A number of teams had their first hit-out of the new year as the new season rapidly approaches. For most, it was an opportunity to try out younger players as well as work on combinations.
The Gold Coast Titans secured their first victory after winning a scrappy affair against the Parramatta Eels, 22-10. Much of the game was riddled with errors as could be expected from a trial. The Eels led 10-4 late in the game before a late flurry of tries saw the Titans triumph for their first victory.
The Canterbury Bulldogs proved to be too strong for the St George-Illawarra Dragons, coming away with a hard-fought 26-16 win. The win may have come at a cost with an ankle injury to Bulldogs winger Matt Utai which could see him miss a large part of the season. The Dragons were kept scoreless in the second half after taking a 16-12 lead into the break.
Another injury has soured a victory, this time Sharks backrower Paul Gallen. Gallen suffered ankle ligament damage in the Sharks’ 22-4 win over the South Sydney Rabbitohs and it seems likely that he will be unavailable for the opening round. The Sharks played well in the wet conditions; however they overcame a team that was missing most of its star players.
The North Queensland Cowboys won an entertaining clash against the New Zealand Warriors 32-14. The Warriors struggled with their handling which gifted possession to the Cowboys on many occasions. This allowed them to apply pressure which eventually led to points. Fullback Matt Bowen was at his blistering best, scoring a try and setting up another.
Newcastle Knights scored two late tries to defeat the Penrith Panthers in wet conditions in Darwin. The two teams were locked at 18 a piece with 15 minutes remaining, but the Knights finished the stronger led by Jarred Mullen, running out 30-18 victors. A great crowd of approximately 9,000 braved the conditions to witness an entertaining game.
The Canberra Raiders confirmed why they have been marked as the wooden spoon favourites. A near full-strength Raiders team was outclassed by a Broncos team made up of QLD Cup players. The Broncos eventually won the game 18-12 and the Raiders have plenty of work to do before the season kicks off.
The Manly Sea Eagles had enough quality players to defeat the Melbourne Storm 30-20 on Saturday night. Both teams used their younger players throughout the match, however a 24-0 period when the Manly first grade side was on the field proved to be the difference. Jamie Lyon impressed in his first game for the Sea Eagles, while Matt Orford was also at his best. The Storm will also be pleased with the result, once again uncovering some talented young players.