NRL: Game of the week

By Steve Deane

Ben Barba. Photo / Getty Images
Ben Barba. Photo / Getty Images


Bluetongue Stadium
Tonight 9.30pm

Week two serves up a saliva-inducing clash between the reigning premiers and the 2012 title favourites at a neutral venue. With the Tigers having pipped the mightily unlucky Sharks in golden point and Manly having dispatched the Warriors, both sides tasted round-one success. Both also copped some injuries in torrid encounters. Dean Whare comes in for Steve Matai, while Tom Humble is the latest recipient of the much-shuffled Tigers No 1 jersey.

Manly coach Geoff Toovey looked like a man who had just had his death sentence commuted during Sunday's post-match press conference, but he says he is settling into his new job. "Someone jokingly said to me 'you should retire now, with a 100 per cent winning record', and that's because it's the nature of the beast in this game that you can't win them all," he said. "There will be heartbreaking losses coming up, the same as there will be satisfying wins. We've played one round out of 26. It's a long season, and it's going to be a very close competition."


Hands up who had round one for Jerome Ropati's first injury of the season? Heartless buggers. While the Warriors lost J-Ro, Manly paid a high price for the two points they snaffled at Eden Park. Steve Matai broke his hand and Glenn Stewart busted a finger socket, while Kieran Foran is allegedly fine despite needing a moon boot for what Geoff Toovey described as "just a bump". Tigers prop Keith Galloway is out for six weeks with an injured toe, while rookie fullback James Tedesco's tilt at the big time has been ended for a season by an ACL tear. Penrith will field two new wingers with Michael Gordon (broken leg) and David Simmonds (concussion) both out. Key Eels pair Jarryd Hayne and Willie Tonga have not been named to face the Warriors, but both could yet play. Bulldogs enforcer Frank Pritchard has been rubbed out for a week for the shoulder hit that put Simmonds out with concussion.


Not a good week for the men in pink. Bill 'The Axeman' Harrigan has wasted no time chopping senior referee Jared Maxwell and touch judge Jason Walsh after the Sharks were incorrectly penalised for offside on Wests Tigers' line following the charge-down of Todd Carney's extra-time field goal attempt. Video ref Phil Cooley was also dumped for mistakenly allowing a Storm try in their 24-19 season-opening win over the Raiders, while another video ref, Steve Clark, clashed with Harrigan over a decision he wasn't even asked to make. "Steven Clark said he still thinks it is a try," Harrigan said following a stoush over whether Maxwell had correctly ruled out a Colin Best try. "He was told it was not a try," Harrigan said. "The majority of the meeting all agreed that it was not a try, that it was a double movement, and Stuart Raper and I certainly think it was no try, so it is no try."


"I'm not changing it."

Phil Gould shows he is open to negotiation after Penrith receive an email slap from the NRL for using a fridge full of milk as the backdrop for a post-match press conference. The NRL complained the fridge of Oak milk violated rules as it didn't give due prominence to major NRL sponsor Telstra. "Oak puts 10 times the amount of money into Penrith that Telstra does. Do the maths," Gould added.


Storm coach Craig Bellamy is reportedly "bewildered" by claims his players are using another illegal tackling technique - "the chinstrap" - to attack the head and neck of rivals. Already credited with inventing the chicken wing, prowler, cannonball and salary cap cheating (no, hang on, that was the Warriors), the Storm stand accused of yet more filth. Canberra coach David Furner compiled a DVD with what he alleged were six examples of the dangerous new practice. Furner claimed Storm players were using the tactic - where a tackler pulls at the chin of an opponent - to deliberately slow down the play.


The opening-round loss has seen the Warriors ease to $9 on some Australian markets to capture the club's first NRL title. Despite an impressive win over the Cowboys, Gold Coast are still rank outsiders at $34. Stephen Kearney's Eels are favourites for the wooden spoon ($5.50 in from $13 on TAB Sportsbet). Manu Vatuvei ($7) is favourite to end the season as top try scorer, ahead of Ben Barba ($8) and Akuila Uate ($9).

- NZ Herald

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