Almanac Rugby League: NRLW Round 4 and NRL Round 2

 

 

What a weekend of footy with a possible Grand Final preview in the NRLW, major upsets, nail biting finishes and the defending NRL premiers flexing their considerable muscles early in the season.

 

Here’s the way I saw it.

 

In the NRLW, the Broncos v Dragons match was probably a preview of the Grand Final as they played what a one well-credentialed observer said was the best game in the competition’s history. The ebb and flow, the passion, the hits and the total commitment we’re something to behold. The Broncos came away with a 22-18 win but the Dragons will take away the feeling that they can topple the reigning premiers, especially given that they went so close without the services of the injured Kezi Apps.

 

In the other two games, the Roosters opened their account for the season when their speed, spread and mobility proved too much for a willing, but one-dimensional Knights outfit. Baxter, Sergis and Kelly had room to move and display their skills but it was the enormous work rate of Hannah Southwell in both attack and defence that stole the show.

 

Knights fullback Romy Teitzel tried every trick in the book to lift her team and was well supported by the explosive Arafura. The Eels downed the Titans in a game where the qualities of Studdon, Penitani and Vette-Welsh shone through. None gave more for the Titans than veteran Steph Hancock who scored her first NRLW try just a few days after her 40th birthday. Destiny Brill continued her fine form and scored a great individual try to boot.

 

 

In the Round 4 matches this coming weekend, the Titans host the Broncos in their first local derby, the persistent Eels tackle the resurgent Roosters, and the battling Knights take on the imposing Dragons.

 

I’ll go with the Broncos, the Roosters and the Dragons.

 

Round 1 of the NRL showed us that the Panthers are up for a spirited title defence. Manly hasn’t fixed their defensive problems, and both the Broncos and Knights have been rejuvenated. Upset wins by the latter two teams provided the best moments of the round given their enterprise in attack and determination in defence.

 

As we head into Round 2 tonight, the Rabbitohs will be out to show that ‘the Reynolds factor’ is not the defining issue for their season. They were clunky against the Broncos and will need to show much improvement if they are to challenge the Storm. The return of Latrell Mitchell might provide the spark.

 

The Storm is stretched for personnel after three major injuries in Round 1, but showed their resilience to come back and win well against the Tigers and maintain coach Bellamy’s record of never having lost a Round 1 match as Melbourne coach.

 

I’ll go with Melbourne.

 

The Dragons showed a bit of form against the Warriors but will need all of that and a lot more to challenge the Panthers tomorrow evening. Penrith were exciting in their demolition of Manly and will be the benchmark again this year. They have so many bodies in motion in attack that defending against them is a nightmare. The only question here is the margin.

 

Both the Roosters and the Sea Eagles were disappointing in their first-round losses, perhaps the Roosters more so, given their on-paper strength across the field. Manly at least had the excuse that they were up against Penrith. Both sides need to get back on track as soon as possible, consequently this should be a ding-dong affair in Gosford. I see greater potential for improvement in the Roosters so I’ll back them in this time around.

 

On Saturday, the Titans, somewhat unlucky losers last week, will look to make amends against the willing Warriors on the Gold Coast. Given a fair rub of the green this week, I think they can contain the Warriors who will again be energetic, but perhaps lacking the scoring potential to notch a win. The loss of Shaun Johnson is a huge blow but provides the always-under-pressure Ash Taylor with another opportunity to show his wares.

 

The Eels played with more guile than skill to beat the Titans last weekend. That alone won’t be enough to fend off the Sharks who will be a bit dirty on themselves for letting last week’s nail biter against the Raiders get away from them. I expect this to be a rugged encounter and possibly low scoring, but if Parra can get their defence sorted out, there’s no doubt they have the attack to rack up a winning score.

 

Parra for me.

 

The Cowboys are at home again, this time to the Raiders. A few centimetres made all the difference in their loss to the Bulldogs but the Cowboys’ lack of scoring opportunities is a bit of a worry. Canberra has Jack Wighton back to his best and I think that will be enough to get them over the line up north.

 

Come Sunday, the reinvigorated Knights, at home, should account for the less than confidence inspiring Tigers. Dane Gagai was enormous for the Knights against the Roosters and adds starch and flair to an always willing Newcastle outfit. His co-centre Bradman Best is a huge talent whose fend on Momirovski last week was a classic. Jacob Saifiti was also unstoppable up front. For these reasons alone, I see Newcastle as firm favourites. The Tigers were hot to trot early on against the Storm but wilted badly once Melbourne clicked. Another long season in store for Tiger fans, I’m afraid.

 

The Bulldogs v Broncos clash rounds out the weekend. Brisbane were almost unrecognisable from last season with their vigour, enthusiasm, expansive play and much improved defence against Souths. Now let’s see if they can repeat the effort this week. The first appearance of Adam Reynolds will be a focal point. The Bulldogs did enough to win last week but were less than impressive. But their new look and new combinations team may just need a game or two under their belt to hit their strides.

 

On last week’s form, I’ll go with the Broncos.

 

Player of the week: Dane Gagai.

 

So my winners this week are the Storm, Panthers, Roosters, Titans, Eels, Raiders, Knights and Broncos.

 

 

Source: Brisbane Broncos Facebook

 

 

 

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About Ian Hauser

A relaxed, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A loyal Queenslander, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. Enjoys travel, coffee and cake, reading, and has been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. One of Footy Almanac's online editors who enjoys the occasional editing opportunity to assist aspiring writers.

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