AROUND THE GROUNDS | ISP Rd 5
Drinkwater Lays Claim for Competition’s Best
There’s been plenty of discussion around the competition’s best playmaker of late – and after yet another starring effort for the Western Suburbs Magpies, Josh Drinkwater has laid claim to the title.
Since St George Illawarra Dragons coach Mat Head nominated his halfback Darren Nicholls as the best in the league, the Dragons are undefeated – as are Drinkwater’s Magpies. Of the competition’s halves, Drinkwater has the most try-assists in 2018 – equal with Mounties hooker Craig Garvey on seven – while he trails Warriors five-eighth Chanel Harris-Tavita on line-break-assists (five to Harris-Tavita’s six). Drinkwater got the better of his Warriors opponent on Saturday, however, adding two try-assists, two line-break-assists and a try to his tally as the Magpies shut out the Auckland-based side 32-0.
NRL Squads in Attendance at Belmore
There was plenty of first-grade support at the Intrust Super Premiership NSW match between Canterbury-Bankstown and Wyong, broadcast live on Channel 9 from Belmore. Both the Bulldogs and the Roosters NRL teams showed their faces in the Belmore Sports Ground stand, including NRL coaches Dean Pay and Trent Robinson, Boyd Cordner, Jake Friend, Brett Morris (black eye and all) and more.
The vocal crowd included most players from both NRL squads, as they cheered on their second-tier clubmates, in addition to local hero and former Bulldog Josh Reynolds. It would be the home side to be celebrating at full-time, with the Bulldogs winning 40-18.
Lomax the Difference as Dragons get Revenge
It was just three weeks ago that the Dragons went down to the Jets at Southern Cross Group Stadium, and Mat Head’s men looked to get one back when they faced up at Henson Park on Saturday. In a perfect indication of the transient nature of the Intrust Super Premiership, there were some major differences in the sides which took to the field – and one of St George Illawarra’s additions would prove vital.
While the Jets were without NRL-bound Jesse Ramien and had since welcomed halfback Kyle Flanagan, the Dragons’ best came in the shape of Zac Lomax, playing his second game of Intrust Super Premiership after a Round 1 defeat to Mounties. Lomax scored a hat-trick either side of half-time before combining with fullback Jai Field for another, capping an outstanding display from the 2017 NSW Under-18s Player of the Year. The Dragons won the contest 18-10.
Jets Head Home to Bumper Crowd
While it was not the result they were after in Round 5, the Newtown Jets would be pleased to return to Henson Park for their first true home game of 2018 – and to do so in front of a healthy audience. After pre-sales tracked well ahead of the game against the Dragons, a crowd in excess of 8,971 was believed to have filtered through the gates at the Marrickville venue, reinforcing the support for one of the NSWRL’s proud foundation clubs.
Panthers Down Papalii-led Mounties
Mounties were boosted by the inclusion of Samoan and Maroons stat Josh Papalii, but it wasn’t enough as they went down to the Panthers 36-22 at Aubrey Keech Reserve. While Blake Austin was a late scratching from the match after performing well in Round 4, Papalii returned to the lower grade where he appeared to make his 182 metres with relative ease.
Also of note in Mounties’ line-up was centre Tony Satini, who debuted for the home side after a recent move from the Panthers. Satini, who played a major role in Penrith’s 2017 finals charge and premiership, will be best remembered at the foot of the mountains for his four-try haul in the Panthers’ NRL Intrust Super State Championship win. Coming off the bench, Satini was afforded just 24 minutes – but he made the most of it, scoring a try and setting up another in his limited game time.
Farah Proves he’s Still a Class Above
In the handful of Intrust Super Premiership NSW games Robbie Farah has played for the Wests Tigers and North Sydney Bears, he has taken control of the game the majority of the time, with Sunday night’s game being no different. Directly setting up two tries and forcing dropouts to build pressure, the former Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues No.9 played a major role in securing the Bears’ first win of 2018.
While Farah’s would-be opposite number – Kiwi incumbent hooker Danny Levi – was recalled to the NRL in Round 5, Farah appears unlikely to receive the same treatment in the near future, given the impressive form of Damien Cook this year.
Suli Makes Shock Sea Eagles Debut
Just 10 weeks since he was released by the Wests Tigers – and six since he was then released by the Bulldogs – Moses Suli has turned out for his third club in that time, the Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles.
The highly promising teen outside back had been battling an ongoing ankle injury when his contract was cut short by the Tigers and Bulldogs, but has recovered to the point of earning a place in Steve Hales’ Blacktown team.
Suli’s fitness will be the obvious question on fans’ lips and while a fast-paced game in scorching conditions at HE Laybutt Fields did not help his cause, the Tongan international was able to complete the 80 minutes and make some damaging runs. That included a second-half try on debut, but it wouldn’t be enough for the Sea Eagles, who were defeated by the Wentworthville Magpies 28-12.
Magpies’ Team Effort Wows Crowd
Few would have tipped Wentworthville to overcome Blacktown on their home turf on Sunday, especially as it required a form reversal from their 46-0 Round 2 defeat. The Magpies were good in an at times fiery affair, but no moment demonstrated their intent better than Atini Gafa’s remarkable try in the second half.
The sensational four-pointer included 11 passes, five offloads and covered the width of the pitch before Gafa finished what is undoubtedly the try of the round. Magpies forwards Suaia Matagi and Marata Niukore will feel somewhat left out; they were the only two players on the field who did not touch the ball in the movement.