Saturday 20 January 2018 / 12:23 PM


TITANS 38 d. KNIGHTS 8 @ Cbus Super Stadium

Gold Coast overcame a slow start to wear a depleted Newcastle side down and carve out a convincing victory, going back-to-back for the first time in 2017.

THE MATCH: The visiting Knights stormed to an 8-0 lead on the back of a try to rookie forward Sam Stone and two goals from Brock Lamb, before Jarryd Hayne – retrenched at centre to accommodate both Tyrone Roberts and Kane Elgey in the starting side – put the Titans on the board from a quick tap.

The Knights clung to an 8-6 advantage at halftime, but Elgey (43rd minute), Hayne (48th) and Konrad Hurrell (59th) put the home side in charge.

Stray goalkicking kept the Knights in the contest at 20-8 down, but the Titans finished in style with tries to Joe Greenwood, Hurrell and Ryan James inside the final 13 minutes.

THE MAN: Despite the positional shift, Jarryd Hayne produced his second strong performance in a row since returning from injury. Two tries and 103 metres from 13 carries in his first NRL start at centre since Round 8, 2009 suggested the controversial superstar can be the marquee man the Titans need him to be.

THE MOMENT: Konrad Hurrell is warming into his second season on the holiday strip, and his first try in the 59th minute showcased his underrated skill, brilliantly and bravely latching onto an Ashley Taylor chip kick. Then after winning possession for the Titans with a bell-ringer on a Knights opponent, the ‘Hurrellcane’ showed trademark power to burrow over from dummy-half with eight minutes left. They may not be pair together all season, but a Hayne-Hurrell centre combination rates among the NRL’s most formidable.

Titans 38 (Jarryd Hayne 2, Konrad Hurrell 2, Kane Elgey, Joe Greenwood, Ryan James tries; Ashley Taylor 2, Elgey 3 goals) d. Knights 8 (Sam Stone try; Brock Lamb 2 goals)

BULLDOGS 16 d. RAIDERS 10 @ ANZ Stadium

A gutsy Canterbury outfit overcame injuries to two key stars to hold off an impatient and wasteful Canberra side in a stirring Saturday evening showdown.

THE MATCH: The Bulldogs needed just four minutes to get on the board, burgeoning back-rower Adam Elliot brushing off Blake Austin to score a simple try.

But Jarrod Croker finished off brilliant lead-up work by Aidan Sezer and Josh Papalii to score the 16-minute leveller, before Josh Hodgson strolled over from dummy-half to give the Raiders a 10-4 halftime lead.

The loss of captain James Graham (concussion) and Tigers-bound playmaker Josh Reynolds (hamstring) before the break compounded Canterbury’s tenuous position, but the blue-and-whites came out fired up for the second stanza and scored just four minutes in through Josh Morris.

Elliot ran off a deft Will Hopoate pass to bag a double and a 16-10 lead with a quarter of the match remaining, and despite myriad opportunities, the sloppy Raiders were unable to trouble the scorers in the second half as the Bulldogs held on for a memorable victory.

THE MAN: Aiden Tolman has been bandied about as a likely sacrifice for Kieran Foran and Aaron Woods arriving at Belmore in 2018, but the front-row toiler stood up in Graham’s absence. Playing the full 80 minutes, Tolman racked up 203 metres from 21 runs and 36 tackles in a non-stop effort. Pretty good way to celebrate his 150th game for the club. Will Hopoate deserves special mention for his 308-metre return in his comeback from a nasty facial injury.

THE MOMENT: The Bulldogs needed to score first after halftime, and Josh Morris danced through some incredibly lazy Raiders defence to do just that. It indicated the Raiders thought they just had to trot back out in the second half and cruise to victory over their undermanned opponents, and Ricky Stuart will be livid with the lack of concentration and commitment his charges showed on both sides of the ball after the break.

Bulldogs 16 (Adam Elliot 2, Josh Morris tries; Kerrod Holland 2 goals) d. Raiders 10 (Jarrod Croker, Josh Hodgson tries; Croker goal)

SHARKS 22 d. TIGERS 16 @ Leichhardt Oval

Foiled by injuries and Bunker cock-ups, Wests Tigers were brave to the bitter end on an emotion-charged night at Leichhardt Oval, but the defending champs held their nerve to take the two points.

THE MATCH: The Sharks went to work early as Tony Williams enjoyed a dream start to his belated first appearance for the club, powering over for his 50th NRL try after nine minutes. The signs were ominous for the Tigers when Sosaia Feki raced in out wide from a Wade Graham pass just four minutes later.

James Tedesco was ludicrously denied a try by the Bunker thanks to Paul Gallen’s theatrics, throwing himself on the ground after a minor tussle with former Origin teammate Aaron Woods. But Kevin Naiqama went over in the corner in the 25th minute and Moses Suli followed suit soon afterwards to the hosts a shock 14-10 halftime lead.

The fight-back was tempered by the loss of Tedesco (concussion, following a high shot from James Maloney) and Woods (groin, after a controversial ‘wishbone’ tackle) in the latter stages of the half – a terribly inopportune insight into the Tigers’ future after both NSW stars signed deals elsewhere for next season.

The Tigers extended to 16-10 via a Mitchell Moses penalty goal, but the Sharks levelled through Valentine Holmes’ 57th-minute try.

The underdogs struggled to create opportunities without Woods’ second-phase play and Tedesco’s penetration and creativity from the back, while their defence was eventually brought undone again in the 69th minute as Chad Townsend scored from a clever chip-and-chase with stand-in fullback Naiqama horribly out of position.

The Tigers hung in bravely for the final 10 minutes, but never seemed likely to force the match into golden point despite a ragged Sharks side offering up plenty of possession in the latter stages.

Woods’ injury looks set to rule him out of the Kangaroos line-up for next Friday’s Anzac Test. 

THE MAN: Probably the best player left out of the Australian team form-wise, Wade Graham was again sensational for Cronulla. The ball-playing back-rower produced two brilliant assists – a looping cut-out ball to send Feki over, and an offload in traffic to Holmes after catch a bomb in front of the Tigers’ posts – and put up customary solid running metres (115) and tackles (27) tallies. The notion that he could be left out of NSW’s squad for the series opener is ludicrous.

THE MOMENT: Perhaps it didn’t have much bearing on the result given the Tigers scored two tries in the following nine minutes, but the decision to deny Tedesco a try after Gallen’s Oscar-winning dive was an absolute disgrace, with the video men showing no commonsense. After a solid start to the season, the Bunker is falling apart at the seams, making a string of disastrous calls reminiscent of its never-ending debut-season debacle.

Sharks 22 (Tony Williams, Sosaia Feki, Valentine Holmes, Chad Townsend tries; James Maloney 3 goals) d. Tigers 16 (Kevin Naiqama, Moses Suli tries; Mitchell Moses 4 goals). 

[YouTube – Sports Tube]

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About the author

Will Evans

CBS’s Editor-in-Chief and lead rugby league, union and cricket writer, Will is a Christchurch-based freelancer, also writing for Big League and Rugby League Review magazines, and The New Daily website. Will has written four rugby league books.

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