexplicably missed a chance to level the scores when he slammed a straightforward penalty against an upright.The home side lacked nothing in passion though and claimed the lead when Solomona was contentiously awarded a try on 12 minutes.The second row powered to the line and although some television angles appeared to show him tackled short, he was given the benefit of the doubt after lengthy deliberation by video referee Dave Campbell.Huddersfield hit straight back with a flowing move involving Stephen Wild and Robbie Paul that saw Thorman race in behind the posts from a smart overhead pass by James Evans.Home fans were incensed at a perceived forward pass by Paul but Thorman capitalised and added the conversion.The Wildcats again came back at their visitors and levelled as Tadulala raced away from a Kevin Henderson pass.Solomona then crashed over from dummy half ? Campbell having little doubt this time ? and after missing three attempts, March was replaced as kicker and Ben Jeffries converted.The stand-off added a penalty but Huddersfield moved back within two points as Thorman engineered a superb try six minutes into the second half.Paul Smith gathered well from Thorman?s astute kick and sent Steve Snitch racing over to score against his old club. Thorman again added the extras.The Giants gained a significant advantage as Solomona was sin-binned for holding down Eorl Crabtree and the prop almost capitalised as he charged over but Mark Applegarth prevented him grounding the ball.But despite almost incessant Giants pressure, Wakefield managed to hold out for the 10 minutes Solomona was off the field and Colum Halpenny went close to relieving the pressure on the break.Yet Solomona?s absence had seen the momentum swing in Huddersfield?s direction and the Giants battled to the end to secure their second win.The Giants were awarded a scrum after the ball was knocked down and the ball was worked wide for Australian Torrens to dive in.Wakefield: Halpenny, White, Demetriou, Henderson, Tadulala, Jeffries, March, Griffin, Betham, MacGillivray, Solomona, J. Field, Applegarth.Replacements: Korkidas, Elima, Wrench, Saxton.Huddersfield: Reilly, Aspinwall, Evans, Torrens, Gardner, Thorman, Paul, Crabtree, Drew, Snitch, Nero, Jones, Wild.Replacements: Jackson, March, Smith, McDonald.Wakefield (16) 16.Tries: Solomona 2, Tadulala. Goals: Jeffries 2.Huddersfield (8) 18.Tries: Thorman, Snitch, Torrens. Goals: Thorman 3.Referee: S Ganson (St Helens)Att: 4,110
BRADFORD Bulls maintained early-season pressure on St Helens with a nine-try extravaganza at the Stade Aime Giral against newcomers Catalans Dragons.The match was preceded by one-minute?s silence in memory of lifelong Bulls fan Graham Woodcock who sadly passed away on his arrival in Perpignan earlier in the day and he could not have had a more fitting tribute than this performance.Bulls were immediately on the attack and made their first spell of pressure tell as early as the fifth minute with a well-worked try from Shontayne Hape after Paul Deacon?s kick had given them good field position.Deacon made good the first of seven successful conversions and on their very next attack Brian Noble?s men ripped holes in the Catalan defence before Ian Henderson sent prop Stuart Fielden crashing over just three minutes later.The scoring spree continued, giving the Bulls a 24-0 lead after the opening quarter when first Andy Lynch and then Jamie Langley - the latter after a superb four-man handling move - crossed the Dragons? whitewash.Spurred on by some fervent home support among the 9,373 in attendance Catalans hit back when Justin Murphy got on the end of a Sean Rudder kick to score, but their riposte was brief.Working their way back up field Hape completed a first-half brace when Deacon?s grubber bounced awkwardly over the head of full-back and left the Kiwi with a clear run to the line.Though Bulls were without try-scoring sensation Lesley Vainikolo they showed their potency in the backs when centre Ben Harris benefited from another superbly placed Deacon kick to cross for the sixth Bradford try shortly after the break.Though Catalan took advantage of a rare Bulls error for Mounis to score a second they were clearly in need of direction in the absence of Kiwi Test star Stacey Jones. But that was sadly lacking.The Bulls reminded the French outfit exactly why they are champions with two tries in a three-minute spell when first Lynch completed a brace and then Marcus Bai crossed to put Bradford out of sight.A 60-metre solo effort from Justin Murphy cheered the home fans before Bulls had the final word through youngster Andy Smith.Catalans Dragons: Bosc, Murphy, Wilson, Hughes, Verges, Rudder, Frayssinous, Chan, Rinaldi, Beattie, Fakir, Guisset, Hindmarsh.Replacements: Mounis, Fellous, Touxagas, Guigue.Bradford: Withers, Bai, B. Harris, Hape, Smith, I. Harris, Deacon, Fielden, Henderson, Lynch, McKenna, Meyers, Langley.Replacements: Vagana, Gene, Ferres, Cook.Catalans Dragons (6) 18.Tries: Mounis 2, Murphy. Goals: Frayssinous 3.Bradford (30) 50.Tries: Hape 2, Fielden, Lynch 2, Langley, B. Harris, Bai, Smith. Goals: Deacon 7.Referee: R Silverwood (Dewsbury)Att: 9,373
HARLEQUINS defied their winless start to the engage Super League season to spring a minor upset and topple Hull 10-6 at a bitterly cold KC Stadium.Despite not troubling Hull?s defensive line in the whole of the second half, Tony Rea?s men can point to an outstanding defensive performance, keeping their hosts scoreless in the second period, coupled with an efficient and disciplined first 40 minutes as the key factor behind their first win under the Harlequins brand.After defeat at Warrington last weekend, Hull need not look any further than themselves for the root cause of their loss, after a performance littered with handling errors and poor decisions with ball in hand, that defied their position as the league?s highest tryscorers going into the clash.Hull were able to welcome Ewan Dowes and Chris Chester back into their side after injury, while Harlequins were able to call on Luke Dorn after a hamstring problem, but remained without their injured captain Mark McLinden.After both sides spent the opening exchanges adapting to the conditions, Harlequins were the first to trouble the scoreboard with a quickfire double of tries within five minutes of each other.First Thomas Leuluai capitalised on poor marker defence from Hull to scoot over the line from dummy half, before Dorn sent Tyrone Smith into a gap to score in the corner. Paul Sykes converted the former to hand the visitors a 10-point lead.Hull were slow to respond and struggled to gain any significant field position as all too often they spilled possession early in the tackle account, and aside from Kirk Yeaman spurning a chance to post his eighth try of the season when he knocked on over the line, they rarely threatened.However, in spite of their profligacy, they went into the interval just four points behind after Shaun Briscoe?s 32nd-minute effort. After moving downfield on the back of a penalty, Briscoe seized on a static Harlequins defence to race 50 metres to the left corner. Danny Brough converted from the touchline.Hull began to probe with far greater purpose in the second half, and were denied scores twice when Yeaman?s score was chalked off for an earlier indiscretion, while Motu Tony was dragged into touch with the line at his mercy.Leuluai then denied Richard Horne with a crunching last-ditch tackle as Hull struggled to find a way to break down Harlequins? resilient defence.Yeaman then went without the ball after Paul Cooke had fashioned a half-chance and then slung the ball in touch when trying to find Gareth Raynor with the equalising try beckoning.As Harlequins began to close the tie out, Jamie Thackray was held up just over the tryline, before Matt Gafa collected Horne?s kick in goal despite intense pressure from the onrushing Richard Whiting to put the seal on the win.Hull: Briscoe, Tony, Domic, Yeaman, Raynor, R. Horne, Brough, Dowes, Swain, King, Radford, McMenemy, Cooke.Replacements: Thackray, Carvell, Chester, Whiting.Harlequins RL: Lucky Luisi, Gafa, Sykes, Smith, Bradley-Qalilawa, Dorn, Leuluai, Mills, Weisner, Tookey, Purdham, Hopkins, TemataReplacements: Williams, Haumono, Heckenberg, Lolohea.Hull: (6) 6.Tries: Briscoe.Goals: Brough.Harlequins RL: (10) 10.Tries: Leuluai, Smith.Goals: Sykes.Referee: A Klein (London)Att: 8,250
WIGAN?S poor start to the season continued at the Willows as they were beaten 28-10 by a determined Salford outfit on a surface more suited to snowboarding than rugby league.The game was in doubt all afternoon after heavy snowfall in the north of the country but, once it was given the go-ahead, the Reds flew out of the blocks and held a 14-4 interval advantage.Wigan briefly rallied through Danny Orr, but the City Reds withstood the pressure and second-half scores by John Wilshere, Andrew Dunemann and David Hodgson gave them a well-deserved two points.Wigan coach Ian Millward sprang a selection surprise by recalling stand-off Orr after leaving him out for the last couple of matches.Kevin Brown was handed the loose forward role in the absence of captain Sean O?Loughlin, who was a late withdrawal because of a groin problem.Salford welcomed back winger John Wilshere after a one-match suspension, while Luke Robinson was back in the side to face his old club after recovering from shin splints.And it was the Reds who opened the scoring with just nine minutes on the clock, as Robinson hoisted a bomb towards Wigan winger Mark Calderwood into the in-goal area and Finnegan rose highest to touch down.Another Wigan old boy, Hodgson, added a fine touchline conversion for a 6-0 lead, and added a penalty three minutes later to extend the home side?s advantage.The Warriors hit back after 18 minutes when a Dennis Moran bomb was fumbled by Wilshere into the hands of Orr, whose long ball out right was touched on by Calderwood into the hands of Richards who scored.Danny Tickle?s conversion attempt hit the post to leave his side trailing 8-4, but the Warriors continued to attack when Hodgson?s restart went out on the full and Richards? penalty from half-way sailed into touch eight metres short.Superb Salford defence was then needed to halt strong charges from Iafeta Paleaaesina and Scott Logan, while Wilshere produced a real trysaver in the corner to deny Brett Dallas.The Warriors forced two goalline drop-outs in quick succession but the home defence was proving up to the challenge, and Coley extended the lead by crashing over in the right-hand corner, with another excellent goal from Hodgson opening up a 10-point lead.Wigan came out fired up for the second half and hauled themselves back into the game after a bit of clever thinking from Moran.On the sixth tackle, wide on the right, he ran down the short side and fed Harrison Hansen, who helped the ball onto Richards, and the Australian kicked intelligently inside for Orr to dive over.Tickle?s goal made the score 14-10 and Wigan threw everything at the home side, with Calderwood making four tackles in a row deep in Reds territory in one particular set of six.The Reds absorbed all the pressure, though, and extended their advantage on the hour when Wilshere squeezed in at the corner despite the Warriors claiming he had taken the flag with him.The result was settled eight minutes from time when Wilshere jinked through magically on the last tackle and kicked through for Andrew Dunemann to follow up score.Hodgson landed his easiest kick of the night to make the score 24-10, and went over from 40 yards in the dying stages to round off a super night for the jubilant Reds.Salford: Fitzpatrick, Hodgson, Littler, Moule, Wilshere, Dunemann, Robinson, Baldwin, Alker, Highton, Coley, Brocklehurst, FinniganReplacements: Clough, Haggerty, Rutgerson, Langi.Wigan: Ashton, Dallas, Richards, Vaealiki, Calderwood, Orr, Moran, Seu Seu, Godwin, Logan, Tickle, Hansen, Brown.Replacements: Paleaaesina, Hargreaves, Tomkins, Higham.Salford: (14) 28.Tries: Finnigan, Coley, Wilshere, Dunemann, Hodgson.Goals: Hodgson 4.Wigan: (4) 10.Tries: Richards, Orr.Goals: Tickle.Referee: K Kirkpatrick (Warrington)Att: 5,494
ST Helens continued to hold the Indian sign over Warrington after edging a hard-fought encounter 18-10 at a bitterly cold Halliwell Jones Stadium.Saints survived the absence of three key forwards to claim a remarkable 22nd victory from 25 Super League encounters against their rivals from across the M62.It was the fourth straight win this term for Daniel Anderson?s side but they were made to work for it during an intriguing arm-wrestle with Paul Cullen?s men.While St Helens were never allowed to get fully into their stride, they took their chances in devastating fashion and converted tries from Keiron Cunningham and Willie Talau handed them a 12-0 interval advantage.Warrington rallied after the restart as Henry Fa?afili and Mike Wainwright crossed the line, but Ade Gardner?s try shortly before the hour mark ultimately proved crucial.The pitch was deemed playable by referee Ian Smith following an inspection after snowfall and bitterly cold conditions during the afternoon.Snow covered the surface as the match kicked off but it quickly became apparent the players were prepared to fight fire with fire in front of a bumper crowd.Jason Hooper clattered Wolves skipper Lee Briers with a late challenge after just two minutes with the Saints loose forward fortunate to escape punishment.Not surprisingly Warrington looked to the boot of the impressive Briers to provide their ammunition but Saints quickly stamped their authority on proceedings and Sean Long orchestrated the opening try after nine minutes.The scrum-half?s high bomb was met by Lyon, who neatly worked the ball back to Cunningham and the Great Britain hooker scampered over the line from close range.Lyon converted before St Helens were forced to defend their line furiously as Warrington enjoyed a spell of sustained pressure, only for their final pass to betray them.Their failure to make their pressure pay was ruthlessly punished on the half hour mark as Saints produced a typically scintillating score.Francis Meli seized possession deep inside his own half before outpacing a number of his opponents and finding Talau racing in support to his left.The New Zealand international?s perfect offload found his compatriot, who outstripped the home defence to race from the halfway line and claim a try again converted by Lyon.However, the Wolves began to bare their teeth after the restart and took just three minutes to drag themselves back into the game.Briers? excellent diagonal kick into the right-hand corner was superbly caught and grounded by Fa?afili to lift home spirits.Briers was desperately unlucky to see his goal attempt rebound off a post but Saints hit back after 58 minutes with a splendid move that saw them claim their third try.The ball passed through four pairs of hands in a bewildering array of inter-passing which culminated in Gardner grounding in the right-hand corner.Lyon missed the conversion and moments later Hooper was sinbinned for another tackle on Briers, and the Wolves duly took advantage as Wainwright crashed over the line.Briers added the extras to bring the score to 10-16 but Lyon added a late penalty to leave Warrington with just one Super League victory against their local rivals.Warrington: Grose, Fa'afili, M. Gleeson, Kohe-Love, Barnett, Briers, Bridge, Leikvoll, Clarke, Wood, Noone, Wainwright, Westwood.Replacements: Sullivan, M. Gleeson, Hilton, Lima.St Helens: Wellens, Gardner, Lyon, Talau, Meli, Pryce, Long, P. Anderson, Cunningham, Cayless, Gilmour, V. Anderson, Hooper.Replacements: Roby, Wilkin, Bennett, Fa'asavalu.Warrington: (0) 10.Tries: Fa'afili, Wainwright.Goals: Briers.St Helens: (12) 18.Tries: Cunningham, Talau, Gardner.Goals: Lyon 3.Referee: I Smith (Oldham)Att: 13,024
THE cobwebs have been cleaned from the flags and banners and the Dragon Army rolls on for another year in its first premiership hitout against the defending premiers this Friday night.This Friday night represents 165 days since the fairytale bandwagon rolled on and Saints departed the 2005 Premiership race. In those 165 days, I have never met so many Wests fans... it?s funny how those people that you never knew followed rugby league have been following the Tigers in secret for all these years!! It?s little wonder The Mighty Ducks was a box-office hit now.Historically (NRL Speaking), Wests have been fast starters while Saints have been slow starters, winning just one opening round encounter (2001) in joint venture history. In the corresponding game in 2003, Wests overcame Saints late on to record an opening round victory while in round 2, 2001, Wests came from behind to get the points late on.This game, however, takes on a different complexion.While both sides had successful 2005s, the off-season build-ups for both clubs have been less than ideal. While Saints have been embroiled in the Lance Thompson fiasco and lost ?homesick? Novocastrian Michael Ennis to Brisbane due to salary cap pressures, the Tigers pre-season has been overshadowed by the will he stay-will he go Scott Prince saga. Meanwhile on-field both sides are winless in their trials of NRL standard. In both trials, Saints coach Nathan Brown has been keen to use bigger squads and give younger players opportunities to impress which may mean these results are misleading.Similarly, Wests have been without livewire five-eighth Benji Marshall who underwent a shoulder reconstruction during the off-season and is expected to make a shock return this Friday night. As well as this, Wests have had new players such as Keith Galloway, Sam Harris and Jamaal Lolesi trying to fit into the side with combinations taking time to prosper.For Saints, it is imperative that they begin this season with more gusto than 2005. The poor start cost Saints their first minor premiership last year and the club have spoken publicly about starting the premiership proper with more intensity than in recent years. The absence of Mathew Head leaves the fans asking many questions of Nathan Brown?s intentions. Will he use the ever-professional Ben Hornby in the half back role with former Magpie Clint Greenshields at fullback or will he use Chris Sheppard or Willie Peters in the 7 jersey? Whoever the coach decides to use in the 17 on Friday night it is important that you wear your red and white proud, fire up your voices and get right behind the boys this Friday night.GETTING THERE & AWAY: Your best bet on getting to the game is via public transport. There are limited car spaces but with a train station opposite the stadium, train is the way to go. For detailed timetable information, go to: www.131500.com.au TICKET PRICES: Tickets in the cheapest category are available from the ground for $8 with a Dragons season ticket. Alternatively, you can buy them during the lead-up to the match from Ticketek for $20. Gates open at 5.15pm with a premier league match between Western Suburbs and St George Illawarra starting at 5.20pm. WHERE ARE THE ARMY SITTING?: St George Illawarra supporters have been allocated Aisles 111-114 (North Eastern corner) by Ticketek for this Wests Tigers home match. If you trying to visualise this vantage point, this is where the Army sat last year at the Wests away game. However, with ?Tiger-mania? at fever pitch and a crowd of 40,000 expected, it is likely the Army will sit in Aisles 119-121 behind the Northern goalposts to cause the least disruption possible with flags and banners. (For a map - click here - and then click on ?See a map of Telstra Stadium?) BEST PUBS: To be honest, there isn?t much in the way of decent watering Holes in the Olympic Park precinct. If you are desperate for a beer, the Novotel across from the stadium is probably your only option in this area other than grabbing a beer at the game.
OUTGOING Parramatta coach Brian Smith, who has been linked with a move to Newcastle next season, says he is excited by the prospect of starting afresh with a rival NRL club.Smith has firmed in favouritism to take over from Michael Hagan at the Knights next year, with Hagan moving to the Eels in 2007. The veteran Parramatta coach was told last November that his ten-year tenure at the Eels would not be extended beyond 2006.Fifty-two-year-old Smith says he has received offers from outside rugby league, but admitted he still had a strong desire to coach again in the NRL. The Knights have already missed out on their top two targets, with Wests Tigers premiership-winning coach Tim Sheens and Penrith-bound Canberra mentor Matt Elliott having both rejected their advances.
NEWCASTLE fullback Milton Thaiday remains in doubt for Saturday night's NRL clash against Parramatta due to a foot injury.Thaiday was named in the Knights line-up by coach Michael Hagan yesterday but will continue to be monitored in the lead-up to then match. Prop Josh Perry is also battling the flu but is expected to play.
FRIDAY, 10th March 2006Wests v St George Illawarra at Telstra Stadium, 7.30pmTigers: Brett Hodgson (c), Daniel Fitzhenry, Dean Collis, Paul Whatuira, Jamaal Lolesi, Benji Marshall, Scott Prince, Bryce Gibbs, Robbie Farah, John Skandalis, Anthony Laffranchi, Ben Galea, Liam Fulton.Interchange: Michael Crockett, Keith Galloway, Ryan O?Hara, Todd PaytenDragons: Clint Greenshields, Reece Simmonds, Mark Gasnier, Matt Cooper, Wes Naiqama, Trent Barrett (c), Ben Hornby, Luke Bailey, Dean Young, Jason Ryles, Corey Payne, Ashton Sims, Andrew Price.Interchange: Justin Poore, Michael Henderson, Matt Bickerstaff, Aaron GorrellReferee: Paul SimpkinsSaturday, 11th March 2006Newcastle v Parramatta at EnergyAustralia Stadium, 5.30pmKnights: Milton Thaiday, Brian Carney, Matthew Gidley, George Carmont, Anthony Quinn, Kurt Gidley, Andrew Johns (c), Craig Smith, Danny Buderus, Josh Perry, Steve Simpson, Clint Newton, Regan Tanner. Interchange: Adam Woolnough, Daniel Tolar, Riley Brown, Kirk ReynoldsonEels: Wade McKinnon, Luke Burt, Ben Smith, Timana Tahu, Eric Grothe, John Morris, Tim Smith, Nathan Cayless (c), PJ Marsh, Paul Stringer , Nathan Hindmarsh, Chad Robinson, Glenn MorrisonInterchange: Mark Riddell, Dean Widders, Josh Cordoba, Michael Vella, Matt Petersen, Daniel Wagon. (two to be omitted)Referee: Russell SmithCanterbury v Penrith at Telstra Stadium, 7.30pmBulldogs: Luke Patten, Hazem El Masri, Reni Matua, Willie Tonga, Matt Utai, Daniel Holdsworth, Brent Sherwin, Chris Armit, Corey Hughes, Roy Asotasi, Willie Mason, Andrew Ryan (c), Tony GrimaldiInterchange: Adam Perry, Mark O'Meley , Nate Myles, Andrew EmilioPanthers: Rhys Wesser, Lee Hookey, Danny Galea, Luke Lewis, Nick Youngquest, Preston Campbell, Craig Gower, Joel Clinton, Luke Priddis, Craig Stapleton, Matthew Cross, Tony Puletua (c), Shane RodneyInterchange: Frank Puletua, Bryan Norrie, Luke Swain, Mark O'HalloranReferee: Sean Hamptstead Manly v Canberra at Brookvale Oval, 7.30pmSea Eagles: Brett Stewart, Paul Stephenson, Steve Bell, Steve Matai, Chris Hicks, Michael Monaghan, Matt Orford, Jason King, Shane Dunley, Brent Kite, Steve Menzies, Anthony Watmough, Ben Kennedy (c) Interchange: Travis Burns, Luke Williamson, Kylie Leuluai, Mark BryantRaiders: Adrian Purtell, Phil Graham, David Howell, Adam Hogg, Jason Smith, Lincoln Withers, Willie Raston, Simon Woolford, Troy Thompson, Ben Jones, Jason Croker, Alan Tongue Interchange: Todd Carney, Terry Martin, Thom Learoyd-Lars, Josh Miller, William ZillmanReferee: Shayne HayneSunday, 12th March 2006New Zealand v Melbourne at Ericsson Stadium, 11.00am (QLD) 12pm (NSW) 2.00pm (NZ)Warriors: Brent Webb, Tony Martin, Jerome Ropati, Clinton Toopi, Manu Vatuvei, Sione Faumuina, Nathan Fien, Ruben Wiki, Lance Hohaia, Steve Price (c), Awen Guttenbeil, Wairangi Koopu, Louis AndersonInterchange: Grant Rovelli, Micheal Luck, Epalahame Lauaki, Evarn Tuimavave18th man: Todd ByrneStorm: Billy Slater, Matt Geyer, Matt King, Greg Inglis, Jake Webster, Scott Hill, Cooper Cronk, Garret Crossman, Cameron Smith, Antonio Kaufusi, David Kidwell (c), Michael Crocker, Dallas JohnsonInterchange: Brett White, Ryan Hoffman, Ian Donnelly, Steve Turner, Jamie Feeney (one to be omitted)Referee: Steven ClarkBrisbane v North Queensland at Suncorp Stadium, 2.00pm (QLD) 3.00pm (NSW)Broncos: Karmichael Hunt, Steve Michaels, Justin Hodges, Shaun Berrigan, Darius Boyd, Darren Lockyer (c), Brett Seymour, Shane Webcke, Michael Ennis, Petero Civoniceva, Dane Carlaw, David Stagg, Tonie CarrollInterchange: Casey McGuire, Ben Hannant, Neville Costigan, Shane PerryCowboys: Matt Bowen, Neil Sweeney, Ty Williams, Paul Bowman, Matt Sing, Johnathan Thurston, Brett Firman, Mitchell Sargent, Aaron Payne, Shane Tronc, Jacob Lillyman, Luke O'Donnell, Travis NortonInterchange: David Faiumu, Steve Southern, Justin Smith, Matthew ScottReferee: Tony ArcherSouth Sydney v Sydney at Telstra Stadium, 2.30pmRabbitohs: Todd Polglase, Nathan Merritt, Shannon Hegarty, Adam MacDougall, Paul Mellor, John Sutton, Ben Walker, Peter Cusack (c), Stuart Webb, Scott Geddes, David Fa?alogo, Luke Stuart, Shane RigonInterchange: Jaiman Lowe, Manase Manuokafoa, Shane Walker, Joe Galuvao, Yileen Gordon (one to be omitted)Roosters: Anthony Minichiello, Amos Roberts, Ryan Cross, Iosia Soliola, Sam Perrett, Braith Anasta, Jamie Soward, Craig Fitzgibbon (c), Brett Finch, Adrian Morley, Anthony Tupou, Chris Flannery, Ashley HarrisonInterchange: Craig Wing, Shane Shackleton, Lopini Paea, David Shillington, Steve Meredith (one to be omitted)Referee: Jason Robinson
LIKELY squad: Matt Bowen, Ty Williams, Josh Hannay, Paul Bowman, Matt Sing, Johnathan Thurston, Brett Firman, Carl Webb, Aaron Payne, Shane Tronc, Steve Southern, Luke O?Donnell, Travis NortonInterchange: Rod Jenson, Mitchell Sargeant, Justin Smith, David FaiumuStrengths:North Queensland?s line up remains pretty much unchanged for the 2006 season which means that the combinations that are currently in place will only improve as the players understanding of each other?s games improve. This will mean the Cowboys will be a better team in 2006.The Cowboys first ever Grand Final appearance will be a great boost for their club, their community and the players coming into the 2006 season. They now have the confidence and the belief that they can match it with any team at the highest level and put to bed critics who stated their finals run in 2004 was a fluke.Johnathan Thurston?s Dally M medal and an entire off-season for Brett Firman will only help the Cowboy?s halves combination become even stronger. Thurston?s ability to scoot through holes has made him one of the premier halves in the competition and hopefully he will continue his brilliant run of form in 2006.The Cowboys? forward pack is still as strong and aggressive as last season with the ability to dominate packs and move forward. The backline is also electrifying as well, with stable and sure centres and a brilliant back 3.Weaknesses:Losing Paul Rauhihi will definitely hurt the Cowboys. While he wasn?t a tremendous impact player last year, he was an influential figure to have in the team and did get away a lot of offloads. His presence on the field will be sorely missed by the entire team.The lack of size on the bench should be a concern for Graham Murray. Aside from Mitchell Sargeant, the Cowboys don?t have another big man on the bench with Justin Smith, David Faiumu and Rod Jenson not big enough to play prop, meaning one of Southern or O?Donnell will need to fill in at prop to give the two starters a rest. It will be a problem for Murray to organise this.Graham Murray being in charge of the NSW side will be a disruption for the Cowboys outfit. The travel associated and the lack of mentorship during the Origin period will put a dent in the Cowboys run in the middle of the season. Hopefully the caretaker coach can make sure the Cowboys don?t fall off the rails.One to Watch:Emerging Cowboys Prop Matthew Scott has been chosen as the Cowboys young gun for the 2006 season. A player who is held in high regard by Graham Murray at the Cowboys, he will be looking to become a regular feature in the Cowboys squad for 2006 with the departure of stalwart Paul Rauhihi to England.The 185cm, 104kg Scott made three appearances for the Cowboys in 2005 improving with each game he played. The Cowboys prop was vital in winning the North Queensland Young Guns the Qld Cup premiership last season and will be looking to impress Graham Murray in the trials in 2006 to make sure he will feature in the 2006 premiership push for the Cowboys. Gains and Losses:Gains: Ray Cashmere, Brett Anderson, Robert Tanielu, Leigh Coghill, Russell Aitken, Jamie Frizzo, Scott Smith, Mark Henry.Losses: Paul Rauhihi, David Myles, Leigh McWilliams, Jaiman Lowe, Michael Luck.Assessment:The Cowboys will finish from 5th to 8th this season as I believe they will do what the Broncos usually do - start strong, and then during Origin time will fall away suddenly and then come home with a wet sail.The lack of actual size on the bench will also mean they may not push for the premiership like they did last season. They will need to have another big man on the bench to ensure they push for the Grand Final.
SEASON 2006 arrives with a bang this Friday night as the competition favourites, the St George Illawarra Dragons take on last years premiers, the Wests Tigers. In a blockbuster match the Dragons will be trying to end the early season form hoodoo that has haunted them for many years. Without a win in the pre-season for either team, this match promises to see both teams rise to the occasion in an attempt to lay claim to some early season dominance. Once again Crown Casino welcomes MBDS back for season 2006 for our Channel Nine screenings, which we thank them for. In 2005 the staff at Crown and SteakOut in particular were very accommodating, with our own roped off area and live screenings from Channel Nine in Sydney. This weeks details areWHERE: SteakOut Sports Bar, Level 1 Crown CasinoWHEN: Friday 10th March, 8:30WHAT: DRAGONS V TIGERSSee you there!!
AS part of the association between the Sydney Roosters and the Newtown Jets (two of Rugby League?s 1908 foundation clubs), the Jets recently hosted several Roosters officials and a large number of the Roosters Premier League squad to dinner at Newtown?s licensed club, the Jets Sports Club in Tempe. Many of the Roosters Premier League players will of course be turning out in Newtown?s famous royal blue colours this season, under the terms of the new partnership between the two clubs.The evening was a very happy occasion, with the Roosters and Jets players mixing together on a friendly social basis, while Jets officials took the opportunity to make it a "get to know you night" for everyone involved. Roosters CEO Brian Canavan was in attendance, along with operations staff Tony Vella, Louis Lopes and Bobby Jones. Brian Canavan made reference to the fact that correspondence between the two clubs went back as far as 2001 concerning the possibility of a partnership, so the new agreement was most certainly a case of an idea whose time had come.The night ended with the Roosters and Jets players (about 45 in total) giving rousing renditions of the Newtown Jets official club song "Thirteen Men All Dressed in Blue" (written by the late Ricky May) and also the Jets dressing room victory song. Prominent Roosters songsters included Charles Tonga, Lelea Paea, Mickey Paea, Daniel Dumas, Aidan Kirk and Nigel Plum. The entire evening was voted a great success in terms of further cementing good working relations between the officials and players of both clubs.The Newtown Jets make their first appearance as part of this historic association next Sunday (March 12th) at Telstra Stadium, in the opening competition round of the VB Premier League against South Sydney kicking off at 12:30pm. Photo caption:Former Queensland State of Origin representative John Doyle makes his debut for the Newtown Jets this Sunday against South Sydney at Telstra Stadium.Photo courtesy of Hugh Martel.
THE North Sydney Bears S. G. Ball team have produced an enthusiastic and gallant display in a narrow loss to an in form Bulldogs outfit.In a big improvement from their last hit out, the Bears faced the Dogs toe to toe, matching their opponents in the first half to finish 16 all. A strong running Nathan Searle scored the first of three tries for the bears in the first half. The next try was a sensational effort, with Liam Foran kicking on the first tackle and centre Ryan Oldfield out sprinting his Bulldogs? opponents to claim a try. The third try was a ?captains special?, Liam Foran breaking through the line off a dummy pass to score and convert.In the first 15 min of the second half the Bears dominated the Dogs scoring two further tries, a strong run from Samuel Talanoa to score and again from the scrum Judah Wikeepa scored out wide.However the Bulldogs finished the stronger, running in three more tries to take the win 34 to 24.The coaching staff were unanimous in their praise for back Kimon Tellidis, while Mitch Williams put in a good, strong, solid display. While disappointed with the last quarter Coach Michael Pobjie claimed ?the talk was enthusiastic out there and it was a fantastic effort for the most part?.In the other match played at Belmore the Bears Harold Matthews suffered a loss to the Bulldogs 44-0.PHOTO: Jake Foster and Kimon Tellidis take on a Bulldogs attacker. Kimon was the stand out performer on Saturday. Photo: Steve LittleNext weekend the Bears will play three grades against the Central Coast at Norths second home ground, T G Milner Field in Eastwood on Sunday 12th March. The day begins at 12:00pm with the Harold Matthews followed by the S G Ball at 1:30pm. The final match will be the Jersey Flegg?s first competition match of the season at 3pm. The Premier League will play their round one match against the Sharks on Saturday 11th March at Toyota Park from 3:30.
LOCAL Dragon and international centre Matt Cooper will play his 100th first grade game for St George Illawarra against the defending Premiers at Telstra Stadium this Friday night in the opening match of the 2006 season.New re-cruits Andrew Price and Matt Bickerstaff will make their Dragons NRL debuts and Reece Simmonds has been given an opportunity on the wing having played just five NRL games last season.Unavailable Dragons due to injury are: Ben Creagh (Knee - Rnd 2), Shaun Timmins (Knee - Rnd 2), Sam Isemonger (Hamstring ? Rnd 2) and Mathew Head (Knee ? Rnd 5).DRAGONS NRL TEAM LIST v Wests Tigers7:30pm Friday 10 MarchTelstra Stadium Coach: Nathan Brown 1. Clint GREENSHIELDS2. Reece SIMMONDS3. Mark GASNIER4. Matt COOPER5. Wes NAIQAMA6. Trent BARRETT (c)7. Ben HORNBY8. Luke BAILEY9. Dean YOUNG10. Jason RYLES11. Corey PAYNE12. Ashton SIMS13. Andrew PRICE14. Justin POORE15. Michael HENDERSON16. Matt BICKERSTAFF17. Aaron GORRELLDRAGONS PREMIER LEAGUE TEAM LIST v Western Suburbs Magpies5:20pm Friday 10 MarchTelstra Stadium Coach: Steven Price 1. Brett MORRIS2. Colin BEST3. Beau MUNDINE4. Daryl MILLARD5. Tom HEWITT6. Reece BLAYNEY7. Chris SHEPPARD (c)8. Charlie LEAENO9. George NDAIRA10. Chris HOUSTON (c)11. Tom HABERECHT12. Lee TE MAARI13. Aaron WHEATLEY14. Jhi TANNER15. Jamie DUNNING16. Willie TUPOU17. Willie PETERS18. Beau RYAN19. Bryson GOODWINDRAGONS JERSEY FLEGG TEAM LIST v Western Suburbs Magpies3:00pm Saturday 11 MarchCampbelltown Sports Ground Coach: Corey Pearson 1. Jason NIGHTINGALE2. Josh MORRIS3. Junior SEUMANUTAFA4. Keith LULIA5. Rota SETU6. Richard WILLIAMS7. Matt SEAMARK (c)8. Dan HUNT9. Brad DAVIDSON10. Chris FARRELL11. Lagi SETU12. James GREHAN13. Nathan WYNN14. Matt PRIOR15. Luke YOUNG17. Blake DUREAU18. Shannon STITT19. James KEELAN20. Luke IRWIN21. Scott SABLOWSKI22. Francis LANGIFISI