Almanac Rugby League – 2022 NRLW and NRL Premiers: Knights and Panthers triumph

 

 

 

The Newcastle Knights won their first NRLW premiership by moving from the cellar after a winless 2021 season to the penthouse with a 32 – 12 win over the game but not-quite-there-yet Parramatta Eels. The final scoreline belies the closeness and intensity of the match which was in the balance with less than 10 minutes to go. If Newcastle had been able to convert more than two of their seven tries it would have been a different story but their misses kept Parramatta in the game.

 

The Eels opened strongly and dominated the first fifteen minutes but could only register one try against a determined, scrambling Knights defence. Once Newcastle settled and got their running game in place it was a different story as they rattled on three tries in ten minutes leading into the break. The roles were reversed in the second half with the Knights opening strongly, scoring early through Upton and dominating possession and field position for some time. But a couple of errors and penalties conceded saw Parra get back into the game led by their inspirational skipper Taufa. They were just six points behind, in control of the game and playing with flair and enthusiasm.

 

The reintroduction of Boyle, stout Knights goal-line defence and, eventually, better field position saw Takairangi score in the corner the push the margin out to ten before the impressive Southwell sealed it with a strong solo try. Clydesdale got in on the act at the death after a fortuitous bounce fell her way. It was a tad unjust on the Eels but then that’s footy. In the end, the Knights were better for longer and executed their plays with greater skill. The Eels only snuck into the finals on the last day of the regular season and can be heartened that they were there on Grand Final day.

 

The Knights, winless in season 2021, recruited well and it paid off today with Upton (a worthy Karen Murphy Medal winner), Boyle (who made huge metres – 271 of them!), Johnson (strong up front) and Clydesdale (her last minute try a reward for a strong game) all playing well. Then they unearthed Southwell who, at just 17, is a star of the future. Add these to the likes of Teitzel (a revelation in her new role as a forward) and Dibb and you have the makings of a premiership contender – and so it played out.

 

The Eels were best served by Taufa (ran strongly and racked up 40 tackles) and Cherrington (175 metres) up front while Broughton (threatened whenever she had the ball) and Preston stood out in the backs. Dean Widders has a good squad at his disposal and they’ll use the experience to be even stronger in 2023.

 

I though that referee Kasey Badger had a very good game and The Bunker got it right every time.

 

 

There’s an old adage in rugby league that forwards win matches. This game was the epitome of that saying. Simply told, after an even first 10 minutes a lovely inside ball from Edwards put Crichton through a gap to cross and set the Penrith machine on its way. The Panther pack took over, rampaging through the middle with powerful runs based on driving leg strength and fast playing of the ball to provide the time and space for Cleary and Luai to launch the likes of To’o, Tago and the lurking Edwards in attack. In defence, the Panthers suffocated and monstered the Eels, allowing them neither time nor space to mount any effective attacks. To’o and Sorenson added to the scoreboard and it was 18-0 at the break. The Eels had not yet had a single possession inside the Panthers 20-metre zone! Essentially, the game was over, such was Penrith’s dominance and Parramatta’s inability to make any impression.

 

The second half was more of the same with relentless Panthers onslaughts in attack and brutal, pounding defence. To’o added a second try after five minutes in somewhat controversial circumstances after the Bunker chose not to call an obstruction against Kikau and the on-field officials missed a final forward pass. But, in the context of the match, it mattered nought. The Eels finally got into the attacking 20-metres after 53 minutes and went close through Sivo who appeared destined to score before a jolting tackle saw the ball come loose metres from the line. Staines crossed out wide at the three-quarter mark and it was 28-0. The Eels scrambled two very late consolation tries to get the scoreboard to a better looking 28-12 at the final whistle. That scoreline flattered them.

 

If the Clive Churchill medal could be awarded in company, then the Panthers forwards would have been most recipients. Led by the outstanding Yeo, they were HUGE all night and were primarily responsible for the win. But it was the individual brilliance of Dylan Edwards that was fittingly rewarded with the gong. He was everywhere in attack, running with the speed and evasion we have come to associate with him, organising the defence from the back and, in the coup de grâce, effecting a sensational covering tackle to sniff out a certain Parra try long after the game was well won. He is as valuable to his team as are Tedesco, Mitchell and Trbojevic to theirs.

 

The Panthers played as a complete unit from No. 1 through to No. 17, powerful, slick, very fast, wonderfully co-ordinated. With such a dominant pack (I can’t praise them enough!), any half decent halfback will play well. When that half is someone with the talent of Cleary, then you’re in dire straits. Add in Luai’s flair and deceptive running, the power of To’o, the dependability of Tago, the determination of Crichton and the speed of Staines – what a side! And their bench is more of the same. They will lose a few players to other clubs for 2023 but they’ll still start the new season as the hottest of favourites.

 

The Eels were never in it after those first ten minutes and, to be brutally honest, they were slowly losing ground even during that period. But they did not lie down; they tried very hard; they defended desperately; a lesser side would have given up at least 40 points on the weight of this game’s possession and field position. They were simply overwhelmed by an opposition playing at its peak. Perhaps the Eels used up a lot of petrol in Townsville’s heat and humidity the previous week. Mahoney tackled himself to a standstill, Lane was among their best and Brown showed flashes of his ability. Moses didn’t lead his team to the Promised Land but, with his pack going backwards, that was never going to happen. Gutherson had no room in which to move and made a few uncharacteristic errors.

 

There were similarities to last week’s AFL Grand Final. The result was clear a long way out; to some, it was a dud game because of that. But in both instances it was a case of the season’s best team putting it all altogether in a majestic display on the day that counts against a worthy but overwhelmed opposition. Rather than talk about dud games, let’s acknowledge and appreciate the qualities of these champion sides.

 

For what it’s worth, I thought referee Ashley Klein had a pretty good game. The Bunker made one blue but it didn’t change the outcome.

 

Now we move on to the World Cup starting in a fortnight.

 

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About Ian Hauser

A relaxed, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A loyal Queenslander, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. Enjoys travel, coffee and cake, reading, and has been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. One of Footy Almanac's online editors who enjoys the occasional editing opportunity to assist aspiring writers.

Comments

  1. HI Ian: did the Eels get beyond the halfway line in the opening 15 minutes of the grannie? The Panthers slaughtered them and Parramatta had to defend feverishly for that period.
    The final scoreline flattered Parramatta. They scored only when the game as a contest was dead and buried.
    Same as the Sydney Swans the week before in the AFL grannie where the mighty Cats slaughtered them in the first half.
    As a Victorian and an ex-PNG colleague of your neighbour Keithy Jackson, I wrote about and broadcast on the ABC R.L. matches in Port Moresby and other centres such as Lae, Rabaul and Madang when the annual Papua vs. New Guinea inter-league R.L. matches were played..
    As a Victorian I was known as ‘The Mexican’. Someone from south of the border commenting on the beloved game of NSW and Qld.

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