General NZRL National Premiership 2018



Rehashed New Zealand Rugby League National Premiership to be televised
21:30, Jul 28 2016
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Counties Manukau's Sione Feao in action against Canterbury last year.
League fans will be able to watch the new-look New Zealand Rugby League National Premiership from the comfort of their own home when it kicks off in September.

All seven games in the premiership, which will feature the Akarana Falcons, Wellington Orcas, Counties Manukau Stingrays and Canterbury Bulls, will be televised live on Sky Sport.

The rehashed competition kicks off on September 11 with a double-header at Auckland's Mt Smart Stadium.

Wellington will play the Akarana Falcons in the opener, before the defending champion Counties Manukau Stingrays play the Canterbury Bulls.

Each team will play the other three sides once, before the top two go head-to-head in the final at Mt Smart Stadium on October 1.

The revamped national programme will also see four teams - Northern, Central, Southern and a development team - compete for the second tier championship.

The championship winning team will play the fourth-placed premiership side for promotion next year. It will also be televised.

NZRL Premiership draw
September 11: Akarana Falcons v Wellington Orcas, Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland, 2pm; Counties Manukau Stingrays v Canterbury Bulls, Mt Smart Stadium, 4pm.
September 16: Akarana Falcons v Counties Manukau Stingrays, Mt Smart Stadium, 7.30pm.
September 18: Canterbury Bulls v Wellington Orcas, AMI Stadium, Christchurch, 4pm.
September 25: Wellington Orcas v Counties Manukau Stingrays, Wellington, 2pm; Canterbury Bulls v Akarana Falcons, AMI Stadium, 4pm.
October 1: Grand final, Mt Smart Stadium, 6pm; Promotion/relegation
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September 16, 2018 / Will Evans
The Rockcote Canterbury Bulls have kicked off their 2018 NZRL National Premiership campaign with an outstanding win, edging out Counties Manukau Stingrays 20-18 at Mount Smart Stadium.

Canterbury led by two points at halftime but needed a late try from barnstorming winger Ben Ilalio and an ice-cool conversion from captain James Baxendale to snatch a vital result and take a huge step towards the October 6 final.

The Rockcote Bulls got off to a flying start, marching downfield on the back of an opening-minute penalty before 19-year-old halfback debutant Brad Campbell fired a beautiful long ball out for centre Will Tafua, who used his big frame to power over out wide.

Baxendale drilled a booming conversion from the sideline for 6-0.

The Stingrays wasted little time replying, with burly prop Connor Purcell muscling over form close-range, but the Rockcote Bulls regained the lead through a Dene Grace try in the 11th minute, the Hornby centre slicing through off a deft pass from wily Linwood five-eighth Toi Sepuloni.


The Bulls celebrate Dene Grace’s first-half try.

Baxendale edged his side out to 14-6 with an 18th-minute penalty as Canterbury continued to dominate territory on the back of excellent go-forward and the precise kicking of Campbell and Sepuloni.

Counties Manukau struck back through lightning fullback Geronimo Doyle and the southerners began to have trouble with their opponents’ second-phase play.

Both sides tightened up their defence at the back-end of the half and the scoreline remained an evenly-poised 14-12 in favour of the Rockcote Bulls at the break.

Canterbury had several attacking opportunities on the Counties line early in the second half but failed to cash in. The Stingrays’ poor handling ensured the Rockcote Bulls were put under little pressure, however.

But it was the Stingrays who broke the impasse in the 63rd minute and took the lead for the first time in the match. Rangy winger Edward Kosi flew high to catch a high attacking kick and dive over for a spectacular try.


Canterbury regroup after conceding the lead for the first time with 16 minutes left.

Time appeared to be running out on Canterbury as Counties found their rhythm, but Stingrays winger George Edwards’ fumble of a regulation catch allowed Rockcote Bulls opposite Ilalio to streak away for the leveller against the run of play.

Baxendale calmly slotted the angled conversion to put the Rockcote Bulls in front 20-18 with six minutes left.


Bulls winger Ben Ilalio runs away for the match-winning try.

Canterbury had a couple of chances to seal the result but came up just short, before repelling a late Counties raid to clinch a momentous first-up victory.

There were outstanding contributors across the park, but none were better for the Rockcote Bulls than feisty No.7 Campbell, whose busy running game, support play and grass-cutting defence proved a thorn in the Stingrays’ side all afternoon.

Versatile tyro Cyrus Timo-Latu also had a blinder off the bench for the victors.


Canterbury halfback Brad Campbell, 19, takes a well-earned drink during an outstanding debut display.

The Rockcote Bulls play their remaining round-robin games against Waikato (September 22) and Akarana (September 29) at Christchurch’s Rugby League Park, giving them a handy advantage in their bid for a spot in the NZRL Premiership final.

NZRL NATIONAL PREMIERSHIP ROUND 1 – Rockcote Canterbury Bulls 20 (Will Tafua, Dene Grace, Ben Ilalio tries; James Baxendale 4 goals) defeated Counties Manukau Stingrays 18 (Connor Purcell, Geronimo Doyle, Edward Kosi tries; Drew Radich 3 goals) at Mount Smart Stadium, 2pm, Sunday, September 16.

Jeez I didn't even know this was on. Could have been watching some live footy today.

Anyone hear about the region of origin concept???
September 22, 2018 / Will Evans
The Rockcote Canterbury Bulls ran out emphatic 52-6 winners over Waikato in Round 2 of the NZRL National Premiership, putting an error-strewn period behind them to pile on six tries in the last 20 minutes at Rugby League Park in Christchurch.

After upsetting Counties Manukau six days earlier, Canterbury’s landslide victory puts them in the box seat for a spot in their first final since 2015.

The home side led 16-0 in even time but a lack of discipline with the ball at the back-end of the first half and the start of the second half made for a scrappy spectacle. However, the Rockcote Bulls’ sizzling finish to the game provides confidence ahead of next Saturday’s blockbuster against Akarana and a likely rematch with the Falcons in the October 6 decider.

Halfback Brad Campbell was again magnificent, fullback Tauvale Tauvale was a constant menace to the Waikato defence and scored two tries and set one up, Ben Ilalio notched a barnstorming double in a strong performance, and Paul Sauni had two try-assists while fellow forward-pack veterans Rulon Nutira, James Baxendale, Alex Todd and Alani Kakoi all had big games.

Canterbury withstood an early attacking barrage from Waikato, stoutly defending a couple of sets on their own try-line.

The Rockcote Bulls drew first blood in the eighth minute when a beautiful cut-out ball from the 19-year-old Campbell put Ilalio into space. The giant winger put his name on the scoresheet for the second straight week with a pair of fends and outstanding footwork.

The hosts raced to a 12-0 lead in their ensuing set, Paul Sauni slicing through the line and putting away Tauvale for the try.

Tauvale had a brace at the 17-minute mark, producing a great step and a powerful fend to leave the Waikato defence in ruins.

But weight of possession eventually told for the visitors, responding through fullback Duane Sykes on the back of a third line dropout and a penalty.

The remainder of the first half was dominated by errors from both teams, but the Rockcote Bulls struck a crucial blow in the 37th minute to take a 22-6 advantage into the break. Dynamic interchange hooker Cyrus Timo-Latu beat five defenders on a stunning dummy-half run to the try-line.

Handling let Canterbury down badly in the opening 20 minutes of the second stanza but Waikato were unable to capitalise on a torrent of possession in good field position.

The Rockcote Bulls regrouped in the 61st minute via an Alani Kakoi try, the Linwood rake barging over from close-range. Baxendale’s fourth conversion made it 28-6.

Waikato’s defensive floodgates reopened from that point as Canterbury crossed with their next possession. Slick short-side passing from Kakoi and Paul Sauni produced a try for Matt Sauni, who came into the side at centre for Dene Grace (family bereavement) in the only change to last week’s line-up.

Will Yeow dotted down with 11 minutes to go off a brilliant cross-field kick from Toi Sepuloni, before Baxendale capped a wonderful performance with a strong solo try.

The onslaught continued in the 76th minute when Tauvale made another searing break and positioned the livewire Campbell for a well-deserved four-pointer. Ben Ilalio chalked up the Rockcote Bulls’ half-century by backing up a Kakoi dart and reaching out for his second.

A win by the Falcons over the Stingrays in Saturday’s other Premiership clash would guarantee the Rockcote Bulls’ passage to the final with one round remaining.

Rockcote Canterbury Bulls 52 (Tauvale Tauvale 2, Ben Ilalio 2, Cyrus Timo-Latu, Alani Kakoi, Matt Sauni, Will Yeow, James Baxendale, Brad Campbell tries; Baxendale 6 goals) defeated Waikato 6 (Duane Sykes try; Hayden Karena goal) at Rugby League Park, Christchurch. Halftime: Canterbury 22-6. Referee: Chris McMillan. Touch judges: Manu Varney and Jason Wilson.
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Jeez I didn't even know this was on. Could have been watching some live footy today.

Anyone hear about the region of origin concept???
The new jersey sets look good on the players, not a bad crowd on day 1 and day 2. A few dead rubbers this week in the grades, overall the new concept/format is better than what they had in the past IMO. A few of the grades are drained of rep players because of the different fixtures coming up e.g. Nat comp in rotorua and NZ Res 18's vs Toa 18's.

TBH I think if Counties play Canterbury again they should beat them, the back line slicker IMO one thing I gave the Bulls was the grunty forward pack they have. I was suprised Counties beat Akarana but it's that old saying, It's when to win lol
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September 29, 2018 / Canterbury Rugby League
The Rockcote Canterbury Bulls’ NZRL National Premiership final hopes hang by a thread after a 34-14 defeat to Akarana Falcons at Rugby League Park in Christchurch.

Needing to win, or lose by less than 12 points, to guarantee a place in next Saturday’s decider, the Rockcote Bulls made their task difficult by conceding three tries in the opening 18 minutes.

The Falcons, meanwhile, are the first side into the final with two wins and a +46 points differential, with the Rockcote Bulls – who won their first two games – slipping to +28.

If Counties Manukau Stingrays beat struggling Waikato by more than 16 points in Hamilton tomorrow, they will secure a place in an all-Auckland decider.

Early errors and penalties stunted the Rockcote Bulls’ early progress and the Falcons landed on the scoreboard first in the ninth minute through fullback Polima Siaki.

Akarana doubled their lead to 8-0 in the first set after the restart, an awkward kick getting away from Canterbury fullback Tauvale Tauvale and allowing Dylan Tavita to skip through for the try. But Tauvale could consider himself unlucky after being tackled without the ball – an infringement that went unnoticed by the officials.

Francis Ledger converted from out wide for an imposing 10-0 lead.

Another cheap turnover invited the Falcons back into the Rockcote Bulls’ red-zone. The visitors cashed in again thanks to a beautiful ball from Tavita, which saw second-rower Daniel Reuelu-Buchanan steam through a gap for a simple 18th-minute try.

At 16-0 down Canterbury’s place in the final was looking much shakier than it was prior to kick-off.

But the Rockcote Bulls belatedly started to make some inroads and opened their account in the 25th minute courtesy of some magic from Ben Ilalio. The giant winger climbed over his opposite to reel in a Brad Campbell bomb, stayed in the field of play and flicked the ball back infield for centre Will Tafua, who did well the get the ball down.

Akarana dominated possession in the last 10 minutes of the first half, however, and Canterbury’s goal-line defence buckled as hooker Sioeli Makaui burrowed over for a simple dummy-half try – and a 22-4 halftime advantage.

The Rockcote Bulls narrowly avoided falling even further behind just before the break after adding to their massive error count near their goal-line.

The home side put themselves under immediate pressure in the second half, with Tauvale coughing up a bomb 20 metres out from the Canterbury line. But this time the Rockcote Bulls’ defence held solid.

There was a lengthy delay just six minutes after the resumption as classy Falcons No.1 Siaki was stretchered off with a suspected broken leg. Rockcote Bulls five-eighth Toi Sepuloni also exited due to injury.

Play resumed more than 20 minutes later and the Rockcote Bulls scored a crucial try at the end of their first possession. Campbell’s long kick took a wicked bounce, the halfback regathered it and found fellow 19-year-old Jope Tagicakibau – a late pre-game replacement in the starting back-row for Matt Sauni – in support to charge away for Canterbury’s second.

But the game swung back the Falcons’ way in the 51st minute as Paul Sauni’s cut-out ball was snaffled by Tavita, who streaked 85 metres for an intercept try to restore his side’s 18-point advantage.

Despite several opportunities, Canterbury was unable to eat into the deficit in the ensuing 20 minutes, but Alani Kakoi’s dart from dummy-half with nine minutes remaining revived the hosts’ hopes of finishing on the right side of the for-and-against equation.

James Baxendale’s missed conversion left the Rockcote Bulls 14 points in arrears.

They forced a line drop-out with three minutes to go but a gilt-edged chance to grab a place in the Premiership decider when the Falcons’ restart bounced into touch.

Akarana centre Nalu Tuigamala sealed his side’s place in the final – and pushed Canterbury further down into the points differential mire – with a late kick-and-chase try.

In a disappointing overall team effort, front-row veteran Rulon Nutira stood tall, while Campbell again played with tenacity and a maturity that belies his tender years, and Tagicakibau’s performance on the left edge was eye-catching.

Akarana Falcons34 (Dylan Tavita 2, Polima Siaki, Daniel Reuelu-Buchanan, Sioeli Makaui, Nalu Tuigamala tries; Francis Ledger 5 goals) defeated Rockcote Canterbury Bulls (Will Tafua, Jope Tagicakibau, Alani Kakoi tries; James Baxendale goal) at Rugby League Park, Christchurch.
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Speaking to a mate who was at the game he said the bulls were terrible- tried hard but just kept dropping the ball.
All Auckland final looks the most likely outcome now.
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Speaking to a mate who was at the game he said the bulls were terrible- tried hard but just kept dropping the ball.
All Auckland final looks the most likely outcome now.
Any bolters in the Christchurch team that the club should be looking at?

Always surprised me that Baxendale never had a go of it. Certainly had the rig for it and I think it was 3 years ago he smashed the comp to bits with his runs. Kind of strikes me as more of a Saturdays are for the boys drinking lad than full-time professional athlete...
Any bolters in the Christchurch team that the club should be looking at?

Always surprised me that Baxendale never had a go of it. Certainly had the rig for it and I think it was 3 years ago he smashed the comp to bits with his runs. Kind of strikes me as more of a Saturdays are for the boys drinking lad than full-time professional athlete...

I'm pretty out of the loop these days mate- wouldn't know much about the younger guys.
Baxendale is a bit of a lad- probably never really committed to league- I remember he was a highly touted cricketer when he was younger- not sure what happened there but I think he sort of pursued that ahead of league.
Rulon has been around a while too- always thought he was good enough to play nrl- he came over to oz but couldn't quite crack it- I'd say that ships sailed now.
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