FIVE METRE GAP: Round 14

Hamish NealBy HAMISH NEAL

Like the way of the five metre gap in defence, reviewing the points from the NRL you may have missed from round fourteen

The clash of the cousins in Cairns between Greg Inglis and Albert Kelly made headlines as the Rabbitohs won the high-scoring encounter 30-24 against the Titans. The late play which saw Queensland Origin star Inglis tackle Kelly, 22, to secure the result for Souths was much talked-about it was the defensive effort of Kelly and his Gold Coast halves partner Aidan Sezer which helped contribute to the loss for John Cartwright’s men. Kelly missed six tackles in the match (he made seventeen). Coupled with the fact Sezer missed four of his 12 tackle attempts, it is a concern for the Titans who will be short of tough-tackling duo Nate Myles and Greg Bird this weekend.

Parramatta’s Chris Sandow is slipping back to some of the habits that saw him dumped in NSW Cup last season. The Kingaroy native made only four runs in the Eels’ 32-14 loss to Cronulla. For a side which – despite losing to the Roosters the previous weekend – had put in an improved effort, it was surprising to see Sandow cede the initiative when on attack. Over the weekend in the halfback ranks, Robert Lui also ran only four times for the Cowboys but the difference was he had Johnathan Thurston who took on the line on, on 10 occasions. Sandow (in having Joseph Paulo) can’t afford the luxury of a catch and pass because the Paulo (five runs-36 metres) is unlikely to run too.

Following on from a position topic last week, it was another wanna-be fullback displaying great wing play to conclude round 14 action. Brisbane winger Josh Hoffman, in the same way Warriors fullback Glen Fishaii prefers the custodian role, produced a terrific performance playing left wing as the Broncos dispatched Wests Tigers. The 25-year-old had 10 tackle breaks as he ran in two tries, logged 129 metres from 13 runs and also assisted in a try.

Former London Bronco Craig Gower may be stuck playing hooker if Danny Buderus remains out for the Knights. Despite Gower’s stated desire to play halfback he was used primarily in the number nine role against the Storm in the Knights’ 16-14 defeat at the hands on Melbourne. Significantly, he was asked to play dummy half when the Novocastrians were chasing the game, even though Indigenous All Star Travis Waddell – who has been with the side since the start of the season – was available. The potential World Cup representative for Italy will be hoping 35-year-old Buderus is available in round 16.

Canberra’s Reece Robinson logged an interesting statistic on the weekend by making no tackles as the Raiders saw off Penrith 24-12. The Raiders fullback did make 18 runs for 149 metres with 10 tackle breaks to go with his 15th minute try as the Raiders joined three other teams on 16 points. Interestingly, in the near-84-minute struggle between the Bulldogs and the Sea Eagles, Manly’s fullback Peter Hiku only made one tackle so sometimes this rare duck is not down the teams attacking dominance.

NRL round 14: SOUTH SYDNEY 30 GOLD COAST 24 at Barlow Park, Cairns

By STEVE MASCORD

THEY used to play against each other using a Coke bottle on the neighbours’ front lawn – and now a confrontation between cousins Greg Inglis and Albert Kelly has decided an NRL game.

With three minutes left and six points the difference in a sprawling, entertaining encounter before 16,118 fans at Cairns’ Barlow Park, Gold Coast halfback Albert Kelly burst into the clear and had only South Sydney fullback Inglis to beat.

Memories of childhoods spent kicking around anything they find on the NSW north coast came flooding back for both men.

“I was dreaming about it a long time ago and I got the chance to take him on, one-on-one,” said Kelly, “and I took him on.

“We always used to play together at Willis Street back in Macksville. If we didn’t have a football, we’d fill a Coke bottle up with water or some plastic AFL ball.

“We always played football – on the road, on the grass, until the lights turned on – then it was home time, dinner.

“He was always fast, he was always strong, everyone looked up to him in the family and wanted to be like Greggo. That was a good thing because he was always pushing us.

“In my debut, the first person who ran at me and my first NRL tackle was on Greggo. He tried to put the big lethal palm on me and I got him around the legs.”

Inglis was equally wistful. “They used to have an FDB down at Nambucca – Fair Dinkum Bargains,” he told Fairfax Media.

“We’d do down there and get a red plastic ball and kick that. It brought back old memoiries.”

The finale came at the end of a match which pleased fans first and coaches a distant second, with the Titans failing to complete their first six sets of the second half.

Souths scored one of the tries of the season to make it 18-18 right on the halftime bell, Nathan Merrit making a break and offloading to Bryson Goodwin who in turn found Issac Luke, Roy Asotasi and finally Adam Reynolds who kicked for centre Dylan Walker to cross.

But Rabbitohs captain John Sutton reckoned it was “one of my worst games of the year” and coach Michael Maguire described the afternoon as “frustrating”

“We didn’t play the way we have been playing and the way we’re capable of,” Maguire said. “You get burnt if you’re going to turn that much ball over.

“We were just lucky that the opposition probably did the same.”

Rival John Cartwright was cheerier. “On the back of the possession we had, I didn’t think we lost anything in comparison to them,” he said. “We made 70 more tackles and they had 30 more play-the-balls and I thought, if anything, we were finishing over the top of them.

“To not play so well and still go close, there’s a bit to be excited about.”
But skipper Nate Myles was more downbeat. “We’ve got a long way to go to be competing with teams such as Souths week-in and week-out,” he said

The sides had traded tries throughout the first half; in the second session Souths broke serve with consecutive touchdowns which gave them a 30-18 lead which they held at the 62nd minute.

Then Kelly posted the second of his tries – Inglis crossed the stripe once, too – and it all come down to that clash with his cousin.

What happened? Inglis showed Kelly the sideline, tackled him with one arm and knocked the ball out with the other.

“It was centimetres, right there,” Kelly said, pointing to a spot at his feet in the tunnel afterwards. “it was close.

“That’s why he’s the best in the game – a good defender and a good attacker.

“In my dream I scored. But just to get one-on-one with him in an NRL game is a big dream for me.He’s got a wingspan like a 747.

“I know all the family at home would probably be crying and screaming the house down.

“It would have been very loud on the mid-north coast.”

While Kelly had long imagined the moment, Inglis was just proud that they both got there.

“As a fullback, you’ve got to use the sideline as another defender,” said Inglis. “That’s what I did. He must have thought he got away from me.

“He’s a special player. I’m glad he’s seen the light at the end of the tunnel and I’m so happy for him.

“He’s always wanted to be a first grade player and that’s what he’s doing.

“I’m so glad he’s come all this way and is living his dream.”

SOUTH SYDNEY 30 (G Inglis I Luke D Walker B Teo R Asotasi tries A Reynolds 5 goals) bt GOLD COAST 24 (A Kelly 2 K Gordon W Zillman tries A Sezer 4 goals) at Barlow Park, Cairns. Referees: M Cecchin/G Atkins. Crowd: 16,118.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

NRL round five: BRISBANE 32 GOLD COAST 12 at Skilled Park

By STEVE MASCORD

By STEVE MASCORD

BRISBANE coach Anthony Griffin admitted that firing up Justin Hodges was probably not the best thing Gold Coast did in last night’s southern Queensland derby.

In his comeback from hamstring injury, the Australia centre had made just five runs when he became involved in a dispute with Gold Coast co-captain Greg Bird right on halftime.

Seconds later, Bird caught Broncos winger Lachlan Maranta high – resulting in his being placed on report – and Hodges rushed in to defend him. Hodges went on to double  his workload in the second half and scored the try that guaranteed the Broncos their 32-12 win.

“They didn’t need to stir him up there – he went to another level in the second half,” Griffin said after his side’s second win of the year.

“He came up with that great tackle on Bird, which I thought was his best play of the night.”

Captain Alex Glenn, filling in for Sam Thaiday who was suspended for touching a referee, added: “He is just one of those players who looks after his team-mates.

“That’s just what he was doing for his winger out there.”

Titans coach John Cartwright said of the confrontation: “It’s good to see two guys having a go at it. Neither of them are going to back down, are they?”

In form Gold Coast went into the derby seeking a fourth consecutive win for the first time in three seasons, and were favourites to do it, while Brisbane’s season remained dangerously close to receiving an early reading of the last rights.

But the Titans missed their late withdrawal, five-eighth Aiden Sezer (ankle), more than Brisbane struggled without their controversially suspended captain, Sam Thaiday.

And in losing, Cartwright’s side may have done more damage to its halves firepower with Albert Kelly – the scorer of a spectacular early try – forced off with a knee injury suffered trying to prevent a 72nd minute Andrew McCullough try.

The Broncos, with just one win in their opening four games, trailed by two at halftime but wore their neighbours down before finishing with a flourish, centre Justin Hodges scoring in the 67th minute and his rake burrowing over not long afterwards.

Replacement Nick Slyney’s touchdown came seconds before the siren.

The first stanza was an entertaining, open affair – an approach best exemplified by the exhilarating opening try.

From 65 metres out, Kelly beat a couple of defenders, chipped ahead and overcame a terrible bounce to touch down with his right hand before the ball richocheted free. Video referees Bernard Sutton and Justin Morgan confirmed the try and stand-in goalkicker Bird goaled for 6-0.

There was plenty of speed and guile in the Broncos’ response, which came six minutes later.

Corey Norman, Jack Reed and Hoffman were all involved in a 60 metre movement which finished with halfback Peter Wallace scoring near the posts. Despite the jeers of his former acolytes, five-eighth Scott Prince converted to tie the scores.

Gold Coast forced three consecutive line dropouts in the lead-up up to replacement hooker Beau Falloon’s 30th minute try.

After Bird drove the ball in to within a metre of the line, Falloon hopped out of dummy half and dived over, the eyes in the sky confirming he had not used his captain as a shepherd. Bird’s conversion was from almost in front and he made no mistake.

The final points of the first half came when centre Reed gave Hoffman the narrowest of corridors down the left flank and he touched down in the south-eastern corner for a try Prince was unable to convert.

Six minutes after the resumption of play, with Gold Coast back peddling and the visitors rising in stature, Brisbane hit the front.

Ben Hannant and Scott Prince were involved in the lead-up and second rower Matt Gillett crossed to the right of the posts, with Prince converting for a four-point lead.

Four minutes elapsed before replacement Ben Hunt kicked deftly for Reed. The England international did a good job selling the try with his celebration – and for an agonising minute or so it looked like the video referees were going to award it even though he did not ground the ball cleanly.

Sanity prevailed, however, and the four point margin made for a grandstand finish.

After a sluggish start to the season, the Broncos have now scored 11 tries in two games. Former Titan  Prince, who was not made available to speak after the match, played a key role in the victory which ended Gold Coast’s three-game winning run.

“I thought his second half was pretty good,” said Griffin, who said he never considered changing the combination of Corey Norman at fullback and Prince plus Peter Wallace in the halves.

“He got us some opportunities there in the first half, under a lot of pressure from the opposition.

“Defensively, he held his end up and he came up with some nice plays to get some space for Gillett and Hodges.”

Aside from the absence of Sezer and injury to Kelly, Titans centre Brad Takairangi (hamstring) was forced off early and forward Ben Ridge couldn’t return in the second half due to a pectoral muscle injury.

Kelly has a low grade medial ligament tear in his right knee and will be sidelined for between two and four weeks.

“It was pretty sharp (pain) … I broke my leg and I was out for 16 weeks and it was pretty much the same feeling as that,” Kelly said.

“It’s not a matter of how long I’ll be out, it’s a matter of how much work I put in to get it right,” he said.

“I don’t know when I’m going to come back but my mind is set to play next week.

“It’s a low-range medial. They said it could have been worse. Happy days for me.

“I don’t want to miss a game. I just love playing football. You can be on top of your game one week and get injured just like that.”

Broncos forward Dunamis Lui also has a medial ligament strain.

Summing up the reason for the steady improvement in his side’s fortunes, Griffin said: “We’re playing more direct and the halves are combining with the fullback a bit better.”

Titans co-captain Nate Myles said: “A lot of people were painting a pretty picture for us but we weren’t up to where a lot of people thought we were.

“I don’t think the players were getting carried away but I think other people were.”

BRISBANE 32 (P Wallace J Hoffman M Gillett J Hodges A McCullough N Slyney tries S Prince 4 goals) bt GOLD COAST 12 (A Kelly B Falloon tries G Bird 2 goals) at Skilled Park. Referees: S Hayne/A Shortall.  Crowd: 22,749.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

Final team lists:

TITANS: William Zillman; Kevin Gordon, Brad Takairangi, Jamal Idris, David Mead; Greg Bird, Albert Kelly; Ashley Harrison, Ben Ridge, Dave Taylor, Nate Myles, Matt Srama, Luke Douglas. Res: Luke Bailey, Ryan James, Beau Falloon, Steve Michaels.

BRISBANE: Corey Norman; Josh Hoffman, Jack Reed, Justin Hodges, Lachlan Maranta; Scott Prince, Peter Wallace; Corey Parker, Michael Gillett, Alex Glenn, Scott Anderson, Andrew McCullough, Ben Hannant. Res: Ben Hunt, Dunamis Lui, David Hala, Nick Slyney.

Referees: Shayne Hayne/Alan Shortlall.

Titans To Unveil Private Combinations In Derby

Greg Bird 2By STEVE MASCORD

CO-CAPTAIN Greg Bird has issued a pre-derby warning that private combinations honed during the summer by staying back after training are on the verge of bearing fruit for the Titans.

Back-rower Bird tells Rugby League Week Gold Coast stars have worked on attacking formations in their spare time, in position-specific groups,  and the tricks nutted out during a long, hot off-season are now being tried on opposition defences.

The Titans go into Friday night’s Skilled Park showdown with Brisbane in better shape than their ‘big brothers’,  with just one defeat from the opening month of the season compared with the Broncos’ 1-3 record.

“As you watch, week-in, week out, you’ll see little combinations working,” says Bird, “like Jamal (Idris) and David Mead, they’ve been doing things.

“Albert Kelly and Matty Srama around the rucks have been doing a bit.

“We’ve seen a little bit but they’ll keep getting better.  If we keep our focus on our defence and let the individuals work out their combinations,  that’s going to be best thing for us.

“The onus has been put on the players. Carty (coach John Cartwright) hasn’t been putting us in groups and saying ‘work your stuff out’.

“It’s been after training, blokes have been getting together and working on their little combinations and I think that’s the best part about it.

“It hasn’t been coach-enforced or senior player-enforced. The onus has purely been put on them and I think it’s been showing.”

Bird also gave RLW an insight into the areas he has been focusing on with the players around him.

“I do a bit of work with Aiden Sezer on our edge – just picking when he’s going to run and trying to push into holes because he’s such a strong runner,” he said.

“It’s such a stong part of his game that I’ve got to try and keep an eye on him because he’s so deceptive … and getting that offload ready for Willy Zillman, that’s been one of our strengths as well.”

The Australia star says St George Illawarra’s win over Cronulla on Saturday proves that there is no room for complacency in derbies.

“That’s the thing about rivalries and the thing about the derbies – where you are on the table doesn’t matter,” Bird said.

“The local derbies, everything comes out. The emotions come out. Fans come out of nowhere. The winner of the game is all about who’s most passionate, who is most determined on the night.

“They’ve got a strong forward pack, very similar to us. The Benny Hannants and the Matt Gilletts will be out to prove a point.”

Titans players previously told us new trainer Dan Ferris with their improvements this year.

“The focus on our defence has been a big thing,” says Bird. “We’re trying to hold teams our rather than putting all our emphasis into scoring points.”

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

NRL Round two: GOLD COAST 36 CANBERRA 0 at Skilled Park

By STEVE MASCORD

SERIAL off-field offender Albert Kelly yesterday resuscitated his troubled career with a dazzling display for Gold Coast – and then called on rugby league to give absent opponent Josh Dugan a second chance.  

Let go by Parramatta, Cronulla and Newcastle,  21-year-old Kelly scored two tries as the Titans registered their biggest-ever win, 36-0 over Canberra, at Skilled Park in their 150th game since joining the premiership in 2007.

It was the Raiders’ first game since sacking fullback Josh Dugan for insubordination and it could scarcely have gone worse as they trailed 30-0 after a dismal first half.

But for Kelly, who was at the Sharks during the 2011 period for which they are being investigated by ASADA, the memories of the afternoon will be golden as he finally showed signs of realising his undoubted potential.

His career has several times been in similar limbo to that of Dugan, who the NRL is not certain to register even if he finds a club.

“Duges, he’s a great player and people need to get behind him now – he needs the support at this moment,” said Kelly, who had 18 relatives from the NSW north coast in the 12,267 crowd.

“I needed the support when I went through troubled times as well and I got that support from friends and family.

“I back him to get back into his prime form.”

Asked if he had heard from ASADA over his time with the Sharks, Kelly said: “No, I haven’t heard anything from them but I just don’t really want to comment on that.

“No contact.

“I’ll keep focusing on 2013, my year when I got back, and how I’m going to play and how I’m going to train.”

Filipinos Matt Srama and Kevin Gordon also scored doubles  as the Titans ran in six tries before halftime. Kelly got his first in the fourth minute after backing up Brad Takarangi and his second two minutes before the break when he backed up the longest run of centre Jamal Idris’ career and finished a 95 metre moment.

“Everyone’s always known his ability – we’ve seen it in his short stints at other clubs,” said coach John Cartwright.

“But he’s been here since November now and he hasn’t put a foot wrong. He backs up, he’s a tremendous defender, he’s a competitor…..”

Kelly said he was “nervous to fail, I didn’t want to let anyone down”. “I had my doubts (about playing NRL again. I am always confident but I don’t want to get too cocky … it’s not that hard, you’ve just got to believe in yourself”.

Canberra completed only 60 per cent of their sets and made just two line breaks to their opponents’ 10. Coach David Furner described the performance as “worse than disappointing … pretty bad”. Captain David Shillington was asked about the impact of Dugan’s sacking.

“I don’t want to use it as an excuse but obviously it was draining and distracting for people,” the prop said. “But the Sharkies came up (against Gold Coast) last week after a bit of a horror week and they had a win.”

Furner added: “It would be easy to say it did affect us – but we’ve got to be bigger than than.

“The team, I probably have to have a look at again. I wasn’t happy with a few areas.”

Furner said the idea of restoring the errant Blake Ferguson to his team was “the furthest thing from my mind”.

GOLD COAST 36 (A Kelly 2 K Gordon 2 M Srama 2 G Bird tries A Sezer 4 goals) bt CANBERRA 0 at Skilled Park. Referees: A Devcich/H Perenara. Crowd: 12,267.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD