FIRE DOUSED | After returning to finals action in 2015, the St George-Illawarra Dragons struggled un...
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What have we learned so far about the Telstra Premiership after the first five games of Round One?
1. The Dragons can attack
All the focus was on Newcastle for Thursday night's season opener but someone forgot to tell the St George Illawarra Dragons - 15-14 winners in golden point and seem to have stepped up a gear in attack following the departure of Wayne Bennett, a renowned defensive coach. The Knights looked terribly rusty most of the night and may have even considered themselves lucky to be in the game well past the 80th minute.
2. Are Parramatta a one-man team?
Lots of questions were asked of the Eels in their Friday night loss to Brisbane at home, most of them seemingly answered in the first half - but then questioned again in the second half. For all of the Eels' dominance in the opening forty (although admittedly the Broncos performed poorly), they led only by six at halftime and were totally and utterly run down in the second half. All of this begs the BIG question - are Parramatta nothing without Jarryd Hayne? The answer to that one will probably play out over the course of the season. One thing is for certain - if the Eels don't perform, Stephen Kearney will be in the firing line.
3. A Round 1 loss isn't always a bad thing
While the Raiders would no doubt have been hoping to defeat the Storm, they themselves wouldn't have logically put themselves in the mindset that in the final five minutes they may just be doing that. Leading 19-18 in the final moments after a very strong, defensively sound performance, the Raiders ultimately lost 24-19 but proved beyond doubt they can stand up to the top sides. They'll face the Titans next week confident of a positive result.
4. Dogs of War back?
Des Hasler ushered in a new era at Canterbury-Bankstown last night and it was a typical backs-to-the-wall "Dogs of War" type defensive display that won the blue-and-whites the two points over Penrith last night. They've got a couple of concerns with their early handling, some ill-discilpine and Pritchard on report, but the Panthers are the ones licking their wounds this morning. Three injuries - including a broken fibula for Michael Gordon - will stretch the Panthers' already thin depth.
5. Titans v Cowboys
Well, there's almost nothing to say about this one. No NRL fan expects a fluid, perfect display of rugby league in a Round 1 match, but last night's performance from both sides in Townsville left plenty to be desired. It was only that the Cowboys managed to "out-worst" their opponents that the Titans got on top. Captain Johnathan Thurston rightly panned his own club's performance, apologising to long-suffering fans who travel long distances to see their side. The Titans will be happy to pick up two points - but won't be claiming any more victories with similar performances.
This afternoon the Warriors host Manly at Auckland's Eden Park, where amazingly last night a boundary rope and cricket pitch adorned the arena. The final over took place and suddenly NRL posts appeared and the pitch was lifted out - and now there's an NRL ground ready to be packed to the rafters for the Grand Final replay.
Similarly at Leichhardt Oval, the Tigers will host Cronulla-Sutherland in Todd Carney's NRL debut for the club. The home side enter the season as premiership favourites - the question will be if they can live up to the hype.
Speaking of hype, every pre-season the Rabbitohs are favoured by many to finally "make it their season". Michael Maguire is the new coach at the Bunnies as they look to get first bragging rights over the Roosters on Monday night, the Ron Coote Cup up for grabs.
Next week there's some crackers up and coming! Manly host the Tigers in Gosford on Friday night, the Broncos v Cowboys showdown happens Friday night, and Saturday night sees the local derby between the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and St George Illawarra Dragons at ANZ Stadium.
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