Golden Point Round captivated the masses last weekend, with 3 games going to extra time, and the Storm-Bulldogs game being decided by just 2 points… partially because the league realised that the referees made Rhyse Martin take his last minute conversion attempt three metres further out than where it should’ve been.
And now as I do every week, it’s time to (p)review the games, with as little actual analysis as possible, as is my style.
Brisbane vs Wests Tigers @ Suncorp Stadium, 8:05pm AEST
The “I Was A Better Coach At Souths”-Off.
It’s fair to say that one team’s had the better of the Brisbane-Souths coach swap, and based on their 1-3 start to the season and the 36-4 loss to the Chooks, it sure as hell ain’t the Broncos and Anthony Seibold.
As for Wests… they were already the underdogs ahead of their trip to the Mountains last Friday night, but the way the game ended after they had the Panthers by the balls, giving up a 79th minute try to Dylan Edwards and then meeting their own Waterloo yet again in Golden Point would have to drive Michael Macguire up the wall.
Their defence was miles better than the Bulldogs game, which was a positive.
With Tevita Pangai Jnr off for an enforced two-week holiday, a certain Broncos rookie returns from suspension and onto the reserves list for tonight, and also goes straight into my ‘Top 10 Names in League’ list; Payne Haas, who measures up at 196cm and 119kg, and while he’s around, Lang Park is going to turn into a Haas of Payne again.. probably for the Broncos, if they don’t show up, yet again.
Ripping name, hope the boy goes well.
Gold Coast vs Penrith @ Cbus Super Stadium, 6:00pm AEST
Keeping up the theme of Queensland rugby league getting its collective arse kicked in the opening month of the season, the Titans’ season is pretty much over as quickly as it began, sitting stone motherless last as the only winless team in the league after 4 games.
When I watch them play, it feels like the wheel’s turning, but the hamster’s dead.
On the flip side, the Panthers managed to win the Cleary Bowl against Wests after not looking like it for 78 minutes, with a lowly 65% completion rate, 17 errors and just 2 points to boot, and then Dylan Edwards finally broke through in the 79th minute, and Nathan Cleary did the rest with a conversion and a field goal.
Funnily enough, their last meeting in Round 22 last year played out in a near similar manner to the Panthers win last week- the Mountain Men had to scurry a try in the final minute (Watene-Zelezniak) to tie the scores, although Nathan Cleary then missed the conversion to win it on full-time, but then kicked a field goal in Golden Point to win it.
North Queensland vs Melbourne @ 1300SMILES Stadium, 8:05pm AEST
It doesn’t get any easier for the people of North Queensland- Cyclones in February, the yearly threat of being torn to pieces by crocodiles, while the Cowboys in previous weeks have been ravaged by Sharks, attacked by southern Raiders, and now the forecast for Friday night is massive Storm clouds ready to strike.
The Storm are now the last unbeaten team in the league following their survival against the Doggies 18-16, and on paper they should yet again beat the Cows, who they haven’t lost to since the 2015 Prelim Final, posting 8 straight wins, including the 2017 Grand Final rout.
In all likelihood, the highlight of this game will be Cameron Smith, taking time out from his preparation for the Masters, scoring the 3 points he needs to move to 2,419 career points, passing Hazem El-Masri as the all-time leading scorer in First Grade rugby league.
Fancy that, two high-level Aussie athletes named Cameron Smith, and they’re both from Brisbane. Then again, I went to school with a pair of Tom Pascoes!
South Sydney vs New Zealand @ Sunshine Coast Stadium, 1:00pm AEST
Fresh off their first loss of the 2019 season in Golden Point to Manly, Russ has dispatched the Bennett Bunny Bus up to my Aunt & Uncle’s part of the world, the Sunshine Coast, to play the first game for Premiership points at the redeveloped Sunshine Coast Stadium!
There’s just one problem with Russ’ latest well-intended venture, and it’s that they’re playing a bunch of Kiwis in Queensland (Who coincidentally belted a bunch of Queenslanders last week), meaning there’s a high chance that this game will pretty much turn into the Sunny Coast’s answer to Eden Park… similar to what happened to all the games the Warriors played in Perth over the years, thanks to all the expats working in the mines!
The Greg Inglis saga is quickly reaching its end, now that he apparently has “arthritis in his shoulder”, GI can only lift his shoulder through painkillers, and apparently if he retired now, thanks to his contract ending in 2020, Souths would have to absorb $1.5 million in the cap.
Although if the news out of Redfern is to be believed, the only thing that will pose more of a challenge than the Warriors is trying to shake Wayne Bennett’s hand twice during a week.
Newcastle vs Manly @ McDonald Jones Stadium, 5:30pm AEST
A season that started with promise for the Novocastrians has slowly turned into more frustration- Every game has been decided by fewer than 7 points, and the Knights have been on the wrong end of the past 3, including feeling the wrath of Corey Norman’s left boot in Golden Point.
Whether or not Kalyn Ponga plays is still in the air, with the fullback flying to New Zealand to attend the funeral of a cousin today, and then planning on flying straight back to Newcastle tomorrow morning.
As for Manly, they did end the Rabbits unbeaten start to the season in their own Golden Point result, but it was almost as if they went back to square one in the process, losing Tommy Turbo for at least two months with an old fashioned massive hammy pull.
Keeping on the subject of close results, both games last year were decided by under a converted try, with the Knights managing to win both times, and historically, when you see a matchup between the Knights and Sea Eagles, you instantly think back to the ’97 Grand Final and Darren Albert sending the Hunter into sheer jubilation.
Say, Gary Harley called the game for 2HD!
Cronulla vs Eastern Suburbs @ Shark Park, 7:35pm AEST
Eastern Suburbs- I’m getting fancy now!
The Sharkies are enduring a cull of late, with Aaron Woods going down with a foot injury last week, joining Matt Moylan on the sidelines, and combining that with Paul Gallen missing (He will return this weekend) and Shaun Johnson injured in the warm-up, the Sharks still gave a yelp, but they couldn’t hold out the slippery Eels, losing 24-12.
Gallo also came out this week and claimed that “all clubs” have been ‘exploiting’ the HIA concussion tests to get free interchanges during games, as opposed to the Sharks ‘exploiting’ the salary cap during entire seasons.
Meanwhile at Bondi, it’s all looking superb, despite still missing Jake Friend, JWH and the Broncos (In particular Pangai Jnr) leaving Cooper looking like he’d encountered The Gimp from Pulp Fiction, they gave the one-time premiership fancies a 36-4 smashing at the SCG, their largest winning margin against the Broncos.
If Latrell manages to stay on the field longer than he can stay in the Old Bar Tavern, then it should be another good evening for the Tri-Colours as they get ready for the Grand Final rematch on the Easter long weekend.
St George Illawarra vs Canterbury @ Jubilee Stadium, 4:05pm AEST
84 years ago, St George gave the infant Berries a rude introduction to the NSWRL by annihilating them 91-6, a record losing margin which may never be topped, although throughout the years the Blue & Whites got their own back on the Red V; Ending their 11-peat of Premierships back in 1967, the 1985 Grand Final, signing both the Morris twins, and in recent years, they’ve won 7 of the last 8 games in the matchup, including a 38-0 wipeout in Round 24 last year.
The left foot of Corey Norman has single-handedly (Or should that be footidly) revived the Red V in 2019- The Broncos copped it at Lang Park on the last play, then the Knights last week in the Hunter during Golden Point- Adding some credibility to both wins is that they were both on the road, whereas they’re back in Sydney this weekend.
After their first win against Wests in Round 3, the Doggies did what no team has even come close to achieving in 2019, and that’s running the Storm right to the edge of the universe, leading 12-0 at one point, falling behind 12-18, and then Reimis Smith scored late, only for Martin’s conversion in the dying seconds to be placed in the wrong spot, and then sail 20 metres off-course.
Dylan Napa didn’t see out the game against the Storm due to one of the recent injury buzzwords, ankle syndesmosis, which sounds like something that happens to plants, not body parts.
Don’t be shocked if the Doggies are right in the finish again.
Canberra vs Parramatta @ GIO Stadium, 6:10pm AEST
Based on the performances of both teams in 2019, this game seems too good to have on at 6:10 on a Sunday evening.
3am on a Tuesday morning would probably work as well.
In what must be a welcome relief, the Canberra Faders of old haven’t shown up in 2019, and have instead won 3 of their first 4 games to sit in 3rd place, including whipping the Cowboys in Townsville 30-12 as Jordy Rapana scored a double to fire up the Green Machine.
The 10 Pound Pom John Bateman has proved such a find for the Canberrans, that he will soon have the town of Batemans Bay named after him.
Meanwhile, the revitalised Eels have looked promising as they also come in with a 3-1 record, just behind on points differential in 5th.
Blake Ferguson’s signing looks better by the week, as he and Brad Takairangi control the right edge, Captain Clint Gutherson adds extra zeroes to his contract after each passing game, and Mitchell Moses parts the seas in the halves with whoever Brad Arthur puts in alongside him, be it Dylan Brown or Jaemen ‘The Fish’ Salmon.
The last time the Eels won in our nation’s disappointment was 2006, so I’d expect the Raiders will probably look good again, while the Eels have something more exciting to look ahead to- The opening of Bankwest Stadium.