The NRL is back for 2022 and while there have been plenty of changes throughout the offseason, things remain the same for the defending premiers.
Panthers Purring Early
The Penrith Panthers started 2021 just how they finished 2022.
Taking on a Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles side with high expectations set for this year, the Panthers – without Nathan Cleary – barely broke a sweat throughout their 28-16 win.
Sean O’Sullivan filled the Panthers #7 jersey admirably. He wasn’t asked to do too much but took control of the side and kicked well all night. However, it was Isaah Yeo who picked up a lot of the creative duties as he once again proved why he is one of the best lock forwards in the NRL.
Well, the Panthers have picked up where they left off last season…
Fisher-Harris, Edwards, Crichton, Luai & O’Sullivan all very good.
Isaah Yeo gets my game ball though.
He’s a master at manipulating the defence one-off the ruck & shouldered a lot of the Cleary load tonight.
— Jason Oliver (@JasonNRL) March 10, 2022
While it’s all positive for the Panthers, the Sea Eagles’ lack of attack is concerning. Tom Trbojevic didn’t play his best game. How the Sea Eagles score when he isn’t dominating was one of the leading questions coming into 2022 and we didn’t get many answers in Round 1.
Statement Game of Round 1: Broncos 11 def. Rabbitohs 4
Statements are made every round in the NRL. This week it was the Brisbane Broncos confirming their position of Top 8 smokies by beating the South Sydney Rabbitohs 11-4 at Suncorp Stadium.
Little was expected from the Broncos without Adam Reynolds. While they were far from clinical across the 80 minutes, they hung in to win a tough game they’d have so often lost in recent seasons. The pack dominated to win the middle, beating the Rabbitohs in yardage by 52 metres. It doesn’t seem like a lot in isolation but is an impressive effort after Souths led the competition in net yardage in 2021.
Adding Reynolds to this group only adds to the appeal of their Top 8 chances. Kicking off at $2.75 to sneak into September, Kevin Walters’ side is into $2.15 to make the Top 8.
Souths field position for Friday’s game against Brisbane had an expected yield of 21.66.
Their total of 4 was a casual -442% under expected pic.twitter.com/frqXpb70mt
— The Rugby League Eye Test (@LeagueEyeTest) March 12, 2022
Roosters v Knights
Super Saturday started with a bang as the Newcastle Knights upset the Sydney Roosters 20-6 in a dominant display.
Being talked about as potential wooden spooners before Round 1, the Knights looked anything but a 16th placed side as they dominated the yardage game to run for 1,815 metres. Playing on the road to open the season, 11 Knights players finished with over 100 running metres as everybody in jersey 1-8 cracked triple-figures. The attack used the platform to chip away at the Roosters edges, and in contrast, the Roosters offered next to nothing in attack.
Sam Walker, Luke Keary and James Tedesco entered the game with so much potential but failed to deliver. It wasn’t just down to poor Round 1 execution, either. Disjointed, clunky and unthreatening stand out as the key adjectives of the Roosters’ attack throughout their season opener.
Add any early-season dismissal you like to this one. It’s only Round 1, it’s early, they’ll come right can all be used as a coping mechanism at this stage. However, the Roosters offered little in the form of positives ahead of their Round 2 clash against the Sea Eagles on Friday night.
Eels & Titans Pile Up Points
The change to the rules seem to be working, but the first half of Sunday afternoons clash between the Parramatta Eels and Gold Coast Titans proved that no rule really makes up for poor defence.
Following a low-scoring round up to that point, the two teams combined for 48 points by halftime. None of the prior six games in Round 1 saw as many points scored.
— Palmerbet (@PalmerbetAU) March 10, 2022
The points dried up in the second half. Parramatta’s attractive game plan with the ball – the short passes and patience to plug the edges – went in the bin with the orange peels. Meanwhile, the Titans weren’t able to repeat their long range efforts of the first half in the second.
It’s difficult to take much out of a game that presented little defence. Neither team will have it that easy with the ball next week. Still, the first half showed what the two teams are capable of with the ball if they can improve without it in Round 2.