Saturday, March 28, 2009

Brisbane too strong for flat Warriors

The Brisbane Broncos have shocked a 24000 strong crowd with a 26-10 win over the New Zealand Warriors in Auckland tonight. Played in good conditions, the Warriors were never in the match.

Both teams appeared to have left their kicking games at home in the first ten minutes. in the ninth minute Brisbane recieve a penalty from a play the ball infringement by the Warrior, but miss the attempt. However, it was not long before they got the scoreboard ticking over, when their backs busted open the Warriors defence and put a grubber kick into the Warriors in goal, whick Joel Clinton dived on, but there appeared to be separation between his hand and the ball. What was a touch and go decision, video referee Steven Clark awarded the try through benifit of the doubt.

The Warriors, from the kick-off, put the ball out on the full, thus giving Brisbane a penalty from half-way. This appeared to be a suitable metaphor for how the match panned out for the Warriors.

In the 15th minute, Brisbane are on attack once again and Peter Wallace throws a superb cut out pass that Steve Michaels latches onto and scores unharrassed. Corey Parker converts and takes Brisbane out to a 12-0 lead.

In the 21st minute, the Broncos Brisbane knock-on twenty metres out from their own line and the Warriors attack ferociously with Brent Tate going close in the eastern corner. The broncos cover defenders snuffed out any trouble, but the tackle left Tate with a badly damaged knee. He was ruled out of the rest of the match, with Simon Mannering covering for him in the centres.

The Warriors did not look like breaking Brisbane's defence until the 34th minute, after receiving consecutive penalties to put them on attack, when Joel Moon lunged for the Brisbane line. He was penalised by referee Jason Robinson for a double movement however.

From the penalty, Brisbanes Taylor broke the Warriors defence out wide and a kick was put in for Israel Foulau to regather and score in the corner, to take Brisbane out to a 16-0 lead.

This is where the score stayed for the remainder of the half.

The second half began no better for the Warriors, as in the 44th minute, Brisbane once again went over for a four pointer, after Alex Glenn ran off a Darren Lockyer short pass.

With the score at 20-0 to Brisbane, life was looking onimous for the Warriors and it didn't get any easier when in the 53rd minute, Lockyer went over to score under the posts, with Parker once again converting. 26-0 and the game was effectively over.

The Warriors clawed some of the margin back with a try to Simon Mannering in the 56th minute and another to Ta'i in the 68th minute, bringing the score to 26-10.

It was, however, a mistake ridden performance by the Warriors, who appeared to be physically flat after last weeks heroic win over Manly.

On the positive side, ta'i had a much improved game on last week's effort and looks to have the potential to be the ball playing second rower the Warriors need.

With Lance Hohaia, Manu Vatevai and Brent Tate all out, the Warriors will have their depth tested over the coming weeks.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

NRL Round Three Preview

Wests Tigers vs Roosters

Tigers have leaked points big time in their two matches thus far. Will need to shore this up, if they are to get over the Roosters. Home ground advantage will help somewhat. The Roosters had a much improved effort against canberra, particularly on defence. Roosters superior defence to be the difference.
Roosters by 8

Titans vs Bulldogs

Titans at home are a tough proposition for anyone. Alot will depend on how the Bulldogs front up mentally after being stripped of two points last weekend for fielding a fourtenth player. If they are not there in the top three inches, expect the Gold Coast to run up a sizable margin.
Gold Coast by 4

Warriors vs Brisbane Broncos

The two form teams so far this season. Warriors forward pack versus Brisbane back line. Warriors will be trying to keep Lockyer and co quiet so expect there to be a torrid battle up the middle of the park. Warriors should have the edge there If Brisbane get ball going forward, their backs can win it for them, despite been without Hodges, who is suspended. Manu Vatevei is out with knee problems and replaced with Aiden Kirk. Stacey Jones will come off the bench again and as someone in the New Zealand Herald that knows way more about it than me said, this is the right place for him. The Warriors have generally had the upper hand over Brisbane this past five or so years and it should continue here.
Warriors by 2

Parramatta Eels vs Canberra Raiders

Parramatta were a huge improvement last weekend compared to their first up effort against the Warriors. Superb defence, and will need it again against a team that can score points from anywhere.
Parramatta by 4

North Queensland Cowboys vs Melbourne Storm

Cowboys are near impossible to beat at home when on form and they have been good so far this year. Easily disposed of the Tigers last weekend but Melbourne are a different kettle of fish.
Cowboys by 6

South Sydney vs Newcastle Knights

Souths offered nothing in attack against the Eels, so will be looking to Sandow and Sutton to give them significant improvement there. The Knights upset the Sharks but they played on Monday and traditionally, teams that back up from Monday night footy struggle the next week. This will give souths the edge, despite loosing to the Knights 39-12 last time the two sides met.
Souths by 8

St George Dragons vs Cronulla Sharks

St George under Wayne Bennett at the very least, appear to have found a new mental resolve. They also are going up the middle of the ruck alot more. Their attack hasn't gelled yet, but that will come as the season unfolds. Cronulla are struggling on attack and need to fire up here as good defence only gets you so far. They will miss Fullback Brett Kearney, who did give them some attacking options.
St George by 7

Manly vs Penrith

Manly were undone by the brilliant Stacey Jones last week and are none from two. It would be an under statement to say they need to remedy this situation and quickly for the sake of morale. How much did the match against the Warriors take out of them? If this plays a part, Penrith will be in with a chance as they have some brilliant attacking players. Penrith need to move Manly around as much as possible. Manly by 10

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Round two preview of NRL matches

South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Parramatta Eels

The Rabbits were on fire last weekend. Sutton was good for them and will again be instrumental in attack. Parramatta on the other hand, despite being up against a tough warriors outfit, were appalling at times. And it is hard to see them coming right anytime soon. Rabbits with home ground advantage will get them.
Rabbits by 10

Brisbane Broncos vs Melbourne Storm

Brisbane lost here at Suncorp in the final minute of the penultimate week of the finals last year. Revenge will be on their minds here. They were good last week against the cowboys and face a Storm side that is rebuilding. Storm are still looking for a stand-off so that Inglis can go back to his preferred position of centre. They are better when he is at centre. Storm struggled last week at home and Brisbane will win here with Lockyer the difference.
Brisbane by 6

St George Dragons vs Gold Coast

St George looked sharp last week, especially in the opening twenty, in their one point loss to the Storm. Their forwards went up the middle of the ruck. Cooper was good, but like Inglis for the Storm, he is better suited to the centres. Look a much tougher proposition mentally under Wayne Bennett. This alone will make them competitive.
St George by 8

Penrith Panthers vs Bulldogs

Whatever you say about the Panthers as a team, they have a star in Michael Jennings. Speed to burn and an elusive runner. Conditions were not great for them against the Sharks, but they were still well off the pace. And, despite home ground advantage, they will struggle here against the major surprise of round one, the Bulldogs. The doggies were awesome last week and even allowing for Manly's problems, they appear far too strong for Penrith. Kimmorley directed them around the park supperbly and expect him to be influential once again.
Bulldogs by 12

North Queensland Cowboys vs Wests Tigers
Despite last years poor form, the cowboys will be nigh on impossible to beat at home this year. One of the best in the game in Thurston and watch for Bowen to run off him. They appear to be a better team this year already with neil henry at the helm.
I said last week that Wests had a small pack and compared to some of the others, they do. However, they have found a couple of giants in Ellis and Daine Laurie. Laurie is a star in waiting. Can't play big minutes yet, but when he was on the field against Canberra, he ripped them open on a couple of occasions.
Cowboys by 15

Canberra vs Sydney Roosters
Canberra were respectable last week and playing at home should get them a win. Campese was superb and broke the line at will. The Roosters were not even remotely in the game against the rabbits. And they have been embroiled in off field incidents since. When will some of these guys learn? Roosters in a mess and Canberrs will put them to the sword.
Canberra by 18

Manly vs Warriors

Manly were not good last week and no one believes it was for any other reason than the off field dramas they have been through. They are without Brett Stewart again and this affects their attack immensely. They will appreciate being at home, but may be some weeks off getting their minds back on the job at hand. Will have to shut down the Warriors ability to off-load in the tackle.
The Warriors were brilliant in the first half last week. Will need to play for eighty minutes though against better opposition. They have lost Mautilino and Hohaia. Hohaia in particular will be a huge loss, coming off the bench. Stacey Jones comes onto the bench in his first match back. The forwards were good last week, going up the middle of the park. More of the same is needed on Sunday. Moon looks promising at stand-off and will get the chance to play outside Jones for the first time.
Warriors by two

Cronulla Sharks vs Newcastle Knights
Cronulla lack attacking talent and creativity, thus making scoring points somewhat difficult. Good defence though and this will get them through in many a tight game this year. Loss of Ben ross will hurt but will still be too good for Newcastle who appear to be relying on Gidley to do it all.
Sharks by 10

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Warriors remember Sonny Fai with win

The New Zealand Warriors have begun the season with a hard fought 26-18 win over the Parramatta Eels. Played in front of a 17000 strong crowd, they dominated possession and their ball control was superior to their rivals.

Having honoured the late Sonny fai with a minutes silence before kick-off, the Warrior forwards dominated play, going the length of the field consistently in their sets of six.

They lost Ben Mautilino early on for the whole match, leaving the Warriors interchange bench short.

Steve Price, celebrating his 300th first grade game, led the charge.

This paid dividends in the tenth minute, after Parramatta had been caught in possession on the last tackle, when new signing, Joel Moon, dived over for his teams first of four tries, which was converted by Denan Kemp.

Just three minutes later, Russel Packer, who was switched to starting prop shortly before the match, crashed over next to the goal posts, carrying three Parramatta defenders with him, to score. Once again Kemp, who had a perfect night with the boot, converted for a 12-0 lead.

Despite strong defence from the Warriors for the first quarter, and a repeat set forced onto Parramatta, in the 23rd minute, Parramatta struck back with their first try of the season, to Eric Grothe, halving the Warriors lead to six.

Lance Hohaia, brought on off the interchange, immediately added speed around the ruck and a new dimension to their attack.

His presence paid off in the 30th minute, darting ten metres from dummy half for the Warriors third try. The resulting conversion took them out to an 18-6 lead, which is where the score stayed until half-time.

The first half saw both teams completing 79% of their sets, but the warriors had had the better of possession and a 7-5 penalty count, thus dominating the half.

Early in the second half, Hohaia was at it again, as he busted through some disgraceful defence from Parramatta backs, BrettFinch and Luke Burt, touching down under the black dot, with Kemp once again adding the extra two points.

His night was soon at an end though, as he injured his knee in a tackle, and will now need an ultrasound scan this coming week, to see if their is any serious damage.

A 47th minute penalty to Kemp took the score out to 26-6, but this was the end of the Warriors night in terms of troubling the scoreboard.

Shortly after, Parramatta successfully broke the Warriors goal line defence when Jarred Hayne crossed untouched in the 50th minute. Burt converted, bring the score to 26-12, and giving them hope of coming back.

Nine minutes later, that hope soared even further as Kristian Inu, took in a flick pass from Renny Mateo, to score and bring the score after Burt's conversion to 26-18.

With the Warriors down to a two man bench, Parramatta had a chance to put the Warriors fitness to the test, but instead they turned in a mistake infested final twenty minutes, allowing the Warriors off the hook.

For Parramatta, the placing of Hayne at stand-off, despite a couple of handling errors, he was strong and did not appear to be out of place.

Nathan Hindmarsh had his usual busy game, making over fifty tackles. For Parramatta coach Daniel Anderson though, alot of hard work on his team beckons. Even though it is only the first week of the competition, they appear to be well behind other teams that have already played this weekend.

For the Warriors, the forwards turned in a very promising start to the season, going up the middle of the ruck regularly, and with relative ease.

The overall defensive effort was outstanding, showing that all the work done over the summer has paid off.

Joel Moon at stand-off, while not setting the world on fire, looks promising, and at centre, Jerome Ropati was particularly sharp.

Despite a couple of mistakes by the referees, the two referee system worked well. The play the ball area has been cleaned up alot as a result, and it is allowing the little men, such as Hohaia to prosper, as the game is speeding up.

A positive first up performance for the Warriors.

Next week, they head to Brookvale oval to take on the defending premiers,the Manly Sea Eagles in what promises to be the match of the round.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Melbourne secure extra time win

In the first match of the 2009 rugby league season, the Melbourne Storm have secured a 17-16 victory in extra time, over the St George Dragons. After being locked at 16-16, three tries a piece at the end of regular time, Greg Inglis, kicked a field goal from twenty metres out, to give his side a winning start to the new season.

The Dragons started the game well, and opened the scoring in the fifth minute with a penalty goal, to go 2-0 up.

It was fast, end to end action for the next ten minutes, with the referees playing an unobtrusive role, until Inglis bumped off Jamie Soward, to score in the corner.

At 4-2, this was a good result for the storm, as the Dragons had had the better of the match thus far.

In the 21st minute the Dragons struck back, after Melbourne winger Anthony Quin made a complete hash of a Dragons bomb, with a try by their captain, Matt Cooper, which was converted by Soward, taking the score to 8-4 in favour of the Dragons.

The score remained the same for the rest of what was a good standard of play, for the first match of the season.

The Storm had a good start to the second half, with a try to Billy Slater, who was not so silly now, as he ran into a gap off a Cameron Smith short pass, to touch down five metres to the left of the uprights. 10-8 to the storm after Smith converts.

Twelve minutes later, Soward levelled things up for the Dragons, and with twenty-two minutes to go, it was game on.

The storm at this stage looked to apply the blow torch to the Dragons, and managed to crack St George in the 65th minute with a converted try to halfback, Cooper Cronk.

Melbourne appeared to have the match under control, until Wendel Sailor in the 78th minute, beat two storm players in his own 20 and headed down the field in search of the Melbourne goal line. The storm managed to reel him in, but not before he off-loaded to his captain, Cooper who raced off, to score in the corner, to bring them within two points of Melbourne.

Soward was ice cool in converting and forcing the game into extra time.

Both teams had chances to close out the game early on, with Soward narrowly missing a fifty metre drop goal attempt first up.

After another attempt by both sides, Inglis cooly slotted the winning drop goal, to secure his team a hard won 17-16 victory.

One of the highlights of the match, was the lack of the deservedly maligned grapple tackle. With two referees on the field, the players were not able to use alot of the wrestling tactics that they have over the last couple of seasons.

If a closer eye is cast, the keen observer will see that the players still use subtle means of slowing the play the ball down, but the advent of the second referee appears to have rid the game of the more nortorious tactics in the tackle.

The match flowed well, the second referee did not get in the way of the players and there was not an excessive ammount of penalties.

It seems the NRL are onto a winner with the two referee system, and it should be here to stay.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Here is my guide to this years NRL, which starts this weekend.

A new coach for the first time in twenty years. Will the loss of Wayne Bennett effect them? Probably. Expect them to miss the finals this year, despite the recruitment of Israel Folau, and having some genuinely talented backs in Lockyer and Hodges. Don't have the forwards as in the past, to do any damage at the back end of the season.
Predicted finish-11th

Another club with a new coach. They can't get much worse than last season, so expect improvement. Have recruited strongly, bringing in players such as Hannett and Kimmorley. Won't be enough to get them to the top eight, however.
Predicted Finish-14Th

Have built a team from scratch over the last few years, and are now solid performers. Will be again this season. But lack the star quality to push up into the top eight. Have lost Neil Henry to North Queensland. No star quality and a new inexperienced coach, means no top eight.
Predicted finish-12Th

Gold Coast
Their third season in the NRL and have been solid since their inception. Have lacked depth to make it to the eight in the past and i fear the same fate may await them this year. A clever play maker in Scott Prince, but they struggle without him. Opposition sides know this and will target him. A very good coach in John Cartwright. They will push hard for the eight, but miss by one place.
Predicted finish-9Th

Oh yeah, it just had to happen. A new season just about to kick-off and a sexual assault scandal breaks out. Want to know when the season is starting, you know what to look for in the papers! And this year it is Manly that have to deal with the problems associated with this type of behaviour. Will the media attention hamper their campaign? Will their boardroom battles take it's toll on the players. Disenchantment at the top, must surely filter it's way down the ladder eventually. Manly are in a muddle, as what to do with Brett Stewart. On one hand he is yet to be found guilty, on the other hand it is not a good look keeping a player on the park that has been accused of this type of crime. They will still be better than most. I had them number one, until this controversy happened. Not now.
Predicted finish-4Th

I keep mentioning coach's, and for very good reason. Good coaches get good results, poor coaches do not. Luckily for Melbourne, they have one of the very best in the game, which in turn helps to get great players to shift to an unpopular rugby league destination.And with the like of Inglis, Smith, Slater and Cooper Cronk, they certainly do not lack for firepower. Will be somewhere near the top of the table, but have lost Folau, Geyer and Crockett, which may bring them back to the pack slightly. Got caught out by the grapple tackle last year, with a concerted campaign against them by rivals. Will have to find new ways to bend the rules this year and reinvent themselves.
Predicted finish-2ND

A club on the rise. Life after Andrew Johns started with a clean out last year, with recruitment aimed at building for the future. Only just missed out on the eight. Will sneak in this year, despite loosing Buderus. Alot hangs on Kurt Gidleys young shoulders, but he is a class player.
Predicted finish-8Th

North Queensland
Canberra's loss is North Queensland's gain. Neil Henry is a class coach and just watch this mob with a flair for attack, dazzle this year. Down at the bottom last year, expect them to ease into the eight reasonably comfortably this time around.
Predicted finish-5Th

No major recruitment which means same players as last season. Will this mean same attitude? Jarred Hayne has been moved to stand-off. A good move, allowing new coach,Daniel Anderson to exploit Haynes's size, footwork and attacking talent. Will definitely improve under Anderson's tutelage. The guy can coach.
Predicted finish-10Th

So much talent and so little to show for it.One of the best props going around in Cinecevoa, but one man can only do so much. Does Matthew Elliot have the full support of his board, and for that matter, the players as well. He hung onto his job at the end of last season. They should have either, got rid of the coach or clean out the playing personnel. Too often player power means it is the former. A pity, that.
Predicted finish-16Th

So often great players don't make it as coaches at the highest level. Brad filter did a mighty job last season trying to disprove this. He has made the transition with ease. Much will depend on halfback, Mitchell Pearce.
Predicted finish-7Th

One of the best defences going around. Will be the same this season. Have bolstered their attack, with the acquisition of Trent Barrett. He has individual brilliance, but does he have the nous to organises an attack as a team? They have lost Kimmorley. A major blow, due to his organisational skills and kicking game. An abrasive coach in Stuart. How many seasons until the players tire of his intensity?
Predicted finish-3rd

South Sydney
Thirty-seven years since they have won a premiership. Expect that to be extended to thirty-eight. I have them slated for thirteenth, and maybe I'm being a bit harsh, as they do have genuine talents in Sandow and Sutton. They have recruited speed in Wesser as well. Just cannot see them getting to the eight with the forward pack they possess.
Predicted finish-13Th

St George
Who the hell would know what's going to happen with this lot! They have to be watched, because of the Wayne Bennett factor. Though, rumour has it, that he hasn't smiled since June 5Th 1975 at 4.38pm. Well, with this bunch it could be another thirty-three and a bit years before we finally see him smile. What, with the mistakes they are capable of and the just plain dumb football at times. Then, just when you give up on them as a force, they do something brilliant. I have them to finish 6th. They could go higher because of bennett or they could miss the eight. who really knows!
Predicted finish-6th

West Tigers
Brilliant halfback in Marshall. Can win a match single handidly, or set the backline alight. Problem is though, they have the smallest pack in the comp. Which means, take them on up the middle of the ruck and they are going to struggle, despite their attacking brilliance.
Predicted finish-15th

Another former player making a good fist of the coaching gig, in Ivan Cleary. And he has built a team that is finally poised to give the premiership one hell of a rattle. A top class leader in Price, and he is ably backed up in the front row by Rapira and tuamavavei. Second rowers and backrowers that can play eighty minutes if required. Means more flexibility with interchange. In Mautilino, a player that can break the line. And if the British immigration just cooperate a little and deny Greg Eastwood a work visa, then they may just have found the extra attacking ability to go with Mautilino. And this is where it gets good for the Warriors. Wait for it...... they have a game breaker in the halves finally, in Stacey Jones. The backline has endless possibilities in attack. McKinnon needs to stay injury free. He is the teams x-factor. And, there is depth in all positions. There will be no resting on their laurels. I had The Warriors at two, with them playing Manly in the grand-final. But, with recent developments, i think they are ready to go one better, with manly slipping back down the ladder a touch.
Predicted finish-1st