A look back at a huge Round 1 of the NRL

mastermind5991 Roar Guru

By mastermind5991, mastermind5991 is a Roar Guru

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    One round down, 24 to go, and for the second year in a row the St George Illawarra Dragons have finished the opening round of the new season on top of the ladder after scoring the biggest win of Round 1.

    Marshaled by new halfback Ben Hunt, the Dragons defied a recent poor record against the Brisbane Broncos to register a 34-12 victory, with Hunt scoring a 50-metre intercept try ten minutes into the second half.

    The fact that it was Broncos prop Matthew Lodge who threw the fateful pass made it all the more sweeter. The controversial forward was booed in his first NRL appearance since mid-2015.

    The 22-year-old had been sacked by the Wests Tigers after going on a drunken rampage in New York, threatening a family who to this day continue to be haunted by his violent actions.

    Lodge was jeered every time he touched the ball and was cheered every time he made an error, including dropping the ball cold in the opening half and, as mentioned above, throwing the fateful pass that led to Ben Hunt scoring his first try in his new colours in the second.

    Hunt, for his part, has already proven after just one game with the Dragons that he is the halfback the club has desperately been craving for.

    Not since Ben Hornby and Jamie Soward in 2010 has the club had a stable halves pairing, but Hunt’s partnership with captain Gareth Widdop, as well as the experience and leadership of fellow recruit James Graham, will prove crucial to the Dragons’ chances of premiership glory in 2018.

    As for the Broncos, who are currently enduring their longest premiership drought, questions will be asked as to whether they can continue to contend for the title this year.

    Their heavy defeat sees them last on the ladder on percentage after Round 1, and things will not get any easier when they face Johnathan Thurston and the Cowboys in their first home game for the season this Friday night.

    Not only did Thurston bring up his long-awaited 300th NRL game last Friday night, he also became the most-capped Cowboy in club history, overtaking Matt Bowen with his 271st appearance as his side edged out the Cronulla Sharks 20-14.

    Johnathan Thurston

    (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

    A fully fit Thurston, who has stepped aside from representative duties, is the major key to the club’s chances of a second premiership after the 34-year-old missed their fairytale run to last year’s grand final, where it was far from disgraced in losing to the Melbourne Storm.

    Another player who has made an instant impact for his new club is Newcastle Knights recruit Mitchell Pearce.

    Pushed out of the Sydney Roosters after their acquisition of Cooper Cronk, the much-maligned NSW halfback kicked the match-winning field goal in golden point extra time to see his new side beat the Sea Eagles 19-18.

    It was the Knights’ first win in golden point since Round 2, 2008 (coincidentally, it was also against the Sea Eagles at home), and it’s fair to say that the scenes that unfolded afterwards may not have been seen since the club took out the 2001 premiership in stunning fashion.

    There are high expectations for the club this year on the back of its strongest off-season for many years, in which they also landed Pearce’s premiership-winning teammate from the Roosters, Aidan Guerra, as well as Slade Griffin, Chris Heighington and Kalyn Ponga, among others.

    Pearce is the highest-profile halfback the Steel City has had since Andrew Johns led the Knights to their two premierships in 1997 and 2001.

    Newcastle Knights

    (Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images)

    Still on the subject of halfbacks, and Cooper Cronk’s first game as a Rooster will go down as one he would rather forget, as the Chooks suffered an upset 10-8 loss to wooden spoon favourites, the Wests Tigers.

    In what turned out to be a defensive affair, the first try didn’t come 15 minutes from full-time, when Blake Ferguson scored for the Roosters, however, the Tigers had one last trick up their sleeve and scored in the corner through Corey Thompson to give them their first win over the Bondi club since 2011.

    Significantly, this marked the first time the Roosters had been held to single figures by the Tigers, for whom the biggest test of their character will come when they face the Storm, whose fullback Billy Slater is expected to play his 300th NRL game, in Melbourne this Saturday night.

    The Roosters, meanwhile, will have to regroup quickly before they host the Bulldogs this Friday night.

    Cooper Cronk Roosters trial

    (AAP Image/Darren Pateman)

    Life under new coach Dean Pay got off to a tough start for the men from Belmore as they were beaten by the reigning premiers 36-18.

    In the place of Slater, who was being rested due to a minor shoulder injury, Cameron Munster again impressed, his performance coming after reports of his attitude during the World Cup surfaced during the off-season.

    It was the second match of the Perth Stadium double header, with the earlier match seeing the New Zealand Warriors pull off an upset 32-20 win over the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

    Expectations are quite low for the Warriors this season, but the result could go down as proof that the club will not be taken lightly this year.

    Roger Tuivasa-Sheck played arguably his best game for the club since crossing over from the Sydney Roosters at the end of the 2015 season, while Shaun Johnson was solid on his return from a knee injury which ended his season in Round 19 last year.

    For the Bunnies, Greg Inglis emerged from his own return match unscathed, playing the full 80 minutes twelve months to the day after suffering a season-ending knee injury against the Wests Tigers last March.

    It was a tough start to life under Anthony Seibold for the Rabbitohs, and is proof that there are still some loose ends to tie before they can be considered finals contenders once again.

    At the foot of the mountains, all eyes were on Jarryd Hayne as he made his first appearance for the Parramatta Eels since 2014, but while they were able to take a 14-0 lead in the first half, the Penrith Panthers would hit back with 24 unanswered points to storm to a 24-14 victory.

    The turning point came when Eel Mitch Moses, who played every minute for the club after arriving from the Wests Tigers midway through last season, was sin binned in the second half, at which point the Panthers took the lead for the first time in the match and never surrendered it thereafter.

    The final match of the opening round saw the Gold Coast Titans escape with a 30-28 victory over the Canberra Raiders, after the visitors had made the best start possible by scoring three tries within the first twelve minutes.

    Even after that disastrous start, the Titans would not give in, and with two minutes remaining Konrad Hurrell emerged as the hero, scoring under the posts to level the scores, with the ultimately successful conversion from Michael Gordon seeing them home in dramatic circumstances.

    Konrad Hurrell Gold Coast Titans NRL Rugby League 2017

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    In many ways it will go down as a rollercoaster debut match as Titans coach for Garth Brennan, who becomes just the club’s third head coach in just over a decade of existence in the NRL.

    So, that’s one round down in the 2018 NRL season, with twenty-four more to go. If the finals were to start this weekend, then the finals would look like this:

    Qualifying finals
    Dragons versus Panthers, Allianz Stadium
    Storm versus Warriors, AAMI Park

    Elimination finals
    Cowboys versus Knights, 1300SMILES Stadium
    Wests Tigers versus Titans, ANZ Stadium

    Rebuild announcement

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    The Crowd Says (14)

    • March 12th 2018 @ 7:57am
      Ac said | March 12th 2018 @ 7:57am | ! Report

      Exciting round to start the season.

    • Roar Rookie

      March 12th 2018 @ 9:22am
      up in the north said | March 12th 2018 @ 9:22am | ! Report

      Did anyone select 8 winnners?

      • Roar Guru

        March 12th 2018 @ 9:31am
        Dogs Of War said | March 12th 2018 @ 9:31am | ! Report

        If you did then you have no place tipping for a living. Though I would have liked to have $100 on that round.

      • March 12th 2018 @ 9:48am
        Biff Tannen said | March 12th 2018 @ 9:48am | ! Report

        I got 8 out of 8 thanks to my Sports Almanac.

        • Roar Guru

          March 12th 2018 @ 10:20am
          Emcie said | March 12th 2018 @ 10:20am | ! Report

          username checks out

          • Roar Rookie

            March 12th 2018 @ 10:26am
            up in the north said | March 12th 2018 @ 10:26am | ! Report

            Haha took me a moment to get that one.
            My tips were lousy.

        • March 12th 2018 @ 10:41am
          Griffo said | March 12th 2018 @ 10:41am | ! Report

          Why don’t you make like a tree and get outta here!

          • Roar Guru

            March 12th 2018 @ 6:10pm
            Matt H said | March 12th 2018 @ 6:10pm | ! Report

            What are you looking at Butthead!?

    • March 12th 2018 @ 9:38am
      Chilli said | March 12th 2018 @ 9:38am | ! Report

      Hard to get a read on rd1 looking towards rd2 isnt it.
      Bunnies couldve been up by 20+ without a few dodgy calls and 4 bombed tries. Roosters struggled to give the backs any kind of ball…raiders right edge looked scary as hell when Tapine involved and their big hooker was on. Funny nobody bringing up that raiders went backwards at rate of knots once Sezer came on?
      Manlys experiment with Jake Turbo playing ball instead of taking the line on was a fail… Broncs pack was pretty ordinary tbh. Cowboys looked solid at best and again their pack kept them in the game with sharks looking clueless inside 20.
      Storm without munster lose that match.. dogs backline again do not look like they have a lot of points in them.
      Punting tips: improvers should be Souths if they can execute a bit better and tighten up defense against panthers (go overs in total points there).
      Broncs will improve but up against a raging cowboys pack.. (go unders total points)
      Titans v warriors is a lock.. (go overs total points).
      Should get 8-1 in a multi

      • March 12th 2018 @ 3:55pm
        Forty Twenty said | March 12th 2018 @ 3:55pm | ! Report

        Jake Turbo did both as he has always done , take on the line and ball play. It will continue to happen and will bear more fruit like last year.

    • March 12th 2018 @ 9:39am
      Paul said | March 12th 2018 @ 9:39am | ! Report

      I nearly stopped reading after 6 paragraphs, 3 of which were devoted to a rehash of the Matthew Lodge story. I hope this trend does continue over the coming weeks. The rest of the article was a good read, but can this be left alone please?

    • Roar Guru

      March 12th 2018 @ 10:00am
      Emcie said | March 12th 2018 @ 10:00am | ! Report

      Broncos are bottom of the ladder??? oh no!!
      But still only one win away from the ladder leader, I knew it was going to be a close season

      • Roar Guru

        March 12th 2018 @ 10:56am
        Dutski said | March 12th 2018 @ 10:56am | ! Report

        hahahaha!

    • March 12th 2018 @ 12:51pm
      MAX said | March 12th 2018 @ 12:51pm | ! Report

      After the Easts v Manly trial, MDW declared that both teams went so hard at each other
      that they may pay the price in Round 1. “Don’t be silly” I scoffed.

      Mrs MAX tipped 7 , I tipped 3. She delighted in reminding me that residual effects
      are a key element in any sports assessment. I hereby retire from tipping.

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