Set of Six: Danny Kirmond and golden-point magic
Last Updated: 01/08/16 9:31pm
Danny Kirmond, Toby King and golden-point magic delight for the New Zealand Warriors all feature in this week's Set of Six.
After a humiliating 36-0 trouncing in Townsville, Canterbury were hell-bent on returning to winnings ways against the Dragons on Friday. None more so than their skipper, James Graham.
The England prop started as he meant to go on, making five tackles in the Dragons' opening set at ANZ Stadium, and that set the tone for an excellent defensive performance.
Graham made a team-high 52 tackles during his 69 minutes on the pitch, eight more than Bulldogs hooker Michael Lichaa who played the full 80, and also produced a try-saving tackle on Euan Aitken.
He wasn't shy in attack either. After defending their line during a spell of sustained Dragons pressure, Graham sparked the move that led to Josh Reynolds' fantastic team try. He made 18 carries in total for a gain of 137 metres.
Canterbury sit fifth in the NRL ladder with five regular season games remaining, and three of those are against teams currently in the bottom five, including easy-beats Newcastle. After two Grand Final losses, could Graham make it third time lucky in 2016?
A crowd of 15,008 watched Graham's awesome display on Friday. The problem? ANZ Stadium has a capacity of 83,500, which means it was less than 18 per cent full.
The atmosphere was funereal in the old Olympic Stadium for Canterbury's 13-10 win and it begs the question why the Bulldogs don't play more games at Belmore Oval, which holds 25,000. What it lacks in executive boxes it more than makes up for in atmosphere.
This issue isn't consigned to the NRL either. The decision to schedule Friday's Challenge Cup semi-final for Doncaster had Wigan fans wondering whether the RFL had thrown a dart at a map.
Social media was awash with pictures of Warriors fans bogged down in Friday rush hour traffic and while the official attendance at the Keepmoat Stadium was 10,488, our friends at the Press Association reported that over 7,000 of those were Hull FC fans.
Why force Wigan fans to travel twice as far as Hull? Surely a better option would have been the John Smith's Stadium, which is close to halfway between the DW and KCOM Stadiums. If you're going to play a cup semi-final on a Friday night, at least consider the supporters.
Kirmond to the rescue
From one captain to another as Wakefield skipper Danny Kirmond who played for his side in their Challenge Cup semi-final against Warrington on Saturday despite being injured.
An influx of injuries have left the Wildcats down to the bare bones and he refused to let them play with only three interchanges.
Wildcats coach Chris Chester has revealed that Kirmond defied a knee injury that had kept him out of the previous six matches to help his side in their hour of need.
"I sat three guys down yesterday before the team run," Chester said. "We were down to 16 players and I needed someone to put their hand up and Kirmo did it.
"His knee is not right but he didn't want to let the team down - that's how bad the squad is. We're without 12 at the moment but that shows the toughness and the character of Danny Kirmond to put his hand up."
After three successive golden-point defeats, the New Zealand Warriors finally came out on the right side in extra-time thanks to yet another moment of magic from Shaun Johnson.
As the game ticked into the 89th minute at a wind-swept Mt Smart Stadium, the 25-year-old shaped to kick a drop goal before dancing past several onrushing Panthers defenders to score.
The match was the fourth time in five matches the Warriors found themselves in extra time, having being locked at 16-16 after 80 minutes, and it proved to be fourth time lucky as they recorded their first golden-point thriller.
The try secured a crucial victory for the Warriors by four points meaning they leapfrog the Panthers in the table and into the top eight.
King making up for lost time
A season that began in heartbreak is set to end in a fairy-tale Wembley appearance for Warrington's Toby King.
The 20-year-old was forced to miss the first three months of the 2016 season with a torn pectoral muscle but made up for lost time by scoring two tries on his Challenge Cup debut on Saturday to help the Wolves to a 56-12 semi-final win over Wakefield at Leigh Sports Village.
"I was over the moon," said the Huddersfield-born King, who turned 20 on July 9. "You dream about stuff like that when you are a 10-year-old playing on the rec.
"To do something like that in a Challenge Cup semi-final is pretty special."
Warrington's 10-try rout set up a mouth-watering cup final showdown with Hull at Wembley on August 27, which was the furthest thing in King's thoughts when he suffered his injury on the eve of the season.
"I was absolutely gutted," he said. "But all the conditioning staff have been class and they got me back to full health.
"It was a pretty upsetting time but moments like that make up for it."
Radford out to end hoodoo
Hull FC have won the Challenge Cup three times but never at Wembley. They've lost eight times at the iconic venue and their coach Lee Radford is keen to re-write the history books on August 27.
Radford's men booked their place in the showpiece event with an action-packed 16-12 victory over Wigan Warriors on Friday evening and will now face an in-form Warrington team who saw off Wakefield in a comprehensive fashion to join FC on their trip down Wembley way.
Hull have won the cup three times but never at Wembley, where they have suffered the agony of eight defeats, and Radford says they are desperate to end their hoodoo.
"We knew the magnitude of what was at stake," he said. "We're reminded that we've never been to the nation's capital and got a result, but it's achievable with this group, that's for sure.
"I've been there and lost twice with this team and for us it's about going there and getting a result.
"We're desperate to right 115 years of wrongs. I can't tell you how much that would mean."