Back when Bryce Cartwright’s aversion to vaccinations was a minor concern compared to his questionable form, the Titans were sadly fulfilling expectations with an 0-2 season start. They lost 24-6 to begin the year on the road in Canberra and returned home to be smashed 46-6 by the Eels. That left them with a -58 differential after two outings as they prepare to resume against the Cowboys. Ouch.
They lost 20-0 to the Knights in Newcastle before being told they were stuck in Australia on account of border restrictions. Taking one for the team to keep the NRL going, they based themselves in Kingscliff before a 20-6 loss to the Raiders on the Gold Coast. The Dragons are their rebound opponent, but one try in 80 minutes suggests the break might have come at a good time.
Another of the winless brigade, but they have some decent company there. Lost 8-2 to the Eels before a better showing in a 24-16 defeat to the Cowboys in week two, during which we were all confounded by the new ban on gatherings in excess of 500 people (500! Luxury!). They were on the end of a Jason Taumalolo masterclass, but that didn’t explain their clunky attack. They get Manly on May 31 to start the turnaround – should it eventuate.
Frustrated fans wanting some rapid 2020 progression from St George Illawarra were left to stew after two rounds, starting with a 24-14 loss to Wests Tigers and ending in a high-scoring 32-28 defeat against Penrith. That was a five-try-each bonanza and the boot of Nathan Cleary was the difference. Even so, that sort of scoring output is a source of hope when they get going again against the Warriors.
Well, well, well. Nick Politis didn’t want the opening rounds to count and you can see why when you are 0-2 in a shortened season. With no Boyd Cordner hammering the edges and no Cooper Cronk running the show, the premiers looked a little vulnerable in defeats to Penrith (20-14) and Manly (9-8). They meet old foes South Sydney in round three and won’t need much encouragement to fire up and post their first win.
In 11th, the Sharks were the highest of the 0-2 sides, having been close in both games against quality outfits to start the season. Round one was a 22-18 loss to Souths and round two a 12-10 near-miss to the Storm. There wasn’t too much wrong with either of those and there’s good reason for confidence in round three against the Tigers.
The first of the sides with a win on the board, Manly were no match for the Storm in round one (losing 18-4) before Daly Cherry-Evans steered them home with a field goal for a 9-8 win over the Roosters. Have a very good side on paper and will be hard to beat against the Bulldogs on May 31 to finish round three. Still plenty to like about Des Hasler’s squad.
Nice start to the season with a 24-14 result over the Dragons, but were duly whacked 42-24, at Leichhardt as well, by the impressive Newcastle Knights. As is often the case with the Tigers, it’s difficult to get a read on their form as they get back on the park against a tough opponent in Cronulla. If you thought they were fringe finals material pre-season, you’re probably still on the mark.
Into the eight we go, starting with South Sydney, who found plenty of headlines – in a football sense – as new signing Latrell Mitchell made his debut at fullback. Good round-one 22-18 victory over the Sharks before a 22-18 loss to an eye-catching Broncos outfit at Suncorp Stadium. Mitchell, as it stands, was definitely a work in progress and James Roberts is out for the foreseeable future as well. In with a chance against the Roosters in round three.
Valentine Holmes returned and Taumalolo looked as dominant as ever in the opening rounds, which featured a 28-21 defeat to Brisbane before a 24-16 win over the Bulldogs. They get a Friday nighter against the Titans for the reboot and should be every chance to add another win and get their season up and running.
They were able to put back-to-back wins on the board in the opening rounds, one of which was against the defending premiers. Alas, star half Cleary was less messiah and more very naughty boy in lockdown, and he will miss a very tough return clash against the Knights. It’s hard not to think that could prove costly, but there should be plenty of positivity for the season ahead.
Anthony Seibold asked for patience when he arrived at Red Hill, and he returned in 2020 with a squad that looked very good indeed in the opening rounds. Brisbane began with a win in Townsville before another against the Rabbitohs. Tevita Pangai Jnr managed to get himself suspended, but they looked bigger and stronger than last year and have a pair of genuine stars in Payne Haas and David Fifita. Get another crack at finals foes the Eels in round three.
Melbourne looked very, er, Melbourne in the opening rounds. Cameron Smith did his thing – again – and they were far too good for Manly before squeaking home by two against the Sharks. Once again, there seemed little reason to think that, on that evidence, they aren’t a top-four side, although we might know a bit more when they get going in a very tough fixture against grand finalists the Raiders.
Are grand final hangovers a real thing, outside of people who drink too much in the day and literally have a grand final hangover? Who knows. Anyway, Canberra didn’t appear to have one as they took care of the Gold Coast with relative ease before barely getting out of third gear against the Warriors to ensure they banked a pair of wins before the season suspension. They get their first genuine test against the Storm in round three.
Newcastle scored more points than anyone else in the first two rounds with substantial wins over the Warriors (20-0) and the Tigers (42-24). They should meet some stronger opposition away to the Panthers and that should give us a better insight into their level in the early stages of the season. They will miss Kalyn Ponga through a week-long suspension, though, which levels the field given Cleary is out for Penrith.
Parramatta finished on top during the two-game season entree courtesy of their 46-6 win over the Titans in round two, which added to a scratchier 8-2 win over the Bulldogs in the season opener. Neither of those sides are expected to threaten for silverware this season so they will be primed for a big showing on the road against the Broncos in round three, with Brisbane looking a very different side to the one embarrassed by the Eels in the finals last season. Makes for a very intriguing resumption to the competition on May 28.