It was a very interesting first week of the NRL finals and we saw a clear divide between teams in all four games.
The top two teams won their matches and get a week off. The bottom two teams are done for the season. That is how it was supposed to be!
So lets have a look through the weekends games and what we learned from them. Not that you are actually involved in this process but you see, the way I crafted that sentence gives the reader a sense that they have involvement in the completing in the article.
Hey, its better than constantly talking about what “this column said” like that dribbler Danny Weidler!
Wests Tigers 21 beat St George/Illawarra Dragons 12
This was a really interesting game. I felt as though in the first half, the Dragons were doing pretty well. Their back line wasn’t getting the job done but their forwards were just too good for the Tigers and I felt like that might be be enough to win this one.
In the second half though, it wasn’t even a contest. The Tigers just carved them up and the way they pried the Dragons open was shocking, they made it look easy.
Wayne Bennett may really like Ben Hornby for what ever reason, but he is nothing short of a liability to this Dragons team. His inclusion leaves the Dragons with one playmaker in Jamie Soward, and Soward tries his arse off, but he is playing a lone hand.
As for the Tigers, I still think it will come back to their forwards not being able to stand up to the top sides.
I think the Dragons are done. They play the Broncos next weekend and I think they will get slaughtered. As for the Tigers….well, more on their opponent in a bit.
Brisbane Broncos 40 beat New Zealand Warriors 10
I really rated the Warriors going into this game so it was disappointing to watch them fall apart and get smashed by a very impressive Broncos side.
The Warriors threw the game away with poor ball security and a poor kicking game. On top of that, Manu Vatuvei was so bad that he really should play no further part in the Warriors 2011 campeign. I suggested this was the end of his first grade career, he was Paul Carrige bad.
He got on his Twitter after the game and thanked his supporters and talked about knowing who the real ones are after the criticism levels had him. Let me tell you, if he thinks getting pats on the back and congratulations after another calamitous game is what he should be getting, then its no wonder he continues to have these fucking terrible performances.
As for the Broncos, they were on another level. They host the Dragons next week and I really think they are going to destroy the Dragons.
As for the Warriors, they head to Sydney to face the West Tigers in what is a great match up for them. I think if they play the game in the middle third of the field and challenge the West Tigers pack, they can win the game.
Manly Sea Eagles 42 beat North Queensland Cowboys 8
It started off looking like the Cowboys were going to come up with the upset after a very good first half, but the second half was all Manly and they ran away with it.
One thing that gets me about the Cowboys is, everyone talks about Thurston, and he is a great player, but the player I fear most from the Cowboys is Matthew Bowen, and he just isn’t getting as much ball as he needs to be getting.
I still feel like their forwards are not quite where they need to be but really, for how much money Thurston is making, he needs to be playing better on a weekly basis for this team.
As for Manly, geez they look good. I think the week off will be great for them, they will be tough to beat in the semi final in two weeks time.
Melbourne Storm 18 beat Newcastle Knights 8
To me it looked like the game Melbourne probably had to have. They didn’t look at their best, in fact, they looked like they were short of a run. I though their forwards played well but their back line didn’t click the way you normally see.
For Newcastle, Jarrod Mullen and Kurt Gidley were disastrous. They were so bad they may have actually cost the Knights the game.
Still the Storm always seemed to be in control. The week off will do them well, I am concerned they are not at their very best, but they always turn up ready to play.
A lot of talk about the crowds for the first week of the finals, which actually destroyed previous records funnily enough.
The crowd in Melbourne for the Storm vs Knights game was disappointing. They tend to have decent crowds down there so I’ve got to imagine there was some reason for the lower crowd that maybe the NRL didn’t anticipate. The game was shown live into Melbourne, which maybe was a factor. Still, it is something I think the NRL needs to look at and cater Storm games for the Melbourne market better.
As for Manly playing at the Sydney Football Stadium and drawing even less to the game against the Cowboys, there are two factors there.
The first is the kickoff time of 8:45.
Getting too and from the SFS is a nightmare. When you consider that the game is going to finish close to 11pm, no family is even going to consider attending that game. For everyone else, you are probably not getting home until around midnight!
The second thing is that, Manly don’t actually have that many fans and they do not travel, religiously. They have to cop that on the chin.
I personally believe that in the first week of the finals we should see a Friday night game, a Saturday night game, and two Sunday afternoon games with 2pm and 4pm as the kickoff times.
Or does that make too much sense?
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com