Monday 18 December 2017 / 02:52 AM

NRL ROUND 2 WRAP

THURSDAY

ROOSTERS 28 d. BULLDOGS 24 @ Allianz Stadium

Sydney Roosters remain unbeaten, while the under-pressure Canterbury Bulldogs are 0-2 after a brutal Thursday night encounter between the archrivals.

THE MATCH: The Bulldogs took just two minutes to hit the lead, winger Kerrod Holland crossing out wide after a Roosters error in the first set of the game. The blue-and-whites had an 8-0 advantage before the 10-minute mark as Josh Morris scored in similar circumstances, sprinting to the corner directly from an ill-conceived Shaun Kenny-Dowall offload.

But the Roosters led 16-8 at halftime as Luke Keary brilliantly set up Boyd Cordner for their opener, before Daniel Tupou bagged a double from kicks by Latrell Mitchell and Keary.

Another aerial effort saw Blake Ferguson dot down soon after the break, but the Bulldogs refused to throw in the towel, with Brett Morris scoring a soft try and young forward Adam Elliott busting through to cut the deficit to four points.

A deft Keary pass for Mitch Aubusson to race over in the 71st minute effectively sealed the result, although the Bulldogs set up a grandstand finish when Josh Morris zipped in for his second with four minutes to go.

Both sides were counting a heavy injury toll, with Will Hopoate hospitalised after a nasty head clash with Zane Tetavano, while Kerrod Holland (shoulder) and Blake Ferguson (ribs) all left the field, and Kane Evans was rubbed out of the match after injury his calf in the warm-up.

THE MAN: Luke Keary is streaking ahead early in the buy-of-the-year stakes, producing three try-assists to sink the Dogs. The former Rabbitoh is the ideal foil for Mitchell Pearce, with his work in just two games in the Tricolours already reminiscent of James Maloney’s impact in the No.6 in 2013.

THE MOMENT: The Bulldogs were threatening to overrun the Roosters – who worrying clocked off in the second half for the second game in a row – before Keary’s exquisite short ball for the ever-reliable, chronically underrated Aubusson to run in the match-sealer.

FRIDAY

STORM 26 d. WARRIORS 10 @ Mt Smart Stadium

Melbourne’s composure and professionalism in atrocious Auckland conditions set up the most Storm-like of wins on Friday night over an improved but unlucky Warriors outfit.

THE MATCH: If the Storm played in driving rain every week they’d win the premiership in a canter, mastering difficult conditions for the second time in two rounds to carve out a gritty win.

The visitors opened the scoring on a Mt Smart swimming pool when Kenny Bromwich latched onto a Cooper Cronk cross-field kick, but the Warriors struck back through a brilliant last-tackle try finished by Tui Lolohea after two kicks and five passes, while a Josh Addo-Carr error gifted a try to Shaun Johnson and a 10-6 lead to the home side in the 17th minute.

The Warriors crucially lost skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck to concussion, however, and a Cronk grubber wrong-footed fullback fill-in Lolohea for Cheyse Blair to dot down.

Leading 12-10 at the break, the Storm pushed out further as Suliasi Vunivalu scored in the 43rd minute. Both sides had tries disallowed by the Bunker during a tense second stanza, while the Warriors’ glut of possession in good territory was foiled by the Storm’s outstanding goal-line defence.

A Cronk try with five minutes left sealed a hard-fought result.

THE MAN: Cameron Munster was in everything, laying on both of the Storm’s second-half tries and coming up with some big plays at the back. The burgeoning youngster should make a good fist of five-eighth when Billy Slater returns, but the question has to be asked whether Melbourne would be better off with Munster remaining in the No.1.

THE MOMENT: Going into dummy-half just after halftime, Vunivalu milked a penalty late in the tackle count by deliberately passing the ball into Warriors five-eighth Ata Hingano, who was lying on the ground after making a tackle. The big winger crossed for a vital try in the corner a minute later. Issac Luke got his side a penalty in identical – and equally farcical – circumstances later in the game, and it’s a rule loophole that needs to be closed up if players are going to continue to unscrupulously exploit it.

Storm 26 (Kenny Bromwich, Cheyse Blair, Suliasi Vunivalu, Cooper Cronk tries; Cameron Smith 5 goals) d. Warriors (Tui Lolohea, Shaun Johnson tries; Johnson goal).

COWBOYS 21 d. BRONCOS 20 in golden point @ Suncorp Stadium 

The greatest rivalry in the NRL delivered yet again, with the Queensland derby decided in extra-time for the fourth time in five matches – and for the third time in those five games, it was a Johnathan Thurston field goal that proved the match-winner. But it was a victory that came at a huge cost for the Cowboys.

THE MATCH: Brisbane and North Queensland produced another high-quality, dramatic contest, and one that belied the early-season rust most teams experience at this time of the year.

The Broncos led 14-12 a halftime, with maligned half Ben Hunt laying on both tries for the hosts with inch-perfect grubbers, while powerhouse forward Coen Hess and five-eighth Michael Morgan forced their way over from close range for the Cowboys.

Jake Granville scored just after the break when the Broncos failed to contain a bomb on their own line, but Jordan Kahu levelled at 18-all in the 54th minute after receiving a dubious pass from Roberts.

A penalty goal apiece was the sum total of the scoring in the final quarter of regulation time, and the Broncos squandered a handful of opportunities near the Cowboys’ line in the first period of golden point.

Inevitably, it was Thurston who iced the match, burying a field goal from 30 metres out at the 87-minute mark.

The Cowboys would have arguably traded their first win at Suncorp since 2012 for a clean bill of health, however, as Matt Scott suffered a possible ACL, Antonio Winterstein a suspected broken wrist and Lachlan Coote a torn calf.

THE MAN: Coen Hess will be very difficult to keep out of the Queensland Origin side in 2017. Playing 75 minutes off the bench after Antonio Winterstein’s early exit forced a Cowboys reshuffle, the statuesque back-rower scored his seventh try in 11 NRL games through brute strength, tallied nine runs for 93 metres and reeled off 37 tackles. He shapes as becoming the forward superstar Tariq Sims promised to be at the same stage of his career with the Cowboys.

THE MOMENT: Thurston added another highlight to his catalogue of clutch moments with a sweetly-struck field goal that glanced off the upright. Perhaps only Darren Lockyer has had the same ability to grasp chances in the dying stages of matches on such a regular basis.

Cowboys 21 (Coen Hess, Michael Morgan, Jake Granville tries; Johnathan Thurston 4 goals, field goal) d. Broncos 20 (James Roberts, Darius Boyd, Jordan Kahu tries; Anthony Milford 4 goals)

SATURDAY

KNIGHTS 34 d. TITANS 26 @ McDonald Jones Stadium

The streak is over! After 19 straight matches of anguish, the Newcastle Knights carved out a thrilling win over an injury-ravaged Gold Coast Titans side to kick off Super Saturday.

THE MATCH: The Knights leapt out to 12-0 after fill-in fullback Brendan Elliot and prop Jack Stockwell crossed, but the Titans led 16-12 at the break thanks to tries to Konrad Hurrell – following a freakish piece of in-goal play from Anthony Don – Karl Lawton and debutant winger Tyrone Roberts-Davis.

But Jarryd Hayne and Don succumbed to injuries and failed to return after halftime, while Lawton’s match also ended early.

The Knights struck early in the second stanza through Nathan Ross, before the Titans produced a helter-skelter try-of-the-season contender finished off by Joe Greenwood. Knights rookie Sam Stone tore through for his first NRL try off a Brock Lamb pass as the lead changes continued, but Ashley Taylor’s beautiful chip for Hurrell to bag his second gave the shorthanded visitors a four-point lead with 12 minutes to go.

The Newcastle faithful weren’t to be denied, however, and Peter Mata’utia and Ross scored for the Knights inside the final six minutes as the gallant but weary Titans wilted.

THE MAN: At just 20 years of age and playing in his fifth first-grade game, Brock Lamb looks to be the future of the Newcastle Knights. The young five-eighth came up with two try assists and he looks to be a top-shelf ball-player, but his all-round composure and kicking game was first-rate, while he reeled off 18 tackles in a superb performance.

THE MOMENT: There were plenty of turning points in this seesaw-a-thon – including some insane tries from the Titans – but the most heart-warming moments was Ross’ late sealer, with the relief and ecstasy of breaking a 330-odd day drought palpable on the field, in the stands, the coach’s box and among the ex-players in attendance. It was fitting that Ross put the result to bed – the popular winger embodies the passion and attitude that has carried the club through one of the toughest periods any has endured in the NRL era.

Knights 34 (Nathan Ross 2, Brendan Elliot, Jack Stockwell, Sam Stone, Peter Mata’utia tries; Trent Hodkinson 5 goals) d. Titans 26 (Konrad Hurrell 2, Karl Lawton, Tyrone Roberts-Davis, Joe Greenwood tries; Ashley Taylor 2 goals).

RABBITOHS 38 d. SEA EAGLES 18 @ Lottoland

South Sydney produced a spectacular turnaround from Round 1, streaking away in the final quarter of a tough contest with Manly at Lottoland.

THE MATCH: The Sea Eagles made a blistering start, with Akuila Uate, Brian Kelly and Tom Trbojevic all crossing inside 12 minutes – the latter a magnificent 90-metre effort set up by an Uate break.

All three four-pointers went unconverted, however, and the Rabbitohs took an 18-12 lead into halftime after tries to Robert Jennings, Cody Walker and John Sutton, with Blake Green’s sin-binning contributing to the hosts’ threadbare goal-line D.

Trbojevic set captain Daly Cherry-Evans up for a superb leveller in the 48th minute, but Souths edged in front at the hour-mark via a penalty goal to late addition Adam Reynolds – and the visitors never looked back.

Alex Johnston firmed as the fullback replacement for injured superstar Greg Inglis for the rest of 2017 with a double either side of Robbie Farah’s long-range four-pointer, sealing an emphatic 20-point win for the Bunnies.

Manly’s front-rower shortage told as the big South Sydney pack eventually got on top of their wholehearted opposites.

THE MAN: Farah and Reynolds made outstanding contributions, but five-eighth Cody Walker was the Rabbitohs’ star with a try, three line-breaks and two try-assists. Souths remain a chance in this premiership race if this trio stay fit and firing, while Johnston did enough to suggest he can fill the gaping No.1 hole.

THE MOMENT: The Sea Eagles were getting back on top when Jorge Taufua spilled a bomb right in front of his own posts. Uate grabbed the ball in an offside position, and Reynolds’ resultant goal sparked an avalanche of Rabbitohs points in the last 20 minutes.

Rabbitohs 38 (Alex Johnston 2, Robert Jennings, Cody Walker, John Sutton, Robbie Farah tries; Adam Reynolds 7 goals) d. Sea Eagles 18 (Akuila Uate, Brian Kelly, Tom Trbojevic, Daly Cherry-Evans tries; Dylan Walker 1 goal).

SHARKS 42 d. RAIDERS 16 @ GIO Stadium

The premiers flexed their muscles against hotshots Canberra in the capital, providing a timely reminder that while they may be missing a couple of grand final heroes, there is still an overload of talent and character in the Cronulla squad.

THE MATCH: The Sharks led 12-10 at the end of a physical but scrappy first half, with penalties and completions as much the story of the opening as the two excellent tries scored by each side.

Jack Wighton scythed through for the 15th-minute opener, Ricky Leutele and Wade Graham went back-to-back for the visitors, before a Blake Austin break set up Jordan Rapana for a Raiders reply.

But the second half was all Cronulla. Luke Lewis broke through to send rookie hooker Jayden Brailey over for his maiden NRL try, before Graham completed a hat-trick before the hour-mark as the Sharks kicked away to a 30-10 lead.

Matt Prior and Paul Gallen iced the resounding win in the 70th and 73rd minutes respectively, with a Wighton’s second try two minutes from time pure consolation.

THE MAN: The mix of skill and toughness Wade Graham delivers every week is a big reason why the Sharks’ pack is the best in the NRL. Besides a career-first treble, the ball-playing back-rower came up with a try-assist, 126 metres from 15 carries, and 21 tackles. James Maloney, Jack Bird, Andrew Fifita, Chris Heighington, Gallen and Brailey were also outstanding, while Wighton’s return at fullback was a rare bright spot for the Raiders.

THE MOMENT: Brailey’s try – set up by a brilliant run from the ageless Luke Lewis – kick-started the Sharks’ second-half blitz. Few defending champs have been written off as quickly as this Cronulla side, but no Ennis and Barba means that their plethora of other top-class playmakers and ball-runners now have a chance to take the reins.

Sharks 42 (Wade Graham 3, Ricky Leutele, Jayden Brailey, Matt Prior, Paul Gallen tries; James Maloney 7 goals) d. Raiders 16 (Jack Wighton 2, Jordan Rapana tries; Aidan Sezer 2 goals).

SUNDAY

PANTHERS 36 d. TIGERS 2 @ Campbelltown Stadium

Turnarounds don’t come much more emphatic than this. The Panthers recovered from their Round 1 shellacking at the hands of the Dragons by putting on a similar clinic against a disappointing Tigers outfit at Campbelltown.

THE MATCH: The opening half-hour featured just a penalty goal apiece in what shaped as a gripping afternoon of Sunday afternoon footy in the ’burbs. But when the Panthers finally broke through for the opening try in the 32nd minute to Dean Whare, the floodgates came flying off their hinges.

Explosive debutant Viliame Kikau and second-gamer Dylan Edwards added four-pointers to give the visitors an 18-2 lead at the break, and Leilani Latu’s try from a bomb in the 49th minute took the wind out of any potential Tigers comeback.

Whare’s comeback from an injury-ravaged couple of seasons continued impressively with his second try 15 minutes from fulltime, before Nathan Cleary finished off a dazzling team try that featured outstanding work from Edwards.

The Panthers’ massive defensive improvement – particularly during the first half – underpinned the victory, frustrating the Tigers’ free-flowing modus operandi before rediscovering their own trademark attacking flair at the other end.

THE MAN: Tyrone Peachey was untouchable, causing the Tigers headaches with every carry. The centre made four line-breaks, had a try assist and racked 187 metres from 14 carries. The versatile game-breaker is firming as a must for the NSW bench.

THE MOMENT: Kikau came off the bench on debut and immediately made an impact, smashing James Tedesco – who admittedly took a brave catch. The 21-year-old Fijian giant scored his maiden NRL try soon afterwards, and contributed 70 metres and 13 tackles in just 24 minutes on the field.

Panthers 36 (Dean Whare 2, Viliame Kikau, Dylan Edwards, Leilani Latu, Nathan Cleary tries; Cleary 5 goals) d. Tigers 2 (Mitchell Moses goal).

EELS 34 d. DRAGONS 16 @ WIN Stadium

The Parramatta Eels laid down their premiership credentials with a scintillating seven-tries-to-three win over St George Illawarra in Wollongong.

THE MATCH: The round-closing encounter could not have started any worse for the home side, muffing the kick-off before Parramatta five-eighth Clint Gutherson sliced through to score after just 37 seconds.

Michael Jennings put Semi Radradra over twice in the space of five minutes to open up a 14-0 lead midway through the first half, before Brad Takairangi pounced on a Corey Norman grubber in the 31st minute, but the Dragons finished the half on a positive note when Gareth Widdop scored an outstanding try.

Trailing by just 12 points thanks to Gutherson’s wayward goalkicking, the Dragons weren’t able to maintain any momentum after the break, with Eels fullback Bevan French blazing over for a wonderful solo try in the 46th minute.

Josh Dugan finished off arguably the try of the match – featuring brilliant work by Widdop, Tim Lafai and Jason Nightingale – shortly afterwards, but the Saints were unable to get closer than 14 points thereafter.

Radradra racked up a career-high four tries by crossing twice in the last 22 minutes, leaving him just one short of the Eels’ club record.

THE MAN: It’s impossible to go past four-try hero Radradra, who also ran for a game-high 168 metres from 18 carries. The big winger now has an incredible 64 tries in just 70 NRL games – what a shame he won’t be around long enough to shatter some of the premiership’s long-standing records.

THE MOMENT: Early pass-of-the-year contender from Michael Jennings, slipping the ball between his legs to send Radradra over for his second try.

Eels 34 (Semi Radradra 4, Clint Gutherson, Brad Takairangi, Bevan French tries; Gutherson 3 goals) d. Dragons 16 (Gareth Widdop, Josh Dugan, Paul Vaughan tries; Widdop 2 goals).

[YouTube – Real Rugby TV]

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About the author

Will Evans

CBS’s Editor-in-Chief and lead rugby league, union and cricket writer, Will is a Christchurch-based freelancer, also writing for Big League and Rugby League Review magazines, and The New Daily website. Will has written four rugby league books.

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