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Winners aren't always grinners

Sunday, May 06, 2012 - 8:30 PM
Source: SportsFan
Author: Michael Winkler

The main game

The Warriors-Brisbane match was hard, fast and absorbing. Both teams will take heart from this ferocious contest. In the first half the New Zealanders showed great endeavour and fluency in attack. They held out one of the premiership fancies and intimidated with stinging defence. James Maloney was magnificent, and props Ben Matulino (137m) and Jacob Lillyman (113m) ran like tornadoes.

On the other hand, Brisbane played with guts and outscored their hosts in the second half despite the absence of injured playmaker Peter Wallace. Sam Thaiday's stop-me-if-you-can run for a fine try in the closing minute showed the team's preparedness to give everything for the entire contest. Hooker Andrew McCullough made an astounding 61 tackles despite a late leg injury. Corey Parker took 16 hit-ups and 47 tackles. Coach Anthony Griffin would be very proud of his men.

The game was a good spectacle throughout, but bifurcated by half time into a display of skill (first half) and a display of desire (second half). There were times in the latter stages of the match where the ball security was reminiscent of greased piglets chasing a cake of wet soap over Vaseline-smeared ice. Both coaches know that it is easier to work on ball handling than to discover cohesion, competitiveness and courage, so both will be well pleased.

The good

Aaron Woods has become a beast, and wins our prestigious Prop of the Week accolade. The bearded big man had the Gallen-esque stats of 18 hit-ups for 192m, plus 43 tackles. Tim Sheens needs something to smile about, and Woods is it.

Great to see Tariq Sims back close to his best, with a couple of big hits and some nice runs.

The short-passing of the Bulldogs is as good as that of any team in the comp. When they are flowing, they look fantastic.

Trent Merrin continues to be the Dragons forward who makes the most impact. Steve Price has to find some way to get him off the bench earlier and return him there later.

How good are Melbourne's celebrated big three? Against the Panthers, Billy Slater carried the ball 238m, kicked for 42m and had two line breaks. Cameron Smith made 36 tackles without missing a single one, and kicked for 306m from dummy-half. Cooper Cronk ran the ball for 61m, kicked for 316m and made 20 tackles as a halfback. Stunning.

Having both Stewarts in the team makes Manly look so much better. Great to see George Rose back to his best, too.

The bad

Parramatta. They offer their fans nothing.

West Tigers were shameful. They were fortunate to escape from the hapless Titans with a golden-point win after trailing until the last minute of regular time. Their last tackle options are awful, and Sheens will hope that the narrow win does not make his players even more complacent.

Aiden Tolman's development last year was stunning and had him on the cusp of rep selection before injury intervened, but he is way short of that form in 2012.

Lote Tuqiri committed five errors against Gold Coast, a poor effort for a former international.

Steve Matai made five tackles against Canberra – and missed six.

Is it just us, or are there more and more forward passes being let go? The sport is starting to resemble American football – or, even worse, rugby union.

With the match in the balance and the ball centimetres from the try line, after Travis Waddell's slow play-the-ball, why on earth was David Shillington standing at dummy-half? His loopy pass was knocked on by Shaun Fensom, snuffing out one of the Raiders' last chances.

The Knights' backline is less productive than its pack. And that's saying something.

The ugly

Matt Prior's elbow on Johnathan Thurston's head didn't look premeditated, but it was nasty.

TV watch

Channel Nine proudly announced via on-screen ad that it would be having 'Ricky Stewart' as a special guest. You'd think after playing 243 and coaching 204 first-grade games, success as a dual international and the small matter of being NSW Origin coach, Ricky Stuart might be sufficiently well-known to have his name spelled correctly.

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