Dan Walsh, Staff Writer
Enjoyed their second week off in the space of a month, and will be the better for it as their casualty ward was almost at capacity in previous weeks. All 20 of Geoff Toovey's fingers and toes will be crossed in the hope Anthony Watmough and Daly Cherry-Evans pull through Origin II unscathed, should DCE even make it onto the pitch.
Matty Johns was heard at the weekend talking about coaches and halftime blow-ups, saying realistically a clipboard carrier could only use the tactic once or twice a year to fire a side up before they start to lose interest when getting a rocket rather than oranges at the break. Well, Trent Robinson certainly put one of his blow-up cards to good use after the Roosters produced their worst 40 minutes of the year against the Knights, before pulling their collective fingers out in the second half on the back of a well-timed spray from Robbo.
It came against a well-beaten side, but Madge Maguire got plenty of food for thought when he had livewire hookers Issac Luke and Apisai Koroisau on the pitch at the same time against the Tigers. With enough big men in their 17 to belt opposition packs back and forth until the cows come home, having the nippy pair combine at the ruck offers a refreshing offensive option for the Rabbits when sides muscle up to the Burgess brothers an Co., and with Luke Keary making a comeback in NSW Cup last week, Maguire faces a looming selection headache most coaches can only wish for.
Des Hasler had Mick Ennis playing halfback instead of hooker, second-rower Josh Jackson named in the centres but playing five-eighth, and ended up with only 15 men to work with for the second stanza when Sam Perrett (knee) David Klemmer (ankle) went up the tunnel and never came back. No wonder he was blowing up over the disruption Origin has had on his side, which despite leading every statistic at halftime and having plenty of shots at the Parramatta line, never seriously troubled them and looked thoroughly rudderless without NSW halves pairing Josh Reynolds and Trent Hodkinson.
Didn't do anything special and didn't need to in putting the Dragons away. It might not look it but this could well prove an important two competition points for the boys from Penny Park, as after their Round 15 bye they'll have 11 straight games on the trot, kicking off with a month in which they face the Warriors away and the Tigers at Leichhardt, before hosting the Broncos and taking on the Roosters in Round 19.
Nothing to see here as the Broncs pocket two points and got in some well-deserved rest in their first week off of the year. They'll need every bit of their renewed energy against a powerful Warriors outfit across the ditch, and given Anthony Griffin's reluctance to play his returning Origin stars on a short turnaround in the past, they could well have one or all of Matt Gillett, Sam Thaiday and Justin Hodges joining injured skipper Corey Parker (facial fracture) in the Mt Smart stands.
Who needs statistics anyway? Just four wins for the Eels in 29 matches without Jarryd Hayne, 14 losses on the trot at ANZ Stadium, and just one successful venture in their past 25 trips away from Pirtek Stadium, all went out the window for Brad Arthur's men as they dusted the Dogs 22-12 for one of their best wins of the year. And don't think the Bulldogs got as close as the 10-point margin suggests: Chris Sandow, Corey Norman Luke Kelly missed four shots at goal between them in what was a resounding win for the blue and gold.
Dragged themselves back into the winner's circle with two tries in the final 10 minutes against the Titans, and are unlucky to drop a spot due to the Eels' performance a day prior. Broke through for their first win without skipper Cameron Smith in eight attempts, and who'd have thought it'd be Ben Roberts engineering their first and last impact on the scoreboard with some fancy footwork for the former and a deft offload for Kurt Mann's match-sealing try?
North Queensland come off the bye needing to rectify the NRL's worst away record (0-6) and they'll get few better opportunities to do so than next Monday night in Newcastle, when they shape up to the Knights, who are 1-4 at Hunter Stadium for the worst home record in the comp. Will be sweating on the availability on their Origin quartet of Johnathan Thurston, Matt Scott, James Tamou and Brent Tate.
Would've appreciated the bye after their marathon return journey from Perth to Auckland, and should be raring to go against the Broncos given they had little more than frequent flyer miles to show for their efforts out west despite dominating their clash with the Rabbitohs for the best part of an hour.
Came up against a big Souths pack hell bent on revenge for their Round 3 ambushing, and without the man who engineered that assault, NSW enforcer Aaron Woods, and their talismanic skipper Robbie Farah, a repeat effort was always going to be a tough ask. But with nine first-half errors, untimely penalties and players being forced into touch on two occasions early in the tackle count, Mick Potter has plenty of work to do if his side is going to give the premierships big guns a run for their money as they did earlier in the year.
Can somebody please spare John Cartwright a halfback? When the Titans lost Beau Henry nine minutes in against the Storm, having already lost first-choice Albert Kelly before kick-off and Aidan Sezer some weeks ago, centre/second rower Brad Takairangi stepped up to claim the title of the world's biggest No.7 (106kg!). Now we like Brad, and think he's a fine player in his regular possie, but a halfback he aint, and while he and his side put in plenty of effort, the Titans are now in danger of slipping into the bottom four if they slump to a sixth straight loss against the Dragons next week.
Beat the Panthers everywhere but on the scoreboard in what coach Paul McGregor called their best performance of the season without Origin stars Josh Dugan, Trent Merrin and Brett Morris (out injured). In the end it was the two early tries the Panthers scored that gave them the breathing space to close out the win, and given the Dragons have now scored just one try in the opening 20 minutes of their past seven matches, perhaps a bit of pre-game red cordial in the sheds is needed to get them into the game early.
They've got the front of house in order, well kind of, and for the first 40 minutes looked on track to back it up on the field with an upset over the high-flying premiers. And then the wheels promptly fell off in the second half, with a completion rate of just 53 per cent and poor last tackle options from Jarrod Mullen and Tyrone Roberts cruelling any chances of singing their victory song for the first time since before Easter.
May have peeled themselves off the bottom of the ladder with two points courtesy of the bye, but are likely to find themselves right back in the muck when they host the high-flying Sea Eagles this Saturday, while the ensuing ASADA storm apparently looms ever closer across the waters of Woolooware Bay.
You can bet your bottom dollar Ricky Stuart did not let the Raiders put their feet up last week despite having the bye, and nor should they have after their last start effort against the Broncos. Their season is well and truly on the line this week when the Dogs travel down the Hume and Federal Highways for a rare Friday night clash in the capital.