Round 1 produced some monumental upsets, some ridiculous tries, a golden point thriller and much more. RUGBY LEAGUE is back!
The below are the official Zero Tackle power rankings. For those who haven’t seen these before they’re not based purely on who is the best team. They take into account results, quality of opposition, expectation, and other factors.
1. New Zealand Warriors
In my view our neighbours to the east produced the performance of the round. They were electric, at their attacking best, and my word was it enjoyable to watch. Shaun Johnson looked as though he had spiders on him at times as no Bunnies defender would go near him. Issac Luke had his best game in Warriors colours and looks to be in the best shape of his career. Young Papali’i had a wow of a game as did Ligi Sao. New recruit Tohu Harris added a touch of class while David Fusitua scored a double. Amazing start to the season.
2. St George Illawarra Dragons
If the Warriors didn’t turn in the team performance of the round the Dragons sure did. Ben Hunt and Gareth Widdop are going to take some stopping behind that monster pack. Hunt terrorised his former side all night while Widdop had a field day. Jason Nightingale continues almost invent ways of scoring tries. Leeson Ah Mau made 175 metres with the ball, the most for the game. The Dragons outplayed the Broncos across the park. Five tries to open their account in front of a huge home crowd, doesn’t get much better than that.
3. Wests Tigers
The shock of the weekend! What a game! I’m no Tigers fan but I had to fight the urge to celebrate like one when Corey Thompson dove over in the closing moments. This was the game’s biggest David vs Goliath story with the highly unfancied Tigers getting the chocolates against the odds. They were dealt a cruel blow when Josh Reynolds was ruled out on game day but nothing would stop them. Lolohea had a brilliant game at the back, Corey Thompson an absolute blinder, and Benji Marshall looked back at home. Made more amazing by the fact they defended with Luke Brooks in the sin bin.
4. Melbourne Storm
No Slater, no worries. The new look Storm outfit looked every bit of their triumphant 2017 selves with a comfortable win over the Bulldogs on Saturday night. Josh Addo-Carr is dead set the fastest man in rugby league. He scored two brilliant tries and generally left would-be defenders grasping at air. Croft and Jacks controlled the game beautifully in the halves while the Storm forwards lead the way up front. Cameron Munster is one of the game’s elite players no matter which number he wears on his back. Ominous signs.
5. Penrith Panthers
Oh how different this could have been. At 14-0 down the Panthers looked shot. Step forward Waqa Blake, Nathan Cleary and Viliame Kikau. The Panthers turned this around scoring 24 unanswered points in a brilliant Sunday afternoon derby. Cleary pulled the strings with Blake running in two stunning tries. For mine though the game completely turned when Kikau came on. He scored a try and set up another line break in a crushing performance. The Eels had no answers to the second half onslaught in the heat. The Panthers looked fit, and most importantly happy. Watch out.
6. North Queensland Cowboys
The Cowboys celebrated JT’s milestone game in style with a scratchy yet comfortable six-point win over the Sharks. Thurston and Matt Scott both returned to NRL action for the first time in many months while Jordan McLean looked at home up north. TMM filled in brilliantly for the injured Michael Morgan. You could almost copy and paste this every week but Jason Taumalolo was again an absolute machine up front. His 177 metres made a huge different in the clash of the game’s two premier forward packs. Good signs early.
7. Newcastle Knights
What an occasion! A Mitchell Pearce field-goal in golden-point extra time was enough to send an enormous Friday evening crowd happy in the Hunter. All of the Knights new recruits fired but it was young Kalyn Ponga who stood above all else. This kid is something special. Lachlan Fitzgibbon is one of the game’s most under rated players. He scored the match-tying try and put pressure on Cherry-Evans all night, especially when it counted most. Slade Griffin is a player to watch.
8. Gold Coast Titans
Another game where this write up could have been on so different. 18-0 down in the blink of an eye I almost turned off as I couldn’t watch the pain any further. What a fight back! Another instance where I almost forgot I’m not a Titans fan came when Konrad touched down to take the competition points with a minute left on the clock. Ash Taylor is an absolute mega star in the making. He was in literally everything on Sunday evening. His kicking game control is out of this world. Ryan James looked almost unstoppable while Kevin Proctor reminded everyone of his talents.
9. Manly Sea Eagles
Ultimately the Sea Eagles came away without the points on Friday night but they can be somewhat happy with their performance. They played against a fired up side pushed on by a huge and excited crowd. They probably lacked a bit of class at the crunch times but young Croker will grow into his role and take the pressure of DCE. Those Turbo brothers aren’t going to have a quiet game all season. Koroisau did his reputation no harm making over 65 tackles in a marathon effort. Jorge Taufua looked like a monster upon his return.
10. Cronulla Sharks
The Sharks can be very lucky they were not blown off the park on Friday Night after turning in a less than stellar performance. Valentine Holmes had a nightmare at fullback and looks set for a return to the wing. 38 missed tackles and a horror completion rate will worry Shane Flanagan after those two stats haunted his side in 2017. That said, despite a below-par performance, the Sharks were one Matt Moylan pass from upsetting the competition favourites in the Townsville heat. Hardly doom and gloom but improvement needed.
11. Parramatta Eels
The Eels will be kicking themselves after letting an early 14-0 lead slip. They started the season like a house on fire and looked ready to go huge on Sunday afternoon. Moses and Norman had the ball on a string and Alvaro and co. had the pack firing. Then it all fell apart. The blue and golds were powerless to stop a rampaging Panthers side. Moses spent ten minutes in the bin after conceding a silly penalty after a Panthers break. Hayne looked at home upon his return. Worrying that they let an early lead go without much fight.
12. Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
The Dogs were pretty good on Saturday night. Against a lesser opposition they could have pushed for a victory but were ultimately out classed by a superior Storm side. Moses Mbye looked a different player in the fullback role. Foran looked right at home in his new colours. Klemmer and Woods had a strong opening to the game and look to be building a damaging combination. It’s tough to grade early season form against the Storm but Dogs fans can be happy and proud of the effort. Raymond Faitala-Mariner is an absolute weapon.
13. Canberra Raiders
What happened? 18-0 up against the Titans and the Raiders left the Gold Coast without any points to show for it. That’s just not good enough at this level and for Stuart to hammer the officials in the post match conference shows he too was without an answer. The Raiders are best to put this in the ‘to forget’ basket and move on as no good can come from watching the replay. There were some great signs, mainly in attack, but how many times have we read those words in the past few seasons in the capital?
14. South Sydney Rabbitohs
The Bunnies had their moments on Saturday night but ran into a red hot Warriors outfit. Greg Inglis looked strong on his return after a long injury lay off but needs to be shifted back to fullback when fit enough. Cody Walker was brilliant yet again. Richard Kennar scored two tries and looked threatening with the ball. Angus Crichton looks every bit an Origin forward. It was a strange game that didn’t feature a whole lot of defense but the Bunnies looked good in moments.
15. Brisbane Broncos
Yuk. The Broncos turned in a performance to forget and will be hoping that’s their shocker gone for the season. Drop ball and penalties put a stop to any momentum they worked, and only two brilliant James Roberts tries kept them close to their Red V hosts. The Broncos halves looked lost at times but will improve with time. No need to panic just yet but not a good way to start the season.
16. Sydney Roosters
The Roosters would have expected to be 1-0 with relative ease on Saturday afternoon yet could not get the job done against a far more desperate Tigers side. Cooper Cronk looked comfortable but lacked that telepathic connection he has enjoyed for so many years. James Tedesco will want to forget his tri-coloured debut. Blake Ferguson was head and shoulders above his teammates in a brilliant individual effort.