reserve envelope, NSW Cup, Queensland Cup, Isaiya Katoa, Panthers, Nathan Brown, injury, return, Eels, Toby Sexton
New South Wales Cup side Penrith have sent an SOS to Dolphins-linked Isaiya Katoa after most of their regulars had taken on NRL duties.
Ivan Cleary’s decision to rest 12 players last week had a significant impact on the Cup squad, which, despite being made up of Jersey Flegg and Ron Massey Cup players, still produced a superb qualifying final against the North Sydney Bears.
One of the players called up to the reserve squad was Penrith’s SG Ball Grand Final Man of the Match, Isaiya Katoa.
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The teenage playmaker left for the Dolphins next season and due to his decision to sign with the expansion club, Penrith stopped investing in him once the SG Ball season ended.
Instead, he played in local league Glenmore Park Brumbies and Barker College rugby…until last weekend.
Read on for the latest recap of reserve ratings after the first week of Finals.
ALL EYES WAS ON…
Isaia Katoa made his NSW Cup debut for the Panthers in Saturday’s qualifying final and showed exactly why the Dolphins pounced on him.
The 19-year-old scored Penrith’s first try after a show-and-go 10 yards from the line before setting up two more, while also getting a line break, two assists, two tackles and 74 running meters.
Elsewhere, the star of the Eels Nathan Brown returned from a finger injury via the NSW Cup. Parramatta is now out of the Final after an 18-6 loss to the Bulldogs, but Brown was solid in his 46 minutes off the bench. He ran 120 yards, missed and had 26 tackles.
companion eel Bailey Simonson will keep the pressure on the freshman backline with a dominant performance in the crosses – his favorite position. Simonsson had a try, had four tackle saves and ran for 138 yards.
The Bulldogs got their money’s worth with a prostitute Zach Dockar-Clay, who scored his first NRL try in Friday’s 21-20 win over Manly and then featured for the NSW Cup side the following day. The 27-year-old started the game in second place but dropped to five-eights after an injury to Bailey Biondi-Odo in the ninth minute and set up a try, got a line break, a jump assist from line, four tackle busts and 192 running yards.
Meanwhile, ax titan Toby Sexton was instrumental in Tweed’s victory over the Brisbane Tigers to advance to week two of the final. Sexton set up two tries and ran for 86 yards in the 24-18 win.
And Trai Fullerwho signed a train and tryout deal with the Dolphins for next season, played with three line breaks, 11 tackle busts and 284 running yards in the Queensland side’s 22-16 win Cup against the Sunshine Coast Falcons.
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The Bears were stunned by a badly impoverished Panthers outfit, but will gain some confidence Sandon Smith once again deliver to halfback. Smith, who was named the Roosters Junior Representative Player of the Year in 2021, set up all three tries for North Sydney. He will have to deliver once again when they face the Bulldogs in a do-or-die final on Sunday.
Speaking of dogs, Splashback Toia turned out to be a handful at the back against the Eels. The 21-year-old was just about everywhere, finishing with a try, a try assist, a line break, two line break assists, three tackle busts and 250 running yards.
His teammate Brandon Wakeham was also key to victory with a line break, a line break assist, three tackle busts and 99 running yards to accompany his try just after half-time.
After being dropped to 18th in the last game of the regular season, Isaac Lumelume returned to the Dogs’ starting lineup in style with a try, two line breaks and 203 yards rushed, while the next generation of forwards also impressed. Jayden Tanner scored 198 running yards and had 32 tackles with only one misfire, Kurtis Morrin covered 170 yards and had 26 tackles with no misses as the fan favorite Jackson Topin finished with 142 yards rushed, a line break, a line break assist and 31 tackles with a miss.
While Toby Sexton steered the ship, Will Brimson went wild for Tweed. The Titans star’s older brother AJ scored a brace, had two line breaks, a line break assist, nine tackle busts and 173 running yards when he was five-eights down.
Saturday’s win was bittersweet for the Bulldogs point guard Bailey Biondi-Odowho unfortunately suffered a season-ending ACL injury following a hip tackle.
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