Almanac Rugby League – NRL Finals Week 2 + NRLW Round 2: Results

The NRL showcased another nail-biting weekend with both semi-final matches decided by the smallest of margins. You can’t ask for much more than that! Round 2 of the NRLW produced fast-paced, committed and attractive footy which lost little, if anything, by comparison to the men’s matches.

 

In the NRLW, the Brisbane Broncos made another statement in their clash against the Sydney Roosters and, in doing so, all but assured themselves a place in the first NRLW Grand Final at the end of the month. This was a good quality game played at a fast pace in a very willing manner. Some of the hits up forward were real crunchers! After sorting each other out for the first fifteen minutes or so, the Roosters missed a chance to go ahead when they knocked on in-goal after a dab through-ball. Not long after, the Broncos took control with better structure, teamwork, ball control and use of opportunities. Tries to the scheming Ali Brigginshaw and a rampaging Teuila Fotu-Moala (a la Jason Taumalolo) gave the northern girls a handy half-time lead. Brittany Breayley is a tough, classy act in the Damien Cook mould and the veteran Steph Hancock was a bowling ball through the Roosters tenpins. The second half was an engaging slog with the Roosters playing somewhat better but the best they could do was share the scoring honours in the last 30 minutes. Half-back Maddie Studdon was their standout player while Isabelle Kelly showed excellent consideration and concern after a tackle on Meg Ward went wrong. I continue to admire the passion of the women’s game, the strength of the physical clashes, the courage of the players and their commitment to just get on with the game and to hell with the theatrics. NRL men: watch, learn and emulate!

 

Saturday evening’s encounter between the Dragons and the Warriors provided the upset of the weekend. After a modest performance last weekend, the Dragons came out on fire and had 12 points on the board in less than even time. A 90-metre intercept (Shakiah Tungai) was followed by a long-range team effort culminating in a majestic, striding run by Honey Hireme which included a beautiful in and out manoeuvre which left the opposing fullback grasping at air. Sensational! The Warriors appeared cumbersome by comparison and just couldn’t make ground against a spirited, committed defence. Jessica Sergis celebrated her twenty-first birthday with a powerful performance in both attack and defence while Kezie Apps was prominent throughout. The Warriors were best served by fullback Apil Nicholls who competed enthusiastically.

 

It’s hard to know what to make of the Sharks/Panthers NRL clash. In some ways, it played to script – the Sharks bolted out to a very good lead, the Panthers mounted a characteristic comeback to square it up before it was finally settled by a field goal. Great theatre and the NRL got another nail-biter (but a worryingly modest crowd). In another way, the Sharks did look a million dollars for 20 minutes before it became somewhat underwhelming for a while. Then, after half-time, the Panthers took charge and looked great in their own inexplicable way before the last fifteen minutes saw both sides play poorly structured sets, panic here and there, and lose the plot. The winner was decided by which side got a lucky, wobbly-off-the-boot field goal. It was exciting because of the pace and closeness in the last quarter, but did not display the level of skills you’d expect at this level from these blokes in the crunch. The Sharks deserve credit for holding their nerve in the last fifteen minutes when many teams would have folded. Already undermanned going into the game, they lost Gallen for the last third of the game and had Lewis off the field with a leg concern. Moylan enjoyed one of his better games and clearly won the head-to-head battle against Maloney. Kurt Capewell was also high up among their best while Fifita kept his cool and was a positive influence. The Panthers were their own worst enemies again with a slow start and poor discipline. Maloney was very Jeckyl and Hyde (mostly Hyde) and arguably cost his team two soft tries. Kikau was imposing at times but drifts in and out of the game a bit too much at this stage of his career; Merrin and Yeo gave a good account of themselves. So the Sharks swim deeper into September and the Panthers try to work out what time matches start so that they can be ready to go from the opening whistle next season.

 

In the other semi-final, someone forgot to tell the St George Illawarra Dragons that they were only there to make up the numbers against a brooding burrow of Bunnies waiting to extract revenge after their disappointing loss the previous weekend. By my calculation, the Dragons controlled the game for about 60 minutes but couldn’t turn it into sufficient scoreboard substance to withstand a second half Rabbitohs fightback. The Dragons were more energetic and enterprising throughout the first half, containing and frustrating an out-of-sorts South Sydney, and held a deserved 8-2 lead at the break. In particular, the Saints’ forwards not only held their more imposing counterparts but also dominated them for long periods. Frizell and De Belin (on one leg) showed their class while Cameron McInnes showed that he is not far behind Damian Cook as a No. 9, if in a different style. Ben Hunt guided things well and scored a strong solo try but muffed it in the final, critical minute; Nene McDonald was strong in both attack and defence; Jordan Pereira showed maturity for someone with less than ten games on his resume. The loss of Tariq Sims early in the second half hurt but it still took another fifteen minutes before the Rabbitohs crossed and then added a penalty to square things at 10-10. The Bunnies attacked and attacked but came away with only a comfortable field goal to Reynolds to show for it. They couldn’t prosper any further even after a controversial but correct penalty against Kurt Mann for deliberately passing into an opponent. On a rare foray downfield, the Dragons drew a penalty (again, correctly) to edge ahead 12-11 with less than five minutes on the clock. The Bunnies came back and Reynolds slotted another field goal under enormous pressure to square the ledger at 12-12. With less than a minute to play, the Dragons failed to get a kick away downfield on their final tackle to gift the Bunnies field position to launch one last raid. With incredible presence of mind, poise and skill, Reynolds slotted his third field goal in ten minutes to snatch the win. Amazing! Little things count in the end – the Dragons muffed a basic play, Reynolds seized the moment. St George Illawarra didn’t deserve to lose but they had their chances; South Sydney were lucky to win but made the most of their opportunities. Paul McGregor should be proud of his undermanned team’s effort in the face of considerable adversity; Anthony Siebold will breathe a sigh of relief and try to work out how to get his lads firing from the get-go on Saturday night.

 

In the QCup Preliminary Final, Easts Tigers achieved a forty point turnaround in three weeks to beat Burleigh Bears 36-26 in an absorbing contest. Easts rode the wave of their recent finals momentum in a bright opening. Boosted by the inclusion of Billy Walters and Sam Kasiano, the Tigers dominated most of the first half but trailed by 4 at the break after a late Bears surge. But the second half was all Easts. Big Albert Vete was all strength and menace up front, well supported by a dynamic Patrick Kaufusi and Kasiano. Walters, veteran centre Shayne Neumann and fullback Scott Drinkwater organised the backs to run in four second half tries. The Bears just couldn’t find answers. After a blockbusting performance a few weeks ago, Sami Sauiluma was well contained by the Tiger defence; Dylan Phythian had his moments but was shaded by Walters; Luke Page made some characteristic surges but also spent time in the bin after a professional foul. Eventually, they succumbed to a better outfit on the day. So the Tigers go on to meet the Redcliffe Dolphins in the Grand Final on Sunday, looking to win four sudden death finals matches on the trot after a modest season. They have momentum, talent and spirit in spades on their side at the moment.

 

Tipping tally? I got three out of five. How about you?

 

Ian Hauser is developing quite some enthusiasm for the NRLW because he thinks they play in the right spirit. He likes to help authors write their manuscripts right, too. Check out his editing services here.

 

About Ian Hauser

A happy, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A Queenslander through and through, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. I appreciate those beautiful moments in sport (and life) that capture the spirit rather than the law of the game. I enjoy travel, good coffee and cake, reading, and have been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. I offer a comprehensive editing service for both new and experienced writers. Check me out at www.writerightediting.com.au Queenslander!

Comments

  1. Two great one-point NRL finals on the weekend, Ian, the only downside being that I wish the Panthers and the Dragons had won.
    For some reason that I can’t pinpoint, I’ve never been a fan of the Sharks or Rabbitohs.

  2. Damian Roache says:

    Watched the Dragons v Bunnies game through bleary jet lagged eyes after two long flights from the UK landed me home Saturday morning.

    Game could have gone either way but as a Dragons supporter i thought the Bunnies deserved the win.

    Qld Cup final should be a beauty. Redcliffe and Easts always have great tussles on the field ….and their supporters off the field give their opposition plenty of stick.

    Having two former ‘traditional’ Brisbane Rugby League teams in the QLD final is fairly rare too. Only 3 in last 22 GF’s are far as i can see. Deserves a decent crowd.

  3. Pete,

    As a Queenslander, my thoughts re various Sydney teams usually revolve around a particular player. In the case of Cronulla, it’s Gallen – we just can’t stand him up here because, for years, he embodied everything NSW that we demonise in the Origin period. It’s a pity because the Sharks also feature that colossus of the code, Luke Lewis, a true champion, and Valentine Holmes, one of the greats of the next generation.

    As for the Bunnies, they’ve always been in the top half of my preferences – maybe it’s the ‘tough side of the tracks’ historical thing, maybe it’s about Inglis (although I think we’ve seen his best years). But, in recent times, my thoughts have also been somewhat influenced by Mark Courtney’s ‘Moving the Goalposts’. Worth a read.

    Damian, welcome home! Dragons v Bunnies – I thought the Dragons were a bit stiff but, as I wrote, they stuffed up their opportunities in those vital last few minutes. In 2015, the Broncos missed out on a premiership because they missed one tackle (which they should have completed at least twice) in the last minute of normal time in the GF. On such minutia do season’s rise or fall.

    The QCup GF should be a corker! There’s certainly history between these two sides. We’re working on a piece for later in the week, so keep an eye out for that. I can’t get to the match but will be on the edge of my couch, glued to the screen.

  4. Ian, I never realised that Paul Gallen was 37 years old and made his NRL debut in 2001. Given his Origin career went from 2006 to 2016, he would’ve copped a good few defeats at the hands of the Mighty Maroons. I can’t pinpoint why I dislike the Sharks and Rabbitohs, with the latter team worthy of admiration after returning to the fold given the NRL “did a Fitzroy” on them. The North Sydney Bears, on the other hand, were a team I really liked.

  5. I’ll certainly Google Mark Courtney’s “Moving the Goalposts”, Ian. My current research – as enjoyable as it is – leaves little time for recreational reading, leading to a stockpile of cricket and footy books.

  6. Ian, i know one can’t argue with two close semi finals, but for a sport that describes itself as national a semi final with a crowd of 19,211 is horrendous.

    I listened to the pundits on the TV down play this, speaking of the big TV audience; was it a bigger viewing audience than the AFL matches?

    With much of the ABC TV, as well as pay TV Sydney based, certainly Sydney centric i’m not surprised at how they justify their ‘sport’. However , take away the regular off field controversies, what does the future hold for the NRL?

    Of the four ‘kicking the ball’ sports the rugby codes are really the poor relations in interest and participation. What is the future for them, because if a semi final in a purportedly national competition gets less than 20,000 spectators there’s a problem.

    Glen!

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