The Dragons demolition of the Storm had everything, great tries, tenacious tackling, controversy, even Cameron Smith copping one in the ‘how you goings’ and has left no one in any doubt who the NRL form team is and who the title favourites are. The Saints are singing and at this point only State of Origin can throw a spanner in the works, it is the Dragons then daylight. The Storm will point to the dubious call at 10-4 that disallowed their potentially match tying score yet earned them a penalty, go figure. Maybe the NRL should embrace football’s play on rule or union which allows the play to continue and if the advantage isn’t taken we go back for the penalty? Either way its fish and chip wrapper now, the Dragons deserved the win and belong at the top. Play on! It is round ten already things are getting serious, a couple of sides could be out of contention within a few days. It is Indigenous Round so expect some sensational performances from the players representing the first peoples of this land as they proudly highlight their magnificent culture who help make the NRL the brilliant competition it is.
Wests Tigers v North Queensland Cowboys
A huge clash for both teams, the Tigers after a brilliant start to the season are fading on a three-match losing streak, giving bulk to the theory they over-achieved in the first six rounds and are now tumbling into the chasing pack where most thought they’d be. The usually calm Ivan Cleary was having kittens in the coaching box in Auckland squirming as his Tigers bumbled to defeat. The Cowboys blasted out of the blocks in Bathurst to breathe life into their campaign and we’ll find out Thursday night whether they are on the way back up the ladder or if it was a road-inspired camp-induced one off. Scott Bolton’s off-field dramas hopefully won’t distract the Cowboys on the field.
The Tigers need to find their way as they are looking loose in defence, the return of hard man Russell Packer will help no end, and taking poor last tackle options and Benji Marshall and Luke Brooks will want to rectify this, opposing Jonathan Thurston and Michael Morgan there is no better halves combo to test your skills against. JT showed glimpses of his genius with a couple of great balls, but his short kicking game still lacks its usual precision, but it will come. The other JT, Jason Taumalolo has hit Beast Mode back to his monster metre-eating best and the Tigers must stop his go forward. The old warhorse Matt Scott was immense last week rising when the Cowboys needed him but the problem for NQ is they need to continue this from now until September. It’s a long road but Leichhardt is a great ground to play footy and an awesome place to carry on a winning streak.
Cowboys by 8
Newcastle Knights v Penrith Panthers
This shapes as a cracking start to Friday night footy. The Knights were beaten but not broken as they held their own for an hour before the Bunnies put them away, while the Panthers gave the Cowboys a 20 point head start before waking up and nearly running them down. Imagine how good Penrith could be if they played more than 40 minutes a game? The Panthers have to work out a way to start fast it must be very frustrating for Anthony Griffin. Maybe he should organise a chilli eating challenge during the pregame warm up to fire them up? For the Knights Kalyn Ponga is the man to watch, he is captivating the competition with his unique genius and working up a fantastic combination with Lachlan Fitzgibbon. Newcastle need other avenues to explore to assist Ponga as his brilliance alone can’t consistently break down the tough defences of the NRL, Connor Watson step up young man. Expect another big Novocastrian crowd to spur the Knights on and they’re going to need it because despite a large injury toll the Panthers still have a talent-laden team. Dummy half sharing dynamic duo Peter Wallace and Sione Katoa loom as the Knights biggest dangers as the skill of Wallace followed by the scoots of Katoa off the bench are a killer combo. Penrith’s big men got smacked by the Cowboys and watch them rebound with their Panther pride pricked. Penrith have size, speed and depth stretched to its limit but will claw their way to victory to cling to their top four spot with Nathan Cleary’s return imminent.
Panthers by 4
Canterbury Bulldogs v Parramatta Eels
The battle of the battlers as both sides attempt to give flight to the fantasy that they’re still playoff contenders. Both lost heartbreakers last start, the Dogs denied by contentious calls while the Eels were a Mitchell Moses conversion from a miracle but don’t be fooled they were very ordinary for the preceding 75 minutes. Dean Pay looked a broken and battered man in his post-match presser, which left his wallet a fair bit lighter as he offloaded on officials. Welcome to the wonderful world of NRL coaching, it’s a great gig (apparently) and it’s good to be the King unless your castle is constantly under siege. The Bulldogs defence was strong and the attack was far more fluent against the Broncos as Pay searches for answers to unlocking oppositions and getting his Dogs to dazzle. Pay included Rhyse Martin last week who impressed, the PNG international added enthusiasm and skill. Raymond Faitala-Mariner is the big threat to the Eels, RFM is the standout for the Dogs and if the Eels don’t stop his offloading and thrust it’s sayonara to the Eels season. Let’s state the obvious this is a must-win for both teams but the Eels have the game and players to make a dash up the table, but they are swimming in murkier waters than the Parramatta River. This will be a desperate contest as losing is not an option either side wants to contemplate as the consequences are calamitous. If the Eels forwards can contain the Bulldogs big boppers, Parramatta have the firepower in Corey Norman, Mitchell Moses and Clint Gutherson who can keep the flame flickering and put the mutts out of their misery.
Eels by 4
New Zealand Warriors v Sydney Roosters
What an impressive season the Warriors are having and reacted to injury adversity against the Tigers in fine style. The Roosters scraped past the Sea Eagles and gave no confidence to fans that the fog has lifted. Their form is patchy and lacking in fluency. The Warriors have been hit hard with news that star talisman Shaun Johnson is out. Johnson was jinking and jiving like only he can but the dependable Mason Lino will slot back in beside the key playmaker Blake Green, while Karl Lawton’s debut double brings hope he can adequately cover Issac Luke if his dislocated shoulder doesn’t make it to kick off or go the distance. The Warriors are playing a marvellous mix of structure and entertaining off the cuff footy that is providing resilience and results. David Fusitua will gobble up any half chances offered and while Latrell Mitchell is a gun with ball in hand, his defence faces a stern examination. That side of the field is the key to the match as it features the best attack of both sides. The ruck becomes crucial and the Roosters must win this to give themselves a chance of upsetting the Kiwis. That just got harder for the Roosters as the NRL’s new henchman youngster Victor Radley who hits harder than a treasurer with a nasty temper is out suspended for going kapow on Marty Taupau. The Chooks will greatly miss the Clovelly Crocodile junior who snaps opponents with jolting force and saved the Roosters multiple times last week. The issue for the Chooks is errors and discipline, their completion rate is putting too much pressure on the side and Cooper Cronk and Luke Keary are feeding off scraps. Expect a tight one with the massive match up at the back just one of the attractions, new Rooster James Tedesco faces off against the one the Bondi Boys somehow let get away, RTS! Roger Tuivasa-Sheck will step up with Johnson missing and lead his Warriors to a tight win. Don’t rule out golden point to decide this one.
Warriors by 1
Melbourne Storm v Gold Coast Titans
Find it in your heart to feel for the Titans this week as they are the poor buggers being fed to the lions as they feel the backlash from the Melbourne Storm getting slayed by the St George. The Gold Coast showed courage in coming from 20 down to strike a few nerves into the Raiders last week with the usual suspects Ash Taylor and hard man Ryan James leading the charge. The Titans are not only meeting the Storm on the rebound but without their best player Jai Arrow, he has been tremendous and leaves a massive hole. One thing the Titans have is spirit but Garth Brennan has had enough and rung in the changes. Konrad Hurrell and Brendan Elliott have been punted while Bryce Cartwright has been benched and he’ll be next to go unless he suddenly rediscovers his magic from 2016, don’t waste your hard earned on that happening quickly. To have any chance Ash Taylor needs to play the game of his life but the Gold Coast simply must batten down the hatches and try to ride out the Storm to cause the boilover of the season. Melbourne slipped back into bad habits from earlier in the year with simple errors under enormous strain from the mighty Dragons. The Storm rarely play two ordinary games in a row and you know Craig Bellamy will be drilling into them like a jackhammer on Viagra about the simple things that would bore me like completion rates and effective tackles yet leave Bellyache in a lather. Melbourne’s monolith up front Nelson Asofa-Solomona had a disappointing match last week and expect NAS to fire up and set the platform to let Cameron Munster and Billy Slater garrotte the Gold Coast and set free the flying Fox Josh Addo-Carr. Being indigenous round watch Addo-Carr inspire his people and his side, I’ve got Josh pencilled in for an Origin spot and another hat trick this week.
Storm by 30
Manly Sea Eagles v Brisbane Broncos
The Sea Eagles are in a huge hole but showed plenty of ticker in just falling short against the Roosters. Daly Cherry-Evans missed conversion that Jackson Hastings could have punched over the cross bar being the difference. The Broncos shaved the Bulldogs but the win had large dollops of luck and won’t have impressed Wayne Bennett, he knows Manly will be no pushovers. The Sea Eagles are walking down main street heading for the Last Chance Saloon so buckle up Broncos as Manly are playing for their season. Martin Taupau waged war on the Roosters and he will head the charge trying to turn this clash into the Battle of Brookvale. Taupau’s clash with Tevita Pangai Junior will be monumental. The turf at Brookie has been under suspicion these two behemoths will delight in trying to bury one another in it. Bring it on!! The Sea Eagles showed good signs for a side obviously down on confidence, Tom Trbojevic typified this having a Barry Crocker and with Origin around the corner has more than one reason to slice and dice the Broncos. It’s no secret Brisbane’s left hand attack is their go to with the big horse Corey Oates benefitting. The Jack Bird experiment at five-eighth is over for now, Kodi Nikorima shifts to the halves as Bird is flipped back to centre. If the Broncos pack can handle the Sea Eagles and silence the northern beaches crowd, if they bother to turn up, the slick hands of Darius Boyd and quick feet of Anthony Milford will send the two points north of the border and the Sea Eagles into free fall. That’s using common sense of which I’m in short supply, applying NRL logic and my gut instinct if there’s an upset this week this is it, playing on a Saturday night in suburban Sydney might buck the Broncos off their game.
Sea Eagles by 4
South Sydney Rabbitohs v St George Illawarra Dragons
This is the match of the round. The Rabbitohs are coming off a good win in Newcastle while the Saints marched the Storm out of Sydney. Slammin’ Sam Burgess returns and couldn’t have timed it better to take on the lean mean Dragons machine. Suspended twice already this season, Burgess has talked about toning it down a touch but we love Sam because he gives everything to every moment, to down the Dragons and for the Bunnies to take out the title they need Sam Burgess at his heart on his sleeve destructive best. Burgess best frenemy James Graham is ten yards away this week, you think Big Sam is gonna hold back?!? The Battle of Britain is on! The Dragons pack is outplaying all comers but will be tested by the Bunnies this week as the Burgess twins continue their brilliant resurgent form in the engine room. Back to 2014 premiership winning bookends, Anthony Seibold is getting the best out of the brothers and reignited George. It’s a shame for England we can’t rewind and replay the World Cup Final because the form of the Burgess brothers and Elliott Whitehead for Canberra would more than match the Kangaroos pack in current form. Another English star Gareth Widdop just continues to dominate the NRL off the back of the solid platform set for him every week by the Dragons and if the Bunnies can’t contain the Saints sluggers watch Widdop and Ben Hunt set alight the dazzling Dragons backline. Lots to look forward to in this traditional turnstile turner, apart from Burgess and Graham trying to belt each other back to Britain, Widdop’s match up with Cody Walker should be a cracker and Greg Inglis will be burning to repay Euan Aitken for embarrassing him the last time they met. GI would love to break out the goanna in Indigenous round. The most intriguing battle is between the two hookers duelling for a NSW Origin spot. Cam McInnes and Damien Cook are going so good Freddy Fittler just might pick both of them! The Dragons are in sublime form and should be too strong for the Bunnies.
Dragons by 12
Canberra Raiders v Cronulla Sharks
An intriguing clash to end round ten, the Raiders made it two on the trot in dispatching the Titans while the Sharks sparkled early only to step on the treadmill for the final five minutes to fall across the line against the Eels. Playing at home this a great opportunity for the Green Machine to rev up and start rolling up the ladder. Strike weapons across the park, from Jordan Rapana on the right to Nic Cotric on the left, Canberra can score tries, plenty of them but their inability to play 80 minutes must drive Ricky Stuart around the bend. Last week was a prime example, 20 points ahead they flick the switch to sleep mode and two Titans tries in five minutes put the game in danger. A repeat this week could be fatal as the Sharks attack is starting to click, though in saying that Cronulla fell asleep at the wheel against the Eels. Shane Flanagan came out of the same mould they made Sticky Stuart and he will drone on all week about competing for the full match especially when playing a side like the Green Machine who are the narcoleptics of the NRL, the Raiders will nod off and give you a chance, excepting the always excellent Elliott Whitehead who never clocks off. The Sharks have a good record at GIO Stadium. With Andrew Fifita back in wrecking ball form, the underrated Matt Prior ripping in and the returning Paul Gallen’s nostrils flaring with Josh Papalii in his crosshairs the Sharks are a tough side expertly steered around by Chad Townshend and Matt Moylan who is beginning to find his feet and form in the Shire. This could go either way but the home advantage just tips thing the Raiders way.
NRL Round 9 Results
Broncos 22 Bulldogs 20; Rabbitohs 36 Knights 18; Cowboys 26 Panthers 20; Raiders 32 Titans 18; Warriors 26 Tigers 4; Sharks 22 Eels 20; Dragons 34 Storm 14; Roosters 22 Sea Eagles 20
1. Dragons 16
2. Warriors 14
3. Panthers 12
4. Storm 10
5. Rabbitohs 10
6. Roosters 10
7. Tigers 10
8. Sharks 10