The 2011 Telstra Premiership kicked off this weekend with two enthralling but failed fightbacks and featured record crowds and stunning debuts, along with a host of injuries, an alleged headbutt and a refereeing controversy before finishing with two floggings on Sunday ... and there is still one more round one game to go, with Benji Marshall's Wests Tigers up against the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium on Monday night.

While 14 teams have now put the tension and excitement of the first round behind them, spare a thought for the likes of the Bulldogs' new and inexperienced halves pairing Trent Hodkinson and Kris Keating, who have had to watch all the drama of round one unfold before them over the past three days, eagerly waiting their chance to put months of pre-season training to the real test.

Hodkinson, 22, and with just 24 NRL games with Manly last season to his credit, assumes the all-important playmaking role alongside Cabramatta junior team-mate Keating, also new to the Bulldogs this season after 41 games with Parramatta. 

Their combined total of 65 NRL games makes them the fourth least experienced halves combination in the first round behind Raiders' halfback Sam Williams (one game) and five-eighth Josh McCrone (32); Sea Eagles' halfback Daly Cherry-Evans (1) and five-eighth Kieran Foran (33); and the Sharks' halfback Wade Graham (43) and five-eighth Albert Kelly (6).

But inexperience did not stop Williams from making a dream NRL debut as he guided the Raiders to a 40-12 thrashing of hapless Cronulla at Canberra Stadium; nor did it hamper the Knights' rookie five-eighth Beau Henry, who was one of seven try-scorers on his NRL debut in Newcastle's 42-8 drubbing of the Panthers at Penrith's Centrebet Stadium.

Fortunately Hodkinson is a "pretty laidback person ... pretty cruisy", so he is not daunted by the prospect of matching up against one of the best players in the world in Tigers five-eighth Marshall (130 games) and halfback Robert Lui (20 games) in his Bulldogs debut. 

Rather, he sees it as an opportunity to "bring the best out" in himself and an ideal measure of where he and Keating rank as a halves combination.

"I don't think it will take too long for us to click," said Hodkinson. "We played a lot of football together as juniors at Cabramatta and Parramatta from when we were 12 years old throughout our teenage years so we know each other's game.

"I'm pretty excited about my first game for the club but it hasn't been difficult to stay focused for it. 

"There are a lot of stars in the game and I feel more respect than fear towards them. I'm always looking for them to bring the best out in me.

"The Tigers have a lot of strikepower in Benji Marshall, Robert Lui and Robbie Farah ... they will set the benchmark so we will get to know straight up where we're at."

Hodkinson spent his weekend relaxing in front of the other round one games ahead of his Monday night date with the Tigers and he wouldn't have been short of entertainment. 
   
The 2011 Telstra Premiership had a perfect start with both Friday night matches featuring remarkable fightbacks. The Roosters held off a late second-half challenge by the Rabbitohs to win 40-29 at the Sydney Football Stadium in front of 28,703 fans, while the Cowboys hung on for their first win over the Broncos since 2007 with a 16-14 victory at Suncorp Stadium before a crowd of 45,119.

A paint-peeling half-time spray from Rabbitohs coach John Lang sparked Souths into action, along with a length-of-the-field try by Chris Sandow in the 70th minute, but two tries in the final five minutes by Rooster Tom Symonds ended their second half revival. The Rabbitohs also ran out of steam having lost gun forward Sam Burgess (shoulder) and prop Scott Geddes (ruptured achilles) in the first half.

Saturday's games saw the defending premiers and world champion Dragons beat the Titans 25-16 in controversial circumstances at Skilled Park. The match wasn't without controversy after a try was awarded to St George Illawarra fullback Darius Boyd in the 55th minute despite referee Phil Haines falling in front of two Titans defenders. 

The Storm earned their first two points in almost a year, beating the Sea Eagles 18-4 at Melbourne's AAMI Park. It was a costly loss for Manly with injuries to Jamie Lyon (hamstring) and William Hopoate (AC shoulder joint) and Jason King being placed on report.  

New Eels coach Stephen Kearney opened his season with an upset 24-18 win over a fast-finishing Warriors before a record crowd of 38,412 at Eden Park, Auckland. The Warriors' star winger Manu Vatuvei injured the medial ligament in his knee and could be out for 6-8 weeks.

On Sunday, the Knights' 42-8 smashing of the Panthers at Penrith was costly for both sides. Knights captain Kurt Gidley left the field with back spasms and  Neville Costigan broke his arm, while Panthers centre Michael Jennings re-injured his hamstring.  

Likewise for the Sharks in Canberra, with Paul Aiton sent off for an alleged headbutt as his Cronulla side crashed 40-12 to the Raiders.

Number of games played by each club's halfback/five-eighth combination in round 1:
Broncos - Peter Wallace (86) / Darren Lockyer (334) v Cowboys - Johnathan Thurston (155) / Ray Thompson (6)
Roosters - Mitchell Pearce (88) / Braith Anasta (212) v Rabbitohs - Chris Sandow (61) / John Sutton (133)
Titans - Scott Prince (238) / Luke Capewell (29) v Dragons - Ben Hornby (227) / Jamie Soward (108)
Warriors - Brett Seymour (115) / James Maloney (29) v Eels - Jeff Robson (52) / Daniel Mortimer (40)
Storm - Cooper Cronk (162) / Gareth Widdop (4) v Sea Eagles - Daly Cherry-Evans (1) / Kieran Foran (33)
Sharks - Wade Graham (43) / Albert Kelly (6) v Raiders - Sam Williams debut (1) / Josh McCrone (32)
Penrith - Luke Walsh  (54) / Travis Burns (94); Knights - Jarrod Mullen (101) / Beau Henry (1) 
Bulldogs - Hodkinson (24) / Keating (41) v Wests Tigers - Robert Lui (20) / Benji Marshall (130)