Holden Cup: Round 1 Wrap
The 2016 Holden Cup kicked off with both of the 2015 grand finalists beaten in the opening round. Here are the main storylines from the first week of the national under-20s competition.
Eels v Broncos
A hat-trick to winger Jermaine Mati-Leifi inside the opening 20 minutes inspired the Eels to a 32-18 win over the Broncos. The first-half attacking blitz came on the back of three try-assists to halfback Troy Dargan, who also kicked a 40/20 and scored a try of his own in the first half. David Fauid scored one and set up another for the visitors who will next take on the Warriors in a replay of the 2014 NYC grand final.
Sea Eagles v Bulldogs
The 2015 Holden Cup runners-up started the new season with a 40-12 loss at home to the Bulldogs. With several of their stars moving on, Manly failed to find their attacking potency from last year. The Bulldogs were led around the park by the halves pairing of Jade Anderson and Zac Greene, while winger Reimis Smith continued his impressive try-scoring form from last season with a try in each half.
Raiders v Panthers
A last minute try to Canberra halfback Lachlan Croker sealed a remarkable 36-34 win over the defending premiers in what was easily the game of the round. In a see-sawing affair where the lead change several times, the Raiders skipper took advantage of a break from dummy-half Zac Woolford to score the winner with time about to expire. Nathan Cleary controlled the game well for the visitors who will be sweating on the fitness of hooker Soni Luke and centre Jack Nelson.
Tigers v Warriors
A second-half double to Esan Marsters led the Tigers to a solid 26-12 win over the Warriors. Veiru Mapesone scored a try, set one up and landed three goals in the 14 point win, while Junior Pauga raced 80 metres to score one of two tries for the Junior Warriors. The heat took its toll on both sides, especially in an error-riddled second-half.
Cowboys v Sharks
Last year's beaten preliminary finalists the Cowboys have started 2016 with a 30-16 loss to the Sharks, despite leading 16-6 at the break. Front-rower Jaimin Jolliffe bagged a double for the victors, while tries to fellow forwards Billy Magoulias and Jayden McDonogh sealed the deal. Try-scoring phenomenon Gideon Gela-Mosby took just five minutes to open his 2016 account, while another one of their stars from last year, Cooper Bambling, scored North Queensland's second.
Roosters v Rabbitohs
A solid team effort helped the Roosters to a comfortable 40-20 win over Souths at Allianz Stadium. Seven different players scored for the victors, with fullback Jake Steadman crossing for one and also kicking six goals. The Roosters look likely to trouble a number of teams in 2016 with attacking threats all over the park. Brock Gray was impressive for the Bunnies, working hard in attack and defence, and was rewarded with a four-pointer.
Titans v Knights
The Knights started their 2016 season with a comfortable 34-18 win over the Titans at Cbus Super Stadium. Winger Matt Soper-Lawler scored a hat-trick for the visitors, while Kainoa Gudgeon grabbed a double. Halfback Jack Cogger was at his creative best, scoring a try in the second stanza, while Titans skipper Jed Cartwright fought hard in his new position in the back-row, scoring a second-half double.
Storm v Dragons
The Thunderbolts overcame a horror start to storm home against the Dragons to win 44-24 at their new base on the Sunshine Coast. Melbourne took time to gel with 12 debutants in their side, but once they did they were impossible to stop. Scott Drinkwater impressed at halfback, while local product Nate McGavin scored a try in a Man of the Match performance. Centre Reuben Garrick grabbed a double for the visitors who will lament giving up an early 24-0 lead.