While the 2018 #NRL Pre-Season is still a few weeks away, there's a bunch of warm-up clashes happeni...
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You just never know how a game is going to go until the first kick-off is struck.
With a more than reasonable amount of National Rugby League and Super League experience, Italy were drilled in as one of the heaviest favourites of the opening weekend. An hour and a half later, they were defeated. A few days later, they were deflated. Drama has followed the Azzuri following their 36-12 thrashing defeat by the hands of the brave Irish team. James Tedesco was reportedly king-hit by team-mate Shannon Wakeman following a verbal altercation, putting further strain on the team. The Cairns heat took it's toll on the Italians who simply couldn't get past the defence of the Wolfhounds. Handling errors and poor decision making took it's toll as the Super League experienced Irish side swept past. Even superstar fullback, the aforementioned Tedesco had a day to forget His mishandling gave Irish centre Michael Morgan the easiest try of his career.
They are set to battle the United States team following their 58-12 defeat to Fiji. There were signs from the Hawks from the determined side that took on the world four years ago. The class simply wasn't there to match the determination however in the heavy defeat in Townsville. Now the two sides clash in a battle simply to survive. Any chance of qualifying for the final eight rests solely on this game, the loser will certainly finish in the group stage.
Back in the day when an unbelievable sixteen teams used to take part in the World Cup, Italy and the United States could only manage a position in the Emerging Nations tournament that took place alongside it. Wish I could say more about it, but like the 2000 World Cup in general, it was problematic. Think of the Maori side in the World Cup, the Emerging Nations was won by the British Amateur Rugby League Association. Anyway Italy thrashed the States in this one.
Who to watch: Italy will once again rely on their experience in the forward pack to guide them home in this one. Experienced forwards Paul Vaughan, Daniel Alvaro, Mark Minichiello, Nathan Brown and even benchie Brendan Santi all piled on 100 running metres or more in their opening match. But they need points, and creativity. Nothing seemed to go in their favour for that regard. For the son of the gun, Jack Johns provided a fairly underwhelming match. His kicking game definitely didn't help his cause, and if the reputation from his late season Under 20's form is to go by, he may have the capability to turn it around against the Hawks. The forwards will do their job, Johns needs to step up to get his team across the line.
If the World Cup has told us anything, dreams can come true. Due to his performances in the 2013 World Cup, Bureta Faraimo was able to sign an NRL contract with the Parramatta Eels, making his first grade debut the following year. He was the real standout for the Hawks in their first game both in attack and defence. Another standout performance could really lift the side to compete with the Azzuri.
The favourite: Despite a poor first showing, Italy's experience has put them in as favourites for this one.
2. Mason Cerruto 14. Chris Centrone 3. Justin Castellaro 4. Nathan Milone 5. Josh Mantellato 1. James Tedesco 7. Ryan Ghietti 8. Paul Vaughan 9. Joey Tramontana 10. Daniel Alvaro 17. Jayden Walker 12. Mark Minichiello 13. Nathan Brown 11. Joel Riethmuller 15. Brendan Santi 16. Shannon Wakeman 21. Christophe Calegri
1. Corey Makelim 2. Ryan Burroughs 3. Junior Vaivai 21. Joshua Rice 5. Bureta Faraimo 6. Kristian Freed 7. Tui Samoa 8. Eddy Pettybourne 9. David Marando 10. Mark Offerdahl 11. Danny Howard 12. Matt Shipway 17. Gabriel Farley 14. Sam Tochterman-talbott 15. Fotukava Malu 18. Charles Joseph Cortalano 20. David Ulch