Roosters V Sharks
The Sharks have made it 14 wins a row with a 32-20 win over the luckless Roosters in a topsy turvy game at Allianz Stadium. In a game which was played at a fierce, up tempo style both sides tested their opponents from sideline to sideline. Whilst another win brings the Sharks closer to the Minor Premiership there were areas of their game which were quite loose and sloppy. Some brain dead early tackle kicks and soft defence will have other top teams taking note.
Leading 16-10 at the break the Sharks threatened to blow the game wide open with back to back tries after the interval. Some of their set plays were scintillating and they had the Roosters all at sea on the edges several times throughout the contest. Despite falling 16 behind, the Roosters continued to play enterprising football reducing the deficit to 26-20 with 7 minutes to play. The Chooks will again be cursing the NRL Bunker with a couple of decisions being over turned when they threatened to come over the top of the visitors.
The match was sealed with a breakaway 90 metre try to Sosia Feki as the Roosters attempted a desperate last minute equaliser. The Sharks backed up 4 of their 5 Origin stars and a couple including Paul Gallen and James Maloney could probably do with a rest when they take Newcastle at home next week. The Roosters season from hell shows no sign of abating with a trip to Melbourne now on the horizon. Despite the terrible season, the Roosters in Latrell Mitchell and Connor Watson have plenty of reason to be optimistic for the future.
Verdict - The Sharks were loose in this game but just had too many weapons for the Roosters. I reckon they could do with a loss or two before the finals just to ease the pressure. The Roosters were everything they had been all year. Willing and physical, very competitive but lacking the same discipline and composure. For a club with a lot of big name players, to call their season poor would be being kind.
Newcastle v Melbourne
The Storm further enhanced their Top 2 prospects with a gritty 20-16 win over a rejuvenated Newcastle. Craig Bellamy's late decision to back up Origin stars Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith proved a wise one as Melbourne were pushed right to the end by a gallant Knights outfit. Bolstered by the return of experienced playmaker Jarrod Mullen, the Knights put in their second straight excellent performance this time in front of their long suffering fans.
The Storm was boosted by 3 tries between their Fijian flyer Vunivalu and Koribete. After holding a slender 8-6 lead at the break the Storm were never headed but were made to sweat for their win. Knights fullback Jake Mamo scoring a spectacular try from a bomb to cut the lead to 20-16 with 2 minutes to play. The Knights remain rooted to the foot of the table with only 1 victory in 2016 despite pushing a good side for a second straight week. Nathan Brown has blooded plenty of rookies in 2016 and will have been left encouraged by this display.
Verdict - I expected Newcastle would put in a strong performance in response to their golden point effort in Canberra. With the return of Jarrod Mullen I reckon they can jag another win late in the season in reward for their effort. As for the Storm, it wasn't pretty, but the Storm have a bit of a habit of playing the lower teams close. Doesn't change my view of them one bit, premiership favourites.
Penrith v Parramatta
Penrith rounded up an early 14 point deficit to eclipse the Eels 22-18 in a wild, western derby on Sunday at Pepper Stadium. The win was crucial for Penrith halting a 2 game losing streak and keeping their heads above water in the race for a top 8 spot. The Eels, beset by injuries and more scandal were again brave this time in defeat.
The Eels, fresh off another week of controversy, came bounding out of the blocks racing in 3 quick fire tries in the opening 15 minutes. The Panthers looked all at sea in front of a big home crowd. Down 18-6 at the break, the words of coach Anthony Griffin must have been ringing in their ears, as they responded with 3 quick fire salvos of their own. In a madcap last 20 minutes the Panthers bombed a number of chances to wrap the game up and would have breathed a sigh of relief as the full time hooter sounded.
Verdict - I tipped the Panthers in a close one and so it proved. However I am no more convinced of them than I was previously. Lacking control and giving up easy points, the Panthers gap between their best and worst is way too large. The Eels were excellent considering the circus surrounding the club and the mounting injury toll. Brad Arthur continues to get them up for games, but for how long?