Josh Hodgson’s long-awaited return has ignited Canberra’s NRL season, inspiring it to a 48-12 NRL thrashing of Wests Tigers on Sunday.
The Raiders ran in nine tries, with English hooker Hodgson setting up three tries in 46 minutes at Campbelltown Stadium after being introduced off the bench midway through the first half.
Coming back after a knee reconstruction, Hodgson inspired Canberra to its best performance of the season, which left it just four points behind the eighth-placed Brisbane Broncos.
His impact was immediate as he threw a hard, flat pass to Josh Papalii, who barged his way over to reduce the Tigers’ lead to 12-10 at the break.
And when he produced a sleight of hand to fool the Tigers defensive line, it created room for Joseph Tapine to crash over and give the Raiders the lead.
The Raiders sealed the game when Hodgson flicked the ball for Tapine’s second try.
Joseph Leilua also brought up a double to consign Wests to its seventh loss in ninth starts.
The Tigers also have injury concerns over Mahe Fonua (suspected broken arm) and Matt McIlwrick (ankle).
Smith tips Ponga for Maroons
Cameron Smith says Queensland has to pick Kalyn Ponga for next Sunday’s must-win State of Origin clash after getting a close look at him in Melbourne’s 28-10 win over Newcastle.
Newcastle coach Nathan Brown said the 20-year-old Ponga “wasn’t very good” in the loss, but he still scored a try and had a hand in the Knights’ only other to go with his nine tackle busts and two linebreaks.
“I think he has to be there, just given the situation for Queensland,” Smith said.
“It’s a must-win game – we all know that and Kevvie [Walters] understands that – and you need someone who can create opportunities for the team and can win a game.
“Certainly Kalyn Ponga is someone who can do that.
“The ease that he creates opportunities for his outside men, it looks too easy.”
Told of Smith’s comments, Ponga said he was ready to play at fullback or anywhere required of him as a bench utility.
“Put me anywhere and I will play,” he said.
“Honestly, I would love to play. I just want to play.”
Winger Josh Addo-Carr twice finished off length-of-the-field tries, and Cameron Munster also starred as Storm consolidated its fifth spot on the ladder.
Klemmer to avoid Origin ban
NSW enforcer David Klemmer is set to avoid a ban that would rule him out of State of Origin II after being charged with dangerous contact.
The match review committee has handed the Bulldogs prop a grade-one charge for his late hit on Gold Coast half AJ Brimson late in Saturday’s home loss to the Titans.
But Klemmer has no prior offences in the past two years and he can avoid a suspension with an early guilty plea.
That will clear him to play for NSW when they attempt to clinch the Origin series at ANZ Stadium next Sunday.
He will face a one-match ban if he chooses to contest the charge and loses.
Cronulla captain Paul Gallen can likewise avoid a ban with an early guilty plea after being charged with dangerous contact to the head/neck of Brisbane forward Joe Ofahengaue.
Manly’s Joel Thompson is facing a fine only for a careless high tackle on St George Illawarra centre Euan Aitken.
Magic Round mishap
The NRL has been forced into an embarrassing date switch for its Magic Round in Brisbane next season.
NRL CEO Todd Greenberg held a media conference in Brisbane on Sunday morning to announce that all eight games of round 10 next year would be held at Suncorp Stadium over the weekend of May 17 to 19.
But it soon emerged Queensland Reds were booked to play their Super Rugby clash against NSW Waratahs at the ground on May 18.
Hours later the NRL announced the Magic Round would come a week earlier.
“There has been some miscommunication over the availability of dates,” the NRL said in a statement.
Ticket prices will be aimed at families and patrons can buy one ticket for access to any of the double-header or triple-header sessions, as well as one covering all three sessions.