The second round of the 2007 NRL competition continued the brilliant rugby league. Some teams continued to struggle, while others continued their great start to the season.
All the signs pointed to a Dragons win prior to kick off. They were at home, playing a side who was without Andrew Johns, and were coming off a strong away win in round 1. Someone forgot to inform the Knights. Neither side were particularly impressive with plenty of errors; however it was the Knights who managed to grind out the win in the end. They scored 4 tries to 2 but failed to convert on each occasion. Two late tries provided a hard-earned away victory, leaving them undefeated. Kurt Gidley was again impressive, often taking the pressure off young Jarred Mullen. The Dragons often looked in control and will lament the missed opportunity.
The Panthers failed to score a single point against the Sharks in the first round. Meanwhile the Bulldogs were gallant in defeat against the Knights when they played with 12 men for nearly the whole game. Going on that form most were tipping a Bulldogs victory, but the Panthers had other ideas. Penrith were brilliant, particularly in the second half as they piled on the points. The enormous effort of the previous week was obvious for the Bulldogs and they never really put up a fight. Frank Pritchard was brilliant in his first game back from injury and got good support from all the Panthers’ forwards. Rhys Wesser returned to form, looking dangerous with every touch. He managed to cross for the final try, capping off an impressive 6-try performance from the mountain men.
With a number for key Manly players out for the game the Tigers were heavily favoured, particularly considering the Leichardt Oval home ground advantage. Just minutes before kick off the heavens opened up with an incredible downpour that probably played into the hands of the Sea Eagles. Manly had the edge in the forwards department and managed to grind out a clever victory. The Tigers were their own worst enemy, constantly dropping the ball which allowed manly to control the game. Manly scored on the stroke of half time which gave them the lead and they never looked back. Rookie dummy half Matt Balin was superb on debut, as was fill-in halfback Michael Monaghan who handled the position with ease in the absence of Matt Orford. The Tigers were disappointing and certainly didn’t handle the conditions as well as their opposition.
The Canberra Raiders put in a much improved performance and were well and truly in the game against the Melbourne Storm. The class of the Storm towards the end proved to be the difference, however the final score isn’t a fair indication on just how close the match was. A try right on half time to Storm prop Brett White seemed to change the momentum and gave them the lead going into the break. Melbourne were then too creative in the 2nd stanza and managed to blow the game out late. The signs were encouraging for the Raiders and they will be looking to build on that next week. Melbourne haven’t hit their straps yet, which is a concern for other teams in the competition.
North Queensland Cowboys 43 def Sydney Roosters 6
The Cowboys have proved why they are one of the most dangerous teams in the competition with the demolition of the Sydney Roosters. The first half was relatively close with the Roosters keeping within striking distance. The second half was a different story as the Cowboys ran riot with 4 tries. Jonathan Thurston was again brilliant and is an early favourite for the Dally M player of the year. Matt Bowen is also back to his brilliant best, proving to be dangerous with every touch of the ball. The Roosters have plenty of work to do if they are going to be competitive in 2007. The one-marker tactic they have been using simply hasn’t worked and it is time to get back to basics. The halves area is still a major concern and needs to be rectified. In two weeks of football they have scored just 2 tries which is simply not good enough to compete.
It was always going to be difficult for the Broncos to travel across the Tasman, especially with captain Darren Lockyer out injured. Despite that, Brisbane got off to a flying start, scoring the first two tries to take an early 10-2 lead. New Zealand didn’t seem phased about the deficit and managed to turn it on for the rest of the half, running in 4 tries in the space of 11 minutes. Momentum had certainly changed and the Warriors took a comfortable 24-10 lead into the break. The second half was a fairly dour affair with both teams guilty of making too many errors. The Warriors managed to hang on for another impressive victory. Wade McKinnon was once again superb at the back and Steve Price led from the front in a powerful performance.
South Sydney are starting to earn some respect in the NRL once again. They have conceded just 2 tries in the opening two rounds and are definitely a team to watch. It is fair to say that the Eels were highly disappointing in this match and are a team with problems. The Rabbits dominated the game and managed to blow out the lead towards the end. It was almost a sense of grinding out the opposition with strong, desperate defence and there were stages where the Eels seemed to be helpless out on the field. The halves combination is not working and the team looks as if it is simply going through the motions. On the other hand, South Sydney will be overjoyed with their start to the season. They are no longer the easy-beats of the competition and are great to watch, exemplified by the incredible chip-and-chase Nathan Merritt try that had the crowd dancing in the stands.
The Titans have recorded their first competition victory and it was secured with just minutes remaining in the contest. Cronulla were seemingly in control of the match, leading 16-6 with a strong wind at their backs. The Titans were struggling to get into good field position and it seemed that the Sharks would be able to hang on for victory. A crucial error from Greg Bird turned the game and gave the Titans a chance. Preston Campbell managed to crash over after a beautiful inside pass from halfback Scott Prince put him in space. Campbell converted to give the Titans a 6-point lead with six minutes remaining. They managed to hang on from there, sparking celebrations from the players as well as the capacity crowd who were on hand to witness history.