Souths grind Sea Eagles
This is one of the weirdest games you’ll ever see. The Rabbits were on fire in the first 15 minutes, scoring three tries and blowing Manly out of the water. A thrashing was on the cards. But then Souths, with Sam Burgess back, went to sleep for the next 65 minutes and the Sea Eagles roared back into the contest. With marquee man Daly Cherry-Evans missing, former Rabbitohs Dylan Walker and Api Koroisau were inspiring in the halves, each scoring a try as Manly almost pulled off a great comeback. Souths got home just in the end 16-12, but coach Michael Maguire delivered an almighty spray at half-time to try and lift his fading troops. It kind of worked but it’s a worry for Madge and his team that they dropped off for so long.
All eyes were on James Roberts where he returned to the Gold Coast for the first time with his new club Brisbane. The Titans let the gun centre go thanks to a bungled signature on his contract, surely one of the biggest cock-ups in NRL history. It took just three minutes for Robersts to make his mark, beating two Gold Coast defenders to glide over and score. Tries to Ben Hunt and Jordan Kahu, sandwiched in between a David Mead four-pointer, put the Broncos in control. When Kodi Nikorima added Brisbane’s fourth the Titans were sunk but not beaten down, Zeb Taia getting a four-minute double to cut the lead to just eight points. Brave and battling, there is certainly some spirit in this Gold Coast team. For the Broncs it’s full steam ahead.
Like Brisbane, Melbourne are racking up the wins but unlike their Queensland neighbours, they are not nearly playing as well. Newcastle were desperately unlucky to lose this one, in front by six points with 16 minutes remaining but caught out by a fast-finishing Storm. Errors and ordinary play was the order of the day in this clash, but Melbourne got its act together in the final quarter to get the cash. Against a young and weakened Knights line-up a win was a must for the Mexicans, but Craig Bellamy won’t be happy with what he saw.
Is 2016 the year of the Shark? Considering Cronulla have never won a grand final in their 40-odd year history maybe not, but they have a good team right now and will give the finals a real shake. James Maloney and Chad Townsend are turning into a top halves combo and the Sharkies have a big, tough pack. James Tedesco almost won the game single-handedly for the Tigers, as he has done a very times already this year, but Gallen and co just managed to keep him at bay. Put your money on a top eight spot for Cronulla, probably top four, and for Tedesco to make his NSW Origin debut this year. The fullback is a freak.
There’s no competition – St George Illawarra have the worst attack in the NRL. The Cowboys slayed the Dragons 36-0, but funnily enough this match was close for the first 50 minutes. From the 51st minute to the 69th North Queensland crossed for three tries, crushing the Red V’s spirits. Benji Marshall had a shocker while his opposite number Jonathan Thurston was in his usual electric form. It was a night to forget for St George Illawarra who are facing the same problem they had in 2015, they struggle to score tries and trouble opposing defences. Back to the drawing board for Mary McGregor.
Has the worm turned for New Zealand? The Warriors made it back-to-back victories with a 32-28 result against the Roosters, condemning the Sydneysiders to their fifth straight loss. This was the Shaun Johnson and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck show, the two tearing up the Roosters with RTS scoring a sensational winner in golden point to haunt his old club. You’ve got to feel a little sorry for Easts, they lead several times in this one and never threw in the towel. But the ball just isn’t bouncing their way right now and they’ll have to wait a bit longer for their first win of the season.
This western Sydney derby was something to savour, a stunning Bryce Cartwright try after full-time stealing the win from Parramatta. Two local rivals going head to head, the Eels looked to have it wrapt up when Jamie Soward missed a later conversion. But his cross-field kick was pinpoint, Cartwright taking it and dummied to score. Like Tedesco, the second-rower has been brilliant this year and is surely in the frame for Blues selection. We also saw Matt Moylan back on the field for the Panthers, a welcome sight to see and he will get better as the rounds go on.
Ricky Stuart has done a fantastic job with Canberra as the Raiders continue to surprise and delight. Here they upset the Bulldogs at Belmore, controlling the game from the start with the blue and white only getting a sniff late on. The cornerstone of Sticky’s revolution, apart from the halves Blake Austina and Aidan Sezer, has been hooker Josh Hodgson. The Englishman has become a better player thanks to his time in the NRL and Canberra have a real diamond at dummy half.