THE NRL’s second elimination final of the year sees the Cronulla Sharks take on the North Queensland Cowboys.
The Cowboys — who are playing the Sharks for a third year in a row in sudden-death finals — have a lot to prove without star playmaker Johnathan Thurston in the side. The match completes a massive weekend of footy which has seen Manly bow out of 2017 with a controversial loss to Penrith and Melbourne progress to the third week over Parramatta.
Taumalolo silences Cowboys myth
The Cowboys have a serious point to prove this afternoon as they attempt to down 2016 premiers the Cronulla Sharks in their first round of finals.
A devastating shoulder injury to Johnathan Thurston ended the veteran half-back’s season late in the year, forcing the Cowboys to play a serious game of Tetris to amend their back line woes.
Cowboys enforcers Jason Taumalolo and Michael Morgan have picked up the slack to carry the side through to the first elimination final. Sharks skipper Paul Gallen said the key to thwarting the Thurston-less Cowboys was to stop Taumaolo in the forwards.
But the 2016 Dally M winner disagrees, saying the Cowboys are far from a one-trick pony.
“I think he’s been watching too many of my highlights I guess,” he told nrl.com.au. “We’re not a single player team, we’ve got guys all over the park that are strike weapons for us and I’m hoping that all of us turn up on Sunday and fire.”
NRL dilemma: ‘That would be a bloody shame’
Livid Manly coach Trent Barrett was in awe of the Bunker’s “unbelievable” decision last night where it allowed Penrith star Tyrone Peachey a controversial try. Barrett was adamant the ball touched the 26-year-old’s hand and went forward before he grounded the try.
Sea Eagles skipper Daly Cherry-Evans was furious after the game as well, swearing he saw the ball swipe Peachey’s finger.
Barrett attacked the decision in the post-match press conference and said it would be a “bloody shame” if the grand final ended on a similar note.
“What I would like is the bunker and Tony Archer and the referees to go into my shed and explain to my players that their season is now finished on the back of those two calls,” he said.
“How you get an on field decision when the player kicks it, it ricochets off him into a Penrith players chest, (then) off his hand, how they can say that they are 100 per cent confident that is a try is beyond me. It’s cost us our year. Take nothing away from Penrith, they played well.
“I hope that the grand final’s not decided like that. That would be a bloody shame.”
Daily Telegraph NRL guru Paul Kent was savage in his assumption of the Bunker after last night’s bungle.
“I think its time we blow it up and get rid of it,” Kent said on Triple M radio Sunday afternoon.
“The $2 million a year Bunker, on the real contentious issues does nothing to fix the problem for us.”
“At the end of the year the referees will put out a statement that the Bunker got 97 or 98 per cent of decisions right but you can reasonably argue the referee would of got right anyway.
“And we create a debate because the Bunker should be 100 per cent conclusive every time but it simply can’t be.”
‘The greatest coach we’ve seen in rugby league’
The Melbourne Storm charged back after a shaky first half to take an incredible win over the Parramatta Eels yesterday afternoon.
Skipper Cameron Smith, playing in his record 356th game in the Storm jumper, led his side to a consecutive grand final. Coach Craig Bellamy will have a shot at another premiership after taking his side to a dominant minor premiership.
The Storm have lost just four games all year, three less than the Roosters’ seven to make second place.
NRL legend Andrew Johns threw his weight behind Bellamy after his commanding season leading up to finals week, heaping praise of the highest order on the 57-year-old.
“I think Craig Bellamy is the greatest coach we’ve seen in rubgy league,” Johns said on the Sunday Footy Show. “How he’s change the game and what he’s achieved down in Melbourne, Craig Bellamy, for me, is the greatest coach there is. And I’ve gone on record saying Cameron Smith is the best (player), so there’s nothing better.”
Johns’ Bellamy claim was an almighty snub to Sport Australia Hall of Famer Wayne Bennett. The veteran Broncos coach is nearing his 800th game coached in the NRL and has won multiple premierships while at the Broncos and the Dragons.
- ‘The greatest we’ve ever seen’
Load more updates...Read more