The suburban ground strikes again and the bottom two bumble at ANZ

Stuart Thomas Columnist

By Stuart Thomas, Stuart Thomas is a Roar Expert

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    The fourteenth man was well and truly in action at Leichhardt Oval on Thursday night as the Tigers sent the Cowboys home lamenting the chance to finally build some momentum into their season.

    The visitors’ win against the Panthers last weekend and the glimpses of form and combinations that finally started to appear would have meant so much more if followed up with a solid win against the Tigers.

    Paul Green will be disappointed with a performance that, despite the relative closeness of the contest, saw the Tigers appear more enthusiastic and energetic across the park.

    It shocks me that we use such language in this day and age. With the level of professionalism in the game, how is it possible that one team looks more committed and desperate than another with so much at stake and competition points on the line?

    It is the nature of athletic pursuits I guess; mental application, preparation and the immeasurable sense of team culture and mindset that all play out in the tiny moments where centimetres and seconds make the difference.

    These moments are consistently won by the Tigers when they play at their spiritual home of Leichhardt Oval. The fans, players and opposition all realise the black and gold (and white since the merger) are on sacred ground and even a moderate ANZ crowd, such as the 13,000 in attendance on Thursday, has Leichhardt bursting at the seams.

    Whenever a team embraces their traditional home, one can’t help but feel a little nostalgic about the game. There has been an obvious attempt by the NRL to reconnect with fans in emphasising rivalries and when built into the cauldron of a local ground, the history of the game is reignited in a new form for the modern fan.

    It is a no-brainer that we would all like to watch more football that way yet sad that the commercial realities make it only fleetingly possible. Perhaps we have the balance right and that is what makes it special? Or maybe we should all head back to the suburbs more often.

    For the Tigers, the extra Leichhardt-leg they grew will keep them well entrenched in the top eight and the Cowboys will hobble home with a rickety set of crutches. They will once again attempt to regroup ahead of their clash with the Rabbitohs this coming Saturday.

    The Panthers did the business against the Knights in the early Friday clash. The chocolate soldiers led all of the way and despite injuries and some questions over their form, move temporarily into second place on the ladder.

    Corey Harawira-Naera

    The (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

    I missed much of that game as I was out at ANZ anticipating the bottom-of-the-table clash between the Bulldogs and the Eels.

    Irrespective of ladder position, these teams don’t do friendly. It is an historic rivalry that is at its best when both clubs are riding high but even when things look as grim as they do for both right now, there is still much at stake.

    The game started with a flurry of scoring and a cricket score seemed likely after tries to Brett Morris, Clint Gutherson and Bevan French saw the Eels build a 12-8 lead. Just prior to the break, Moses Mbye slotted a penalty goal and the Bulldogs crept within two.

    The most stunning feature of the first half was the appalling right side defence of the Dogs as both Parramatta tries were constructed down that alley and a third destroyed with a poor pass. The Morris boys were as solid as a rock on the left yet had little to do, as the Eels aimed their entire attack at the right edge with good success.

    Moses Mbye.

    (AAP Image/Richard Wainwright)

    Sadly, both teams became clinical (some might say negative) and completions became the order of the day in the second half. Unfortunately, the contest became representative of two teams lingering at the bottom of the table, with both scared to lose and devoid of the courage to grasp the win.

    A penalty goal to Moses Mbye levelled things up after 60-five minutes and the Bulldogs finally had some luck with an Adam Elliott try in the 73rd after clumsy and inept work from the Parramatta backs gifted the Bulldogs’ backrower a try.

    A 78th-minute penalty goal sealed the deal for the Dogs and they will take the win with glee after such a frustrating month. Parramatta will rue their lost chances and lament their inability to capitalise on the line breaks they made throughout the game.

    It wasn’t Torvill and Dean and potentially a little more Cheech and Chong, yet for the victors it was a step in the right direction. For the losers, it mires them to the bottom of the table and makes the road to the semi-finals almost impossible.

    Stuart Thomas
    Stuart Thomas

    Stuart Thomas is a sports writer and educator who made the jump from Roar Guru to Expert in 2017. An ex-trainee professional golfer, his sporting passions are broad with particular interests in football, AFL and rugby league. His love of sport is only matched by his passion for gardening and self-sustainability. Follow him on Twitter @stuartthomas72.

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    The Crowd Says (33)

    • Roar Guru

      May 12th 2018 @ 6:40am
      The Barry said | May 12th 2018 @ 6:40am | ! Report

      You’re a hard man to please Stuart.

      The Dogs had great completion rates particularly in the first half, tremendous goal line defence and for the most part the game was end to end stuff.

      I think their last few games have been entertaining if not classics for league purists.

      Anyway…we’re up into 12th…perhaps temporarily and Saturday morning feels better than it has for a while!

      • May 12th 2018 @ 8:03am
        Paul said | May 12th 2018 @ 8:03am | ! Report

        TB, the other factor Stuart didn’t talk about is the “fear” factor. Neither side wants to lose when they are so far down the table and they start to become afraid to make mistakes, take risks, etc. Your boys played good, straight forward rugby league and deserved the win.

        • Columnist

          May 12th 2018 @ 9:45am
          Stuart Thomas said | May 12th 2018 @ 9:45am | ! Report

          Pretty sure I did. It was an obvious aspect to the game.

          “Unfortunately, the contest became representative of two teams lingering at the bottom of the table, with both scared to lose and devoid of the courage to grasp the win.”

          Cheers

          • Roar Guru

            May 12th 2018 @ 3:58pm
            BA Sports said | May 12th 2018 @ 3:58pm | ! Report

            I am not sure how you can say that when Parramatta turned down multiple penalty goal opportunities and pushed to try and score a try only to be thwarted by a lack of patience because the Dogs were allowed to keep giving away penalties – and not penalised when they should have been. The pushed pass by Gutherson in the first half after three straight penalties, and the second tackle kick by French which Jennings almost scored off were examples of this.

            The Eels made five line breaks – That should be enough to score 20 points, as it was for the Tigers the night before. They just didn’t execute at the right times and went through a period in the second half where they, for whatever reason, didn’t go hard enough.

      • May 12th 2018 @ 8:22am
        JOHNYBULLDOG said | May 12th 2018 @ 8:22am | ! Report

        Oh what a beautiful morning…..😁Go the mighty Doggies!

        • Columnist

          May 12th 2018 @ 9:47am
          Stuart Thomas said | May 12th 2018 @ 9:47am | ! Report

          A bit of relief with that one Johnybulldog. Still problems on the right edge. Parramatta just drilled down that side and probably overdid it to the point where it was predictable. A little more variation and they may have sealed things in the first half. The boys defended well though and a win is a win. Much better ball control in the most part as well.

          • Roar Guru

            May 12th 2018 @ 10:38am
            The Barry said | May 12th 2018 @ 10:38am | ! Report

            Right edge is terrible.

            I think Montoya is ready for a spell in the Reggie’s to work on it.

            It’s such an obvious weakness at the moment and opposing teams will exploit it more and more…particularly faced with the rock solid Morris combo on the other side.

      • Columnist

        May 12th 2018 @ 9:04am
        Stuart Thomas said | May 12th 2018 @ 9:04am | ! Report

        True TB. You are spot on about the completions and that was exactly what I was attempting to suggest. The boys played a safe and somewhat conservative game but got the job done. Defensively solid. I was lucky enough to chat with Anderson and Lamb last night and they spoke of still needing to free up and get away from some of the rigid structures that were ingrained by the previous coach. Both teams looked well short of top eight quality but a win is a win and something on which to work.

    • May 12th 2018 @ 7:32am
      Forty Twenty said | May 12th 2018 @ 7:32am | ! Report

      It’s good to see two struggling outfits have a good crack at attacking football. I think it can also help their cause for next season which is what matters most in reality. Some of the simple drawing and passing after a break has been made was sadly lacking but at least by having a go they are learning hopefully.

      The illusion that sloppy defence will continue for the whole game leads teams to decline the easy two points on offer as Manly did last week against the Chooks and the Eels did in this game.

    • May 12th 2018 @ 7:58am
      Paul said | May 12th 2018 @ 7:58am | ! Report

      I know they were playing in different games but it seems clear Brooks is outperforming Moses pretty consistently. He looked sharp against both Thurston and the Cowboys and showed a fair turn of foot when he scored that intercept try. Moses still seems too flighty, a good footballer but not exceptional. Brooks however has more potential I suspect.

      The other obvious question is, where to from here for the Cowboys? I reckon they should aim to finish outside the bottom 6, rather than in the top 8. Green also has to get serious and make some changes, otherwise they might be dualling for the wooden spoon in the final few rounds.

      • May 12th 2018 @ 8:29am
        Rod said | May 12th 2018 @ 8:29am | ! Report

        I would describe Mitchell Moses as mercurial. Can do some unbelievable stuff on footy field. Just can’t get into the grind which is what great players do.

        He needs to do to those boring 1%’ers. If he does that he will be a very good player

        • May 12th 2018 @ 8:41am
          Paul said | May 12th 2018 @ 8:41am | ! Report

          That’s a fair call Rod. Maybe he needs a Bellamy type coach to drum the 1%’ers into him.

      • Roar Guru

        May 12th 2018 @ 4:04pm
        BA Sports said | May 12th 2018 @ 4:04pm | ! Report

        I have to say I don’t understand why Brookes is getting wraps for his performance on Thursday night. He was just ok. His kicking game was actually really poor. multiple kicks running dead and almost as many which didn’t even make the in goal. I think he forced one drop out on the night and while he ran half a dozen times, he didn’t make many yards.

        Foran’s first half last night was epically poor. He had zero involvement and was leaving the majority of kicking to Mybe. He tried a bit in the second half but just came up with a tonne of errors. A bit injured I guess, but he hasn’t been delivering.

    • May 12th 2018 @ 8:09am
      Peter said | May 12th 2018 @ 8:09am | ! Report

      Stuart, thanks (I think!) for making me hear “Time’s winged chariot drawing near.” The Sarajevo Winter Olympics were 34 years ago! But a lovely reference.

      • Columnist

        May 12th 2018 @ 9:07am
        Stuart Thomas said | May 12th 2018 @ 9:07am | ! Report

        Mike Gibson described their routine as being like two people making love with their clothes on. Now there is a Saturday morning image for you.

    • May 12th 2018 @ 9:11am
      kk said | May 12th 2018 @ 9:11am | ! Report

      We have American friends visiting at the moment. I was apprehensive about inviting them
      to watch three games of Rugby League over the past two nights. With continuous
      explanations on the run it was evident they were gobsmacked with everything League offers.

      They insisted we revise the planned itinerary. We will be home by 3:30 pm to do the today’s trio.
      Jo hurt with, “You are a con man” Fox will have a new subscribers on their return to the USA.

      The three games to date have been most enjoyable. Everything in League’s treasure chest
      of skill and surprises was on display. You would think it impossible: JT has fourteen games left
      in his illustrious career without a win at Leichhardt. The Knights continue to crucify winning
      opportunities with wayward ball handling.

      With twenty minutes to go, I predicted to our visitors that Canterbury were starting to gain the
      ascendancy and expected them to win. Explaining Adam Elliott’s try in English was difficult.

      • May 12th 2018 @ 10:37am
        Gav said | May 12th 2018 @ 10:37am | ! Report

        Best ever comment on the Roar

        • May 13th 2018 @ 8:29am
          kk said | May 13th 2018 @ 8:29am | ! Report

          Hi Gav,

          Thank you.

      • Roar Guru

        May 12th 2018 @ 10:38am
        Con Scortis said | May 12th 2018 @ 10:38am | ! Report

        Morning kk! I once had American friends staying over about 9 years ago and they arrived on a Wed of the first State of Origin Game. It took a bit of effort explaining the concept of State of Origin and I was momentarily insulted when Joel said, “oh, so it’s like an All-Star game!”. Um…I guess. They loved the hits and like most Yanks, could not believe the lack of protective gear.

        • May 13th 2018 @ 8:25am
          kk said | May 13th 2018 @ 8:25am | ! Report

          Hi Con,

          Apologies for late reply. Visitor Robert is a paramedic . He is incredulous at
          the bravery and the risk the players of League are exposed to every time they
          handle the ball or tackle a freight train head on. Loved the continuity.

          We didn’t make it home for the first of three but they enjoyed the next two.

          Left them with about an inch deep of the essential printouts of our game and
          websites to put in favourites, the most important being the Roar.

    • May 12th 2018 @ 9:40am
      Fred said | May 12th 2018 @ 9:40am | ! Report

      The Tigers are guaranteed premiers this year. Leichhardt Oval will be the world’s biggest tourist attraction by 2020.

      • Columnist

        May 12th 2018 @ 9:47am
        Stuart Thomas said | May 12th 2018 @ 9:47am | ! Report

        Wow!

      • May 12th 2018 @ 10:24am
        Albo said | May 12th 2018 @ 10:24am | ! Report

        If only they could have more than 3 games at Leichhardt this year !

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