Who beat who in the weekend's World Club Series and NRL trial matches? And more importantly, which players impressed enough to be considered in your NRL Fantasy team? Here's a rundown on the winners and losers from the final round of matches before the NRL season proper begins on March 5.
Dragons 18 defeated Warrington Wolves 12
The Dragons kicked off the new-look World Club Series with a win for the Aussie contingent, with Josh Dugan taking Man of the Match honours and Benji Marshall turning back the clock with a vintage performance. Rookie winger Eto Nabuli was a standout, proving safe under the high ball and solid in defence (apart from an early errant high shot) after already showing off his attacking abilities at the Auckland Nines. He's set for a Round 1 start, although fellow rookie Euan Aitken fell back in the pecking order a little after being bumped out of the starting centre position by Dylan Farrell. The Dragons' centres didn't play the house down, so Aitken's still a chance of grabbing that starting berth, but if Paul McGregor didn't risk him against Warrington there's a decent chance Aitken won't be in the 13 when the Dragons open their season against the Melbourne Storm. Big prop Rory O'Brien is another rookie on track for a spot in St George Illawarra's 17 after starting this match.
Warriors 42 defeated NSW Cup Warriors 14
The result was hardly going to be in question but the Warriors were sharp in attack in their final hitout against their NSW Cup counterparts on Saturday, with Konrad Hurrell, Simon Mannering and Jacob Lillyman all getting their first runs of the year. Hurrell and Mannering grabbed three tries between them in the 60-minute match, with star fullback Sam Tomkins and barnstorming rookie Solomone Kata also getting on the scoresheet. Shaun Johnson put the icing on the cake with a typically magic try late in the contest to go with his five goals for the match. Fantasy coaches will be hopeful Kata gets a run in Round 1, while Tomkins, Johnson and Hurrell are amongst the best options in their positions.
Parramatta 30 defeated Penrith 22
The Eels got the points in this one despite the try-scoring feats of a couple of Jennings brothers – one of whom (George) is set to start in place of the injured Josh Mansour in Penrith's Round 1 side. The 19-year-old grabbed a double and is set to get the nod on the wing, with fellow young gun Waqa Blake still struggling with injuries. The real star of the show was Eels recruit Reece Robinson, who bagged himself a hat-trick and kicked five goals from as many attempts for good measure. Parramatta coach Brad Arthur is considering handing the full-time goal-kicking duties to Robinson, who was filling in for Chris Sandow during this match. Arthur described star signing Anthony Watmough's performance as "good defensively" but "a bit rusty in attack". Will Hopoate also showed some good signs in his new fullback role, setting up one try for Robinson and scoring another himself.
Knights 26 defeated Raiders 4
Newcastle made light work of wet conditions to rout the Raiders on Saturday night, with winger Akuila Uate grabbing a hat-trick. New Kangaroo Sione Mata'utia – who some had expected to take Uate's wing spot this season – was named in the centres in place of Joey Leilua and delivered a massive hit on Raiders captain Jarrod Croker that saw the Canberra star taken from the field as a precaution. Leilua did get a try himself despite carrying a leg injury, while new starting hooker Adam Clydsdale dummied his way to a four-pointer.
Roosters 36 defeated Manly 6
Daniel Tupou scored twice as Manly struggled without skipper Jamie Lyon, who picked up a knee injury in the first half and didn't return for the second. There are also injury concerns for Sea Eagles trio Steve Matai (shoulder), Jamie Buhrer (knee) and Brenton Lawrence (knee), who are all in doubt for Round 1. For the Roosters, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck grabbed a try in his new fullback role while Mitchell Aubusson impressed in his stint at dummy-half, and looms as a possible replacement for the injured Jake Friend (shoulder, Round 8). Meanwhile Aidan Guerra was a standout in the back-row role once belonging to Sonny Bill Williams, while Blake Ferguson was rusty in attack as he prepares to play his first NRL game in 18 months.
Wests Tigers 22 defeated Sharks 8
James Tedesco made a welcome return for the Tigers, coming off the bench and playing close to 40 minutes in a starring performance – including a classy chip-and-chase try in the second half. His injury record is a worry but if he can stay fit the young fullback has the potential to be one of the year's best Fantasy buys. Other tries came through lock Dene Halatau and centre Tim Simona, who ran 90 metres to score after intercepting a Michael Ennis pass. Tedesco's Sharks counterpart Michael Gordan was just as impressive, running in two first-half tries – the first coming from a slick short ball from five-eighth Ben Barba. Paul Gallen got through a lot of work, as he always does, while fellow workhorse Andrew Fifita played just under 40 minutes.
Storm 32 defeated Bulldogs 30
For two thirds of this match the Bulldogs were great, running up a 30-12 lead at AAMI Park after Brett Morris opened the scoring in his first game in Bulldogs colours. The new fullback also cost his team a four-pointer thanks to a fumble in Canterbury's in-goal, but came through the match unscathed in his comeback from shoulder surgery. It was a similar story for Melbourne fullback Billy Slater, who was making his own return from injury and scored one of four late tries that gave the Storm an impressive comeback victory. New Storm five-eighth Blake Green looked comfortable in the role while Dale Finucane impressed and is hopeful of getting more game time this season than he did at previous club Canterbury.
Cowboys 30 defeated Titans 10
It was a dominant win for North Queensland against their embattled Queensland rivals but the result didn't conclusively answer the question of who will be playing fullback for the Cowboys come Round 1. The "hosts" in Cairns looked sharp early on with Lachlan Coote at the back and Michael Morgan at five-eighth alongside Johnathan Thurston, but were just as successful when Morgan moved back to the custodian role he filled so well last season. Coach Paul Green refused to specify which way he would go, but noted that Morgan was a natural five-eighth and defended strongly in the front line – hinting that Fantasy cheapie Coote could get the No.1 jersey. Elsewhere, Matt Scott and Ben Hannant formed a strong front-row partnership, even with James Tamou still on the sidelines, while Jason Taumalolo continued the close-to-unstoppable form he's been showing this pre-season. For their part the Titans have a whole lot of problems at the moment but one of them isn't the hooking role, with Kierran Moseley dynamic at dummy-half and Matt Srama filling the job well off the bench.
Broncos 14 defeated Wigan 12
Defence was the order of the day in freezing conditions in Wigan, as Wayne Bennett's Broncos secured the World Club Series for Australia with a golden-point win over Super League runners-up Wigan. Anthony Milford showed glimpses of brilliance in the five-eighth role, but was still a little scratchy, while potential Fantasy cash cow Jordan Kahu basically did all that was asked of him at fullback. Justin Hodges set up a try, made a superb try-saving tackle and was generally excellent up until the point he missed a tackle that allowed Wigan to go the length of the field and send the game into extra-time, while Andrew McCullough was probably the Broncos' best.
Rabbitohs 39 defeated St Helens 0
With the World Club Series already in Australia's hands, South Sydney completed the sweep in style with a 39-0 shellacking of Super League champions St Helens in the World Club Challenge. The Rabbitohs were great across the park, with new signing Glenn Stewart opening the scoring, Adam Reynolds controlling play with aplomb (including three try assists and six goals), Joel Reddy scoring twice, Greg Inglis picking up a try and two try assists and the Burgess boys George and Thomas leading the go-forward with well over 100 metres each. The Bunnies are going to be tough to beat this year, and even without Sam Burgess are still stacked with NRL Fantasy stars.
Full match report