World Club Series: SYDNEY ROOSTERS 38 ST HELENS 12 at DW Stadium

By STEVE MASCORD

THE overall record of expanded World Club Championship matches was left at 60-8 in favour of the southern hemisphere by this 2016 opening night mismatch – but Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson launched an impassioned defence of the concept.

The St Helens-Roosters clash at Langtree Park marked the 40th anniversary of the firsrt clash between the Australian and British champions – involving the same clubs at the Sydney Sports Ground in ’76 – and by halftime the NRL team had racked up a 22-0 lead.

World Club Challenge games were adjudged to have such potential that in 1997 the Super League competitions merged mid-season but those from the Australasia won 48 of the 56 matches played. Since the revival of the idea last year, NRL sides have been successful in all four games.

“I don’t think questioning it is a good idea. It’s about loving it and investing some time,” said Robinson following a match in which the performances of young halves Jayden Nikorima and Jackson Hastings was a feature.

“It’s awesome to go to St Helens and Wigan and Leeds.

“It’s here to stay. We want to promote the players between England and Australia. There’s some great English players down in the NRL as well.

“We have to continue the concept. The fans love it, They’re turning up.”

The Roosters’ 13-a-side season got off to the worse possible start when the kick-off in front of 14,008 fans at Langtree Park was allowed to go dead.
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But after some determined defence from St Helens the Roosters hit cruise mode, making light of the absence of Mitchell Pearce, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Boyd Cordner and the departed Michael Jennings, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and James Maloney.

Boom centre Latrell Mitchell beat four players on a dime in the lead-up to the opening touchdown of the game, for prop Kane Evans, while Nikorima overcame an early head knock to star.

St Helens coach Keiron Cunningham described both Nikorima and Mitchell as future superstars.

“There’s been a lot written in the last month but we’ve always been confident about what’s ahead,” said Robinson.

“I thought we came up with stuff that usually takes a few months.”

One selection surprise was the omission of Wigan recruit Joe Burgess from the Roosters squad. “He’s a very good player who will play a lot of NRL,” said Robinson.

“But he’s only been with us five or six months. He’s probably a little bit short but Latrell developed well over the off-season.”

Cunningham said: “The difference was the outside backs of the Roosters … it’s unfortunate the scoreline blew out the way it did.”

Nikorima was not made available to the media after the match.

SYDNEY ROOSTERS 38 (A Guerra 2 K Evans D Copley D Tupou S Kenny-Dowall B Ferguson tries J Hastings 5 goals) beat ST HELENS 12 (D Peyroux 2 tries L Walsh 2 goals) at Langtree Park. Referee: Ben Thaler. Crowd: 14,008

NRL round five 2014: PARRAMATTA 25 BRISBANE 18 at Suncorp Stadium

By STEVE MASCORD

SIX hundred and thirteen days after their last away away, Parramatta were teased, prodded and eventually rewarded by football fate at Suncorp Stadium.
Coach Brad Arthur was in the job for the first time when the Eels beat Parramatta at the same venue in July 2012.
During an enthralling 80 minutes on Friday night before 32,009 fans, there were times when the Eels looked certain to fall short, and others when victory seemed inevevitable.
In the end, it wasn’t until halfback Chris Sandow kicked a 42-metre field goal with five minutes left that the away drought was assured of ending.
Earlier, hooker Nathan Peats had forced his way over from dummy half after former Bronco Corey Norman bent back the home side’s defence on the previous tackle.

Brisbane has claimed the lead for the first time 11 minutes into the second session. Halfback Ben Hunt had burst into the clear, dummied outside to Ben Barba, and crossed near the posts for a converted try.
The seesawing continued nine minutes later, Parramatta fullback Jarryd Hayne beating Josh Hoffman one-on-one and the video referees clearing the Eels of obstruction in awarding the try.
Brisbane took four minutes to reclaim the ascendancy, when Parra winger Ken Sio fumbled a bomb. The video officials painstakingly checked possible knock-ons in the air by Alex Glenn and Todd Lowrie before giving prop Josh McGuire the touchdown.
With a minute left in the fist half, Parramatta were sitting pretty after scoring two sizzling tries which piloted them to a 10-0 lead – 613 days after their last away win.
At 24 minutes, prop Peni Taripo and halfback Chris Sandow combined over 50 metres, Sandow’s pass being knocked down by Broncos winger Daniel Tupou in the north-eastern corner.
The ball was snapped up by centre Will Hopoate who scored, Sandow unable to convert from the touchline.
The second blue-and-gold try was even more eye-catching.
Winger Semi Radradra was involved in the start and also finished off the 85-metre movement.
Hopoate and ex-Bronco Corey Norman also chimed in but Radradra produ dd the star turn as he powered down the left wing, ignored the support of Willie Tonga, and stumbled through Ben Barba’s attempted tackle to score.
Video referees Steve Clark and Grant Atkins ruled the ball had not touched the ground while Barba had a hand on Radradra, allowing the try, and Sandow’s goal brought up that 10-point advantage.
But iconic Broncos centre Justin Hodges was not happy to clock-watch.
Darting out of dummy half, Hodges palmed off Norman, sucked in two of his team-mates and then off-loaded one-handed to winger Dale Copley.
With a clear run to the line, Copley did his job and Corey Parker’s conversion narrowed the margin to four for the break,
Before kickoff, the Eels lost prop FuiFui MoiMoi to a badly cut leg.


Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

NRL round three 2014: SYDNEY ROOSTERS 30 BRISBANE 26 at Suncorp Stadium

By STEVE MASCORD
MITCHELL Pearce and Boyd Cordner on Friday night did their bit to decimate Brisbane’s Friday night economy.

With 1:45 left in the Broncos-Sydney Roosters epic at Suncorp Stadium, most of the 33,381 crowd was eying a bar on nearby Caxton Street and after that, destination unknown with the home side headed to a famous victory, leading the premiers 26-24.

But halfback Pearce found second-rower Cordner arrow towards the left upright and the 11th hour try ruined – and probably ended – the nights of many. For the Broncos, the operation was a success but the patient died during a breakneck second half when the lead changed every few minutes.

A brisk first half finished at 12-12. Brisbane halfback Ben Hunt, taking the ball on the blindside in the south-western corner, threw a dummy and glided over for the opening try in the sixth minute, which was duly converted by Corey Parker.

But former Rooster Martin Kennedy lost the ball from the kickoff in a thunderous tackle And ex-team-mate Michael Jennings scored from the next set. Jennings stepped inside Dale Copley with apparent ease, James Maloney tying the scores on 10 minutes.

Roosters prop Sam Moa seemed to be stopped well short of the line five minutes later but his formidable leg drive propelled him across the stripe, grounding the ball for a converted try despite the attentions of several defenders. The premiers seemed to be on a roll and they were sternly tested for an extended period at Brisbane launched incessant waves of attack at the southern end they defended.

Hunt’s kick was fumbled by Anthony Minichiello under his own posts and Sam Thaiday pounced, saluting a rapturous crowd after planting the ball in the in-goal.

Parker snaffled an easy goal and that was the sum total of the first half’s scoring.

Sydney Roosters replacement Kane Evans was reported for a high shot on Matt Gillett in the 30th minute and Jake Friend went off for concussion assessment not long afterwards.
When an in-goal divot delayed a Sydney Roosters line dropout just after halftime, Parker walked over and put the turf back in place.

His immediate reward for the sense of urgency was his team reclaiming the lead, via his own penalty goal after 44 minutes,

Anthony Minichiello had been penalised for delaying tactics in front of his own posts; “that’s three in a row,” Parker told Shayne Hayne, “someone’s got to go.”

But Brisbane’s shifting of gears was more lavishly rewarded when Hunt cut out Copley with a pass that found winger Lachlan Maranta, who dashed over in the north-eastern corner.

Parker’s missed touch line conversion left a six-point Broncos advantage – but it didn’t last long.

Parker complained defender Josh Hoffman was obstructed by decoy Mitch Aubusson as Tricolours centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall crossed out wide. “He held him up for half a second – which was the difference between Hoffy getting him and not.”

Video referees Luke Patten and Steve Clark disagreed, flashing the green light for a converted try which again tied the scores.

The Broncos then seemed to won the game with a merciless one-two punch. First, Jack Reed forced his way over off Josh Hoffman’s pass, then Hunt was rewarded for an outstanding evening by scrambling over for a four-pointer of his own.
SYDNEY ROOSTERS 30 (B Cordner M Jennings S Kenny-Dowall S Moa R Tuivasa-Sheck tries J Maloney 5 goals) bt BRISBANE 26 (B Hunt 2 L Maranta J Reed S Thaiday tries C Parker 3 goals) at Suncorp Stadium. Referees: S Hayne/ C James. Crowd: 33,381.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

NRL round two: WESTS TIGERS 42 GOLD COAST 12 at CBUS Super Stadium

By STEVE MASCORD

WESTS Tigers coach Michael Potter feared fullback James Tedesco‘s potential-laden season  was over almost before it began.
Fans of the joint venture – even those with sunburn at a sweltering CBUS Super Stadium – went pale when the 21-year-old play motionless after a first half collision during the 42-12 pizzling of Gold Coast.
“I thought ‘oh no’ – I shat myself,” Potter told Fairfax Media. “You think it’s his knee. My first message to the runners was ‘check onTeddy’.”
But a grinning Tedesco‘s said after terrorising Gold Coast with 140 metres gained, nine tackle breaks and a line break: “It was never the knee.
“I copped a knock in the personals. There was a fair bit of pain down there but I was OK before long.”
Some water to the affected area also helped … “I waited for the cameras to be off me first.”
Up 12-6 at halftime, Wests Tigers belted an inexplicably poor Gold Coast after the break to bury the memory of last week’s heavy loss to St George Illawarra.
Wests Tigers centre Chris Lawrence suffered a hamstring injury in the first half and will have scans today.
The oppressive conditions could not have been more different to those in Wigan where he set multiple records, but veteran winger Pat Richards yesterday helped Wests Tigers bury Gold Coast on what was accurately marketed as “White Hot Sunday”.
Temperatures in the middle of the newly renamed CBUS Super Stadium topped 40 degrees; drinks breaks and an extended halftime would have done little to assuage the distress of the 34 players .
Richards, returning to the NRL after a stellar eight years in Super League, scored his first try after four minutes and another in the 31st, and booted goals from all over, in a dominant performance from the joint venture.
The game was only four minutes old when Richards scored the first of his tries, from a simple overlap, in the north-western corner. He was unable to convert but had no trouble three minutes later when Tedesco crossed much closer to the posts after a kick from a sharp-looking Luke Brooks.
Wests Tigers looked to have taken an early stranglehold at 17 minutes, replacement Marty Taupau charging at the line and appearing to have grounded the ball one-handed. But after repeated viewings, video referees Bernard Sutton and Andrew Dunemann chalked off the try.
“They’ve had a look at it and they’ve found he was short of the line and then lost it,” referee Gerard Sutton told Wests Tigers captain Robbie Farah.
Hooker Farah responded: “What? They had to look at it 15 times! It’s inconclusive.”
While travelling well on the scoreboard, the joint venture side lost centre Lawrence with less than quarter of the game played. Cory Paterson, who replaced him in the centres was among his side’s best.
After replacement Sauaso Suu was booked for diving at the legs of Titans kicker Aiden Sezer, the five-eighth showed no ill-effects when he crossed in the 23rd minute off a Greg Bird break and converted himself, leaving the home side closer than it probably deserved to be.
But after the outstanding Tedesco executed a try-saving ankle-tap on Albert Kelly, Wests Tigers extended their lead when Richards scored in similar circumstances to
his first with nine minutes remaining in the half, outdoing his previous effort by converting from the sidelines.
Former Titan Boden Thompson then hammered in another nail in the shadows of halftime by fielding Braith Anasta’s bomb for a try confirmed by the video referees.
Paterson was denied a try when the ball bounced off the posts two minutes into the second half; Bird fumbled but replays showed Wests Tigers’ James Gavet getting a hand to Steeden.
But less than another 60 seconds elapsed before late inclusion David Nofaluma scored after some smart lead-up by Brooks; shortly before the second drinks break, Tapau made up for his ealier near miss by steamrolling over for another.
The crowd was told a collarbone injury to Titans five-eighth Bird was not serious but coach John Cartwright was afterwards not completely sure of the prognosis.
“It’s an impact injury … he’s a quick healer,” Cartwright said.

WESTS TIGERS 42 (P Richards 2 L Brooks D Nofoaluma M Taupau J Tedesco B Thompson tries P Richards 7 goals) bt GOLD COAST 12 (A Kelly A Sezer tries A Sezer 2 goals) at Cbus Super Stadium. Referee: G Sutton/D Munro. Crowd: 12,038.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

NRL round two: BRISBANE 16 NORTH QUEENSLAND 12 at Suncorp Stadium

By STEVE MASCORD

THERE were 42,303 people at Suncorp Stadium but few would have been more relieved at Brisbane hooker Andrew McCullough’s winning try against North Queensland than Broncos prop Josh McGuire.

Nearing a half century of tackles, McCullough celebrated the decision of Australia captain Cameron Smith not to take his jersey next year by backing up a Dale Copley break to dive over with six minutes left in the Queensland derby, securing a 16-12 win.

“I was on the bench and I started choking one of our water runners, I was that excited,” Samoan international McGuire said.

And with good reason; the 106 kg 24-year-old was reported twice – the second offence allowing the Cowboys to take a lead – and was responsible for a Ben Hunt try in the 60th minute being disallowed.

He was booked first for a high tackle on Gavin Cooper and again for diving at the legs of Robert Lui, leading to Cowboys replacement Ashton Sims telling the referees: “He could have broke (sic) his leg”

Of the first incident, McGuire said: “I’ll just cop it on the chin, it was unlucky, it was an accident”. When asked about the second, he claimed to be unaware of the rules regarding challenges on kickers.

“I just sprinted out of the line and he jumped. I didn’t realise he jumped. I didn’t know the rules, to be honest. I thought you could tackle them as long as you wrap your arms.”

But McGuire’s most costly infraction looked like being standing in front of team-mate Ben Hunt when the halfback dashed over for what could have been the winning try in an enthralling struggle.

Without consulting the video referees, on-field officials Ben Cummins and Gavin Reynolds ruled defender Tariq Sims had been illegally obstructed.

“I probably got lazy and didn’t push through fast enough,” McGuire recalled. “I’m a front rower, I don’t get to decide what happens there. I just push up and if he passes me the ball, I take it.

“If he doesn’t, it goes out the back.”

North Queensland attacked right to the death in a mistake-affected, but thrilling contest before a crowd that has put the NRL attendance average for the young season back on track.

Brisbane lock Matt Gillett was put over by Ben Barba early, Cowboys captain Johnathan Thurston responded with a converted try of his own and then new five-eighth Josh Hoffman’s kick allowed Daniel Vidot to put the home side ahead 10-6 at the break.

Hoffman, whose agent pressed for a release when Barba was signed in the off-season, broke his media silence after the game.

He was lavish in his praise of Barba, saying: “”He brings that x-factor. He’s got a good voice. His talk … it’s great to have someone like that behind you at the back.

“From being behind there (I know) the forwards, they’re going to need a lot of talk from a fullback. It’s good having that sort of player behind him.”

Asked about his newfound prowess as a tactical kicker, Hoffman said: “”I’ve been looking at a few YouTube videos of Darren Lockyer. He’s got that big left foot. It’s just trying to bring my own thing to the jersey.”

Cooper allowed NQ to draw level nine minutes into the second half, when a kick was tapped down to him by Kyle Feldt, and the 10-10 deadlock was broken by Thurston the second time McGuire was booked.

“It was a great contest, I don’t think it was a particularly great game,” said North Queensland coach Paul Green.

BRISBANE 16 (M Gillett D Vidot A McCullough tries C Parker 2 goals) beat NORTH QUEENSLAND 12 (J Thurston G Cooper tries,Thurston 2 goals) at Suncorp Staidum. Referees: B Cummins/G Reyolds. Crowd: 42,303.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

World Cup final: AUSTRALIA 34 NEW ZEALAND 2 at Old Trafford, Manchester

By STEVE MASCORD
AUSTRALIAN players repeatedly claimed before the World Cup final that revenge was not a motivation. “Probably told a little white lie,” captain Cameron Smith admitted after his men reclaimed in ruthless fashion the trophy lost to New Zealand five years ago.
Tim Sheens’ men brought their total minutes at the World Cup without conceding a try to 404 with a crushing 34-2 victory in front of a world Test record 74,468 crowd at Old Trafford. The gamble to include Billy Slater despite a knee injury payed off; he posted two tries.
“We probably told a little white lie along the way, where this didn’t mean much against what happened in 2008,” said hooker Smith.
“But I think, standing out on that field after the match, a little bit of that disappointment from 2008 was erased.”.
Coach Sheens admitted his career, and that of his medical staff, had been put on the line with the decision to play fullback Slater. “He had to be bashed (at training) and he was,’ Sheens said. “He had to get through Greg Inglis, who secretly wanted the fullback role.”
But after losing Roger Tuivasa-Sheck to a leg injury following just six minutes of play, rival Stephen Kearney denied any such risk despite the winger having been in doubt with a similar injury during the build-up.
“We think there’s a hairline fracture there,” said Kearney, “(but) we did all the relevant tests and x-rays during the week and there was nothing wrong with him there. In his first carry, he heard a crack.”
Australia held a decisive 16-2 lead at halftime, after attacking the right side defence left vulnerable by Tuivasa-Sheck’s departure. But Australia centre Jarryd Hayne also went down with apparent concussion – before playing on in what should prompt a review of concussion enforcement in internationals.
The first points arrived when Kieran Foran was ruled to have taken out chaser Billy Slater in front of the New Zealand sticks, Johnathan Thurston landing the penalty goal. When Cameron Smith took Elijah Taylor high, the ledger was levelled.
While proceedings to this point led some commentators to compare this to a rugby union international, it soon began to more closely resemble an AFL match with attacking kicks holding sway.
At 20 minutes, Johnathan Thurston dropped a kick just inside the field of play, and to the right of the posts, where it was claimed by Melbourne’s Slater.
He spun midair as he avoided Foran, before ducking under Bryson Goodwin to score.
Rather than allow the modest in-goal areas to supress their kicking game, Australia just seem to become more accurate. Hemmed into a corner by the Kiwis defence, Jarryd Hayne centre-kicked for Cronk who wrestled with Issac Luke as he attempted to get the ball down.
Replays suggested Melbourne’s Cronk did touch the Steeden to the turf – but video referee Ashley Klein chalked off the four points.
There was no denying halfback Cronk four minutes later, however – and again the try was orchestrated by foot rather than hand. Brett Morris made the break, Darius Boyd kicked ahead and the no.7 won the race.
Thurston’s conversion made it 14-2 and a later penalty goal brought up the halftime ledger.
What the contest sorely needed immediately after the break was a New Zealand try. Instead, Slater set the the crowd on a course for the Mexican wave by backing up a break made by winger Boyd and engineered by man of the match Thurston to score his second.
Tries from kicks and interceptions are often derided as having not been honestly earned but there was no denying Australia’s dominance as they scored from one of each in the remaining 39 minutes.
The first of winger Morris’ brace started with a sublime flick pass from replacement Josh Papalii to the flanker, who kicked ahead. Hayne attempted to regather but hacked at the ball with his foot – with devastating effect.
Morris spectacularly won the race to the ball but then barreled into the fence, injuring a hip in the process. Rival Manu Vatuvei also collided with a hoarding in another incident that seemed to confirm the fears of players, expressed on match eve, about the slender in-goal areas and elevated pitch.
Centre Greg Inglis suffered a suspected broken bone in his hand, while Morris’ hip injury was said to not be serious. Sheens said it was the best performance in his time as Australia coach, and that he had not made a decision on his future.
Kearney said the youth in his side was a consolation. “Next time we find ourselves in that position, Australia’s performance is what it’s going to take to lift that trophy again,” he said.
AUSTRALIA 34 (Billy Slater 2, Brett Morris 2, Cooper Cronk tries; Johnathan Thurston 7 goals) beat NEW ZEALAND 2 (Shaun Johnson goal) at Old Trafford. Referee: Richard Silverwood (England).
Filed for SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

World Cup first semi-final: NEW ZEALAND 20 ENGLAND 18 at Wembley Stadium


By STEVE MASCORD
HE scored arguably the greatest ever World Cup try in one of the competition’s most epic contests, he is just out of his teens – and he played on with a suspected broken leg.
Shaun Johnson broke 67,000 hearts by dashing over to the left of the posts with just 20 second left to keep New Zealand’s Cup defence alive at Wembley Stadium on Saturday but winger Roger Tuivasa-Sheck was the the true star of an exhilarating 20-18 win over England.
Legendary commentator Ray French called his first-half touchdown, which saw ball propelled from one touchline to the other, where it was flicked in-field from mid-air, out of bounds – as the best World Cup try since Clive Sullivan in 1972.
The excitable 20-year-old left Wembley Stadium in a surgical boot and team doctor Simon Mayhew said he may have broken a bone in his leg late in the match.
“I put my leg out straight and someone landed on it – I thought I heard a crack,” Sydney Roosters’ Tuivasa-Sheck said.
“I just had to find something to fight on and keep going. I just looked around at the boys and that’s what keeps you going.
“The Word Cup final, it’s something that comes only once a lifetime so hopefully I get right for it.”
The injury to the competition’s leading tryscorer wasn’t the only Kiwis buzzkill after a contest for which new superlatives will probably have to be concocted, England tendering a top draw performance only to be denied in soul-destroying circumstances.
Captain Simon Mannering told one interviewer it had been “our worst performance of the tournament” and hero Johnson reckoned: “at times it felt like we were just throwing the World Cup away”.
“I was well off the mark … that’s why it is mixed emotions,” said Warrior Johnson, who described the try as ‘by far’ the biggest moment of his career.
“Defensively I wasn’t there and that’s what I’ve built my game on this whole tournament. I’ve been pretty good defensively and I guess if wasn’t for that try at the end, it would be a bitter taste.
“It would be pretty hard to look at myself if we had to go home.”
After a dismal showing against France, England were not expected to seriously test a Kiwis outfit that had topped the try- and pointscoring charts in the pool and quarter-final stages.
But after an early disallowed try to Kiwi Issac Luke, powerful England rolled down the lusg Wembley turf and Sam Burgess’ one-handed pass gave Sean O’Loughlin his 16th minute try.
This was converted and later complemented by a Kevin Sinfield penalty goal, before the RTS Express put the finishing touches on a try for the ages.
Jason Nightingale, Sam Kasiano, Kieran Foran and Issac Luke all handled before Dean Whare scooped the Steeden back to Tuivasa-Sheck when the Penrith centre’s entire body was outside the field of play – and he was facing the other way.
Even the England players, standing in their own in-goal watching the video referee decide, must have been tempted to applaud.
Johnson added a penalty goal to bring up an 8-8 scoreline that Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney admitted was flattering.
Tuivasa-Sheck’s footwork delivered a 43rd minute touchdown to the Kiwis; during this period, the tourists received five consecutive penalties. But after the run was broken, half Sinfield put cenre Kallum Watkins over to tie the scores; the captain missed a relatively simple conversion attempt.
Then came Sam Burgess’s bullocking try from close range in the 68th minute, the touthdown that shoulder have secured England a place in the World Cup final.
The Kiwis looked to have been spooked later, Kevin Locke lobbing a ball over winger Nightingale’s head, but after a high tackle penalty and with Sinfield rushing up out of the line, Johnson stepped his way over to the left of the posts and serenely slotted home the winning points.
Kearney joked he was “under the desk” as the 11th hour drama played itself out. He said the areas in which New Zealand were deficient were “not had to fix” and was hopeful of Tuivasa-Sheck and Manu Vatuvei each being available for the Old Trafford showdown with Australia.
Rival Steve MacNamara had the good grace to tell a television audience of millions, within minutes of a crushing defeat, “that game put rugby league on the map.”
NEW ZEALAND 20 (Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 2, Shaun Johnson tries; Johnson 4 goals) beat ENGLAND 18 (Sean O’Loughlin, Sam Burgess, Kallum Watkins tries; Kevin Sinfield 3 goals) at Wembley Stadium. Referee: Ben Cummins (Australia). Crowd: 67,525.