Newcastle Knights swung the NRL world off its axis by orchestrating an opening ambush against heavyweight title contenders Sydney Roosters.
With Eighth Immortal Andrew Johns’ fingerprints clearly all over the Knights’ halves and their expansive attacking style, it was one hell of a performance.
Newcastle’s unsung attacking pack – lacking their best player in Daniel Saifiti – took time back to the brave, tough and hardworking Knights attacking packs of the late 1990s and early 2000s to ambush to the Roosters in a crack match.
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Dane Gagai claimed Buy of the Year with a powerful center-right display once again showing off his versatility and experience.
Premiers Penrith were ultra-impressive against Manly with their line speed and relentless, teeming defense bringing back memories of the Sydney Roosters premiership-winning side in 2002.
In the absence of Clive Churchill’s medalist Nathan Cleary, it was co-captain Isaah Yeo, halfback Sean O’Sullivan and James Fisher-Harris who set the pace for the reigning premiers.
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O’Sullivan’s precise kicking game was a masterclass in nullifying and limiting Dally M medalist Tom Trbojevic’s opportunities with Sea Eagles right winger Jason Saab pinned on his own goal line. trial for a large part of the competition.
South Sydney had a reality on life without Wayne Bennett, Adam Reynolds, Dane Gagai and Benji Marshall with Cody Walker picking up a stopper near half-time then playing frustrated for much of the second half against a Brisbane Fast-paced Broncos.
In fairness, the Bunnies were missing their best player in Latrell Mitchell who will return for Thursday night’s absolute blockbuster against the Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park.
Forget Mitchell playing in the halves, the NSW Origin star was training at the back at Redfern on Monday and will line up in the No 1 jumper as the Souths prepare to try and break their long-standing hoodoo at Melbourne.
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Storm’s home proved an absolute graveyard for visiting Rabbitohs teams, with the Bunnies being a duck egg of 17 starts in Melbourne.
Yes, 0/17 dating back to their first game against the Storm in Victoria in 1999.
The Storm’s big guns certainly withstood an impending Wests Tigers ambush with Jahrome Hughes and Ryan Papenhuyzen producing tiebreakers to freeze two valuable points and take Craig Bellamy’s single-round record to 19-19.
The Raiders and Sharks produced suspense in the nation’s capital with Jack Wighton making a statement in his 200th NRL game and Hudson Young claiming victory with a brilliant try with the game on the line in the closing stages.
And Parramatta – who started off fast in the last four seasons – looked brilliant early on before losing his way, but still showing enough class to heed the Gold Coast.
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The Eels certainly had the snag on the green with the turn captains challenge for Ray Stone’s incorrect ball game.
Titans coach Justin Holbrook was right – it should have been a Gold Coast ball rather than an Eels penalty.
Either way, the Eels hopefully found a way to win and now they will move on to their second round against Cronulla.
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