Dan Walsh, NRL.com
The dust has settled from Round 1 - but is the NRL competition table a true reflection of the strength of performance of the 16 teams? NRL.com ranks the clubs based on what we saw last weekend.
Souths fans couldn’t have asked for anything more as their side belted the reigning premiers in the season opener. Stars Inglis, Sam Burgess, Sutton all fired and the new halves pairing of Reynolds and Dylan Walker showed a lot of promise as the Bunnies ran roughshod over the Roosters in the last 20 minutes.
Down by 20-nil in the wet at Brookvale, missing Cooper Cronk and looking for all money up a smelly creek without a paddle in sight. Yet 45 minutes later Cam Smith boots his first field goal since under-16s, they’ve overturned a 20-point deficit against last year’s runners-up and confirmed Ben Hampton as a star of the future. Write off any Craig Bellamy-coached side at your peril.
Despite a shellacking from bitter rivals the Rabbitohs there were a few positives to take out of the Roosters' disappointing opener. It’s the worst they’ve played in over a year, and they were still competitive against the competition's best for an hour. Will be without Sonny Bill for a few weeks but rest assured they’ll be out to prove a point over the coming weeks.
4. Sea Eagles
Managed to follow one of the most clinical first round halves of football seen in recent years with a very average one. Clearly need Brett Stewart on the park to go further than last year, though front row depth could also hurt as their forwards went missing in the face of the Storm’s record comeback.
Slow out of the blocks at home but turned on the afterburners to put away a competitive Raiders outfit. Defying the laws of the universe Johnathan Thurston appears to have somehow gotten even better and Jason Taumalolo looks set to cash in on his enormous potential.
Things are looking very rosy out at the foot of the mountains with new halves Jamie Soward and Peter Wallace settling quickly and unleashing a powerful backline. With Jamal Idris joining the likes of Matt Moylan, Dean Whare and flyers David Simmons and Josh Mansour Ivan Cleary is sitting on one of the hottest backlines in the comp.
Still short of a quality halves pairing, but showed plenty of promise and resolve in holding out the Bulldogs away from home. Star recruit Ben Barba will only be better for his first run in the famous maroon and gold, and will flourish if the Broncs all star forward pack gets over the top of their opponents.
Despite an insipid attacking display where they couldn’t get past the Broncos despite a wealth of possession Des Hasler is too canny a coach to allow the Bulldogs' attack to stagnate too long. And any forward pack featuring names like Graham, Kasiano, Pritchard, Williams and Eastwood will win their fair share of battles.
Losing your three key playmakers inside 50 minutes certainly doesn’t help, but last year’s surprise packets turned in one ugly first half out at Penrith, lacking any cohesion in attack and exposed badly in defence during the second half.
Gareth Widdop showed plenty of promise, and the Dragons scored over 40 points for the first time in four years, but it’s a case of easy does it for Red V fans at the moment. There was still some soft defence against the Tigers, and the impact of Josh Dugan’s absence will be felt over the coming weeks.
A bright start out at Parramatta, particularly in the performances of new recruits Will Hopoate, Nathan Peats and recently re-signed Manu Ma’u. Brad Arthur may have turned a corner with the Eels, though their fans have been burnt before.
Scored themselves an away win down at Remondis, no easy feat, but did all they could to lose it against a Sharks side short on troops. In need of consistent direction from halves Sezer and Kelly and regular performances from man mountain Dave Taylor.
Could not have had a worse start to the season, with a slew of injuries to key players, coach Shane Flanagan suspended and star prop Andrew Fifita all but out the door, but stood up under pressure in defence against the Titans with the mental strength that took them to the finals last year. If they can weather the first month and get their stars back they’ll come good.
Shot out of the blocks up in Townsville and took it to one of the competition’s heavyweights before falling away. Some exciting prospects in the backline in the likes of Lee, Milford and Wighton. Will be interesting to see how they progress week in, week out.
Very worrying signs for one of the most talented sides in the comp, out enthused and over run by the wooden spooners of the past two seasons. Will be hoping star recruit Sam Tomkins can gel with livewire halfback Shaun Johnson sooner rather than later.
16. Wests Tigers
The Tigers look to be in for another lean year after an encouraging start had them up 18-zip over the Dragons, before they conceded 44 points against the second worst attack of last season. Plenty of expectation on rookie half Luke Brooks, but it’s the experienced men in their pack who need to stand up and be counted.