NRL

Michael Jennings out of Mate Ma'a Tonga squad to face Kiwis

As the Tongan team cut their squad to 19 on Monday, the loss of Jennings was the biggest blow.

The forced withdrawal of the 31-year-old who has played 10 Tests for Tonga and seven for Australia leaves Solomone Kata (Warriors) and Kotoni Staggs (Broncos) as the logical choices to play in the centres in Auckland on Saturday. 

"It is a shame to lose Michael because he has really been playing well for Parramatta," Mate Ma'a Tonga coach Kristian Woolf said.

"He has also brought wonderful experience to our side through the 2017 World Cup and in Tests last year.

Andrew Fifita calls on top silk to keep Tongan Test dream alive

Fifita is expected to fly to New Zealand on Sunday night and join the Tongan camp ahead of Saturday's blockbuster against the Kiwis. He will appear at the NRL judiciary via video link where he runs the risk of being suspended three matches for a dangerous contact charge.

Fifita landed in hot water for his crusher tackle on Canberra's Ryan Sutton, but reached out to top silk Nick Ghabar to argue his case.

The Sharks superstar will plead guilty to the charge, but seek a downgrade from a grade two to a grade one, which would mean escaping a ban.

Martin Taupau pledges allegiance to Samoa after 24 Tests for New Zealand

Taupau was on Thursday named in New Zealand’s preliminary Test squad however on Friday took to social media to announce he had made himself available for Samoa.

“After hours of soul searching and plenty of discussion with my fiancee and family, I had to make a tough call to the NZ Kiwis coach Michael Maguire this morning to inform him that I have made the decision to make myself unavailable for selection for the NZ Kiwis, and elected to make myself available for the Toa Samoa team once again,” Taupau wrote.

Benji Marshall ices match-winning drop goal as Tigers edge Cowboys in thriller

Against the Cowboys on Friday night, Michael Maguire's men rolled out their whole rollercoaster repertoire before pulling off one of the great escapes of the season thanks to a controversial late penalty try and the boot of Benji Marshall, who celebrated his return to the Kiwis squad this week by landing the match-winning golden point.

The Tigers arrived in Townsville with their backs to the wall after being thrashed by the Raiders in front of their home fans seven days earlier.

Dragons back on track at Bulldogs

 

The Dragons had slipped down the ladder with a string of defeats since their last win in April, but they were back on track thanks to a one-sided triumph on the road.

The visitors had Corey Norman back from a fractured cheekbone and both he and Queensland Maroons star Ben Hunt scored in inspiring performances.

It started badly for the Dragons as Raymond Faitala-Mariner crossed for the Bulldogs inside two minutes, but the Dragons were soon on top.

Panthers upset Roosters

The Panthers racked up a third straight win by downing the defending premiers at Panthers Stadium, with Maloney providing three try assists and a field goal in an impressive showing to enhance his claims for a State of Origin recall.

Nathan Cleary came in for criticism following the Blues' State of Origin I defeat to Queensland in midweek, but he also put in a strong showing against the high-flying Roosters.

Mate Ma'a Tonga 2.0: Next generation of league stars making their mark

The Kingdom will face New Zealand in the opening round of the Oceania Cup in Auckland later this month, in a much-awaited rematch of their famous victory over the Kiwis at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.

Brisbane Broncos star Tevita Pangai Junior joined the likes of Andrew Fifita, Jason Taumalolo and Sio Siua Taukeiaho last month in committing his international future to Tonga, after turning down the chance to play State of Origin.

Tags: 

Simaima Taufa making her voice heard in anti-violence campaign in Tonga

Taufa headed back to her birth place as part of the NRL's Voice Against Violence (VAV) program to continue the conversation around gender-based violence and gender equality, through the language of sport.

The Jillaroos lock said her reasoning for being involved in the trip was to be part of the change that the anti-violence program is going to bring for young girls and women in Tonga.

"For a long time in Tonga girls didn't play contact sport – it was also a bit of a taboo topic like domestic violence," Taufa said.

Whitbread ready for the Taumalolo challenge

With Jai Arrow named to play for the Maroons in Origin I, Jai Whitbread is likely to start at lock for the Titans on Sunday where he will go up against Cowboys colossus Jason Taumalolo.

The 21-year-old was called into the run-on side late last week when Arrow went down with a quadriceps injury during the captain's run and ran for 102 metres in 35 minutes.

More importantly, he limited the impact of Manly giant Martin Taupau.

Maroons Origin team: Emotional Walters names new faces, declares 'war'

The Maroons coach said debutants Moses Mbye, Joe Ofahengaue and David Fifita had earned their jerseys and would do the state proud as his eyes glazed over with the passion and emotion that has defined his tenure in charge of the Maroons.

Broncos forwards Ofahengaue and Fifita will come off the bench, as will Mbye with the Wests Tigers skipper beating Anthony Milford to the vital utility spot.

“I'm ready, we are ready. This is war,” Walters said.