The NRL Wrap: Round 1, 2017

Brisbane battle past Premiers
Cronulla Sharks’ title defence got off to the worst possible start, as the reigning Premiers were beaten 26-18 at home to Brisbane Broncos in the opening fixture of the 2017 season. Jordan Kahu registered the first points of the campaign and added a penalty goal after Gerard Beale had levelled the score, but James Roberts’ try before the break sent Broncos into the sheds 14-6 up. Corey Oates extended their advantage with a trademark finish and ended with stats of 16 carries in which he made 197 metres, more than anyone else on the field. James Maloney and Ricky Leutele sparked a comeback as the Sharks went within two points, but Anthony Milford struck 11 minutes from time to secure the victory.

Storm grind it out
Melbourne Storm put the heartache of losing out in last year’s Grand Final behind them as they ground out a narrow and bad-tempered victory over Canterbury Bulldogs in a game where 18 points were posted in the opening half hour. Cheyse Blair got the visitors off the mark with a short side play before Suliasi Vunivalu races onto a kick to touch down, as Cameron Smith added a conversion and a penalty goal. Josh Reynolds replied for the Bulldogs  and both sides were reduced to 12 men when Sam Kasiano and Will Chambers were sin-binned for a punch up. With the conditions deteriorating in the second half Melbourne survived a blue and white onslaught to see out the game and pick up the points.

Tedesco turns it on
The limelight was taken away from James Tedesco as he led Wests Tigers to a 34-18 win over South Sydney Rabbitohs in the opening round, as the big talking point was Greg Inglis picked up an ACL injury which will sideline him for six months and potentially out of the World Cup. The Souths fullback played on for 50 minutes with the injury and even scored, but shouldn’t have been allowed to continue as he was in real pain. His opposite number Tedesco was white hot and had an outstanding game, terrorising the Bunnies every time he had possession. He scored one and created three as they cruised to victory, with Bryson Goodwin scoring a hat-trick in defeat as Souths restored some pride late on.

Widdop silences the critics
Gareth Widdop came in for a lot of criticism at the back end of last season, as the blame for St George Illawarra Dragons’ poor season was placed on his shoulders. He started 2017 with a brilliant performance though as he showed his class in one of his finest displays for the Red V in their shock 42-10 victory over Penrith Panthers. It was their biggest victory in this fixture, as Joel Thompson crossed for a hat-trick and Widdop finished with a brace and posted 22 points. The Panthers were much fancied after some astute off-season recruitment and a promising season last year, however their trip to Jubilee Oval on Saturday afternoon was a reality check for the mountain men.

Greatest ever ending?
North Queensland served up a golden point win which will be talked about for years to come, as they edged Canberra Raiders 20-16 in a closely fought contest. The Raiders were starved of possession but defended brilliantly as they repelled the 2015 premiers on a number of occasions. For all their possession the Cowboys couldn’t make it pay in normal time, and when Joey Leilua crossed for his second try three minutes from time Aidan Sezer had a shot at goal to win it but couldn’t convert. Locked at 16-16 Jonathan Thurston attempted a rushed field goal attempt which rattled the underside of the crossbar and looked destined to go dead, only to take a wicked bounce to keep it in play where Gavin Cooper pounced to win the game in unbelievable circumstances.

Roosters’ halves fire
The new Sydney Roosters halfback pairing of Mitchell Pearce and Luke Keary led them to an impressive 32-18 win over Gold Coast Titans, as a blistering first 40 was enough to seal the two points. They went into the sheds 28-0 up, with Keary and Mitchell helping themselves to a brace each and may be disappointed they couldn’t punish their opponents further after opening up a commanding lead. Titans ran in three tries to finally respond in the second half, with Jarryd Hayne scoring their last try of the game before Mitchell completed his hat-trick to wrap up the game in an impressive display from the fullback. Both Dan Sarginson and Joe Greenwood made their NRL debuts for the Gold Coast.

Hoffman wins it late
New Zealand Warriors recorded their first opening day victory since 2009 as Ryan Hoffman muscled his way over late-on to snatch a 26-22 win over Newcastle Knights. David Fusitua scored a sensational hat-trick, with the pick of the bunch coming from a brilliant ‘no-look’ offload from the scintillating Shaun Johnson. Nathan Ross’ second half double edged the 2016 wooden spooners ahead though as they held a two-point lead before the hosts struck with seven minutes left on the clock to deny their opponents a shock victory. It was a valiant effort from Newcastle after trailing 20-8 at the break, as their young squad will take plenty of positives from the defeat.

Eels dominant in Manly win
Parramatta may have won by just eight points, however they were in complete control of their opponents as they recorded a 20-12 victory over Manly Sea Eagles. They had 60% of the possession and forced seven goal-line drop-outs in the second period, although the scoreline was testament to the hosts’ resilient defence. Corey Norman and former Sea Eagle Clint Gutherson combined brilliantly to lead Parramatta to their sixth straight win in this fixture, with the latter scoring his side’s final try of the contest. Blake Green crossed with three minutes left on the clock as he made his Manly debut, but it wasn’t enough the visitors left with the two points.


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