World Cup first quarter-final: NEW ZEALAND 40 SCOTLAND 4 at Headingley


By STEVE MASCORD
SCOTLAND deliberately maximised the embarassment of rugby league officials by announcing as the most important game in their history kicked off that their funding had been completely withdrawn.
New Zealand cruised through the World Cup quarter-final at Headingley as expected, winning 40-4 to set up a semi-final appearance with England with centre Bryson Goodwin and winger Roger Tuivasa-Sheck each posting try braces.
Their only real complication was an ugly, if accidental, incident which left superstar Sonny Bill Williams with a jarred neck.
But officials of the Rugby Football League, who until now had been basking in the glory of successful and profitably tournament, copped a PR barrage as the teams ran out when Scotland Rugby League posted on Facebook: “The RFL have withdrawn their funding from across the Celtic nations …
“There are no staff working on or on behalf of Scotland Rugby League until the Rugby League International Federation make a decision on any future funding for Scotland.”
Bravehearts coach Steve McCormack refused to be drawn on the issue after the quarter-final and SRL chairman Keith Hogg did not immediately return Fairfax Media‘s phone calls.
But it is understood the SRL had received inquiries about the issue throughout the week leading up to the match and had decided to maximise the impact of the news by announcing it when the eyes of the rugby league world were on its team.
The Rugby Football League, which overseas the game in Britain, is funded by Sport England – an anomaly when it comes to passing on that funding to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The RFL’s funding has been cut by Stg10 million over the next four years.
“I know they haven’t got a lot of money – I didn’t know they’ve now got none,” said former NSW five-eighth Peter Wallace, who has represented Scotland for the first time in this tournament.
“Hopefully how we’ve gone in this tournament … maybe the Scotland government can get behind rugby league in Scotland.”
For New Zealand, who led 26-0 at halftime, minor injuries and some lack of concentration were the only negatives coach Stephen Kearney could point to.
Williams packed into the next scrum following his mishap at prop before getting a very early shower, while winger Manu Vatuvei came off with a groin injury and captain Simon Mannering was also given a long rest.
Tuivasa-Sheck was a popular man of the match after tries in the 19th and 29th minutes. “He’s a young man of 20 years old yet some of the stuff he does makes it look like he’s been around for 10 years,” said Kearney.
“Yet it’s instinctive.”
The return of Kevin Locke as first-choice fullback was deemed a success and Kearney said the decision between the Warriors custodian and Josh Hoffman for the Wembley semi-final would be difficult.
“After halftime, we could have been a bit more ruthless,” said Kearney, who added “eighty per cent of the side is pretty much fixed or set”.
NEW ZEALAND 40 (Bryson Goodwin 2, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 2, Jesse Bromwich, Frank Pritchard, Shaun Johnson, Manu Vatuvei tries; Johnson 4 goals) beat SCOTLAND 4 (Alex Hirst try) at Headingley. Referee: Ben Cummins (Australia). Crowd: 16,207.

Filed for: SUN-HERALD

Four Nations: NEW ZEALAND 14 SAMOA 12 at Toll Stadium, Whangarei

Parish, MattBy STEVE MASCORD

FURIOUS coach Matt Parish claimed Samoa had been treated “like second class citizens” after another agonising late defeat at the Four Nations.

A 75th minute try by centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall saved the Kiwis from suffering the first loss by a top-three country in the history of the tournament – but Parish was fuming over the decision to appoint New Zealander Henry Perenara as referee.

Asked what stuck out in his mind about an epic contest played in front of 16,912 fans at Whangarei’s Toll Stadium, Parish replied: “The 6-2 penalty count in the second half.

“Last week there were three video refereeing decisions that went against us and cost us 14 points. Today, we led all but the end and got penalised 6-2 in the second half in a tough game.

“Who was the video ref last week?” he asked journalists. It was Perenara.

Parish continued: “I’ve got a whole team of shattered blokes down there. What do you say to them? Do you think they could do any more than they did out there today?

“Mate, we get treated like second class citizens. It’s about time they took a bit of notice.”

Earlier, long serving Test referee and World Cup match officials board member Stuart Cummins said the decision to appoint Perenara to a New Zealand game and Aussie Gerard Sutton to Sunday’s Anglo-Australian Test in Melbourne meant international football had “gone backwards”.

Asked if he would like to have seen a referee from a neutral country, Parish said: “That’s an understatement.

 amazon“Ben Roberts does a kick …. Adam Blair was taking kickers out left, right and centre all day … (Frank Pritchard) pushes him, they come back and give a penalty. That’s a game changer.

“We were up 12-6 then, with 20 minutes to go. Mose Masoe’s clearly got a chicken wing – play on. Tim Simona, they get him in a headlock. Play on.

“I told these blokes, ‘if they touch our kickers, don’t cop it’.”

Pritchard admitted he was giving Perenara “constantly, too much of a spray. If I think the call is wrong, I’m definitely going to stand up and give it to him.”

Controversy aside, the Four Nations delivered its best game despite the Samoans being 7-1 outsiders. On Saturday’s evidence, New Zealand v Samoa could one day be the Pacific’s answer to State of Origin.

Fans engaged in chanting wars between singing and dancing at the natural amphitheatre in bright sunshine as Samoa scored first through winger Tautai Moga after three minutes.

By halftime, the Samoans led 8-6. After the break, centre Joey Leilua – probably the man of the match – used a giant fend on Kenny-Dowall to extend the lead to 12-6.

Centre Tim Lafai had no luck with his three conversion attempts. It’s the second week in a row Samoa have scored as many tries as their opposition only to be beaten by goal-kicking.

Two passages of play stand out from the second half.

The first was when NZ’s Issac Luke was ankle-tapped after making a break but managed to off-load. The Kiwis kept the ball alive from touchline to touchline before forcing a line dropout, with winger Jason Nightingale scoring off the next set.

donate2The other was a forced pass by Samoa half Ben Roberts with six minutes to go, which resulted in a turnover that gave the Kiwis possession for Kenny-Dowall’s clincher in the corner.

Kiwis captain Simon Mannering used the word complacency in a fulltime interview, later saying his side tried to play too fancily. Coach Stephen Kearney admitted attitude may have been wanting.

“If you want to call that getting out of jail, you can,” said Kearney said. “Early, late – does it matter?

“It’s a Test match win and we’re very pleased downstairs to be celebrating a Test match win.’

There was a minutes silence before kick-off for young Warriors Luke Tipene, who was killed in a violent brawl in Auckland on Friday night.

A new trophy was awarded at fulltime, perhaps intended to be rugby league’s equivalent of the Americas Cup.

The Peter Leitch Trophy will be on offer to Pacific countries visiting New Zealand. On Saturday’s evidence, it won’t stay in the Shakey Isles for long.

NEW ZEALAND 14 (Keiran Foran, Jason Nightingale, Shaun Kenny Dowall tries; Shaun Johnson goal) beat SAMOA 12 (Tautai Moga, Daniel Vidot, Joey Leilua tries) at Toll Stadium, Whangarei. Referee: Henry Perenara (New Zealand). Crowd: 16,912.

Filed for: SUN-HERALD

NRL round one: MELBOURNE 23 MANLY 22 in golden point time at Brookvale Oval

By STEVE MASCORD
MELBOURNE coach Craig Bellamy revealed he would have given the job of kicking the winning field goal in an amazing comeback win over Manly to someone else if he’d known captain Cameron Smith had not booted one in his NRL career.
The Storm trailed 20-0 eight minutes before halftime, levelled the scores 15 minutes into the second half, hit the from with 13 left in regulation time and secured an historic when when captain Smith – playing a club record equaling 262nd game – booted a 22-metre field goal four minutes into overtime.
It was Manly’s worst capitulation at home and Melbourne’s equal-second biggest comeback, although hooker Smith described it as the best in which he had been involved.
“It’s the first field goal I’ve kicked since under 16s, actually – back at Logan Brothers,” Smith said. “The best I have is a couple of pot shots at the end of the week from 40 out, as a lot of footballers do … I don’t do any practice at all.”
The admission surprised Bellamy, who commented: “We sent out the message for Cameron to do it … I hadn’t realised he hadn’t kicked one before, I wouldn’t have made that decision if I’d known. We probably would have gone (Benny Roberts) on Benny Hampton”
The Sea Eagles were cruising at 20-0 when fullback Brett Stewart sought attention for a sore hamstring 10 minutes before halftime. Stewart did not return for the second half and in his absence, Australia captain Smith took firm control of proceedings.
The 29-year-old’s bomb to the north-eastern corner gave winger Sisa Waqa his first try seven minutes short of halftime and the long road back continued six after the resumption of play when the Fijian completed his brace off the pass of Billy Slater.
Again it was the no.9’s scheming which gave five-eighth Ben Hampton a 52nd-minute try – converted by Smith – that narrowed the gap to six.
The spirits of the 14,000 crowd, dampened by a rain shower, were completely drowned when Kenny Bromwich crossed between the posts after Hampton fielded a kick and Jesse Bromwich almost knocked on at 55 minutes.
The penalty which allowed Smith to boot his side ahead for the first time also landed Manly tryscorer Justin Horo on report for a high tackle. A penalty at the other end gave Lyon the chance to square things up and magnificent defence from Ryan Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hoffman precent a Cheyse Blair try shortly after the start of golden point time. Ben Roberts missed a field goal attempt before Smith’s successful pot-shot.
Manly coach Geoff Toovey admitted the loss of Stewart – who hopes to play against South Sydney on Friday – had been a turning point “but when you’re up by 20 points at Brookvale Oval, you don’t lose from there.
“There was a massive change in posession. It will be interesting to watch the video and see what happened.”
Bellamy said: “The score could have been more in the first half, we made some bad decisions in defence.
“We’ve got a few young guys in our side who it probably would have been easy for them to be shellshocked by that score. They made a couple of errors as well but they didn’t go away, they kept doing their job.”
According to Lyon, former Eagle George Rose knocked on while playing the ball, shortly before the end of regulation time. “It’s a bit hard (for the ball) to get from your hands to your feed without dropping it when you’re on the ground,” Lyon said.
Lyon approached referee Gerard Sutton about the alleged fumble but Rose countered: “It didn’t happen. Killer always goes up to the ref. That’s why they changed the rule!”

MELBOURNE 23 (S Waqa 2 B Hampton K Bromwich tries C Smith 3 goals field goal) bt MANLY 22 (S Matai 2 C Blair J Horo tries J Lyon 3 goals) in golden point time at Brookvale Oval. Referees: G Sutton/G Reynolds. Crowd: 14,200.

Filed for: SUN-HERALD

Nathan Brown Slams Wigan Props

Brown, NathanBy STEVE MASCORD

OUTSPOKEN Nathan Brown has issued a World Club Challenge warning to Sydney Roosters: Wigan’s props are cheap shot merchants.
The St Helens boss and former St George Illawarra coach made the comment yesterday after his new signing, former Penrith half Luke Walsh, finished his first night as a Super League player in hospital undergong x-rays for a possible facial fracture after a late challenge from Wigan’s Welsh giant Ben Flower.
The 28-16 Wigan win at Langtree Park also marked the English debuts of North Queensland icon Matt Bowen and former South Sydney and Wests Tigers forward Eddy Pettybourne.
“He got hit in the head – without the ball. You know that’s going to happen when you play Wigan” said a fuming Brown.
“That’s standard with their front rowers. It happened to Gaz O’Brien last year.”
Brown was otherwise complimentary to the side who will meet the Roosters at Allianz Stadium on February 22, calling them “effective”, “fluid” and “terrific”. The starting props in Sydney are likely to be Flower and Scott Taylor with Pettybourne off the bench.
New signing Jordan James, a former Royal Marine, will push Gil Dudson for the final bench spot.
That’s if Flower, 26, escapes the wrath of the judiciary. Walsh played on after the 70th-minute hit and was taken straight to a local hospital for scans. Results were still unavailable at the time of writing.
Pettybourne, who played for the United States in the World Cup, had fans chanting his name after a couple of big hits off the interchange bench. “He’s got good footwork and a hit on him,” said coach Shaun Wane.
“There’s a few technical things EP can work on. He’ll get better.”
Bowen had few oppotunities, St Helens scoring one try after the Cowboys star lost the ball in a tackle. He was replaced at halftime.
“That was always the plan,” said Wane, joking: “He’s the same age as me.”
In Friday’s other pre-season game, Leeds flogged London 68-10 at Headingley.

Filed for: SUN HERALD

Pettybourne: Wests Tigers Stint Destroyed Me Mentally

Pettybourne, EddyBy STEVE MASCORD
STAR Wigan signing Eddy Pettybourne has revealed his season at Wests Tigers last year left him so depressed he asked his family to stay away from NRL games in which he was playing.
Pettybourne, 25, made his competitive debut for the Super League champions in Friday night’s competition opener against Huddersfield before jetting back to Australasia for the World Club Challenge against Sydney Roosters on February 22 and a warm-up against the Warriors 10 days earlier.
Eligible for Australia, New Zealand, Samoa and the team he played for in the 2013 World Cup, the United States, Pettybourne said his sole season with Wests Tigers had been a difficult experience.
“I signed under Tim Sheens and obviously he got the sack,” he told Fairfax Media. “I had my plans ready with him. It was kind of hard coming in.
“Mick Potter was a good coach but he just wasn’t probably my style.
“There were times there that I was broken mentally, wasn’t playing good footy. Everything else was just piling up. There are times there when it was stressful.
“It was getting to the point where I was telling my family ‘don’t come to the games’ and that. My mum and dad, they love coming to watch footy – they’re Rabbitohs fans.
“They were always there for me, when I was in the dumps. I was telling my family ‘just stay home, watch it on TV’. You’re in the hole, you think there’s no point. It’s tough, that’s just life I guess.
“I was finding it pretty hard at the Tigers – just getting in the team was pretty tough.
“It was a good experience, working under Mick Potter. It just wasn’t my style, I wasn’t playing good footy over there and he’s given me the opportunity to come here.”
Pettybourne went into a Florida training camp underdone but believes he is up to speed and ready for the season ahead. The call-up to the US, due to his mother’s American Samoa background, gave him the opportunity to check out the set-up at DW Stadium.
He was impressed, and fills the boots of Parramatta-bound Lee Mossop.
The South Sydney junior, who was called up for the Kiwis in 2009 but did not play, had fans chanting his name after a couple of big hits in a pre-season game against St Helens last Friday.
“I’ve got an opportunity to go back to the NRL and prove I can play footy,” he said.
“That’s a big part of it – but seeing my family be there and support me, that’s probably going to drive me more.”

Filed for: SUN-HERALD

Comment: The NRL Auckland Nines Must Expand

NRL NinesBy STEVE MASCORD
PROMOTERS of the Auckland Nines aren’t keen to add teams next year – but if the concept is to be of any lasting benefit to rugby league aside from generating truckloads of cash, the NRL must insist on it.
A full house at Eden Park yesterday saw nines league revived at the top level in the southern hemisphere after a 17-year absence and by almost any measure, it was a triumphant return.
Fans came dressed as everyone from Caligula to Steve Matai, they cheered like they were actually paying attention and Warriors stars Sam Tomkins and Shaun Johnson were so good it gave you goosebumps.
This was en event that had the hallmarks of something grand; guides meeting officials and media in their hotel lobbies, fleets of buses, closed streets and even a dedicated lane in customs at Auckland Airport.
In a country where rugby union reigns and some of the old vestiges of anti-league bigotry survive, the NRL Nines is the PR equivalent of a right hook to the temple of the other code.
There are those who say Auckland is actually ‘a league town’ – or close to becoming one, anyway.
But in the past month, people have slowly got their heads around the potential of Nines to expand the sport as a whole.  It beggars belief that most of us didn’t know until this week that rugby league nines is to be played at the Commonweath Games THIS year.
The game seems almost embarrassed about this.
We also have the Cabramatta Nines which showcases a host of international teams – this month, Canada sent a team – and annual tournaments in the north east of the United States and Las Vegas.
Nines has also been played recently in the UK, Germany and elsewhere and now Salford owner Marwan Koukash wants Super League’s Magic Weekend at Manchester’s Etihad Stadium turned into a Nines tournament.
But this new NRL administration is probably unaware of all that.
They have big plans and great expertise but a lack of perspective and knowledge on the state of the game outside their own big-buck Australasian bubble. It’s the same administration that decided on Friday to allow its clubs to raid Super League with transfer fees outside the cap, whereas if they raid each other, the fees are included.
And if there was one negative at Eden Park it was the thought of Wigan – one of our game’s most famous clubs – sitting in the grandstand getting suntans. They wanted to be out there. So, too, did Warrington and there are suggestions even cash-strapped Bradford were clamouring for a spot.
The NRL needs to identify whether it is promoting rugby league as a whole or just itself. And if it’s the former, it needs to determine how the Nines can assist in that objective. Nines will not help expand rugby league while we leave the Super League champions sitting in row G with a few bags of chips.
I understand my earlier idea of having state teams full of NRL stars in the Auckland Nines and using the tournament for some pre-season publicity in non-league states was a bit harebrained. Would the crowds have flocked yesterday to see the might of Tasmania take on the superstars of South Australia? Probably not.
But the NRL needs to get something out of the nines other than money. Underdogs, minnows and exotic combatants are part of the DNA of sevens and nines.  That’s where the charm lies – although many assume it is located behind the bar.
Turn the other tournaments into qualifiers for the NRL Nines and you have an international ‘circuit’ overnight, with a minimum outlay. From there, it’s not too far to see dedicated nines franchises. Why not allow Brad Fittler, Darren Lockyer and Steve Menzies to play for the Washington DC Slayers next year?
What are we so scared of? The fact that Wigan won the World Sevens in 1992, perhaps?
Filed for: SUN-HERALD

Super League round one: HUDDERSFIELD 24 WIGAN 8 at DW Stadium


By STEVE MASCORD

MATT Bowen says he’s mystified by his own actions in an incident that could rub him out of the World Club Challenge.
An hour into the fullback’s debut for Wigan, the 31-year-old took out opposite number Scott Grix without the ball after he had kicked ahead. It’s likely Wigan will be in the air, heading to the clash with Sydney Roosters on February 22, when charges are meted out.
“I just stuck my hand out – I don’t know what I was thinking there,” Bowen said after the shock 24-6 defeat to last year’s Super League minor premiers, Huddersfield.
“I’ll just have to sit and wait now. There wasn’t much in it, I didn’t intend to get him around the chops.”
Wigan coach Shaun Wane said he couldn’t recall Bowen being involved in a similar incident but rival Paul Anderson commented: “It didn’t look good”.
The Hope Vale icon has been around the world preparing for the WCC, travelling to England to setting into a new home, then to Florida for a training camp, back to England and then back to Australia in a matter of weeks. “Fingers crossed, hopefully no games (suspended),” he said.
If the English champs were already long odds to beat the Roosters, the bookies would have been reassured by a game which Wigan never led. There was evidence of a revival after halftime when wingers Ian Thornley and Joe Burgess crossed.
But Huddersfield flanker Jermaine McGillvary completed his hat-trick with a horribly soft touchdown in the 53rd minute and before long local fans were performing the famous Wigan walk. “Massive” was how import Eddie Pettybourne described the necessary improvemnent over the next two weeks.
Wane compared the performance to one before last year’s Challenge Cup final but when asked if his side had been distracted by its looming trip down under, responded: “Absolutely not”.
O’Loughlin said he would be back for Wednesday’s clash with the New Zealand Warriors at Hamilton’s Waikato Stadium while winger Josh Charnley is expected to return from a hernia operation.
Wane said all players in his 27-man travelling squad would get a run before he chose his side to take on the Roosters.
He said: “It’s just tough to swallow this one. I wanted a good performance and a nice flight, but there’s going to be no sleep and a sh*t flight.”

HUDDERSFIELD 24 (J McGillvary 3 B Ferres S Grix tries D Brough 2 goals) bt WIGAN 8 (I Thornley J Burgess tries) at DW Stadium. Referee: R Silverwood. Crowd: 16,240.

Filed for: SUN-HERALD
Final team lists:
WIGAN: Matt Bowen; Joe Burgess, Darrell Goulding, Dan Sarginson, Iain Thornley, Blake Green, Matty Smith; Ben Flower, Liam Farrell, Tony Clubb, Eddy Pettybourne, Sam Powell, Scott Taylor. Res: Michael McIlorum, Jack Hughes, Dom Crosby, Gil Dudson.
HUDDERSFIELD: Scott Grix; Jermaine McGillivray, Leroy Cudjoe, Joe Wardle, Aaron Murphy; Danny Brough (c), Luke Robinson; Chris Bailey, Larne Patrick, Brett Ferres, Antonio Kaufusi, Shaun Lunt, Eorl Crabtree. Res: Craig Kopczak, Michael Lawrence, Ukuma Ta’ai, Kyle Wood.
Referee: Richard Silverwood. Halftime: Huddersfield 12-0