In a fast and furious opening day of the Downer NRL Auckland Nines, a huge 99 tries – the biggest opening day total so far – saw some incredible skill and memorable moments.
Team Try of the Day
We couldn't split them, so here are two.
Cowboys: Cowboys prop John Asiata's chip ahead against Newcastle was reeled in by Michael Morgan, who found Asiata in support and he in turn fired a great ball back to Gavin Cooper who still had plenty to do to finish off a wonderful team effort against the Knights.
Jillaroos: After absorbing a ton of Kiwi Ferns attack the Jillaroos punted downfield where Kody House reeled it in off-balance. Stumbling ahead as the defence caught up she failed to pass to a frustrated and unmarked Chelsea Baker. When the pass eventually came it went through three pairs of hands to unmarked winger Karina Brown but she lost her footing and by the time she was back up and running she was forced to pass and it came back to House, who jinked past a defender a tossed it to unmarked fullback Sam Bremner who finally completed a memorable try.
Solo Try of the Day
Ben Barba: Again there were no shortage of candidates but we'll give it to Ben Barba, who turned in a vintage display from inside his own half to cut between two Dragons defenders and sprint away to score a try that wound the clock back to his Dally M-winning 2012 season. The fact it was his second impressive solo try of the day didn't hurt either.
Crowd Moment of the Day
Shaun Johnson try: Home town favourites the Warriors capped a huge win over the Bulldogs in their opening game when Johnson latched onto a Tony Williams pass and sprinted downfield. He could easily have scored a four-pointer but with ridiculous ease he stepped the last incoming defender to plant it down in the bonus zone just for good measure. The crowd erupted.
Breakout Star of the Day
Gideon Gela-Mosby: We've all heard about the Cowboys NYC prodigy who scored an absurd 39 tries in 22 Holden Cup games last year but now we can all see how and why that happened. The 19-year-old scored four tries – two in each of his games – showing off his blinding pace in the process. He stands alone atop the try-scorers' list after Day One. The 'wow' moment came against Wests Tigers with his third try of the day – receiving the ball just inside his own half and just outside the last defender he engaged the afterburners and Josh Drinkwater – no slouch himself – may as well have been standing still as the young North Queenslander rocketed away for a try that had the whole stadium in disbelief.
Team (and Surprise Packet) of the Day
Melbourne Storm: Not many gave the southerners a chance when they named a squad with a few big names and more than a few unknowns. But as we've seen over the past two years defence wins you Nines tournaments as much as flair and the Storm conceded the fewest points (16) of any team on Day 1. Blake green marshalled proceedings expertly, the youngsters all stood up, the forwards got the job done and the Storm are one of three unbeaten teams (along with Manly and Cronulla) heading into Day Two.
Player of the Day
Bryce Cartwright: While Melbourne's Blake Green came close we couldn't go past Panthers back-rower Bryce Cartwright. His combination of size, skill, vision, agility, endurance and competitiveness are pretty much the perfect Nines package. He off-loaded to set up a try, he grubber-kicked for a try, he tossed a no-look pass over his shoulder to set up a try, he kicked long downfield early in the tackle count with no-one home to set up yet another try. In between he ran and he tackled and led the way for his side and is a little unlucky to be going into Day Two at 1-1 rather than with two wins under his belt.
Haircut of the Day
James Segeyaro: We're not sure how to describe it. It's like a double mohawk that trails down to twin plaits at the back. It wouldn't look out of place in a Mad Max movie. Whatever it was, it was eye-catching and earns a nod as the haircut of the day.