Raiders roll Storm, Sharks in serious trouble

FOOTY is back and the first Super Saturday of the restarted 2020 season didn't fail to deliver, with the Canberra Raiders remaining undefeated, while the Sharks and Dragons remain without a win.

We've got analysis, reaction from players and coaches and everything you need to know about all three encounters - read on.

* New Zealand 18 St George-Illawarra 0: Read the full report

* Wests 28 Cronulla 16: Read the full report

* Raiders 18 Melbourne 6: Read the full report

 

CLASSY RAIDERS TOO GOOD FOR STORM

Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy lashed his players for playing for themselves and not the team and said he was "embarrassed" by the drubbing by Canberra.

The premiership mentor said some of his men would need to "have a good look in the mirror" as part of a "mentality adjustment" before fronting up against South Sydney next Friday.

"I was a little bit embarrassed by that performance to be quite honest. We knew we were playing a really good team, they were tough, professional and we didn't match that," a frustrated Bellamy said.

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Craig Bellamy said he was embarrassed by his teams performance against the Raiders. Picture: AAP.
Craig Bellamy said he was embarrassed by his teams performance against the Raiders. Picture: AAP.

"Our first two games we were certainly clunky with our attack … but we backed that up with some very focused and committed defence. I didn't think we did that tonight.

"In the second half we we didn't even look like scoring and that was really disappointing.

"We are a long way away from doing the things we practised. We certainly need a mentality adjustment and hopefully we do that this week."

"That's individuals adjusting their mentality to what is right for the team, and not what's right just for them."

Bellamy conceded that even through his team's opening two wins before the restart Storm weren't polished, they were committed and full of effort.

Bellamy conceded the Raiders may have found out his side. Picture: AAP.
Bellamy conceded the Raiders may have found out his side. Picture: AAP.

He said there was no sign on that commitment against the Raiders, especially in a scoreless, mistake-filled second half.

"Hopefully this is a blip on the radar, but it's a pretty big blip to be honest, to put up an effort like that," he said.

"We still look like we were disorganised. I don't know whether under fatigue they are thinking about other things. I was really disappointed in our efforts.

"We did a lot of things tonight that suited individuals and not the team, and that's the disappointing thing for me.

"We knew it was going to be a tough game, but it was one-sided. We didn't make it a competition at all to be honest."

The win was Canberra's third consecutive victory over Melbourne, all at AAMI Park, including in last year's qualifying finals.

Bellamy conceded the Raiders might have the "wood" on Storm.

"The last two games at least they were close. It wasn't close tonight," he said,

"They have probably got the wood on us."

The Raiders were too good in attack, while also managing to limit the Storm to just one try. Picture: AAP.
The Raiders were too good in attack, while also managing to limit the Storm to just one try. Picture: AAP.

Six again calls were the golden ticket to six points at AAMI Park and it was the Canberra Raiders reaping the reward and asserting their premiership credentials in Melbourne.

As a repeat of singing contest The Voice was beamed in to Melbourne on free to air TV, denying a bunch of would-be Storm converts the first chance to clap along to live sport for some time, the home town was singing was off-key.

Bellamy had seen the early lightning fast games as the new "six again" rule was enforced for illegal ruck work.

His message to his played to avoid the air-sucking work of defending continuous repeat sets.

The Canberra Raiders have won their last three games against the Storm. Picture: Getty Images.
The Canberra Raiders have won their last three games against the Storm. Picture: Getty Images.

"Just don't break the rules," Bellamy said pre-match, an edict quickly forgotten by his rusty players who almost immediately handed the visitors a lead they never relinquished in an emphatic 22-6 win.

A bell rung around the empty venue, like the one to start a boxing match, on Canberra's very first set of the game signalling their right to "six again".

They forced a repeat set and, despite the dropout from Storm skipper Cameron Smith sailing 70m on a significant wind, the Raiders went down the field and scored the game's opening try.

Canberra then went 12-0 up inside 15 minutes, again allowed in to enemy territory after the bell echoed around the ground, and were up 18-6 at the half.

That ringing bell sounded like the start of round after round in an uncompromisingly physical affair, one in which Melbourne struggled to find a killer punch.

Melbourne Storm struggled to crack the Canberra defence. Picture: AAP.
Melbourne Storm struggled to crack the Canberra defence. Picture: AAP.

BUT THERE IS A WORKAROUND

Bellamy and Raiders coach Ricky Stuart have been around the block a few times and looked to have given their players a way to stop the helter-skelter play after six-again calls.

Twice in the first half, on the first tackle after referee Grant Atkins waved his arm for six again, both teams gave away a penalty, forcing the game to stop, giving them a chance to take a breathe.

It happened again in the second half, and it could just be coincidental. But it probably isn't.

A SPEEDY RAID ON SLOPPY STORM

Teams can be fast, and teams can be skillful, but both together is a dangerous combination, especially for finding a way through Storm's ultra-structured defence.

Canberra played fast, but they also a played clean, well-practised, smooth game in attack, and married that with tough, willing, energetic defence which Melbourne couldn't match.

Storm was less clean, making crucial mistakes in scoring positions, especially when chasing the game late. Ring rust perhaps.

Josh Hodgson comes up with an incredible streal in the dying stages to seal the win. Picture: Getty Images.
Josh Hodgson comes up with an incredible streal in the dying stages to seal the win. Picture: Getty Images.

NO GO ZONE

A no-try call when Storm fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen was denied in the first half didn't please his coach who was furious, but the on-field call didn't help.

It was a close call, Papenhuyzen ruled to have lost control by the bunker, but an on-field tick could have seen it awarded upstairs.

The shift back to one referee could see even more crossed arms on-field by unsighted officials, putting everything in the hands of the boys in the bunker.

 

NEW JOB DESCRIPTIONS

NRL in the COVID-19 world cost Storm Cameron Smith's kids their jobs as ball kids.

Instead the duties fell to Storm players including Ryley jacks and Brenko Lee, who were a of the 20-man squad but didn't make the final 17.

A couple of staff members were used to, with a couple from the financial department and the club's lawyer also fetching balls.

CANBERRA 22 (N Cotric C Nicoll-Klokstad J Rapana J Tapine tries J Croker 3 goals) bt MELBOURNE 6 (D Finucane try C Smith goal) at AAMI Park. Referee: Grant Atkins.

Storm had their chances but weren’t able to capitalise. Picture: AAP.
Storm had their chances but weren’t able to capitalise. Picture: AAP.

SHARKS THROW AWAY LEAD AS HORROR WEEK CONTINUES

Wests Tigers veteran Benji Marshall created more heartache for the Sharks in an already turbulent week for the club.

Marshall sparked a Wests Tigers second-half revival to beat Cronulla 28-16 to keep the Sharks winless this year in what Cronulla coach John Morris described as a "pretty ordinary seven days".

The Sharks looked like they had put a week of negative headlines because of Bronson Xerri's positive drug test behind them when they raced in 16 unanswered first half points to lead 16-10 at the break.

Warriors celebrate after rookie Jamayne Taunoa-Brown scores the opening try of the match. Picture: AAP.
Warriors celebrate after rookie Jamayne Taunoa-Brown scores the opening try of the match. Picture: AAP.

But Marshall sprung to life in the second half as the Tigers raced in 18 unanswered points of their own. Marshall formed a new-look spine with Luke Brooks, Harry Grant and Adam Doueihi. Billy Walters was also impressive off the interchange bench while Alex Twal pumped out 80 minutes.

Tigers coach Michael Maguire praised his spine.

"Over the past two or three weeks through circumstances we have been able to build a bit of a combination," Maguire said. "I could see that combination growing."

Cronulla threw away a first half lead to continiue their winless start to the season. Picture: Getty Images.
Cronulla threw away a first half lead to continiue their winless start to the season. Picture: Getty Images.

Brooks joked the break did the ageless Marshall wonders.

"He is playing great," Brooks said. "The six weeks off helped his old body. He is doing really well."

Brooks was also strong in his first match of the season. His footwork and a late off-load gifted the newest Tiger Grant a try just five minutes into his debut.

"I was cramping with about 20 to go," Brooks said. "I was struggling a little bit."

Josh Dugan has an excellent return from injury apart from a few poor defensive reads. Picture: AAP.
Josh Dugan has an excellent return from injury apart from a few poor defensive reads. Picture: AAP.

DUGAN'S COMEBACK

Had it not been for Bronson Xerri's drug charges, Dugan would have been watching from the sidelines. Instead he became a key part of the Sharks first-half attack scoring the team's opening two tries. His job was made significantly easier by his inside man in Wade Graham. Graham was pure class laying on both of Dugan's tries. The first came from a deft Graham grubber and the next from a pass to give Dugan enough space to get outside his opposite.

Dugan said he was just happy to be back on the field.

"I haven't thought about it too much," Dugan said of his comeback. "I have just been turning up every day and getting around the boys even if that was training with the reserve graders. You have to turn up every day and do your job. I'm lucky enough to be back on the field."

MOYLAN'S CAMEO

Matt Moylan made his return for the first time in 286 days and in an unfamiliar role. He came off the interchange bench and took his place in the middle of the field playing 35 minutes. Moylan spent the final 12 minutes in the halves replacing Chad Townsend (hamstring).

Townsend's final play was a horrid missed tackle when David Nofoaluma sliced between him and Dugan to race 30 metres to score from a dropout in the 64th minute. Morris said Townsend was "50/50" to play the Cowboys on Saturday as is prop Andrew Fifita who was ruled out before kick-off.

Matt Moylan also had came back from injury, playing his first game in almost 300 days. Picture: Getty Images.
Matt Moylan also had came back from injury, playing his first game in almost 300 days. Picture: Getty Images.

TOUGH TIME

The Sharks sit winless and have a tough road trip to play the Cowboys in Townsville. Morris stopped-short of calling it a must-win game.

"I haven't done the maths but we have to get moving," Morris said. "It's going to make it very hard if you're 0-4."

WESTS TIGERS 28 (J Aloiai L Garner H Grant R Jennings D Nofoaluma tries B Marshall 2 M Mbye 2 goals) bt CRONULLA 16 (J Dugan 2 W Kennedy tries S Johnson 2 goals) at Bankwest Stadium. Referee: Adam Gee.

 

DRAGONS FAIL TO FIRE AGAINST NEAR PERFECT WARRIORS

St George Illawarra fans, you can bring back your "sack McGregor" calls again.

The Dragons have slumped to their worst start to a season in seven years following a poor 18-0 loss to the New Zealand Warriors.

In a week when McGregor overlooked stars Trent Merrin, Issac Luke and Tim Lafai for selection, the Dragons failed to fire.

The men in the famous Red V looked flat in attack and pedestrian in defence as the Warriors charged to a comfortable victory.

The Dragons last went 0-3 in a season in 2013, a year when they finished in 14th position.

Based on their current form, a repeat season could be on the cards unless something significantly changes in the coming weeks.

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Coach McGregor is contracted until the end of the 2021 season, but how long can the Dragons keep going with substandard results?

According to their loyal fans, not long.

McGregor dismissed question marks over his future post-match.

"It (my future) has been raised consistently," he said.

"I'm three games into a two-year contract. I've got good staff, I've made a lot of changes and I have got good people around me.

"I've got a football team that I believe in, we've just got to go out there and play well."

The Dragons certainly didn't play well against the Warriors and McGregor is bitterly disappointed.

"Attitude is a by-product of belief and today we looked like strangers out there," he said.

"We didn't do anything at speed and defence is all about attitude."

The jury remains out on Dragons fullback Matt Dufty. Picture: AAP.
The jury remains out on Dragons fullback Matt Dufty. Picture: AAP.

Asked if he will recall the likes of Merrin, Luke and Lafai for next week's clash against Canterbury, McGregor was uncertain.

"I'd like to reflect on the game and talk to my staff," he said.

"If we feel that the right adjustment to the team needs to be done, then there will be changes.

"But if we feel that there is no adjustment, it will be the same 17.

"There will certainly be a discussion at the start of the week."

The reality is that St George Illawarra supporters have been frustrated with their club's inability to perform for years now.

One Dragons fan even posted on the club's Instagram account at halftime, saying: "I get bullied because of this club".

You can understand the supporter's anger given the talent the Red V have long possessed.

Sadly, talent doesn't always give you desire, attitude and execution.

The Dragons desperately missed all these valuable qualities against a Warriors team who simply wanted to win more.

The jury remains out on Matt Dufty at fullback after he gifted the Warriors their opening try with a mistake.

Zac Lomax played fullback in the opening round and could be moved back there after playing in the centres against the New Zealanders.

Tyson Frizell was one of the few Dragons players who played with any intensity. Picture: AAP.
Tyson Frizell was one of the few Dragons players who played with any intensity. Picture: AAP.

Warriors gratitude:

It was a shame there were no supporters at Central Coast Stadium because the Warriors deserved a standing ovation for the sacrifices they've made to restart the competition.

The New Zealanders have showcased enormous selflessness to leave behind their families for months and base themselves in Australia.

We wouldn't have a creditable 16-team competition if the Warriors didn't put their personal issues aside to opt in for the shortened NRL season.

On the field, the Kiwis produced an impressive performance against the Dragons to make their fans pleased.

Warriors coach Stephen Kearney praised his players' focus on the field after a taxing period being away from their loved ones.

"I was pleased for the boys and really proud of the way they have gone about the last couple of months," Kearney said.

"They have endured a great deal, but the way they responded is just getting on with the job."

The only downside for the Warriors was a rib injury to centre Peta Hiku.

Ben Hunt needs to step up for the Dragons, who are really struggling in attack. Picture: Getty Images.
Ben Hunt needs to step up for the Dragons, who are really struggling in attack. Picture: Getty Images.

Hunt needs to aim up:

Ben Hunt has offered to take a pay cut, but the Dragons need more from their million-dollar halfback on the field.

If the Dragons want to compete with the likes of the Roosters and Melbourne, Hunt must constantly perform at a high level.

Against the Warriors on Saturday, the Queensland Origin representative tried hard but lacked the fine polish with his kicking and passing game.

Halves partner Corey Norman was dangerous, especially when he ran the football, but Hunt looked passive at times with the ball.

The Dragons can't afford to have their star halfback failing to steer the side around the park.

In fairness, Hunt was limping in the second half due to a corked shin, but he finished the match.

WARRIORS 18 (J Tonua Brown, E Katoa, K Nikorima tries, Nikorima 3 goals) bt DRAGONS 0 at Central Coast Stadium.



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