What Came First: The Chicken Or The Bunny?
With the 2011 NRL season kicking off on the weekend just gone and providing all league fans with their much needed fix, it looks as though the competition has never been more open. From here on in, I will be providing you with a weekly review of the round past to keep you up to date with all the action, injuries, wins and losses. Bon Jovi has it right, this is a rugby league town… welcome to our house!
ROOSTERS 40 – RABBITOHS 29
The season opener between the Rabbitohs and the Roosters provided salivating fans with a feast of unmatched rivalry followed by a dessert of exceptional skill. The Roosters, without Carney, proved in the opening minutes that last year’s grand final appearance was no fluke, putting on a slew of first half tries.
The possible blowout continued in early the second half with the Roosters scoring first putting Souths fans in a familiar place, contemplating another long season.
Somewhere, somehow, the Gladiator owned team started to believe the hype and made their familiar second half surge and at one point had the match in the bag thanks to a nifty field goal from halfback Chris Sandow. The score with only minutes to go was Souths 29 – Roosters 28, and it seemed as though the bunnies had really come to play this season.
But the siren had not ‘Crowe’d’ yet and the Roosters claimed the match with two quick tries in succession in the final minutes.
No major injures for the Chooks, and with Carney set to return for the clash against Manly the Roosters are on the right track.
The real question still remains though: if Brian Smith can get them to the big game again can he reverse his luck to claim his maiden premiership and bring another trophy to the Eastern Suburbs?
Injuries to Sam Burgess (month or longer), Scott Geddes (season) and Ben Lowe (two months or longer) will see the Bunnies’ depth tested early.
With great expectations for 2011 the Rabbitohs produced a lack-lustre first half performance this week, which is a trap they fell into in to all too often last season. This is a team of champions bought by a gladiator and coached by a great man, but if the dynasty is to be built a full 80 minute performance is required.
Roosters vs. Manly (Sunday 20/03 – 3pm Sydney Football Stadium)
Rabbitohs vs. Bulldogs (Sunday 20/03 – 2pm ANZ Stadium)
BRONCOS 14 – COWBOYS 16
Meanwhile in Brisbane, Suncorp Stadium was celebrating their own version of a local derby between the Broncos and the Cowboys. Both teams’ lead up to their opening game was anything but ideal with the Broncos sacking their coach and the the Cowboys being written off as wooden spoon contenders by many experts. The Broncos, favoured to win this match, started very slowly and it looked as if the pre-season drama had affected them. Lacking in cohesion they still managed a first half try from debutant Jack Reed. From that point it was Jonathan Thurston calling the shots, rallying his team to a healthy lead of 16-4 before half time. With the Cowboys concentrating on defence in the second half and forgetting where the try line was, Brisbane bounced back with two tries, bringing the final score to a closer margin of just two points.
WARRIORS 18 – EELS 24
In other matches over the weekend, the written off Eels downed a highly-favoured Warriors outfit who have lost Manu Vatuevi for up to eight weeks. The Eels seemed to have adopted a much more structured style of play under the influence of new coach Stephen Kearney and this will only benefit Jarryd Hayne, allowing him the freedom of not having to produce results from every play. The Warriors will need to figure out where to use new recruit Feleti Mateo and will miss Vatuvei over the next eight weeks.
TITANS 16 – DRAGONS 25
Last year’s premiers the Dragons continued their role towards back to back premierships with a win over the Titans on the Gold Coast. The Titans are still expecting star players Anthony Laffranchi and Nathan Friend to return and as such are lacking a little up front. Ashley Harrison put in a great on-field performance as well as smashing the Supercoach ranks with his 91 point haul.
STORM 18 – SEA EAGLES 6
Melbourne Storm tallied their first competition points since getting busted for cheating the salary cap last season, beating a spirited Manly team in what is always a close game. The match had a bit of spark to it with tempers rising throughout the game. Manly have lost Jamie Lyon for up to six weeks and Jason King will miss next round due to suspension. The Storm have lost Chase Stanley for the season and it looks as though Beau Champion will replace him from next week.
CANBERRA 40 – SHARKS 12
The Green Machine set the tone for a hapless Sharks outfit in Canberra on Sunday, putting on a try scoring spectacle for their faithful fans. The Raiders will challenge as long as they can win away. The Sharks look as though they will still struggle this season and really need a better backline.
PANTHERS 8 – KNIGHTS 42
The Panthers, who finished second in last year’s competition, hosted Newcastle in what turned out to be one of the worst starts to a season ever. Countless mistakes and unenthused players allowed a very committed Knights team to demolish them on the scoreboard. The Knights’ victory was not without a price though and it looks as though Kurt Gidley is in doubt for next week and Neville Costigan and Isaac De Gois will be on the sideline for 14 and 6 weeks respectively.
BULLDOGS 24 – TIGERS 14
Finally we had a great Monday night match, which surely should have been played on the Sunday afternoon, between the Bulldogs and Tigers. Once again the clear favourite lost out to a team with more grind for the win. The Bulldogs were expected to take a few weeks to gel with numerous purchases in the off season but instead came out of the blocks firing. The Bulldogs will get better and all teams will need to watch out for them. Tigers on the other hand will need to show up and play if they want to challenge this year.