Golf Capital – Baltusrol’s mystery and two majors

@hamishneal

A collection of my golf thoughts from the week plus some player performance/form notes for the next few days.
Opening drive:

It’s a strange period in golf with two majors on this weekend a fortnight before the Olympic golf event. The men are on the east coast of the USA in New Jersey with the women in Milton Keynes, England. The USA won the second UHL International Crown with Christie Kerr claiming the winning singles match whilst Jhonattan Vegas made up for throwing away a good chance for a win last weekend when he surged on the final day of the Canadian Open to win in Ontario from a chasing pack which included Dustin Johnson and Brandt Snedeker, both top hopes in the column last week. As the lead-up event to the Women’s Open in England France’s Isabelle Boineau claimed a breakthrough win in Scotland.

The contest for the year’s final men’s major, the Wanamaker Trophy, heads to the town of Springfield with the course having last hosted the PGA Championship in 2005, when Phil Mickelson won with a score of -4. Baltusrol has a rare history for a golf course. It was named after a local who farmed the land on which the course lays but was brutally murdered.

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Player performance notes:

Players I’m interested in to see how they go with notes that interest me and/or are related to capital investments, if that’s your thing, in the weekend’s big event the US PGA Championship.

20 or lower: Dustin Johnson can drive long it but accuracy will be key on this course. If the American holds his form he’s a big chance.

20-50: Sergio Garcia. The man most likely to next win a major who has seen, it seems, a dozen players reach the mark before him. T5 in the last two majors and recently hosted a charity event after the Open so might have been the short break from ‘proper golf’ he needed in a busy period to focus for this.

50-100: Brendan Grace. With course form harder to line up with the last event 11 years ago the tournament form is significant. South African Grace was third at Whistling Straits last year.

50-100: JB Holmes. Recent form profiles have outsiders winning this event but they need a win in the last 12 months which Holmes doesn’t have but he was victorious in the Houston Open last year. Third in the Open and fourth at the Memorial in recent months.

100-200: Shane Lowry. The Irishman missed the cut at the Open but was second at the US Open this season and won the Bridgestone Invitational eleven months ago.

100-200. Lee Westwood. The 43 year-old Englishman was second in the Masters and will be advantaged by an early tee off on Thursday. Has three top tens to his credit since May on the European Tour but his final day 80 at the US Open frightens me.

100-200: Steve Stricker, the 49 year-old veteran leads the US PGA Tour scrambling stats for this season and finished fourth at the Open.

200-500: Tyrell Hatton. We are going back to the well with the Englishman after his T5 at Royal Troon. His form can’t be ignored on a challenging circuit and his scrambling stats on the European Tour this season are better than those of Open champion Henrik Stenson.

200-500: Andy Sullivan. Won in Portugal in October, so fits the win profile and was T12 at the Open. Like Westwood the early tee time on Thursday helps.

200-500: Anirban Lahiri. Only two shots back from Grace in last year’s event the 29 year-old Indian Lahiri isn’t the worst outsider in the field, but he’s not won since February 2015 and finished T68 in the Open.

Greens in regulation:

The Asian and European men’s Tours stage the co-sanctioned King’s Cup in Pattaya, Thailand this weekend but with a major on and the Olympics around the corner it is not a deep field with the top hops ranked outside the top 300. Locals have a strong record having won on the last four occasions and the Challenge Tour (second tier) event, the Northern Ireland Open, almost holds more viewing appeal if not for the two majors. The Women’s British Open at the Woburn Golf Club, where Inbee Park is the defending champion, sees Lydia Ko look for a third major in an event she finished T3 in last season. One to watch might be Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall who qualified with a strong fifth place, and final round 64, at the Scottish Open.

Tap-in:

Dual-sport athletes are not uncommon in golf, with former Australian tennis player Scott Draper having won the 2007 NSW PGA Championship, and many golfers are talented in other sports but there was surely a first for a dual-sport official/player on the weekend in Oakville. Amateur Garrett Rank, current contracted NHL referee, managed a T77 finish having qualified for the weekend’s play by virtue of a strong opening 69 before rounds of 75, 76 and 76. 28 year-old Rank is now my new favourite athlete that has overcome testicular cancer.

Image via sfchronicle.com

 

Five Metre Gap – NRL Round 20 and Women’s Origin 2016

@hamishneal

Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points you may have missed from the 20th round of the NRL. Cronulla remain two points clear of second-placed Melbourne with both top two sides winning this weekend whilst the Raiders vaulted into fourth spot after prevailing 26-22 in golden point extra-time over the Warriors.

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In registering yet another triumph, beating Newcastle 36-4, Cronulla chalked up a key statistic for the first time in four games that we had followed earlier in the season – the 30 Set Standard (TSS). Shane Flanagan’s ladder-leading side had been bucking that trend (which is associated with needing to have 30 completed sets to win a match.) Something they hadn’t done in the three prior games this campaign. Seven of the eight winning sides in round 20 completed 30 sets or more, although the Raiders did need extra time to complete their 30.

North Queensland’s ability to force pressure even when they don’t score a try was highlighted by play-maker Johnathan Thurston on Thursday night as they beat the Bulldogs 36-0. In forcing three line drop-outs in the first quarter of the game this was typified by a 20th minute effort which saw Johnathan Thurston put in a kick 25 metres out from the line but his team-mates coming from 30 metres away still hemmed the Bulldogs attacker in goal. Contrast this with Des Hasler’s side who didn’t get a tackle in the 20 metre-zone when on attack until well into the first half and then lacked options when they did get the odd chance and it was clear to see that whilst the Cowboys have only one more win, 12, than the Bulldogs the reigning champions are playing better right now. Thurston will likely miss the next two weeks though due to a hamstring injury picked up in the second stanza.

Mid-season recruit Raymond Faitala-Mariners played 39 minutes off the bench in the heavy defeat for Canterbury. Essentially playing a large swathe of minutes the absent Tony Williams would have, Faitala-Mariner made 20 tackles and had 7 runs for 57 metres which made him the Bulldogs bench player with the most metres gained, although he did play the most minutes of the four interchange substitutes. The work of the ex-Warrior, which included two off-loads could be a window into the future with former Origin forward Williams unlikely to get another big deal at the Bulldogs. Faitala-Mariner played only six minutes in round 18 when Williams played 54 minutes off the pine two weeks ago. Faitala-Mariner’s 57 metres gained where the same as key forward Aiden Tolman who played 12 more minutes.

A 20-point win over the Eels now that they are out of finals contention and without a host of their stars is probably not surprising but not many would have seen the Titans second try coming on the weekend. Winger Nene McDonald produced a deft kick from the middle of the park to supply fellow flyer Anthony Don with his eight try of the campaign. This came before McDonald himself out-jumped the pack to claim his own try in the second stanza after as Tyrone Roberts bomb. The result was as crucial one for Neil Henry’s side who welcome the ladder-leading Sharks on Monday night and have displayed an adept array of attacking options in recent weeks.

Finally, Saturday afternoon was an historic day for rugby league with New South Wales winning the Nellie Doherty Cup for the first time beating Queensland 8-6 in the Women’s Interstate Challenge (aka. Women’s Origin.) The match was scoreless until the 53rd minute when Simaima Taufa crossed after Kezzie Apps feed the ball quickly from dummy half to Taufa who ran a good angle to score. The Blues women (coached by former Canberra, Melbourne and Newcastle forward Ben Cross) held strong but Brad Donald’s side blew a golden chance to score ten minutes from time when Brittany Brearley barged over from dummy half but the try was scratched out after it was ruled her team-mate obstructed the NSW defenders. Queensland did cross the line legally in the final minute through half-back Ali Brigginshaw but time expired at the conversion attempt and the Blues broke 17 years of domination. Coupled with last year’s 4-4 draw the victory shows the Blues have turned around their history in the fixture as it is worth noting four years ago they were hammered 34-10 in Penrith.

Image via theherald.com.au

 

 

 

 

Golf Capital – Canada and the GOP

@hamishneal

A collection of my golf thoughts from the week plus some player performance/form notes for the next few days.

Opening drive:

Henrik Stenson claimed his first, and Sweden’s first male, major title with victory in the Open at Royal Troon. American Phil Mickelson was hugely unlucky to not have claimed a sixth major in finishing second to Stenson beaten by Stenson’s final round 63 and two strokes. Mickelson’s final tally of 17 under would have claimed victory in 140 of the previous 144 editions of the Open. Elsewhere there were some good stories with playoffs on both the US PGA men’s tour and LPGA. Australian Aaron Baddeley secured his first title since the Northern Trust Open in February of 2011 in winning the Barbasol Championship. The triumph during a major weekend means the purse for the winner is ‘only’ USD$630,000 compare with the usual $1.3-$1.5 million. Still it’s a nice holiday. In Ohio Lydia Ko celebrated confirmation of her Olympic team selection winning back the Marathon Classic title which she won in 2014, beating South Korea’s Mirim Lee and Thailand Ariya Jutanugarn in a nice tune-up for the women’s British Open at the end of the month at the Woburn Golf Club in Buckinghamshire.

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Player performance notes:

Players I’m interested in to see how they go with notes that interest me and/or are related to capital investments, if that’s your thing, in the weekend’s big event.

The Canadian Open

There is no European Tour even this weekend so before the US PGA Championship in a fortnight in New Jersey the Canadian Open comes up in Ontario where world number one Jason Day is the defending champion at the Glen Abbey Golf Club.

20 or lower: Dustin Johnson. The week after a major is always tricky and quality of the top few players can dictate attendance due to sponsorship commitments, as is the case with Johnson and Day. Johnson finished an impressive T9 at Royal Troon with consistent if not flashy scores of 71,69, 72 and 70.

20-50: Brandt Snedeker, won this event in 2013 and has the best low round, 63, of the tournament’s recent editions. Finished T22 at the Open.

50-100: Matt Fitzpatrick: Missing the cut at the Open might not be the worst outcome for Fitzpatrick as he gears up for the PGA Championship with this trip to Canada having had a hectic period of golf. Remember the 21 year-old did win last month on the European Tour.

50-100: Harold Varner III – Along-with 100-200 shot Tyrell Hatton who finished T5, Varner was one of my wider thoughts for the Open. The withdrawal of Tiger Woods has given Varner a spot in next week’s PGA Championship so he has extra motivation to perform well here after making the cut at the Open but then struggling

50-100: Colt Knost, Missed the cut at the Open but before that three of his previous five tour events saw him place T4 or better. The 31 year-old has yet to salute in 166 US Tour appearances but has won twice on the second-tier tour.

100-200: Cameron Percy- The Australian qualified for this event on Monday and has reasonable recent form on tour with T13 at the Barracuda Championship. Tees off in the first group on Thursday.

200-500: Stewart Cink – T5 for this event last year and shown little respect now, but that’s because the 2009 Open winner’s best this season was T17 in November. But horses for courses.

500 or more: Peter Malnati – An honest analyser of his own game Malnati has won on tour this year but also missed 15 of his last 16 cuts! However in a field which isn’t deep outside of the top two he’s better than this.

Greens in regulation:

Elsewhere, going from Ohio to Illinois the LPGA’s UL International Crown will be staged for the second time with Spain the defending champs in the team-based event. Oddly the eight-team format doesn’t feature New Zealand, the nation of the current world number one Ko as they didn’t qualify with the field set in April. There are a host of experience players on board with 140 LPGA wins between the field but interest may lie in the form of 16 of the field who have qualified for the Olympics. As a prelude to the Ladies Open the Scottish Open is also on this weekend with the two-time local champ Catriona Matthew the main draw for the European LGA event at Dundonald Links.

Tap-in:

Whilst plenty of focus is always on golf in the United States of America a golfer from the US found themselves on an odd stage on Tuesday with Natalie Gulbis speaking at the Republican National Convention in support of failed USFL owner, golf fan and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Gulbis, who has courted controversy during a career which has met with limited on-course success (she did win the Evian Masters in 2007) said Trump’s edict to never fear challenging the ‘status quo’ was significant to Gulbis. Trump is clearly loved by the golfing fraternity if the world number 492 is keen to speak for him on such a large stage, and open yourself up for the associated ridicule.

 

Five Metre Gap – NRL Round 19 2016

@hamishneal

Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points you may have missed from the nineteenth round of the NRL. Cronulla’s roll continued with Monday night’s triumph over the Roosters bringing up 14 wins on the spin. Two of the four sides on the bye, the Cowboys and the Bulldogs, still finished the weekend in third and fourth respectively despite not playing – highlighting the gap between the top six sides and the rest.

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Seventh-placed Gold Coast put their potential final rivals on notice thrashing St George Illawarra 32-12 on Friday night at Kogarah and their backline was to the fore helping to lay the platform for their sets and also responsible for scoring four of their six tries. Between numbers 1-5 each back ran for at least 100 metres with Anthony Don ‘only’ running for 119 metres. Fellow winger Nene McDonald, who notched a double, ran for 225 metres and made five tackle busts. That figure was bested by centre Josh Hoffman with who made six tackle busts.

In a big effort on Saturday afternoon Manly’s Darcy Lussick was the only forward to top the 200-metre mark for the weekend (the same amount as round 18) with 201 metres from 17 runs as Manly saw off the Warriors in golden point extra-time in Perth. Former Eel Lussick also made 31 tackles in his 59 minutes on the park in the 15-14 victory. It wasn’t the second top effort of the weekend but given their makeshift side the effort of Manu Ma’u for the Eels to run 169 metres as he was shuffled between positions was terrific despite his side losing 22-18 to Penrith

Staying in the game at nib Stadium and it was a torrid debut for Sea Eagles winger Brad Parker who was targeted by the Warriors in the wet conditions. Parker wasn’t 100% in terms of diffusing kicks that came in his direction but his teammates were equal to the task in supporting him with veteran Jamie Lyon picking up the scraps when Kiwi halfback Shaun Johnson kicked in Parker’s direction, particularly early in the game in an endeavour to unsettle him. Parker, 19, has come through the ranks of the Under 20s with Manly and will hope for an easier outing in round 20 against South Sydney who were thrashed 30-10 by Brisbane on Saturday evening.

In the Broncos 20-point victory at ANZ Stadium things looked bad for Souths from before the game started losing halfback Adam Reynolds in the warm-up but simple errors early on cost them and were then compounded with Michael Maguire’s side letting in three tries in the opening 19 minutes. A basic example of the Rabbithos’ lack of early concentration was hooker Cameron McInnes who wasn’t ready for an off-load from Nathan Brown which meant Souths surrendered possession only to see Lachlan Maranta cross in the ensuing set for Brisbane. One could understand late errors saw as that by McInnes caused by fatigue but if you aren’t paying attention five minutes into the game it probably tells you why they have won only five times this season.

Having mentioned two sides on the bye in round 19 the Cowboys and the Bulldogs, who both meet on Thursday night it’s worth noting the huge advantage one of the other sides who missed this weekend have. Canberra host the Warriors on Saturday afternoon in the ACT with Andrew McFadden’s team having returned from their trip to Perth and the extra-time contest against the Sea Eagles. But at least Tuimoala Lolohea will be well rested for the Warriors with the dynamic back only playing two minutes off the bench late in the game in Western Australia.

Image via triplem.com.au

Golf capital – The open and all that

@hamishneal

A collection of my golf thoughts from the week plus some player performance/form notes for the next few days.

Opening drive:

The Women’s US Open was given some breathing space, or an open fairway if you will, with no PGA event on the weekend after the Greenbreir Classic got washed out only for the USGA to stuff it up. There was a late rules issue before Brittany Lang triumphed over Anna Nordqvist then the USGA President Diana Murphy fluffed her lines at the presentation. A repeat of her slurred presentation when Dustin Johnson won his first major recently. Why do golf club presidents insist on doing these presentations? You have a perfectly capable host right next to you on most occasions. Just stand there, hand over the trophy and smile!

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Player performance notes:

Players I’m interested in to see how they go with notes that interest me and/or are related to capital investments, if that’s your thing, in the weekend’s big event.

The Open Championship

The only British men’s golf major for the year is at Royal Troon.

20 or lower: Adam Scott – There is an interesting trend of Honda Classic winners going on to claim this event in the same year. The already major winner is our 2016 candidate.

20-50: Louis Oosthuizen – Open winner in 2010 from South Africa

50-100: Charl Schwartzel – Also South African. He won the Masters in 2011.

50-100: Andy Sullivan – Consistent on European Tour. Top six finish in last two tournaments.

50-100: Scott Piercy – Like Todd Hamilton’s Open win fits the profile of a lesser-known USA player in form.

100-200: Danny Lee- Kiwi who plays in USA predominantly, came over and played well in the Scottish Open to finish T3.

100-200: Matthew Fitzpatrick – One of the young English players who has won this season already. Concerning that he missed the cut last weekend.

100-200: Russell Knox – A Scot but still needed to wear a beanie last weekend at Castle Stuart. Solid player who finished T10 in the event near Iverness

100-200: Tyrell Hatton – He’s three years older than Fitzpatrick but yet to get a win on the main European Tour but has been contending of late.

250-500: Callum Shinkwin – Another young Brit (23) closed with a seven under score at Castle Stuart.

250-500: Brandon Stone – Won the South African Open in January.

500 or greater: Harold Varner III (pictured) – Top seven finish at his last start on the US PGA Tour confirmed his spot. Some other nice top tens this season

500 or greater: Soomin Lee – The Korean missed the cut at Castle Stuart but of significance his regular caddie has yielded the bag to Colin Cotter who is a Royal Troon caddie and has worked with Colin Montgomerie.

The less popular step-brother is always any main tour event on the weekend of a major and the PGA Tour’s Barbasol Championship is it this weekend. Blayne Barber is intriguing here. If you are taking the Adam Scott form-line from the Honda Classic Barber finished T3.

The LPGA stop is in Ohio for the Marathon Classic. Brooke Henderson attempted to qualify for this event last season but failed to do so. Since then the 18 year-old has won a major so the Canadian’s first time out at the Highland Meadows Golf Club will be interesting.

Tap-in:

Apropos of the Greenbrier Classic cancellation mentioned above it gave golf officials an interesting study in unintended consequences at the weekend. It meant the US Women’s Open played in San Martin, California got a bit more clear air with the primary men’s tour event out of action due to severe flooding in West Virginia. I know this would never happen but it’s a nice thought that on the weekend of majors, of either gender, the main tour playing in the same country could not have an event that weekend. This would improve TV coverage opportunities and deliver a focus event for fringe supporters to take an interest in.

Image via golfweek.com

 

Five Metre Gap – Origin III 2016

@hamishneal

Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points you may have missed from the third game of the State of Origin series. New South Wales scored a dramatic 18-14 triumph but Queensland had already secured the series victory after winning the first two games in Sydney and Brisbane respectively. Unlike our normal column you likely saw the contest but here are some things we have picked out from the game at ANZ Stadium which saw Queensland miss the chance to claim a fifth clean-sweep.

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NSW centre Michael Jennings scored 69 seconds from full-time try to seal the win after Queensland’s Darius Boyd swooped through four minutes earlier to put the visitors in the lead after the game sat on 12-10 in favour of NSW for 22 minutes of the second half.

After the first 40 minutes NSW had been tackled 36 times inside the Queensland 20-metre zone for only one try. Contrast that with the Queensland figure of seven which saw the visitors score in one of their only two sets in the NSW 20-metre zone. NSW were simply too predictable in their play, even attacking against only 12 players in the last nine minutes and 20 seconds of the first stanza with Queensland’s Cooper Cronk sin-binned.

Each side’s first try in the second period was controversial with NSW, on the back of an eventual 12-3 penalty count having had a mountain of possession, getting lucky with Andrew Fifita’s try which should have been struck out after Jennings presence distracted Justin O’Neill from possibly going after the eventual try-scorer. Nine minutes later Fifita was back in the centre of the action again reacting to Gavin Cooper’s post-try action of dumping to ball on the head of defender Matt Moylan. Fifita charged into the post-try fray from a fair distance away and grappled Cooper from behind towards the ground. The action was shades of his club captain Gallen recently and resulted in a ten-minute sanction. Interestingly no points were scored when the game was down to 13 on 12 twice.

NSW skipper Gallen bid farewell to the Origin arena having a hand in the final try and also slotting the final conversion. Compared to his game two effort of 93 metres gained Gallen went ten metres better and also made 36 tackles. For the second game running Aaron Woods (136 metres) topped the Blues’ forwards output. Not surprisingly, given they had 13 less sets of possession, none of the Queensland forwards topped the 100-metre mark with Josh McGuire (94 metres) and Matt Scott (92 metres) the best for Kevin Walters’ side in that regard.

As with game two in Queensland New South Wales got joy in the youth fixture this time with a 36-22 triumph over Queensland in the Under 20s clash to complete a sweep for the evening. After leading 24-4 with 30 minutes to go a late Queensland revival wasn’t enough and Dean Pay’s team delivered some joy for the early arrivals on Wednesday evening. Interestingly it was six tries to five with Queensland let down in the goal-kicking department by Melbourne Storm youngster Brodie Croft slotting only one goal from five attempts. That’s now five consecutive wins in the fixture for the Baby Blues.

Image via guardian.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Metre Gap – NRL Round 18 2016

@hamishneal

Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points you may have missed from the eighteenth round of the NRL. As the Sharks consolidated top spot on the table the penalty for Parramatta’s salary cap infractions was confirmed. This dropped the Eels to 14th spot on the ladder putting them on 12 points.

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The Parramatta Eels nabbed a four-point triumph on Friday night beating the hapless Roosters only to see 12 competition points expunged from their record on Saturday. Sitting on 12 points all hope is not lost for Eels fans as only the Sharks, Storm and Cowboys were above Brad Arthur’s team on the ladder before the points penalty was enforced. The Eels don’t face any of that trio for the rest of the season. Even allowing for the lop-sided nature of the draw that has to be something which means they are a hope of pushing towards the finals on the back of an improving pack and a cadre of exciting outside backs including Bevan French.

In addition to the prospects of French if the Eels are to make a run to the finals it may come, as least partly, on the back of a 33 year-old back for the second time of asking at the club. Jeff Robson, a mid-season recruit from the Warriors, showed his versatility once injuries took their toll early in 22-18 win on Friday night. The veteran of four NRL clubs slotted in to the dummy half role in the absence of Issac De Gois who departed the game with concussion in the first stanza. His crisp distribution from the ruck and kicking game when needed was of great assistance to Corey Norman. Robson helped Parramatta on their run to the 2009 grand final, yes that was with a bit of help from Jarryd Hayne, but the Eels were only thwarted by a team found to be, ironically, cheating the salary cap in the form of the Melbourne Storm. The Eels would have to go unbeaten to be assured on playing the finals but they are some hope if no more major off-field dramas occur.

It is 13 victories on the spin for Cronulla now after their 26-10 triumph in Penrith on Sunday but it came against not only a very inexperienced Panthers outfit but one that saw a host of players feature out of position. Bryce Cartwright over-played his hand at the pivot spot and Peter Wallace, whilst an experienced player, isn’t used to playing hooker – at least recently. Whilst it is certainly worth nothing that five of the winning Sharks side were playing their first top grade game for the season the Penrith side was absolutely shorn of not only it’s spine but almost it’s entire first-choice backline. Starting out the season as a preferred edge forward Cartwright turned playmaker with little impact and only winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak would have started the season as preferred in the starting 13 of Anthony Griffin’s team. The development of Penrith’s Nathan Cleary at halfback has clearly accelerated but up against the top team in the competition who had three of their four ‘spine’ players (that been fullback, five-eighth, halfback and hooker) available the result should not have been surprising.

Looking at our ‘200 club’ for the weekend and we have only one entrant in the form of Canterbury prop Aiden Tolman, a few down on last week’s figures. With 206 metres from 23 runs Tolman also made 42 tackles as the Bulldogs came from behind just after half-time to win 32-22 on Saturday night over Wests. By way of comparison in the three other games across the weekend, English international Chris Heighington was the next best in terms of top metre-gainer for any other of the seven teams that played as his Cronulla side won their 14th game of the campaign with the former Tiger making 149 metres from 17 runs as well as 26 tackles.

In the Bulldogs victory it was heartening for the Tigers that debutant Jacob Liddle scored four minutes into half-time to give them the lead but a disappointing defensive performance which saw Jason Taylor’s team miss 19 tackles in the second half made the difference. The Bulldogs ran over the top of the Tigers with three tries in the last 20 minutes. Forward Chris Lawrence was the worst offender in the second period missing four tackles.

Images via bordermail.com.au