Well, there are only two games of our season to go and we can’t make the finals but I couldn’t have been much happier with the performance against PNG Hunters last Sunday in our last home game of 2018.
And I hope we can take that attitude into the game against Ipswich Jets, a very different style of team who are playing with confidence.
We scored four tries each in the Hunters match and Ali Grant went so close to levelling the score in the last few seconds, which I think would have been a deserved result.
I thought we did a really good job in attack and defence but the telling thing that hurt was that we just gave them too much possession off penalties and a couple of errors down our own end.
They got a try reasonably early on, then scored on running on the last play where, while we got caught out of position a bit, it was a pretty good try from around halfway.
Their other two tries were from a charge down and an intercept and in between they were hardly able to break down our defence.
They had an extra 31 play the balls, which is a telling stat – that’s a lot more possession.
Yet we really restricted their metres, our defence in yardage has been the best it’s been for a long time and we were back to defending our line well against a strong team – the defending premiers who are in the top six.
Outside of penalties and our errors, they really struggled to get out of their end. They usually get over 50 metres in a set easily but we kept hem in their half a lot which we had struggled to do, so it was a really good effort.
Kirk Murphy was outstanding at lock again. He is just a good tough kid who played big minutes and ripped in; he’s just a competitor. He did a really good job getting under the ball and banging into them too, which you need to do against the Hunters.
Ali was dangerous all day and gives us good energy. He was unlucky not to have scored that try at the end. The winger turned and clipped him from behind and Ali was bracing himself to score, then came down just short and didn’t quite know what to do with only seconds on the clock. He’s just a real threat from the back.
The bench did a good job – Sam Meskell, Tristan Lumley and Jaleel Seve-Derbas did a lot of good touch defence as we had little ball when they were out there.
Jaleel has had a bad year with injury after hurting his ankle in Lebanon’s first game of the World Cup against Tonga and not returning until April, playing for Southport. He played for Gold Coast in rep games then did his knee and was out for a few more weeks, so his opportunities have been limited.
But he has done a really good job defensively against Easts and the Hunters the following weekend and I’m expecting more improvement against Ipswich this weekend.
It will be a very different game against the Jets. The Hunters never relent but they are fairly one-out and predictable, you know where the ball is going and it’s a matter of getting your body in front to defend them .
The Jets are the opposite end of the spectrum. They kick cross field and push hard around the ball and do the unexpected. And they’re on a roll and playing with confidence after good wins .
They’ve won three in a row and are two points out of the tip six so they’ve got plenty to play for.
The thing when taking on Ipswich is not to lose yourself in how you play them. I think you can over-plan for them and get a bit halfway in how you are going to defend them and you lose what works best for you.
We’ll field a similar side but are hoping Brendan Elliot will be back for us and Bryce Cartwright played for the Titans on Friday night so we lose him. Bryce did some good things for us against the Hunters and he’ll be more of a threat once his teammates get used to his style on the edge of the rucks. His attitude has certainly been good, and Leilani Latu has been a handful with some good offloads too.
Lindon McGrady is still out and Kane Elgey will front up for the Titans again but Rex Johnson did a good job against the Hunters and can handle the halfback role well.