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Sydney Roosters hoping Sonny Bill Williams’ NRL return will help inspire premiership three-peat


Even the Sydney Roosters are unsure how Sonny Bill Williams will perform when he links up with the club this weekend.

Williams’ two weeks of isolation, spent holed up in a Sydney hotel with his four children and wife, ends on Thursday.

Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson has already named his 21-man squad for Thursday night’s match against the Melbourne Storm, which has come too soon for Williams.

But the Is have been dotted and the Ts crossed for the 35-year-old to soon reunite with his former club and Robinson is looking forward to unleashing his new weapon.

“That’s [Williams signing] all been done, he gets out Thursday night and he’ll be ready to join us on the weekend,” Robinson said.

After six years away from the NRL, the Roosters and fans alike are waiting with bated breath to see how Williams will perform.

“We will see him move and how he connects with the guys around him, then we’ll get a further idea,” Robinson said.

As Canterbury did with English recruit Luke Thompson, it is likely the Roosters would have provided gym equipment in the apartment in which Williams and his family quarantined in to allow him to stay in shape.

But after two weeks of quarantine, the back-to-back premiers are not setting the bar too high and are keeping tight-lipped on how Williams will contribute to the team.

“I’d like to keep those conversations private, [on] how we will use him. We’ve had lots of discussions and we will see,” Robinson said.

All Blacks' Sonny Bill Williams shrugs off Wallabies' Henry Speight's tackle
Williams added to his All Blacks Test caps since his last stint with the Roosters.(AAP: Dean Lewins)

The Roosters’ fairytale scenario is that the New Zealand dual international will guide the club to an historic premiership three-peat. Williams has already won an NRL premiership with the club in 2013.

This return is not about money for Williams, as he remains on a $10 million contract with Super League’s Toronto Wolfpack until 2021. The club pulled out of this year’s competition with the coronavirus pandemic creating too much of a financial toll.

Coming into a side this close to finals, the Roosters could look to use Williams as a Cooper Cronk-type leader figure.

At the backend of his career, Cronk inspired the Roosters to their 2018 grand final victory, playing with a broken shoulder blade, and had a profound impact on the team.

Robinson said Williams had similar qualities to Cronk.

“His [Williams] biggest attribute is the courage he has to play footy,” he said.

“You see the man has got a fire in him, a hunger to perform and he loves playing in a team environment.”

Williams behind Roosters’ winning culture

Anthony Minichiello captained the Roosters when Williams last played for the club in 2014.

Minichiello retired that year after setting the record for the most matches and most tries in the club’s history.

He credited Williams for instilling a winning culture that has led to the Tricolours’ subsequent premiership success in 2018 and 2019.

“He’s an utter professional on and off the field,” Minichiello said.

“That’s what our club culture is built around now, being a full-time professional.

“That’s what Trent Robinson challenged us on all those years ago and that’s what the team is now and that’s what Sonny is.”

Sonny Bill Williams
Williams was a vital member of the Roosters’ 2013 premiership-winning squad.(AAP: Paul Miller)

Minichiello is fully supportive of his former teammate linking up with the club.

“I have wonderful memories of playing with him, 2013 was a record year for us with a minor premiership and a premiership,” Minichiello said.

“[In] 2014 we had another minor premiership, but didn’t get the job done.”

Minichiello said Williams would make as big an impact on the game today as he did at the height of his career.

“Young kids look at him and say, ‘if I want to play my best, these are the things I’ve got to do’,” he said.

“We learnt from him, the way he does things consistently to get results.

As for Williams’s on-field output, Minichiello was not quite as confident but he said the pros outweighed the cons.

“That’s what we will find out,” Minichiello said.

“Even if he doesn’t bring anything on the field, it’s what he brings off the field that people look at.”

Effort, Minichiello said, certainly would not be an issue.

“He’s always in training an hour before doing rehab, making sure his body is prepped perfectly,” he said.

“It’s the way young kids will look up to him and see how he prepares.”

Williams could be up for selection when the Roosters take on the Wests Tigers on August 22.



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NRL fines Brisbane Broncos forward Tevita Pangai Junior $30,000 for coronavirus protocol breaches


Brisbane Broncos forward Tevita Pangai Junior has been fined $30,000 and stood down indefinitely for multiple breaches of the NRL’s biosecurity protocols.

The league, which issued Pangai Junior with a breach notice this afternoon, alleged the 24-year-old broke protocols on multiple occasions “over a period of time”.

It means the 24-year-old is excluded from the Broncos’ bubble and any NRL matchday activities “until he can satisfy the league that he will comply with all biosecurity protocols.

“We will do everything we can to protect our season,” acting NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said in a statement.

“Players or officials who show they are unable to comply with the biosecurity protocols will be removed from club bubbles until we are satisfied that they will comply with the protocols.

“We believe in this case, Tevita has not been able to do that.

“This decision protects the health of our playing squads and most importantly the general community.”

Pangai Junior had already been stood down by the Broncos on Sunday for 14 days and placed in a “COVID Hold”.

The club said he attended the opening of a barber shop on Saturday, in breach of the NRL’s protocols.

Tevita Pangai Junior fends some Cowboys
Pangai Junior faces a clouded future at the Broncos.(AAP: Cameron Laird)

The Broncos are still to deliver their punishment to Pangai Junior following the NRL’s sanctions, with several media reports suggesting the club is considering terminating his contract, despite more than two years remaining on his deal.

Pangai Junior had previously been linked to a move to the Sydney Roosters.

But any aspirations he may have had of joining the back-to-back premiers have been swiftly shot down by Roosters coach Trent Robinson.

“He won’t be at the Roosters,” Robinson said.

“I don’t know what’s going on up there but we’ve worked really hard, as I think you can see, for the type of player that we want and he’s not going to fit that mould.”

The Broncos are already dealing with speculation about the future of head coach Anthony Seibold, who has hired lawyers to investigate allegedly slanderous posts circulating online about him.



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Sonny Bill Williams calls for more minority representation among NRL higher-ups


Returning rugby league star Sonny Bill Williams wants to see more Indigenous people making the decisions in the NRL.

While Indigenous Australians, Maoris and Pacific Islanders make up the majority of the players on the field, there are zero head coaches with those backgrounds.

Stephen Kearney was the only Maori coaching an NRL team this season, and he was ousted by the Warriors shortly after the league restarted.

And Williams, who is set to return to the NRL with the Roosters for the first time since 2014, said he wants that to change.

Speaking to Channel Nine last night, he was asked by Phil Gould who inspired him when he was coming up through the ranks.

But Williams turned the question around on Gould and urged the prominent commentator and former coach to promote Indigenous voices and people in his new role as a “club-wide consultant” at the Warriors.

“I just try to look at things from a perspective of what’s best for my people — Polynesians, Maoris, Aboriginals, the minorities,” Williams said.

“I’d love to see you take someone under your wing and help us thrive, not just on the field … obviously we’re thriving in that sense.

But the hopes of any Warriors fans dreaming that SBW might be coming their way in 2021 were dashed soon after.

Having just finished up stints in Canada, France and New Zealand, Williams said he would not be heading across the ditch for what will likely be the last year of his playing career because he wanted to settle down in Australia.

“I’ve got four young kids and my wife, they’re Australians. I consider Australia a home even probably more so than New Zealand as far as raising the kids and whatnot,” he said.

“I’m a realist. I’m 35, I’m not a spring chicken anymore. I reckon I’ve got maybe one more year max in me.”

Williams suggested he would happily take on an advisory role to help the younger players coming through at the Warriors, who are battling in 11th spot on the ladder.



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NRL and Peter V’Landys issue final warning to players breaking coronavirus bubble laws with ‘competition at stake’


The NRL’s coronavirus biosecurity bubble has been burst nine times in just four days, forcing the code’s bosses to offer a stern and final warning to misbehaving players and coaches.

Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V’Landys said harsher punishments were on the way for those breaking the rules, while warning the league’s arrangement with the Queensland Government “could be withdrawn any day”.

“We will increase financial penalties to act as a deterrent because these people are being selfish,” V’Landys said.

“It’s concerning because the whole competition is at stake.”

Acting NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said the league would take “the strongest action possible” against any offending member of the bubble.

Those found to be breaking the rules are placed into lockdown for 14 days and could face fines.

The currently banished includes two Newcastle Knights players under investigation, Bronco Tevita Pangai Jr, who visited a barbershop, Broncos coach Anthony Seibold and three Broncos officials, including club great Alfie Langer.

Souths coach Wayne Bennett and Paul Vaughan were also issued $20,000 and $10,000 fines respectively for dining out at a restaurant.

Bennett is on the Project Apollo board, which created the biosecurity protocols.

South Sydney Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett walks through the red and yellow seats at Suncorp Stadium.
Wayne Bennett was fined $20,000 for his bubble breach.(AAP: Darren England)

“It’s not ideal to lose your coach for a couple of weeks but he [Bennett] knows now that what he did was wrong,” Souths player Campbell Graham said.

“Everyone is in the same boat and the rules are clear now, but it does get a bit confusing with the chopping and changing of rules.”

The rules were somewhat relaxed in June, but more strict restrictions were reinstated in July when cases rose in the eastern states.

Despite some alleged confusion, the NRL insists the majority are doing the right thing.

Queensland has been the life-raft for the NRL during the pandemic. The Queensland Government has hosted the Melbourne Storm for months, and has given players exemptions to travel interstate.

But this recent spate of errors threatens to derail that agreement.

“I’m satisfied that management is dealing with this very, very seriously — I am not satisfied that the players understand the seriousness,” Dr Jeanette Young, Queensland’s Chief Health Officer, said on Monday.

Rugby League isn’t forgetting that goodwill is strictly conditional.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the breaches were “incredibly frustrating because Queenslanders are doing the right thing and this puts at risk all that great work”.

There are still seven rounds to go before finals in this irregular season.



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Penrith Panthers coach Ivan Cleary fined $20,000 for NRL referee criticism



Penrith coach Ivan Cleary has been fined $20,000 by the NRL for questioning the integrity of referees after the Panthers’ win over Canberra on Saturday.

Cleary said he felt like the referees “managed” the Raiders back into the game after the table-topping Panthers scored four unanswered tries early in the match, before the Raiders hit back with two in the second half.

Despite winning 28-12, Cleary was unimpressed by the match officials.

“It felt like they were being managed back into the game,” Cleary said.

“That’s all I can say. Some really strange calls.”

Australian Rugby League commissioner Peter V’landys described Cleary’s comments as “deplorable” to AAP and promised a “financial deterrent”.

“You can’t question people’s integrity, no matter what,” he said.

“This was straight to the integrity of the referee. To say he managed it to bring the other team in is deplorable.

“If anyone thinks the NRL is going to tolerate their employees being abused like that, they’ve got something coming.”

NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said he was “disappointed” in Cleary.

“Our leaders should be professional and set the standard for our game. Comments like this will not be tolerated. The foundation of our competition is its integrity and Ivan’s comments undermined that,” Abdo said.

“At times our officials, like players, will make errors during games. Everyone is entitled to their opinion on those individual decisions, but we will not accept the integrity of our officials being questioned.

“Every Monday, we live stream a football briefing explaining every contentious decision. Our officiating is as open and transparent as it can possibly be.”



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Parramatta beats Cronulla 14-12, Gold Coast claims Queensland NRL honours with win over Cowboys


NRL premiership contender Parramatta has scrapped home to beat Cronulla 14-12 in an absorbing encounter played in atrocious conditions at a waterlogged Kogarah Oval.

In Sunday’s earlier match, the Gold Coast Titans became Queensland’s top-ranked team after a 30-10 win over the Cowboys in Robina.

At Kogarah Oval, players were sliding everywhere and the ball often stopped dead in on-field water puddles, with the Sharks going down to the Eels despite scoring three tries to two.

Eels five-eighth Dylan Brown and Sharks counterpart Shaun Johnson both put on wet-weather masterclasses, while Mitchell Moses was also influential for the victors.

After the Eels led 12-4 early in the second half courtesy of a Brown try and try assist, Johnson almost gave the Sharks the win in a chaotic four minutes.

Having kicked for Jesse Ramien for the Sharks’ first try, he put a juggling Ronaldo Mulitalo over for their next with a cut-out ball to make it 12-8.

From the next set he kicked a 40-20 as Eels captain Clint Gutherson let the ball go out.

It put Cronulla on the attack and allowed Johnson and Will Kennedy to find Mulitalo to go back against the grain and beat three defenders to score.

But Johnson’s errant goalkicking from the sideline was to prove costly.

With scores locked at 12-all and 11 minutes to play, Braden Hamlin-Uele was penalised for hitting Reagan Campbell-Gillard off the ball and the Eels kicked clear.

Johnson then coughed up the last chance to claim the match, fumbling his own short grubber in the last minute.

Earlier, Brown had shown experience well beyond his 20 years of age.

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He got the first try of the match when he fooled the Sharks’ goal-line defence, faking left before darting over from dummy half in the 19th minute.

Brown’s superb day continued after half-time when he dummied his way to the line and offloaded for Kane Evans to score.

The win keeps Parramatta third on the ladder, while Cronulla is still eighth but two points clear of ninth.

Titans outclass struggling Cowboys

The Titans snapped a 10-match losing streak against the Cowboys in style, racing to a six-tries-to-two win in arguably their best display under coach Justin Holbrook in his first season at the club.

The win lifts the Titans above the Cowboys, into 13th place on the ladder.

With the Brisbane Broncos languishing below both clubs in 15th position after their run of 10 defeats from their past 11 matches, the Titans are now the highest placed of the Queensland teams in the competition.

It is also the first time in 10 years the Cowboys have lost six matches in a row.

The Titans were sensational in the opening 40 minutes, charging to 20-0 lead as the Cowboys imploded.

Full-back AJ Brimson, playing in his second match back from injury, scored a double as the Titans dominated possession and territory.

The Cowboys were as bad as the Titans were good in the opening period, with captain Michael Morgan having a day to forget on his return from a shoulder injury that had kept him sidelined since March.

Morgan had five missed tackles in the first half, two of which led directly to Titans tries.

He was also pinged for an escort penalty late in the half, with the Titans going on to score through Brimson from the resulting set.

In total the Cowboys had a paltry 59 per cent completion rate for the half, missing 23 tackles and making seven errors.

Two Gold Coast Titans NRL players embrace as they celebrate a try, as a North Queensland Cowboys opponent walks by.
Brian Kelly (left) is congratulated by Phillip Sami after scoring the Titans’ fifth try.(AAP: Dave Hunt)

The rout continued in the second half with Kevin Proctor producing a special play to bat back a kick that had gone over the dead-ball line for Brian Kelly to score.

After that play the Cowboys finally responded.

Kyle Feldt pounced after a horror bounce took a Morgan grubber away from Titans’ winger Phillip Sami before Justin O’Neill made it back-to-back tries for the visitors minutes later.

A threatened comeback did not materialise, as the Titans regained the upper hand with Sami wrapping up the scoring in the 69th minute.

The Cowboys only slightly improved their completion rate to 63 per cent and made a total of 14 errors.

AAP



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Gold Coast Titans take Queensland NRL honours after defeating Cowboys 30-10



The Gold Coast Titans are Queensland’s top-ranked NRL team after a 30-10 win over the Cowboys in Robina.

The Titans snapped a 10-match losing streak against the Cowboys in style, racing to a six-tries-to-two win in arguably their best display under coach Justin Holbrook in his first season at the club.

The win lifts the Titans above the Cowboys, into 13th place on the ladder.

With the Brisbane Broncos languishing below both clubs in 15th position after their run of 10 defeats from their past 11 matches, the Titans are now the highest placed of the Queensland teams in the competition.

It is also the first time in 10 years the Cowboys have lost six matches in a row.

The Titans were sensational in the opening 40 minutes, charging to 20-0 lead as the Cowboys imploded.

Full-back AJ Brimson, playing in his second match back from injury, scored a double as the Titans dominated possession and territory.

The Cowboys were as bad as the Titans were good in the opening period, with captain Michael Morgan having a day to forget on his return from a shoulder injury that had kept him sidelined since March.

Morgan had five missed tackles in the first half, two of which led directly to Titans tries.

He was also pinged for an escort penalty late in the half, with the Titans going on to score through Brimson from the resulting set.

In total the Cowboys had a paltry 59 per cent completion rate for the half, missing 23 tackles and making seven errors.

The rout continued in the second half with Kevin Proctor producing a special play to bat back a kick that had gone over the dead-ball line for Brian Kelly to score.

After that play the Cowboys finally responded.

Kyle Feldt pounced after a horror bounce took a Morgan grubber away from Titans’ winger Phillip Sami before Justin O’Neill made it back-to-back tries for the visitors minutes later.

A threatened comeback did not materialise, as the Titans regained the upper hand with Sami wrapping up the scoring in the 69th minute.

The Cowboys only slightly improved their completion rate to 63 per cent and made a total of 14 errors.

The Titans will look to build on their win next Saturday when they take on Cronulla, while the Cowboys face South Sydney in Townsville.

AAP



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Brisbane Broncos’ Tevita Pangai Junior ruled out after breaching NRL coronavirus bio-bubble


Brisbane Broncos forward Tevita Pangai Junior has been stood down from the club for 14 days after breaching the NRL’s coronavirus protocols.

The club is already without the services of coach Anthony Seibold and three of his assistants because of the league’s Project Apollo COVID rules.

In a statement, the Broncos confirmed Pangai Junior had been stood down after going to the opening of a barber shop.

They said he would be put into a “COVID hold” self-isolation period for 14 days.

The Broncos and the NRL are investigating the details surrounding the breach and are yet to determine whether further action will be required.

His breach is the latest of three separate incidents involving Broncos staff members breaching the NRL’s bio-bubble.

Head coach Seibold did not fly back with the team after facing South Sydney on Friday night because he was “dealing with a serious family matter” in Sydney.

Assistant Alfie Langer, strength and conditioning coach Ryan Whitley and head of rehab Blake Duncan are also on the sidelines after they were sent to isolation for attending a private function in Brisbane.

The club was fined $15,000 for the Langer, Whitley and Duncan breach.

The Broncos will now be without Pangai Junior for the next two matches against Canberra and St George Illawarra.

The Broncos have lost 10 games out of 11 since the coronavirus break this season, the latest a 28-10 defeat to Souths on Friday night.

Souths were without their coach Wayne Bennett, after he too was found to have breached biosecurity guidelines, for which he was fined $20,000.



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Penrith records 28-12 NRL win over Canberra Raiders as Newcastle and Melbourne Storm enjoy victories


The Penrith Panthers have beaten the Canberra Raiders 28-12 to match the club’s record of eight straight wins, again proving they are the genuine NRL premiership threat in 2020.

In what shaped as another acid test of their premiership credentials, the Panthers flexed their muscles in a powerful first half to play last year’s beaten grand finalists out of the match.

The win drew the Panthers level with the club’s best winning streak, set in 2003, while they also finish a fourth straight round in top spot on the ladder.

In Saturday’s earlier matches, Newcastle’s finals hopes were given a massive boost with the heavy 44-4 defeat of the Wests Tigers, while Cameron Munster sustained a knee injury in the Melbourne Storm’s 41-10 victory over Canterbury.

Against the Raiders, halfback Nathan Cleary was again brilliant for the Panthers.

He became the youngest player to pass 700 first-grade points since Graham Eadie way back in 1976 with his first goal, while his combination with Viliame Kikau proved lethal when he isolated his teammate one-on-one.

He was also superb in defence, once helping hold up Josh Papalii alongside Apisai Koroisau and another time putting Jordan Rapana into touch.

It was Cleary and Kikau who got Penrith on the board when the hulking second rower was unleashed from close range in the 10th minute.

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Koroisau had a hand in Penrith’s next try, darting out of dummy half and putting Liam Martin through a big hole.

And while the Panthers’ size and smarts are beating teams down in the middle, their speed and athleticism is doing the job out wide.

Stephen Crichton has 10 tries in his past eight matches and is now the NRL’s leading try scorer with 12, despite only getting his starting spot in round three.

The Panthers have now scored 10 tries on the right wing from the past five weeks, this time coming from Brent Naden with a classic on the sideline from a Tyrone May cut-out ball.

The Raiders, meanwhile, were not as bad as the scoreline suggested.

Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad had a nervous start at the back on return from a gruesome finger injury, but scored both of the team’s second-half tries.

The loss leaves the Raiders in fifth place on the ladder, two points behind the Roosters in the race for the top four and with a far inferior for-and-against.

Knights humiliate Wests Tigers

The Knights’ comprehensive win at home simultaneously threw the Tigers into a tailspin to save their own season as the dismal display produced their third consecutive loss.

For Green, it was the second win in as many weeks over the Tigers after arriving at the Knights from the Warriors at the start of the week.

An old hand at fitting in quickly, Green slipped easily into attacking structures and set up the first try of the night and put up the kick for the second within the first 14 minutes.

His experience allowed the new-look spine to click as the Knights advanced to a 24-4 half-time lead before completing a 40-point rout.

Star full-back Kalyn Ponga was as dangerous as he has been all season, scoring two tries as well as setting up another two.

A Newcastle Knights NRL player grounds the ball as he scores a try against the Wests Tigers.
Kalyn Ponga touched down for two tries for the Knights against the Wests Tigers.(AAP: Darren Pateman)

His 194 run metres and three line breaks ripped through poor Tigers defence that did not do milestone man Chris Lawrence justice in his 250th NRL match.

In all, the Knights scored eight tries with Hymel Hunt, Starford To’a, Jacob Saifiti, Herman Ese’ese, Gehamat Shibasaki and Phonix Crossland also crossing over.

Half-back Benji Marshall, in his 250th appearance for the Tigers, had a particularly difficult night as his forward pack was thoroughly outmuscled.

Marshall and recalled halves partner Luke Brooks were targeted in defence, but had limited ball in attacking space to get points on the board.

The Tigers’ lone try was not a moment of brilliance and came just before half-time when Luciano Leilua kicked through a ball that ricocheted from Marshall’s boot to score.

Munster injury sours Storm win

Munster, a Queensland State of Origin representative, fell awkwardly in a tackle and is set to miss two matches.

The Storm were already without injured hooker Cameron Smith (shoulder), in-form full-back Ryan Papenhuyzen and forward Dale Finucane (both rested) on the Sunshine Coast.

Munster has already missed time with a knee injury this season and will now join Smith on the sidelines for next Thursday’s clash with the Sydney Roosters and possibly the following round against Parramatta.

The Munster injury did not fluster the Storm on Saturday, however, as replacement hooker Brandon Smith, back rower Kenny Bromwich (two tries) and new full-back Nicho Hines ran riot.

A Melbourne Storm NRL players has an anguished look on his face as he lies on the ground getting treatment on his right knee.
Cameron Munster will be sidelined after sustaining a knee injury against the Bulldogs.(AAP: Darren England)

The Bulldogs did not help themselves. Lachlan Lewis and Josh Jackson both threw loose passes that were scooped up by wingers Josh Addo-Carr and Suliasi Vunivalu respectively for long-range tries.

The first was one of three in five minutes to break the match open, while Vunivalu made up for some lazy play to close the first half just as the Bulldogs threatened a boilover trailing 23-10.

Addo-Carr then added salt to the Bulldogs’ wounds, winning the race to a long kick down-field to grab a brace.

Hines was as far back as fourth in the pecking order last season but was all class in the number one jersey with strong carries, assured kicking, safe hands and an early try.

Lewis’s forgettable match included being sin-binned and placed on report for a high shot on Munster.

The Bulldogs (2-11) remain rooted to the bottom of the ladder, while the win was the Storm’s (11-2) seventh straight.

AAP/ABC



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Newcastle hands 44-4 NRL thrashing to Wests Tigers as Melbourne Storm beat Bulldogs 41-10


Blake Green has breathed new life into Newcastle’s NRL finals hopes after starring in the Knights’ heavy 44-4 defeat of the Wests Tigers.

The comprehensive win simultaneously threw the Tigers into a tailspin to save their own season as the dismal display produced their third consecutive loss.

In Saturday’s earlier match, Cameron Munster sustained a knee injury in the Melbourne Storm’s 41-10 victory over Canterbury on the Sunshine Coast.

For Green, it was the second win in as many weeks over the Tigers after arriving at the Knights from the Warriors at the start of the week.

An old hand at fitting in quickly, Green slipped easily into attacking structures and set up the first try of the night and put up the kick for the second within the first 14 minutes.

His experience allowed the new-look spine to click as the Knights advanced to a 24-4 half-time lead before completing a 40-point rout.

Star full-back Kalyn Ponga was as dangerous as he has been all season, scoring two tries as well as setting up another two.

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His 194 run metres and three line breaks ripped through poor Tigers defence that did not do milestone man Chris Lawrence justice in his 250th NRL match.

In all, the Knights scored eight tries with Hymel Hunt, Starford To’a, Jacob Saifiti, Herman Ese’ese, Gehamat Shibasaki and Phonix Crossland also crossing over.

Half-back Benji Marshall, in his 250th appearance for the Tigers, had a particularly difficult night as his forward pack was thoroughly outmuscled.

Marshall and recalled halves partner Luke Brooks were targeted in defence, but had limited ball in attacking space to get points on the board.

The Tigers’ lone try was not a moment of brilliance and came just before half-time when Luciano Leilua kicked through a ball that ricocheted from Marshall’s boot to score.

The loss will come as a huge blow to the Tigers, who now face a tough run into the end of the season and sit 10th on the ladder, in danger of missing the finals.

Over the last seven rounds, they will play every top four side as well as Manly, South Sydney and Gold Coast.

Meanwhile, the Knights moved into sixth position on the ladder despite eight starting players missing through injury.

Munster injury sours Storm win

Munster, a Queensland State of Origin representative, fell awkwardly in a tackle and is set to miss two matches.

The Storm were already without injured hooker Cameron Smith (shoulder), in-form full-back Ryan Papenhuyzen and forward Dale Finucane (both rested) on the Sunshine Coast.

Munster has already missed time with a knee injury this season and will now join Smith on the sidelines for next Thursday’s clash with the Sydney Roosters and possibly the following round against Parramatta.

The Munster injury did not fluster the Storm on Saturday, however, as replacement hooker Brandon Smith, back rower Kenny Bromwich (two tries) and new full-back Nicho Hines ran riot.

A Melbourne Storm NRL players has an anguished look on his face as he lies on the ground getting treatment on his right knee.
Cameron Munster will be sidelined after sustaining a knee injury against the Bulldogs.(AAP: Darren England)

The Bulldogs did not help themselves. Lachlan Lewis and Josh Jackson both threw loose passes that were scooped up by wingers Josh Addo-Carr and Suliasi Vunivalu respectively for long-range tries.

The first was one of three in five minutes to break the match open, while Vunivalu made up for some lazy play to close the first half just as the Bulldogs threatened a boilover trailing 23-10.

Addo-Carr then added salt to the Bulldogs’ wounds, winning the race to a long kick down-field to grab a brace.

Hines was as far back as fourth in the pecking order last season but was all class in the number one jersey with strong carries, assured kicking, safe hands and an early try.

Lewis’s forgettable match included being sin-binned and placed on report for a high shot on Munster.

The Bulldogs (2-11) remain rooted to the bottom of the ladder, while the win was the Storm’s (11-2) seventh straight, moving them into top spot ahead of Penrith, who meet Canberra later on Saturday.

AAP/ABC



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