Paul Connolly

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NRL grand final 2018: Sydney Roosters v Melbourne Storm – as it happened

Roosters 21-6 StormLuke Keary wins Clive Churchill medal 1.00pm BST Season 2018 has come to an end and after a brilliant and dominant display the Sydney Roosters are the premiers. Led by Keary on the back of a dominant pack of forwards, the Roosters we…

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State of Origin 2018 Game 2: NSW Blues beat Queensland Maroons – as it happened

Blues claim series with 18-14 win at ANZ StadiumNSW awarded just second penalty try in Origin history 1.18pm BST Thanks for your company this evening, and apologies for not getting to some of your correspondence. As you can imagine, I didn’t have time …

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State of Origin 2018 Game 1: NSW Blues beat Queensland Maroons – as it happened

NSW Blues 22-12 Queensland MaroonsInexperienced Blues score four tries at MCG 1.45pm BST Thanks for your company tonight. NSW will leave Melbourne as happy as they could have hoped, and I’ll leave you with Mike Hytner’s match report. See you next time….

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Ball tampering scandal could be Australian fans’ tipping point | Paul Connolly

We’re a forgiving lot but this could be the final straw for those already tired of this team’s behaviourAmid the wildfire generated by Australia’s admission of ball-tampering in South Africa there’s speculation as to whether Cricket Australia might imp…

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St George Illawarra Dragons beat Brisbane Broncos in NRL season opener – as it happened

Dragons down Broncos 34-12 at Jubilee OvalNew recruit Ben Hunt impresses on debut against old club 11.03am GMT Well that’s the 2018 NRL season off and running with a convincing win for the Dragons.Thanks for your company tonight. See you next time. 10….

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NRL season preview: good business primes Roosters for Storm chasing | Paul Connolly

Cooper Cronk boosts the Roosters’ premiership credentials what does his absence mean for the premiers?At some point in life you’d hope to attain the kind of clear-eyed perspective that has you agreeing with Tennyson, that it is indeed better to have lo…

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Evonne Goolagong-Cawley honoured for tennis and Indigenous advocacy

Former player recognised in Australia Day honours for services to game and her work as role model and advocate for young Indigenous AustraliansForty-seven years after she came to international prominence by winning both the 1971 French Open and Wimbled…

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Australia’s sporting year in review – success stories and slip-ups of 2017 | Paul Connolly

It has been a rollercoaster year across the codes but women’s sport has gone from strength to strength‘This moment is for you’: how women’s sport rocked 2017Australian sports quiz of the year 2017In the 43rd minute of the Matildas’ 30 July match agains…

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Australia edge out England 6-0 to win the Rugby League World Cup final – as it happened

The Kangaroos withstand a brave England in scoreless second half 11.28am GMT The presentations are taking place.Boyd Cordner wins the man of the match award, which is hard to argue with – though it could equally have been a handful of others. Related…

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England beat Tonga in Rugby League World Cup 2017 semi-final – as it happened

Late controversy at Mount Smart Stadium in AucklandEngland survive to reach first final in 22 years, against Australia 7.31am GMT How will that finish affect England ahead of next Saturday night’s final against Australia? Had that game finished at the …

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Australia beat Samoa in Rugby League World Cup quarter-final – as it happened

Kangaroos advance with 46-0 win in DarwinValentine Holmes scores five as hosts ease into semi-finals 11.56am GMT Here’s our man in Darwin, John Davidson, with the match-report: Related: Valentine Holmes scores five as Australia trounce Samoa in Rugby L…

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Melbourne Storm beat North Queensland Cowboys in 2017 NRL grand final – as it happened

12.13pm BST

Final thoughts

The Melbourne Storm lived up to their billing as hot favourites by putting on a near faultless performance tonight. Rocked by the early loss of Shaun Fensom – and hobbled by Johnathan Thurston’s absence – the Cowboys were always a step behind, the Storm’s defence keeping them away from their danger zone and forcing converted half Michael Morgan to bomb hopefully – and ultimately hopelessly.

12.08pm BST

Craig Bellamy and the Storm are now called onto the stage. Cameron Smith then takes his turn at the mic and praises the Cowboys for making the decider under trying circumstances. He thanks the crowd, and there is certainly a sizeable Storm contingent hanging about still. He then thanks the club staff and coaches and their families, and the families of the players.

“To all the players, not only the 17 here, but the rest of the group, it’s been a pleasure to be part of this year. It’s been hard work but we put to bed early what happened here last year.”

11.56am BST

Losing captain Gavin Cooper takes the stage and congratulates “Smith and Bellyache [Bellamy]” and the rest of the Storm. He praises the Cowboys’ supporters and tells his teammates he’s proud of their efforts. He wraps up wishing Cronk and Slater all the best.

11.54am BST

Slater named Churchill Medallist

I would have had Smith a nose ahead but can’t argue with the announcement just now that Billy Slater is this year’s Clive Churchill medal. What a comeback season he’s had when it looked as if his career was in jeopardy. He watched last season’s decider from the sidelines and now he’s up on the dais failing to hold back the tears. Today’s effort: 170m, one try and a try assist.

11.48am BST

Craig Bellamy is going between the players and the affection and gratitude the players feel towards him is so apparent. What an influence he has had on the Storm since taking over from Mark Murray in 2003.

11.45am BST

Cooper Cronk: “There are no fairytales in rugby league. It’s just about working hard and hoping the results come your way. I don’t know what I’d be if it wasn’t for the Storm. I’ve nothing but gratitude to the people who have played a part. The club has been a big influence on my career and me as a person. Melbourne Storm makes you bigger than you are, better than you are.”

On playing with Slater and Smith? “They are reliable. I don’t think Cameron Smith has thrown me a bad pass in my career. And Billy has never let me down. I’d like to think we inspired each other to keep working hard. Unfortunately this is the last time we’ll do it together.”

11.41am BST

Michael Morgan: “They are a very good side. The best at breaking a team down. Once they get ahead they really grind it out. We spoke about needing points early [in the second half] and we got that but we couldn’t sustain the pressure and they scored again.”

[A good season?] “I’m proud but it hurts. It now feels like a waste of a season to be honest. You’ve come this far and we were a little bit embarrassed tonight. But the score doesn’t reflect the effort we put in this season.”

11.37am BST

Billy Slater is collared for the first time today: “It’s a lot of hard work to be as consistent as we were all year It’s a great performance.”

Reflecting on missing last year’s grand final due to injury he lets a tear slip: “I didn’t know if I’d get back here. Whether my body would let me. It was the toughest thing to sit through last year, being helpless. I wasn’t going to let that happen today [as his daughter and son rush to embrace him].

11.35am BST

What a comprehensive win to the Storm who delightedly embrace as the Cowboys collapse in a heap. The Big 3 were simply outstanding.

11.32am BST

80 min: The Storm take their time with their final set and it’s Smith tackled with the ball as the hooter goes.

11.31am BST

79 min: Granville circles looking for an opening but none appears. Coote then kicks inside where Cronk claims the ball and dives to the deck just inside the field of play. Not bothering with rules Granville simply drags Cronk into the in-goal giving away a penalty.

11.29am BST

78 min: After taking a bomb Addo-Carr is driven over the sideline giving the Cowboys the ball from 25m out.

11.27am BST

77 min: Craig Bellamy has come down from his box to celebrate with his players on the sideline.

11.27am BST

A tough one from the left for a leftie, but Smith is having the kind of game that makes the difficult look easy.

11.26am BST

In centre field, Smith passes right to Cronk who passes straight back to Smith. Smith then finds Slater on the fly back on the inside. Slater races into the clear and though Coote brings him down, Harris finds himself with the ball and he makes a mighty long pass to his left and hits Addo-Carr on the chest. The wonderful winger as a five-metre trot to complete his try double!

11.22am BST

71 min: The game is at such a state that the commentators have time to muse on what Slater and Cooper might do after the game. Retire on top or play on.

Meantime, Morgan puts up another bomb that Vunivalu catches in his own in-goal. Granville smacks the ball out of his hand as he strolls forward to take the 20m restart. Penalty to the Storm.

11.20am BST

70 min: We enter the final 10 minutes with the result wrapped up. The Cowboys will do well now to keep the deficit to its current level.

11.19am BST

… and offloads to 19-year-old centre Curtis Scott who has a clear run to the line!

11.18am BST

66 min: That try, you’d imagine, has ended any hopes of a Cowboys comeback.

Yep, that’s for sure. Working the ball out from his own line, Linnett is tackled by Addo-Carr who pilfers the ball …

11.16am BST

Easy peasy for Smith who is firming as Churchill Medallist.

11.15am BST

Smith receives the ball at dummy half, the Cowboys’ line metres away. The Storm are lined up on the right deeper than the Mariana Trench. But Smith passes to Finucane at first receiver and he charges over between the attempted tackles of Cooper and Hampton!

11.12am BST

63 min: As the Storm prepare to feed a scrum 35m out, the crowd figure comes in: 79,722. “Well done,” says Rabbits Warren.

11.10am BST

61 min: But that’s a set they’ll wish they could take back. A tame five tackles before an even tamer crossfield kick on the last. Vunivalu catches with little pressure.

11.10am BST

60 min: The Cowboys keep the ball alive on the last and the Storm knock on trying to gain possession. A fresh set to the Cowboys from 20m out.

11.08am BST

58 min: A rare error by Smith who grubbers dead on the last.

The Cowboys are still in this. They’ve picked up the pace and a try now could really give the Storm the willies. And not in a way that would trouble Bob Katter.

11.07am BST

57 min: Munster is hit hard by Ben Hampton who lifts Munster and slams him on his back. Munster objects and there’s a bit of push and shove, Slater and Taumalolo holding each other by the collar. The Storm are awarded a penalty but I’m not sure why. Munster wasn’t hit high nor lifted above the horizontal.

11.04am BST

56 min: Cronk bombs and is hit by Taumalolo. I can think of better things to be hit by. A car, for instance. Coote takes the ball under enormous pressure and cops a knock. He gets to his feet slowly.

11.02am BST

55 min: Chambers stretches the Cowboys’ defence out wide after some excellent lead up work by Smith. He gets within 10m before passing inside to … Michael Morgan tracking back.

11.01am BST

53 min: Second half completion rates: 9/9 Cowboys, 4/4 Storm.

Oh dear, make that 9/10 for the Cowboys. Lowe attempts a silly offload just inside the Storm half when his team still had a couple of tackles up their sleeve.

11.00am BST

51 min: The intensity, which didn’t seem to be lacking, has lifted a notch. The crowd are really willing the Cowboys on. Not just because Melbourne as a ferris wheel (see earlier, pre-kick off comment) but because they want a game made of this.

10.58am BST

Lowe adds the extras giving Cowboys fans a little hope.

10.57am BST

From a tap on the Storm line Morgan draws Smith as he passes to Te Maire Martin on his inside. Martin has an age to step inside the first defender and run in an easy try!

10.54am BST

47 min: The Cowboys go left, they go right, and Feldt is tackled on the third before the Townsvillians are awarded yet another penalty for interference in the tackle (which sounds like something the ‘No’ crowd would have feared as a result of the Macklemore set). Surely the sin-bin must come into play?

10.53am BST

46 min: Here’s another penalty to the Storm for holding on. This one 10m out from their own posts. And as soon as they take the tap Slater holds down the tackled player and is penalised. Three on the trot.

10.52am BST

45 min: Granville finds Cooper who muscles to the half on the fourth tackle before the Storm are pinged for holding down too long. What can the Cowboys do with a rare full set inside the Storm’s 30m?

10.51am BST

44 min: More solid defence from the Storm forces the Cowboys to kick from their own half. Another huge swirling Morgan bomb, another catch from Vunivalu.

10.50am BST

42 min: The Cowboys run it on the last, scooting down the blindside before a short grubber than Addo-Carr snaffles safely. It didn’t work out, but that’s the kind of thing they’ll need to try more of this half if they are to have any chance.

10.48am BST

41 min: The Cowboys kick off, a mountain to climb.

10.47am BST

What hope the Cowboys, folks? It’s looking grim. Despite an excellent completion rate by the Cowboys, this is the largest half-time deficit in a decider since 2001 when the Knights led the Eels 24-0. They went on to win 30-24. For the sake of an exciting finish we can only hope for a similar second-half effort from the Cowboys.

But they’ll have to get over the advantage line a lot more often. Jason Taumalolo, for instance, has just 68 run metres for the first 40. Cameron Smith has 95.

10.34am BST

Some entertainment during the break.

Great grand final tries? Why not? I’ll be back in a sec…

10.32am BST

Hard to see the Cowboys winning from here. The Storm have been clinical and their big three have been instrumental. To think, Mark Murray brought them to the Storm all these years ago for about $5000 each. Reckon they’ve paid that off already.

The Cowboys have barely had an attacking set from inside the Storm’s 30m. The Storm’s defence has kept them at arm’s length all night. They’ll need something very special now.

10.29am BST

40 min: Just on the siren Kyle Feldt gets the crowd to its feet with to a tackle-busting run that sees him eat up 60m. But he’s brought down eventually and the two teams go to the sheds.

10.28am BST

From just to the right of the posts Smith makes it 18.

10.27am BST

Smith, in dummy half under the posts, passes right to Cronk. He takes advantage of a dummy run from Kaufusi to find Slater running in behind. Slater dummies to his right to get an edge on O’Neill and he runs it in for a try. The Storm flock to him like seagulls to an AAMI Park bathed in floodlights.

10.24am BST

37 min: Oh dear. Winterstein, on his own line, attacks a Smith grubber with gusto and he spills the ball in doing so. He could have waited and collected it in his in-goal in relative safety but his attempt to avoid a drop-out has resulted in giving the Storm a great chance to stick the knife in on the verge of halftime.

10.22am BST

36 min: Another high bomb from Morgan on the last that Vunivalu takes safely enough. The Cowboys’ last tackle options have been fairly predictable kicks but that’s mostly because they’ve never quite been close enough to run it, bar the once.

10.19am BST

33 min: On the last, 50m out, Cronk grubbers through the line and Chambers regathers. He keeps the ball alive and hands off to Slater. He’s tackled but finds a pass himself. Smith is then forced to dive on a loose ball and that’s the turnover. Had the Storm got the ball wide left they would have found themselves in more space than Sandra Bullock in Gravity.

10.17am BST

31 min: Cronk is collected in mid-air after kicking downfield. I missed who the tackler was but he was as late, and not politely late either. Should have been a penalty.

The Storm are right on top now and the Cowboys need to steady lest the game slips right away from them.

10.15am BST

From almost an identical position from where he took his first conversion Smith makes no mistake.

10.14am BST

The big three play a role into putting a big one over the line! Smith from dummy half, 20m out, passes right to Cronk who, after straightening the attack, passes right to Slater. He draws the defence and puts Kaufusi into a hole from a few metres out!

10.12am BST

27 min: On the last Cronk fires the ball inside to Smith who, seeing nothing on, dinks the ball into the in-goal where Coote is tackled cleaning up. Drop out. The pressure builds.

10.10am BST

25 min: By his standards, Cronk puts in an ordinary kick on the last that Feldt takes easily without a Storm player near him.

10.09am BST

24 min: Morgan’s angled kick across the face of goal is taken by Chambers in the in-goal and his quick restart gets the Storm to the Cowboys’s 30m on just the third tackle.

10.08am BST

23min: We’ve just had the game’s first penalty, this one to the Cowboys which gives them a good platform to hit right back.

10.07am BST

From 10m inside the right touchline Smith steers it over.

10.06am BST

It wasn’t Morgan, but Martin. And he did run into the ref but that is deemed nothing more than bad luck. Try it is!

10.05am BST

19 min: Morgan bombs from inside the Storm’s 30m and the ball is tapped sideways by Cooper but it falls into the arms of Will Chambers who comes back inside, beating three players, before he finds Addo-Carr on his inside. With a swerve he bursts into the clear and streaks away 70m to score what looks like a fair try!

We’re going upstairs. The Cowboys feel that Morgan was impeded form tackling Addo-Carr by referee Cechin.

10.00am BST

17 min: A half-bust by Smith gets the Storm over the half-way line before Cronk grubbers to the sideline. Munster collided with Smith in the buildup and went down but he appears to be okay.

Phi Withall writes in: “For possibly the first and last time I’m in agreement with the channel 9 commentary team. The impact of the [Fensom] injury has such a huge effect on his teammates. I’ve seen quite a few nasty injuries in kitchens and know how hard it is to keep on working when someone is suffering from a serious injury.”

9.59am BST

15 min: On the last, inside the Storm 10m, Morgan declines to kick, and instead fires a flat ball out to Linnett who arrives too early and is forced to catch and turn, backing into the defence. Turnover.

9.57am BST

13 min: After Slater is hammered on a kick return, the Storm turn it over on the half. Finally some field position for the Cowboys.

9.56am BST

12 min: The Storm pound the Cowboys’ line but here’s a relieving turnover for the Cowboys, Lowe coming up with the pill.

9.55am BST

11 min: Cronk on the Cowboys’ 30m runs right before he angles a devilish grubber back towards the post. Slater is tearing after it like a greyhound … And he might well have won the race too had the ball not hit the right post and rebounded into the arms of Ethan Lowe.

9.53am BST

10 min: Who flinches first? The Cowboys, says Wally Lewis, after Morgan grubbers across the touchline around the Storm 30m allowing both teams a breather.

9.52am BST

8 min: Some quick play-the-balls sees the Storm edge to the half from their own 10m before Smith almost pulls off a 40-20, but the bobbling ball is rounded up just inside the stripe.

9.50am BST

6 min: Morgan passes inside to Taumalolo who bends the line before being pushed back by three men in purple. Morgan bombs again, Slater takes.

The Storm have had the better of territory so far but neither team has yet to enjoy an attacking set inside the other’s 30m zone.

9.49am BST

A few pictures from the opening exchanges, prior to the injury break

9.48am BST

5 min: Fensom is finally leaving the field, on his back in the medicab. He gives the crowd the thumbs up as he goes.

The play back on, the Cowboys push up the right flank before a towering Morgan bomb almost gets away from Vunivalu who leans in to take it like someone about to topple into a swimming pool.

9.44am BST

4 min: Replays show that Coote did very well during that Bromwich bust. He had Bromwich running at him but he drifted to his right to cover a pass to Munster who was backing up, knowing that Granville was in position to take Bromwich. Seeing Coote do just that Bromwich decided to go it alone.

As may be obvious Fensom is still being treated.

So cruel on Shaun Fenson. His grand final over after 180 seconds #NRLGF

9.40am BST

4 min: Cronk goes to the line and, on the 30m line, puts Jesse Bromwich through a hole. He busts through the first attempts at tackle before he’s brought down on the 10m by Granville and he loses the ball as he hits the deck.

Cowboy Shaun Fensom has been injured in that tackle. Poor bloke. Opening minutes. The medicab is on the field and it appears Fensom has done something serious to his knee.

9.37am BST

3 min: Tohu ‘Tofu’ Harris busy for the Storm as they pummel the Cowboys and force them to kick from inside their own half.

9.35am BST

2 min: Coote gets a kick away, as he slips, after a reasonably expansive first set. Slater takes it safely but then slips himself as he approaches the defensive line.

9.34am BST

1 min: Cameron Smith kicks off and Scott Bolton takes the ball safely, no doubt saying “Thank God” to himself as he does so.

9.32am BST

Experienced NRL followers would have realised that the scheduled 7.15pm kickoff was never going to happen and they’ve been proven correct.

But at long last here come the two teams, first the Cowboys in their washed-out grey strip. Now the Storm – after a longish wait. Cameron Smith leads them out, slapping the hands of young fans leaning over the race. I like that. I often wonder why more players don’t do that. Costs them nothing in terms of effort and means a lot to the kids.

9.20am BST

For the Cowboys this game is about who’s not there. For the Storm it’s about who is. And this will be the 232nd (and last) match Slater, Cronk and Smith have played together. So far they have a win percentage of 73.2%. Incredible.

Cronk has yet to decide where he’s headed in 2018. There’s talk too that Slater will call it a day if the Storm win tonight. Cameron Smith, an iron man who is seemingly never injured, looks certain to go on and plague the opposition for at least another season.

9.15am BST

Now that the entertainment is done and dusted we can think again about the game. Here are the teams:

Final teams are in!#NRLGF #NRL

9.11am BST

Macklemore’s set has finished. I can’t say I’ve seen any resulting moral decay, like little boys suddenly downloading Barba Streisand songs on their mother’s smart phones or people proposing marriage to bridges or assorted public monuments. That said, I’ll be sure to inform you if anything like this starts to happen so you can beat the rush and head out to buy more baked beans and bottled water for your panic rooms.

9.06am BST

Macklemore is now performing Same Love. The lights are down, smart phones are raised.

This guy is good! @macklemore #NRLGF

I have honestly never been prouder to be an NRL fan hey. #NRLGF

9.04am BST

Here comes Macklemore in a silver jacket, white t-shirt, black jeans and boots. For some reason ex-Dragon Matt Cooper opened the dressing room door for him. Macklemore skips and dances from beneath the stands (where he high fives Johnathan Thurston) to centre stage around which a young crowd cheers enthusiastically.

Putting all the controversy aside I must admit he was an odd choice for the GF. A spoken word performance isn’t exactly the kind of thing that gets a crowd’s blood pumping is it? It’s not Cold Chisel is it?

JT and Macklemore high five! #9NRLFootyShow #NRLGF

8.55am BST

The pre-game entertainment will soon get underway. Now there’s no Tina Turner tonight but going by this photo the theme wasn’t all that different in 1990:

Pure gold. #NRL #NRLGF

8.49am BST

Craig Bellamy speaks to Channel Nine:

“We’re a little bit nervous. But that’s a good thing. It heightens the senses.”

8.44am BST

Crowd shot!

8.41am BST

The 2017 season has proven to be the last for a good number of players and a number of good players, and they are being appreciated now in front of the crowd.

Here’s the full list: Matt Ballin (Wests Tigers), Jeff Lima, Dane Tilse (Canberra Raiders), Ray Thompson, Ben Hannant (North Queensland Cowboys), Rory Kostjasyn, Anthony Tupou (Newcastle Knights), Jeff Robson, Isaac De Gois (Parramatta Eels), Feleti Mateo (Manly Warringah Sea Eagles), David Shillington, Daniel Vidot (Gold Coast Titans), Bryson Goodwin (South Sydney Rabbitohs), and Matt White (Melbourne Storm).

8.31am BST

There have been two lower grade grand finals played earlier today.

In the first of these, the Holden Cup (u20s) grand final, Manly came back from an early deficit of 14-0. Manly then got back to 14-all before the Eels retook the lead with a try taking them out to 18-14 with just over 10 minutes remaining. But in what would be the last play of the game, Manly hooker Manase Fainu found a charging Keith Titmuss who scored adjacent to the posts. Centre Tevita Funa then added the extras seconds before the full-time hooter.

RL:Penrith rout PNG for NRL interstate title

By Steve Zemek

SYDNEY, Oct 1 AAP – Penrith have spoiled Papua New Guinea’s Cinderella story with a 42-18 rout in the NRL Interstate Championship at ANZ Stadium on Sunday.

The NSW Cup premiers ran riot with the game effectively over at 38-2 at halftime after Tony Santini ran in four tries in the first 40 minutes.

The victory was yet another feather in the cap for coach Garth Brennan who was amassed two NSW Cup titles and an under-20s premiership win during his time at the foot of the mountains.

Brennan is one of the leading contenders for the vacant Gold Coast NRL coaching job and sent a loud and resounding message with the eight tries to three tries flogging.

The Hunters came into the match as the feelgood story after winning the first piece of silverware in last week’s Queensland Cup grand final against the Sunshine Coast.

However the side from the rugby league-mad island nation was outclassed and overpowered.

The Hunters struck first with a penalty goal through Ase Boas however former Manly outside back Santini ran in three tries in seven minutes to put his side on top.

Halfback Darren Nicholls was also outstanding, stretching the Hunters defence and crossing under the posts to make it 22-2 after 21 minutes.

After Panthers five-eighth Jarome Luai was sin-binned for a professional foul in the 67th minute, the Hunters ran in consolation tries through Adex Wera and Bland Abavu and Boas.

8.25am BST

A few years ago I wrote this piece about some of the more memorable Australian rugby league grand finals:

Related: The Joy of Six: rugby league grand finals

8.20am BST

With about an hour until kickoff the crowd is building. Will it be a sell-out tonight? Will it matter if it isn’t? TV ratings, I’m sure, will be through the roof:

#SunsetSunday @NRL #NRLGF

8.12am BST

There’s plenty to read ahead of the game. Why not Matt Cleary’s take on Cowboys’ enforcer Scott Bolton?

Related: Scott Bolton: the Cowboys enforcer charged with out-bullying Melbourne | Matt Cleary

Related: Josh Addo-Carr’s blistering form no surprise to those who watched him grow | Joe Gorman

8.05am BST

Good evening, folks.

Is it really a year since the Cronulla Sharks switched the porch light off, broke a long premiership drought and messed with the natural order to such an extent that (unless it was just a coincidence which, I suppose, we have to at least consider) it triggered a year of plague, pestilence and political putrescence across the globe?

It was fun while it lasted hey @Cronulla_Sharks fans… #NRLGF #NRL

2.11am BST

Paul will be here shorty. In the meantime, here’s his very own grand final preview:

Related: Melbourne overwhelming NRL grand final favourites but sport often surprises

Continue reading…

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Melbourne overwhelming NRL grand final favourites but sport often surprises

Unlike the Storm, the Cowboys go into the decider unburdened by favouritism and with the backing of the majority of the crowd

At the recent launch of his new book at Melbourne’s Wheeler Centre former Sydney Swans coach Paul Roos questioned the popular notion that a sporting team has only a brief “premiership window” in which to challenge before it regresses into the dreaded rebuilding phase, that long winter of discontent that so troubled Shakespeare, who must have been a North Sydney Bears fan.

Instead, Roos said, a team could go a long way to being a perennial force if it recruited well (which, he said, means more than simply signing the best players money can buy), had a strong team culture and was well served by a few key leaders, both in the coaching team and playing ranks.

Related: Josh Addo-Carr’s blistering form no surprise to those who watched him grow | Joe Gorman

Related: NRL officials warn that referees are willing to use sin-bin in grand final

Related: Scott Bolton: the Cowboys enforcer charged with out-bullying Melbourne | Matt Cleary

Continue reading…

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All Blacks snatch Bledisloe win from Wallabies in dying moments – as it happened

  • Five tries apiece as All Blacks beat Wallabies 35-29 in pulsating thriller, but Barrett’s goal-kicking wins the day for the All Blacks

11.04am BST

Final thoughts

This was expected to be another NZ cake-walk, a pavlova parade if you will. But after getting off to a lightning start that saw Israel Folau score within a minute, and then the Aussies race out to a 17-0 lead in even time, New Zealand dragged themselves back into the contest. After dropping the ball far too often early on, the ABs started to dominate possession and, though the Wallabies defended stoutly, they couldn’t hold on during the second half in which they conceded one penalty after another. But a truly memorable Wallabies win was within reach when Beale scored under the posts in the 76th minute but the All Blacks had time for a killer reply. As they always seem to do.

10.58am BST

It was five tries apiece tonight. The difference was the goal-kicking. Five conversions to Barrett, just two from five from Foley who also missed a penalty conversion.

But let’s not forget that the All Blacks came back from 0-17 down. Some effort that. And to have the presence of mind, and the skills, to score the match-winning try after going behind with four minutes to go. You’ve got to hand it to them.

10.53am BST

So that’s another Bledisloe Cup wrapped up. New Zealand continue to hold the cup they regained possession of in 2013.

New Zealand won the game but the Wallabies’ effort will dominate the news.

Great to watch 2 teams having a go. Proud to see the wallabies not giving up.
Passion and pride. Well done. Back on track

10.50am BST

It’s all over! What a thrilling match! New Zealand are ecstatic! Australia gutted. After what happened last week, after everyone writing them off, they almost pulled off what would have been the biggest Bledisloe upset in some time.

10.48am BST

80 min: The Wallabies need to win possession from the kickoff but they can’t manage it. NZ need to play it out here… what a finish to this game!

10.47am BST

The ABs’ lead is back out to six.

10.46am BST

And that’s why the ABs are the world’s best! Regaining possession from the kickoff, they work the ball to the Aussie 22m. Then they explode into action. Going right Sopoaga passes to Scott Barrett who passes to Read who makes a lovely inside ball to a charging Perenara. He draws the fullback and finds Barrett backing up on his outside. Barrett scores under the posts!

10.43am BST

No even an out-of-form Foley would miss that.

10.42am BST

Aussies back in front! That was so simple. From a ruck on the NZ line Genia passed to Beale on his right and, with Whitelock holding off him, Beale said thank you very much, sport, and ducked through a yawning gap and scored under the posts!

10.40am BST

75 min: NZ offside from a midfield bomb. Reece Hodge, off the bench, takes the touch finder and does a great job. Australia on the attack from 10m out.

10.39am BST

The mercurial 5/8 makes no mistake but the Wallabies are still within a converted try. They’d be ahead if Foley had kicked all his chances.

10.37am BST

On the 19th phase Ioane races into space. He’s hauled down but the ABs then go right and put it through the hands. McKenzie sucks Kuridrani out of the line and it creates enough space for Ben Smith to race unopposed to the line!

10.37am BST

69 min: Seven phases get the ABs to the halfway line before a dash from Smith on the right wing threatens momentarily. The ABs maintain possession but the gold defence is holding, holding, holding. After last week this has been a tremendous comeback by the Aussies no matter what happens now.

10.33am BST

68 min: Foley misses from 10m to the left of the uprights, striking the uprights for the third time this match! His goal kicking has been awful today.

10.32am BST

Genia picks up from the ruck, scoots around its east coast, dummies to the man on his outside and creates enough room for himself to run 15m to score! What a response from the Aussies!

10.30am BST

66 min: McMahon and Hooper combine well to haul the tired Wallabies to the halfway line. The Australians then work their way to the NZ 22m.

10.29am BST

65 min: Five phases in and Barrett pops through the Aussie line like an apparition through the wall of a haunted house. He then grubbers ahead for himself but he can’t win the race to the ball. Lovely stuff from Barrett.

10.27am BST

64 min: Crotty is groggy after catching the hip of a charging Folau. Kiwi scrum being set 40m from Australia’s line.

10.25am BST

From 10m inside the left touchline Barrett knocks it over. That try was coming. Four times the ABs knocked back a penalty attempt this half. On the fourth occasion they made their adventure count.

10.24am BST

From the scrum the All Blacks go the short side and Smith evades Foley to find Barrett running a nice line. Too easy! The All Blacks are ahead for the first time tonight.

10.23am BST

61 min: As we wait an age for the scrum Niall writes in to praise the Aussies: “Still think the ABs will run over the top but Wallabies are showing some ‘grit’.”

10.21am BST

60 min: Australia offside as NZ attack their line! The Aussies have barely touched the ball this half. Can they hold on? Another AB scrum 5m out from their line.

10.20am BST

58 min: The Wallabies breathe easy momentarily but the All Blacks are again pouring towards their line like an oil slick. Another penalty to NZ who have been awarded 8 of the last 9 penalties! Most, no doubt, due to Australia’s efforts to stifle their play. Some, however, have the whiff of mystery about them. But that’s rugby.

10.17am BST

56 min: The Aussie scrum holds, Smith fires the ball to a charging Williams. Beale is in his face, takes a big hit and emerges from the collision with the ball in his arms! Huge effort from the Australian.

10.16am BST

55 min: But a penalty has been found from somewhere and the All Blacks will set up a scrum 5m out, 5m inside the right touchline.

10.15am BST

From a lineout Savea burrows close to the line before, from a mess of a ruck, Retallick rises from the mess of bodies with his finger in the air. A try is given before we go back to check… there was an Aussie arm under the ball as Retallick wrestled his way over the line but to me it was impossible to tell if it hit the turf.

10.11am BST

53 min: Penalty to NZ from 40m out from the Aussie posts. They turn down the likely three points. Great stuff. I love a team backing themselves.

10.10am BST

50 min: NZ on the attack now and the crowd rise. Aaron Smith, to Ben Smith to Squire, a long charge downfield. But the Aussies scramble well and, on their 22m, force a mistake from the ABs.

10.09am BST

48 min: 40m out from NZ line Foley steps inside Williams. Not enough to beat him but enough to find a pass to Kuridrani who knocks on. The All Blacks counter right and only a fine tackle from Speight prevents Ben Smith from going on a potentially long damaging run down the right wing.

This has become an end-to-end game now.

10.06am BST

46 min: The All Blacks push downfield and then, on the left, Ioane bursts into the clear 30m out! But he’s ankle tapped by Genia. From the next play Moody’s pass is intercepted by Beale who immediately lobs it out to Speight. From inside his own 22m Speight boots it downfield.

10.03am BST

44 min: Oh, so close! From a scrum on the AB 22m the Wallabies go right and Folau stands up Barrett cold. In space, from 5m out, Folau looks inside for Haylett-Petty but the pass is intercepted by Squire.

Barrett has gone off with a head injury. Can’t be too serious as he jogged off unaided.

10.00am BST

42 min: A relieving penalty to Australia inside their own half. The ABs were on the charge but Owen Franks was penalised for obstructing the defence after he ran into two gold jerseys in the defensive line.

9.59am BST

And the Wallabies kick off…

9.49am BST

Phew! What an action-packed, mad-cap half of rugby. After a lightning start by the Aussies, the All Blacks have pegged them back and you’d back them to go on with it now.

9.48am BST

An easy one for Barrett and that’s oranges.

9.47am BST

… and Smith picks up, steps inside Hooper, and crashes over! Despair for the Wallabies to concede on the halftime bell but at least that removes any potential controversy from Smith’s effort moments earlier.

9.46am BST

40 min: Another penalty 5m out to the ABs! The Aussies hold the AB scrum momentarily before folding …

9.44am BST

40 min: Massive escape for the Wallabies! After surviving Sonny Bill Williams’ charge tiny Aaron Smith burrows through the defence and finds a way to reach out with his right arm and seemingly force the ball next to the padding of the right upright. The ref goes upstairs to check and it’s determined that Smith just lost control at the last moment. A try every day of the week in rugby league, that, but not here. Smith’s hand certainly rolled to the side of the ball but I didn’t see daylight between his hand and the ball at any time.

9.41am BST

38 min: But the ref’s assistant has spotted an Aussie infringement and it’s another penalty to the ABs from the same position, 5m out. Not sure what the infringement was for. Something to do with Julie Bishop, I expect.

9.38am BST

37 min: The Blacks choose to scrum 5m out. After a big shove by the ABs the ball comes out from under Read’s boot and catches Smith unawares. He knocks on!

9.36am BST

35 min: From a mid-field penalty Barrett finds touch on the Aussie 22m. Here come the ABs pouring forward. But Barrett loses patience on just the fifth phase and, as such, attempts a grubber kick in behind for his right winger. But he doesn’t get enough on it and Genia pulls it in.

But Genia is penalised for not releasing.

9.34am BST

33 min: From the scrum Beale drops it and the ABs counter attack beautifully, Barrett finding McKenize who stretches the Aussie defence on the wing. On the next phase Barrett races through a hole and finds Lienert-Brown on his inside before Genia ankle taps him. Great scrambling defence by the Aussies.

9.32am BST

32 min: The Aussies cut loose and some slight passing sees Kuridrani motor down the right wing. He’s pulled down but moments later the Aussies win a scrum put-in just 10m out from the Kiwi line.

9.30am BST

28 min: Foley leaves his kicking boots in the sheds (1 from 4 now), hitting the right upright. But it rebounds back into the field of play and the Aussies come oh so close to scoring but for a tiny knock-on by Speight.

9.28am BST

26 min: The Wallabies attack the left edge and on their 12th phase get to the ABs 22m. On the next phase the Wallabies turn it over as they spin it right. But the ball hits the ground and Ioane pounces and sets off for the line with no-one near him! Here’s a try!

But he’s called back! Folau was tackled before receiving the ball by Crotty, preventing Folau from catching the ball prior to Ioane’s interception. Penalty to Australia.

9.25am BST

23 min: We’re spending a lot of time examining a video of a Wallaby forward landing on his head at the ruck. Retallick, it is finally determined, accidentally lifted the Wallaby forward as he rose from the ground causing him to be upended. Hooper not impressed: “So we’re allowed to lift players by the legs and drop them on their head?” he asks the ref. “There was no lift,” the ref explains. “It was accidental.”

9.20am BST

It’s from over the black dot, as they say in league, but he squeezes it over.

9.19am BST

The All Blacks are finally on the board! After winning the lineout Dane Coles sits at the back of a maul rolling towards the line. When it gets to a metre out Coles hands off to Smith who shapes to pass right but throws a short ball over his left shoulder to Ioane who crashes over.

9.16am BST

20 min: Wallabies pinged for offside when, a metre out, Smith passes from the back of a maul into the backside of Hannigan. A great interception by Hannigan’s can. Had it not intervened Ioane may have been in in the corner.

9.15am BST

18 min: Six handling errors by the All Blacks. Now seven. From the turn-over Foley kicks deep and McKenzie, I think it was, returns the favour. Now the Wallabies turn it over, Beale not rolling away from the ball.

9.13am BST

It came off Genia’s knee, not his hand, so no knock-on. Another try to Australia!! Bloody hell. Who saw this coming? It’s as if the All Blacks just thought they had to turn up to win. Foley misses the relatively easy conversion. That could be costly.

9.11am BST

17 min: The ABs push the Aussies off the ball but it pops out to Genia who scoots around the flank of the scrum and races downfield. As the defence hauls him in he passes outside to Hooper. He then offloads to Foley who races 20m to score! Or did he? Genia might have knocked on at the back of the scrum. We’ve gone to the video ref…

9.09am BST

14 min: After a dangerous attack from the Aussies Folau drops the ball in traffic and the ABs recycle, spinning it left. Ioane gets through the defensive line but before he can scoot clear Haylett-Petty rides him like a backpack full of text books. Ioane can’t carry such weight and falls. From the ruck the ABs knock on.

9.06am BST

After missing his first shot Foley converts this, easier, one from 10m to the left of the posts.

9.05am BST

The scrum disintegrates and through a mess of bodies Hooper emerges and strolls over! What a start for the embattled Aussies!

9.04am BST

10 min: Line-out win to Australia 25m out and Foley bombs to Folau’s wing where he looks to out-leap his opposite number. The ball comes off McKenzie and bounces into touch, 5m out from the ABs line.

9.00am BST

7 min: The All Blacks attack Australia’s right edge, Ioane prominent. On their 1oth phase of attack they knock it on and Beale roosts the ball to the touchline. After the Blacks win the lineout Sonny Bill Williams, running onto a flat ball passed a little behind him, spills it.

8.57am BST

5 min: The ABs win a scrum against the feed 10m out from the Aussie line and they go left sharpish. Ioane gets the ball on the wing a few metres out but his attempt at an inside ball is knocked into touch.

8.56am BST

3 min: The Wallabies turn over the restart. They’ll need to get their kick-off receiving into shape quick smart. They can’t rely on intercept tries all night.

On the Folau try, McKenzie had his eyes on an overlap on the right. Had Folau not snaffled that ball it may have been a runaway try to NZ.

8.54am BST

… and McKenzie, chiming into the backline, throws an intercept pass to Folau who races 55m to score five metres inside the left touchline.

8.52am BST

The Aussies turn it over from the kickoff but as the Blacks spin it wide to the right …

8.52am BST

Really does look like a wonderful stadium. I suppose any stadium where, as a spectator, you’re protected from the elements is a good one. How would it stand up to hail, I wonder? Or the haka? We’re about to find out…

A rousing haka with the ABs in arrow head formation and the Aussies facing them and, if they were me, wishing they were instead, in a quiet bar with a good book. No glass fall, however. And so, with the stadium intact, we’re about to get underway…

8.46am BST

A respectful minute’s silence is held for Colin Meads.

Now the anthems. So it’s an early lead to NZ: 1-0.

8.44am BST

“It’s been another week of soul searching,” says the commentary team as the teams begin to make their way onto the pitch. Some might say the Wallabies have been searching for their soul since 2004. It’s good at hiding. A chameleon if you like.

Kieran Reed leads the ABs out and the crowd give him and his team a rousing reception. Say what you like about Kiwis but they don’t get sick of beating Aussies.

8.40am BST

Phil Withall writes in to offer a commentary on the commentary: “Rather enjoy the commentary team struggling to come up with a contingency plan for the delay as they discuss the contingency plans that the players would have put in place,” he says. “Good thing they don’t do the cricket…”

8.32am BST

Watching the Bledisloe on enemy territory. This sad square of gold is all that remains of the Wallabies fans. BYO paper bag with eyeholes.

8.31am BST

News to hand… due to lighting issues, the kickoff will be delayed. Now scheduled for 745pm local, 5.45pm AEST.

8.28am BST

The late great All Black Colin Meads will be remembered tonight, with the home team wearing the number 5 on their sleeves:

Related: All Blacks rugby union legend Colin Meads dies aged 81

8.23am BST

I slapped Dunedin with a wet lettuce leaf moments earlier when I compared it to Mordor. In alluding to Mordor I was, admittedly, thinking of Carisbrook, the ‘retired’ venue known as the House of Pain. These days it’s the Forsyth Barr Stadium that hosts the big games and it looks a picture, like a giant conservatory or greenhouse.

GAME DAY! Where in the world will you be watching v ? #NZLvAUS #BledisloeCup

8.18am BST


TEAM NAMING | The #AllBlacks have made three changes to their side for the second #BledisloeCup Test.


#BREAKING l Adam Coleman is out due to injury, Arnold is in and debutante Izack Rodda is on the bench. #BledisloeCup #NZLvAUS

8.14am BST

If I’ve been overly negative in that preamble then feast your eyes on this: a scene from today’s Shute Shield final in Sydney between Northern Suburbs and Warringah Rats. Compared to Mordor (Dunedin) it looks positively bucolic (like Hobbiton). Just the kind of atmosphere to mold and shape a fearless, hard-nosed, desperate, down & dirty rugb … oh, wait … :

#scenes @shuteshield

8.05am BST

“Tell ‘em they’re dreaming”: That was the headline of the Otago Daily Times on the day the Wallabies arrived in Dunedin for tonight’s Bledisloe Cup clash with the All Blacks. I take issue with it. Not for its provocative nature —that’s par for the course with the NZ press when it comes to the All Blacks, as Warren Gatland would tell you— but with the idea that anyone within the Wallabies camp actually thinks that they can beat the All Blacks tonight. Who is this mysterious “them” the Otago Daily Times is referring to?

If I’m wrong, if there is actual belief in the Wallabies camp, then their team psychologist needs a raise because there’s almost zero evidence to consider an upset in on the cards tonight. Last week, for instance, the Wallabies were pumped 54-34 in Sydney in the first game of the series. In the manner of stricken sailors grasping at driftwood some have suggested that those 34 points are cause for optimism but, really, the vast majority of those 34 points came after the red hot All Blacks had left the field for an early shower.

3.44am BST

Paul will be with us shortly. In the meantime, such is the state of Australian rugby union at the moment, you can only laugh. Can’t you? Here’s David Squires to help, if necessary:

Related: David Squires on … the Wallabies’ chances against the All Blacks

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article:

Panthers pip Raiders, Demons march on, Whincup wins, Fremantle v Richmond and more: sportwatch – live!

10.51am BST

Considering it’s been 36 years since Richmond won the flag it seems fair to start the day’s wrap with the news that Richmond are in the top 4 with one round to go. What’s more, they’re playing the kind of footy that sings and puts foolish dreams in a long suffering fan’s head. The unlikely star of their 104-demolition of Fremantle was Jacob Townsend who kicked six, but it’s the classy touches of Jack Reiwoldt and Dustin Martin that will have Tigers fans thinking big despite themselves.

In the NRL the Canberra Raiders’ season is over after they lost a thrilling match against the Panthers. Considering they were so close to winning a preliminary final last year today’s 22-26 loss underlines a season of disappointment for Ricky Stuart’s men. Penrith, meantime, are on a roll of form at just the right time. With two matches remaining in the regular season the top 4 is within reach.

10.35am BST

AFL: After today’s matches the AFL ladder looks like this with just one round of matches to play:

P W L D For Agst PC Pts
Adelaide 21 15 5 1 2344 1676 139.9 62
Greater Western Sydney 21 14 5 2 2022 1709 118.3 60
Geelong 21 14 6 1 2031 1759 115.5 58
Richmond 21 14 7 – 1870 1603 116.7 56
Port Adelaide 21 13 8 – 2033 1651 123.1 52
Sydney 21 13 8 – 1955 1594 122.6 52
Melbourne 21 12 9 – 1952 1835 106.4 48
Essendon 21 11 10 – 2028 1912 106.1 44

West Coast 21 11 10 – 1864 1787 104.3 44
St Kilda 21 11 10 – 1844 1864 98.9 44
Western Bulldogs 21 11 10 – 1767 1814 97.4 44
Hawthorn 21 9 11 1 1765 1965 89.8 38
Collingwood 21 8 12 1 1845 1880 98.1 34
Fremantle 21 8 13 – 1515 2053 73.8 32
Carlton 21 6 15 – 1537 1900 80.9 24
Gold Coast 21 6 15 – 1736 2176 79.8 24
North Melbourne 21 5 16 – 1853 2185 84.8 20
Brisbane Lions 21 5 16 – 1798 2396 75.0 20

10.32am BST

Darts: I won’t be around for the end of it but the semis of the Melbourne Darts Masters are underway. Scot Peter Wright (he of the coloured plumage) current leads Northern Ireland’s Daryl Gurney 5-2 in their best of 11 match-up.

THE LAST DAY! An exciting night of darts ahead as someone will be crowned the Melbourne Masters Champion! #darts # #MelbourneDartsMasters

10.24am BST

The Tigers are in the top 4 at least until next week when they play St Kilda in the final game of the home and away season.

10.23am BST

AFL Q4 0:00 remaining. Freo 7.9 (51) v Richmond 25.5 (155). A 50m free to Richmond gifts Butler a goal on the siren. And, wouldn’t you know it, that makes the margin 104.

10.19am BST

AFL Q4 0:58 remaining. Freo 7.9 (51) v Richmond 24.5 (149). Or will they? Townsend kicks his sixth goal, making this by some measure the best day of his footy career.

10.17am BST

AFL Q4 1:40 remaining. Freo 7.9 (51) v Richmond 23.5 (143). It looks like Freo might escape consecutive 100-point losses after all as Crozier marks and kicks his second. Fair play to the Dockers fans, they are now on their feet chanting ‘Freeeeeo’ and waving flags and scarves to mark this final game at the venue.

10.15am BST

AFL Q4 2:25 remaining. Freo 6.9 (45) v Richmond 23.5 (143). The commentators are suggesting a Freo win next week would give them some momentum going into next season. Yep, I’m sure that’s what they’d be thinking during the off-season.

10.13am BST

See you in September!
I just hope it lasts more than a week #AFLDockersTigers

10.07am BST

AFL Q4 8:25 remaining. Freo 6.8 (44) v Richmond 23.5 (143). After a 50m penalty Ballantyne reduces the margin to double figures. Which is something.

10.06am BST

AFL Q4 9:30 remaining. Freo 5.8 (38) v Richmond 23.5 (143). What a day out for Townsend who now has five. Bear in mind, folks, that Freo lost by 100+ last week to Sydney. Another 100+ loss appears on the cards.

10.04am BST

AFL Q4 13:00 remaining. Freo 5.8 (38) v Richmond 22.5 (137). A 60m bomb from Martin sets up Reiwoldt’s fourth second-half goal.

His cousin, meanwhile, had an emotional day during his final match at Etihad:

An emotional moment for Nick Riewoldt #AFLSaintsNorth

9.59am BST

AFL Q4 15:10 remaining. Freo 5.8 (38) v Richmond 21.5 (131). Reiwoldt gets his third. It’s one goal after another after another. This is ridiculous. No sooner do I look up from my screen than I realise I’m behind the pace and have another goal to register.

9.57am BST

AFL Q4 16:40 remaining. Freo 5.8 (38) v Richmond 20.5 (125). He’s leading the tackle count and now he has a goal on debut. Jack Graham slots one!

9.55am BST

AFL Q4 17:50 remaining. Freo 5.8 (38) v Richmond 19.5 (119). Tough work by Reiwoldt in traffic and a timely run by Rioli sees the little bloke kick deep to Martin, unmarked in the goal square. Indeed there was no-one within 30m of him —apart from the fans on the fence. Martin ambles towards the goal and boots it to next Wednesday. That was like a double exclamation mark. AFTER A SENTENCE WRITTEN IN CAPS!!

9.52am BST

NRL: And the account of that NRL upset, Canterbury over Manly:

Bulldogs upset Manly NRL finals ambitions

SYDNEY, Aug 20 AAP – Manly are walking an NRL finals tightrope after they were beaten 30-16 by Canterbury on Sunday.
The Bulldogs put in their best attacking performance of the year to snap a four-game losing streak, effectively sending Manly’s finals ambitions into a tailspin.
The Sea Eagles, who were third a month ago, have now lost four of their past five games to fall to eighth on the ladder.
Their only saving grace could come from both the Dragons and 10th-placed Canberra who suffered defeats this weekend, meaning one more win could still be enough to make the playoffs.
Manly face the Warriors in Auckland next Sunday before playing Penrith at Lottoland in round 26.
But they would still need to improve if they are to have any impact come September, given they have now conceded 170 points in their past five games.
They were again caught lacking in defence on their own line, while their attack didn’t have the impetus it has had for most of the season.
Captain Daly Cherry-Evans battled a flu in the lead-up to the game.
It showed as the Sea Eagles’ second-half points came through Lewis Brown in the final minute, despite completing at 82 per cent for the match.
In comparison, the often-clunky Bulldogs scored 30 points for the first time this season.
Will Hopoate produced the last pass for three tries, as the Bulldogs worked the same play twice for Marcelo Montoya to score a first-half double.

Brett Morris also crossed closed to half-time to get Canterbury past 10 points in the opening half for the first time this season, before he and brother Josh both scored after the break.

9.48am BST

AFL. Here’s the AAP match report from St Kilda’s pulverising win over North, one that keeps them alive, if only just:

AFL:Riewoldt tribute inspires St Kilda AFL win MELBOURNE, Aug 20 AAP ­

St Kilda honoured retiring legend Nick Riewoldt and kept their slim AFL finals hopes alive with a thumping 49­-point win over North Melbourne.

9.46am BST

AFL Three-quarter time: Fremantle 5.8 (38) v Richmond 18.5 (113).

Cancel the demolition contract of domain stadium. Tigers destroying the joint. #gotigers #AFLDockersTigers

9.44am BST

AFL Q3 2:30 remaining. Freo 5.8 (38) v Richmond 18.5 (113). Rance scores his first goal since round 21, 2013. It’s THAT kind of day for Richmond.

9.42am BST

AFL Q3 4:50 remaining. Freo 5.8 (38) v Richmond 17.5 (107). Reiwoldt gets his second with some sweet skill.

How about the fancy foot skills from Jack Riewoldt? #AFLFreoTigers

9.38am BST

AFL Q3 4:50 remaining. Freo 5.8 (38) v Richmond 16.5 (101). Shaun Grieg mucks up a set shot from right in front; a shame since there was some lovely lead-up work by Martin before it. Pinned against the boundary he dummied past Nyhuis with the AFL equivalent of a Cruyff turn.

Candy. #Dusty

9.33am BST

AFL Q3 8:10 remaining. Freo 5.8 (38) v Richmond 16.4 (100). Martin breaks free inside 50m and such is Richmond’s momentum you don’t expect him to mess things up. He doesn’t, and the Tigers raise their bats; the ton’s up.

9.31am BST

AFL Q3 9:40 remaining. Freo 5.8 (38) v Richmond 15.3 (93). A Jsh Deluca snap reduces the deficit to a mere 55. You could hear a pin drop at Domain.

9.30am BST

AFL Q3 11:40 remaining. Freo 4.8 (32) v Richmond 15.3 (93). Great work from Butler with a chase-down tackle that wins the Tigers a free. He scores from the set shot, the Tigers’ third in succession.

9.28am BST

AFL Q3 12:20 remaining. Freo 4.8 (32) v Richmond 14.3 (87). A powerful grab from Nankervis who then converts to become the Tigers’ ninth different goal-scorer.

9.25am BST

AFL Q3 12:20 remaining. Freo 4.8 (32) v Richmond 13.2 (80). Richmond goal after a howling mongrel of a Martin punt floats and wobbles to the goal square where it goes through the hands of two Dockers and into the path of Reiwoldt. A few metres from goal he lifts his left boot to volleys home.

9.22am BST

AFL Q3 13:20 remaining. Freo 4.8 (32) v Richmond 12.2 (74). Richmond’s run of nine-straight goals is finally interrupted, Crozier with a goal for Freo after good lead-up work by Fyfe. Nothing we’ve seen so far this quarter suggests a miracle comeback is on the cards.

9.19am BST

I also love this new tactic from Richmond: kicking straight.

It’s a bold strategy Cotton, let’s see if it pays off #AFLDockersTigers

9.17am BST

AFL Q3 17:00 remaining. Freo 3.7 (25) v Richmond 12.2 (74). Townsend won’t score an easier goal in his career. After a boundary throw Nankervis taps the ball forward to Townsend while the Dockers players freeze, waiting for a whistle that, like Godot, doesn’t come. From a few metres out Townsend kicks his fourth, doubling his career tally in one game that still has an age left in it.

9.09am BST

9.01am BST

Wow, what an upset and a massive blow to Manly’s top-four hopes. In fact, the loss puts in them in danger of missing the eight altogether.

A match report to come but, in the meantime, here’s the latest NRL ladder which shows how precarious things are now for Manly:





Here’s the #NRL Ladder

RT this, tag a mate

8.55am BST

Meanwhile, back at stately Wayne manor, St Kilda have pulled away from North like a V8 from a Massey Ferguson.

AFL Q4 17:00 gone. St Kilda 17.18 (120) v North Melbourne 10.6 (66)

8.52am BST

AFL Half-time: Freo 3.5 (23) v Richmond 11.2 (68). Did someone slip something into the Freo waterbottles at quarter-time? Were they blowing their noses on hankies soaked in chloroform? They’ve been utterly unable to halt a rampaging Richmond. Top four is looking good for the Tigers.

8.49am BST

AFL Q2 1:20 remaining. Freo 3.5 (23) v Richmond 11.2 (68). I can barely keep up with this. Another Richmond major. A lovely Rioli handball leads to a Butler conversion. That’s eight unanswered goals to Richmond to all but end this game.

8.47am BST

AFL Q2 2:50 remaining. Freo 3.5 (23) v Richmond 10.2 (62). Lambert has three for the quarter and Richmond supporters everywhere try but fail to smother visions of September glory. Reiwoldt was the architect of that goal, outleaping two Dockers to knock down to Lambert who snapped home.

8.43am BST

AFL Q2 4:10 remaining. Freo 3.5 (23) v Richmond 9.2 (56). Houli drives through the middle and sends a razor sharp kick over the head of a floundering McCarthy and into the path of Lambert who steadies and shoots from close in.

A perfect bump from Jack Riewoldt allowed Kane Lambert to kick his second goal. #AFLFreoTigers

8.41am BST

#AFLFreoTigers Nick sporting the Tormund look.

8.38am BST

AFL Q2 8:10 remaining. Freo 3.5 (23) v Richmond 7.0 (50). Oh well, it had to end sometime. The run of Tigers goals is over with two behinds from set shots. First Dan Butler, then Castagna.

8.35am BST

AFL Q2 12:10 remaining. Freo 3.5 (23) v Richmond 8.0 (48). And another! After Freo came out of the blocks with real intensity Richmond weathered the storm and, since the first break, have stepped on the gas. This time it was McIntosh with a long bomb. Eight straight goals!

8.33am BST

AFL Q2 13:00 remaining. Freo 3.5 (23) v Richmond 7.0 (42). Blimey, Richmond are on the tear! They win a free on the boundary line at the left foward pocket. Edwards, thinking of possibilities, has a peek at the goal then banana kicks the blighter right through the goal.

8.29am BST

AFL Q2 14:50 remaining. Freo 3.5 (23) v Richmond 6.0 (30). That’s three straight goals to the Tigers after Dustin Martin and Edwards set up Houli.

8.26am BST

AFL Q2 17:30 remaining. Freo 3.5 (23) v Richmond 5.0 (30). A cracking two-goal start to the second quarter by the Tigers who aren’t bothering with behinds today. The first was by Lambert benefitting from Prestia’s 5th handball of the match. Then Townsend kicked his 3rd of the match after sitting in behind Michael Johnson then slipping in front of him to take a mark.

8.21am BST

Back to Domain in a second, but just a heads up in case you missed a couple of excellent reads this week.

The first a thoughtful piece by Simon Orchard, former Australian hockey player, on the mental toll of retirement after an elite sporting career:

Related: Transitioning from elite sport to the ‘real world’ can take its toll on mental health | Simon Orchard

Related: Bob Murphy: the rapturous Bulldogs boy who embraced the club as his own | Kate O’Halloran

8.16am BST

It’s quarter-time at Domain, which is hosting its final game. So an opportune time to update some scores:

AFL Q3 16:32 gone. St Kilda 12.14 (86) v North Melbourne 8.5 (53)

8.10am BST

AFL Q1 00:30 remaining. Freo 3.4 (22) v Richmond 3.0 (18). Bennell again! From 45m out he fields the scraps, takes a few stutter steps then snaps truly with his right boot from just inside the arc.

8.06am BST

AFL Q1 03:32 remaining. Freo 2.3 (15) v Richmond 2.0 (18). Great work by Townsend to find a hand pass to Castagna who then smartly lofted a hand pass to Daniel Rioli. From close in he drills it and the Tigers are in front for the first time.

Moments earlier Taberner had a chance to make up for his early set-shot miss but he again sprayed a good goal chance.

8.00am BST

AFL Q1 07:23 remaining. Freo 2.2 (14) v Richmond 2.0 (12). A 50m penalty to Townsend sees him line one up. And he kicks straight to score his, and Richmond’s, second.

7.57am BST

AFL Q1 10:13 remaining. Freo 2.2 (14) v Richmond 1.0 (6). In his first game in two years Harley Bennell converts a set shot from 40m out, left of centre. Cool as you like.

The purple army get right around him! Harley Bennell slots a goal in his return game. #AFLFreoTigers

7.54am BST

AFL Q1 11:33 remaining. Freo 1.2 (8) v Richmond 1.0 (6). Richmond are finally on the board after a snapshot by Townsend that followed up good work by Reiwoldt in traffic. That was Richmond’s first inside 50, and Townsend’s first goal for the Tigers.

7.50am BST

AFL Q1 13:39 remaining. Freo 1.2 (8) v Richmond 0.0 (0). Fremantle are playing with real intensity at the moment; man-on-man muscling up. Richmond, in their alternate bee-yellow guernseys, are seemingly running up hill. Could it be that the knowledge that a win will cement them a top-four spot is weighing heavy?

7.46am BST

AFL Q1 17:10 remaining. Freo 1.2 (8) v Richmond 0.0 (0). An early goal to Fyfe has got the Dockers on their way. Taberner then had a set shot not far off centre but his kick finds the post.

7.43am BST

Before I focus on our second feature match of the afternoon, Freo v Richmond, a quick update on the AFL and NRL matches in progress:

AFL Half-time. St Kilda 8.14 (62) v North Melbourne 6.3 (39). Despite kicking more behinds than a professional bum kicker on the professional bum kicking circuit (it’s big in the US), St Kilda are pulling away from North who appear to have stalled.

7.37am BST

AFL: As it stands both Melbourne and the Tigers are in the eight. If it stays that way it will be the first time since 1941 that both teams have played in the same finals series. Makes you nostalgic, don’t it? Well, it would if you could remember 1941.

7.34am BST

Rugby: I haven’t had a chance to address the result of last night’s opening Bledisloe Cup encounter between the Wallabies and the All Blacks in Sydney. Suffice to say that were the game a movie it would be the kind sold in a brown paper bag. Or only available on the dark web. The Wallabies will take some solace in scoring the last four tries but prior to that the All Blacks took them apart so easily it was embarrassing. Former Wallaby great Michael Lynagh wasn’t impressed, as this AAP report makes clear:

Lynagh savages woeful Wallabies

Australian rugby legend Michael Lynagh has savaged the Wallabies’ “schoolboy” skills and revealed how his offers to help have fallen on deaf ears. Commentating on Saturday night’s Bledisloe Cup opener for Sky Sports in Britain, Lynagh pulled no punches after the Wallabies slumped to a humiliating 54­-34 loss at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium.

7.30am BST

AFL Q2 20:30 gone. St Kilda 6.9 (45) v North Melbourne 6.3 (39). St Kilda are now leading at Etihad.

NRL 1st half 11:50 gone. Canterbury 4-6 Manly. In Sydney, meanwhile, Manly have hit back after an early try to the Bulldogs’ Montoya. A Jake Trbojevic try and Wright conversion have the Sea Eagles leading narrowly.

7.14am BST

In Sydney, meanwhile, Jamie Whincup has taken out race 18 of the Supercar series. Here’s the AAP report:

Supercars star Whincup surges in Sydney Jamie Whincup has claimed the record for all­time Supercars wins after running away with Sunday’s race at Sydney Motorsport Park.

His 106th victory, achieved in a largely strategic race, pushed the six­-time series winner ahead of long­term teammate and sparring partner Craig Lowndes.

7.10am BST

AFL Q2 04:30 gone. St Kilda 4.4 (23) v North Melbourne 5.3 (32). In the opening minute of the second quarter it’s North with a narrow lead over the Saints. Concerns for Dan Nielson after a head knock but he seems to be ok:

from Dan Nielson #aflsaintsnorth

7.04am BST

Six goals to Jesse Hogan have helped the Demons overcome a late rally by Brisbane. Here’s the rub from AAP:

AFL:Demons hold off Brisbane in AFL thriller
MELBOURNE, Aug 20 AAP – Melbourne are poised to play AFL finals for the first time since 2006 after a six-goal haul from Jesse Hogan propelled them to a 13-point win over Brisbane on Sunday.
The Lions trailed by just seven points with under two minutes remaining, but the Demons held their nerve to record a 16.8 (104) to 14.7 (91) win in front of 30,422 fans at the MCG.
The Demons led the hotly contested match by 15 points at three-quarter time and Simon Goodwin’s men looked home when they booted the first three goals of the final term to open up a 32-point lead.
But brave Brisbane hit back with four unanswered majors to set up a thrilling finale.
Josh Walker goaled to make it a seven-point game with just under two minutes left, but Melbourne’s Angus Brayshaw converted a late set shot to secure a hard-fought win.
The victory was Melbourne’s 12th of the season and means it will take a huge loss to Collingwood next week and other results to go against them for them to miss out on a finals berth.
In his first game since breaking a collarbone in round 19, Hogan was the dominant forward on the ground in his 50th AFL match.
Demons skipper Nathan Jones (32 possessions) and Clayton Oliver (30) were also key factors in the win.
Dayne Beams led the Lions superbly with 33 touches and three goals, with Dayne Zorko (26 disposals and a goal) and Daniel Rich (25 disposals) also important.
On a sour note for the Demons, Bernie Vince will come under scrutiny for his high hit on Beams in the second quarter.

Vince floored the Brisbane skipper when his forearm made high contact in a desperate spoiling attempt.

6.55am BST

It’s all over in Canberra! Despite a valiant comeback the Raiders’ finals hopes are over. Penrith, meanwhile, push on in their quest for a top-four finish. That’s their seventh-straight win. They always looked the most likely winners this afternoon but Canberra clung on like barnacles and almost got there after going ahead in the 56th minute. But a late try to Tyrone May was enough to seal it for Penrith.

6.50am BST

NRL 79:50 gone. Raiders 22-26 Panthers. So close! On the last Austin bombs across field. Rapana climbs over Mansour to catch the ball above his head. As he falls to ground he attempts to dish to Dave Taylor but, with Mansour’s arms around him, he can’t get any height on his offload and Dave Taylor can only get a finger tip to the ball. Had he caught it he would have scored.

6.47am BST

NRL 77:05 gone. Raiders 22-26 Panthers. Cotric catches a bomb on his own 10m and chews up another 15m. But the Raiders are still 60m short of the Panthers’ line. A move to the left sees Crocker poke his head through the Panthers’ line but there is no-one backing him up. It doesn’t matter. A late high shot by Fisher-Harris moments later gives the Raiders a fresh set of six 30m out.

6.44am BST

NRL 75:43 gone. Raiders 22-26 Panthers. So it comes to this for Canberra. Four minutes to overhaul this deficit otherwise they’ll be playing for pride only in the final two rounds.

6.43am BST

NRL Converted try! Raiders 22-26 Panthers (May 73min). No they can’t! The Panthers keep the ball alive with some ad-lib footy. Then, from a play-the-ball under the posts, Tyrone May picks up from dummy half and angles between two defenders while wearing a third like a cape. He then finds a way to snake out an arm and place the ball adjacent to the left upright! Pennies back in front!

6.39am BST

NRL 70:50 gone. Raiders 22-20 Panthers. The Raiders again hold out the Panthers despite some threatening runs by Cleary. On the last Peachey’s pass is knocked into touch by the Raiders so it will be six more tackles to Penrith. Can the Raiders hold on?

6.37am BST

NRL 68:40 gone. Raiders 22-20 Panthers. Tyrone Peachey is held up over the Raiders’ line on the 4th! Sezer then knocks down a Moylan pass as the Panthers lined up on the left with the tryline open.

6.35am BST

NRL 65:05 gone. Raiders 22-20 Panthers. A great defensive effort by the Panthers keeps the Raiders out. But the Raiders made a hash of the sixth tackle, prop Shannon Boyd finding himself with the ball on the last. To add insult to injury his shorts went south in the tackle and his mighty buttocks were exposed to the bright afternoon sun. Somewhere in space an astronaut was momentarily blinded by the sun reflecting off Boyd’s derriere.

6.31am BST

NRL 63:20 gone. Raiders 22-20 Panthers. On his own 20m line Tamou makes a hash of a play-the-ball, gifting the Raiders possession. What an error at this stage of the game.

6.29am BST

NRL 60:40 gone. Raiders 22-20 Panthers. A penalty to the Raiders beside the Panthers’ posts. Not much point going for the extra two so they play on and, after a few ordinary plays, they receive another penalty in front after Leilua comes up with a late tackle. Again the Raiders take the tap. Oh dear, Papalii spills the ball letting the Panthers off the hook.

6.27am BST

NRL 58:10 gone. Raiders 22-20 Panthers. What a game this has turned out to be. These two teams have a great recent history and we can now add this game to the list. Canberra lifting with everything on the line… and here’s Sezer kicking a 40/20 to send the crowd into raptures!

6.23am BST

NRL Converted try! Raiders 22-20 Panthers (Tapine 56min). But it doesn’t matter as Tapine makes up for error! Moments after he bombed a try Tapine is on the end of a smart pass by Sezer which puts him into a hole 10m out from the Raiders’ line. Tapine holds off the defence to crash over and level the scores. Crocker, 10m from the outside of the right upright, converts to put the Raiders ahead!

6.21am BST

NRL 53:00 gone. Raiders 16-20 Panthers. Cleary grubbers in behind the Raiders’ defensive line and Wighton cleans up on his own line. He then sees the seas open before him and he pins his ears back and races 60m down the left wing — until Tamou comes across in cover! What an effort by the big lunk. The Raiders go right to take advantage of the skinny Panthers defence and it goes through the hands to Joseph Tapine who should pass to his winger but he comes inside instead. And is wrapped up! Tapine bombed that!

6.15am BST

NRL 47:26 gone. Raiders 16-20 Panthers. A repeat set of six to the Raiders who are on a roll — and on the Panthers’ 20m. And the Raiders come within inches when Taylor bulldozes his way towards the line — but then gets pinged for a double movement when he couldn’t resist reaching out for the line when tackled short.

Dragons fans will join Raiders fans in sweating on the result of this game. Should the Raiders win today the Dragons, on 26 points to the Panthers’ 28, will still consider themselves a chance of playing semi-final footy. It’ll be a real log-jam at the tail of the 8 with Manly and the Cowboys also on 28 points as it stands.

6.11am BST

NRL Converted try! Raiders 16-20 Panthers (Wighton 45min). The Raiders make a great start to the second-half scoring through Jack Wighton. From a play-the-ball in the shadows of the Panthers’ posts Hodgson passed right to Sezer who passed to Wighton who dummied to his right, stepped inside the defence, and made a powerful angled run to score just inside the right corner post. Crocker then converted from the right touchline. Game on!

6.07am BST

As the Raiders v Panthers game resumes a quick check of the Supercar race in Sydney today. Some 38 laps into the 52-lap race it’s currently one-two to Red Bull Racing teammates Gisbergen and Whincup.

6.01am BST

As Ricky Stuart takes this opportunity to burst a valve I’ll take the opportunity to update you on a couple of things.

AFL: We’re deep into the third-quarter at the MCG, and it’s the Melbourne Demons leading the Brisbane Lions 10.7 (67) to 7.4 (46). It’s Jesse Hogan leading the way for the Demons with four majors.

5.53am BST

NRL Half-time: Raiders 10-20 Panthers. That’s oranges. Ten points down, the Raiders’ season is on the line. The Panthers have looked very slick, but a 10-point lead is hardly enough. Much work to be done yet.

5.51am BST

NRL Converted try! Raiders 10-20 Panthers (Mansour 39min) Coach killer! On the stroke of half-time Mansour picks up the ball from dummy half, 10m out from the Raiders’ line. He crabs across field and the Raiders hold off awaiting the pass. But Mansour doesn’t pass. He suddenly veers towards the line and holds off Austin to crash over! That was a big few minutes from Mansour; his run after the Edwards bomb drop put the Panthers in position, and he then had the nous and strength to get the try.

5.47am BST

NRL 37:00 gone. Raiders 10-14 Panthers. Edwards spills a bomb with Raiders all over him like bush ticks. Though NRL refs are inclined to call a knock-on for any kind of drop it’s play on and Mansour picks up the loose ball and eats up 40m.

5.44am BST

NRL Converted try! Raiders 10-14 Panthers (Papalii 34 min) What a try to Papalii! From inside the Panthers’ 20m Hodgson found Austin on his left and he held up the ball before finding Taylor running a hole. Taylor sucked in defenders from all corners and was falling to ground but he somehow found a way to offload to the man backing up on his outside, Papalii. He didn’t catch it cleanly first time but Papalii snaffled the ball as he fell over the line and then slammed it down for the four-pointer.

5.39am BST

NRL 28:15 gone. Raiders 4-14 Panthers. Hodgson boots the ball down field and we’re looking at a 40/20 — until Dylan Edwards chases down the bobbling ball and, with a millimetre to spare, prevents the ball from rolling over the sideline. He’s then set upon by an eclipse by the name of Dave Taylor. Taylor proceeds to drag Edwards by the jersey in the manner of a mobster dragging a dead body towards the boot of his car. Taylor drags Edwards into the Panthers’ in-goal but he’s penalised, the ref saying the tackle had been completed in the field of play.

5.35am BST

NRL Converted try! Raiders 4-14 Panthers (Cleary 26min). On their own 30m line Hodgson passes right to Cleary who keeps the movement going by passing to Blake. The flyer seems well guarded by Crocker but he puts a move on and palms off Crocker and runs into space. Racing downfield Blake has teammates on both sides but he passes inside to Cleary who races 30m to score under the posts. He then converts his own try.

5.32am BST

NRL 23:07 gone. Raiders 4-8 Panthers. The Raiders come very close to a game-tying try. Leilua on the right slipped a ball as he fell to ground with Peachey on his back. But as the Raiders looked to score from the recycled ball the whistle blew, the ref claiming Leilua’s offload went forward.

5.27am BST

NRL 20:00 gone. Raiders 4-8 Panthers. If you need reminding Cotric is just 18. He’s had a brilliant season. So too has the Panthers’ Nathan Cleary, another youngster giving NSW hope that one day they will crawl out from under Queensland’s boot.

5.24am BST

NRL: TRY! Raiders 4-8 Panthers (Cotric 15min). After Boyd is tackled centre field a few metres out, Hodgson spins the ball left to Blake Austin. He holds the ball up for a moment and finds Wighton in the line. Though Wighton is corralled he manages to loft a ball out to Cotric on the wing. With no room to work in Cotric spins out of the cover tackle and dives over in the corner. That’s his 13th try to 13 games.

5.21am BST

NRL 13:30 gone. Raiders 0-8 Panthers. Penalty to the Raiders after Tamou flops on Papalii. It followed a bullish Papalii charge that left Cleary on the deck.

5.18am BST

NRL: PENALTY! Raiders 0-8 Panthers (Cleary 12min) On the Panthers’ last tackle the Raiders give Ricky Stuart angina by giving away a penalty. Cleary, who has an 89% success rate this year, guides it over. Good start, Penrith.

5.16am BST

NRL 7: 20 gone. Raiders 0-6 Panthers. The Raiders have a chance to strike straight back but the move breaks down on the left with a knock-on. The Panthers look to catch Canberra napping, Moylan sparking a downfield raid with a lovely around the back pass to Tamou. A few plays later Moylan gets it back and kicks… and it’s knocked-on on the Raiders’ 20m line giving the Pennies a fresh set of six.

5.12am BST

NRL: CONVERTED TRY! Raiders 0-6 Panthers (Blake 3min) On their first attacking raid the Panthers come up with the early score. From midfield, inside Canberra’s 20, Katoa passed out to Moylan who tapped on to Edwards who found Blake running an inside line. He still had some work to do but he bumped off three tacklers to crash over. Cleary converts.

5.07am BST

NRL: Peeeeeep! We’re off an running in Canberra, the Panthers running right to left on my screen. And they have an early attack on the Raiders’ line.

5.06am BST

NRL: In Canberra, after Glenn Lazarus blew an enormous horn erected on the hill (speaking of Rodney Rude), the locals are performing the ‘viking clap’ (not, note, suffering through the viking clap, which has no known cure as far as I know). It’s very Iceland Euro 2016 but so what? Sounds good.

5.04am BST

Afternoon folks, welcome to another bumper day of sport, one with the smell of finals about it. What do finals smell like? A blend of bbq sausages and cut grass. I should make a cologne out of that. Look out Lynx.

Anyway, we’ll be diving straight into the NRL match between the Raiders and Panthers in Canberra where the sky is as blue as a Rodney Rude stand-up set. A must-win game for the Raiders, and a must-win for the Panthers too if they want to avoid an anxious final two rounds.

1.57pm BST

A busy day of sport coming up today, starting with the Raiders and Panthers in our nation’s capital. It’s pretty simple: if Canberra lose they can kiss goodbye to their NRL finals hopes this year. Win, and they’re still in with a shot. For the Panthers, the top four is still tantalising attainable and victory over the Raiders would be a welcome boost to that end. Then the Bulldogs take on the Sea Eagles at ANZ, where it’s all about Manly, who will be looking for a victory that could add some weight to their own top four aspirations.

In the AFL, the Melbourne and Brisbane game is already underway – we’ll catch up on that shortly – while St Kilda take on North Melbourne with the Saints’ chances of extending their season already slim, but not slim enough to rule them out just yet. Then, we’ll focus on Fremantle v Richmond, the latter who will be desperate to end the weekend in the top four, having been bumped out by the Swans and Port Adelaide, who both secured wins previously this round, the former thrillingly so against the Crows on Friday night.

Related: Sydney Swans beat Adelaide Crows in AFL thriller – as it happened

6.50am BST

Paul will be here shortly. In the meantime, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, your 2017 NRL minor premiers are…

Related: Melbourne Storm secure NRL minor premiership with hammering of Knights

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article:

State of Origin 2017 Game 3: Queensland Maroons beat NSW Blues 22-6 – as it happened

  • Queensland Maroons 22-6 NSW Blues at Suncorp Stadium
  • Valentine Holmes hat-trick gets Queensland home in series decider

1.28pm BST

Whoops, forgot my coat. And to link to Joe Gorman’s match report. Enjoy:

Related: State of Origin 2017 Game 3: Maroons clinch series after Valentine Holmes hat-trick

1.24pm BST

Dane Gagai has just been awarded the man of the series; the first time in Origin history a winger has claimed such a prize.

Boyd Cordner takes to the dais to congratulate Qld (“Youse were too good”) and Johnathan Thurston “on a great rep career. You’re a legend of a bloke and a legend of the game.”

1.15pm BST

Final thoughts

Queensland have emphatically held off NSW to win their 11th Origin series in 12 years. In doing so they’ve not only maintained the great Maroon dynasty but also given NSW reason to believe that, despite the transition taking place in Queensland’s ranks, things aren’t about to get any easier for NSW. Munster, Holmes, Wallace, Hess et al showed NSW that they’ll have to wrest the Origin shield from their cold dead hands. That said, the difference between the teams tonight, if not attitude, belief and application, was Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater. They were all devastating and led the Maroons to a near faultless performance, the standout performance of the series. What a turn around after NSW dominated game 1.

1.06pm BST

Fittler speaks with a gravel-voiced James Maloney who is as dark as a lonely paddock on a moonless night. “As a team to put a performance like that in on an occasion like this is horrible You’ll never win a game of footy playing like that… NSW deserve better. Laurie, the coaching staff, deserve better. We haven’t leaked 22 points all series… We completed just 65%. We need to be better.”

1.02pm BST

Darren Lockyer collars a jubilant Billy Slater: “It was a pretty big win,” says Slater. “We’ve had so many injuries, not just coming into the series but during the series. That was one helluva game.”

Will he be back? “It’s hard [to walk away].”

1.00pm BST

We’ve seen this before, ladies and gents, Qld whooping it up and group hugging on the field while NSW drop to their haunches and wish the ground swallowed them up.

12.58pm BST

80 min: Despite taking an age over it —an age during which the crowd danced and cheered in the aisles— Smith misses to the left.

12.56pm BST

78 min: A penalty to Qld, 30m out. Smith will kick for goal.

12.55pm BST

76 min: Dugan is busting a gut out on the right but getting little reward. Fifita, who’s been kept in Qld’s pockets tonight, knocks on. Huzzah! says the crowd.

NSW have turned into the Washington Generals. It’s time to stop Origin. It was good while it lasted.

12.54pm BST

75 min: NSW make little headway due to Qld’s rush defence. On the last, Maloney tries Cronk’s 50m cross field kick but it sails over the touchline — and straight into the arms of Qld’s water carrier: Alfie Langer! Langer catches it and throws it into the air raising a laugh from the crowd!

12.51pm BST

74 min: NSW throwing it about now and Morgan almost takes an intercept on Qld’s 40m, but the Qld centre knocks on. NSW on the attack from the scrum…

12.50pm BST

71 min: NSW awarded a penalty and they start a set of six 20m out. Woods lumbers forward… has he ever broken the line? On the last, Pearce kicks wide, NSW bat it backwards, and Dugan does his best to muscle 5m to the line. But he’s pulled down by Smith.

NSW’s attack has more or less involved a kick and a prayer on the last. Shows what happens when you lose the ruck.

12.47pm BST

Smith adds the extras and the 52,540 in the crowd (barring a smattering of Blues fans) are delirious. And there’s still 10m to go.

12.46pm BST

And that’s the game! Within NSW’s 20m, Qld stretch NSW right, then left. From centre field Smith finds Munster who angles left before stepping back inside. Cordner wraps him up but Munster lobs an inside pass to Wallace and, without a Blue near him, he runs 3m to the line to score under the posts! Where was the defence?!

12.43pm BST

64 min: Qld now working the ball out from their line. On their own 30m Cronk puts Slater into space and he banks left, then right, then left again before finding Cronk —who’s smashed by Pearce. But Cronk plays it quickly and Munster kicks inside for his chasers with NSW looking ragged. It sits up in the NSW in-goal but Pearce cleans up, Drop out.

12.40pm BST

63 min: It remains 16-6 after Smith misses the conversion from the left touchline. The same score NSW led by in Game 2 before the wheels fell off.

12.39pm BST

Queensland race downfield against a tiring defence, getting quick play the balls.

Deep in the count Munster wriggles through three tacklers, including Cordner, before running into open space. With Tedsco ahead of him he floats one out to Holmes who has to reach behind him to claim it. He doesn’t do so cleanly but juggles it in one hand, his outstretched right, dragging it forward with him. He finally gets his hands on it cleanly before he’s hit 1m short. But he’s not held and he gets up to plant the ball for his third try of the night!

12.35pm BST

59 min: A near identical set from NSW ends with another bomb, but Hayne is bumped from challenging for the ball by Cronk. No penalty is forthcoming.

12.34pm BST

58 min: Slater snaffles a Pearce bomb 10m out. NSW try to keep Qld pinned down but a few tough charges get Qld out of the danger zone. Cronk bombs to Tedesco from the NSW 40m.

12.32pm BST

56 min: 15m out from NSW’s line Gagai is hauled into touch by Morris, Maloney and Hayne. Likes bouncers ejecting a bothersome patron from a nightclub.

12.31pm BST

54 min: A penalty to Qld offers them relief from some intense NSW pressure. Now they’re on the attack again.

12.30pm BST

52 min: Qld pinged for offside right in front of their posts. NSW decline the easy two points and run it. A set play nearly gets Ferguson is space on the right wing. NSW spin it left but Qld’s goal-line defence does the trick. Another last tackle bomb. This time it’s Ferguson leaping high but even though NSW come up with it their hot-potato passing winds up in the arms of Cameron Smith.

12.27pm BST

51 min: NSW with momentum now, buoyed by that try. Graham nearly slips away 35m out. Then a bomb which Slater takes brilliantly above his head. NSW throw the kitchen sink at them and it pays off! NSW force a mistake and they’re 10m out!

12.25pm BST

Easy as you like.

12.25pm BST

Out of nothing NSW give themselves a chance! Having lumbered downfield Pearce kicked on the last, a cross-field bomb to NSW’s right edge. Dugan, on the run, leapt above Holmes, just held on to the ball in his fingertips, and then had the presence of mind to run it around to score under the posts.

12.22pm BST

46 min: Qld work the ball out from their own line and, again, they make easy metres, helped by quick play the balls. Slater wraps around Cronk and again tries to find Chambers but NSW snuff out the danger.

12.20pm BST

44 min: After Papalii offloads, Slater runs like a Stanley knife down a sheet of cardboard. He gets on the outside of Hayne and sidearms a ball to Chambers. If he catches he’ll have a 10m run to the line, cover defence notwithstanding. But he drops it.

12.18pm BST

43 min: Another error from NSW. Pearce tries to slip Cordner through a narrow hole 40m out from NSW’s line but Cordner puts it down.

12.17pm BST

41 min: NSW show a modicum of adventure in attack but are forced to kick from the half. Pearce bombs down Gagai’s throat before Hess crunches him.

12.15pm BST

41 min: Smith restarts the game and Klemmer hits the Maroon line with gusto.

12.14pm BST

Laurie Daley admits the game should be dead but NSW still have an opportunity as 12-0. “We’ve got to start with plenty of energy and go set to set. If we can do that I’m still confident we can win. But it’s going to take a huge effort.”

Depressing fact for Blues fans: 27 times Qld have led at halftime at Suncorp. They’ve lost one of them.

12.12pm BST

If Qld go on to win this game, as they are in a good position to do, NSW will forever rue that second half showing in Sydney three weeks ago, and Jarryd Hayne’s failure to pass to an open Brett Morris when NSW led 16-6 will be apportioned even greater impact. NSW were all over Qld at that point. It makes the current situation hard to understand.

Phil Withall has had similar thoughts. “It would appear that the failure of NSW to capitalise on their first half showing in the second game is continuing to haunt them,” he writes. “Combined with the difficulty of facing Queensland at Suncorp things don’t look good. They seem to be lacking in intensity in the tackle and have limited imagination in attack. Could be another 12 months of navel gazing and in-fighting ahead.”

12.03pm BST

What a half from Qld, and they’re unlucky not to be ahead by more. They have dominated every facet of this game. Smith and Cronk have been magnificent. It’s not over but boy do NSW need something special to win it from here.

Tim Griffiths, in Swindon, speaks for all NSW fans when he writes: “It’s not the despair, the despair I can cope with… It’s the hope that kills you…”

12.01pm BST

40 min: As the hooter sounds, Cronk attempts a 40m drop-out that falls short.

12.00pm BST

39 min: NSW almost find a way to salvage something from the half but Dugan drops the ball as he’s hit by two defenders 5m out. Qld counter …

11.59am BST

37 min: What the heck?! Chaos! Pearce passes into Gillett’s face on the half. NSW stop, thinking it was a knock on. Glasby picks it up and has clear space ahead of him, 40m to the line. Galloping like a giraffe he sets off. Maloney chases him then pulls him down just short. Qld had numbers on the left but Smith ducked inside when he should have kept the movement going. He tried to do so once he was tackled but his pass to Holmes was called forward just as Holmes crashed over the line!

11.55am BST

36 min: Cronk finds touch now, close to the NSW line. Up in the coaches box Daley has his head in a hand as he jots something down on a piece of paper. SOS?

11.54am BST

34 min: Qld’s defence is swarming NSW and NSW look a little directionless. On the fourth, Maloney waits for a Tedesco run but it’s telegraphed and Tedesco is wrapped up easily. Then Hayne has the ball with nothing on and his attempt to grubber ahead on the last comes to naught.

11.52am BST

33 min: NSW again working the ball out from their own line. This will help. A penalty for Qld holding the tackled player down. They restart play from the 50m.

11.51am BST

32 min: Pearce bombs to Holmes from the 50m. Pearce has rarely found the grass with his kicks so far this series.

11.50am BST

31 min: NSW are so deep in defence, letting Qld run at them. Why? Fatigue from all the defence they’ve been doing? Whatever the reason it’s allowing Qld to maintain momentum. Smith has the ball, and the game, on a string.

11.49am BST

29 min: On the attack once again Qld bomb – but Ferguson takes it safely 15m out. NSW cannot afford to concede again this half or this could get ugly.

11.48am BST

He’s not exactly a dead-eye, Smith, but he lands another from the left wing.

11.47am BST

That really was an amazing try and a snapshot of why Qld have been so good for so long no matter what NSW throw at them. They’ve got Smith, Slater and Cronk (not to mention JT, Inglis etc).

11.45am BST

26 min: Qld, on the half, keeping the ball alive with some slick passing. Slater flings one back to McGuire. He’s tackled then Smith goes straight through! He finds Papalii in acres but he’s brought down 10m out by Tedesco. From the play the ball Cronk, at first receiver, hooks a low trajectory 50m kick into the arms of an unmarked Holmes on the left wing! What a kick! What a try!

11.42am BST

23 min: Valerie Robbins emails from France to say bonjour. And “Go QLD!” Your Maroons are certainly playing well. Valerie.

But here’s NSW, charging into Qld territory. Frizell runs like a rhino before slipping a ball to a flying Dugan. He does well to take but on impact with the ground it jolts out of his grasp.

11.39am BST

22 min: Smith slips under a loose Pearce tackle. Munster then finds touch 10m out from NSW’s line, which neither team will mind given it affords an opportunity for a well-earned breather.

11.38am BST

20 min: Tedesco takes a towering bomb and skips inside the first tackle. NSW are under siege, Qld’s defence giving them nothing. Pearce is forced to kick from the NSW 30m.

11.36am BST

18 min: No try! Lucky for NSW, they look super shaky right now.

Smith it was who created that near try, slipping past Woods at marker before finding Slater on his shoulder. With only Tedesco to beat Slater passed inside to Cronk who had 15m to reach the line. Seeing the approaching cover of Morris Cronk dived for the line early but, as we saw on replay, Morris’ hand dislodged the ball as Cronk was in the process of landing! A massive moment, and what a try saver!

11.33am BST

18 min: Qld could be in again! Cronk this time, diving over!

11.33am BST

From the left touchline, Smith makes no mistake. A deserved lead for Qld however you might quibble over the putdown.

11.32am BST

Queensland start from in front! It began with an inside ball from Cronk to Slater who zigged and zagged before a nice offload to Morgan. Angling towards the sideline he found Holmes back on the inside. From 5m out Holmes held off Pearce and absorbed the tackle of Tedesco to reach out and —just, perhaps, maybe— touch down without losing control of the ball.

11.29am BST

15 min: I swear I wrote that before this happened! Holmes may have just scored in the left corner! Oh, I think it fell from his fingers.

11.28am BST

13 min: A poor NSW play the ball on the halfway line gifts Qld a scrum. So far, NSW are making more errors and giving up more ball. It feels like Qld are about to make them pay.

11.26am BST

11 min: A moment after Qld get away with a forward pass on NSW’s 20m, Cronk chips for his wingers. Tedesco catches it but then knocks it on. With Maroon jerseys lurking Maloney dives on it from an offside position. He knew it but reasoned it was the safest option.

Qld take the tap but great defence from the Blues holds them out.

11.23am BST

9 min: Cliche alert! This is end-to-end stuff, Qld in particular looking sharp and willing. On the last, Slater kicks across field but Morris rises highest to catch it over his head under enormous pressure.

11.22am BST

8 min: Six to go to NSW on the halfway line after a touch from Qld. Tedesco makes some inroads, now Fifita carries three players to a few metres out. Oh dear, Cordner overruns the pass from Peats and spills the ball, wasting a great opportunity.

11.20am BST

6 min: Deep in attack, Qld grubber in behind but Tedesco, sliding along the deck like a baseballer heading to home plate, takes it beautifully. And now a penalty to NSW.

11.19am BST

5 min: Penalty to Qld 10m out from their own line and from the restart Qld put it through their hands, Slater swinging around the back of Munster. They then fling it wide right, showing an early indication they plan to play expansively.

11.18am BST

4 min: On the last a bomb is aimed towards Qld’s right wing and Morris goes down dramatically as he chases it. Was he shielded illegally from contesting the ball? No says the ref.

11.16am BST

2 min: Strong defence by Qld forces Maloney to kick on the last right on the half. But it’s charged down and Maloney gets it back. The crowd don’t like it, they think it wasn’t played at. A chant goes up: “Bullpitt!” I think it is, in tribute to the central character of Kingswood Country.

11.14am BST

1 min: Here we go, NSW kick off, high and deep. Debutant Munster takes it cleanly and sends Napa for an early hit-up.

11.12am BST

After a group cuddle in the sheds the Blues emerge onto the arena, greeted as warmly as head lice in a primary school classroom.

Qld keep them waiting —allowing NSW’s nerves to stew— before joining them. A mighty roar goes up, and the Maroons dash about, stare into the sky, rotate their heads on necks like wheels of cheese, and take in the air.

11.07am BST

You want random facts? You’ve come to the right place:

11.03am BST

Breaking news from the Blues’ dressing room, courtesy of Brad ‘Scoop’ Fittler. “Andrew Fifita has barely said a word. Jarryd Hayne is the same. He’s talking when he has to but he has his mind on the job. They are ready to go.”

Outside Queensland’s dressing room Paul Vautin, looking more grey than ginger these days, reports that Thurston is handing out towels. That’s Queensland spirit for you, punishing a man for getting injured.

11.00am BST

There are numerous subplots swirling about the game tonight. One of them is the suggestion that the losing coach will be sacked. Considering he’s had his chances to steer NSW into the promised land it would hard to argue against Laurie Daley being stood down for someone new… but surely giving the boot to Kevin Walters in just his second series would be rough (after he won last year and now inherits a team undergoing transition). Of course there may be nothing to it but grist for the Origin Hyper-bolometer.

10.57am BST

I’m not into betting but will mention that NSW are fairly heavily favoured tonight. Queensland wouldn’t have it any other way. If you’re following this from afar, teams in Australia (and our various national teams as well) love nothing better than being deemed underdogs. And if it’s not a title bestowed on them by others they’ll do it themselves. Impressively, Queensland found a way to paint themselves as underdogs seemingly every year of their Origin streak; creating a backs against the wall mentality that they thrived under.

10.52am BST

That would have to be the first time at Suncorp Stadium that Thurston hasn’t been hit without the ball #StateOfOrigin #Origin

10.50am BST

Johnathan Thurston, arm in a sling, is now on stage in the middle of Lang Park being honoured for his stellar Origin career. We’d just seen a montage obviously pre-recorded in anticipation of him playing tonight. Having gone to trouble of recording that Nine couldn’t well leave it in the tin.

We can all wonder what sort of effect this will have on the Queensland players tonight. They hardly need it as motivation; so might it be a distraction? NSW can only hope.

10.40am BST



10.36am BST


Good evening, folks, and welcome. Let’s start with the obvious. After NSW flogged Queensland in Brisbane with a verve that seemed to herald regime change, Queensland then Queenslanded* their way to victory in Sydney three weeks later to level the tie. Tonight the combatants are in Brisbane for the decider.

Johnathan Thurston’s average heart rate during #Origin 2 – 168bpm.

When he strikes the match winner – 161bpm. #NRL

1.50am BST

Paul will be here shortly. In the meantime, have a read of Matt Cleary’s preview of tonight’s big game at Suncorp, which on nights like this “heaves like they’d filmed the climactic scenes from Big Trouble at Little China at the rum factory in Bundaberg”.

Related: Choking still a hazard for NSW Blues as do-or-die State of Origin decider arrives | Matt Cleary

Related: Coaches head into zero sum State of Origin decider with all on the line | Nick Tedeschi

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