The World Club Series – featuring Warrington’s resounding win over Brisbane, and Wigan’s history-making defeat of Cronulla – wasn’t the only rugby league action over the weekend.
Dual wooden-spooners Newcastle scored a surprise 44-0 rout of an understrength Canberra side, with the unfancied Knights running in eight tries. The trio of Mata’utia brothers – Sione, Peter and Chanel – all got on the scoresheet, as did new buys Jamie Buhrer and Ken Sio.
After eliminating Parramatta in the Auckland Nines playoffs, Penrith claimed western Sydney bragging rights again with an 18-6 trial win over the Eels at Pepper Stadium, with Te Maire Martin firming as the Panthers’ five-eighth for Round 1. But the solid victory was soured by a serious knee injury to the Panthers’ Kiwi prop Sam McKendry, who has endured a terrible run in recent seasons and was in his comeback from an ACL injury that ended his 2016 campaign early.
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Manly edged the Sydney Roosters 24-22 in the Community Cup, with Dylan Walker’s late try sealing a tight result. Sea Eagles fullback Tom Trbojevic starred with a solo try before setting up new recruit Curtis Sironen for a four-pointer, while another new buy, Blake Green, impressed by laying on Walker’s match-winner.
For the Roosters, young guns Connor Watson and Latrell Mitchell, who bagged a double, were superb.
Canterbury won an entertaining hit-out against Melbourne at North Hobart Oval, prevailing 28-24 after earlier leading by 20 points. Bulldogs half Moses Mbye left the field with an arm injury. Meanwhile, Storm gun Cameron Munster may wear the No.1 in Round 1 after all, playing most of the match at fullback with Brodie Croft at five-eighth as uncertainty continues to surround Billy Slater’s long-awaited return.
James Tedesco made an excellent 60-minute return in his first game for Wests Tigers since breaking his jaw late last season, but North Queensland won 18-16 at Campbelltown courtesy of a late Johnathan Thurston conversion from out wide. Cowboys winger Antonio Winterstein left the field with an ankle complaint.
New captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck was the standout for Warriors in their impressive 26-6 win over Gold Coast in Palmerston North on Sunday. The fullback threw the last pass for the hosts’ first three tries, scored by teenage forward Isaiah Papalii, winger Tui Lolohea and centre David Fusitu’a.
Meanwhile, halfback Shaun Johnson looked sharp in attack and put on some big hits in defence, stand-in five-eighth Ata Hingano was solid, and Bunty Afoa, Albert Vete and Simon Mannering produced big games in the pack. Restricting the Titans to just one try – from a grubber kick – would have been particularly pleasing for coach Stephen Kearney.
The Titans, though, were left with a string of injury concerns after Nathan Peats (shoulder), Pat Politoni (possible broken arm), Ryan Simpkins (rib), Tyler Cornish and Morgan Boyle (both concussion) all left the field.
South Sydney finished the weekend’s trial action with a 32-14 defeat of an ordinary St George Illawarra side on Sunday afternoon. Winger Braidon Burns crossed for a double, while high-profile recruit Robbie Farah scored the first try – but Damien Cook signalled the race for the Rabbitohs’ No.9 jumper is still alive with a brilliant break and kick try-assist for Burns to score.
The Dragons’ halves picture is still hazy after Josh McCrone and Jai Field split the No.7 duties. Perhaps coach Paul McGregor’s biggest concern, however, was a woeful, error-strewn performance from five-eighth and captain Gareth Widdop.