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Opinion

NRL Round 2 Talking Points: Robberies in the north and south, high shots are back and some good losers

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Expert
17th March, 2024
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We had some fantastic games in round two, with two of the great NRL thefts in Townsville and Melbourne. Let’s dig into your round 2 talking points.

Round 1 overreactions come back to bite

The Dolphins were written off, then they put a 38-0 shutout on the Dragons – the same Dragons, we were told, who had their defence sorted under master coach Shane Flanagan.

Penrith ‘play too defensive’, apparently. Until they put five tries on Parramatta, another team we were assured had fixed their defence.

Your weekly reminder – hold fire on your scorching write-offs and deep concerns about your team. Nothing is ‘form’ until round four, then we’ll launch good and proper.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 17: Dominic Young of the Roosters is tackled during the round two NRL match between Manly Sea Eagles and Sydney Roosters at 4 Pines Park, on March 17, 2024, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Dominic Young is tackled. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Robbery in the North and South

The Cowboys stole a win off the Knights and Melbourne robbed the Warriors, and both games told us a bit.

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North Queensland were diabolical in the first half against Newcastle with 10 errors and zero points, but the Knights couldn’t crack that extra score or two to put the game away. While the Knights seemed to be holding the Cowboys at bay they just didn’t have it when their legs got heavy and the home side got a sniff.

It was a much improved showing from the Knights in any event, not that it counts for much with an 0-2 record. As for Todd Payten’s men, they’re getting those important competition points.

Plenty were waiting to jump on New Zealand after a disappointing first up loss at home but as they turned round a 6-18 deficit with 20 unanswered to lead by 8 with 3 minutes left, they surely were breaking their 14 match losing streak against the Storm…

But Melbourne’s gonna Melbourne.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 16: Xavier Coates of the Storm scores the match winning try during the round two NRL match between Melbourne Storm and New Zealand Warriors at AAMI Park, on March 16, 2024, in Melbourne, Australia.

We will never tire of this photo as Xavier Coates wins the game for Melbourne. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

Now it’s 15 Warriors losses on the trot to the purple horde. On the positives though, apart from three minutes of madness which cost the Warriors the game, there were enough decent signs to see they’ll still be a winning team.

Banking early wins

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Well played Cronulla, who continue a good early run with a win over Canterbury. The Bulldogs will be speaking with NRL HQ today about some of the questionable calls they copped – coach Cameron Ciraldo was livid in his post game presser, I must say a most out-of-type display.

As with all these things, Ciraldo has a couple of fair points. But as they say in the classics, good teams don’t lose to referees and as all you readers know, your weekly taking points don’t seek to waste time and space re-litigating refereeing decisions.

Well played Manly, a good win over a Roosters side everyone had pumped up after their Vegas display shutting out the Broncos. Manly held the Roosters at bay well and were a handful in attack. It was three tries each, so let’s not go overboard about either team’s attack or defence just yet, but the Sea Eagles went well.

The main thing niggling at the back of my mind is we’ve seen decent Manly starts before a spiral – hopefully they can stay fit because they play good entertaining rugby league.

Xavier Coates

Yep. Let’s just enjoy this again.

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A bright early tinge of green

Many a preseason predictor had Canberra running last because of their ‘inability to cover the loss of Jack Wighton’. I gave all of this lazy analysis no regard because it shows two things: One; people didn’t watch Jack Wighton play for Canberra in the last 2 years and two; people haven’t taken a look at the club’s depth and the quality youth coming through the system.

Recruits Zac Hosking from Penrith and Englishman Morgan Smithies have been excellent, speedster Xavier Savage is at home on a wing, props Joe Tapine and Josh Papalii are a top 3 pairing in the league and then there’s 19-year-old starting five-eighth Ethan Strange, who was great against Wests Tigers.

Canberra’s NRL, NSW Cup and Jersey Flegg teams are all unbeaten after two weeks. It’s hardly time for a victory lap and there’ll be many rough times ahead, but the Raiders couldn’t have asked for more after a fortnight.

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Good games this week

It’s not a ‘Grand Final replay’ on Thursday, but Brisbane and Penrith will play each other for the first time since the Panthers pinched a title. The Broncos won in Penrith last year but with a few injury concerns, this looks tough.

Friday has two interesting matchups, with New Zealand hosting Canberra in the early game (Aussie time). The Warriors will fancy their chances of opening their account, the Raiders will try to build on their pleasant first up results.

Prime time Friday is Roosters and South Sydney, the old books of feuds matchup. Souths aren’t in a good early place and the Roosters need to find more avenues to the try line.

Saturday begins with the Gold Coast coming off the bye and headed to Canterbury, who in spite of another loss were much better in round 2. The Titans were ploughed by St George Illawarra in round one, let’s see how they respond.

Speaking of St George Illawarra, they look to get back on track against the visiting North Queensland Saturday afternoon, then that night Wests Tigers have Cronulla at Leichhardt. The result may be expected, but the performance will be examined closely.

Sunday has two good matchups starting with Parramatta and Manly. The Eels have played solidly, Manly have been good fun as mentioned before.

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The round ends with Newcastle hosting Melbourne and desperately needing a win. The Knights were ok not great in round one, better not great in round 2, let’s see if they can open their account for the year against the unbeaten Storm.

The Dolphins have the bye.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 14: Latrell Mitchell of the Rabbitohs prepares to kick during the round two NRL match between Brisbane Broncos and South Sydney Rabbitohs at Suncorp Stadium, on March 14, 2024, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Latrell Mitchell. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Round 2 random thoughts

  • I’m starting to get worried about the amount of high contact not being properly punished. Panthers five-eighth Jerome Luai concussed Parramatta’s Bailey Simonsson with a high shot but stayed on the field, while numerous other high shots across the weekend were only given a penalty. The NRL has form in this area – clean it up, and fast.
  • Melbourne halfback Jahrome Hughes was yet again caught out in defence but yet again managed to make himself ‘obstructed’ and get a try taken off his opposition. But it’s another occasion against the Warriors that’s seen him suspended for a week (with a guilty plea) after making contact with referee Chris Butler. The irony is Hughes actually was obstructed by Butler. He has a decent argument, let’s see if the Storm challenge the decision.
  • A bit of fuss about Latrell Mitchell swearing in a Triple M radio post-game interview. A couple more post-game interview f-bombs made it to air in NSW Cup, too. It’s not a big deal, but it’s ‘not a good look’. Surely it’s not hard to hold onto the effin until you make it into the rooms?
  • Wests Tigers got dealt with 32-12 in Canberra but showed some decent patches. Many eyes were on 18-year-old debut half Lachlan Galvin, and the kid did pretty well. Think long term, Tigers fans…
  • Is your team performing well on social media this year? There’s much mirth being had on the official club sites, which is how it should be. Don’t take it all too seriously.

What else caught your eye this weekend, Roarers?

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