THE FINALS - Around the grounds
Monday 10 September 2012 3:04 PM
Canterbury-Bankstown and Melbourne played up to their rankings to earn a week off and the season is over for bottom-ranked sides Cronulla and Brisbane after week one of the NRL finals.
In the NYC, the top two teams – Canterbury-Bankstown and the Vodafone Junior Warriors – both lost, meaning third-placed Canberra and fourth-ranked Wests Tigers advanced to week three while the fifth and six-placed sides Penrith and South Sydney were both eliminated after stumbling against their lower-ranked rivals St George Illawarra and the Sydney Roosters.
In the New South Wales Cup, minor premiers the Bulldogs and third-placed Newcastle advanced directly to week three with Windsor and Illawarra being eliminated.
In the toughest of the weekend’s finals, the Bulldogs allayed any number of doubts about their credentials with a second half shutout to beat Manly 16-10 at ANZ Stadium on Friday night.
Numerous former players and experts had reckoned the 2011 premiers would have too much big-game experience for the Bulldogs.
And when they hit the Dogs with two quick tries through Jorge Taufua and Brett Stewart to lead 10-6 at halftime, it looked like the Sea Eagles were in business.
Critically, though, Manly had lost co-captain Jamie Lyon with a calf injury by then. While it didn’t hurt Sea Eagles initially – both tries came after he had been forced off – it would prove costly.
The Bulldogs hung in superbly in the second half scoring the only points of the spell – tries to Kris Keating and the sensational Ben Barba – to deny Manly and prove to everyone they have the mettle to go all the way. They also survived without a penalty in the second half while Manly received three.
Centre Josh Morris was in outstanding touch, two scorching breaks down the extreme left edge creating tries for Jonathan Wright in the first half and Barba in the 56th minute.
There was just six points in it but the Dogs had the will and skill to protect their lead for the final 24 minutes.
In the second final at AAMI Park, South Sydney had all manner of sentimental support but it was never going to count against a Melbourne outfit playing with such ruthless intent. The Storm gave the Rabbitohs nothing to lead 18-0 at halftime and 24-0 six minutes into the second half.
They may have been critical of themselves for not adding to their score in the last half hour and they wouldn’t have been impressed allowing the Rabbitohs to score late but this was a highly impressive performance overall, the most compelling of the weekend.
Two of Melbourne’s tries were set-piece classics directly from scrums, Billy Slater a vital figure each time as one led to a try for left winger Mahe Fonua and then another in the second half for right winger Sisa Waqa.
The much-touted Rabbitohs could scarcely have been more disappointing on the big stage, still without a finals win in 25 years and now needing to regroup for this week’s sudden-death date with in-form Canberra on Saturday night.
While the Storm impressed in winning 24-6 so did North Queensland in Saturday night’s derby against Brisbane in Townsville.
The Broncos had come into the finals in poor shape and inspired little confidence with their start as they conceded three tries to trail 0-18 at halftime, two to halfback Michael Morgan.
Former Vodafone Warrior Brent Tate wound back the clock to scorch away for a second half try and, while Brisbane fought gamely with three second half tries, the Cowboys had this one safely locked away giving Broncos prop Petero Civoniceva a less than fond final farewell.
Morgan collected a third try late and Bowen nabbed a field goal for a 33-16 victory and a clash against Manly at Allianz Stadium on Friday night.
Canberra lined up a week two meeting with the Rabbitohs by maintaining its commanding end-of-season form with a 34-16 victory over Cronulla at Canberra Stadium on Sunday.
The Sharks closed to 16-18 mid-way through the second half but fell away badly in the final quarter as they yielded four tries. By then the Sharks were without Todd Carney while the Raiders had lost centre Jarrod Croker.
Canberra’s superiority would have been ever more marked had it had Croker’s goal kicking skills to call on, his deputies failing to convert any of the final four tries.
Friday, September 14 at Allianz Stadium
7.45pm: Manly v North Queensland
Saturday, September 15 at ANZ Stadium
7.45pm: South Sydney v Canberra
Defending premiers the Vodafone Junior Warriors and this year’s minor premier Canterbury-Bankstown both slipped up at the first hurdle in the NYC finals.
The Bulldogs were first to fall, losing 20-24 to fourth-placed Wests Tigers on Friday night – and this was a Tigers side which, according to NRL Stats, missed a whopping 70 tackles.
The Vodafone Junior Warriors are in the same predicament as the Bulldogs, pipped 39-38 by Canberra in an extraordinary contest. At least they have a second chance next weekend.
The Vodafone Junior Warriors will face the Sydney Roosters at ANZ Stadium on Saturday (5.15pm kick-off NZ time) while the Bulldogs take on St George Illawarra at Allianz Stadium on Friday night.
Like the Tigers and the Raiders in the top four clashes, the Roosters and the Dragons upset the form book in the bottom four match-ups. The eighth-placed Dragons had few concerns dismissing the fifth-placed Panthers 44-20 but the Roosters (seventh) needed an 80th minute try from Curtis Rona to steal a 24-22 win; Rona had also scored in the 66th to leave his side two points adrift in a match in which the Roosters scored six tries but couldn’t convert one.
Friday, September 14 at Allianz Stadium
5.15pm: Canterbury-Bankstown v St George Illawarra
Saturday, September 15 at ANZ Stadium
5.15pm: Vodafone Warriors v Sydney Roosters
NEW SOUTH WALES CUP FINALS
Minor premier Canterbury-Bankstown and third-placed Newcastle have moved through directly to week three of the New South Wales Cup play-offs.
The Bulldogs were fully stretched before winning 38-34 against Parramatta’s feeder club Wentworthville. Hero of the day was former Junior Kiwi winger Drury Low who bagged four tries while another ex-Kiwi Martin Taupau and former New Zealand international Bryson Goodwin also scored.
The Dogs led 38-18 mid-way through the match but were all but run down by the fast-finishing Wenworthville.
The story was much the same when third-placed Newcastle took on second-ranked North Sydney. The Knights ran out to a big 28-4 advantage only to see the Bears race back to fall just two points short at the end.
In the elimination play-offs Windsor (fifth) couldn’t live with Balmain Ryde Eastwood (eighth), going out of the finals after being drubbed 32-6.
It was much tighter in the encounter between Illawarra (sixth) and Newtown (seventh) with Newtown staying alive with a 36-30 win. Former Vodafone Junior Warrior Nafe Seluini and ex-Vodafone Warriors NRL squad member Saulala Houma both scored for the Jets.
In next week’s semi-finals at Leichhardt Oval, Wentworthville takes on Balmain Ryde Eastwood and North Sydney faces Newtown.
ENGLISH SUPER LEAGUE
Super League finals football gets under way a week later than the NRL play-offs with the regular season winding up just last weekend.
Wigan, which had already sealed the equivalent of the NRL's minor premiership, went down 18-26 to bitter rival St Helens in the final league fixture. Vodafone Warriors-bound halfback Thomas Leuluai, recently returned from injury, scored a smart try down the short side but Saints went on to take the points and clinch third place to set up a week one play-off against Warrington.
Warrington pounded bottom-placed Widnes 52-14 to finish a point behind Wigan.
Wigan will be at home to Les Catalans in its week one play-off on Friday night.
The Dragons finished their regular season campaign by beating Bradford 50-26; former Vodafone Warrior Louis Anderson scored for the Dragons while ex-Penrith halfback Jarrod Sammut scored four tries for the beaten Bulls.
Leeds was pummelled 48-24 by Huddersfield (seventh) but remained fifth while Hull FC finished level on points with Leeds but ended up sixth on points for and against after beating Castleford 36-10. Taking the final play-off spot was Wakefield with a 42-34 win against Salford.
In next week’s finals Wigan plays Les Catalans, Warrington meets St Helens, Leeds is at home to Wakefield and Hull FC hosts Huddersfield.