The Sharks, Wests Tigers and Eels are the surprise packets after an outstanding opening day of the 2015 Dick Smith Auckland Nines, but at this stage only the Sharks and Roosters are guaranteed of progressing to the finals – and the Bulldogs and Broncos the only sides certain to miss out.
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Wests Tigers 4 competition points (+32 points differential), Warriors 2 (+3), Raiders 2 (-2), Titans 0 (-33)
The undefeated Wests Tigers are the surprise pool leaders after day one, impressively conceding just 10 points in wins over the Raiders and Titans before a showdown with hometown favourites the Warriors on Sunday. Only a miracle will stop them from going through. Speaking of miracles, the winless Titans will need 10 Hail Marys or more for them to overcome an ugly points differential of -33 suffered in losses to the Warriors and Tigers. They laid a duck egg against the latter one. This leaves the Warriors (who play the Wests Tigers on Sunday) and the Raiders (who play the Titans) battling for the right to go through to the elimination rounds. The home side holds a +5 differential over Canberra. They need to beat the impressive Tigers and maintain their differential advantage when the Raiders meet the Titans if they are to progress.
Rabbitohs 4 (+14), Storm 2 (+7), Cowboys 2 (+2), Panthers 0 (-23).
The Rabbitohs are all-but assured of a spot in the elimination round after going through undefeated on the first day, with wins over Penrith and defending champions North Queensland. Their strong start gives coach Michael Maguire the luxury of resting his bigger names for their final group clash against Melbourne. On the opposite end, an extremely under-strength Penrith outfit are all but out of the race after coming up with just two tries in twin losses to South Sydney and the Storm. This leaves Melbourne, who play the Rabbitohs, and the Cowboys, who take on Penrith, to fight it out for the right to go through to the finals. The Storm have a +5 advantage in points differential over the defending champions, who will need to overcome that deficit when they play the Panthers – and on the first day's showing the Storm will need a big win over the Rabbitohs to have a chance of progressing, which works in the Cowboys' favour.
Eels 4 (+11), Knights 2 (+5), Dragons 2 (-7), Sea Eagles 0 (-9)
The Eels have all-but guaranteed themselves a finals berth after clocking up back-to-back 20-point plus victories over the Sea Eagles and Dragons, with their 43 points in two games the second-highest total of any side on day one. Halfback Chris Sandow put himself in the mix for the tournament MVP in the process, controlling play well off the boot and looking dangerous with ball in hand on day one. Manly will need some luck (a win over the Knights by eight or more while hoping the Eels beat the Dragons) if they are to progress, after dropping both their opening games. The Knights and Dragons look set to battle for second position, tied on two points each, although the Knights are in the box seat now with a 12-point advantage in differential. Giant Dragons winger Eto Nabuli is another on track for a possible man of the tournament award, producing three tries in two powerful games and setting up another. He is tied with Knights winger Jake Mamo at the top of the try-scoring list after day one following the Knights winger's hat-trick against the Dragons.
Sharks 4 (+40), Roosters 4 (+6), Bulldogs 0 (-17), Broncos 0 (-29)
With two teams unbeaten and two teams winless this is the only group settled after day one. The Sharks and Roosters will both progress while the Bulldogs and Broncos play each other on Sunday with only pride on the line. The Sharks have been one of the surprise packets of the tournament, scoring more points on day one than any other side with 48, mostly at the expense of the hapless Broncos – who have scored the fewest points of any side with just eight in two games. It has been a real team effort but a few of their outside backs – in particular Valentine Holmes, Jack Bird and Sami Sauiluma – have been outstanding. The Roosters have managed to grind out two dour, low-scoring wins but it's enough to see them into the finals. Anthony Milford's first hit-out as a Bronco hasn't been a particularly happy one as one of the few big-name players the club brought.