Round 3 of the 2007 season kicked off with two games going down to golden point on Friday night, in what was a tight round overall.
In a game that constantly fluctuated, it came down to a Luke Burt penalty goal 8 minutes into extra time to separate the two teams. At times the Tigers looked the most likely to win the game. They dominated for long periods, but it seemed that every error they made was turned into points by the Eels. Parramatta led 20-18 and looked set to hang on for their first victory when they gave away a late penalty, allowing the Tigers to force extra time. Wests Tigers have a horrible golden point record and it continued for another game. Neither team struck their field goal attempts well and it came down to the late penalty to decide the game.
The second Friday night game also required extra time in what was an incredible night of football. The Penrith Panthers came up with a stunning late fight back that shocked everyone at Suncorp Stadium. The game was a tight affair but the Broncos looked to be in control with a late 8-point lead, thanks to a 4-try effort from centre Justin Hodges. Rather than slowing down the game, the Broncos went searching for more points and it backfired on them. An ill-advised Hodges kick close to the Panthers line failed to get through and was picked up by Michael Jennings who raced 85 metres to score, giving the Panthers a chance. Penrith then came up with a miracle play that locked up the scores at 28 all. A Luke Rooney grubber kick deflected off Bronco Darius Boyd, rolling into the in-goal area. Rhys Wesser won the race to the ball and scored a stunning try. Panthers’ winger Michael Gordon missed the game-winning conversion; however 22-year old Peter Wallace nailed a long range field goal in extra time to cap an amazing victory.
North Queensland Cowboys 22 def St George Illawarra Dragons 18
For 65 minutes the Cowboys looked in complete control against the Dragons. Johnathan Thurston was once again brilliant, leading his side to a commanding 22-0 lead. It was his sin-binning that gave the Dragons a chance, and they nearly pulled off the impossible. Young five-eighth Richie Williams crossed for two late tries, and another to Luke MacDougall put the Dragons within just 4 points with three minutes remaining. Another extra time game was on the cards; however some desperate defence from the Cowboys allowed them to sneak away with the vital 2 points. The Dragons were disappointing in the first half, but will take heart from their late finish. North Queensland may actually learn a lesson from the late scare as they seemed to be in cruise mode prior to that. They are one of the Premiership favourites at this stage.
Who would have thought that after three rounds the Rabbits would be undefeated and in equal first place? That has become a possibility and this is no longer the easy-beat South Sydney team we have all become used to. The Rabbitohs traveled to Cronulla, one of the more difficult road assignments in the NRL. Not only did they win, but they were dominant and played some very impressive football. After 19 minutes they had opened up a 16-0 lead and weren’t really threatened from that point on. Former Sharks Nathan Merritt and David Peachey were among the try-scorers and would have enjoyed their return to Toyota Park. Merritt bagged a double in another impressive performance. The Sharks were battling a few injuries and it showed in their performance. They lacked cohesion and there is plenty of work to be done by coach Ricky Stuart.
The Warriors were the only team in 2006 to defeat the Storm at Olympic Park, and after a great start to the season many were predicting a repeat result. Melbourne had other ideas and showed why their home ground is nicknamed the ‘graveyard’. They dominated the first half and weren’t really challenged in an impressive performance. The forward pack held its own against the monster Warriors pack and this allowed the backline to work their magic, which they did with style. Billy Slater bagged a double and had a third disallowed, while new sensation Israel Falou continued his try scoring feats by also crossing. The Warriors are a brilliant team when they play at home and will somehow have to find a way to take that form with them when they travel for away games. Melbourne are still not at their best, which is a very scary sign for the rest of the NRL.
The Bulldogs are on the board with an ugly yet vital victory over the Gold Coast Titans. Neither team was particularly impressive, but the Bulldogs managed to make the most of their opportunities. They opened up a 16-2 lead after 60 minutes and hung on for the win. Gold Coast struggled with their execution and never really threatened the line, showing that there is still a long way to go for the club on the field. Canterbury were also disappointing. Young halfback Ben Roberts struggled and overall the side seemed to be lacking cohesion. Mark O’Meley was one of their best, but will miss the next game after being charged with dropping his knees onto Scott Prince. The Bulldogs face an undefeated South Sydney side on Friday night which should be a blockbuster.
Manly have remained undefeated after a dour victory against the struggling Roosters. The Roosters looked to have improved and held a slim 8-6 lead early in the second half. At that stage it appeared that they were getting on top, and their 1000th Premiership victory was in their sites. However, a dramatic 20 minutes saw Manly turn it on, running in three quick tries to take the game away from the Roosters. Brilliant fullback Brett Stewart started things off with a dazzling solo effort that left defenders clutching at thin air. Roosters coach Chris Anderson later criticized his team of giving up and it certainly appeared to be the case as they allowed the Sea Eagles to dominate in the final half hour. It was another good win for Manly who are playing without three of their star players. The Roosters have serious problems and will need to improve when they face the Brisbane Broncos on Friday night.
The Knights welcomed back Andrew Johns for this clash and they were expected to win, and win well. The Raiders had other ideas and the potential of the team lived up to some expectations. The Raiders are a young team with plenty of talent and it was always going to take some time before they would fire. They struggled in the first two rounds but certainly made up for it in this clash, particularly in the second half where they tore up thr defence. The match was in the balance at 18-18 before Canberra took control. Halves Todd Carney and Michael Dobson were superb, and fullback William Zillman scored a great hat-trick, demonstrating why he is one of the most exciting prospects in the NRL. The Raiders will be inconsistent in 2007, but on their day they have the ability to beat any team in the competition.