NRL clubs pay the price
The bulging casualty ward to emerge from the brutal State of Origin series opener and clubs’ decisions to rest weary rep stars had a major bearing on round 12 results.
Parramatta’s call to give inspirational co-captain Jarryd Hayne a breather 48 hours after his man-of-the-match turn for NSW contributed to a 38-12 local derby loss to Penrith.
Ravaged by the long-term injury to halfback Cooper Cronk (broken arm) and short-term sidelining of Queensland teammate Billy Slater (AC joint), a makeshift Melbourne line-up crashed to a 22-0 loss to North Queensland on Saturday night. Cronk’s 8-12 week absence could derail the Storm’s campaign.
An uncharacteristically flat Manly sorely missed injured Origin duo Daly Cherry-Evans (knee) and Anthony Watmough (biceps) on Sunday, walloped 36-10 by Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium despite the return of Kieran Foran and Jamie Lyon.
St George Illawarra will be forced to take on Souths on Monday without winger Brett Morris (shoulder), who is out indefinitely, while twin brother and fellow Blues hero Josh is slated to miss 6-8 weeks for Canterbury. NSW captain Paul Gallen will also miss at least one game for Cronulla.
The only two clubs which did not contribute a player to either Origin side – the Panthers and the Warriors – both cruised to sizeable victories.
Cue Craig Bellamy, Geoff Toovey and a clutch of rival NRL coaches beginning their annual roast of Origin scheduling.
Contenders put their hands up
Several changes will be made to the squads for the second Origin clash in Sydney on June 18, injury-enforced and form-related. An enthusiastic batch of contenders pushed their cases for a Blues or Maroons call-up, while some failed to grab their opportunity to impress.
NSW is in need of a new left-side combination after the injuries to the Morris twins, and Penrith winger Josh Mansour put his name forward with a brilliant double on Friday night. Leading wing contender Jorge Taufua was solid in a badly beaten Manly outfit.
Will Hopoate apparently has a free run at the vacant centre spot after Jamal Idris’ standing down for off-field issues this week. It would cap a remarkable comeback for the 22-year-old after two years out of the game while completing a Mormon mission. Dylan Walker, Jack Wighton and Kane Linnett are potential bolters.
Although it may be a fraction too early for a NSW debut, backrower Tyrone Peachey placed himself under the selectors’ noses with a dazzling two-try performance for Penrith; his impact and versatility would be ideal off the bench.
Sam Thaiday all but confirmed his place in Origin II with a solid return from injury for the Broncos, while Josh McGuire, Jacob Lillyman and Brenton Lawrence have joined David Taylor in the Maroons’ engine-room queue as Mal Meninga considers replacing his underperforming forwards.
If Greg Inglis is required to replace Billy Slater at fullback, Will Chambers proved he is ready to debut in the centres after working hard in the Storm’s big loss.
Brisbane halfback Ben Hunt has firmed as a big chance to snare the bench utility role for Queensland with another man-of-the-match showing. Fellow interchange contender Anthony Milford had a forgettable game at the back in Canberra’s loss to the Roosters.
Valour from Origin stars
Queensland skipper Cameron Smith, who picked up an ankle injury in the Origin clash, was heroic in Melbourne’s loss to the Cowboys, playing the full 80 minutes and topping the tackle count with 54. Blues and Storm backrower Ryan Hoffman was not far behind with 43 tackles and 100 metres.
Brisbane’s Queensland forwards Matt Gillett and Corey Parker were equally gallant in a winning side: Gillett capped a non-stop performance with a 95-metre runaway try, while Parker was typically industrious in racking up 15 carries.
A week to remember for …
Just the second player to break the 200-game barrier for the New Zealand Warriors, much-admired captain Simon Mannering marked his milestone game with two tries – including a stunning kick-and-chase effort to open his side’s account – in a 38-18 victory over Newcastle. The Warriors attracted a bumper 19,000-plus crowd for their long-awaited first match of 2014 at traditional home base Mt Smart Stadium.
A week to forget for …
Parramatta’s comprehensive derby loss to Penrith was compounded by the season-ending ACL injury suffered by hooker Nathan Peats. One of the NRL’s form No. 9s this season, Peats has been integral to the Eels’ resurgence after joining the club from Souths at the end of last year and his absence could scuttle their finals bid.
Play of the week
Tyrone Peachey arrived from Cronulla with some enormous wraps to live up to, and the backrower produced his best performance in Panthers colours with a spectacular double against Parramatta. His second try was a spectacular 60-metre individual effort, showcasing his speed, footwork and tackle-busting ability, while his swerve to get around Ken Sio was breathtaking.
Blunder of the week
Although all bad decisions this week pale in comparison to the judiciary’s disgraceful downgrading of Josh Reynolds’ dangerous throw charge from Origin I, the hapless video referees still managed to grab a piece of the round 12 limelight. A baffling double knock-on ruling to deny Matthew Wright a seemingly obvious try was one of three referred calls to go against the Cowboys.
Best individual performance
Putting a disappointing display in the Origin series opener behind him, Johnathan Thurston backed up just 72 hours later with a masterful display in the Cowboys’ shutout of the Storm. Thurston scored a try and provided two brilliant assists with the boot to underline his class and commitment to the club.
St George Illawarra caretaker coach Paul McGregor faces a difficult first-up assignment, taking the struggling Dragons to ANZ Stadium to face heavyweights South Sydney. The Saints have won just one match since round three, while the Rabbitohs boast five wins in their last seven outings and should do the job comfortably.