The streak is still alive. For the eighth year in a row, Queensland has taken out the State of Origin series. They are deserved winners as they were simply the best team over the course of the series. In game 3, New South Wales had the better of the play but Queensland’s defence and to be honest, New South Wales’ lack of attack, were the deciding factors.
Queensland were well on top in the first 15 minutes, as they scored a very soft converted try and followed this up with a penalty goal, which would end up being the game-deciding points, after a dumb penalty conceded by James Maloney. Matt Scott was outstanding in this period, winning the battle up front against the disappointing NSW front row in Woods and Tamou. New South Wales were able to turn the tide following the injection of Watmough and Fifita and had multiple chances in the back end of the first half. However, poor NSW attack and great Queensland scrambling defence ensured that the Maroons led 8-4 at the break. In this period, it was obvious that the Blues were missing Jarryd Hayne as he has a superior passing game than Dugan and if Hayne was at fullback; NSW quite possibly could have taken advantage of some half-chances.
For the first 20 minutes of the second half, it was more of the same with the Blues on top but not being able to cross the line. It was during this period that NSW let Queensland off the hook on multiple occasions by not being able to force repeat sets. This is the one big flaw of the halves Pearce and Maloney. Both are good players who try their guts out and are tough but lack the class to be considered elite. At this level and in those positions, being good simply isn’t enough to be successful. Queensland worked their way down the field and scored a try through Hodges. The Blues were able to hit back through a great individual effort from Merrin, but in the end weren’t good enough to win. In summary, this was a tough, hard game of rugby league. Some might complain that there wasn’t any biff, but I’m not. Both sides had too much to lose and did all they could to win the game. That’s why I watch it.
Obviously, the talking point after the game was the streaker who interrupted play with only a few minutes to go. While a lot of people had a good laugh about it, I hope he gets the book thrown at him. Thankfully, the incident had no impact on the final result nor any players were harmed as a result. Whenever I see and intruder on a sports field, I think of the stabbing of Monica Seles two decades ago. The most important thing at any sports event is the safety of the participants, officials and spectators. This incident showed just how easy it was to be able to endanger the safety of participants. While the streaker was harmless in this instance, the next intruder may not be. All sports need to look at their security procedures to ensure that all participants and officials are never injured by an intruder.
Last week, I tipped all 4 games correctly. This included the lock of the week, as the Panthers won the local derby against Parramatta. There was no upset of the week as all four favourites won.
Lock of the week: 15/18
Upset of the week: 3/14*
*: in rounds 2, 6, 12 and 18 there were no upsets
Wests Tigers v New Zealand Warriors
Tip: Tigers (Upset of the week). For those who are yet to read it, please have a look at my article on Benji Marshall which was uploaded on Tuesday. After reading it, you will understand why I am unable to be unbiased for this game. This is Benji Marshall’s last game at Leichhardt Oval. Go you mighty Tigers! The Tigers are unchanged from the side that lost to Cronulla two weeks ago, aside from the naming of Shaun Spence as the 18th man. The Warriors have named Manu Vatuvei to start on one wing, with Laumape named on an extended bench. They are otherwise unchanged from their last game in Round 17 but have added Russell Packer and Suaia Matagi to the extended bench.
Canberra Raiders v Parramatta Eels
Tip: Raiders. The Raiders recorded a much needed win in their last game against the Cowboys. If they are to make the semi -finals, they need to win this game. I believe that they will be too good for a Parramatta side that showed a lot of fight against Penrith last weekend. I give the Eels some hope here but they are still severely missing Jarryd Hayne. No action for either side in terms of their team lists this week as both have named unchanged teams from their last games. Canberra has named Jake Foster as 18th man and is the only addition.
Sydney Roosters v Cronulla Sharks
Tip: Roosters. In their last game, the Roosters were dominant as they held the Dragons scoreless. I am expecting halves Pearce and Maloney to look to bounce back from a disappointing Origin game, while the opposing five-eight Carney will look at staking a claim for next year’s series. Last round, Cronulla almost blew a 13-point lead with 5 minutes to go. If the switch off like that at any stage in this game, they will not win. It is for that reason why I am taking the Roosters. The Sharks have had quite a few moments during the season where they have switched off. It also happened the week before against the Tigers, as they let the Tigers back into the game following a halftime lead of 24-0. The Roosters welcome back Shaun Kenny-Dowall, who will start at centre with Aubusson named on the bench. For Cronulla, Chad Townsend is named to start at halfback for Robson, Andrew Fifita and Luke Lewis return from Origin duty, as they are named to start at prop and second row respectively. Tagataese is named on the bench, while Graham is out due to injury. Ben Pomeroy is added to the 6-man bench.
Penrith Panthers v Newcastle Knights
Tip: Knights. This is the game of the weekend and will have plenty of top 8 ramifications. Penrith were unimpressive in defeating the Eels last weekend, while the Knights were impressive in their last game, which was a win over Canterbury. I like the Knights are they are in better form at the moment. Yes, the Panthers have been performing well above expectations but I think the experience in Newcastle’s team will come to the fore in this game. Plum and Robinson are out with injury for the Panthers, with Masoe and Brown moving from the bench to the starting side. The additions to the Penrith bench are Jeremy Latimore and Ryan Simpkins. The only change from Newcastle’s side from their Round 17 win is the addition of Chris Houston to a 5-man bench.
Manly Sea Eagles v Gold Coast Titans
Tip: Manly (Lock of the week). I know I tipped Manly in Round 3 to be the lock of the week against the Gold Coast, which ended up being unsuccessful. However, I’m confident that I will get this one right. Manly has bounced back into form in recent weeks with floggings over the Eels and Cowboys. They should be too good for a Titans side that is on the slide. They have fallen out of the top 8 following heavy defeats over the past couple of weeks to fellow top 8 contenders Penrith and Newcastle. Daly Cherry-Evans returns for the Sea Eagles and will start at halfback. This means that Foran will move from halfback to five-eight, Lyon will move from five-eight to centre and Hiku is omitted after playing in the centres last week. Anthony Watmough is also back, which moves Hasson to the bench. Sao is omitted after playing from the bench for Manly last week. The Titans have a few changes, with Jordan Rankin replacing Hughes at fullback and Brad Takairangi and Jamie Dowling replacing O’Dwyer and Hunt in the centres. O’Dwyer is the 18th man while Huges and Hunt have been omitted. Douglas and Dave Taylor are named to start at prop and second row for Origin players Myles and Bird respectively. However, as this is a desperate game for the Gold Goast, I expect them to play despite not being named. Ryan James and Beau Falloon return on the bench, while Irwin has not been named.
South Sydney Rabbitohs v St George Illawarra Dragons
Tip: Souths. The Rabbitohs have suffered a huge blow with Greg Inglis injuring his knee in Origin 3. Reports suggest that he could be out until the finals series. This somewhat annoys me as he was my pick for the Dally M medal. As for this game, Souths should be far too good, even without Inglis. The Dragons just can’t compete with any top side at the moment and this game should be no different. Souths have named an unchanged side from the team that beat the Warriors in Round 17, aside from the addition of Tom Burgess, Justin Hunt and Luke Keary on an extended bench. Hunt is likely to get a start with the aforementioned Inglis injury. Josh Dugan returns for the Dragons to start at fullback, which moves Quinlan to five-eight and Stanley to the centres, while Green is omitted. Matt Cooper also returns to start in the centres for Runciman. Bronson Harrison returns to start in the second row for Prior, who is named on an extended bench. Matthews and Garvey have not been named after starting last game from the bench. The additions to the Dragons’ bench are Cameron King, Tyson Frizzell and Daniel Vidot.
‘Beat the Boss’
Pearce’s Pride is now solely on top of the ladder following a 318-188 win over R.Lewis+Denzel’s. This was because my Bandits lost to P7Panthers to the tune of 409-87. In other games, the Buzzing Hornets beat the Pit Dogs 250-185 and the Funky Bunch beat the Crackalackers 194-146. This week’s games include:
- Pearce’s Pride v Buzzing Hornets
- Boggabri Bandits v R.Lewis+Denzel’s
- The Funky Bunch v Harkonnen Pit Dogs
- The Crackalackers v P7Panthers