St Helens record comfortable win over Salford and move to the top of the ladder

Mark Percival

It was an easy win in the end for St Helens and it continues their hot start to the Super League season as they make it three on the trot, moving into 1st position on the ladder overall.

The game was more of a romp really, as St Helens coasted home to a 38-0 win over the Salford Devils, leaving the Salford players and coach Brian Noble with some lessons to think about.

That was exactly what Noble hoped his players took out of the game, saying that the players will learn some ‘great lessons’ following the heavy defeat.

“I am disappointed but those kind of things can happen with a new team,” said Noble.

“There were some great lessons for us.

“I would be more disappointed if that was round eight, nine or 10 and we dished up something like that.

“We got caught at the start but we got back in the game and that breakaway try 10 minutes into the second half knocked the stuffing out of us.

“I suppose for us the honeymoon period is over internally. We’ve been taking small steps, we’ve been looking at different combinations and pretty much everyone has played.”

Noble knows that the key is for his players to appreciate the opportunity to play and sees areas of improvement for his side.

“It’s important we now get down to the nitty gritty of some tough practices and recognise it’s a marathon and not a sprint,” said Noble.

“There is nothing I have seen that we can’t improve on. The players are probably more disappointed than me.”

To further complicate matters for Salford, back-rower Gareth Hock left the field with what looks like a long-term ankle injury.

“It doesn’t look good,” Noble added.

“He’s going for a scan tomorrow and I’m keeping my fingers crossed but it’s looking like a six-or-seven week job.”

They may be flying high at the moment but St Helens coach Nathan Brown knows that his side cannot afford to get carried away.

“We’re obviously happy with the result,” the former Huddersfield Giants boss said. “It was tough.

“We had to work hard to get the score we did.

“I think we’re a work in progress. The guys working hard for each other but we know to catch up with Leeds and Wigan and Huddersfield and those sides, we’ve got to keep our feet on the ground and keep working hard and improve.

“Our defence seems to be improving, we’re not perfect but the pleasing thing is that, when things go wrong, the guys are covering for each other.”

Ricky's NRL Preview Pt 10: Melbourne Storm

Another day, another preview, this time on the Melbourne Storm. Boasting one of the best spines in the competition in regards to position, the Storm are expected to again feature in the finals. Do they have enough of a supporting cast to challenge for the top, though, or will it be something that costs them. Will they be able to deal with the loss of Widdop can someone step up in their absence. It may well be a make or break season in a few respects for the club.

GAINS: Dayne Weston(Panthers) Travis Robinson (Panthers) Hymel Hunt (Gold Coast Titans) Felise Kaufusi (North Queensland Cowboys) Cody Walker (Easts Tigers) George Rose (Manly Sea Eagles) Cameron Munster (Central Queensland Capras) Ben Roberts (Parramatta Eels) Joel Romelo (Canterbury Bulldogs).

As is the case at the start of every season for the Storm, the focus shifts to their big 3 and how well they are expected to perform moving forward. With Slater, Cronk and Smith all elite players in their respective positions, the club’s hopes may well fall on their shoulders once again and the key for the Storm and for coach Craig Bellamy, is to get the best out of the supporting cast and get them performing early on. If any coach is going to do that, it is Craig Bellamy, who gets the best out of rejects from other clubs or players that have previously been down on form. With players like George Rose and Joel Romelo finding new homes, can Bellamy get the very best out of these players should they play first-grade?

As is usually the case for the Storm when it comes to recruitment each year, they bought players that were on the outer at their club or young, upcoming players and in the past, that has served them well. With some players having something to prove at the Storm, how well they perform will dictate in part towards the Storm’s success. The likes of Rose, Romelo and Roberts are the primary ones to keep an eye on, with all likely to play some sort of role in first-grade over the course of the season.

2014 shapes as a big season for the Storm as they look to re-assert themselves as a competition heavyweight and get back to the summit of the premiership. With a team capable of doing so, there are a few players that will be under the spotlight throughout the season and as to how they perform? Well, only time will reveal that.

The five-eighth dilemma is an interesting one for the Storm in 2014 and moving forward after the departure of Gareth Widdop to the Dragons. Leaving them in somewhat of a conundrum, there is a decision to make for Craig Bellamy. On one hand, there is experience but at times, inconsistency, should he choose Ben Roberts. On the other hand, there is a young, budding utility back who has performed admirably in the halves in both the NYC and reserve grade competitions but who can perhaps be deemed a bit raw as a player.
If Roberts is the man that Bellamy goes with, Storm fans will be hopeful that the Storm Supercoach can get the very best out of Roberts, who during his time at both the Bulldogs and the Eels in the past years was heavily criticised for largely inconsistent seasons.
If Hampton is the man to go forward, his youthful exuberance and crafty play-making will help the Storm but will he be ready to deal with the pressure that comes when you play for the Storm and will he be able to fill Widdop’s shoes – a player who linked well with the club’s big 3.
If you ask me, Ben Hampton is the man to move forward in the role.

Another player with a lot to prove in 2014 is a new recruit for the Storm, George Rose. A fan favourite during his time and career at Manly, Rose was often criticised by some fans across the NRL for his weight and size, leading to at times, ill-informed comments on the part of the fans. With a new training regime that cheapest price for cialis all Storm players have gone through and a plan to get the very best out of him moving forward, it may be the sort of training and change that Rose needs to become a better player. Known for his power running style, he complements the other Storm props well – the forward pack offers quite good balance for the club – and for Rose, he has a chance to cement a spot in the side on a long-term basis, seeing as the club have often lacked some punch in the past where it matters. With Rose coming on board, the starch is added to the pack and he has a chance to become an important piece in the Storm side and make a solid impact.

Overall, with elite players, an elite coach and a well-balanced core of players for 2014, one would expect the Storm to feature in the finals again and go deep into the finals. Of course, the big question – one that will be answered at some point throughout the season – is just how the chosen five-eighth will handle with the expectation and pressure of the season moving forward and how the team as a whole perform in light of a few personnel changes.

Player To Watch: Hymel Hunt. A recent acquisition from the Gold Coast Titans, Hunt is a player that many may not have heard about but one that they will hear about soon. Offering added versatility as he is able to play both at centre and in the back-row, the chances of a first-grade position may not come straight away, though with his talent, one could expect it to come soon. With a balanced overall game of speed and strength – and solid acceleration off the mark for someone with his versatility – he was a player that Titans fans were disappointed to lose, given they knew what he was capable of and knew just how much of a talent he could become. Still young and with the chance to make a mark wherever he plays, Hunt is a player that will shine when given an opportunity and a player that will be entertaining to watch both with ball in hand and without. When the chance comes for him, Hunt will take it and Storm fans will have a chance to see why Titans fans often raved about his abilities.

Here’s the Storm side I’d go with:

1. Billy Slater
2. Sisa Waqa
3. Will Chambers
4. Mahe Fonua
5. Travis Robinson
6. Ben Hampton
7. Cooper Cronk
8. Jesse Bromwich
9. Cam Smith (C)
10. Bryan Norrie
11. Kevin Proctor
12. Ryan Hoffman
13. Ryan Hinchcliffe

14. Tohu Harris
15. George Rose
16. Junior Moors
17. Jordan McLean

Ricky’s NRL Previews Pt 9: Newcastle Knights

A new day and a new preview. For part 9, it will be the Newcastle Knights that come under the microscope. Off the bat, the loss of Jarrod Mullen for a decent portion of the season is a blow for the club and with uncertainty over who will the now vacant 5/8 role, can that person step up? With an ageing roster, is there such a thing as too much experience in a side and how will that affect the Knights moving forward.

GAINS: Travis Waddell (Pre Season – Souths Logan Magpies) Clint Newton (Penrith Panthers) Russell Packer (New Zealand Warriors) Matt Minto (North Queensland Cowboys) Jaelen Feeney (Canterbury Bulldogs) Tuiala Togitasi (Sydney Roosters)

Veterans, veterans and more veterans. That is the approach from the Newcastle Knights and so far – at least over the last couple of seasons – it has worked for them and seen them make the finals. It begs the question, though, can a side have too much experience? With experience comes the higher likelihood that players get injured more often – as they get older and the body suffers more wear and tear – and as a result, it can perhaps hinder the development of young players coming through that are waiting for their chance.

Purchasing players en masse was not really the go for the Knights, as they strengthened some positions with depth and bought a few talented young kids from rival clubs, who may or may not get their opportunities to play in first-grade as the season wears on.
All that said, the Knights have no issues in developing and producing talented youngsters – they have a fair few of them as well – and that will be discussed further down in this preview.

The recent turmoil the Knights have faced in regards to off-field issues has left some fans scratching their heads as to whether there is some sort of perceived culture problem at the club.
Whether it was veteran prop Willie Mason pleading guilty to drink driving, players getting in trouble left, right and centre or Russell Packer getting the sack after a rather serious offence, the off-season has been one to forget for the Knights and it remains to be seen as to whether they can put that behind them or whether it affects them adversely.

Perhaps no player is a bigger loss than prop Russell Packer, though. Packer was signed, Knights fans were excited to have a prop his of his size and caliber on board but just a few short months into his decision, the club were forced to sack him after he found himself on the wrong side of the law. That was a big loss for the Knights, who perhaps lack some experienced front-row depth and will instead have to rely on talented youngsters who may not be ready to make the step up just yet.

That is not the only potential issue facing the Knights, though, as they are also going to have to make a decision soon on who will play at five-eighth and who will play at hooker.
With experienced options or inexperienced options at their disposal, the decision will not be an easy one – but with key playmaker Jarrod Mullen out to begin the season, the onus is on coach Wayne Bennett to make the decision and decide who fits the team best. Do you play club stalwart Kurt Gidley in the halves or at hooker? Is there a possibility that the likes of Adam Clydsdale and Travis Waddell get the hooker position? Or will Bennett produce a move out of left-field and play someone like Matt Hilder in the role?

One player who will have to step up for the Knights – even more so now that Jarrod Mullen is gone – is young halfback Tyrone Roberts.
He has already shown the NRL what he can do with the ball in hand and how easily he can create opportunities but with no Mullen to help steer the ship, is that the sort of form that Roberts can maintain heading into the 2014 season and beyond?
Can he mesh well with Gidley or Michael Dobson in the halves? His skills have been on show and he has the talent, but stepping up to the plate in the absence of an injured player is something that some players thrive in, whereas other players crumble as a result.

Overall, despite the off-field issues, the uncertainty over positions and the injury to Mullen, the Knights still have the quality and potential to succeed and perform well. As to how far they go, that depends on how well they play and how consistently they can do so. Normally slow-ish starters, the key for the Knights is to start well early and they can beat anyone.

Player To Watch: Adam Clydsdale. When you think of talented, up-and-coming NRL hookers, Clydsdale is one that springs to mind. If it does not, then you obviously have not seen him play enough to see just how talented he is for a young player. With an air of quiet confidence – controlled confidence at that – some crafty ball-skills and an ability to read the game to boot, Clydsdale is a young player that is destined for big things in the NRL at some point. Whether he gets an opportunity now or in the future at some point, he is the sort of player that is likely to make the most of it and likely to become a mainstay of the Knights side for a very long time.

Here’s the side I’d go with:

1. Darius Boyd
2. Akuila Uate
3. Joey Leilua
4. Dane Gagai
5. James McManus
6. Kurt Gidley (C)
7. Tyrone Roberts
8. Willie Mason
9. Adam Clydsdale
10. Kade Snowden
11. Beau Scott
12. Robbie Rochow
13. Jeremy Smith

14. Travis Waddell
15. Zane Tetevano
16. Korbin Sims
17. Alex McKinnon

Titans utility back re-signs with the club

Kevin Gordon

Retaining your promising players is always a boost and for the Gold Coast Titans, they have done just that – re-signing a fan favourite and a strong utility back in Kevin Gordon for the next three years.

The new deal will see Gordon play nine season for the Titans in total and to date, he has played in 94 first-grade games, making his debut back in 2009.

Nearing the 100-game mark for the club – he will be just the 10th Titan to reach the milestone – Gordon is pleased to have the opportunity to remain a one-club man.

“I’m really happy to be staying at the club I started with, and showing loyalty to the Titans who have always been good to me is important to me,” said Gordon.

“I’d like to be a one-club NRL player; in my junior days I only played for one club too – the Sawtell Panthers.

“I’m only a few games away from 100 NRL games for the Titans and that’s a pretty special milestone, especially seeing I have been here from the start and only nine other players have achieved that. Hopefully I can play a lot more games.

“That’s one of the reasons I want to stay; to leave a legacy for other players who will hopefully follow and come through the system from a young age and remain long-term with the club.”

Still only 24, Gordon offers the club a good balance and with a mix of youth and experience present at the club, coach John Cartwright is pleased that the Titans will be able to maintain that balance even further with the re-signing of Gordon.

“Kevin has been with us from the start, we regard him as a Gold Coast local, and his best playing days should be ahead of him,” said Cartwright.

“It’s important that we retain players like him who we have brought through the system.

“He has exceptional athleticism as he has often showed and is a real crowd favourite up here and is an important part of our side.”

Ricky’s NRL Previews Pt 8: North Queensland Cowboys

We’re halfway through and it’s part 8 that comes to you today, on the North Queensland Cowboys. Talented players have never been an issue for the Cowboys but execution has in the past couple of years. Granted, they had crucial decisions go against them during finals games but inconsistency has cost them at times. With their leader Johnathan Thurston fit and firing, the Cowboys will once again be up there and in with a chance.

GAINS: Hezron Murgha (Northern Pride) Lachlan Coote (Penrith Panthers) Cam King (St George Illawarra Dragons) John Asiata (Sydney Roosters) Matthew Wright (Cronulla Sharks)

The Cowboys were not as active in the transfer market as some other teams but with the players already at their disposal, there was no need to be.
With a heap of promise surrounding the fullback position and the likelihood that Lachlan Coote was going to play in that role, injury reared its ugly head as the former Panthers fullback will have to wait until next year to make his Cowboys debut, after suffering a ruptured ACL injury during the pre-season.

The last two years have been like a roller-coaster for the Cowboys. Slow starts to the season but kicking on and performing like an elite side after Origin. With their inspirational leader and representative half Johnathan Thurston admitting that he has started poorly in the past few years, he is keen to rectify that and if he gets firing early on, the rest of the competition may want to watch out.
Thurston is not the only one with a point to prove, though, with most of the Cowboys outfit keen to get off on the right foot and cement their spots in the side.

When you have a player like Thurston, the spotlight is more often on him than it is on other players but with a talented playing roster across the board and a score of talented juniors at their disposal, if the Cowboys are to stake their premiership credentials in season 2014, Thurston needs support and stability from his team-mates and he needs it consistently.

The notion of stability does not get easier, with at least three to four potential candidates for both the fullback role and the halfback role, neither of which has been decided upon by coach Paul Green. With talented youngsters like Curtis Rona and Zac Santo vying for spots in their respective positions or more experienced players like Matt Wright and Michael Morgan, the decision as to who will eventually get the nod is not an easy one for Green but one that Cowboys fans hope is the best possible outcome and the best possible decision moving forward.

With such a competition for spots and the media jumping on the speculation train and spitting out article after article as to who will or will not play in certain positions, fans and media appear to have glossed over the other talented players the Cowboys have at their disposal and just how well they can potentially perform in 2014.

One crucial player for the Cowboys is back-rower Gavin Cooper. Perhaps one of the most under-rated players in the game, Cooper is at the point in his career where taking on a leadership role is something that he should be prepared and ready for and embrace early on. Although he is not old by rugby league standards, he has so far enjoyed a relatively successful career in the NRL and his experience and versatility are crucial for the Cowboys moving forward. Apart from Glenn Hall, he is probably the most experienced back-rower at the club and with a strong combination that has been on show for some years with Thurston in attack, he will look to continue it and take it to the next level.

On the flip side of the coin, there is one up-and-comer who has a chance to cement a spot of his own and he is also a back-rower.
That player, is Jason Taumalolo. Destructive when at his best, the sheer strength, power and acceleration of Taumalolo is what often catches defenders off-guard and as a result, he barges through defensive lines with relative ease. The wraps by fans and the media are there and have been there since his early days as an NRL player but now, a few years on and a few years older, the expectation is even greater for the hulking, young lad, as he looks to make one of the 17 spots in first-grade his own. If his head is right, if he plays to his potential and if he can link up well with his team-mates and especially Thurston on the fringes, we may just see some of the most destructive power running in recent NRL history.

All in all, as you would expect, the Cowboys are a side that are expected to be towards the top of the ladder. With a new fresh approach implemented by Green and one that the players seem to enjoy and look forward to, on paper, they should succeed. Of course, games are not won on paper, and the big question for the Cowboys is – can Paul Green – a relative rookie coach in the world of the NRL – bring the best out of the side moving forward?

Player To Watch: Zac Santo. If there is one player coming through the ranks that Cowboys fans are most excited about – at least most of them – it would have to be Zac Santo. Even if you are not a Cowboys fan and you haven’t seen just how talented Santo is as a player, you are missing out. Blessed with a natural ability to play the game, fantastic acceleration and speed and ball skills to boot – he is a legitimate craftsman and jack of all trades when it comes to his all-round game. Although he may not possess the power and strength that other fullbacks have, they are traits that he does need, as he uses his speed, quick feet and game awareness to make breaks and create opportunities. If he happens to get the nod in first-grade at the vacant fullback position, keep your eye on him because if he forms a partnership with Thurston, it will be deadly for opposition teams.

Here’s the team I’d go with:

1. Zac Santo
2. Antonio Winterstein
3. Brent Tate
4. Kane Linnett
5. Matt Wright
6. Johnathan Thurston (C)
7. Michael Morgan
8. Matt Scott
9. Ray Thompson
10. James Tamou
11. Gavin Cooper
12. Jason Taumalolo
13. Joel Reithmuller

14. Tariq Sims
15. Glenn Hall
16. Ashton Sims
17. Rory Kostjaysn

Ricky's NRL Preview Pt 7: Parramatta Eels

Part 7 of the previews already – time flies. A big 2014 beckons for the Parramatta Eels as they look to make amends for two lacklustre seasons in 2012 and 2013. Can they force their way up the ladder and push for a potential finals spot or will they once again languish at the bottom of the ladder?

GAINS: William Hopoate (Mormon Mission) Corey Norman (Brisbane Broncos), Lee Mossop(Wigan) Nathan Peats (South Sydney Rabbitohs) Brenden Santi (Wests Tigers) Justin Hunt (South Sydney Rabbitohs) Liam Foran (Salford City Reds) David Gower (Manly Sea Eagles) John Brady (Redcliffe Colts) Toby Evans (Penrith Panthers) Evander Cummins (St George Illawarra Dragons) Adam Timler & Chris Chalmers – 1 month deals (Canada)

For any Eels fans, the last two years especially have been tough. Back-to-back wooden spoons, a coaching merry-go-round and seemingly no end in sight to the misery. Fast-track to 2014, though, and with a new coach, a new system and new recruits that have the potential to re-shape the side, the signs are at least looking a bit more promising for the Eels in 2014.
Of course, promise does not always transcend into results but if the team as a whole step up and perform, they may be able to challenge for a decent finals spot and make life difficult for opposition teams.

Despite all this, Eels fans are standing by their club – a true testament to them – and with so much promise ahead for the 2014 season, they are hoping for bigger and better things. With some problem areas in the past in regards to positions, the Eels have rectified that and signed a talented, creative five-eighth in Corey Norman and a solid, versatile hooker in Nathan Peats.
With five-eighth and hooker two areas that the Eels have struggled at in the past, can these two buck the trend, produce stellar seasons and have the impact that so many Eels fans are expecting them to have?

Despite all that, much like any other team, there are question marks. How will Brad Arthur go in his first full year as the coach of the Eels? Will Jarryd Hayne stay fit enough to lead the Eels charge during the season? Which other players are going to step up in the season and can they have enough of an impact to change the course of a game?

One player that everyone will have their eyes on, though, is Will Hopoate. After a two-year Mormon mission that saw him leave the game, he is back and ready to get stuck into the season ahead. Everyone is well aware of what he is capable of based on his stellar performances for Manly and NSW before he departed for his mission but the game can change a fair bit in two years and the question remains, is Will Hopoate ready for the first-grade rigours again? How long before he hits his stride in the back-line? In light of all that, Eels fans are hopeful that Hopoate can find that form he had before his Mormon mission as they have been crying out for a solid centre for some time, as to take the pressure off Jarryd Hayne from fullback. Hopoate may well become a revelation once more and if he does so, he will definitely help the Eels chances in 2014.

Another player facing the pressure and preparing for a big 2014 is halfback Chris Sandow. His gambling issues and concerns were well publicised and well documented last year, and that saw him miss the last six weeks or so of the season as a result. Back in the swing of things rugby league wise and seemingly ready to get stuck in after a rehabilitation period to overcome his issues, Sandow will push hard for a spot. Eels fans are divided in this regard – that is, when it comes to the halfback position – with some believing Sandow is the man for job despite his defensive woes, whereas others believe Luke Kelly is the player for the role.
With Sandow the more creative of the two based on his ad-lib style of play, hole-running and infectious playing nature, his playing can perhaps bring out the fun side in his team, himself and the organisation as a whole during games.

For those that believe Kelly is the answer at halfback, they believe so based on what they see as his ability to organise the play and his ability to defend more solidly than Sandow. Although Kelly is yet to set the world on fire and truly put his organisational skills to good use, he will have no better time to do so than Rd 1, should he be picked.
As an Eels fan myself – and a diehard one at that, as some of you may know – Chris Sandow is the halfback moving forward if you ask me, purely on the basis that his off-the-cuff style and dynamic nature are what can change games and produce consistent try-scoring opportunities.

All in all, there are a lot of new things at the Eels, a lot of changes and a renewed sense of hope and optimism. With the club unable to sink any lower, the only way is up – and for Eels fans – they will be hoping that the climb to the top can be a steady one, starting with a decent season. They have the cavalry, the core of players, the youth and experience and the structure to do it, but can they produce on the field where it matters most?

Player to Watch: Kelepi Tanginoa. He tasted first-grade in 2013 and would have played more games had injury not reared its ugly head but if you are yet to see Tanginoa in action, you may well be pleasantly surprised. A huge, hulking kid – his size and upper body strength need to be seen to be believed – Tanginoa has all the potential to become a crucial cog in the Eels back-row moving forward. Destructive on the fringes and using his size, power and acceleration to good use, the young back-rower is primed for a stellar season in 2014. With the coaching staff and fans alike having huge wraps on Tanginoa and his ability, it is only a matter of time before he makes an even bigger impact at both club level and representative level.

Here’s the Eels side I’d go with:

1. Jarryd Hayne
2. Ken Sio
3. Will Hopoate
4. Willie Tonga
5. Ryan Morgan
6. Corey Norman
7. Chris Sandow
8. Tim Mannah (C)
9. Nathan Peats
10. Fuifui Moimoi
11. Kelepi Tanginoa
12. Peni Terepo
13. Darcy Lussick

14. Joseph Paulo
15. Junior Paulo
16. Ken Edwards
17. Manu Ma’u

Giants and Hull KR play out an entertaining draw

Travis Burns

Draws are a rare thing in the world of rugby league but after a late fightback from Hull KR, they and the Huddersfield Giants shared the spoils, after the full-time siren had the scores locked up at 24-all.

It was two tries in the last three minutes for Hull KR that saw them get the draw and a crucial one-point, even if elements of the game prior to that were rather scrappy.

The first half was one to forget for the Rovers as they let the game get away from them but after some stern words and some resolve, they fought back enough in the second half and pleased coach Craig Sandercock in the process.

“The second half was very pleasing,” Sandercock said.

“I don’t think any other team will come here and get a point after trailing 24-6.

“I was very disappointed with our first half but I have to commend the players for their second half. It shows there is a bit of self-belief there.

“We showed some good desperation and we had some good luck go our way for a change.”

Also receiving praise was Australian half Travis Burns, who had a tough kick from the sidelines to level the score,s which he did.

“Travis is a very confident character. He loves that kind of stuff. I was glad he was taking the kick and not me!”

Someone who was not happy, though, was Huddersfield coach Paul Anderson, who was left rather disappointed that his side could not close out the game.

“It’s about attitude,” Anderson said.

“In the first half we scored points for fun and at times I thought we embarrassed Hull KR.

“But at some point in that game we made a decision to stop working hard together. The one-out carries and stuff like that are not acceptable.

“They are not Giants-like and they will not be tolerated. The players have had a spray. It won’t happen again because, if it does, there will be changes, simple as that.”

Castleford record solid win but coach Powell believes they can improve

Justin Carney

It was a Justin Carney hat-trick that stole the show and resulted in a comprehensive 32-6 win for the Castleford Tigers but despite the win, coach Daryl Powell insists there is more to come from the Tigers.

Tied at the top of the Super League table after two solid victories, Powell is happy with how his side performed overall and with Carney, but knows that there is improvement in his side.

“We’ve shown we’ve got a little bit of something about us,” Powell said.

“Obviously defensively today we’ve got to be happy with conceding six points against a team that have been outstanding over the last few years in Super League. And we’ve scored over 30 points in our first two games.

“There’s quite a few people who doubted we’d be able to score points after what we’ve recruited and what we’ve lost, and I think we’ve sort of answered a few of those questions today.

“I’m pretty pleased with the overall effort but there’s still loads of improvement in us as well. We’re not going to fall in love with ourselves too much but there are some good signs there.”

Carney especially was on song scoring a hat-trick and coach Powell was quick to praise the efforts of the winger.

“You are better having him on your side than the other side,” Powell said. “He’s certainly a handful.

“You want to give him as much space as you can and he got some space today. But there were other times when he didn’t have much space and he made things happen, and that’s Justin Carney.

“He’s a difficult player to handle, no question about that.”

It is a very different story for the Catalan Dragons, who are searching for their first points and win in 2014, slumping to two early defeats.

Not one to hold back in his comments, their coach Laurent Frayssinous was bitterly disappointed with how they performed.

“It’s embarrassing the desire the players put on the field today. Cas were too good for us,” said Frayssinous.

“Defensively that’s too many tries in two games for me.

“I was not really surprised by Castleford’s performance. I was more surprised by our very poor performance. I didn’t expect a performance like that.”

To rub salt into the wound, Frayssinous felt that his players were not getting an even share of penalties awarded in their favour.

“We were not rewarded by the ref (Tim Roby). We were always being penalised. I think the ruck was too slow – it became a defensive game, not an offensive game,” said Frayssinous.

Ricky’s NRL Previews Pt 6: Penrith Panthers

Day 6 of the previews has come around already and today, the Penrith Panthers are going under the microscope. Their recruitment drive has probably been the best out of any side for 2014 but will the players be able to gel quickly enough to get results early on, or will the opening games be a struggle as players look to get used to one another’s play.

GAINS: Anthony Cherrington (Pre Season – Sydney Roosters) Isaac John (Pre Season – Wakefield Trinity Wildcats) Elijah Taylor (NZ Warriors) Brent Kite (Manly Sea Eagles) Jamie Soward(Dragons) Luke Capewell (Broncos) Tyrone Peachey (Sharks) Kevin Naiqama (Knights) Will Smith (Knights) Shaun Spence (Tigers) Peter Wallace (Brisbane Broncos) Wellington Albert (Papua New Guinea) Leilani Latu (Canterbury Bulldogs)

Turnover is normal in the world of rugby league but for the Penrith Panthers, they have seen a mountain of players leave and a mountain of players come in, in an attempt to chase premiership glory. It can work or it can back-fire, but the primary question that some will ask heading into the season is: did the club get rid of the right players and did the club buy the right players?
With certain hesitance over some bought players and how they will perform – given previous heavy criticism they have received from their time at other clubs – the key for the new players is to perform well and perform early. They may otherwise find themselves under some heavy pressure.

Penrith fans are a group of supporters that take immense pride in their team and their team’s performances and in recent years, things have not quite gone their way. With stability offered by Ivan Cleary and a solid mix of youth and experience – both players from within the club and outside it – if the Panthers get firing early, they are a good chance of causing some upsets against the more fancied teams moving forward.

One big question mark that a lot of Penrith fans and even rival fans are going to have regarding Penrith, is how their new halves are going to go at a new club.
In all likelihood, it would appear that Jamie Soward and Peter Wallace are going to be the club’s halves and despite joining the Panthers side full of ability and promise, both have received stern criticism from Dragons fans and Broncos fans respectively.
Whilst both enjoyed decent stints as their club’s predominant halves, both also enjoyed inconsistent stints and as a result, they became the ire of criticism by their respective fans.

We know that they both have the ability, but the key for them moving forward is to put any prior criticisms aside and focus on the task at hand – the task they are required to do – and that is to create opportunities for their team-mates. A task easier said than done of course, but the duo are going to play a vital role in just how successful the Panthers are going to be and how far they are going to progress in the season. If they can click and fire, they will be a tough duo to face.

Another duo – although they are on the opposite side of the coin – is the partnership between Dean Whare and David Simmons. Perhaps one of the best centre/wing pairings last year based on statistics alone, it was a season that saw Simmons rack up the tries and Whare rack up the line-break assists. With both likely to retain their spots in their respective positions, the opportunity to continue such a strong partnership is just as strong and with the ability of Whare to get outside his man and draw in the wingers, you would not be surprised in the slightest if their link up play is once again on fire.

A player that will be crucial in the scheme of the Panthers season moving forward and one that is still yet to reach his full potential as a player – hard to believe when you think about it – is another one of their recruits, Jamal Idris.
Often criticised for his weight, there is no better time or opportunity for Idris to achieve a solid level of consistency in his game and make his mark as an elite NRL centre. He looked like he was on his way to getting close to that level at the Titans last year, before an injury robbed him of the chance. At his best, Idris is destructive, powerful and hard to stop in full flight. When he is not playing his best, though, his skills-set suffers as a result and he finds it hard to get into games as well as he should.
If he can maintain consistency, there is no doubting that with his ability, he can carve his way into the echelon of elite NRL centres.

Overall, the Panthers side is potent enough and strong enough to potentially challenge for a top 8 spot – at the very least. As to whether they achieve that remains to be seen, considering the questions that are still unanswered heading into the season. With a solid coach in Ivan Cleary at the helm and an Executive GM like Phil Gould calling the shots, though, you can bet that the club is headed in the right direction as they chase premiership glory.

Here’s the side I’d go with for Penrith in Rd 1:

1. Matt Moylan
2. Josh Mansour
3. Dean Whare
4. Jamal Idris
5. David Simmons
6. Jamie Soward
7. Peter Wallace
8. Brent Kite
9. Kevin Kingston (C)
10. Tim Grant
11. Lewis Brown
12. Elijah Taylor
13. Adam Docker

14. James Segeyaro
15. Tyrone Peachey
16. Nigel Plum
17. Sam McKendry

Salford continue solid start to season with good win over London

Theo Fages

It was a performance that left Salford coach Brian Noble quite pleased as he was quick to point out the impact of Theo Fages, as the Devils were far too strong for the London Broncos, winning 44-18.

Replacing the injured Rangi Chase, the young French teenager made the most of his chance, scoring tries and setting them up in the comprehensive Salford victory.

“It is a tough ask for any player to step in for Rangi Chase and Theo did really well,” said Noble.

“He showed the value that he has to us. He has not had much game time and I was really pleased with what he did for us today.

“Overall I thought it was a pretty good day. We were a bit scrappy in the first half and we had to defend well as London were very enthusiastic.

“But we showed our attacking prowess and I’m satisfied where we are at, at this stage of the season.”

Although the Broncos played better as a team unit overall compared to their first round defeat, there is still room for improvement as they look to rebuild the entire team as a whole, following a move to Barnet in the off-season.

With the old saying that says, ‘the only way is up’, Broncos coach Tony Rea knows that if his side is good enough over the course of the season, they can and will improve.

“I thought there was a big reaction from last week. We are a very young, inexperienced team and we really took it to a very experienced side,” said Rea.

“We were really committed to being a team and I thought there were some wonderful signs. There were definite signs of progression and I expect us to progress further again.

“We always knew that this was going to be a tough period for us and we have to work through it.”