It’s Friday and this week we have two NRL games to watch. The Dragons take on the North Queensland Cowboys down at WIN Stadium and the Manly Sea Eagles are at home to the Bulldogs at Brookvale Oval.
Sea Eagles v Bulldogs
This encounter always brings out the best between the two clubs, and the lingering antagonisms arising from Bulldogs coach Des Hasler’s departure from the Sea Eagles just over 18 months ago ensure there’ll be a fiery clash between two of the NRL powerhouses.
The Sea Eagles will hope to gain home field advantage as their form has been down of late after they flew from the gate this season. They’ve won just two of their past six games; without another two points they could drop out of the top four. Richard Fa’aoso is suspended until round 16 and joins fullback Brett Stewart, frontrower Jason King and Kiwi international Joe Galuvao on the bench. Manly captain Jamie Lyon needs only 10 points to reach 1000 career points and four more tries to join the “1oo club”.
The Dogs are one of the form sides at the moment, winning five of their past six games including three in a row. Last week’s 36-26 win over the Cowboys saw them move up into this season’s top eight for the first time. Former Sea Eagles player Tony Williams has hit form along with star fullback Ben Barba. Kris Keating’s calf injury is still worrying the medical staff though. The Dogs’ centre Josh Morris will make his 10oth appearance for the club. He’s scored 61 tries in 100 games giving him the club’s top tries to games ratio.
Players to watch Williams, Barba, and Peter Hiku. The match-up between Josh Reynolds and Kieran Foran, two quality halfbacks who can attack the line, should be memorable.
My money is on the Dogs to win a hard game.
Dragons v Cowboys
The Cowboys have playmaker Jonathan Thurston back after two weeks on the sideline. Winger Ashley Graham is also back from injury though coach Neil Henry is without fullback Matt Bowen (knee injury). Henry’s off-field concerns outweigh those on the field, with news that Origin and test prop James Tamou faces drink driving charges. There’s speculation that one more loss for the Cowboys could see Henry out of a job.
On the other team sheet the Dragons will be without Matt Cooper, Kyle Stanley, Bronx Goodwin and Gerald Beale leaving them with centres Nathan Green and Matt Prior. Consistency hasn’t been the Dragons’ strong point but newly hired fullback Josh Dugan has bagged four tries in as many games and running halfback Chase Stanley replaces Jamie Soward.
Players to watch are Dugan, Matt Scott, Tamou and the Sims brothers, Tariq and Ashton. My money is on the Dragons to keep their winning streaking alive.
British and Irish lions captain Sam Warburton will be looking to play the game of his career against the Waratahs on Saturday night to ensure selection for next weekend’s test match against the Wallabies.
Coach Warren Gatland has that stressed form, and nothing else, will decide test positions. “I have been 100 per cent consistent about what I said from day one – it’s about picking the best players. Sam’s well aware of that, and he had a good start against the Reds last week and this is another big game for him,” Gatland said.
He has denied the squad that will play the Waratahs is his preferred 23. He noted that the backline has had a few knocks so some players need to be rested to ensure the team reaches Brisbane next week with a fresh squad.
Warburton made his Lions debut last week against the Queensland Reds after missing games against the Barbarians and Western Force through injury.
Phil Mickelson has grabbed the lead at the US Open on Merion’s East Course. His three-under for the par 70 course set the benchmark for the a day plagued by bad weather that left most players with only three hours to catch him. Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts is closest to Mickelson on 69.
Mickelson skipped practice on Tuesday and Wednesday to fly to California to attend his daughter’s eighth grade graduation, returning just in time to start the Open on Thursday. He is chasing his first US Open title after a record five finishes as runner up. Tiger Woods jarred a wrist while playing out.
Usain Bolt may have been shaded by Justin Gatlin over 100 in Rome last week, but he ran an impressive 19.79sec over 200m at the Diamond League meet in Oslo on Thursday.
Speaking to the press after his first 200m win of the season Bolt promised “to go even faster”. – Blake Moretti