NRL Round Eight: NORTH QUEENSLAND 22 MANLY 20 at Dairy Farmers Stadium

By STEVE MASCORD

NEW Zealand half Kieran Foran last night remained hopeful he would overcome a painful leg injury to take his place in Friday’s Anzac Test against Australia.

On an injury-strewn evening at Dairy Farmers Stadium, Foran was forced off after half of Manly’s eventful 22-20 loss to North Queensland – a match in which Australia hopeful Jason King also suffered rib cartilage damage and Cowboys hooker Aaron Payne hurt his elbow.

“I was just running the ball and I copped an accidental knee,” Foran, who was hoping to return to international football at Skilled Park after an injury ruined his 2010 Four Nations campaign, said late last night.

Foran did not want to speculate on his chances of passing a fitness test. The initial diagnosis was a corked quadriceps.“I don’t know … we’ll just wait and see what the scans say.”

Coach Des Hasler, who described the decision to deny a late Michael Oldfield try “weak” on the part of video referee Paul Simpkins but admitted his side had been off its game, said the hopes of vice-captain King were also in the hands of medical technology. King had been touted as an Australia bolter.

“With the ribs, it just depends how serious they are,” Hasler said. “King got a whack in the ribs. We’ll have a better idea tomorrow.”

The impact of the representative season was also, perhaps, felt on the other side of the field last night with veteran North Queensland fullback Matt Bowen turning in a vintage performance that featured tries in the 21st and 56th minutes, showcasing just how little speed he has lost over the years.

If inclusion in a preliminary 25-man Queensland squad inspired Ben Barba the night before, then omission may have done the same for Bowen.

“Matty’s a realist,” coach Neil Henry argued.

“He knows of Billy Slater and the utility value of someone like Cooper Cronk if Johnathan (Thurston) is going to be halfback. He knows that – but also he’d love to wear the Queensland jumper again.”

But away from the rep season and back to the drama and Hasler condemned the decision to disallow a late try to Oldfield which would have narrowed the margin to two with six minutes left. In a scrappy lead-up, co-captain Jamie Lyon struggled to pick up a loose ball before Oldfield streaked down the sideline to the tryline.

North Queensland led 22-4 with 16 minutes left.

“They had so many looks at it,” said Hasler. “It was a weak decision. What was the name of the video ref?” Told it was Simpkins, Hasler said: “I thought Paul would know better.”

Centre Lyon’s assessment of the incident was simple: “It went back”. Henry reckoned: “The hand’s facing forward towards the tryline. I reckon it went forward off the hands.”

Lyon also contested Bowen’s second try (“Are you allowed the catch the ball behind someone and run out from behind them”) and blew up when defender Ashley Graham led with the knees after William Hopoate scored in the 65th minute. One Manly player could be heard telling referee Shayne Hayne “eight point try and send him off”.

“I thought it could have been,” Lyon said later. “That’s what the rule is there for but we couldn’t seem to get it. The two points would have been nice.”

Cowboys back rower Gavin Cooper suffered a corked lower back.

NORTH QUEENSLAND 22 (M Bowen 2 J Thurston A Payne tries J Thurston 3 goals) bt MANLY 14 (B Stewart W Hopoate M Oldfield tries W Cherry-Evans goal) at Dairy Farmers Stadium. Referees: S Hayne/G Morris. Crowd: 14,884.

Filed for: SUN-HERALD

Media Conference: NEIL HENRY & MATT SCOTT

Halftime: North Queensland 16 Manly 4

Toyota Cup fulltime: North Queensland 38 Manly 10.

Final team lists:

NQ: Matt Bowen; Ashley Graham, Antonio Winterstein, Willie Tonga, Kalifa FaiFai Loa; Ray Thompson, Johnathan Thurston (c): Dallas Johnson, Glenn Hall, Gavin Cooper, James Tamou, Aaron Payne, Matthew Scott. Res: Scott Bolton, Leeson Ah Mau, Tariq Sims, Ashton Sims.

MANLY: William Hopoate; Michael Robertson, Jamie Lyon (c), Steve Matai, Michael Oldfield; Kieran Foran, Daley Cherry-Evans; Glenn Stewart, Joel Galuvao, Anthony Watmough, Brent Kite, Matt Ballin, Jason King (c). Res: Jamie Buhrer, George Rose, Vic Mauro, Tony Williams.


Roy Asotasi Out For Four Months With Broken Wrist

By STEVE MASCORD

SOUTH Sydney captain Roy Asotasi has been ruled out for four months with a broken left wrist.

Asotasi received the shattering news on Saturday night following scans in the aftermath of the Round Eight 31-12 win over Cronulla at ANZ Stadium.

The Bunnies already have Sam Burgess, Ben Lowe and Scott Geddes on the sideline with long-term injuries. The news also discounts Asotasi from the Anzac Test on Friday.

“It’s shattering news for Roy as he was playing well this year and we already have so many injuries in the forwards,” said chief executive Shane Richardson.

“But it’s just another challenge and one we will have to rise to.”

Moore: Referees “Careless” And “Reckless”

Kevin Moore/wikipedia

By STEVE MASCORD

CANTERBURY coach Kevin Moore last night accused referees Gavin Badger and Adam Devcich of a “careless, reckless” decision to award Gerard Beale a crucial try in the loss to Brisbane.

Broncos halfback Peter Wallace appeared to knock on as he attempted to offload in the 49th minute, the ball picked up by forward Corey Parker and handed onto Beale who claimed a try despite the suggestion he grounded the ball short. That gave the home side a 20-6 lead.

It was the knock-on by Wallace that infuriated Moore.

“It’s just a reckless, careless decision,” the coach said. “There’s no reason why you can’t just go up and have a look. It was certainly contentious. Let’s get it right.

“It wasn’t a try. It makes a big difference at 14-12 – it could have been, a long time after that. Teams certainly play different, don’t they?

“I thought the Broncos were probably the better side but it certainly had a very big impact on the last 30 minutes and the way the game could have been played.”

Moore wasn’t finished there. “Mind you, I thought there were a couple of other pretty ordinary calls – a forward pass that wasn’t a forward pass, you don’t get a ruck penalty all game,” he said.

“We were finding it hard to get some decent field position as it was. We got no help.”

Brisbane captain Darren Lockyer agreed the decision on the Beale try should have gone upstairs – but he added: “I would have been disappointed if it got taken off us.

“At the time, I thought ‘play on’. I was surprised it didn’t go to the video ref, tho. Every other try these days goes up there. I think, on the replay, it’s probably a benefit of the doubt to us.”

Man of the match was Brisbane prop Ben Hannant, who had a stormer against his former club. “I think that’s probably his best game for us this year,” said Lockyer. “It was a big game by him tonight and he’d agree. It’s on the eve of the rep season and it’s good for him

Hannant – who returned home for family reasons after an injury-interupted 2010, said: “I’m pleased everyone’s turning up for each other each week.

“It would mean everything to me to play Origin. It  killed me not to play in the third game last year.

“I feel fit because I’ve lost weight and I’ve got a lot more running into my legs.”

Coach Anthony Griffin said his side was “building”. “Our focus is to forget about this streak or whatever and just try to get a little better every week,” he said.

“If we keep bringing that attitude, we’re going to bring a fresh outlook to every game rather than think about how much good work we’ve done.”

Griffin said Josh Hoffman would be handed back the no.1 jersey upon his return from injury, with Gerard Beale to be shifted elsewhere in the backline. “It’s up to us to keep it going – we’ve got some momentum,” Lockyer concluded.

Last night’s crowd of more than 30,000 was outstanding considering persistent rain in Brisbane and the royal wedding. When some of the wedding was shown on the big screen at halftime, there were loud boos and jeers – although it could be seen on television sets in many corporate boxes.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

Eastwood 80 Minutes From Test Return

By STEVE MASCORD

GREG Eastwood is just 80 minutes away from winning back his New Zealand jersey despite an injury-interrupted start to his second stint with Canterbury.

Eastwood returned from two broken wrists in Saturday night’s 36-24 win over South Sydney and faces his former club Brisbane on Friday night.

“He obviously comes into contention if he gets another game under his belt,” New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney tells RLW.

“I know what Greg’s capable of with a couple of games under his belt so it’s a wait and see thing.”
The New Zealand side assembles on the Gold Coast overnight on Sunday as the team is being announced – which means selectors walk a precarious line in deciding exactly when to tap players on the shoulder over the coming days.

Some players will no doubt go into games this weekend knowing they have already been picked – some like Eastwood need to know if they are packing for two days or a week before leaving for Queensland.

The loss of Manu Vatuvei and Sam Perrett to injury means Bulldog Bryson Goodwin also has plenty to play for on Friday. Melbourne’s Matt Duffie could be a bolter.

“We’ve got a couple of options in that position with Manu and Sammy out,” said Kearney. “Bryson Goodwin, who’s played Test match footy, is a left winger. He obviously comes into contention

Kearney will not be recalling any Super League players. He acknowledges the Anzac Test is a mountain his side still needs to climb.

“We competed well last year and we’ve learnt what we certainly need to do better this year,” he said.

“You get a short time to prepare the group … it is a different mentality but I just think the consistency of the group that has been involved mid-year – they’ve been there enough times now to know what to expect in these campaigns.

Of the Australian side, also picked on Sunday, he says: “I reckon the group picks itself in that (Johnathan) Thurston’s playing wonderful footy, Locky’s (Darren Lockyer) playing as good as I’ve seen, Billy (Slater), Cameron (Smith) – there’s your core group.

“(Justin) Hodges is playing great footy too. I think it will be fairly predictable.

“For us, we always try to take a step closer to Australia. This is another opportunity to do that.”

Don’t try telling Kearney the world champions can’t learn anything from the green and golds.

“You’re not going to get me with that one,” he says. “Australia still set the benchmark in our game in terms of consistency. That’s where we’re aiming to get to so this is another opportunity.
“It’s a prize that has eluded us in a sense and we understand what we need to do. It’s just a matter of preparing properly and taking a great opportunity on the night.”

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

NRL Round Eight: BRISBANE 20 CANTERBURY 12 at Suncorp Stadium

By STEVE MASCORD

BEN Barba’s selection in a preliminary Queensland squad gave him the confidence to dazzle Brisbane last night – but Maroons captain Darren Lockyer cautioned the Canterbury fullback about getting his Origin hopes up for 2011.

In a beaten team, Barba was outstanding when he set up a long-range try for Canterbury winger Michael Lett, scored one himself and ran down Broncos speedster Jack Reed during the Dogs’ somewhat controversial 20-12 loss in front of 30,538 non-royalists at Suncorp Stadium.

Canterbury coach Kevin Moore said 21-year-old Barba had been buoyed by his naming on Thursday in a 25-man Maroons squad – but Broncos skipper Lockyer seemed unaware the team had even been picked.

Darren Lockyer

“It’s not out of the question he’ll be there this year but I think it’s more the start of a process,” said Lockyer, whose side recorded its seventh consecutive victory. “Mal (Meninga) is planning a couple of years down the track.

“Mal is pretty keen to give those guys on the fringe a bit of exposure to it all.

“Last year it was Jharal Yow Yeh and Ben Teo – that squad is a stepping stone towards playing Origin, it’s good for him – with his stats and the amount of tries he’s scored, there’s plenty of talent there.

If you look at his stats

“We knew before that game that any offloads, any sort of looseness around the middle, he’s going to hurt you. He set up a try and scored one. We were ready for him and he still did that.

“He’s going to be a good player.”

Barba got his side, down 8-0, back into the Round Eight opener when he took the ball 70 metres from the tryline and beat three defenders cold before kicking for winger Michael Lett to score in the 26th minute.

Lett handed the Broncos’ Dale Copley a try after the break with an ill-conceived pass to Barba but when all looked lost at 20-6, the no.1 struck again off Corey Payne’s pass.

“He’s come a long way, Ben,’ said Moore when asked about the Maroons squad, “and one thing I’ve been happy about is the way he’s handled it. There’ve been no signs he’s been distracted.

“I’d like to think that will just  give him confidence, that all his hard work can give him that sort of result to be considered one of the elite players in the game so that’s great.

“He was probably a touch off some aspects of his game that we’ve been working really hard on but he’s been great for us over the first eight weeks.”

At 20-12, Brisbane just ground their opponents down over the final 30 minutes. It was an important win for Brisbane on the eve of the representative season, against a side that had won on seven of its previous nine visits to Milton.

“I thought our effort was courageous,” said Moore. “Our players, under immense pressure, could have leaked a lot more points but they didn’t. They got one try from a mistake and one try that wasn’t a try.

“We’re a touch off the pace. There’s certainly signs there we’ll keep improving.”

Brisbane coach Anthony Griffin cautioned: “We can’t look back at our run. We’ve got to keep looking forward. If we look back, it will stop.”

Bulldogs forward Grant Millington was forced off early with an elbow injury but is expected to be back after the round nine bye.

BRISBANE 20 (D Lockyer D Copley G Beale tries C Parker 4 goals) bt CANTERBURY 12 (M Lett B Barba tries S Turner 2 goals) at Suncorp Stadium. Referees: G Badger/A Devcich. Crowd: 30,538.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

Media Conference: KEVIN MOORE & ANDREW RYAN   Media conference: ANTHONY GRIFFIN & DARREN LOCKYER

Toyota Cup fulltime: Canterbury 24 Brisbane 6

Final team lists:

BRISBANE: Gerard Beale; Dale Copley, Jack Reed, Justin Hodges, Jharal Yow Yeh; Darren Lockyer (c), Peter Wallace; Corey Parker, Sam Thaiday, Alex Glenn, Dane Carlaw, Andrew McCullough, Ben Hannant. Res: Mitchell Dodds, Josh McGuire, Nick Kenny, Ben Hunt.

CANTERBURY: Ben Barba; Steve Turner, Josh Morris, Jamal Idris, Michael Lett; Kris Keating, Trent Hodkinson; David Stagg, Andrew Ryan (c), Frank Pritchard, Grant Millington, Michael Ennis, Aden Tolman. Res: Greg Eastwood, Mickey Paea, Corey Payne, Dene Halatau.