With this weekends Round of Trial Games coming to an end, we look at how your team fared in their warm-up towards the NRL 2010 season:
Panthers 32 d Eels 12:
The young experimental Penrith side made light work of the near full strength Eels, with over 11,000 at CUA Stadium to watch the two Western rivals battle it out.
The big positive for Panthers fans, apart from an impressive win – is the arrival of Travis Burns. The livewire five-eighth has always been a talent and apart from a firebrand temper, the former Manly and Cowboys player has a tonne of skill.
Burns had a blinder and put his hand up to partner Luke Walsh in the halves, with a nervous Wade Graham looking over his shoulder. Coach Matt Elliott and Wade Graham have had their differences over the years and that may also work against the brash young rookie. Regardless, the competition for spots at Penrith will be hot.
The other thing to like about the Panthers on Saturday night was their controlled aggression. They had good commitment and stood up to a big name Eels pack.
With Lewis, Jennings, Civoniceva and Waterhouse to come back – the Penrith outfit finally seems to have some good depth. Their nemesis has always been consistentcy and they simply need to back it up week after week.
The loss for the Eels would be a little concerning for coach Daniel Anderson. Fielding a near full strength side, the Parramatta outfit were expected to make light work of the young Eels.
Injuries to Daniel Mortimer did hurt the organisation skills of the side, and serious injury to Ben Smith will also eat away at depth early in the year. However, it seems both Mortimer and Hayne will be available to play in this weekends trial against the Roosters should Anderson want them to play.
The loss for Parra shows again how heavily they rely on Nathan Hindmarsh. The veteran backrower does so much cleanup work in defence and the Eels are guilty at times of relying too heavily on him. Try machine Timana Tahu will also be a welcome addition when he makes his return shortly, the loss gives Tahu a good shot at grabbing a centre position from the likes of Inu and Burt, however it’s hard to see Joel Reddy being pushed aside.
Reddy has been a rock in defence and unstoppable in attack over the past year and a half and deserves his spot.
The final component for the Eels is in their forwards. They have a skillful, large pack – however, apart from Moi Moi they lack any dominating players. Anderson will need another enforcer in his back pocket should the requirement arise in 2010.
PENRITH PANTHERS 32 (Travis Burns 2, Shane Elford, Luke Walsh, Michael Gordon, Ryan Walker tries; Michael Gordon 3, Travis Burns goals) def PARRAMATTA EELS 12 (Luke Burt, Ben Smith tries; Luke Burt 2 goals) at CUA Stadium. Crowd: 11,113.
Dragons 16 d Bulldogs 14
Last years pace setters the Dragons have managed to win their second trial game, this time pipping the Bulldogs.
New Saint Peni Tagive, who was signed from the Wests Tigers, copped a suspected torn cruciate ligament which could sideline him for the year. The former Tiger has had the worst run with injury, having spent the best past of 2 years in cotton wool.
Both the Dragons and Dogs used strong lineups in the first half, with Jamaal Idris again showing how good he is. Big wraps continue to come for the youngster, his unique style proving so hard to tackle for opposing players. Idris bagging himself a double.
Ben Barba had some good touches for the Bulldogs, and he remains a strong backup to Brett Kimmorley should injury strike the veteran.
For the Saints, Nathan Fien remains a standout, consistently threatening from dummy half. He was prominent against the Eels in last weeks trial and will no doubt be at the forefront of Wayne Bennetts plans in 2010.
A hard game to read into, both full strengh sides made a tonne of errors in the first half and looked like they need a bit more football before they settle into NRL pace. In saying that, both sides did show decent defence which has been missing in other trial games seen so far.
Plenty of penalties and a stop start game.
DRAGONS 16 (Lett, Green, Vickery Tries; Goodwin 2 Goals)
BULLDOGS 14 (Idris 2, Nanai Tries; Turner 1 Goal)
Titans 28 d Souths 22
Big things are expected of these sides in 2010. Both should make the Top 8 and they have enviable rosters will good depth.
The Bunnies didn’t throw their top line forward pack into this clash, but the depth showed, as their backup pack more than held their own against the fancied Titans squad.
The big positive for the Gold Coast is the halves pairing of Prince and new face Greg Bird. With the flair, creativity and cool head of Prince – mashed in with the brute force and ability of Bird, look out. Prince has been in good touch and Bird is learning to integrate into this side.
Souths’ young side showed confidence and threw the ball around, with a few faces trying to impress coach John Lang.
The Titans should be more tradesman like in 2010, Cartwright’s coaching style and the stability of a few years to settle in should see this side really remain at the top.
The Titans have also made a smart move confirming Clinton Toopi on their roster. The former Kiwi international brings plenty to the table and would have been snared at a bargain price.
Gold Coast Titans 28 (M Rogers, C Toopi, R Brown, S Prince, W Zillman tries; S Prince 4 goals) defeated South Sydney Rabbitohs 22 (L Capewell 2, I Luke, J Vaivai tries; C Sandow 2, A Reynolds 1 goal). Crowd 5500.
Brisbane 32 d Canberra 24
The Broncos surprised in this game, with the experimental outing proving fairly successful – with coach Ivan Henjack trying Israel Foloau at fullback as well as promising rookie Corey Norman. Rookie Norman is only 18 but has a confident style, scoring a try and featuring highly.
Foloau concerned many in his Allstars outing when he was run down by Blake Ferguson, however the former Storm flyer was back to his best, scoring 3 tries in his sides win.
Ben Te’o also performed. Scoring twice and this may possibly be the year the talented backrower delivers. So much has been said about the former Tiger, he has the ability but just hasn’t seemed to settle in Brisbane thus far.
For the Green Machine, their best came from the usual suspects in Terry Campese and Joel Monaghan. The two representative players were well served by the Raiders forward pack who put in a good showing, if this can continue expect the Green Machine to have a good year.
Dane Tilse carved out good metres in this game, and Alan Tongue was heavily involved as he usually is. Logan, Tilse, Shillington and Harrison will be a lethal combination this year. Expect good metres, but decent agility and offloads from this lot.